Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Italy 2014: Day 13: Wednesday: May 14: Florence-Noli

Today is Diana's birthday....and it's another nice day in Italy.

Before we leave Florence, we decide to do a laundry since there is a laundromat just around the corner.  After breakfast (and after having to use the stairs since the elevator was out of order), we find the laundromat.  It is nowhere near as nice and modern as the LavaPiu we went to in Mantova but we get the laundry started (with an assist from the young lady who works next door at the laundry (the parent company) of the laundromat.  She has to use her hip to get the door closed.  A nice young couple from San Francisco comes in and we help them get their load started also.

While the laundry is being done, we take the opportunity to go and see another Last Supper just across the street in the San Apollonia convent.  This cenacolo is by Andrea del Castagno from the mid-15th century--it predates the da Vinci work by 50 years--and is very vivid and naturalistic.

By the time we get back to the hotel, the elevator is back in working order which is a relief since I didn't relish wrangling our two heavy bags down two flights of stairs.  We pack up, check out, get the car from the garage and start on our way to Noli.

The drive is estimated to take about three hours, almost all on the autostrada.  We would ordinarily break up a trip like this in Lucca and go to our favorite restaurant there to eat Tuscan fried chicken and vegetables but I had forgotten that they are closed on Wednesdays.  So lunch is taken enroute at an Autogrill and the sandwiches, as usual, are very good.

The drive on the autostrada is especially scenic once past Genoa...there are frequent views of the sea and the coastline.   The road that takes us into Noli hugs the coast.  Our hotel--the Palazzo Vescovile (an historic bishop's palace) is set a couple of hundred feet above the town

and there is no way to approach it by either walk up the hill on a path with stairs or you take a glass elevator up one level and then switch to a funicular that takes you the rest of the way to the hotel entrance.  You park your car in the free parking lot at sea level where the elevator is located.

However, when we arrive the elevator is stuck...a delivery man with bottled water had overloaded it.  So we have to wait while they figure out how to fix the situation. 

While waiting, we take a look at the beautiful setting of the town...along a curved stretch of beach which ends at a rocky promontory--Capo di Noli. 

In between, there is a palm tree shaded promenade along the water lined with bars, restaurants, bathing beach "stabilimenti" or "bagni".  On the other side of the road is the centro storico of Noli, now a small beach resort but for five hundred years, a independent maritime republic.  Crowning the hill, way above the hotel, is the old castle, still flying the maritime republic flag, at the top of the intact defensive walls .

After a while, a charming man from the hotel comes, takes our luggage and escorts up to the hotel.  The hotel is grand in a somewhat faded is very historic having been a church first in the 15th century then expanded to a monastery and a bishop's residence.  Lots of antiques in the halls and paintings on the walls...

We are shown into our room which is on the same level (no stairs for Diana to deal with)....the room is large and it is painted with exactly what you would see if there were large windows all around--the sea, the town and the cape on one side and olive groves in the hills on the living in a room with Roman wall paintings.

The French doors lead out to large private terrace with this amazing view.

We are quite happy.....

After getting settled, we head down to the center...and walk along the water for a while before crossing over and entering the old part of town which is hidden behind walls and the old town defensive gates.  Inside the town, it is pretty lively--many shops, hotels, restaurants, bars, and small piazzas with lots of people sitting and children playing.

Back across the street along the water we stop for a prosecco and then to watch a vigorous bocce match being played by some local senior citizens


and stop to admire the roses.

Since it is Diana's birthday and the hotel's restaurant (Ristorante Vescovado) is well known in the area and they offer a special "menu del giorno" price for guests, we decide to eat in the hotel--in spite of my reservations about the creative bent the menu displays.  There is only one other table occupied in the spacious, nicely appointed room with windows looking out over the coast

and we are cosseted by three servers, explaining the menu, bringing the bread, serving the wine and the long parade of dishes.

Dinner turns out to be incredible....the food, while definitely on the creative side, was delicious and the presentation was meticulous.  Here is the menu as we were able to reconstruct it.

Assorted fresh rolls and focaccia served with a dish of their own olive oil
Fried flower 
Cheese chips served in a pine cone
A single fried anchovy presented in a glass with a leaf garnish
Mackerel served with dots of mayonnaise and tomato confit and a salad of delicate greens
Rare tuna with mayonnaise flavored with bottarga, and sweet and sour vegetables
Cappellacci stuffed with calamari served on cream of piselli (peas) dusted with squid ink
Morone (some type of bass or grouper) served in a pot with artichokes and broth flavored with saffron
Lemon and whiskey ice and another pre-dessert concoction
Cheesecake flavored with chinotto with gelato
Chocolate covered cream on cookie with cookie flavored gelato
White wine--Pigato from Finale Ligure

There is even a glass of prosecco and a candle in the dessert to celebrate Diana's birthday.

The morone was the highlight for both of us....perfectly cooked firm fish in a delicious broth but most everything was great, especially the breads and focaccia.

I didn't take pictures as the dishes were presented but here a few representative photos from the internet.


We are very content....

After dinner we step outside to admire the full moon shining over the water

and go to bed.

Tomorrow we have no specific plans....we are on "vacation".

Jim and Diana