Friday, November 09, 2012


During my trip, eating gelato (Italian version of ice cream) was one of my favorite pastimes. As your intrepid (!) correspondent, it was my solemn duty to eat as much gelati as possible, in order to give you, dear reader, a good account of the tasty treats not to be missed. :D

One of the memorable gelaterias i experienced was Gelateria Vernazza, billed as "Artisan Gelato of the Cinque Terre."

Gelateria Vernazza

Inside the shop, i asked the elderly woman behind the counter if i could take a photo of the poster on the wall (see below), and she gladly agreed. Turned out she was the widow of Pino (check the heart sign, with "a Pino"), and she said that even though he was gone, he lived on in her heart. 

Gelateria Vernazza poster

Their gelato (i forgot the flavor) was proved to be quite tasty and refreshing.

Grom is reputed to be one of the very best gelaterias in Italy, and i saw a couple of their shops in Rome, and one each in Venice and Florence. And there are invariably long queues emanating from their stores, so my expectations were quite high.

I chanced upon one of their branches in Florence, and ordered this cup with 3 flavors, namely: Crema di GROM (Egg cream, 'meliga' biscuits and dark chocolate), Cioccolato fondente (dark chocolate), and Cassata siciliana (fresh ricotta with candied citron, orange and lemon).

GROM!!!! (Florence)

Absolutely divine! You can tell that the ingredients are top-notch. I was licking my plastic spoon when i finished the cup.

Hello Newman had recommended that i try out La Carraia, one of his favorites. I stumbled upon it while searching for an internet cafe nearby:

La Carraia in Florence

I remembered i ordered the Pistachio and Cioccolato fondente (see below) flavors, and Newman was right - i felt two scoops were not enough!

Looks and tastes delicious!

While our guide Raffaele was doing our orientation walk in Rome, we passed by the famous Il Gelato di San Crispino and dropped by. I ordered one scoop each of Basil and Rum Cacao flavors (see below).

Il Gelato di San Crispino in Rome

Both flavors on their own were quite intense; and combined, even more so. Really, really good gelato!

 Unfortunately, there were misses, too. One of them was this one:

latoG in Rome

Their pistachio tasted sort of weird, i can't describe it except to say it was just "off", while the Cioccolato al Cacao was just okay, nothing to write home about.

So-so taste

Another one that disappointed was Mariotti Gelateria, right at the edge of Piazza Navona in Rome (just a 2-minute walk from my hotel). 

Mariotti Gelateria in Rome

Mariotti boasts of one of the widest array of gelato flavors, such that it was rather hard to choose which ones to order.  They serve some unique ones which are not found elsewhere, such as soy. And this one:

Viagra gelato, anyone?

 Yup, Viagra gelato.  I didn't order it, and i don't remember anymore what flavors i did order, but they were lacking in taste. No wonder there were only a few people inside their store, compared to the jampacked Grom shop right next to them 

Speaking of Grom, obviously a return trip was in order, right? I ordered the Cioccolato fondente again, and paired it with Fiordelatte (Whole milk, cream and sugar). Great contrast - ciocolatto was pure bombast, while fiordelatte was sublime. :D
GROM in Rome
Whilst waiting for my flight back to Manila at the airport, one last gelato stop was in order. Thankfully, di San Crispino had an outlet there

This cup was composed of Valrhona (a French company) chocolate, which was intense; and ginger + cinnamon, which proved to be sweet, yet without being cloying. Super sarap! Molto benne!

Il Gelato Di San Crispino at the airport!

Some of my tour mates were kidding me about my predeliction for gelato, and i joked that i was starting a new system of measuring physical activity, called the "Gelato Scoop Equivalents (GSEs)."

For example, climbing up the 463 steps up the Duomo in Florence would be equivalent to three (3) GSEs (meaning i could reward myself with 3 scoops, after all that huffing and puffing to reach the top)

Got it? Let's try another example. Lifting heavy luggage up the train station stairs and onto the overhead compartment of the train...that would be 2 GSEs, thank you. And so on. 

Of course, sitting on a gondola in Venice = ZERO GSEs!

(This concludes the Intrepido Italiano series. I'm as pleased as punch for outdoing myself - total of 7 posts for this trip. ;-D)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

INTREPIDO ITALIANO : (GUS Guide) Travel Tips for a Marvelous Stay in VENEZIA

*This post is dedicated to my loyal blog follower, Koryn the Suburban Girl (herself a very good blogger), who will tick off Venice from her bucket list next year ;-D

Venetian gondoliers relaxing under the sun.

I've come up with a not-by-any-means-complete set of tips for the first-time traveller to Venice. It was my favorite stop during the trip, i must say.

1. Chuck the map, you will get lost.

Walking is the main mode of getting around in Venice, and part of the fun is in exploring the small alleyways behind the main avenues, and chancing upon little shops, etc. 

Of course, it is no fun to be lost if you're hurrying for an appointment (or dying to use the toilet). In order to get a general idea of where you're at, or where you'd like to be at, just look for signs like below:

Photo courtesy of Venicetravelblog.Com

"Ferrovia" being the Santa Lucia railway station (more on this later), while "Piazzale Roma" is the bus station.

Photo courtesy of Venicetravelblog.Com
"Rialto" being the general area around the famous (and if we are being honest, over-rated) tourist landmark Rialto Bridge, while "S. Marco" is the famous (and not over-rated) Piazza San Marco.

2. Stay in Mestre.

What lots of tourists do is stay in a hotel in the mainland of Mestre, and take the train to the city center of Venice. I would recommend doing this, since hotels in Mestre are cheaper; and it is only a 5 - 10 minute train ride from Mestre to the Venezia Santa Lucia station (where you get off in Venice proper), anyway. Cost is something like EURO 1.20 for a one-way ride, and tickets ("biglietti") can be bought at any newspaper/magazine stand.

Trains run until late into the night, too. The important thing is to make sure your hotel in Mestre is walking distance to the train station.

3. Invest in a Tourist Travel Card.

Depending on how long your stay in Venice will be, go ahead and buy the Travel Card, which comes in 12-, 24-, 36-, 48-hour, etc. increments; and gives you unlimited rides on the "vaporetto" (public water buses) that run on many different routes. 

It will end up saving you a lot of money. For example, a single-journey one-way vaporetto ticket costs EURO 7.00, while a 12-hour card is at EURO 17.00.

Oh, be sure to validate your ticket on one of those odd-looking, yellow-colored machines BEFORE boarding on the vaporetto. Apparently, there is a big fine for using an unvalidated ticket.

Courtesy of Trekki

4. Try the traghetto

Traghetti are essentially gondolas that have been stripped off all the trimmings, and retain the basic seats only. They are good for going ACROSS (not along, take note) the Grand Canal (i.e. crossing from one side to the other side), and there are six or seven designated stops where you can board them. 

They are quite cheap, and used mostly by the locals (who take the short trip across the canal whilst standing up - talk about intestinal fortitude). 

5. Watch your belongings

This advice also applies to Rome and other major cities of Italy, as pickpockets tend to abound in crowded touristy spots. I was really concerned about this, and thought of buying one of those PacSafe wallet/pouch that you tie to your leg underneath your trousers. Eventually, i did try a "neck wallet" that you put underneath your clothes. Not comfy, and i felt rather silly. So it lasted for one day, and i just decided to take my chances thereafter.

So, just use common sense. No stuff on pants' backpockets; leave your credit cards in the hotel safe (just bring cash, an ID and one card at most; and stuff them in your front pocket, and wear tight-fit jeans hehe).

For the ladies, leave the gaudy jewelry and designer bag at home. For the guys, leave your tablet and other gadgets behind; and don't be so busy taking the 'perfect' photos with your DSLRs that you don't realize your other possessions are in danger of being lifted.

 6. Don't eat at restaurants with four languages on the menu.

This screams "Tourist, tourist, tourist!!" Better look for a small, charming trattoria or osteria which locals frequent; and if the menu is purely in Italian.....well, you should have learned some Italian phrases beforehand, shouldn't you?