Europe 2018 – Part 3 – Ravenna to Trieste

Saturday, 9/22

After our tour of the Northern Marche, we landed in Ravenna in the early evening, in preparation for a long drive on Sunday to Croatia via Trieste.

On the way into Ravenna, we stopped at the church of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, to see the wonderful mosaics we had missed some years back when we visited Ravenna for the first time, as the church was closed that day.

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We stayed at the B&B Hotel, a chain we love from having stayed in several in France.  No frills, ridiculously cheap, comfortable, air-conditioned and conveniently located.  Unfortunately, without GPS we had some difficulty locating it, but we finally stopped at another hotel along the edge of town, and the desk clerk was so helpful and gracious, providing me with a map and directions, and we subsequently had no problem finding the hotel.

Shortly after arriving, we headed to dinner at Trattoria La Rustica, for which I credit Tripadvisor.  This was superb, and luckily I had reserved well in advance, as it was very busy and people were being turned away.

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We started with smoked goose breast (can never resist this) with fennel and grapefruit, then strozzapreti with gorgonzola sauce and chestnuts.  For the main course, Stanley had roasted rabbit with potatoes, and I had faraona (breast of Guinea hen). We had a side of grilled vegetables. For the wine, we chose a Sangiovese di Romagna 2015 (14.50 euros).  With water, the total was 65.50.  Unbelievable!

Sunday, 9/23

Setting out early on Sunday, we arrived in Trieste in time for a superb lunch at Citta de Cherso, listed in Michelin. It’s a hidden gem.  While we saw loads of people eating at open air cafes around the center, this place, on a nondescript street a couple of blocks off the main piazza, had only  a few tables occupied.

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I should note that it is a bit pricey, but not unreasonable for the quality. We had a mixed seafood plate, gnocchetti, seafood mixed grill, fish filet, green beans with tomato, and gateau St. Honore. With a bottle of Pinot Grigio, water and coffee, total was 106 euros.  A little over our budget (Trieste is not cheap), but worth every penny.

After lunch, a quick stroll before leaving for Croatia.

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See next post for Croatia and Slovenia.





Europe 2018 – Part 2 – Marche

Thursday, 9/20

As with Abruzzo (see earlier post), Marche is a part of Italy that is unknown to most American travelers.  It is a beautiful region, with coastal resorts on the Adriatic and scenic landscapes inland, with ancient towns that make for great day trips.

We based ourselves in Senigallia, a beach town that also has a charming historic center.  The Hotel Cristallo is close to perfect, across the street from the beach, a short stroll from the historic center, with free street parking (after 9/15).  We were also in luck, as we had reserved a double room, but being off-season, they upgraded us to a massive one-bedroom apartment with a kitchenette, zoned air-conditioning, and 2 balconies with sea views.  All this for 113 euros for 2 nights.  The staff could not be nicer, advising us on restaurants and making reservations (and you do need to reserve at the good places).


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Dinner was at Vino e Cibo, a small, simple trattoria with a small menu of the day.



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Stanley had the pane e sgombro, bread topped with a mixture of mackerel and tomato (a huge portion), while I started with the tuna tartare. Next I had small sardines coated with bread crumbs and he had triglie (similar to red mullet or rouget) with a spinach puree and grilled endive. We shared a mixed salad. With a bottle of Pecorino, which we have never had before (very good) the bill was 72 euros.



Friday, 9/21

Today we backtracked somewhat to visit the Southern Marche.  Exiting the Autostrada North of Ancona, we took country roads to Folittrano, which was charming but there was no place to park so we just did a drive-through, continuing on to Macerata, where we stopped and strolled for a little while.



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Our final destination was Ascoli Piceno, which turned out to be a gem.

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For lunch I had decided on Nonna Nina, but we arrived to find it closed for vacation, and oddly, not indicating when it was to reopen.  There were 2 other restaurants listed in Michelin, one of which specialized in seafood, which we wanted to avoid as that is what we were having for dinner in Senigallia.  The other, Caffe Meletti, features mainly meat, and the menu, though short, showed what looked like creative dishes.  It turned out to be excellent.  We did not regret missing Nonna Nina.

We started with buffalo mozzarella with prosciutto and tomato, then had pappardelle stuffed with rabbit and ricotta, saffron potato cream and truffles, and for the main course grilled veal topped with truffles, and glazed roast pork on potato puree, both served with a side of broccoli.  You might wonder, as we did, how pappardelle could be stuffed.  Well, this is not what we normally think of as pappardelle, more like elongated ravioli.  It was delicious.  With a wonderful bottle of Rosso Piceno (which  I only now realized they forgot to charge us for, but I think was 15 euros), water, and 2 coffees, total was 62.50 euros.

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Back in Senigallia, we strolled around the old town



and had a lovely dinner at Pagaia, where we sat outside facing the river.

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Our first 2 courses, seafood salad and spaghetti with seafood, were superb.  The main course was less successful.  We had fried calamari and shrimp, and breaded shrimp and calamari spiedini.  Not bad, but with no sauce of any kind they quickly became boring.  Portions are so huge it would have made sense to share one dish.  What we really should have done, as evidenced by what we saw being prepared for other tables, was to order a whole fish, filleted before serving.  We were envious.  One really special touch here is that at the end of the meal they bring a small bottle of limoncello and another of amaro, and you can drink all you want, no charge.   The bill came to 78 euros, so no complaints.  I would definitely recommend Pagaia.

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Saturday, 9/22

We headed off in the morning on a tour of the Northern Marche, first stopping in Fano, a bustling town with a Saturday market that filled every Piazza.

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Next we continued to Pesaro, where we did a drive-through as the historic center did not look fascinating.  Our next destination, Urbino. was the most interesting of the day.

Here are some street scenes and interior shots of the Ducal Palace:

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We had lunch at Trattoria del Leone, which I had picked out from Tripadvisor reviews.

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It was excellent.  We started with tagliatelle with game sauce and juniper berries, then stewed wild boar and roasted rabbit stuffed with olives and bacon.  With a bottle of Rosso Conero, water and coffee, the bill was about 65 euros.

Continuing Northward, we made a quick stop in San Marino.  The idea of a totally separate country right in the middle of Italy seemed interesting.  Don’t bother.  It’s a modern town made to look like medieval but doesn’t do it convincingly. Total tourist trap full of shopping, souvenirs and crappy cafes.  And busloads of obnoxious tourists.  A complete waste of time. It does have a nice view, though:

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From here we moved on to Ravenna, to be reported on in the next post.



Europe 2018 – Part 1 – Abruzzo

Wednesday 9/19

After an overnight flight and a change of planes in Stockholm, we arrived in Rome yesterday afternoon.  Our original flight had been cancelled, so we ended up leaving a day earlier and Norwegian compensated by putting us up in a hotel near the airport, providing transportation and dinner and breakfast. The hotel was fine and the restaurant across the road quite decent.  It all worked out very well as we had time to have a good night’s sleep and get back to the airport in the morning to pick up our rental car.

From there it was less than a 2 hour drive through the rugged mountains of central Italy  to our first stop, Sulmona.  Arriving just past noon, we spent about half an hour trying to find the B & B Amores, as we have no GPS and few streets are marked.  Once we finally got there, we settled into a nice large room (with enormous and well-equipped bathroom) and parked in the adjacent piazza.  The location, once you find it, is perfect.  It could not be more central.


After we got settled in the room, we walked around the corner to Ristorante da Gino. Lunch (the only meal they serve) was superb. We started with prosciutto of smoked goose with grilled bread. Both of us had the grilled lamb and shared a generous order of grilled vegetables. A bottle of Cerasuolo rose for 9.50, Cataldi Madonna 2017, was excellent. Tiramisu for dessert and 2 coffees. Total was 67.50. Service was perfect, atmosphere charming. Obviously popular with locals. This is a gem.

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After lunch, we strolled around town and checked out 2 restaurant possibilities for dinner.


Piazza Plebiscito in front of da Gino

Piazza Garibaldi seen through the medieval aqueduct:




Clemente is recommended in Michelin, but Tripadvisor reviews are mixed, and looking at the menu did not entice us.

Heading back down Corso Ovidio, we stopped into the church of Santissima Annunziata:


Continuing along the Corso, we came to Don Ciccio, where a look at the menu confirmed that this is the more interesting dinner choice.

Back to the room to begin this post, then off to dinner.

So, we ended up at Clemente after all. Don Ciccio was full when we got there at 8:15. Who would have thought you would need a reservation on a Tuesday in late September in a town that looked dead? My guess is we probably would have had a better meal at Don Ciccio, but Clemente was nonetheless quite pleasant.

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The spaghetti alla chitarra with lamb ragu was delicious. My mixed grill was a huge portion and pretty good but not really special. Stanley’s braised beef cheeks, which he liked, I thought were tough. Both came with potatoes, but no vegetables were offered. For dessert we had almond semifreddo with chocolate sauce, and tiramisu. Both were very good, the tiramisu even better than the one we had at lunch today. We again chose a rose for the wine, again a Cerasuolo, Vermiglio 2017 for 12 euros. Total with 2 amaros was 74 euros.

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Thursday, 9/20

The breakfast provided by Amores consisted of coffee and a pastry at the coffee bar up the street. Perfectly fine with us.  We got an early start and drove to L’Aquila, which we had not realized suffered major damage from an earthquake in 2009.  Restoration is going on at a feverish pace, but there is still much damage to be repaired.  Eventually it will no doubt be an impressive city again, but for now it was disappointing.  From there, we drove out through gorgeous countryside, on very rough but scenic mountain roads, to Civitella Casanova, where we had lunch at La Bandiera, a Michelin starred restaurant in a beautiful setting, pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  It is a destination that should not be missed by anyone visiting Abruzzo or Southern Marche.

Of course, the food here was wonderful, with very creative takes on regional dishes.  First we were given a generous selection of canapes.  We then started with porchetta, and though we intended to share one plate, they very graciously brought out 2 plates without extra charge.  This was a spectacular dish, which no description I could give would do justice.  Next we shared a pasta, duck tortelloni with an orange and truffle sauce.  For the main course, sweetbreads 2 ways, and chicken 2 ways, brought to the table as 2 separate courses.  There was a dessert amuse-bouche, then bollamisu (a creative take on tiramisu) and a chocolate waffle topped with chocolate mousse and saffron gelato.  With coffees, water and a nice bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (18 euros), the total came to 120 euros, truly amazing for this level of food, atmosphere and service.

Continuing Northward on the A14, we arrived in Senigallia in the early evening.  Stay tuned for my post on our tour of Marche.






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We have now been to Bottino twice, and enjoyed it very much both times. The first time was a hot night so we sat inside, but the second was pleasantly cool so we were able to sit in the beautiful garden.

This is another restaurant I was alerted to by Blackboard Eats, and though it was quite a bargain with 30% off, we will definitely return without the discount.

Dishes we’ve tried included an excellent fritto misto, caprese salad, a scrumptious seared tuna with olive tapenade, grilled baby chicken with peppers, and pork chop milanese. Both the chicken and pork were juicy and succulent.  We had some nice beers with these.  The only slight disappointment was dessert.  We tried a tiramisu which was rather ordinary, so on our second visit we skipped dessert.  We were quite well filled from the generous portions anyway.

Service was pleasant and professional.  This is obviously a well-run place.

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The hotel, at 3rd and Warren, is still a work in progress, scheduled to open in 2019, but the elegant bar/lounge and outdoor terrace are open and serving cocktails, wine and interesting light food.  This venture is from the owners of the Bartlett House in Ghent, a bakery and restaurant that has been very successful.  We stopped in with some friends this past weekend for a drink.  Interesting cocktails, a piano, sofas and chairs, a fireplace.  This is definitely much more upscale than what Hudson has been used to.

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