We are Lonely Planet travelers. We’ve visited many European locations in the last year and the Lonely Planet guides have served us well. We’re thinking of changing the name of our blog to Bill and Sharon’s Guide to the Lonely Planet Guide. We do veer off LP plan based on need and desire, but the guides provide a helpful foundation for exploring new places.

Lonely Planet led us to many delicious meals during our week in Italy. In Pisa, we took a break from the Piazza dei Miracoli monuments to lunch on panini at one of Panetteria Focacceria’s sidewalk tables. We had our first of many simple and tasty sandwiches and also enjoyed some wonderful chocolate tarts.

On the way back to our hotel, we spied La Bottega del Gelato as we passed through Piazza Garibaldi and stopped for our first gelato. With frozen goodness in hand, we walked on to the River Arno and watched the sun set.

Our first Tuscan dinner, at La Grotta, had us puzzling over the Italian menu. Some terms were easy to decipher: Spaghettone, Ravioletti, Risotto, Zuppa. But we had to question the waitress about several dishes. In the end we took a few shots in the dark. Mom and Dad chose Le Animelle di Vitello sulla Crema di Zucca, as we understood this was veal. When the dish arrived it was declared tasty, but of a unusual character. Bill really liked it. The next day after reviewing an English menu I nicked on the way out (not sure why we weren’t given an English menu initially) we discovered Animelle is in fact sweetbreads, or thymus gland. Bill has knowingly ordered sweetbreads in the past, and Mom and Dad will both eat liver, so no one was harmed in this eating experiment. The rest of the dinner included risotto, some ravioli, and a few steak dishes. A favorite item was Fagioli all’Olio e Salvia–delicious, creamy white beans. My dessert was delightful–ricotta with a rich, dark chocolate sauce. Dad’s dessert came with a fruit garnish of cachi, which we determined was persimmon. Over the next few days we saw many persimmon trees, bare of leaves but laden with orange fruit.

After dinner we were offered caffe, or espresso. Being a coffee wimp (more whipped cream please), I surprised myself by ordering a teensy cup. When in Rome, er, Pisa, my friends–this espresso was delicious, with strong caramel notes and no bitterness. I had many espressos throughout the week (they are typically around €1.50), and while this first was my favorite, I enjoyed them all. They also served to balance the wine I had consumed with dinner, and never kept me awake. I’ve yet to try an espresso off the continent. It can’t be the same!

Note: I added a vid clip to the previous post.

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