On to Lake Como

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June 6th 2014
Published: June 6th 2014
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The FattoriaThe FattoriaThe Fattoria

This is the store that sells cured meats and cheeses and customers can use shopping carts to shop
Day 22, Tuesday, June 3

Our last full day at the farm stay and the weather was very nice so we decided to hang out there for the morning and then venture out after the afternoon siesta break when all the stores reopen. Our first stop was the blog bench to post our latest blog and check email. Our next stop was a spot Jim noticed on our way to Parma a few days earlier, another cheese and cured meat store called Fattoria. The store specializes in cured meats of all kinds but also sells Parmesan cheese of various ages, and local wines. Jim was surprised to find the store had shopping carts and he wished he could fill one up and take it all home. Unfortunately U.S. Customs laws do not allow cured meats to be brought into the country unless inspected by the U.S.D.A. Behind the counter was an older woman who did not speak any English but that didn’t stop her from providing us a sampling of just about everything sold in the store. She would point to a large hunk of cured sausage or meat and then point to the sample while saying, “questo,
Parmesan Cheese KettleParmesan Cheese KettleParmesan Cheese Kettle

This is an old kettle that was used to make Parmesan cheese. All the cheese makers must use a kettle made of copper and of the same dimensions
questo”, that means this is this. It was like one of those tables at Costco for tasting but on steroids and without the crowds of people. We were the only ones in the store. If we tasted everything there would have been no reason to have lunch. Jim purchased a pound (slightly more) of 30-month old Parmesan for about $14 U.S. The older Parmesan cheese gets the more it develops little crystals that crunch in your mouth when eating it, very tasty.

With no real plans we decided to take some back roads and came across the small village of Fontanellato and to our surprise right in the middle of the village is a huge castle with a moat around it. The castle was built in the 14th century and it is one of the only castles in the region that still has a moat full of water surrounding it. With no tourists around we were able to explore the castle ourselves, very cool.

On our way back to our farm stay we drove through a few more small towns and agricultural areas. The roads were more narrow than the main roads and as we came upon a large piece of farm equipment approaching us it made us nervous as the shoulder of the road was about a 10 foot drop down to a wheat field but we made it through fine.

When we returned we met a couple of our neighbors at the farm stay, an older couple from Germany. They asked us if we were American and when we said yes they did their best to speak to us in English. We found out they drove from Germany to the farm stay and have done it before. Our chat lasted about 15 minutes and unlike the German neighbors in Tuscany our new neighbors were very friendly and liked to share stories.

Tomorrow we head to Como and back to hotel life. We have really enjoyed the farm stays for a couple of reasons. The main reason is the size of the living space. There is so much space and it is so much more enjoyable that a cramped hotel room. In addition, we had private outdoor spaces at both farm stays. These patios were perfect for just relaxing and watching the world go by whether enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning or a cocktail in the evening. Another reason we have enjoyed these locations is the pace. Everything is so calm and relaxing (except the driving, of course). We have had a nice mix of big city activity and calm country on this trip.

Day 23, Wednesday, June 4

We weren’t sure how difficult the check out process was going to be since we have a language barrier with the owner of the farm stay. After packing up the car we go into the restaurant to get the process started. The gentleman that owns the place greets us with a smile and Jim starts the request. The man pulls out a big calculator, enters the number of days (7) and gets our confirmation that it was correct, then he enters the daily rate and again gets our confirmation and adds our dinner. OK? Si. We paid and tried to say how much we enjoyed our stay and we think he understands. He smiles and wishes us bon voyaggie.

It will take about 2 hours to get to Como and we cannot check in until 2:30 so we decide to avoid the Autostrade and take our time. We pulled over at one point to see if we were still on the right track when our friend, SteveO, called us. A week before we left for Italy he had mentioned he and another friend Mike were coming to Italy about the time we were leaving. They are traveling in the opposite direction that we did (Milan to Rome) and we would be in the same area at the same time. Well he called to tell us he was at our hotel to see if we wanted to get together. He thought we checked in the day before. Well the casual ride to Como ended and we were back on the Autostrade. About 1:30 they came back to our hotel and we had a great visit with SteveO, Mike, and StevO’s parents Annette and Bill. His parent’s family has an apartment somewhat near Milan and they stay there for 3 months out of the year. The six of us went to a Trattoria down the street from our hotel and talked about our travels so far and tips on what to do. It was a great time! A little flavor of home while we were in Italy.

As we are ready to leave the restaurant, SteveO and Jim disappear into a backroom. Turns out it was a bar – surprise. They decide we all need a shot so they ask the barman what we should get Bill suggests we ask the owner what the locals have for a digestive after a meal. So the owner of the Trattoria pours 6 shots of Braunlio and we toast our time together. When Jim tried to pay for the drinks, the barman would not accept our money. They were on the house. Another great experience but it is time for our friends to get on the road so we say our goodbyes.

We finish unpacking and then head out to explore the town. Jim immediately notices a Birrefficio (beer bar) a few doors down from our hotel. There is a visit in our future but not quite yet. We walk around the old part of town. Some of the stores were open but not all of them so we did more people watching than anything else. There is no shortage of places to buy clothes, jewelry, shoes, purses, etc. After walking in what seemed like circles for a few hours we head to the Birrefficio.

Jim asked the barman for a hoppy beer and he explains that there is a locally made beer made with salt during the brewing process. When the barman brings our drinks to us he also has a basket of salted focaccia and salted chips – salt, salt, and more salt. It didn’t stop us from eating it though. The beer had a slight taste of salt but also good hops and bitterness, very refreshing especially with the other salty snacks.

For dinner we went to a Spanish restaurant we walked by earlier as was hoping for some small plates rather than a large meal. The place was very small and could only seat 23 people, and only two people worked there, the chef, and an older man that never kept moving as he made drinks and served food. The tapas menu was limited but Lisa did have patatas bravas, deep fried potato chunks served with a spicy aioli. Jim was hesitant to order a steak but he was glad he did. It
The Whole GangThe Whole GangThe Whole Gang

After lunch with our friends from home
was very good and quite large, and cooked to perfection seasoned with olive oil, salt, and fresh rosemary. Lisa didn’t even order an entrée because she was so full but there was plenty of food but she did like the pitcher of Sangria we had with our meal. After the main course we were brought sliced apples covered in raw sugar and lemon juice, very tasty. The trip back to our hotel was short and that was a good thing as it started to rain. Another full belly and a great experience, both of us will have to go clothes shopping when we get home as most of our clothes may not fit!

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