4 days Before VinItaly


Thinking of visiting Italy? Here is my “nearly live” recount of how things went for us, our trip beginning Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013:


Friday, 05APR; I'm up since 4am again. Only about 17 hours of sleep in the last 96!


Day 1: Departing Wednesday


The economy section of Lufthansa 747 is a very hard place to sleep! Additionally:  The crew was nice, but Lufthansa food is just awful – I rate this below McDonald’s (is that cruel?) Our 4 bags were among first 10 onto the carousel -- which was brilliantly done-up like a roulette wheel. Why doesn't LAS do that? Advice for people flying into VCE: book window seat on right side of plane for best view! The planes land in Venice flying north between islands and mainland.


At moment, Terrie is sleeping well (meaning she not only sleeps, but soundly, without normal snoring). She's breaking all the jet-lag rules and sleeps whenever, where ever -- and gets a full night's sleep. I only sleep at night, after dinner -- and yet I still wake up at 4 am! I have never had this problem in 18 trips abroad!


I left my phone charger at home and my back-up charger does not work on i5. I HATE NOT BEING ABLE TO CHANGE BATTERIES!!! No one has i5 here, so I can’t borrow a cord; I’m looking to buy new one at first chance. I can't believe how unprepared I was when ride to the airport arrived - I left 3 things that I should have had packed (including my belt and a printed itinerary). A significant, last-minute home disaster occurred the day before I left (Tuesday) and the clean-up was time-consuming, but this is the first time I have ever forgotten anything.


Day 2: Arriving Thursday


We arrived in good shape and the rental car was easily accessed (unlike CDG), although the car was smaller than expected and it is definitely the most beat-up car I have ever rented. The in-lot inspection doubled the item count on the pick-up damage report. Nice first impression, Avis. Fiat Panda: easily held 2 29” bags, 1 12-pack wine shipper, 2 full roller-boards (carry-on bags) and 4 smaller bags – although the car was nearly full and the rear-view mirror was useless; referred to as a gas-guzzler by one Italian.


The weather the first 3 days has not been as bad as it could have been; just a bit of heavy rain and only when driving -- except for 1 short (1-minute) walk. Our hotel was a good deal as a last-minute change. We were originally about 30 minutes out, but we moved into Mestre which was only a 10-minute bus ride from Venice at 1.3€ each way per person. This is far cheaper than the parking at Roma Piazzale, which runs about 25€/day. The hotel charges 10€/day to park, so there is a savings of at least 10€ each day per couple. Sneaky-sneaky: they don’t look too closely at who gets on the bus and swipes their ticket. Most of the online advice I read on travel passes did not apply to any of us. See review of Quality Hotel Delfino in Mestre on TripAdvisor (hoohoolian).




Walking though Venice for first time is perhaps not the best situation for getting to our meeting point on time. We had better luck running across the same people with their noses buried in a map several times than finding our destination quickly. One guy and his wife were as lost as we were! We ran into them 3 times (obviously looking for their hotel); they had one bag each -- the first time we saw them. The next two times he had both bags. Being lost (and late) in Venice sucked, but at least I wasn't humping 2 60-pound bags over the bridges and over cobblestone! I helped him once by carrying one bag over a bridge and it was at least that heavy! My only burden was to drag a woman around who was more concerned with taking pictures than making it to our meeting less late than we already were. As is our way, we walked through Venice with a nice glass of wine in our hand. The two Riedel Bordeaux glasses survived the trip! We got plenty of envious stares from both tourists and locals alike. One gondolier even tried to buddy-up to me to get a free drink! I say envious, because these were clearly not the mocking or disgusted faces we notice when Europeans see us eating in our car...



Saint Marc's Square

We finally find our friends, Kara and Dale, in St. Mark’s Square – 2 hours late. We take a quick tour and find a place for dinner. The menu at Ai Mercanti is interesting, but in what will become a trend, my first choice for dinner is not available. A common aperitif here in Italy is something bitter and sweet. These are usually based in either Apero or Campari and finished with wine or soda and a twist of lemon. We order 3 versions and we all like the Campari and Soda better than the Apero/wine or Campari/wine.



Scam: Bridge of Locks -- buy a lock, write a note of love -- we cut them off each week.

Dining: The Italian menu usually has 3-5 courses listed: Antipasto, primi, secondi and a meat course. The meat courses can be segmented into fish, meat and poultry in various ways depending on the quality-level of the restaurant. Light pasta and gnocchi are common dishes to start with and can often be quite enough food on their own. I find myself having an antipasto or primi then a secondi or meat.


Although there were many reviews disparaging the food available in Venice, we got a good recommendation and had a good meal and some interesting wine at a reasonable price. However, the walk back to the bus stop was 30 minutes. This is not good when you are tired.


Day 3: Friday


Friuli is green with many hills, but not so many as to block your view (on a clear day) of the Adriatic Sea 20km away. Driving from Mestre took almost 2 hours in off-and-on heavy rain. Fortunately, we would experience heavy rain for only a few minutes here in Cormons. Our first visit is to Bastianich (about 10 minutes north of Cormons) and our host Wayne Young has forgotten us. The rain made us a bit late, but we somehow got lost on Wayne’s calendar as well – it’s a good thing we like him so much! Wayne takes us through the vineyards and gives us the skinny on local varieties and he explains the tendency to train the vines higher in Friuli than most other places is to allow for more air passage to keep the grapes from mildewing. We see many vineyards in disrepair between the Bastianich vineyards, as well as some high-yield training.


The winery is expanding and they are building a new guesthouse and restaurant across the road. The winery practices some common processes for Italy, utilizing Stainless, French barrique (225 liters), French tonneau (500 liters) and big Slavonian oak botti, depending on the desired result for each wine. Botti come in various sizes, but are at least 1000 liters – I’ve seen some as large as 60 hectoliters!


Since we are running late and because we are already very familiar with the wines, we taste only a few before rushing off to meet Andrea Felluga. As would be the trend for the day, we are late and Andrea is tied up with another visit! For my second visit in a row to Felluga, I must settle for a wonderful lunch and no tour of the winery. The winery has a terrific restaurant and we get to taste some local cheese, local prosciutto and a delicious barley risotto. Unfortunately, our tardiness leaves Kara and Dale waiting at the Cormons train station for us.


We get on our way to Rocca Bernarda. The Castle of Rocca Bernarda, the fortified residence was built and completed in 1567, is situated in the middle of a large park on the hill that stretches around flourishing vineyards. Thanks to Gaetano Perusini, the growing of Picolit developed on these hills. Today it is the location of a winery belonging to, like the whole complex, the Military Sovereign Order of Malta. The wines, recently unimpressive, are clearly better today than they were just one vintage ago. To complete the bad-appointment-communication trifecta, they had us scheduled for a Saturday visit.


It is very common for my trips to take some non-wine excursions. For this trip, destinations include: Portofino, Cinque Terra and our next stop – Jolanda de Colò: Reputed as the best Foie Gras producer in Italy.


Located in an industrial area of Palmanova, Jolanda de Colò is a food paradise for carnivores. The property is very secure, gated property and locked doors. The buildings are clean and well-organized. We were required to don coats, hairnet/hats, masks and shoe covers; there were disinfecting soapy-pads to walk on between sections of processing areas. There was a demonstration kitchen that most cooks would love to have in their own home. And, most impressive, the catalogue of products was a dream of dining pleasure.



Got the loot at Jolanda de Colò

We were so distracted by the candy store that we forgot we came for the chocolate. That’s right, we never even asked about Foie Gras. From a dozen selections of beef from several countries, to hams/prosciuttos, to salamis from several species, to tuna and sardines – This is a great meat house! We ate raw poultry. Cured, actually, but not cooked by conventional methods! Goose salami, stuffed back into the neck skin before curing. Weighing about 1 pound each, 5 of us ate 1 (and bought 5.) As it was late (we started at 17h00; it was now 19h30 and after company hours), we felt the need to finish, buy some treasure and get to dinner. As we got into the car, we all thought, “What about the Foie Gras?” Oops!


The hour-long drive back to Mestre gave us time to decide to have a quick, local dinner. We wound up at Hostaria Vite Rossa, as suggested by the desk clerk as a hot local’s place. It was packed! See TripAdvisor for full Review (by “hoohoolian”). We also decided to meet on Murano for some glass shopping Saturday.


Day 4: Murano and moving to Verona.


We started another early day, needing to pack and get out to Murano. We bought 2 round-trip tickets to Murano (28€ for 2 round-trip tickets -- 4 single boat rides, any length, one direction) and caught the bus down to Venice, leaving the car at the cheap hotel parking lot. We discovered that you can have a posh water taxi (the Venice limousine) take you for free if you are willing to see a glass-blowing demo and walk through their showroom! Gee, that’s the entire reason we’re going to Murano! Buying a certain amount of glass will get you a free ride home too!


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Terrie enjoying our private water taxi                  Purple pants and orange shirt; Italian

We arrived at the dock, looking for a boat when the man we asked directions from coerced us into a water taxi that took us directly to a private dock. The water taxi was glamorous. We enjoyed the 20-minute ride a lot. The sun was out, the breeze was slightly cool and it was wonderful! We were ushered directly into a room where the demonstration was already going on. Then we were herded into the gallery. Small price to pay, I say. Saturday is an “off” day on Murano, but maybe that’s different during high season. I say “off” meaning the glass blowing factory is short-staffed. Only one blower of six was working. I assume the crowds are also lighter; the density of which I experienced makes me afraid to visit during high season. There are expensive and cheap areas of the islands, what tourist can really say which earrings are worth 10€ or 25€; you may see the same exact pair (by your eyes), so shop wisely.


Fortunately for us, Kara and Dale found a similar free ride, but to the opposite end of the islands. We finally hooked up and had lunch that was not really worth mentioning beyond being on a canal and a delightful setting. We bought some souvenirs. K&D found some serious pieces to enhance their home and negotiated a free water taxi home. 28€ for water tickets were wasted.


We parted with K&D temporarily for VinItaly. As is typical on my tours, they stayed in Venice one more night and went hiking in the Dolomites and Lake Como before joining us in Asti. Terrie and I hit an Apple store and drove an hour to San Giovanni Lupatoto. SGL is a rural town just south of Verona, 8km from Veronafiere. We “stole” and apartment here: 5 days for less than the cost of 2 nights at Ibis. This is a decent apartment, although it is on the 5th floor, no WiFi and a tiny elevator. John Pinette would say: Nay-nay! To this lift! Still, it’s much larger than a hotel room with a full kitchen and street-front parking. We arrived in time to get to Veronafierre and register – which was the easiest thing that would be VinItaly.


It’s 20h45; we’re tired. We need a grocery for lunch stuff to carry into VinItaly and quick dinner. Dinner would end up being odd salami and cheese sandwiches: think Cuban sandwiches made with pita bread that is thin like tortillas. Not terrible. VinItaly tomorrow! Egad. We’re expecting chaos.

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