Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Time Flies When You're Having Fun

It hardly seems possible, but tomorrow Amy and I will have been married for three weeks. All the evocative mental images of that day -- the tears, the sweat-soaked groom melting in late afternoon sun, Puba stealing the show and that speech -- are now but fading memories. [And, though we missed much, we did notice a few of you were enjoying yourselves - above.] Perhaps even hazier are our memories of the glorious week leading up to the wedding, during which pantegrulian quantities of beer and wine were quaffed by you wedding guests as you warmed up your drinking muscles and livers for the final onslaught on June 28th. So it is with great anticipation that we await the delivery of our wedding photographs which we hope will fill us in on some of what actually happened in that 6-8 hour period. Of course, that photographic story will be far from complete and because of that we'd love it if you could either send us or e-mail us a link to your best and worst pics of the week and the wedding.
We've uploaded our pictures of the wedding week to Snapfish so we invite you to check them out here
[Note: If you'd like to share you pictures with other wedding guests but don't have their e-mail address, please feel free to post links to your pics in the comments section of this post.]

We're sure most brides and grooms feel the discomfort of being so in focus with everyone snapping away, and while we did too -- particularly for the first dance, as we did our utmost to shuffle around without stacking-it on the uneven parquet while being blinded by the videographers' light -- we got used to it in the end, as the image to the right, i think, shows. [We thank Mrs. Louise Culshaw for capturing this beautiful, romantic nuptial scene.] Anyway, we encourage you to share your pictures with us and each other through whichever medium you prefer. We can't wait to see them!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Knowing Your Tagliatelle from Your Tagliolini

Returning home, you, like us, probably felt the bump of landing in several places - the legs and spine (from airplane travel) and the wallet (from the careless assumption that a euro is only worth a little more than a dollar). You may also have felt that bump in your gut - no, not the one gained from vacation over-consumption, though we now jiggle unintentionally in several new areas too - but the corporeal shock brought on by the sudden lack of carbohydrate-heavy foodstuffs delivered at least twice daily and washed down with liters of wine. Our livers are probably grateful that the recent, heady days of a personal pizza for lunch, and a pasta primi and meat secondi with potato contorni in the evening are over, but we find ourselves missing those regular hits of starch, and the challenge of trying to figure out just what kind of pasta we were ordering.

Many linguistic officianados may mock those of us who struggle with even the most basic of restaurant Italian but we're sure that our wedding guests, as we did, learned a great deal more Italian than they knew before just from negotiating two menus a day for a week. Unfortunately, however useful it is knowing that senza gas and naturale refer to still mineral water, it pales into insignificance compared to the sophisticated and nuanced ability to identify the shape of the pasta on offer. Do not feel downcast though, if you were surprised when your food came, as we learn from Heat - Bill Buford's humorous account of a novice cook's experiences in several famous Italian restaurants - so creative and impish are Italian pasta-makers in playing with the form of their dough that many natives do not always know exactly what it is they're getting.

Over the course of a three week trip, your blog authors had exactly zero disappointing meals, even when forced to eat at highway service stations, and in spite of frequently ordering things completely blindly due to inadequacies of our dictionary. That said, it would have been nice in some cases to have had a better idea of what to expect so our levels of anticipation could have been higher, and it is with this in mind that we very humbly (since this would have been a lot more useful to you a month ago) offer the following links to a website that removes some of the mystery from Italian menus.

Tubular Pasta
Stuffed Pasta aka pasta ripiena
Other pasta shapes
Long, Flat Pasta
Long, Thin Pasta

In spite of (or perhaps because of) eating pasta everyday for the best part of a month, we're reluctant to give it up, and are studiously trying to recreate some of our favorite dishes from our trip at home. Just last night we made an uber-simple but very delicious penne with arugula, cherry tomatoes and canned tuna dish we had at a tiny, hole-in-the-wall place in the mountains of Elba. If you aren't ready to give up your pasta fix either, we'd love you to send us recipes for versions of your favorite Italian dishes. They don't have to be exactly the way they were made when you had them in Italy - that's probably impossible - your nearest and most delicious approximations will do just fine. Either e-mail us or add a comment to this blog post.
Buon Appetito!!

P.S. - our hearty salutations to anyone who's figured out which of the pictures in this post is tagliatelle and which is tagliolini. Answers will be revealed in the next exciting installment...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Things to Bring Checklist

Imagine our surprise when we got to the hotel...

We realise that packing most of the items below is commonsense, but we thought it might be useful all the same.

- Converter
- ATM Card (easiest way to get money – travelers checks really are not used anymore call your bank to make sure you’ll be able to use your debit/ATM card abroad – ask about any fees)
- Alarm clock (there are no clocks in any apartments)
- iPod + travel speakers (No stereos in apartments)
- extra towels for by pool (bathroom towels are provided, but you might want a bigger one)
- Swimsuit
- Sunblock
- Sun Glasses
- Michelin (or other) road map of Italy and/or Tuscany (available in US at Barnes& Noble / Borders) (For a better selection of maps and guidebooks than maybe anywhere else in the world, visit Stanfords of London)
- Up to date passport
- Drivers’ license
- Italian phrasebook
- Italy/Tuscany Guide Book (we recommend the “Rough Guide” series)
- Phone card / international calling card (see cellphone)
- Hairdryer
- Immodium
- Pain killers
- Camera/Extra Memory Card
- Batteries

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Pocket Billiards Anyone?

We've recently read in Tobias Jones' excellent commentary on modern Italy The Dark Heart of Italy that it is customary for Italian men to touch their testicles should a priest or other cleric cross their path. The belief is that since priests are forbidden to have relations with women, they are so jealous of lay men that they put a hex on their balls. This hex, however, can be warded off by making sure to give your plums a quick russle everytime clergy is sighted.

The issue of what happens at Italian weddings when man, wife and priest are all in close proximity, and are dependent on one another for a successful outcome (both on the day and in having future offspring) remains a mystery to us, so if anyone out there could let us know before Thursday, June 28th, we'd be much obliged. Naturally, we would not want to be furtively tossing our salad before God, his representative and the congregation present if custom forbade it, nor indeed would we want to risk a curse by failing to do so.

On a more serious note, and since we dearly want you all to be able to be there to witness said game of pocket billiards, here are some links to directions to the town of Bucine from various places.

In addition, we recommend that you purchase a road map of Tuscany or Italy to help you get to Lupinari and to other places in the vicinity. We think the best maps are the Michelin series available at most Barnes & Nobles and Borders.

To Bucine from Florence Airport (Amerigo Vespucci)

To Bucine from Florence (city)

To Bucine from Pisa Airport (Galileo Galilei)

To Bucine from Rome (city)

To Bucine from Rome Airport (Fiumicino)

To Bucine from Rome Airport (Ciampino)

For other routes, visit viamichelin.com and punch in your coordinates.

Visit Lupinari.com for a simple map of the area or click on the image at right to see a map showing how to get from Bucine to Lupinari. And, click here for easy to digest directions to Lupinari from Bologna, Rome and Florence.

Buon Viaggio!!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Practically, though not actually, related...

Thankfully, we're putting the finishing touches to the wedding planning and you'll be pleased to learn that you can help us do this by answering two very simple questions.
  1. Do you have any special dietary requirements? [vegetarian/vegan, kosher/halal, macrobiotic(?), food allergies etc.] Please let us know so we can have the caterers fix up something appropriate and delicious for you.

  2. Will you be at Lupinari on the evening of Tuesday, June 26th? We are planning a short wine n'cheese welcome / get-together, so please let us know if you will be around.

Note: The consumption of wine and cheese is not mandatory at said welcome event, and definitely not for those with certain food allergies. However, those among who you believe they are lactose intolerant will be reassured to learn that not only are very few of us so afflicted with this condition that we cannot drink a daily tall glass of milk without ill effects, but cheese contains no lactose. Lactose is a sugar found in milk, 98% of which is drained off with the whey (cheese is made from the curds) and the other 2% is quickly consumed by lactic-acid bacteria in the act of fermentation.

So, in two weeks time, let's eat (cheese), drink (wine) and be merry!

P.S. - the interesting cheese factoid comes straight out of Jeffrey Steingarten's witty and informative book, The Man Who Ate Everything. We highly recommend it to everyone, but especially those who are fussy eaters.

Monday, June 4, 2007

To Reiterate, I'll Say This Only Once

There are always problems with new technologies. Indeed, the older ones amongst you will remember the days when a man with a red flag had to walk ahead of every car to warn pedestrians of the death-trap rushing their way at, well, walking speed. This was but a bump in the road compared to the problem we've identified with blog software, which causes the older posts slip off the foot of the page and then searched for manually. Can you imagine the inconvenience?

In order to counter this problem we're having to repeat the very first post our little fingers ever typed on our, then, barely conceived wedding blog, back in January. We don't like to repeat ourselves so we're saying this only once. Read and absorb the details below as if this website were about to self-destruct, a la Mission Impossible, in five, four, three...

General Information

As a helpful reminder, in case the oh-so humorous Save the Date card we sent you in the fall happened to fall off your fridge, here are the basic details of our wedding again.

Location - Tenuta di Lupinari, "I Lupinari," 52021 Bucine, Arezzo, Tuscany
T: 055/9912011 F: 055/9911870

Date - Thursday, June 28th, 2007, ceremony at 6:00 p.m.

Attire - Business/lounge suits for gentlemen and dresses for ladies(hats optional).

Here's how the "big day" is going to shake out.

Ceremony - The wedding ceremony will take place outdoors on the property at Lupinari, adjacent to where guests are staying.

Cocktail Hour - The ceremony will be followed immediately by a cocktail hour at which our guests are invited to slake their thirsts with a selection of chilled beverages and take the edge off their appetites with a variety of hors d'Ĺ“uvres and local cheeses.

Reception - Guests will be invited to take their seats for the reception at around 8:00 p.m. Speeches will be made and several people will probably be embarrassed. Dancing will follow the dinner, and is compulsory. We expect everyone to embarrass themselves at this point.

End - since we're all staying on the property, there are no carriages at a certain hour. We intend to party until we can go no longer and hope that some of you will still be there with us at the end.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Bucine - Piccolo, ma Corposo...

Lupinari as the better-informed amongst you will know is adjacent to the small town of Bucine (pronounced Boo-chee-nay, emphasis on the nay). At first glance, which is probably all you'll have time for, especially if you blink while driving through it, Bucine looks remarkably similar to many other small Tuscan towns, particularly those not on the tourist map. It seems prosaic and ordinary, without the wonderfully-intact medieval architecture of Montepulciano or Greve in Chianti - "fly-paper for tourists," according to ultimate travel nerd, Rick Steves - and in some ways it is.

However, it almost certainly has several things going for it that the more touristy towns do not - useful shops: butcher, baker, electrical supply store, florist, and food co-op (supermarket); a movie theater (open two days a week) - see at right; and a polo club. Indeed, scratch the surface and there is much more to Bucine than meets the eye. For example, according to local legend, Jesus Christ appeared to the villages' children, standing on an oak log at what is now the site of the sanctuary church of San Salvatore. Then, many followers then led a procession to the site carrying stones for the temple. These stones were all different shapes and sizes, and they can still be seen cemented around the gates of this rural church. Roots of an oak tree were found on the site during renovations in the 19th century and have been preserved for posterity in a display case inside.

For the less devout amongst you, who are looking to spend an afternoon poking around Bucine, perhaps walking off a large lunch of the local specialties, boiled meats and bread soup, you might be interested to visit the town's Palaeontology Museum. On the other hand, palaeontology might be a bit hard to digest, and so, after strolling around the town, you may be curious to know the meaning of the net in the shape of a seashell held by a lion you've seen in various places. Well, wonder no longer, wedding-bloggers, the symbol is the coat-of-arms of one of the former ruling family's of the area, and features this strange trap which was used to catch fish and small birds in the abundant local rivers and streams. The trap is known as a bucine, and is thought to be the origin of the town's name.

All in all, Bucine is perhaps more typical of modern Tuscan towns than the best-known places on the tourist trail. That's not to say that you should avoid one or the other, but that different towns cater to different populations. Bucine caters primarily to its residents and the local rural population, and Montalcino caters primarily to tourists fresh off the bus and jonesing to be shaken-down for souvenirs and over-priced lunches off the tourist menu. It's useful to bear these things in mind, that's all.

Anyway, here's a link to directions/map of Bucine, which is probably more helpful than most of the pointless witterings above.

P.S. - the post title means "small, but full-bodied," which I think fairly sums Bucine up.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Elephant in the Room

If you know that a bellicose North African chap by the name of Hannibal has the distinction of being the only person in recorded history to have entered Rome on the back of an elephant, you probably also know that there are many more comfortable, though less grand, ways of entering the eternal city. Why then, we hear you cry, does this blog does not have any posts about Rome, Milan, Florence, or really any of the major Italian cities? Do its authors not think wedding guests will be interested in visiting these cities? Indeed, does this big-headed wedding blog think itself so superior as to willfully ignore such monumental and famous places? The very cheek of it!

The truth is, of course, quite the opposite. In acknowledging their limitations both in time and ability, the blog authors deliberately decided not to write anything about Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin, Florence or Venice for fear that such posts would be nothing but a gloss — barely scratching the surface of these complex and storied cities. After all, hefty books have been written about them, and it is not our intention to try to compete. But do not let yourselves be discouraged by the weight of literature in the same way as your weak-minded authors! We encourage you to check out as many of these places as you have the time and energy for.

We know that many of you are arriving in Rome as your first port of call in Italy, and while, like every guidebook, we highly recommend you visit the pantheon, the forum, the colosseum, campo di fiori, the Vatican City, etc, we also suggest you take a couple of hours to check out the monumental ruins of the Baths of Caracalla.

In their heyday, they were able to accommodate several thousand bathers at once and the sheer scale of the complex is staggering even today. Perhaps more amazing is that these leisure facilities were just one of several in the environs of ancient Rome, offering an insight into the size of the population of the center of the Roman Empire. For more information about the baths and the fascinating (seriously) engineering that allowed hot and cold running water in the second century AD, click here.

For a more general guide to Rome that offers advice on what to do and see in Rome in 48 or 96 hour stays, visit the official Rome tourist board website.

A Recurring Theme
A post on this website would hardly be complete without a reference to locally-available comestibles, so it is fortunate that Rome is a superb city for eating — one of our favorites, in fact. Trastevere is an excellent quarter of the city for authentic Roman restaurants, as is the Jewish Ghetto on the opposite bank of the River Tiber. Indeed, good food can be found in almost every neighborhood but, as in all cities that are on the tourist map, you can get very over-priced bad meals too, so you ought to show discretion about what you eat and where, especially if you find yourself with a hunger in the immediate vicinity of any of the major sights. However, Rome is a surprisingly small and compact city with a maze of intertwining streets, so within two minutes walk you can be completely off the beaten-track and seated at a neighborhood trattoria, paying locals prices.

For more details about Roman restaurants click here and for tips on typical Roman dishes to look out for, click here. Buongustaio!