Mi Amo L’Italia!

April 3, 2008 at 12:01 am (Our Favorite Things, Travel, What we're drinking) (, , , , )

I am riding a huge high…and yes, it may indeed be drug induced, but the doctor says it will make me better.  The sniffles are abating, slowly…but bronchitis won’t keep me down.  I will be euphoric, oh yes I will!  Traveling makes me so very happy, and traveling to Italy is perhaps my most favorite thing to do because it involves so much eating, drinking, and talking with friends.  Ahhh, bliss.

The LUSH staff has been kicking ass and running the shops splendidly while I was cavorting about internationally.  I had the opportunity to travel to Italy, and I couldn’t miss it, so I dropped everything including my Lush umbilical cord, phone, and emails (gasp!) and packed a bag!  My desintation was wine, ultimate frisbee on the beach, and regional Italian food….mmmm, wanna go back already…

So, as you may or may not know, I am an avid ultimate frisbee player.  I participate in leagues throughout the year, play intense women’s club with Nemesis, and rock out at a select few tournaments with my first and bestest ulti friends in Chicago.  We won a bid to the BEST international beach tournament in the world, Paganello in Rimini, Italy as the ‘American Gladiators’ ultimate squad.   The tournament, www.paganello.com, runs for 4 days over Easter weekend each year and 1,500 ultimate players come from about the world, as well as a couple hundred frisbee free-style kids….we take over the east coast beach town of Rimini and play mad beach ultimate, drink local, eat local, and party all night long for four full days!

I flew into Milan, by way of Belgium (I DID drink a pint of Belgian brew at 7.30am) and then trained it on over to Rimini with a short stop in Bologna.  I crashed for the night, but took a bit of time to photograph my FAVORITE fresh vegetable, fish, and meat stands tucked behind the Piazza Maggiore in Bologna!  Luckily, the train to Rimini went right through wine country, and I was able to do some serious research…bud-break had just occurred, and the vines were trellised next to orchards in which the farmers had ‘trained’ the fruit trees, too.  The vines were trellised in various ways, including head-pruning and the upside down L method (keep up with me as I get ‘technical’ with winespeak here…).  Some vines were at least 25 years old, and I caught sight of one vineyard that had several tree-trunk sized vines…really old buggers.  Of course, there were new plantings of young vines that looked to be about 2 years old dispersed in with the old growth.  Most farms were tiny, and all the grapes probably meant for family consumption, while others were fairly large vineyards.  My guess, based on the Emilia Romagna region, is that these are mainly planted with Sangiovese vines and, as we move east, maybe a few Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  I didn’t catch sight of any wineries, but did wave at a few farmers, was speeding by on a train that I was not driving.  Really cool.

Bologna Vegetables

As soon as I arrived in Rimini, I dropped by pack, picked up my teammate, and headed to the local restaurant with the ‘best’ food and ‘best’ wine.  Their slogan, in vernacular, regional dialect translates to something like ‘shut up and eat.’  And, in the restaurant, you can find signs in Italian saying to Eat, Drink, and have sex (but they used the vulgar term).  So, the two of us sat down for a very late lunch…the staff let us be very leisurely, as we spent well over an hour just sipping on our liter of house wine!  I jumped right into the regional food with gnocchi, and those pillows of heaven really did it good.  Yum.  The house wine was less than ideal.  Super young, astringent, and tart Sangiovese I think.  Not my favorite.  But a liter for 8 Euro isn’t too bad and I learned a valuable lesson.

So, the entire team arrived and the welcome party for the tournament commenced at night, in the dark, on the beach, with a fantastic Euro-beat DJ, huge baskets of wine served through a sort of tap, whole, fried ‘paganello’ fish after which the entire tournament is named, and heaping cauldrons of pasta.  Needless to say, with an entire water bottle full of wine, and hundreds of fun new people to meet, I was very happy.

Paganello Rosso Wine! 

We played ultimate.  Wind, sun, sand, clouds, Paganello wine! (they bottled their own), international teams and ‘spirit games’, food, beer, more games…big parties, drinking, and eating, the beach, a bit of cold rainy ick, a trippy techno laser light show at a disco, our wine slurping mascot ‘Freedom’, a few hours of sleep…showers in the bathroom, over the toilet and bidet with no curtain, sand everywhere, 40s as ‘EXTREME’ American spirit prizes, a skydiver, and SCANDAL men’s team from Chicago as ‘world beach champions’, as well as the mixed team HUCK FINN with Chicagoans on roster.  Good times.  The Gladiators finished, as seeded, 30th.  Woot.  We won some! 

Gladiators3

Although I had a lot of local, house wine and a couple of non-remarkable Tuscans, the standout wine of the trip was the Fattoria de Terrazze Rosso Conero from Marche. This wine is a blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese and essentially made for the regional fare…I drank it with porcini and polenta, local tomato, mushroom, and parmesaen bruschetta, and a Quattro Stagione pizza.  16 Euro, super delicious.  LUSH carries their wine Planet Waves…a duo from the winemaker Antonio Terni and Bob Dylan of mainly Montepulciano with a bit of Merlot that is sublimely delicious.  Drink Marche wines, for serious.

2 Pint

I walked through a few bottle shops, but the proprietors frowned on my photography, so I looked and didn’t touch or pull out the camera.  Some interesting wines, and quirky pricing…but nothing that made me sacrifice my shoulders or pack space.  The London Heathrow airport was chock full of fun anthropological observations, but I will reserve them and offer a few photos of the whiskey selection and new ‘Disco’ Absolut, and my incredibly expensive 1/2 pint of Guiness, puh-lease.  The only thing I ended up bringing back was an fancy ‘prada’ style upper respiratory infection from the stupid plane…at least it was designer Italian style sick.

Mini Paddy

Ahhh, Italy.  Wish I could have stayed longer, ate more, and certainly drank a few more bottles.  You should go.  I should go back. 

Ciao bello!  Dammi un bacio.  Wink wink.

Posted by Rachel

Bologna Arch

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