Friday, May 20, 2016

Polpo, al Pompelmo

After a very nice continental breakfast at the Principessa, we loaded up in the car and headed down to the train station to pick up tickets for our coming day trip to Cinque Terre. Our next mission was to head into the walled old city and pick up tickets for a concert in the evening. After that, our hosts had some errands to run down at Camp Darby, so they left us to enjoy things on our own for a bit.

Our first stop was the Puccini Museum, located in the home where he was born here in 1858. Quite an interesting collection of odds and ends, ranging from score revisions and letters from his friends, to the entire set of a production of La Boheme and a number of costumes from some of his productions. Michele was in heaven, as a musician, but I found it interesting, too. I'm definitely going to have to look up the "Western" opera he wrote, Girl of the Golden West.
Chiesa St Michele

We made our way after that to the old Ampitheatre, which is now filled with shops and restaurants around its walls, and browsed for a bit there. A crazy thunderstorm came up just as we were leaving, and we finally had to give up on pushing on through it, after our umbrellas were inverted several times by the strong winds, so we huddled for a bit in an archway with a few other travelers, and eventually when the storm settled down for a bit, we made our way to Bar San Frediano, where we enjoyed our first italian pizza - Margherita, a simple composition of tomatoes, cheese and basil. A nice light crust, dripping with home made sauce, truly good mozzarella cheese, and delicate spices. More, please!

We had a nice stroll on the old wall, which has been turned into a beautiful park, well removed from its function as a major defense for the town. A little bit of window shopping after that kept us busy until our rendezvous with Joe and Mindy, and we all drove back to the hotel for a short rest.

In the early evening, we returned to the St. Giovanni church to listen to the music of Puccini and Verdi performed by a pianist, a soprano and an baritone. I'm not a big opera buff, but the power of their singing filled the church and was truly and unforgettable experience. A standing ovation by the crowd led to a rousing rendition of O Solo Mio, which even a cultural barbarian like myself had to enjoy.

A short walk after the concert led back to our friends Michael and Anita at Lucca il Tavolo, and an absolutely amazing dinner. Anita made me a special seafood salad of prawns, squid and octopus, flavored with fresh grapefruit, and the angels alone know what other spices. Michael introduced us to a bottle of sparklin sauvignon blanc, with which we became fast friends. Secondo for me was medallions of veal, in an amazing brown sauce, covered with wafer thin prosciutto, and baked potato wedges, drizzzled with olive oil and dredged in a bit of balsamic "crema" vinegar. A small glass of a digestivo send us on our way, fattened and happy, to our peaceful slumbers in the Tuscan hills.

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