Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 7: Tax Free Eggs-tasy
On our last day together we all got up to the alarm. We had to keep our appointment to see a villa that Kim might want to rent next year when her husband and son join her and Savana. It was already occupied but the owners said we could still have a chat.  They are about 20 minutes outside of the walls of Lucca in Monte S. Quirico. The people who ran it couldn't have been nicer to us, but it was hard to make a decision based on a place that our guests could only see from the outside.  Beforehand, there was a moment of panic in the car after I realized that out of the four villas we were supposed to visit that day I didn't have the contact sheets to figure out who we were meeting and when or where.  But we sorted ourselves out after I had a quick Toddlers & Tiaras style sfoga/rant of expletives in front and to the great amusement of our pre-teens.

Next we went to Fattoria Colleverde where Kim enjoyed an olive oil and wine tasting with the great man himself -- Piero Tartagni, and the girls enjoyed a dip in the pool. Kim managed to convince some of the guests to let her see the largest villa at the Fattoria even though they were bathing topless in their private pool at the time, nursing hangovers, and letting the rest of their party sleep it off inside.  And for lunch we had a tordelli tasting plate at Osteria del Vecchio Pazzo and lots of other yummy stuff.
Authenticity is elegant.

Wine does not just get born at the liquor store, girls.

A Bridezilla story with a happy ending.

We had permission to visit villa #2 as far as the owner was concerned, but of course there was no way to prepare the French speaking family who was occupying it and when we arrived they were nowhere to be found.  I got us in the front gate with a Bondgirl type button release, but then all we could do is camp out at their gazebo and look forlorn.
Say: Hot, sticky, cheese!

We did not have any phone contact with the staff of the famous Villa Guinigi, but when I saw a man struggling with his phone call to the taxi service I stepped right up and put my grasping little hand throught the big wrought iron fence to grab his cell and get him to feel just a bit grateful.  His lovely wife and new baby met us at the entrance and the equally stunning looking couple and cooing infant that was in their flat gave us a tour. They now have my phone number and a promise of advice for Lucca sightseeing so I hope I remember any of this tomorrow.  The grounds are snazzy and there is an indoor and an outdoor pool, a spa, and a lovely terrace on the property.

At Hotel Ilaria I tried to convince some sun bathers on the first floor sun deck to let us see our rooms, but they were not getting up to cross that lobby unless their jimmy choo flip flops caught fire.  The lady half of the couple next to them eventually took pity on me and let Kim see her room.

F dropped Kim and I off in Filungo again where Kim's shopping drive went into effect:

Fire: We got her husband's shoes from the nice couple at Chelini shoes where there had been a fire that morning and whose nice store still smelled heavily of smoke;

Fraud: The Fabriani jewelry store was all hot air and there was not even a ring to look at, let alone a perfect replica of the one Kim wanted;

Tax Free Madness: After a spending spree at Luisa Spagnoli, the kind saleswoman offered Kim to print out a form whereby at the airport she could get back 100 euros or about 14% of what she spent at the Customs office at the airport. I've been coming to Lucca for years and had no idea about this, but come to think about it maybe I never spent more than 100 euros in a store here at one time either. Then Kim went to Guess where she spent a nice chunk of change yesterday and they told her that she could not get the tax free form because she did not ask for it at the time of purchase.  I pointed out that no one had told us about it so we did not know it was a possibility and the lady pointed to a happy, little, yellow sign the size of a post-it on the desk behind the cash register that she now thrust in our faces as if to say, Silly Americans never know what to look for ... pity.

Next we ran home and tried to do the ten minute version of getting ready for the Academy Awards but of course it took a good 45 minutes and so we kept dear Alessandro waiting, as he was accompanying us to the magical world of Vino e Convivio.  This enoteca run by Giovanni in Guamo is like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory if that little skinny English boy had wanted wine and gourmet cheeses, pastas, prosciutto and other exquisite delicacies. We were taken on a culinary adventure by Alessandro's sommellier friend Lido who is passionate about Tuscan born gastronomy and by Nikola who is Giovanni's son in law and speaks English beautifully. Unfortunately, Giovanni himself was in the hospital that day with what I gather was heat stroke, but he was released and expected to feel better soon.
So this is what Gwyneth Paltrow feels like before the red carpet . . .

Nikola, we thank you.

F wasn't driving . . . nuff said

I get crazy eyes when I am near my drug of choice: pasta!

We did good with the houseguest thing overall, don't ya think?

A Carbonara to beat them all

Wowie Zooks

Lido is steering this ship and I am happy to be a passenger.

Even vegetarians have second thoughts . . .

I'll never have eggs this good again in my lifetime.

Among the toe tapping, mouth humming, tears in your eyes dishes that we were served was a pasta with coffee powder and capers that smelled like the Mediterranean veranda of a honeymoon suite the morning after the wedding -- in a good, good way.  A deconstructed, reinvented, pasta Carbonara where each ingredient is treated lovingly with an attention to detail, in other words, better than my house guests.  We also had a plate of eggs that was such a simple, perfect, poetry that I may never be able to enjoy eggs again.  They were pan cooked to a perfect consistency with a golden yolk and looked like a thousand sun rises over the vineyards on a background of silky clouds.  They were coated in a rare and special kind of oil that was a rich vineyard green gold color and coated your lips and tongue, preparing them for the satisfying parmagiano coating and juicy jewls of perfectly ripe, cubed legendary tomatoes that sat proudly on the top of those bad boys.  All around the heavy blackened pan were rounds of toasted bread that were also lightly drizzled with the oil like spoiled spa guests before a ridiculously opulent massage.

I can die now and say I have eaten and drunk the best life has to offer. Simple as that.  Then we went home and helped Kim review her villa choices and dropped off to sleep at 2 AM.

The End (except there are two hours left in the morning before Kim hits the airport.)

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