Northern Italy by Train: Tuesday

After a restful night’s sleep at the B&B two doors down from my great aunt, Ian and I had a leisurely sleep in (our first on holiday!), and enjoyed a bite to eat.  We had agreed to meet Rina for lunch at 12:30, but beforehand, Myrna had offered to take us around San Daniele for a couple of hours.

Steps up to our room at the B&B.  FABULOUS after a marathon.

Steps up to our room at the B&B. FABULOUS after a marathon.

San Daniele is most famous for it’s ham.  The region lies between the humid air currents from the Adriatic Sea, and the fresh currents from the Alps.  Apparently this plays a big part in curing the ham, and the result is so distinct, San Daniele ham has been protected by the Italian government since 1970.  Myrna told us that in June, the Aria di Festa, a festival dedicated to eating ham (and drinking beer) takes place.  Apparently this is very popular with German tourists.  This came up as apparently one of the popular spots to sit and enjoy the festival is Castle Park, overlooking the countryside.  Myrna decided to take us there to admire the view before we started our walk.  It was quite hazy, so you can’t see the impressive Alps in the background, which is a shame:

P1010680On our walk in the centre, we saw some churches (one was closed due to being restored).  The most grand church was the Duomo di San Michele Arcangelo.

P1010692There was a funeral taking place, so we wandered about the streets for a little while before returning to see the inside, which was quite modern:

P1010691We also visited the Church of Saint Maria de la Fratta, a smaller church that had been badly damaged during an earthquake in the 70’s, and refurbished.  Inside, again, it lacks the decadent displays of wealth that you might find in the Duomo in Milan, but a couple of frescos survived the earthquake, and were on the walls.

P1010685During our walk, we noticed that a lot of the shops are closed.  It would seem that the economic crisis has hit San Daniele and similar places quite hard.  Even on the tourist guide, several of the shops were crossed off in pen, indicating that they had been forced to shut down fairly recently.  People just don’t have the money to spend on non-necessities.  Despite this, a souvenir shop was open, selling ceramics and other things, and I did my usual by finding a magnet to remind me of my visit.  The woman wrapped it up in crepe paper like a rose, telling me she only does this for ‘special’ customers, but I am not so sure I believe that.

P1010693With 30 minutes to spare before meeting my great aunt for lunch, we stopped for a drink, and Ian wrote his mum a postcard.  Ian is also fairly certain that we saw a prostitute, but maybe she just has a questionable taste in fashion.  In the eatery, we were surrounded by tourists (I heard American, and I think there was a German couple as well).  I had never realized, during my visits to San Daniele when I was younger, just how popular the place is!  Clearly I am not alone in my love for the cured ham.

Myrna stopped by Rina’s and drove us to a restaurant nearby for lunch, before heading home to wait for her grandchildren.  Joining us was Maria, who owned the B&B, and who spoke a little English.  I can’t go to Italy and NOT eat gnocchi, so that’s exactly what I ordered for my lunch, from the primi section of the menu.  Ian ordered lasagna.  And then the waiter asked what we wanted for secondi.  Ian and I looked at each other, and Maria explained that we should order our second course.  We assumed this meant the primi would be an appropriate size for a starter, and ordered something to share from the secondi menu, knowing only that it contained ‘beef’.  Here I am with Rina, gearing up for course numero uno:

P1010699 P1010695 The first course came, and it looked a lot like a full-sized main course to me!  My gnocchi came with smoked cheese, which was an interesting flavour, but tasty.  Ian’s lasagna was delicious, but we still have no idea what was inside.  Ian looked at me as if to say Holy shit, THIS is just the first course.  I responded likewise.  We gave each other similar looks when the waiter came and served up a local specialty before our secondi arrived.

Eventually the secondi did arrive, and to my relief, did not contain pasta (as I’d struggle to eat much more).  Instead, a piece of cooked beef was sliced before us, and pieces were then placed on a bed of salad, and covered with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Ian and I managed to finish most of it, but turned down the desert menu.



After lunch, we walked Rina back to her house for a rest.  She wasn’t feeling too well, and wanted to go out to a restaurant for a pizza that night, so we arranged to be there at 7:30, and then went back to the B&B for an afternoon nap.

After a couple of hours to ourselves, Ian and I set off on foot to Myrna and Franco’s house.  Franco had invited us to go walking with him at 6, and we thought it would be a good way to see a bit more of the countryside, and attempt to work up an appetite for dinner after our monstrous lunch.  Apparently the local cardiologist set up a series of evening walks in order to help people in the area stay active.  Sometimes they are in San Daniele, sometimes they are in one of the nearby villages.  The walk we went on started in one of the nearby villages, and quickly led onto a farm track.  There were about 30 walkers, and apart from one or two kids that were dragged along, Ian and I were the youngest ones there.  After about 20 minutes, we stopped in a field for some ‘light aerobics’, which consisted of some stretching, and was actually quite relaxing.  And then, off we went again.  The whole walk took about an hour, and we probably covered about 4-5k.  Again, it’s hazy, so no Alps.

Ian talking to Franco during the walk.

Ian talking to Franco during the walk.

After the walk, Franco took us by his local for a quick beer, before picking up Myrna, then Rina, and then heading for the pizza restuarant.  Man, if that wasn’t the best pizza I’ve ever tasted, I don’t know what is!  I went for the ‘San Daniele’ pizza, which, you might have guessed, comes with tomato, cheese, and San Daniele ham, sliced thinly and covering the entire surface.  I don’t care how much of a pig I looked that day, I finished the whole damn thing.  Ian, who was concerned that he hadn’t paid for anything during our stay, got up to try and pay for everyone’s meal, but Rina quickly started asking where he was going.  Myrna told her, “the bathroom,” but she knew, and went to speak to the waitress (probably to make sure she knew that Rina was the one paying).

After perhaps one more beer than I should have had, we decided to go for a gelato, but sadly it was raining pretty heavily outside (and the gelato shop was closed), so we all got dropped off, saying our goodnights quickly, and went to bed.

Wednesday – Venice!

2 thoughts on “Northern Italy by Train: Tuesday

  1. I LOVE pizza in Italy, you just can’t find anything that compares any where else! I also remember being in La Palud, close to Courmayeur, when we went skiing, and ordered a 3 course meal. Our first course of tagliatelle with sausage and soup one night, and soup and risotto another night were HUGE! We could’ve stopped eating!

    Thanks for making me think about these delicious foods again….. 😉

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