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 and punch in your coordinates.

Visit 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'œuvres 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!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Apropos of Nothing, A Show of Human Kindness

Warning: this post has nothing whatsoever to do with weddings or Italy, so feel free to ignore it if that’s all you care about.

Very clearly, though, it’s not all everyone cares about, and we were awakened from our own navel-gazing and hand-wringing over our wedding plans with a jolt this last weekend, when a very kind gentleman helped us out of tight spot just because he felt like it.

Our car was dead and wouldn’t be resurrected in spite of applying jump leads and high voltage, so we headed down to PepBoys Auto to see what could be done. Knowing the sum total of bugger all about cars between us, we were inquiring about a battery-powered jump-starting kit we’d seen on the internet, when another customer — a stocky guy with gold front teeth — suggested a way we could check to see if the battery was at the root of the problem, or if it was something more sinister. Moreover, when we told him that there was little chance of us being able to successfully perform said test, he told us that was no problem, he’d come and do it for us.

Pulling out a socket-set and a pair of gloves, Claude, for that was his name, set about testing our battery, and confirmed that it, and not the alternator, was at fault. He then told us we should buy a new one and he’d wait there and fit it for us when we returned with it.

Staggered by this selfless show of kindness, we at once felt hugely grateful and rather embarrassed that we had to rely on the charity of a total stranger to help us out. It did, however, confirm our belief in the innate good of humankind, especially when, as we thanked him profusely, Claude told us he was happy to help, saying, “If I wasn’t doing this, I’d just be at home arguing with my wife.”

So, thank you again, Claude. You were a real gentleman and a great help to us. We wish we could thank you properly but we’re sure you’ll get your just reward one day.

Another upshot of this situation was that we both know how to change a car battery now. So, it seems good things happen to good people, right? Right...?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dancing Under the Stars

Vicky Pollard showing us all how it's done...
Many of us dream, we're sure, of whirling around a highly polished dance floor with aplomb, completely in step with a partner who is fleet of foot, erect of posture and minty of breath. Indeed, if you're like us, this may only ever be a dream, as the likelihood of straining knee or ankle ligaments, and/or head butting ones partner in the face, is far greater than the chance of successfully completing even the briefest of waltzes.

This should not dissuade you from shaking a leg come June 28th - quite the opposite in fact. For not only are all styles and ability levels welcome on the parquet, they are demanded. In submitting a request to have your fave tunes played at the reception, you, perhaps unwittingly, entered into an unwritten contract, committing yourself to abandoning any normal sense of decency and inhibition you might feel when bad music is playing. Maybe we should have made that clear when asking you for musical suggestions, but we didn't.

Some of you may be interested then, in working on your fancy footwork ahead of time and for those who do, we humbly submit this remarkable piece of footage for your consideration. We suggest you study this child's moves, they will come in handy should the music of a certain recently-divorced, serial-flasher, Louisiana-native, mother of two ring out during the reception...

You have been warned.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Yo Mamma Didn't Raise No Fool!

It's a dust-bunny... get it?

Congratulations to those among our wedding guests who have done themselves and their parents proud by paying the remaining balance for their accommodation on time (by May 1st). You are all at the top of the class, though given your obvious time-management and scheduling ability, that may not be an unusual feeling.

For those of you still furtively groping down the back of the sofa in search of spare change, we hope that you come up clutching something shiny and not something sticky and/or hairy. We also hope that in due course you will send us a check/cheque for the balance. The sooner we have all your money in, the easier it is for us to get that squared away with Lupinari ahead of the wedding, making it much more relaxing for you and us as the event draws near.

Once again, our thanks to those calendar-conscious over-achievers, and our encouragements to the bottom-feeding, ne'er-do-wells, amongst you. We're very much looking forward to seeing you all in less than two months!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Cheese by Any Other Name is Still Formaggio

Believe me, you will dance to this...

Yes, indeed wedding blog readers, when you ask a stupid question, you are bound to get a stupid answer. So when we recently invited our wedding guests to tell us their favorite wedding reception tunes, we were unsurprised to be deluged with more cheesy requests than a DJ at a college formal. We were surprised though, just how seriously you took our invitation, and so we expect you all front and center when the dancing starts.

This post, as much as it might want to, is not about to name and shame you for your cringe-worthy selections, instead we thought it might amuse you to find out some of the aural delights your fellow guests put forward. There's quite a variety of formaggio... Enjoy!

Ice, Ice, Baby - Vanilla Ice
I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) - The Proclaimers
Annie's Song - John Denver
Club Tropicana - Wham
Hit Me Baby One More Time - Britney
It Only Takes a Minute Girl - Take That
Livin' On A Prayer - Bon Jovi
Brick House - The Commodores

and, though we won't name names, (you know who you are Tim Hind) - Cotton-Eyed Joe by The Rednecks

Should you find that you're not as familiar as you should be with some of these "classics," you might decide to visit the toe-curlingly fabulous Am I where you can enter the lyrics you've been singing in the shower and find out what they really are.

Please note: that in asking you to submit your fave tunes, we understand that you'll be expecting to hear them. However, we feel it's important to add that some requests (Chaz & Dave, for example) were quite beyond the pale, and have been rejected for fear of reducing a fun-filled celebration to a groan-inducing headache.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Gimme What the Guy on the Floor's Having...

Unsurprisingly, for a place so full of good things to eat and drink, Italy is also famous for several distilled spirits and liquors. Perhaps the best-known, and most feared, is grappa -- a burning, cough-inducing, firewater made from the macerated skins leftover from wine-making. Similar to the French eau-de-vie, grappa is reputed to settle the stomach and cure what ails you, assuming you can remember what was wrong after drinking it.

Sambuca is another liver-busting spirit you'll be familiar with. Made from anise seeds (aniseed) and typically drunk over ice with 3 toasted coffee beans, it can be very enjoyable after a large meal -- it's strong flavor and sticky sweetness cutting through the fullness you're experiencing. It's also sometimes, unadvisedly, drunk (in the UK) as a shot at the end of a boozy night, and is never, ever a good idea.

There are, however, other strong waters that, when mixed together, while still likely to make you feel a mite tipsy, can be enjoyed without the physical symptoms caused by grappa or sambuca. The most famous of these cocktails is the Negroni. Invented in Florence in the 1920s, it was named for Count Camillo Negroni (1829-1913), who asked the bartender in his local to add gin to his favorite drink, the Americano. Negronis are made from equal measures of gin, sweet vermouth and Campari served over ice and with a twist of orange, and most frequently, consumed as an aperitif. In the US, negronis are often served with a splash or more of soda water. You can also buy ready made negronis, Negroni 1919, in the same way you can buy alco-pops, but we suspect that's more for the teenagers in the park than mature adults like ourselves. What? eh? oh...

Anyway, why not try a negroni at a Florentine cafe before dinner? Apparently, they are the perfect thing to relax with of a warm summer's evening, and work wonders in whetting the appetite.

And, just to round out this boozy post, an Americano is simply equal measures of sweet vermouth and campari, again sometimes diluted with a splash of club soda and served over ice. The drink was originally known as the "Milan-Torino" because of its ingredients - Campari from Milan, and Cinzano, the vermouth, from Turin - but in the early 1900s, the Italians noticed a surge in Americans enjoying it and renamed it for them. It seems only right then, that our wedding guests from the left side of the Atlantic do their bit for international traditions and order themselves an Americano, or two, just for kicks.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Venturing Further Afield

Italy is a country of regions. In fact, until the late 1800s, Italy did not exist as a unified country, but as a collection of autonomous states, governed by a variety of princes, including the Pope himself. Some statistics we read somewhere suggest that, unlike in Britain and America where many young people flock to the major metropolises to find work before returning "home" later on, Italians tend to remain in the area they grew up in for life. Thus, history and a lesser degree of centralization leads to strong regional and sub-regional identities, which translate into things as diverse as strict adherence to the local football (soccer) team, impenetrable local dialects and, boon for the gourmand tourist, regionally-available dishes and wines.

In an earlier post, we covered some of the highlights of Tuscany, so now, for the more intrepid traveler, or one with more time, we're looking slightly further afield to the adjacent regions of Le Marche, Emilia-Romagna and Umbria. We cannot hope to do justice to the variety and splendor of these three regions in just this one post, instead we offer you some tasty morsels of information to whet your appetite and get you started.

Le Marche
Perhaps the least-known of these three regions is Le Marche, pronounced lay markay and sometimes known as "The Marches" in English. To the east of Tuscany and bordering the Adriatic Sea, Le Marche is almost completely undiscovered compared to Tuscany and Umbria. Having said that, the string of seedy beach resorts south of Rimini (in Emilia-Romagna) are a watchword among Europeans for tasteless seaside development, in much the same way as Spain's Costa del Sol. On the upside, however, the rest of Le Marche, from its beautiful Renaissance towns of Urbino and Ascoli Piceno, to the peaceful hill-towns around Fermo, and pretty little seaside resorts on the Conero Peninsula, remains unspoilt by the ravages of mass tourism.

Le Marchigiani - the Marche locals - are reputed to eat more meat than any other Italians, and you'll find grigliata mista di carne, or mixed grilled meats, including game dishes like, stuffed pigeons (piccione ripieno) and rabbit cooked with fennel (coniglio in porchetta) on menus across the region. Given it's long coastline though, seafood is also a major component of the diet, and the local version of bouillabaisse, brodetto, which must be made with 13 species of fish, no more, no less, is a particular speciality around Ancona. For more information about all things Le Marche, visit Marche Voyager.

Lying to the north of Tuscany and spanning almost all the way across the country, Emilia-Romagna is Italy's dairyland. Like its American counterpart, Wisconsin, the landscape of Emilia-Romagna is relatively flat, only rising in the south at the foothills of the Appennines. However, unlike Wisconsin, this region is famous for its culture, beautiful cities and stunning food. Emilia-Romagna is one of Italy's most prosperous regions and is home to dairy giant Parmalat, luxury car-makers Ferrari, Maserati and Lamborghini, and electronics company Marconi. The beautiful historic cities of Bologna, Parma, Modena, and Ferrara offer fantastically intact Renaissance and Medieval architecture. Bologna is also famous for its university, which, founded in 1088, is the oldest continually operating university in the world.

Gastronomy, however, is what the region is synonymous with. Modena is world-famous for its aged balsamic vinegars, Parma for its cheese (parmiggiano-reggiano) and its ham (prosciutto di parma), and Bologna for lasagna, stuffed pastas like ravioli and tortellini, and, of course, spaghetti bolognese. The combination of the area's dairy farming traditions, its location just south of the grain-growing Po Valley, and the abundant game found in the Appennine foothills makes for a fattening combination of luscious dishes with cream, butter, cheese, meat and pasta. We encourage our guests to indulge themselves in the local cuisine and not to tell their cardiologist. To learn more about the region, visit the official Emilia-Romagna tourist board website.

While it has become very much more popular in recent years, Umbria is still seen as Tuscany's poorer and less refined neighbor. In fact, Tuscans tend to look down their noses at Umbria in the same way that you would stare pitifully at your neighbors' ginger-haired child. However, this is unfair (the Tuscany/Umbria thing, not the ginger discrimination), as Umbria has much to offer the tourist, including smaller crowds, better deals, and charming rustic countryside, which is reputed to resemble Tuscany fifty years ago.

The towns of Spoleto and Gubbio are known for their architecture and history, Assisi for its Basilica to its most famous son, Saint Francis, and Orvieto for its stunning cathedral and eponymous white wine. Lesser-known attractions of this bucolic region include the hill-town of Norcia.

Not just famous for being the place where my mother-in-law to-be's family hail from, though that would be sufficient to warrant a pilgrimage, Norcia is famous throughout Italy for its hams. In fact, so famous is the town for its pork products that the word Norcineria is synonymous with charcuterie/cold cuts. The most celebrated of these products is prosciutto crudo, but the quality of others like capacollo (gabagool), pancetta (unsmoked bacon) and guanciali (cured pigs' cheeks) is also renowned nation-wide. Boar sausage is another Norcian delicacy. Rumor has it that Norcians also do a mean line in fresh bread rolls... For more information about Umbria and its many treasures, visit Umbria Online.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In Vino, Veritas

Got any grapes...?

The authors of this blog know only too well how it feels to be reminded the morning after that we ought to have eaten something to line our stomachs before our first drink the night before, and so it is with the health and well-being of our dear readers in mind that this post, tackling, as it does, the tasty subject of Tuscan wines, comes hard on the heels of one on Tuscan food.

We also know that pretending to know about wine is both the privilege of every drinker, and frequently the bane of the drinker’s companion. On the subject of wine, it is very much easier to sound simultaneously pretentious and ignorant, than it is to offer basic information, so this post does not pretend to discuss the merits of Tuscan wines, nor to speak from a position of any real knowledge about them, rather it attempts to give you the reader some food for thought and some things to look out for.

Everyone knows Chianti, or thinks they do — the often rough n’ready red wine that is sold at every Italian restaurant for $12-18 a bottle and, until recently, was rarely seen sans straw basket. But is that all there is to know? Indeed, if that is all there is to know, is that such a bad thing? Is there any point searching for complexity and depth when you can enjoy something at face value?

We leave you to make up your minds about the merits of Chianti, the region and its various wines, offering only the following links as pointers to greater enlightenment. We mention here that Lupinari makes, bottles and sells its own reasonably-priced wine on the estate, as this is the wine you’ll be drinking at the wedding reception. However, since we haven’t tried it yet, we can’t tell you any more about it, but we suspect that good or average, we’ll all be doing our best to put it through its paces with a rigorous testing in two months' time.

Gallo Nero (Black Rooster Consortium) - for much more information about the Chianti Classico terroir, classifications, DOCG’s, and producers than a casual boozer could want.

Map of the Chianti Region - Please note: in providing this map for those of you who want to explore the area, this blog is not condoning drunk driving.

Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - because there is more to Chianti than just Chianti.

Super Tuscans - "super" is such a subjective word, but apparently, these are where it’s at in modern Tuscan wines.

Vin Santo - you can get red wine anywhere, but this stuff is only made in Tuscany, and goes down exceedingly well after a large meal.

Tuscan Wine Books - for those of you who want to know what you’re talking about, and think that you’ll remember any of the fascinating facts after half a bottle…

This blog reminds our readers to enjoy Tuscan wines responsibly.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Among the Bean-Eaters

Excuse me waiter, this steak looks a little rare...

Now that you've come to terms with the fact that your eating and drinking might get in the way of some of your more ambitious site-seeing goals in Italy, you might as well take a few minutes to learn some more about what your options are. We all know about pizza and pasta because you can get those at any Italian restaurant in the US or UK. So what else is there to know? A lot. Is the answer. And it's all delicious.

Italians are rightly proud and passionate about their food and so it's no surprise to learn that you can find more information than you could ever need through a simple google search. Distilling all that information for our wedding guests would take a lifetime -- admittedly, a delicious one -- but since we don't have that amount of time, we thought you might be interested in the selection of sites below that we've found useful in learning more about Italian food, but specifically, Tuscan cuisine.

Tuscans are known in the rest of Italy as mangiafagioli or bean-eaters because so much of the traditional rustic cuisine of the region is based on beans -- white beans, fava (broad) beans, and sorana beans -- but there is much more to the Tuscan diet than that. Tuscany is also famous for its chianina beef, pecorino cheese, proscuitto and hunters' sausage (salami alla cacciatoria), black cabbage (cavola nera), mushrooms and truffles, and perhaps most of all, its olive oils.

We would encourage you to get stuck into the local food while you're there, not just because it'll make us feel better about stuffing our own faces, but because no matter how good the chef or restaurant in London or New York, the food somehow always tastes better in Italy. - the official website of the food and wines of Italy is an excellent place to start

Castello Banfi - gives the low-down on Tuscan cuisines' ancient Etruscan roots

Tuscany Dream - if you can't wait to get there and must order some Tuscan specialties right now

Tuscan Recipes - gives you the know-how to try your hand at authentic Tuscan dishes


Getting Your Groove On, Literally

Coming to a wedding near you...
So, with the day fast approaching and most of the other details figured out, we're starting to address the conundrum that is the event's aural pleasure. What music will work in the peaceful surroundings of Lupinari? (Slayer?) What tunes will our guests enjoy listening to the string quartet play as they wait, expectantly, for Amy to walz down the isle? (Hall & Oates' Maneater, perhaps?) And which dancefloor classics are going to get you all on your feet, cutting a rug, after dinner? Regular readers will know that dancing at the reception is compulsory, and rest assured that all dancefloor antics -- the best and worst moves, and the most "in to it" facial expressions -- will be faithfully captured on video for our subsequent entertainment. You might not know, though, that the music for the reception will be played on an iPod instead of by a DJ.

With these things in mind, we thought the least we could do was to request that guests suggest their favorite songs - i.e. ones they'll dance to - so that when they're caught, eyes closed, lips-pursed a la Mick Jagger, and body contorted like spaghetti in a wind-tunnel on celuloid, they'll have the excuse that they really love the song. So, please send us your ideas on music for the post-dinner reception and we'll do our best to accommodate as many tastes as possible. Do bear in mind though, that the international nature of the wedding might mean that at any time, half the people in the room might be throwing themselves around with reckless abandon, hands in the air, to a "classic" that the other half of the room has never heard of. This, i'm sure you'll agree, is infinitely preferable to taking a risk with a local, Tuscan DJ playing all manner of crazy-sexy-Euro-disco-dance-party tunes from the early 90s, not to stereotype our Italian cousins as having poor taste, of course...

Anyway, get all ideas to us asap so we can collect all the songs together in time. You now have no excuses for not dancing!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thank You All

Just a quick note to thank everyone who responded to our call for deposits so promptly. It's a great help to us as we check another item off the "to-do" list, and will make it much easier when we all get there, as it's all pre-paid. That means all you need to do is bring some pocket-money for the week. Glorious.

And, just to get ahead of the game and put out a reminder in advance, the deadline for the remaining balance is Tuesday, May 1.

Thanks again,

Amy & Jonny

Weather or Not

Now then, let's get back to the serious reality of a summer trip to Italy. You might think to yourself that you're going to spend all your time soaking up the famed culture and romance of the country -- it's glorious renaissance cities with their stunning art and architecture, and the beautiful landscape, crafted by man in concert with nature for millennia to bucolic perfection -- but really, you're going to get a tan, and probably drink and eat too much.

Once you've accepted this as fact, and are comfortable with it, you'll be interested to learn about the weather you're likely to encounter while lazily surveying the Tuscan hills from a sun-lounger by the pool. Click here for pain-stakingly gathered statistics about Tuscan weather patterns from people who really live there. In fact, if you want to read more about what it's really like to live in a Tuscan village (move over Frances Mayes), this is the website for you. Admittedly, it'll make you sick with jealousy as you read about the truffle harvest, their local restaurant and, in general, the pastoral bliss they call life, but it contains lots of useful information for visitors to the Chianti region.

It's your choice whether you visit the site or not, but I'm sure its authors take the favorable climate and the beauty of their surroundings for granted, whereas we, visitors for only a brief time, will soak it all up and enjoy it all the more for its brevity.

I'm almost convinced about that, anyway. Honest.

For Art's Sake!

Apologies, keen wedding blog consumers, for the recent lack of posting. As you can imagine, as the day draws near, the planning gets ever more frantic and time-consuming. And, as this blog matures, it's requiring more and more thought as to what to post, and as you'll see, this particular post is so highbrow, it took months of writing and editing...

Whether you're a serious art-lover, a complete ingenue, or like us, you like to pretend to know something about art and make ridiculous, yet informed-sounding, comments like, "the brush-work in his earlier canvases is reminiscent of blue-period Van Gogh," you'll be interested in visiting this website. It's not comprehensive, but it does give you a run-down on some of the exhibits that are going to be on display during the summer in major Italian cities.

As you know, Italy is one of the best places to view celebrated works of art by people you'll have heard of, and many that you won't, and often at little or no cost, as many of the museums and galleries are publicly-owned. Visit, a website of the Italian tourist board, for more complete details of Italian museums, their exhibits, opening hours and locations.

If you want to feel all cultural, but don't want to spend all your time inside pouring over a museum guide, you'll be delighted, no doubt, to learn that the Italians have very kindly put many of their works of art on display outdoors in public piazzas, on churches and other buildings, so they can be enjoyed as you stroll by in the sunshine, gelato in hand.

However, there really is nothing like having your appetite for culture sated by morning in a museum, followed by a long and indulgent lunch, during which you can satisfy your appetite for another, equally famous, aspect of Italian culture, and reflect more deeply on the artistic value of what you've seen...

And, in case you were wondering, of course, we really do know all about Van Gogh's blue period... what? oh...

Friday, March 9, 2007

Deposit Deadline Approaches

Cue ominous-sounding music...

Hi Wedding Chums,

As you know from the e-mails we sent out at the end of January, we really want you to send in your deposit cheques/checks for the accommodation at Lupinari by Monday, March 12. The deposit is 50% of the total we quoted you.

Please drop us a line at when you send in your deposit so that we know to expect it. Also, if you've misplaced the information about deposits and where to send them, please let us know and we'll re-send it immediately.


Amy and Jonny

Let Us Know Your Travel Plans, Per Favore

Not that kind of balloons...
As regular visitors to this site, you'll have seen our earlier posts on travel to and from Tuscany from the USA and UK, and no doubt found them extremely useful and informative.

We are delighted that many of you have already booked flights to the points of arrival we suggested, but we'd also really appreciate it if you could let us know what date and time you're planning to arrive. This is not just so that we can make sure we're ready to greet you all with open arms, show you to your rooms and introduce you to other guests, but it also helps us out with two other things.

Firstly, we are considering planning some sort of informal party during the week prior to the wedding on the Thursday. By letting us know when you'll be there, we can schedule this merry shin-dig accordingly. And secondly, since many of you will be arriving through the same airports, you might also conceivably be arriving at the same time as other guests. In order that everyone not have to arrange for their own transport individually, if you e-mail us when and where you're arriving, we can link you up with other guests so time, money and hassle can be saved.

Il Palio - Rowdy, Medieval Fun

Many of our guests are planning to make a holiday out of their trip to our wedding, and we are delighted that you are. We understand only too well that once the wedding is over you'll be in need of some time to relax and get over the excitement of it all.

As we suggested in an earlier post, day-trips to Siena, Florence, Pisa and the Tuscan hill-towns are all within easy reach, and we recommend that you think about adding some or all of these to your itinerary for the wedding week. However, if you're planning on staying in Italy for a few days after the wedding, we would encourage you to look into checking out Il Palio - a Siennese cultural and sporting event for nearly 900 years.

Running from June 28 to July 4 in 2007, there's nothing like it anywhere else. With its medieval pageantry, colorful banners, lights and rough n'tumble horse racing, Il Palio is about as authentic a Tuscan experience as you can find. While we're sure you won't be there on the opening day, you might want to attend one of the other days. Finals are held, logically, on the final day, July 4. Click here to learn more about it, and here to purchase tickets.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Catching the Train

As we wrote in an earlier post, we recommend you rent a car in Italy, and depending on what your plans are for your stay, think about sharing the cost with other wedding guests. However, if you don't want to rent a car, or just don't want to drive in Italy, here are some basic details about getting from some major Italian cities to Bucine (near the Lupinari estate). For further information and other routes visit,

From Rome Stazione Termini:

- train to Arezzo (direct) takes a 1 hr 22 mins on the fast train
- train to Florence (direct) takes 1 hr 36 mins on the fast train or 2 hrs 30 mins on the slower one.
- Train to Pisa central (1 change) takes 3 hrs on the fast train but goes via Florence so it’s kind of pointless.

From Milan:

- train to Florence (direct) takes 2hrs 45mins on the fast train – one train leaves every hour
- train to Arezzo (direct) takes 4hrs on the regular train – roughly one train every hour

From Bologna:

- train to Florence (direct) takes 1 hour on the fast train – two trains leave every hour
- train to Arezzo (direct) takes 1 hr 45 mins on the regular train – roughly one train every hour

From Florence:

- train to Bucine (direct) takes 1 hour on the local train
- train to Montevarchi (direct) takes 36 mins on the local train

From Arezzo:

- train to Bucine (direct) takes 20 mins on the local train – trains go every two hours
- train to Montevarchi (direct) takes 25 mins on the local train – there are roughly two trains an hour.

All rail info from Italiarail.

Check other earlier posts about the region and transportation from the US and UK.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Car Rental

At the moment, we've only checked out car rental from Florence but there are other locations to rent from if you're not flying into Florence. Check the Region section of this site for basic geographic location details and the US Transportation and UK Transportation sections for airport details which will help you figure out where will work best for you.

See the Car Safety section below.

2 locations + airport

4 locations + airport

1 location (airport)

1 location (airport)

2 locations +airport

4 locations + airport

1 location (airport)

Travel Smarts

Again, you may want to file this under common-sense, but we think it is worth saying all the same.

You may have read that petty thievery and bag-snatching are common in Italian cities. We have not experienced this and would stress that, in general, European cities have much less crime of all kinds than their US counterparts, especially violent crime, but we encourage guests to be cautious with their possessions.

As you would be when visiting any American city, don't put your wallet in your back pocket, keep your pockets zipped or buttoned-own when possible, and make sure your bag or purse are closed. Italian women typically wear their handbags over their shoulders instead of in their hands, making them harder to snatch. The easiest thing is to put your valuables in the hotel safe and then you don't have to worry about them.

Please note that wearing a fanny pack / bum-bag not only makes you look like a tourist and will attract unnecessary attention to the place you’re keeping your valuables, but they look stupid too. You wouldn't wear one in New York City, so we encourage you not to make yourself a target for thieves or the fashion police, and don't wear one in Italy.

Car Safety
Theft of, and from, cars is reasonably common in Italy. For many years, cars have been stolen to order, particularly rental cars, and then driven aboard ferries to the former Yugoslavia and Albania for re-sale. So make sure you always lock your car and take any valuables with you, because having to go all the way to Albania to buy your car back would be a drag.

The Wrong Side of the Tracks?
It's also worth noting that if, while wandering the streets of an Italian city, you find yourself in a neighborhood full of scruffy, old buildings covered in graffiti, don't panic, you might not necessarily have entered a "bad" area. Unlike US and UK cities where these kinds of things might indicate the area is run-down, it is slightly different in Italy.

As you probably know, graffiti is originally an Italian word used to describe the tags and other musings that cheeky rapscallions have been decorating buildings with in Italy for thousands of years. So, as you'll see, it is commonplace and just part of the charm of the place. Indeed, the age and style of architecture of the buildings is one of the principle reasons you're visiting.

That's not to say there aren't areas of Italian cities you might want to avoid, but that the age of the buildings and the amount of graffiti are not always the best indicators of salubriousness. In fact, the oldest areas of Rome and Florence are those in the center, and are also the safest and easiest to negotiate due to the huge amounts of foot traffic and activity at all hours of the day. The newer, quieter, and often uglier, concrete high rises of the suburbs are more likely to be places you want to miss.

Cell Phones (for US-based guests)

Try and look away, just try...

It’s important to note that it's unlikely your US cellphone will work in Italy, as the network systems are completely different to those in America. We recommend checking with your cellphone provider several months before you depart for Italy to see if your cellphone can be "unlocked" to work on the European GSM system.

Depending on the age of your handset and the carrier you use (T-Mobile and Cingular are most likely to be able to be unlocked) this may be possible for a small fee, and allow you to use your phone in Italy, and probably in the rest of Europe too.

For further information about the European cellular system and unlocking your phone, click here. For information about purchasing Italian TIM cards (chip that allows your phone to be used - check link above for an image) for your unlocked phone or renting a phone in Italy, click here or here. TIM cards are available for sale on Ebay but we suggest you read up on them and restrictions on their use before buying anything.

Please bear in mind that international phone cards are sold in Italy ― tabbachi, or tobacconists, and newsstand kiosks are the best places to buy these ― and of course, there are phones in every room at Lupinari, so ask about how to dial internationally and the likely cost of calls when you check-in.

(Hoff pic is random we admit, but it makes this rather dry post a tad more interesting.)

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

Monday, January 29, 2007

Transportation (USA to Italy)

Since swimming to Italy is not advisable, here are some airports that those of you coming from the US might want to take a look at. Bear in mind that some are regional airports and you will have to take connecting flight. For more information about the proximity of these airports to Lupinari, click here.

Rome Fiumicino Airport
Rome Ciampino Airport
Amerigo Vespucci Airport, Florence
Galileo Galilei Airport, Pisa
Perugia (Umbria) Airport
Marconi Airport Bologna
Milan Malpensa Airport

Whether direct or with a layover somewhere, there are lots of different options for flying into Italy, so the list below isn't exhaustive. The usual rules about direct flights being more expensive apply.

Al Italia
American Airlines
United Airlines
Lufthansa (via Frankfurt)
Air France (via Paris)
British Airways (via London)
Iberia (via Madrid)

Transportation (UK to Italy)

Arriving by Air from the UK

We anticipate that almost all our guests will be arriving by plane, so we put together a list of the several regional airports that you might want to consider together with the airlines that service them from the UK. All routes listed are direct.

RyanAir flies to:
Galileo Galilei airport, Pisa, from Liverpool and London Stansted
Marconi Airport, Bologna, from London Stansted
Perugia (Umbria) Airport from London Stansted
Rome Ciampino from London Stansted and East Midlands
Rimini Airport, Le Marche, from East Midlands

Easyjet flies to:
Galileo Galilei Airport, Pisa, from London Gatwick
Rome Ciampino from London Gatwick and East Midlands

Al Italia flies to:
Rome Fiumicino from London Heathrow
Milan Malpensa from London Heathrow

British Airways flies to:
Bologna from London Gatwick
Pisa from London Gatwick
Milan Malpensa from London Heathrow and London City Airport
Rome Fiumicino from London Heathrow

British Midland (BMI) flies to:
Rome Fiumicino from Birmingham

The Region

Set in the sun-drenched hills of Tuscany, Tenuta di Lupinari is easily accessed from the region's major towns and cities. Forty-five minutes drive from Florence, an hour or so from Pisa, thirty-five minutes from Siena and Arezzo, and roughly the same to the famed hill towns of Montalcino, Montepulciano and San Gimignano, you're bang in the middle of the Chianti region.

Indeed, a more central location in Italy might be hard to find, as it is a little over two and a half hours from Rome, an hour and forty minutes from Bologna, and maybe an hour and a bit from Perugia.

More information regarding directions, distances and maps can be found at

Be aware though that Lupinari is a rustic location and is not well-served by public transportation, so we strongly recommend renting a car so you have the flexibility to come and go as you please, and explore the rest of Tuscany.

The nearest town to Lupinari is Bucine. It is in no way a tourist town, nor is it exactly a metropolis, but it does have several restaurants, an excellent food co-op, and various shops selling things you might need. Be aware that in Italy almost all shops close at lunchtime for several hours and in smaller rural towns they tend to shut for longer. For example, we went to the florist in Bucine at 5.30 p.m. to discuss our wedding flowers because the shop was shut 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Also note that shops are shut on Sundays, ALL DAY. Only restaurants, gas/petrol stations and highway rest stops are open Sundays. This is important to remember. Even in the bigger towns and cities all the shops are shut.
You will find details of local restaurants and shops in your rooms at Lupinari.

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.


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


Thursday, June 28th, 2007, ceremony around 6:00 p.m.


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


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'œuvres and local cheeses.


Guests will be invited to take their seats for the reception at around 8:00 p.m. Dancing will follow the dinner, and is compulsory.

Wedding Presents

Please note, this is the important bit: Details of where you can buy gifts to shower us with your generosity and love will follow soon.