Thursday, April 28, 2011

letter from varese, italia

I just got the email that made my day. My dearest friend Natalie and her beau, Nate, are traveling around Europe for six months, and I just got an update on how they've been doing. Their farm stories, talk of beautiful sights and all that food they're eating just makes me hungry and wanting to read more! Thought I'd share with you as an inspiration to go somewhere, Granada, Sardinia, anywhere! 

Dear family and friends!

Sorry this email is getting to you several weeks late. 

Here is an update on what we have been doing in the past two months or so:

Nate and I started our travels in  in Pollensa, Mallorca where we WWOOF-ed ( Willing Workers on Organic Farms) . The farm, the little quaint town of Pollensa were absolutely beautiful!! The farm produces organic olive oil (which was delicious!) using a very old and impressive pressing system (which I have pictures of.) The farm is owned by am American family living in Washington, D.C. and we worked alongside the ground-keeper, a local Mallorquin. We were given 50 Euro a week per person to buy food, and we had our own separate apartment in the house. Nate and I enjoyed cooking together every night, using the olive oil from the press. On the weekends, we walked to the cute town, especially enjoying the open air markets on Sunday. 

After that we spent two days in Barcelona and Nathan was completely blown away by La Sagrada Familia, which we were able to see the interior of. We of course also loved Park Guell and the other architectural gems in the city. 

Then it was off to Granada, Spain! I have been wanting to go to Granada ever since I saw a poster of the Alhambra.  We worked on an organic goat-raising and cheese-making farm about 30 km away from the city.  Most of our work involved taking care of the goats, which I really enjoyed! Goats are pretty darn cute! (Especially, the little baby goats who dance around) We herded them and make sure that they grazed on the pasture. The farm reminded me of the hippy coops I lived in in Berkeley. At the house were other volunteers from Italy, Germany and Spain.  We ate fresh and cured goat cheese pretty much every day (as well as milk and amazing yogurt!) YUMMMMM. Although the weather was COLD COLD COLD, the beautiful landscapes, cute goats, delicious cheese, and hilarious hippy farm owner (Rafael) made it definitely worth it!!!

Although we loved the goat farm, it was nice to reconnected with civilzation in the city of Granada. The town reminds me of UC Berkeley in the fact that many of the residents are students, and there is definitely a bohemian vibe to the place- although Berkeley cannot lay claim to having the Alhambra right smack in the middle. Nathan, a German volunteer at the farm and I stayed at a lovely guest house near the Mirador San Nicolas, which overlooks the Alhambra and the beautiful snow-covered mountains. Emily would also love Granada, because with the purchase of one or two drinks, you get UNLIMITED TAPAS!!! (Sorry if this whole email is about FOOD, haha) 

From there was the city of SEVILLA. Nathan was pretty blown away by the city- it was incredibly beautiful. The cathedral housing the remains of Christopher Columbus and the Plaza de Espana (where witch-burnings took place during the Inquisition) were definite highlights. Also the bloom of orange trees everywhere in the city was an amazing thing.

From Sevilla we fly to Sardinia, Italy. Highlights there include the beautiful beach and archeological sties at Nora, an ancient Phonencian and then Roman city (outside of the capital) and staying in a quaint town called Bosa near Alghero in the north. 

Then it was off to ROMA where Emily's friend PAOLA was incredibly hospitable!!! We stayed at her apartment a good 5 or 6 nights! I absolutely loved Rome and had a hard time leaving. Nathan and I did not know how to express our gratitude to Paola and her roommate (because we don't really know what they like), so we cooked them a Mexican dinner with hand-made torillas and an assortment of fresh salsas. They really enjoyed it!!

Then it was off to an herb-distillation farm  (Podere Santa Bianca) in Pomerance in the province of Pisa, which of course is in beautiful Tuscany. The farm was established only a few years ago by Claudio Gaiaschi, who was a successful photograher in Milan but wanted a change of pace in life and renovated an abandoned farm. They grow lavender, rosemary, thyme and (not sure what it is called in english, but they it "CREE-ZOH"). Needless to say, it was the best smelling farm yet! We ate dinner with Claudio and his wife every night and Nathan offered to cook Mexican food one night. I was incredibly anxious at the thought of cooking for TUSCANS (Claudio's partner was born and raised in Tuscany), seeing that they are incredibly proud of their food culture. They then invited two other foodie Tuscan friends to the dinner. Needless to say I was nervous about the meal, but we made fresh corn and flour tortillas, a variety of salsa, chicken fajitas, and rice. THEY LOVED IT!!! They ate everything--- and we made a lot. What a relief. 

Then we spent one night in PISA, took funny pictures in front of the Leaning Tower and then spent about three nights in the cute little town of LUCCA, in Tuscany. We had a great time biking around the city, and we even set up a vegetable garden for the young woman we stayed with. 

From there we spent three nights in FLORENCE, which was expensive but definitely a treat. We slept in a hostel near Piazzale Michaelangiolo, which over looks the city- it was the best view in town. The obvious highlights were the Duomo and the Uffizi Gallery, which we wasily spent 4.5 hours in. I loved the Botticelli's and Caravaggio's.  

Then it was off to Amedeo's place in Varese. We have had a nice week here and are about to take off to Torino, again to hang out with Paola and her family. 

All in all, our experience thus far has been nothing short of amazing. We are constantly meeting great people, eating good food and learning new things (like the best way to herd goats, haha). 

Oh, and par for par, every city we have been in is full of Senegalese street vendors. The majority of them get a little freaked out when a tall white guy from the States starts speaking to them in their language. 

Anyhoo, sorry this is getting to you so late. I really miss all of you!!! Big hugs and Kisses, 

Nat & Nate

1 comment:

alice said...

TRAVELLUST. Beautiful, lovely letter :)