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An Italian Experience: VBT Travelers Recount Their Italy Bike Tour

Often, our most resounding travel memories are born out of happenstance. With the help of outstanding local Trip Leaders, VBT vacations are designed to foster our travelers’ natural inclination to wander and explore, making the occurrence of a delightful chance encounter possible at any bend in the road. VBT travelers, Maryanne and Rich D. were kind enough to lend us a bit of their experiences on one of our Italy Bike Tours.

Rich and I cannot wait to have an opportunity to provide feedback regarding our recent tour to Puglia, Italy. Our tour guides Marco and Giuliano were superb in every way and they worked so well together. Since Rich and I were frequently the first riders to venture out in the morning, we had several opportunities to get lost, but we typically didn’t have any trouble at the “tricky turns” as Giuliano or Marco were there to lead the way. When we did veer off course (exploring as they would say) we weren’t away for long as Marco and Giuliano found us. When we asked if we were lost, they would gently state “Just a little, of course. Follow me!”

One of the highlights of the trip came when a local dog followed a small group of us as we rode. We affectionately called him VBT or Pawsers. He started out with us in the morning, but when we stopped for lunch he appeared to find a new pack, down by the Adriatic Sea. However, when we ventured out on the road to start our trip back to the hotel, he was there with us again. He ran 20 miles that day, and even managed to run faster than we could pedal! At the end of the day, one of my fellow bicyclists asked Marco to bring him back to the square where an inn keeper offered to keep him along with her other 8 dogs. It was decided that since he appeared to be so well cared for – that Marco would bring Pawsers back to the square.

In short there wasn’t anything that Marco and Giuliano wouldn’t do to make our trip memorable. All the best, and thanks for an absolutely wonderful time.

Maryanne and Rich D.

Truffle Gnocchi

The onset of fall prompts an abundance of harvest festivals throughout the world.  From California’s “Crush” (wine grape harvest) to Munich’s Oktoberfest, there is no shortage on ways to celebrate colder temperatures and the gathering of crops.  If you find yourself in Northern Italy this fall, however, you might notice that interest in leaf-peeping, olive pressing, and even wine-making pales in comparison to the excitement of Truffle Season.  Exclusive to Northern and central Italy the arrival of the prized white truffle means that the small delicacy dominates the dinner table, and we thought we’d join in with this great recipe for Truffle Gnocchi.  The recipe calls for black truffles, but to really get a taste for the season we recommend substituting with white truffles. Buon appetito!

Travels with a Gourmet

Gougeres

Ingredients

  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 eggs (approximately)
  • 2/3 cup grated Gruyere cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustar
  • Cayenne

Cooking Directions

  1. Combine the water, butter, salt and sugar and heat until the butter is melted. Add flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough forms a firm ball and breaks away from the edges of the pan.
  2. Remove the dough from the pan and beat in the eggs, one by one. If the eggs are very large, you may not need 4, if they are small, you may need more. Use enough to make the pâte à choux firm, smooth and waxy.
  3. Add the cheese, mustard and a few grains of cayenne to the pâte à choux and blend thoroughly. For a stronger flavor, you might add a bit more cheese.
  4. Butter a baking sheet and drop the dough by spoonfuls, or force it through the plain tube of a pastry bag, making small round mounds on the sheets.
  5. Sprinkle with a little additional cheese and a little cayenne or a few dashes of Tabasco.
  6. Bake in a 375°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the gougères to dry out in the oven for ten minutes before removing them. Don’t open the oven door during cooling.
  7. Enjoy hot or cold!

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