planes, trains and rental cars…

This blog is my Journal for June 6th, 2010

Yesterday was a day of planes and trains stations.  Kelly and I flew thru the night to Frankfurt and , although we had taken off more than one hour and a half late from the US, made our  tight connection to Florence.  We decided to hitch a cab from Florence airport to the train station.  A cab ride directly to Casa Ombuto would run approximately 200 euro said one of the cabbies so we needed to figure out the best way to get to our final destination.  It seemed good being in this train station that I had been in with Tom and the kids on our previous trip to Florence.  At the station we saw lines of people waiting to purchase tickets or, like us asking questions.  I found the information office and asked the girl for the closest rental car office.  She pointed outside of the station directing me to Centuro (street) ????  I  left  Kelly to guard our heavy  bags and ventured out of the busy train station in search of the rental car office.  After directions from several non English speaking Italians, I saw the small office with a sign on the window front ” easy car rent”.  Sounded good to me.  And as I approached I noticed a small, white haired lady asleep in a chair and an equally small grey haired gentleman behind the counter asleep is his chair.  They popped to their feet and I asked if he spoke English.  He nodded yes, meaning not very well, but  he seemed to understand.  I arranged to rent a Fiat Panda for the week for just over 250 euro.  I  briskly walked back over to the train station with a smile on my face, to share with Kelly our good fortune. We dragged our large suitcases down the via toward the rental car office where the sweet old man helped us put them in the back of the yellow Fiat.  After helping us load  the destination city “Poppi”  (pronounced pope’E) into the TomTom, which we immediately named Tanya, we were off.  The drive from Florence to Casa Ombuto was an experience in itself. It seemed as if it took forever to get out of Florence, which is quite small geographically.  However, Tanya managed to get us thru several roundabouts chanting “take the next right, bear to

Kelly next to our Fiat Panda....

your left and make a right turn on the third exit.”
It is approximately 50 km from Florence to Poppi, where we could check in by 4pm.  It was 2pm when we left Florence, so we should arrive on time.  We were blown away as we finally entered the highway that led to the  surrounding countryside.  It was every bit as beautiful as any picture.  We just kept saying…”oh my God”. Then we drove, we drove, we drove, thru little towns and winding mountain roads.  The Fiat is a five speed so I kept down shifting and it was crazy as motorcycles, banking the curves headed directly for us ……ON OUR SIDE OF THE NARROW ROAD!
After some anxious moments of wondering how to find our casa, and nearing dark, we happened upon two kind soles in a pick up truck just on the edge of Poppi.  They were the first people who seemed to recognize the name  “Casa Ombuto.”  They said, “follow us.”  They led us up the mountain road for probably two miles of winding dirt ribbon and finallystopped in front of an even smaller dirt road and pointed for us to turn.  We both yelled “Grazia” and we were off. When we reached the road I have dreamed of for months, the road I have as my desktop on my computer, we were “screaming..”there it is…..” We drove past the stone columns with the sign Casa Ombuto down the canopied dirt road and winded around the pea gravel road to the stone building we had seen in the brochure.  Barbara the manager and our chef, Laura Guisti greeted us immediately with hugs and a glass of wine . “We were a bit worried, and were looking for your travel information as you pulled up””, said Barbara, happy all of her students had arrived safe and sound.

After a warm welcome, Barbara showed us to our suite. We each have our own bedroom and bath that open to a large living room with kitchen and fireplace.  Outside our glass French doors is a covered porch with a huge wooden table and benches… everywhere,  we were too exhausted to shower, so we washed up and made our way back to the kitchen and dining building, just a few steps from our apartment excited to meet the other students

Seated at the outdoor wooden table were our cooking classmates.  We would be a class of nine.  Barbara and Laura introduced us all around and we shared a glass of Comparti..  We met Rosemary and Tom from Ireland  and  now living in Boston, Eleanor and Jim from Boston and Bonita Springs, Fl   The four were neighbors in Boston, now retired travel companions.  We met Elizabeth from Perth, Australia and two sisters, Cassie from Wisconsin and Lindsay from Austin, Texas. Then we moved into the dining room and were served a meal fit for a king.  Laura had prepared a simple salad of tomatoes, asparagus and green beans with olive oil and buffalo mozzarella, Casarecce’ ( a dense type of pasta ) with speck and saffron,  The main course was a Florentine T-bone, a slightly grilled steak with chippolini onions and cannelloni beans.  All of this was accompanied by three wines selections, white and red.  Dessert was a berry tart that would make you dream of your grandmother.  After dinner Barbara and Laura began carrying several bottles from the large wooden cupboard in the corner….apparatiff ….amaretto, lemoncello, cognac, brandy, grappa, some home made……..we were to sample as many as we wished in the shot glass that was placed in front of us.  They said we could sit as long as we liked. Just blow out the candles and close the door. She suggested we take a full glass back to our room.  It was a beautiful evening and I was in a deep sleep moments after my head hit the down pillow.  Tomorrow we begin to cook. Bueno notte.

Tom from Ireland and Barbara Manager of CO
Kelly with the after dinner drinks.....

The seasonal berry tart.....lovely

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