I was so excited that we were going to be entering Italy today that it outweighed my sadness at leaving Vienna. This was one of those long driving days where we had to travel vast distances to get to our next stop, but somehow the days never feel all that long. I think it’s because even stops at gas stations along the way can bring interesting surprises. For instance, in Belgium we stopped at a gas station that was selling a selection of foie gras … which might not be interesting to most people but for us Americans it’s a bit of a shock.

“What? You replaced my Hostess cupcake display with a selection of foie gras? WHERE ARE MY TWINKIES?! ”

Seriously though I love fancy liver products and was sorely tempted. It wasn’t even very expensive. So I thought I was prepared for whatever interesting things I was going to find on our short stops along the way to Venice, but I was wrong. I think I almost peed my pants when I saw this:

5kg jar of Nutella

A 5 kilogram jar of Nutella, selling for 37 euros.

OH YEAH. Actually it wasn’t until we got into France later that I saw a jar of Nutella smaller than 5 kg. So anyway, even rest stops in Europe are interesting.

Aside from rest stops, we have Joe to entertain us with stories about the history and present day state of each region we travel through, which today was the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. He also tells us regretfully that the hotel rooms tonight are going to be a bit small, but since staying at a 65 pound per night bed and breakfast in London, we don’t actually think he knows what “small” really means. A “double” bed, one foot of clearance around the bed, a six-foot square bathroom, and two square feet by the door. That’s small. All our hotels on the trip were great, with king sized beds and bathrooms bigger than ours at home. If anyone actually complained about the hotel rooms I think I would be compelled to smack them upside the head.

After we arrived in our hotel we took a boat out to Venice and went on a tour with Joe before going to dinner. The restaurant was called Antico Pignolo and was pretty decent. One thing that continues to amaze us about this trip is how it shattered so many preconceptions we had about food. Basically, we thought that we knew what a particular food was supposed to taste like, and we turned out to be completely wrong. We thought that coffee is just plain nasty and that people who like it are crazy, then we had Demel’s coffee and realized that we had never had real coffee in our lives. We thought that mozzarella is just plain boring and bland, then on this particularl night we had a caprese salad with Mozzarella di Bufala and realized we had never had real mozzarella in our lives. But the most amazing revelation was at dessert.

EPIC TIRAMISU from Antico Pignolo in Venice, Italy

EPIC TIRAMISU from Antico Pignolo in Venice, Italy

OK so when this came out it was just about the crappiest looking tiramisu we’d ever seen. It was drooping to one side, and the guy that thought he was decorating the plate with chocolate sauce must have had motor control issues or something. But this was the best tiramisu in the world. Yeah that’s right. The World. The mascarpone was fluffy and delicate yet rich and creamy. The ladyfingers were soaked just right, moist without being soggy. The flavors of coffee, chocolate, and liqueur were in perfect balance, and the cocoa on top added that slightly bitter counterpoint to the sweetness underneath.


I have never really had tiramisu before.