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italy: 2008 trip Archives

February 24, 2008

going back to Italy again!

I am going back to Italy!! I just bought my ticket, paying the most I have ever paid - $1868.45 flying into Milan and out of Zurich. It was about $60.00 cheaper last weekend, but I missed that boat on that great deal. I still have that 24 hour window where I can cancel my ticket.

I have been try to get a ticket using my miles for months now, but only the higher rate mileage awards have been available, which means 60,000 miles each way and this is only for the back of the bus type of seat. It would be 120,000 miles each way for business first. Right now, I only have 99,000 miles.

A couple of hours after my ticket purchase, I went back onto the Continental website just for kicks to see what would happen if I tried to use my miles, wondering if I could purchase one way and use miles one way. I was surprised to find out that I can indeed purchase a ticket using my miles if I pay for the additional 21,000 miles I need. This would only cost me $733.70 in total including tax and fees. So now, new decision, with less than 24 hours to decide. Keep my ticket and earn more miles or wipe out my miles completely and get a great rate.

I also thought of trying to upgrade to business first instead with a paid ticket, but the office to do this is not open on the weekend - risking that 24 hour window decision. The tricky part is that because I am not elite, I would not find out until the last minute if I even got any portions of my flight upgraded. Then there's the whole talk of Continental and United merging, which makes me a little nervous. It also makes me wonder what the chances of using miles will be if they combine airlines. I am hoping that they do not merge. I never have to wait in a long to check in when flying out of Honolulu but the lines for United are always a nightmare.

Meanwhile I am thinking of all the advantages there are if I use my miles. Besides the low cost of the ticket, I would be able to rationalize better hotel rooms and perhaps a few days longer in Italy. I would not have the restriction of flying on a Saturday/Sunday for a higher cost. I could still buy that new Canon DSLR camera I have been dreaming about. It is like having $1134.75 extra free money to spend!

Italy...here I come!!!

**UPDATE: Decison made - I went the miles route and I still have 798 miles left!

March 2, 2008

my itinerary for my trip to Italy, 2008

Here's my bare bones itinerary for my summer trip. I'll reveal more details about each place I plan to visit over the next few days.

If nothing changes (which could still happen), my itinerary for this summer looks like this:

*depart from Honolulu in the evening/ spend much of the following day in the Newark Airport / arrive in Milan the following morning

*7 nights in Santa Margherita Ligure (Liguria) - Hotel Jolanda

*5 nights in Acqui Terme (Piemonte) - Relais dell'Osso

*6 nights in Bologna (Emilia-Romagna) – Hotel Porta San Mamolo

*3 nights in Zurich (Switzerland) - Hotel Glockenhof

*depart from Zurich in the morning / over night in Newark / arrive in Honolulu the following evening

**Changes were made on March 24th - see "my new itinerary ~ Italy trip 2008" for updated itinerary.

March 3, 2008

giving Santa Margherita another chance

I do not have great memories of my two night stay in Santa Margherita Ligure. My initial plan was to stay in Camogli for five nights. Unfortunately all rooms were booked for the last two nights. Instead of cutting short my stay in Liguria, I decided on three nights in Camogli and then 2 nights in Santa Margherita Ligure, not exactly slow travel, but then again, I had not yet heard of the “slow travel” concept.

The train ride from Camogli to Santa Margherita Ligure was only 5 minutes. It was not really that much of a hassle to pack up and change hotels. When I arrived at Albergo Fasce (my hotel in Santa Margherita), I was informed that there was a problem with my reservation. I was given a single room with the bathroom down the hall that I would be sharing with two other girls. This did not make me happy at all. One of my "musts" when booking a hotel room is having a private bathroom in the room. I reconfirmed my reservation a couple of weeks previous to arriving in Santa Margherita and was not informed at that time of the problem with my reservation. The hotel situation definitely affected my stay. My review of Albergo Fasce goes into more detail about my experience at this hotel. I was hesitant at first to include my review on this post, but after a current search of reviews for this hotel, my review is reflective of many other reviews. To be fair, not everyone gave Albergo Fasce a bad review.

Continue reading "giving Santa Margherita another chance" »

March 4, 2008

next stop, Acqui Terme

My first visit to Piemonte was in 2006. I spent four nights in Saluzzo followed by five nights in Torino. During one of my days in Torino, I did a daytrip to Asti and Acqui Terme.

Asti had been a town high up on my list of places to visit after reading about all the towers in the town years earlier. I love towers, taking pictures of towers, and climbing towers. I have a few posts about towers on this blog.

My reason to visit Acqui Terme was more personal. I had communicated with Diana Bauer during the planning phase of my 2006 trip to Italy. She was extremely helpful. We made plans to meet while I was in Torino. I was delighted that we would be able to meet and spend time together during my trip that year. I wanted to thank her in person for all of her help.

Continue reading "next stop, Acqui Terme" »

March 5, 2008

after Acqui comes Bologna

I always put myself through the same stressful process when planning a trip to Italy. I start out by thinking about the places I want to visit. I look at the train transportation options and connections and realize that my plan does not work. I then rework the order of the places and become more frustrated when the train transportation options continue to not work. I add new places, take out places, and try to rework the order again. At the same time, I check out hotel options and try to find flights that will work. I experience a few sleepless nights until my itinerary finally is set. I feel so much better once I have my basic itinerary in place.

This year, I had two definite locations in mind; Acqui Terme and Camogli (which I guess was not that definite since I am now staying in Santa Margherita Ligure). I thought about heading to either Stresa or Baveno after landing in Milan. I also thought about staying in Lucca and either Bologna or Parma at one point during my trip.

After looking at train schedules, trying to visualize lugging my luggage on and off trains, and remembering to do it slow, I came to my senses and realized that I needed to choose only three locations before heading to Zurich. I decided to start out in Santa Margherita Ligure and then to go to Acqui Terme (the train schedules worked best this way). The problem was trying to decide on my third location.

The logical choice would be the town of Como since it was a train stop on the way to Zurich. I have only been in Como twice, both times very briefly, walking from the boat dock to the train station; once coming from Menaggio and once from Bellagio.

My frustration with trying to plan a stay in Como was finding a good hotel. I also thought about Stresa and Baveno again even though the train routes were a little longer and more complicated. I have never been to the Italian part of Lake Maggiore. Like Sandra, I posted a question on the Slow Travel Italy forum to get input from others. I did not get any overwhelming recommendations for any of these three lake town options, and meanwhile, Bologna continued to tug at my heart.

I kept telling myself that logically I should head north to the lake region. To get a better feel for Como, Stresa, and Baveno, I went to the Italy Trip Report section on Slow Travel and searched each town. I read every trip report mentioning any of the three lake towns. Nothing really jumped out at me.

Bologna continued tugging. I did a search on trip reports on Bologna. Pedalaforte's, Bologna, Piedmont, late Nov. 2007, was the first trip report I read. Once I began to read the food descriptions (including gelato at da Gianni) on page four, my decision was made!! I started to imagine all of the gelato places I could try and thought about maybe even going back to Parma to have some gelato at K2. I not only thought of gelato, but also of all the wonderful restaurants I have wanted to try.

Food was my deciding factor and won out over a relaxing lake vacation.

My plan is to spend six nights in Bologna, staying at Hotel Porta San Mamolo. I spent a wonderful night at this hotel last year, breaking up a long train trip. My only other visit to Bologna was back in 2000, again only an overnight stay breaking up a long train trip. Each time was much too short.

I am excited to finally spend time in Bologna, to get to know this city a little better. I may possibly do a day trip or two while in Bologna. I have never been to Modena, and so that would be my first choice. I also may try to return to Parma or Ferrara, both places I have loved staying in during previous trips.

Because it is late and I am tired, instead of adding photos here, I will link a few of my previous blog posts with photos of Bologna from my trip last year:
*the Two Towers in Bologna
*more of beautiful Bologna
*a few more photos of Bologna

March 26, 2008

a big change in my itinerary ~ Italy trip 2008

Back when I was planning my trip, I realized that it was cheaper to fly in/out of Zurich than to fly in/out of Milan. The airfares were so high that I was trying to find a way to save a few dollars. Because I did not want to deal with the long train ride both ways, I decided to compromise and fly into Milan and out of Zurich. In 2003 I spent my last night in Zurich before flying home. I enjoyed my brief visit to Zurich and always wanted to return to get to know this lovely city a little better. I thought it would be fun to go back to Zurich for a few nights again.

I initially paid for my ticket, but then during that 24 hour time frame when I was able to cancel my ticket, I decided on using my miles instead to book my trip. I did not even think about any other options when canceling my paid trip and booking my trip with miles. That was pretty stupid of me. I could have even stopped in Boston on the way home for a few days to visit friends and family and possibly catch a game. This would not work now though as I am starting my trip later during my summer vacation and only have a few more days off when I return home before starting work again.

At the same time I booked my trip, I booked a room at Hotel Glockenhof in Zurich. It was a more expensive hotel, but I was able to get a good deal (200 Swiss Francs/133 Euros per night) compared to their regular prices. The following day the Euro hit a new high and since then the dollar has continued to fall.

During the past few weeks, I have continued to read up on Switzerland. At the same time, I started checking out the train tickets. I did look at the travel options before booking my trip but did not think to check on the prices. I was in shock when I saw that it would cost 133.90 Euros for first class/87.50 Euros for second class if I took the fastest train - Bologna to Zurich (a 5 hour 35 minute trip) and 121.90 Euros for first class/80.50 Euros for second class for the slower train - Bologna to Zurich (a 6 hour 35 minute trip).

At this point, I started checking out cheaper hotels to find a way to save a few dollars. I also started reading about recommended places to eat and realized that Switzerland does not have any no-smoking laws in place. I have taken for granted the new no-smoking laws in Italy and forgot that Switzerland has not also adopted the new policy. The long train trip was not sitting well with me. I hate being enclosed in any type of transportation vehicle, especially when the trip is long, and that includes planes, trains, and automobiles. I think that is why I love being on a boat.

I started to think about the hassle of being in smoking places, the cost of the train trip, and the falling dollar and started to wonder just why I was going to Zurich since it would be such a long trip to get there for only a few nights.

The other nagging problem with my itinerary was that I was not going to stay with my friends Katia and Guido on this trip. We have been emailing back and forth since I planned my trip for this summer trying to figure out how we could meet. I was trying to plan a trip with longer stays and fewer travel days and finding a weekend in Coccaglio was not working out. I was hoping that we could meet somewhere instead but that was not looking good and was not the same as staying for the weekend.

I first met Katia and Guido during my very first trip to Europe back in 1999. While waiting for a train to arrive in Vernazza, I sat next to this nice couple (Katia & Guido), on a cement bench (which I found out in 2006 is no longer there). Lucky for me, the train was running an hour late. During that time, we struck up a conversation, exchanged emails, and rode together to La Spezia where we were both making connections. We kept in touch through email and the following year, Katia met me in Verona and took me to her house in Coccaglio where I spent the night. Our friendship has grown over the years and each time I have returned to Italy (except my trip to Sicily), I have stayed with Katia at her family's house. A little over a year ago, Katia and Guido married. I was invited to their wedding but could not attend due to my work schedule. Katia and Guido came to Hawaii last summer for their belated honeymoon. We spent a wonderful week together renting a house up on the North Shore.

After writing my posts on Santa Margherita, Acqui Terme, and Bologna, I started writing my post on Zurich, but for some reason, I kept finding other things to write about and could not get my Zurich post finished. I still have it in draft form.

Sunday night, I had this brilliant idea. What if I spent my final weekend with Katia and Guido and flew out of Milan instead of traveling to Zurich. I remembered reading somewhere that I could change my airline ticket for $50.00. I checked the flights and there were still seats available with miles flying out of Milan. I sent an email to Katia with the idea. She was thrilled. Here is part of her email:

ciao!!!!!
che bello!!! che bello!!! che bello!!!
wonderful!! wonderful!!! wonderful!!!!
My easter egg brought me a wondderful surprise!!! You are in the egg!!!!!
I'm so so so so so happy that we'll see you and we'll spend some days together!!! WOW!!!

I called the next day to make the change. The best part is that it will only cost $36.00 instead of $50.00 because I asked about the Switzerland Airport Passenger/Security Charge of $36.70. The person re-priced the ticket and I was refunded the difference.

Now my trip is perfect!

March 27, 2008

my new itinerary ~ Italy trip 2008

I finally have everything confirmed once again :-)

*depart from Honolulu in the evening/ spend much of the following day in the Newark Airport / arrive in Milan the following morning

*7 nights in Santa Margherita Ligure (Liguria) - Hotel Jolanda

*5 nights in Acqui Terme (Piemonte) - Relais dell'Osso

*6 nights in Bologna (Emilia-Romagna) – Hotel Porta San Mamolo

*2 nights in Coccaglio with Katia & Guido

*1 night at a Malpensa airport hotel - First Hotel

*depart from Milan the following morning / over night in Newark / arrive in Honolulu the following evening

June 15, 2008

it's getting close...

Five more sleeps and I am off!! It just doesn't seem real. I am dreaming of espresso and gelato instead of focusing for more than five minutes on what needs to be done. It just doesn't seem real that I AM actually returning to Italy.

Thank goodness I have lists from past years to look at just in case I never get my act together to make my new lists for this year. This is my first year that I have time to leisurely pack and get ready for my trip... and what am I doing? Procrastinating!!! I shall go and stare at last year's packing list again.

Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there.

June 16, 2008

a wonderful surprise!

I found a great travel discussion board, when planning my first trip to Europe back in 1999. On this board, I was very fortunate to meet Francesco. I was looking for information on Florence and he was interested in learning more English. We began to write back and forth and after a few months of corresponding, we decided to meet for dinner during my stay in Florence that summer. I remember my mom being nervous about me meeting a strange man that I had met over the internet. I assured her that after many months of corresponding and the fact that he was bringing his girlfriend, Irene with him, everything would be fine.

Everything did turn out fine. In fact this chance meeting on a discussion board turned into a wonderful friendship. We have kept in touch over the years and have continued to meet whenever it worked out. Both Francesco and Irene (who married in 2001 and now have two children, Sara and Gabriele) as well as both of their families have welcomed me whenever I have come for a visit.

Somehow, we lost contact last summer. The other night, while finding anything possible to do besides concentrate on trip organization and packing, I decided to try once more to contact them using every email I had for them…and it worked!!

My wonderful surprise is that we will be able to meet once again. I was already planning a possible daytrip to Florence after not having been there since 2001. Yes, I know, a daytrip is not long enough, but a walk around the beautiful city of Florence is always worth a visit. The train travel time is short and since all my photos of Florence are pre-digital, I thought it would be fun to spend some time there once more.

So, instead of lunch in Florence, I will hop on another train and have lunch in Empoli with my wonderful friends. I will also meet Gabriele for the first time. I am so excited and just know it will be a day I will treasure always.

the ziploc bag is ready to go

After six hours of packing and organizing, I now have my ziploc quart bag ready to go (you know the one that has the "safe" liquids in it).

ziploc.jpg

I also have organized and packed most of my vitamins and medicines and made a list of a few of things I need to pick up at the drugstore.

Slow but steady wins the race...

June 19, 2008

it's warming up in Italy

Two more sleeps!! Packing is at a standstill. I did however buy a new yummy jacket yesterday after 8 hours of shopping looking for a top. I never found the top I wanted but could not resist the jacket after trying it on. It is super comfortable and will be perfect on the plane. I bought it at lululemon athletica.

I have been trying to decide "yay" or "nay" on the midweight long underwear bottoms. I always take my lightweight. Below 60 degrees is winter weather to me. Hopefully if the weather forecasts are correct, I won't be needing my new jacket very often and will be fine if the long underwear stay home.

After over a month of rain and cold weather, this is the predicted weather forecast for the day I will arrive in Santa Margherita Ligure. It looks like it will be a perfect day.

sml%20weather1.png

And for all you metric fans out there...
sml%20weather2.png

As for that top, I guess I will just have to do a little shopping while in Italy (and ignore the euro/dollar exachange rate).

June 20, 2008

cherries and jet lag

cherries.pngLast year, I read about how eating tart cherries might help ease jet lag. I packed my cherries, ate them on the plane, but was too jet lagged to remember to eat them the next few nights, which meant that my experiment failed and I never found out if cherries helped jet lag.

According to Russel J. Reiter, PhD, a nutrition researcher at the University of Texas Health and Science Center and one of the world’s leading authorities on melatonin:

When flying, eat some cherries (handful) 30 minutes to an hour before sleeping on the plane. After arrival, eat some cherries one hour before sleeping for at least three more consecutive nights.

I found a few articles suggesting eating cherries for the number of nights per time zones you pass through. That would mean that I would have to eat cherries for 12 nights. The longest I have dealt with jet lag is probably 3 days so I am not sure about the 12 night cherry thing. I am guessing Russel J. Reiter might not have considered time changes such as from Hawaii to Italy when coming up with his formula. Of course you also have to weigh in that this study of cherries easing jet lag comes from a cherry website.

Regardless, I am going to "give it a go" and try the cherry experiment once again this year (can't hurt and even if it doesn't work, cherries are a tasty, healthy snack).

June 24, 2008

planes & trains

Saturday June 21 - Monday June 23

I checked in for my flight from home (with only one quick moment of panic after realizing that I initially typed in the wrong passport number). The only line (just 4 people) I encountered at the airport was the agriculture screening. No line at the kiosk where I checked in my bag and amazingly no line at the screening area. In fact, I was the only one there. At first I thought I must have been at the wrong place because on one else was there and, I guess because I was the only one there, I was the lucky recipient of a full pat down in the special pat down area.

After collecting my bags, putting my shoes back on, and heading towards my gate, I realized that I forgot my pillow in one of the gray tubs at the screening area. I raced back, retrieved my pillow and then headed back to the gate.

My flight from Honolulu to Newark had to be one of the best flights I have taken in a long time (except of course the few times I flew first class). I sat next to a nice couple from Germany. We chatted a little until the food arrived. I decided on Kosher meals for this trip after having one of the best Kosher airline meals on my last trip from Newark to Honolulu. I always order special meals, since they usually seem to be a little fresher and I get my meal first. On my last trip, they messed up on my order, which is how I got the Kosher meal. Well, on this flight, they messed up royally once again. I was given some sort of sandwich with frozen mystery meat inside. I could have sworn it was ham, which puzzled me since I am pretty sure ham is not Kosher. I ate the bread and left the frozen mystery meat on the plate. My meal also came with a chocolate whipped dessert that looked wonderful, but I could not eat (chocolate = migraines for me). After my meal, I watched about 5 minutes of some movie and then fell asleep. I slept for 6 straight hours!

After arriving in Newark, I spent about 5 hours wandering the airport. I love my new rolling bag! It made such a big difference walking around the airport not having to lug a bag on my back. I had a wonderful raspberry and cheese filled pastry at Au Bon Pain and a pretty good espresso at Jakes and later a slice of pizza which was just ok. Once at my gate, I checked in showing my passport to get a special mark on my ticket saying documents were shown and a little security sticker on my passport. I surveyed the area and saw babies and little children! Now I love babies and little children most of the time, just not on planes.

As the boarding process began, I went over to the boarding area to wait since my row was going to be called next. As those in the very back of the plane started to board, it started to hail. Boarding stopped and those on the plane were asked to get off the plane. This was not a good sign. I spoke to this guy sitting nearby and he said that the storm, which caused many flights to be canceled was heading our way. The hail was loud and lasted about 20 minutes. We could see the hail bouncing off of the windows on the ceiling. For some reason, hail is always associated with Italy for me. The only other encounters of hail I have had besides hiking in Colorado many many years ago have been when I have been in Italy. Fortunately the hail at the airport stopped and we were once again allowed to board the plane. As my row was called, a group of Italians started pushing their way through the line. I am always amazed at how waiting orderly in line is something that Italians seem to have missed in school.

On this flight, I sat next to a very nice older Italian man. It looked like it was going to be another peaceful flight...until the two rows of families with their babies sat down. The crying began even before we took off. It continued throughout the flight. The babies took turns so that there would not be more than 15 minutes of silence throughout the flight. I was not able to sleep longer than an hour on this flight. I even tried blasting my iPod to drown out the crying. And to add to the crying, a grown man who sat behind me kicked my seat off and on throughout the flight. The feature movie starring Kate Hudson and Mathew McConaughey was not working. The other choices were pretty bad. I ended up watching a movie called Penelope twice, first in English and then again in Italian. It was a LONG flight.

Although we were delayed for 90 minutes because of the hailstorm we only ended up arriving 30 minutes late. We arrived at 8:30, I retrieved my bag by 9:20 and was on a bus heading to Milan at 9:30. The bus arrived at the train station at 10:30. There was construction blocking the main train station entrance, which meant I had to walk around the building to a entrance on the other side. Again, I was so thankful for my new rolling bag! After waiting in line to purchase my ticket (the automatic ticket machines were either blocked off due to the construction or were in a location that was a mystery to me), I headed up to wait for my 12:10 train. I bought a bland eggplant and cheese sandwich and had my first espresso macchiato.

My train was one of the newer IC plus trains with comfortable first class seats and plenty of room for luggage. I sat across from a very chatty Italian woman. On any other occasion, I would have been thrilled to practice my Italian, but because of my lack of sleep and it being 12:30 - 2:30 in the morning Hawaii time, I could barely keep my eyes open.

Trying to understand Italian requires my full attention, which was quite a challenge and this woman continued to talk to me until she finally departed in Genova. Because my eyelids were heavy and I was nodding off, I got up and stood for the rest of the trip. I chatted with a very kind older Italian couple while waiting at the door for my stop. The man helped me with my second bag as I departed the train.

My hotel was a short walk from the train station, mostly downhill. It was easy to find. When I made my reservation, all of the single rooms were booked for my first night in Santa Margherita Ligure, so I booked a double room for the first night. Because I was going to move into a single room the following day, I only unpacked a few things. The double room was clean and quite large, with a nice bathroom and comfortable bed.

After a wonderful shower, I headed out to explore Santa Margherita Ligure. It was a beautiful day and still quite warm. I walked from one end to the other end of town by the ocean, taking photos along the way. By this time, I was fading fast. I found a bar that served pasta and asked if it was possible to order some dinner early. It was 6:30 and the earliest most restaurants serve dinner is 7:30. The man in the bar told me that the cook would be arriving in 5 minutes if I could wait. I ordered a pesto dish with trofie pasta (a typical Ligurian pasta) which was wonderful!

After dinner, I headed back to my hotel and was asleep by 7:30. I did remember to eat some cherries before falling asleep. I woke up at 3:30 in the morning and was able to go back to sleep about 4:30 or so and then slept until 8am.

I am so happy to be back in Italy once again!!!

June 26, 2008

first full day in Santa Margherita Ligure

Tuesday June 24

Breakfast at my hotel is served buffet style. Choices include various meat and cheese selections, cereal, muesuli, yogurt, fruits, focaccia and pastries. Regular coffee, water, and a couple of juice choices are also available. I was able to ask for an espresso machiato, which was excellent and along with my muesuli, cheese, and focaccia made for a perfect breakfast.

After breakfast, I packed up my bags and went down to turn my key in. I was pleasantly surprised with the information that my new room was ready. I headed back up to my old room and moved my things into my new room. My new room, a single (which was not available the first night of my stay) is a fabulous room. It is not a big as the double, but huge for a single room and it even has a little balcony. The room also faces the quieter side which is nice.

I unpacked my bags and then headed out to explore Santa Margherita Ligure. I took tons of photos and went into a few shops along the way. Around lunchtime, I found a little shop that sold a delicious looking rice and shrimp dish. I ordered some and then found a little fruit and vegetable stand where I bought some strawberries and a peach. I headed back to my hotel and had lunch on my balcony. I decided to take a short nap, which ended up turning into a 4 hour nap after lunch.

For dinner, I decided to give Trattoria Baicin a try. I ordered the homemade ravioli in a walnut sauce, which was incredible and grilled sea bass, which was good. After dinner, I walked around a little more, found a great gelateria, and had a delicious caffè and nocciola gelato.

As far as the cherries go, they do seem to be working somewhat as I have not felt as "foggy" as I have in past years.

boat ride to San Fruttuoso and Portofino

Wednesday June 25

After another good breakast, I headed down to the dock to buy a ticket for a boat ride to San Fruttuoso and Portofino. I, along with a few other people, waited nicely in a line for the chain to be opened so that we could board the boat, while many others rudely cut in line. Just as the man came to open the chain, it turned into a mini-stampede. It is incredible to me how rude some people can be pushing their way in front of you when they can clearly see that you have been waiting nicely in what appeared to be a line.

Despite the stampede, I was able to get one of the last spots on the top deck of the boat. The boat first stops at Portofino and then continues onto San Fruttuoso. I decided to stay on the boat and go to San Fruttuoso first. I did a post on San Fruttuoso a few months ago , where you can see photos from my previous trip there.

I set myself up on the rock beach to catch a few rays. It was such a peaceful morning there UNTIL the invasion of teenagers from Camogli arrived. It was some sort of Summer Fun group. I lasted about 10 more minutes and then headed up to check out the Abbey. The cost for a combined ticket for the Abbey and the Tower was 7 euros (definitely not worth 7 euros in my opinion) but still interesting. The last time I visited San Fruttuoso, I only visited the tower, which was not a tower to climb but instead a room where on that occasion there was an interesting amber display. This time, there were a few paintings to see which did not really interest me that much.

I had lunch at da Laura's back on the beach. I read a wonderful review for this restaurant, raving about the spaghetti and clam dish, which I was looking forward to trying. Unfortunately this dish was not on the menu. Instead there was a spaghetti alla marinara dish, which was spaghetti with pieces of mussels. It was ok, but not anything to rave about.
After lunch, I headed back to the boat dock to catch the boat to Portofino. As luck would have it, the group of teenagers was also catching this boat! Fortunately, most of them sat below and seemed to disappear into the crowd once we arrived in Portofino.

Portofino has to be one of the most beautiful places in all of Italy. Too expensive to stay, but a glorious place to visit. After taking many photos, I headed up to the Castello Brown, which was so much fun to explore. The cost was 4 euros and worth much more. Inside in all of the rooms were black and white photos of stars from the 50's and 60's hanging on the walls. The photos were of their visits to Portofino, Santa Margherita, and Genova. The castle also provided wonderful views both from the windows of the castle as well as the garden outside. I really enjoyed my visit to the castle and have to thank Leslie for the tip.

Before leaving Portofino, I had my daily gelato - this time a nocciola (walnut) and pistachio. YUM!! Delicious!!

I took a short nap after returning to my hotel and then had dinner at a place called Zinco. I ordered a pizza margherita with mozzarella buffula cheese. The soccer game was on which made it fun to hang out there for a while.

Today (Thursday) I am taking the train to Genova. Ciao!!

June 27, 2008

lost in Genova

Thursday June 26

Well, only a little lost...

Genova (Genoa) has been on my list of places to see for quite a while now. Everytime I have stayed somewhere on the Ligurian Coast, I have always thought of doing a daytrip to Genova, but never managed to tear myself away from the beautiful seaside where I was staying.

After getting some information on the train stations in Genova on the Slow Travel forum, and getting a good map here in Santa Margherita Ligure at the tourist information office, I finally decided to take the train to Genova. The woman at the tourist information office showed me how both of the main train stations were options as far as where to depart, depending on what I wanted to see first. I did my homework and read up on Genova, remembered seeing wonderful photos of the Duomo, and got more ideas from Jan's blog. I decided on the Genova Brignole station as my starting point since I would need to change trains there when heading to Acqui Terme next Monday. When I arrived, I checked out the train schedule to see which binario (train track) I would need to go to to catch my connecting train for Acqui Terme. I was so glad I decided to do this since my train will be leaving at one of those adjacent areas instead of the regular binari (tracks). I first learned about these tracks after missing a connecting train in Bologna a few years ago.

Once I got myself oriented to the train station, I headed out with map in hand to explore the city of Genova. I tried to map out my route while on the train, but was immediately side tracked when I saw this huge arch up ahead. Genova is a big city with cars everywhere. Much of the city is not very pedestrian friendly. I worked my way to the arch and then noticed these beautiful designs on the grass with steps that went up to this wall covered with greenery. I will definitely post photos of this when I get home. It took me a while to get to the steps. I was ready to climb them when I realized that I was now far off of the route I wanted to take. I changed my mind about the steps since I was going to be doing a lot of walking already and headed back to the street I needed to be on to get to the Duomo.

Back on track, I headed down Via Settembre, which was a very busy street. After walking a few blocks, I came to Piazza de Ferrari and a beautiful fountain. There were also a few beautiful buildings surrounding the fountain with one of them being Palazzo Ducale. For some reason, I thought that Palazzo Ducale was open to tour. After wandering around the inside of the building, I found a ticket office. I was told only the old prison and the tower were open to visit. All you have to say to me is "tower" and I am there. I paid my 4 euros and then went in search of the entrance. I finally had to go into another office where this nice man took me to the elevator and told me that I needed to go to the 4th floor.

Once I finally found the entrance, I was greeted by a man and a woman. The woman ripped my ticket and then grabbed an orange hard hat and put it on my head. Yes you are reading correctly, a hard hat! I thought to myself, what the heck was I getting myself into? All I could think was that this tower was going to be quite a challenge to climb. The man decided that the hard hat the woman chose was not a good fit. He took the hard hat off of my head and tried 3 or 4 more on me before finally being satisfied that I had one that fit correctly. I headed off into one of the rooms, which ended up being the tower. I climbed up one flight of stairs (up a ladder) and came to a room with windows on 3 sides. The next ladder was blocked off and that was basically it for the tower portion of the tour. Needless to say, the tower experience was sort of "blah" as towers go. At least I still have the tower in Bologna to climb!

I headed back to the spot where I was given the hard hat, and the man told me that I was not yet done. There were many more rooms to explore - the prison area. All the while, I was thinking, that I probably looked ridiculous in this hard hat and why in the world did I have to wear one anyways. It was at that moment that I learned the reason for the hard hat. As I ducked to go into one of the rooms, I whacked my head on the top of the stone doorway. Thank goodness I was wearing that hard hat! I whacked my head two more times after that, even though I was being so careful as I ducked. I probably would have been out cold if not for the hard hat. Although the prison itself was just ok, and I would probably not recommend it to anyone else, it was my first ever tour in a hard hat!

I got just as lost getting back out of the building as I did finding the tour in the first place. In Italy, the first floor is not always the first floor. It could mean the second floor. So, when I got back in the elevator, I was not really sure which button to push. I ended up choosing the first floor and could only find one doorway out which definitely was not the doorway I went in. I finally figured out where I was. I went back inside the building and found a bar where I used the toilet and then ordered an espresso machiato. When paying for my drink, I asked the guy at the bar for directions to the Duomo. He said I was close to it and took me outside and pointed me in the right direction.

The street leading to the Duomo (the Cathedral of San Lorenzo) was a pedestrian only street. It was nice to not have to worry about the cars. I arrived at one of the side entrances to the Duomo first. I went inside and was amazed at the incredible beauty of the inside of the church. I took few photos although it was pretty dark inside and so I am not sure how they will turn out. I exited out the front door and again was amazed at the beauty of this church. I only wish that the sun wasn't behind the church. I can just imagine the colors of the carved stones when the sun is shining right on the church.

I took quite a few photos and then headed down to the waterfront and the old harbor (Porto Antico). I wandered around the waterfront for a while. I found a place that sold focaccia on a side street and bought a peice with tomatoes on it. It was HORRIBLE!! I couldn't even finish half of it.

Continue reading "lost in Genova" »

June 28, 2008

a wonderful day in Camogli

Friday June 27

This is the second time I am writing this post. I was just ready to hit save earlier this morning when one of the waiters must have blown a fuse or something while making an espresso as the computer went dead and I lost everything! The computer at my hotel is located in the bar area of the hotel. It cost 5 euros for one hour or 10 euros for 3 hours. I figured out after my second day using the computer that I can log on to the page where I write the post and then disconnect until I am ready to save and post which saves me minutes of use that I am charged for. After losing everything this morning, I went to the desk in the lobby and was given another 5 euros of internet usage.

So here goes for try number two for my day in Camogli...

After another wonderful breakfast at my hotel, I headed towards the park in Santa Margherita Ligure (SML) to visit he Villa Durazzo. The villa is located at the top of the park. The park is well kept and a nice place to go to stay cool on a hot day.

The Villa Durazzo was open to visit and the best part was that it was free! I wandered through the various rooms, including two bedrooms. I always find the bedrooms in villas, castles, etc. to be quite interesting. Next to the villa is a beautiful church. Unfortunately it was not open while I was there. As I walked down the path to get the entire church in a photo, I found a set of steps leading back down to the waterfront.

As I walked along the waterfront, I realized that the train I wanted to take to Camogli was leaving in 10 minutes. I wasn't sure if I would make it but decided to try, hoping that the train might be running late. I arrived just as the train should be arriving but still needed to buy my ticket. Because the train was running 5 minutes late, I had time to buy my ticket and catch my train. While waiting, I ran into the couple that checked out of the hotel the same time I left the hotel earlier in the morning when I was off to visit the villa. Their train was running very late and ended up catching the train I was going to take. We chatted until the train arrived and continued to talk while the train traveled to Camogli. They just spent 2 days in SML, were off to Bellagio for 2 days and then traveling to Perugia for 2 days. Fast travel for sure and a lot of train time in those 6 days.

The train ride to Camogli was only a 5 minute ride. It was wonderful being back in Camogli once again. I have enjoyed my stay in Santa Margherita Ligure much more this time but Camogli will always have my heart. Camogli is such a peaceful little seaside village. Much of the little town is a pedestrian only zone. I headed straight to the waterfront area where I walked the length of the town out to the lighthouse area taking tons of photos.

As it became close to lunch time, I started thinking about pesto. I checked out the menus at many of the bars and restaurants and ended up making not the best of choices. The view was the only thing good about this place. The trofie with pesto was terrible. I don't understand how someone can mess up on pesto in Liguria since it is one of the signature dishes of the area.

Continue reading "a wonderful day in Camogli" »

July 1, 2008

last weekend in Santa Margherita Ligure

Saturday & Sunday June 28 & 29

Due to computer problems, I was unable to post about my last 2 days in Santa Margherita until now.

Saturday morning, I headed back down to the waterfront to check out the Sant' Erasmo activities for the day. 11 am: Processione in mare con la statua di S. Erasmo verso la "Cervara" deposizione corona di alloro a ricordodei caduti del mare (a procession of boats where a mass is held to remember those lost at sea). The very handsome priest arrived all dressed up along with a small group of people also dressed up and then the statue of Sant' Erasmo. The statue was placed on a big fishing boat and then the people involved with the ceremony got on board.

As I was taking photos, one of the men who had something to do with the event told me that if I was interested, I could go on a boat at the imacadero. I understood everything he said to me except I was not sure where the imbacadero was. I walked down the waterfront in the direction he pointed but did not see any boats that looked like they were boarding passengers. I was just about to walk back, when I noticed a few ladies who were also watching the statue being placed on the boat walking towards the boat dock where I took the boat to Portofino. I followed them and was in luck. There was a huge crowd waiting for the next boat to Portofino. The ladies weaved through the crowd and said something about the procession and were given free tickets to board a boat ready to depart. I followed the ladies and was given a ticket to also board the boat.

We followed a bunch of other boats out to sea and motored almost to Portofino. It was a very hot day. The breeze on the boat felt wonderful. As we motored out, a sweet older woman standing next to me started pointing out where she was staying, what beach she went to, etc. At one point I said "wow" and she said "Oh, you are not Italian". I smiled. After we established where I was from, how I learned Italian, etc. she went right back to describing the various houses and villas she knew about. She also told me more about the procession.

We stopped at a spot near where there was a big building where monks lived. The priest said a short mass using a microphone so everyone could hear. All the boats blew their horns when the mass was finished and a wreath was thrown into the water. For some reason, I thought the statue would be going in the water, but it did not. I think I saw a movie once where a statue was put in the water.

As we motored back, we stopped again right outside the harbor of Santa Margherita Ligure for about 15 more minutes. I'm not sure why we stopped but it was nice to be out on the water. While we were stopped, we saw a HUGE jellyfish in the water.

I walked back toward my hotel and stopped on the way at a wonderful place that sold focaccia. I had a focaccia with cheese (I think it was mozarella cheese) and some fruit for lunch on the balcony of my hotel.

At 3 pm, I headed back down to the waterfront for the next event of the day - the tradizionale "Albero della Cuccagna in Mare". I had no idea what this was but was up for another interesting event. Mostly men and a few teenagers and younger boys were hanging out. I saw a few men standing near the water. I went to look and saw a long green pole hanging over the water with 4 pieces of paper dangling at the end of the pole. A man was trying to recruit more participants over a microphone. After about 30 minutes of announcing the event and recruiting people, the event finally started. One by one, starting with the younger boys and teenagers, each person tried to move themselves down the pole to the end to grab one of the tickets. The wooden pole was soaped. Many of the participants fell into the water before reaching the end of the pole. After about 5 or 6 people gave it a try, a boy of about 12 had his turn. He was the first one to get one of the tickets. Everyone was cheering him on as he got closer and closer. I stayed for about an hour watching one after another give it a try and 4 people get the 4 tickets. I never found out what the prize was (if there was one).

At 6 pm, there was another procession or parade - Processione sulla Banchina con i tradizionali "Cristi" e le Confraternite. Three huge crosses representing Christ and 2 others (sorry my religious education is lacking at the moment as to who the other 2 were) were carried through the streets and by the waterfront along with a band (I think it was possibly a high school band), the women who participated in the earlier procession, and again the cute priest and the statue of Sant' Erasmo.

After a full day of events in the hot sun, I was pretty wiped out. I could hardly keep my eyes open at dinner time. I walked back up to del Baffo but all the tables were taken and the earliest they had an opening was at 9:30. I was too tired to walk around to find another place. I wanted to eat at Il Nostromo, a restaurant I saw on the first day of my stay in SML, but never could find it again after that. I ended up eating at my hotel. I ordered the trofie with pesto - giving it one more try. It was ok but not great but still good enough for how I was feeling. I almost fell asleep at the table while waiting for it to be prepared. Needless to say, as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out like a light.

Sunday, I headed back down the the waterfront and found a big rock to sit at by the water. The waterfront was the only area where there was a cool breeze. I watched as little kids tried to walk along the big rocks by the walkway. I also watched 2 huge jellyfish hanging out in the water nearby. The beaches were packed with people since it was the weekend. I wondered how many were being stung by jellyfish. That evening I saw a report about the jellyfish invasion. I did not see any signs posted though to warn everyone.

After a couple of hours, I walked back down to see if any more events were going to take place and then walked up a new road I had not been on. I had no idea where it was going to take me. I thought it would wind up back in the center near the main church but instead it started going up hill. I was committed by that point and continued to walk on this road. Eventually, I ended up at the Villa Durazzo. I went to the bar next door and had a glass of peach juice and then headed back to my hotel.

I spent much of the afternoon in my hotel room staying cool. Most everything was closed and it was just too hot outside. I tried a couple of times to get on the computer but the wireless connection was not working. The woman at the hotel told me that if it was not fixed before I left, she would refund me the internet charge. So, instead I watched Sugarland Express in Italian. I only saw the end of the movie once. It was quite interesting in Italian. The electricity went out for a minute or so three times while I was watching the movie. I was glad I was not on the computer losing everything each time the electricity went out. I think it was possibly brown outs due to the heat. I also packed most of my things so I would not have to rush Monday morning.

For dinner, I went back to del Baffo. I went at 7:30 to make sure to get a table. It was already pretty crowded, probably due to the championship soccer game starting soon. I had a pasta with seafood and then some fried seafood.

Thank you everyone for all of your comments. It is fun hearing from everyone. I had a wonderful time on the Ligurian Coast and am now in Acqui Terme. Jan (jgk) and I are heading to the Tim store to get her phone problem straightened out. I will write more soon.

Ciao!!

July 2, 2008

arrival in Acqui Terme

Monday, June 30th

After my last wonderful breakfast at Hotel Jolanda in Santa Margherita Ligure and some last minute packing, I gave the front desk the key (I already paid my bill the night before), was refunded for the internet access problems (which really worked out in my favor), and headed to the train station. The walk was not far although there was a steep hill at the end of the walk just before reaching the train station. I figured out a way to hook all my bags together. I have been very happy with my new system of 2 rolling bags (both a bit smaller and lighter) rather than a larger backpack on my back and a larger rolling bag. So far, I have always been offered help when getting on or off a train and it has not been that difficult carrying the bags down and up the stairs in the underpasses at the train stations.

When I arrived at the train station, I was very glad that I purchased my ticket the day before since the ticket window was closed. I read on the monitor that the train would be 5 minutes "in ritardo" (late). I found a nice bench to sit on and waited for the train. A few minutes later an older but very feisty woman sat next to me. As the mystery woman announced that the train we were both taking to Genova would now be 10 minutes late, she started rambling on to me in Italian about how all the trains in the area are always late and that the next announcement will tell us that the train will be 15 and then 20 minutes late. She must have taken the train that was 30 minutes late on Wednesday since she was referring about that train while telling me about the Italian train system.

After a few minutes of train conversation, she asked where I was from and then started talking politics. She wanted to know why the US did not want a woman to be president. Then she wanted to know what I thought of Obama and his wife. She then asked me what the name of the "vecchio" (old) man was that was also running for president. We talked politics until the train arrived. She said it was a miracle that the train was only 10 minutes late. That was perfect for me since I would be able to still catch my connecting train if my first train was only 10 minutes late.

As the train arrived, we both went to board. She boarded first and then grabbed one of my rolling bags for me. I was surprised with her strength. Another kind man grabbed my other rolling bag. I followed the woman into one of the train cars. I debated whether or not to sit with her since I was ready to move on from the conversation about politics. I thought it would be rude though to not sit with here. The train was a regional train and so there are only 2nd class train cars. It was not very full so there was lots of space for luggage to be kept right by your seats which was nice.
I changed the subject to Genova once we sat down. She wanted to know what I did when I visited Genova. The train ride was quite pleasant. As we went by each station, she told me more about that area.

The train gods were looking out for me. We arrived on binario (platform/track) one! I LOVE binario uno because that means no stairs!! My connecting train was at the tronco place - a walk down to the end of binario 1 where two more little tracks were on the left with no stairs!

As I walked toward the tronco, I saw that there was a train at binario 2. I asked a train person (you can tell who they are by their green and blue outfits) if that was the Acqui train. He seemed to think it was and I figured that it had to be since it was set to leave in 10 minutes. I boarded the trian and found a seat by the entrance inside one of the train cars with a space for my luggage. A woman and her little dog got on board and sat nearby. She placed one of those little diaper paper things on the seat and then her dog hopped on. I snuck a cute photo of the dog while she was busy talking on the phone. She probably would have posed for me but I was too shy to ask.

The train ride was very pleasant. I worked on a couple of sudoku puzzles until we arrived. Jan (jgk) called me the day before offering to pick me up at the train station. I was thrilled since I was not sure how to get to the little place where we were both staying. I am still lost today (Wednesday) after being in Acqui Terme for 2 days and so I am sure that it would have made for an interesting time if I had to find the place on my own. I don't remember seeing any taxis at the station when I arrived.

I met Jan at the entrance of the train station when I arrived. We drove to a parking lot near our place. We are staying in rooms above a restaurant called La Loggia. Jan got the single room (booked ahead first) and I have a double room. My room is huge and quite comfortable. There is a great bathroom and a wonderful hairdryer!! Having a good hairdryer is not something that often happens, even in the nicest hotels.

After unpacking a few things, we went out to have a gelato. The gelateria had huge mounds of many flavors, both fruit and creme flavors. I introduced Jan to peach gelato. It was my first time having peach on this trip. We walked around the town some and then headed back to our rooms since everything was closed for the afternoon.

Later in the afternoon, we went out to Diana's for a short visit. I was so impressed with her new kitchen. It was great seeing her again. For dinner, we ate at a place that had a wonderful pesto, pomodoro (tomato) and creme sauce. I ordered spinach and ricotta ravioli with this sauce. I also ordered a caprese salad. This caprese salad was missing the basil. The buffalo mozzarella was one big mound in the middle and the tomato slices surrounded the cheese. It was really a meal in itself.

Well, that sums up my first day/night in Acqui Terme. I will write more soon.

Ciao!!

July 3, 2008

enjoying Acqui Terme

Tuesday & Wednesday, July 1 & 2

Tuesday was my first full day in Acqui Terme. Jan and I went to breakfast (espresso and a brioche - typical Italian breakfast) at a bar nearby. She was heading to her Italian class. I went with her partway so that she could show me the tourist info spot. A map and info on the town is always wonderful to have. I spent the morning wandering around the town. I found a pretty big grocery store where I bought some yogurt and water.

Later in the morning, while continuing to wander, I decided to try to find this place I remember stopping in two years ago when I was with Diana to have lunch and also possibly to use their computer. I was not having much luck and seemed to be walking in circles. As I was standing near the outside fruit market area, I heard my name being called. I figured at first the person had to be calling someone else since Jan was still in school. It took me a minute before I realized it was Diana. She was in town doing errands. She showed me this beautiful courtyard and then took me to Balala (the place I was looking for).

I had a wonderful pomodoro and mozarella sandwich for lunch. All the computers were occupied after I finished my sandwich, so instead, I tried to find Jolly Blu, an internet place Jan mentioned. I was not able to find it so instead I had a gelato. Later when I met up with Jan, she brought me to Jolly Blu where I bought an internet card which gave me I think 3 hours total of time. After we both spent time using the computers, we stopped in a little shop where she bought some mushrooms to take back home and I bought some pecorino cheese to have for breakfast with my yogurt.

When I returned to my room, Jan was in her room. We both hung out for a while in our rooms catching up on the news and then went out for dinner. We ate at a little restaurant nearby. We both had the pasta with zucchini. It was just ok. The waiter was very nice. He may also be the owner. After dinner when we were leaving he asked me if I could show him how to crop a picture on his computer. I tried to do it using a couple of his programs, but all the menu items were in italian and I could not find the crop tool. We finally suggested that he download Picasa.

Wednesday morning, I spent more time wandering around, looking in some of the shops, and taking more photos. I was starting to figure out how some of the streets connect, but Acqui for some reason is a confusing place for me. The streets don't really go in a grid. I found the Jolly Blu on my own and spent some time on the computer and then met Jan for lunch. We went to her classmate, Elizabeth's apartment and had a wonderful lunch. Elizabeth is from Denver and is now living in Acqui Terme. Her apartment was amazing.

After lunch, Jan showed me how to get to the train station. I was planning to do daytrips to places nearby on Thursday and Friday. I took photos along the way just in case I got lost. After our walk to the train station, we went into this beautiful garden area, which had wonderful views. The weather has been perfect for me since I have been here - not too hot and not too cold. I have not used my AC yet.

For dinner, we stopped at a huge grocery store to pick up some food and went out to Diana's place for a wonderful dinner. I met Diana's friend, Birgit, who has been staying there for a few weeks. After about an hour, another friend of Diana's, Gregorio arrived. We had a wonderful evening laughing at all of his hilarious stories. The food Diana and Birgit made was so delicious. The best I have had yet in Acqui Terme. It was a wonderful evening of food and laughter.

July 4, 2008

daytrip to Alessandria

Thursday, July 3

I had a difficult time getting up Thursday morning after our evening at Diana's place. I wanted coffee but also wanted to sleep as late as possible. Sleep won. I would get coffee when I got to Alessandria. I walked to the station, taking one wrong turn which took me slightly off course. When I got to the station, Diana was just driving up and dropping her friend Birgit off. We rode to Alessandria together.

It was great having Birgit with me as she is a "power shopper" and has already visited Alessandria once before. Alessandria is a big city and I really had no idea where to go/what to see. She gave me the quick tour of the shopping district and showed me the other interesting areas on my map. The sales have just begun here and she was planning for a day of shopping. I was up for a little shopping but also wanted to get to know the city a little bit. When we arrived, we walked through the huge outdoor market. She pointed out a few stands along the way. I told her that I find it difficult buying clothes there since I am not sure if they would fit. She told me that was what the van was for.

After walking through the market, we turned left and walked through the smaller food market nearby and then hit the stores. I only lasted in a few stores with Birgit before coffee won out. She continued shopping and I went in search of my morning caffè machiato. After my caffè and brioche, I stopped at a huge fruit and vegetable store and bought a nectarine and some yellow plums. I stopped in a few shops until everything closed up for the afternoon. I ran into Birgit at Zara but then lost her when I was about to leave the store.

The one other place I wanted to go while in Alessandria was the biblioteca (library). I saw this wonderful picture of a room in this library with old books that I wanted to see. I found the library but was not allowed to take any photos inside. Besides the one room with the old books, the rest of the library was very modern. There was a video area with 4 TVs and headphones. CNN was on one TV, an Italian news station was on another TV, and there was a sign talking about watching DVDs on the equipment there. There also was an area with newspapers from around the world. The children's area was closed while I was there.

I spent some time reading a couple of the newspapers and then headed back towards the market area. Most everything else was closed and the next train did not leave for 2 more hours. I stopped in a supermarket and bought a yogurt drink and then found a gelateria, which turned out to not be that great. By this time, the stores started to open up again. I wandered in a few more until it was time to catch my train. I figured out that this would be my 9th train ride and not once yet has someone checked my ticket.

When I got back to Acqui Terme, I went to the Jolly Blu and spent some time on the internet and then met Jan at Gregario's new wine bar. She was there with Elizabeth and her husband. It was getting close to dinner time and I was craving good pizza. Elizabeth recommended a place near her apartment.

I ordered a bufala pizza (bufala mozzarella, pomodoro sauce, basil) and asked to also have pepperoni on my pizza (grilled peppers NOT the meat). My pizza was sooooo delicious! The crust was slightly burnt and so good. The sauce was perfect. The cheese was wonderful and the peppers were like the icing on the cake.

July 6, 2008

daytrip to Nizza and my first real tower

Friday, July 4th

Friday was my day to visit Nizza Monferrato. I chose Nizza mainly because it was close by and was easily reached by train. Jan decided to join me since she was done with school. I realized once I was on the train that I validated my return ticket and not my ticket from Acqui to Nizza. Jan also stamped the wrong ticket as she was copying what I did. It was a short 20 minute ride on a nice new regional train. Piemonte has many nice new regional trains.

When we arrived in Nizza, we went to the ticket window and explained what had happened. I showed the very nice man both of my tickets and told him it was much too early in the morning for me and I was not paying attention when I validated the wrong ticket. He asked what time we were returning and then said he would accompany us on the train to explain the situation, something I think would only happen in a small town.

Friday was market day in Nizza. We stopped at a pasticceria where I bought a wonderful brioche filled with crema (creme). We walked a little further and found a bar for coffee. The woman in the bar told us where we could find tourist information and also told us about some of the interesting things to see in Nizza. Thank goodness Jan has a good sense of directions. We easily found an informagiovani (which is similar to a tourist info spot). I asked the woman if the tower was open for climbing. She made a call and set up a private tour for us. I was thrilled!

She walked us over to the building where we waited for Matteo. He was so kind and spent time telling us much of the history, including information about some of the battles, of the town of Nizza. The tower was not a very difficult tower to climb. There were only a few sets of stairs and one winding staircase. The top had some sort of sun roof bubble that opened and closed. The views were lovely at the top. After taking some photos, we headed back down and thanked Matteo.

We took more photos of the building, which I believe was the palazzo comunale (town hall) and then continued to walk around the town. Jan's compact flash photo card was full. She asked a woman in a store we were browsing in if there was a photo place in town. It was right next to Benetton and easy to find. They did not sell compact flash cards but were able to copy all of her photos onto a CD. While we waited for it to be finished, Jan visited part of the market area and I went shopping. I bought a purple tank top which was on sale for 10€ (which would be $16.00). I like to think of it as $10.00.

Continue reading "daytrip to Nizza and my first real tower" »

July 7, 2008

long travel day

Saturday, July 5th

Saturday was going to be a long travel day. Jan was driving to the airport to pick up a friend. I asked her while planning my trip if I could catch a ride with her to the airport. This way, I could take the bus to Milano Centrale and then the train to Bologna. My other option was to take the train to Alessandria and then wait 2 hours for a 3 hour train to Bologna. Jan's friend was arriving early in the morning and so we planned on leaving at 7am.

Jan knocked on my door at around 4 in the morning. At first I thought I must have overslept. She said that her friend's plane was delayed and so we could leave at 11am. I was glad for the extra sleep since my head was not a happy camper after the 2 glasses of wine. After a couple of tries, Italian wines just don't seem to agree with me unfortunately.

I finally crawled out of bed around 9 am. I went in search of coffee and then headed back to my room. Jan was out at the internet cafè and came back to the room soon after I returned. We decided to start packing up the car and leave a little early. We ended up leaving around 10 am. We got stuck behind a slow driver until we hit the freeway (I know it is called something else here but you know what I mean). The scenery was beautiful. The freeway drive was not as pretty but it was nice not being on a train for once.

Once we took the airport exit, we looked for a gas station. Filling up the gas tank can be in interesting experience. At our first gas station, the gas would not pump. We found a guy that seemed to work there or nearby to help us. He was very helpful. Because we did not have the appropriate card, we could only use euros. The problem was that the machine did not seem to like Jan's euros. After manh tried, the machine finally took 20 euros. That did not fill up the tank. We then tried to put in more euros with no success. Because Jan needed to fill the tank up, it was going to be a guessing game as far as just how many euros she would need. We finally found out that there was another gas station nearby that took credit cards. The second gas station was a breeze. It was a full service gas station where the guy that worked there pumped the gas and afterwards, Jan paid with her credit card.

The next stop was to return the rental car. This was a very stressful experience for Jan. First we came up to a spot where there were 3 different lanes going 3 different places. I did not see the turn in time and was not very descriptive in the correct lane. We circled again and took the correct turn. Then we saw the sign to turn left, but there was a machine that seemd to be like a parking ticket machine. We saw the car behind us trying to back up. Jan tried to do the same thing. I was so glad at this point that I was not driving and this confirmed for me to never drive to an airport. Jan finally was able to back up into the traffic but we then found out that we were in the correct place. She had to turn around and return, take the ticket and then put the ticket in the next machine. This made no sense at all. Once we parked the car, we went up to this little van with a window. Jan stepped on a big cement block and gave the woman the rental car papers. After a 3 hour journy, we we were on our way to the airport.

Continue reading "long travel day" »

July 10, 2008

daytrip to Modena (part 1)

Sunday, July 6th

My plan for Sunday was to travel to Modena. Why would I take a train the day after a long travel day? For a tower of course. The tower in Modena (Torre della Ghirlandina) is only open on Sundays for climbing.

After a wonderful breakfast at Hotel San Porta San Mamolo (they put on quite a spread with pastries, special cakes, cereal, yogurt, bread, ham, cheese, eggs, bacon, and fresh fruit as well as any type of coffee and I suppose tea you would like), I headed to the train station. The main piazza in Bologna was so peaceful after my 10 minute walk to the centro. The walk the rest of the way to the train station was a bit longer - about 20 minutes.

I saw this cool old porta (part of a wall with an entry way) as I was near the train station. I decided to walk through it. Ewwww, it smelled of urine (the area near the train station is not a great area) and while somehow not paying attention, I tripped on one of the stones and fell on my hands and one of my knees. Ewwww!!! All I could think of was the yucky urine that I was now probably touching! I got out my little bottle of hand sanitizer and squirted it all over my red hands. I then noticed that one of my toes was bleeding. More hand sanitizer on my toe and then a bandaid.

I used one of the automatic machines at the train station to by my regional ticket. I thought I would miss the train, but for once the train running late was good for me and I just made the train after validating my ticket. The train was full. The last stop was Torino for this train. I am not sure if more people than normal were taking the train because of the planned strike for Monday, or if this was normal for a Sunday in July.

After arriving in Modena and checking out my photocopy of a map I got from one of the Cadogan guides, I was on my way. Right away, I was confused since it seemed to me that I should be going one way, but there was a sign pointing a different way. I stopped and asked a very nice older man for directions. He confirmed that I should be going the way I planned to go. Perhaps the sign was for cars?

It didn't take long for me to fall in love with Modena. The colors of the buildings were quite similar to the colors of the buildings in Bologna and the architecture styles were also quite similar, but it was a lot less crowded than Bologna. On my way to the centro, I stopped at a bar to use the bathroom. This was my first "floor" bathroom of my trip (I believe the correct name is Turkish bathroom). The woman at the bar was very nice. I had an espresso before leaving and then continued on my way with the tower as my goal.

Continue reading "daytrip to Modena (part 1)" »

July 11, 2008

daytrip to Modena (part 2)

Sunday, July 6th

Here is the rest of my day in Modena...

As I was leaving the Galleria Estense, I stopped to thank the woman and the two men who checked my ticket when I entered the museum. I thanked them and told them how much I enjoyed my visit. They asked where I was from. I said "Hawaii". The woman could not believe it. She kept saying "Hawaii?!!" in a very animated voice over and over. She could not even imagine what it would be like to live in Hawaii and started asking me all kinds of questions about what it was like to live there, the weather, the food, the beaches, the temperature, etc. etc. She then asked me what I did. I told her that I taught children ages 3 & 4 and that school started again in the end of July. She could not believe that we had school in August. She again said over and over "agosto?!!" She was so animated and just could not believe this.

We then talked about the euro-dollar difference and I said that now is a good time for them to travel to the US. One of the men wanted me to write down the difference between the euro and the dollar and then started calculating the cost if he traveled to the US. Next we started talking about different places to visit in the US.

And finally...the converstation turned to politics. It is so interesting how just about every person I have spoken to here in Italy is so interested in the US politics. At one point, they asked where Obama's mother was from. I told them Kansas. No one knew where Kansas was. I tried to explain and then thought of the movie, The Wizard of Oz. The conversation became quite animated as I tried to explain the movie, talking about the tornado and the house, and then everything in color, and finally Toto and clicking the shoes 3 times. The woman in one of the rooms in the museum who was working there and not so friendly, came over to us and said "SHHHH" very loudly with a grumpy face. She left, and we continued our conversation. They asked me to write down the name of the movie so they could look it up later on the internet. Once I wrote it down, they realized I was talking about "Mago di OZ". At that point none of us could even remember why we were talking about this movie. IWe finally remembered. I don't think they ever figured out where Kansas was located.

An hour had passed and I said that I had to leave to catch a train back to Bologna. I asked to use the bathroom first and had to walk by the crabby lady (there were only 2 other people in the entire museum when she came out to shush us). I smiled at her as I walked by her. She was not so friendly. As I left, I thanked them again for a wonderful time. They apologized for keeping me so long. I told them that it was not a problem for me and that I really enjoyed talking to them.

The walk to the train station was another 15 or 20 minutes. I then had to wait about an hour for the next train. The train station was packed. There was a huge crowd waiting for another train (everyone with luggage) and when I returned to Bologna, I could not believe how crowded it was. At 9pm until the following night at 9pm all trains and buses were going on strike (lo sciopero) and so I guess everyone was trying to travel a day earlier.

I was not able to figure out the bus schedules yet and could not find any Tabaccheria shops so I ended up walking back. My feet were soooo tired when I got back to my hotel 30 minutes later. Because it was Sunday night, many restaurants were closed. The hotel recommended Le Mura, an osteria across the street from my hotel. That sounded wonderful to me since I don't think I could walk much farther.

The restaurant or osteria was ok but not one of my favorites. First it was very smokey inside. No one was actually smoking when I was there but there was no air circulation and either the people that ran the restaurant smoked inside before the restaurant was open or the smoking right at the doorway left the smell. The menu was meat based. The waiter and perhaps the owner was extremely nice. He offered to make me some penne pasta with a tomato and cream sauce. I also ordered some grilled vegetables. The food was good but not anything to rave about but I was too tired to really care.

My day in Modena was wonderful. I definitely would like to return there again someday. Leslie, I thought of you and even re-read your posts about Modena before I left for Italy this year. I expected to like Modena, but I really did not expect to love Modena.

July 13, 2008

a walk up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca

Monday, July 7th

As advertised on the strike website I have been checking, in the train stations Sunday evening, and on the news, both the trains and the buses were on strike (lo sciopero). In addition it was Monday, so many of the stores and most of the museums were closed. I decided that it would be the perfect opportunitiy to walk up to Il Santuario della Madonna di San Luca (Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca).

A couple from Santa Barbara (who just spent a week in Bologna and had to hire a car to drive them to Ravenna since there was a train strike - bummer for them) were sitting in the lobby when I inquired at the desk on information regarding how long it would take to walk up to San Luca. The woman at the desk said it was only about a 10 minute walk to the start of the 666 portico arches to the top. The couple from Santa Barbara said they thought it would be a much longer walk since it took the bus they were on from the hotel 10 minutes to reach the start of the walk to the top. The couple from Santa Barbara was correct. It took me 45 minutes to reach the start of the 666 porticos and then 40 more minutes to reach the top. Of course I stopped often to take photos along the way.

The couple from Santa Barbara was also very helpful providing me information about where to catch a bus near the hotel. Unfortunately because of the strike, taking the bus was out, but it was helpful for me later during my stay in Bologna.

On my walk to the start of the walk up to San Luca, I saw a tiny yellow car. I first thought it was a Smart Car but then realized it was even smaller than a Smart Car. It was an electric car. Just as I was about to take a photo of the car, the woman, who I assume was the owner of the car showed up. I asked her if I could take a photo. She seemed pleased that I was interested in her car. After I took a photo, she showed me where the plug was and explained how she charged the car.

Continue reading "a walk up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca " »

daytrip to Florence & a wonderful lunch with friends in Empoli

Tuesday, July 8th

My plan for Tuesday was to take the train to Florence, spend some time there walking around, taking photos, and then take another train to Empoli to visit with my friends Francesco and Irene and their family and then after taking the train back to Florence, spend more time in Florence before heading back to Bologna for my dinner at Ristorante Teresina. I had not been to Florence since 2001 and have not seen my friends in Empoli for two years.

After breakfast, I asked the man at the hotel desk where I could find the bus stop for the 32 or 33 bus. He told me that I should take the 29 or 30 bus since it was much faster. I went in search of the stop for either the 29 or 30. I was close to one of the stops when the bus drove by. Because the woman at the bus info place did not mention that either of these buses went to the train station and said something about having to change buses if I took a different bus besides the 32 or 33, I decided to look for one of those bus stops instead.

Once I was on the busy road where the circolare buses traveled, I saw the bus stop. It was actually pretty easy to find. I was mad at myself for listening to the man at the desk because the bus drove by before I reached the bus stop and I would have made that bus if I just went to that bus stop in the beginning. Instead I had to wait 15 more minutes for another bus. My next problem was trying to figure out which stop to get off at on this bus since I was told that it did not stop right at the train station. I took out my map and followed along watching the street names. A couple got on the bus a couple of stops before the train station stop. That was a good sign since I figured they were getting off at the train station. After all my anxiety about not knowing what stop to get off at, it was very obvious when we reached the train station stop.

I joined the big crowd of people crossing the street when the walk light turned green. I went to one of the automatic ticket machine to buy my ticket. All the seats were sold out for the train I wanted and only 1st class tickets were available for the next train (just about all the trains to Florence were Eurostar – expensive trains). I bought my ticket and then waited. Since I was there, I also bought my ticket for Friday to head to Coccaglio.

The train ride was fast (1 hour). Because quite a few people were getting off the train in Florence, the line went back into the car. I ended up standing right in the doorway. At one point the electric door started to close on me. I was stuck in the door and couldn’t figure out how to open it. A very nice man pushed the button to get me out of the stuck door. I squished my way out of the doorway for the rest of the wait.

Continue reading "daytrip to Florence & a wonderful lunch with friends in Empoli" »

a day of churches and a museum in Bologna

Wednesday, July 9th

I originally thought about doing one more daytrip while in Bologna. I wanted to visit Reggio-Emilia but after my two days on the train while in Bologna, I decided to spend my final two full days in Bologna. I was able to sleep in a little and not worry about the buses and getting to the train station to not miss my train.

Wednesday morning, I leisurely hung out in my room for a while watching Everyone Loves Raymond in Italian and then went down to breakfast. This was when another ewwww moment A man in front of me put his hand into the cereal bowl and scooped up 2 or 3 scoops (with the spoon right there in the bowl!!). Yuck! I was not even going to consider the cereal that day or while he was staying there. I don’t know what he was even thinking. He was not in his own house. It is not like there was no spoon in the bowl. Ewwwww!! Despite the ewwww moment, I once again enjoyed my breakfast. On this morning, there was a type of cake with strawberries and panna (whipped cream).

The first thing on my list of things to check out on Wednesday was to visit the Santa Stefano church. I had heard that this was a very beautiful church. As I turned a corner on a street nearby my hotel, I smelled urine and was not paying attention. I thought I stepped in a puddle of urine. I let out a little scream and looked down. What I actually stepped on was a dried leaf that sounded like it was a puddle. A man walking near me asked me if I was ok. I explained what had happened. He asked where I was going and walked with me part way. He was very nice and showed me the best way to arrive to the church on my map (although for once I understood the map).

I stopped in Caffè Zanarini for the bathroom and then a coffee. I went to the cassa (cash register) to see if I had to pay first. There was no one at the cash register. There was a very nice older woman also waiting to pay. I asked her if she knew if we had to pay first. She was such a delightful person. She joked about the fact that we had to pay but there was no one there to take our money. We chatted for a few minutes until the woman working at the cassa arrived. My caffè macchiato was excellent. At this bar, the barista also gave everyone ordering coffee a little glass of acqua frizzante (fizzy water).

I continued my way to the church of Santa Stefano. When I arrived, once again the sun was in the wrong place for good photos. I now have a theory that all churches were built in a certain way so that the sun will be behind the church in the morning. If this is correct, then planned visits to churches would be better in the afternoon if photos of the churches are part of the plan. Even though the sun was in the wrong spot, I enjoyed my visit to this church, which I later found out was a complex of churches (6 or 7 churches). It was almost like being in a museum inside. There were many rooms and courtyards. I explored all of the rooms and areas until the church closed at 12:30. The best part was again that it was all free!! The piazza where this church is located is also quite beautiful.

Continue reading "a day of churches and a museum in Bologna" »

my last day in Bologna

Thursday, July 10th

My plan for Thursday was to visit some of the museums in Bologna. The first museum I went to was the Museo Civico Medievale (Medieval Museum). It is located near the Piazza Maggiore. When I arrived, all of the doors were closed. The hours by the door stated that the museum should have been open. I tried opening the doors, thinking that perhaps the doors were closed to keep the AC inside. Neither of the two doors would open. I couldn’t figure out why the doors were locked. I then noticed a little sign saying that on Thursday, the museum would be closed for meetings. What luck!

The second museum I wanted to visit was the Museo Civico Archeologico (Civic Archaeological Museum). I was told that it was right near the Piazza Maggiore, but I couldn’t find it. I went into the tourist info office, to find out where it was located. A very nice woman was working there on Thursday. I told her that I knew that the museum was nearby but I just could not find it. She smiled and gave me the directions. It was located on a little street to the left of the Duomo. When I arrived, the man told me that it was closed because of a meeting. Ugh!! I could not believe I was in Bologna for 6 days and chose the day that obviously all of the museums were closed to visit the museums. The man told me that the Egyptian section of the museum was open even though the rest of the museum was closed. Although it was not as good as the Egyptian Museum in Torino, it was still interesting.

After leaving the museum, I hung out in the Piazza for a while. Creepy man number two started talking to me. I tried to ignore him. He continued to talk to me trying to use both English and Italian. It is times like these that I wish I knew a rare language that I could use so that it looked like I did not understand. I walked across the piazza, trying to get into the church. I was wearing clothing acceptable for church entries, but had my tiny backpack with me, which I sometimes use as a purse. I was stopped at the entry point being told no ziano (backpack). They would not even let a priest in with his backpack. What a ridiculous rule since my little backpack was smaller than many purses ladies were carrying. I have been in this church before so it was not a big deal, but it still was a little irritating.

Instead, I walked up and down a few of the streets where all the fruit and vegetable stands and some of the fish markets were located. As I was walking up one of the streets, creepy man number two reappeared. He started talking to me again. I ignored him and he finally left. I went into Tamburini to get some lunch. I bought a little plate of greek salad and a little plate of pasta salad. The greek salad was very good, but the pasta was mushy and not so good. I sat in the Piazza Maggiore eating the salad. It was a beautiful day.

Continue reading "my last day in Bologna" »

heading to the airport hotel soon

Sadly, my trip is ending. I am heading to the train station in a little while. Right now I am at Katia's workplace using the internet. I wrote the last four posts about the rest of my time in Bologna on Katia's computer yesterday evening and just posted them on my blog.

When I return home, I will post about my wonderful weekend in Coccaglio and then begin to post some of my photos. I hope everyone is well.

a presto...

Edited to add: I am now at the airport hotel (First Hotel) with 30 minutes of free internet time. Just checking in. I leave in the morning and then spend another night at an airport hotel before arriving home Tuesday evening Hawaii time. Thanks for all of your comments. I am glad to hear that my blogging has been interesting and entertaining. I am never sure just what will be interesting or boring. My trip has been wonderful. There is a big storm outside right now with thunder and lightening which is freaking me out a little bit. Hopefully the weather is wrong and it will not be thundering in the morning when my plane takes off. Ciao!!!

July 16, 2008

travel day to Coccaglio

Friday, July 11th

After finishing up some last minute packing, I brought my bags down to the lobby. One of the things I liked about Hotel Porta San Mamolo was the family type atmosphere there. When I walked into the breakfast room each morning, I was greeted kindly, usually by name, and by Friday they even knew what type of coffee I prefered. After finishing up my last wonderful breakfast at the hotel, I thanked everyone working in the breakfast room, and then went back to the lobby to wait for my taxi. I thought about taking the bus to save a few euros but then decided that the taxi would be much less stressful.

By Friday, I knew most of the people working there. One of the guys working that day asked me where I was going next. When I said "Coccaglio", he gave me a blank stare. He, as many Italians, had never heard of this little town. I told him it was located between Bergamo and Brescia. He was so curious about this town that he went on the hotel computer and searched on google maps. While he was on the computer, I went onto my blog on the computer for the guests and showed him the Coccaglio photos I had posted. We talked a little bit about Coccaglio and then the taxi driver (I think it was a driver the hotel used since he was not driving a regular taxi car) arrived. I said goodbye to everyone in the lobby area that worked at the hotel and thanked them all for a wonderful stay. The driver was very nice. The ride to the station was quick and cost 12 euros.

I arrived at the station a little bit early for my 10:16 train because I wanted to buy a ticket for my last journey (Rovato, the town next to Coccaglio, to Milan). I forgot to buy this ticket earlier. The ticket window at the train station in Rovato is closed on Sundays and it would be easier to have the ticket in advance rather than to try to buy the ticket on the train.

When I walked into the train station, the partenza board said that the Eurostar train I was taking was on time. I bought my ticket for my train ride on Sunday at one of the automatic ticket machines and validated my two tickets for the train ride from Bologna to Rovato in the automatic ticket machine instead of the regular little yellow validation box. The tickets were stamped in the middle instead of at the end of each ticket.

As I waited for my train, the dreaded "in ritardo" category had a 5 under it, meaning that the train was now arriving 5 minutes late. I was thrilled that the train was arriving on binario (track) 1 because that meant no stairs, but stressed that the train was now arriving late. I originally had 15 minutes and now only 10 minutes to make the connection in Milan. If I missed the connection, I would have to wait 2 hours for another train to Rovato OR buy a ticket to Brescia and pay 20 more euros.

I tried to find the board that showed the train makeup to figure out where my car would arrive. I couldn't find the train makeup board but did notice that there were little yellow signs with the carrozza (train car) and an arrow pointing to that area of the binario up and down the binario. That was a big help since the Eurostar is a pretty long train and if you are at the wrong end, it is a long run to get to your assigned train car or a difficult walk through each train with your luggage.

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July 17, 2008

weekend in Coccaglio and bike ride around Monte Isola

Saturday & Sunday, July 12th & 13th

After eating breakfast outside on the veranda at Katia's mother's house Saturday morning, we stopped to see the progress on Katia & Guido's new house. We weren't able to peek inside because the guy that was going to show us around was called away on business at the last minute. Our plan for the day after seeing their new place was to head to the town of Iseo on Lake Iseo. We go there every year when I visit. I love this visiting this lake.

A special outdoor market of handmade goods was going on when we arrived. There were lots of little tables set up in the town. We walked through the town browsing through the market and then headed to the boat area.

We arrived just in time to catch the boat to Monte Isola. The boat made one stop in Sulzano to pick up more passengers and then headed to Peschiera on Monte Isola. We went to the bike rental place and rented 3 bikes. We did this ride together many years ago and had so much fun laughing and enjoying the views that we decided to do it again this year.

It took us about 90 minutes to ride around the island (mainly because I made lots of stops along the way to take photos). Both Katia and I got off our bikes at one point to walk when we reached the steep hill. The second half of the ride was down hill. Besides the steep hill, the biggest challenge was to keep to the side when the little motor bikes and cars went by. We rode up and down narrow paths, through little towns, and by the water. We saw grape vines and olive trees and two little islands along the way.

After returning, we had lunch and then waited to take the boat back to Iseo. I got soaked while trying to take a photo on the dock as the boat arrived. I was crouched down when the water came splashing up and soaked me. It made it look like I peed my pants.

Album of our trip to Monte Isola on Lake Iseo:

Monte Isola bike ride

Once back in Iseo, we had some gelato. Yum!! Then we headed back to Coccaglio. The ride back through the Franciacorta area was beautiful. I noticed a lot of corn fields this year. We stopped at a grocery store along the way so that I could pick up a few emergency food items in case the food was unedible on the plane. It was a good thing I did! This grocery store had these cool carts. They were the regular little hand carts we have but with wheels and a long handle to pull them. I meant to take a photo but never did.

When we returned to Katia's parents house, it was hot and muggy. We watched some TV (American sitcoms in Italian) while I wrote some posts on Katia's computer. We decided on pizza for dinner. Katia's dad got the menu out. It was a 3 page menu of various pizza combinations. We each ordered a pizza. I ordered the pizza choice that came with tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, mozarella cheese and grana padano cheese. I also added peppers to my pizza. We had a wonderful dinner together, chatting and laughing with Katia translating either English when I didn't understand her parents or Italian when I couldn't communicate on my own. For dessert, we ate some of the pastries and cookies I brought from Lagagna in Bologna.

After dinner, we sat outside enjoying the cooler air. The weather was changing and a thunder and lightening storm was heading our way. Those of you who know me know that I am not so brave during thunder and lightening storms. I let out a few little screams as the thunder got closer. Katia's neighbors also stopped by for a visit. I have known them since my first visit to Coccaglio many years ago. We had a wonderful evening together. I said goodbye to Guido before heading to bed. He was driving to Recco on Sunday to participate in a mini tin man event.

Sunday morning, I packed my bags after enjoying another breakfast out by Katia's mother's garden. Katia's grandmother and her older brother and his family were coming over for lunch. While Katia's mother cooked in the kitchen, Katia and I played with her 2 neices, Marta (age 4) and Emma (age 2). We looked at a big picture book naming and counting animals and dressed them up in princess jewelry, a present from Katia's grandmother. I was touched when Marta requested that I sit next to her at lunch. Everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch (chicken cooked in a tomato sauce, polenta, a tomato and pepper dish, bread, french fries, and some sort of meat). For dessert, we had gelato. We had a choice of 4 fruit flavors including "big bubble", which tasted like bubble gum, and 5 or 6 cream flavors. No one could decide so we all had a little of each.

After lunch, we went to Katia's work place so that I could post my last few posts on my blog that I wrote on her laptop over the weekend and so that I could check in with Continental. In case anyone else tries to check in when flying out of Malpensa, don't bother! I was able to go through all the steps until print. At that point, a page came up saying that the Malpensa airport does not allow you to check in early.

At this point, we realized that we had 10 minutes until the train arrived. We raced home to grab my bags and then Katia drove like a speed queen to the train station. We arrived with a few minutes to spare. I validated my ticket and then we waited for the train. Saying goodbye is always the hardest part every year. Katia helped me on the train and we each waved as the train departed. Until next year (I hope!).

My last pizza of the trip:
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church in Portofino

I am feeling a little like this today:
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I took the photo of the rose on a wall by this beautiful church in Portofino.
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When you first arrive in Portofino by boat, you can see part of the church behind the buildings in the main piazza.
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July 21, 2008

private beaches ~ Santa Margherita Ligure

The first photo is of a beach that is semi-private, meaning that you can still walk down this beach. The next three photos were taken at the far end of SML (closer to Portofino) where I believe you need to belong to have access.

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July 22, 2008

boats ~ Santa Margherita Ligure

boats on land...
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July 23, 2008

statue of Santa Margherita

One of the things on my list of "to do" items was to take a photo of the statue of Santa Margherita. I don't know how I don't remember seeing this wonderful statue the last time I was in Santa Margherita Ligure back in 2003. It is located right near where the boats depart for Rapallo, Portofino, and San Fruttuoso. María posted a wonderful photo of this statue on her blog a couple of months ago. I was not able to capture this statue as well as María did, but here are my three tries.

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The inscription on the base of the statue:
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According to Debra Cole-Weber of the Pittsburgh, Pa. post-gazette.com, the statue of Santa Margherita faces the sea to pray for the safe return of the fishermen of her city.

July 25, 2008

a few more photos of Santa Margherita Ligure

I wanted to share a few more photos of Santa Margherita Ligure before moving on. I will return to SML after sharing some of my photos from more of Liguria, and of Piemonte, Florence, Modena, and Bologna.

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July 26, 2008

"hanging" ~ PhotoHunt

PhotoHunters

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed myself at the aquarium in Genova (Italy). The first five photos are all of various sea life (and a couple of people) "hanging out".

Jellyfish hanging out. I was mesmerized by all of the amazing jellyfish displays. Here are photos from two of the displays.
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July 27, 2008

the waterfront in Genova

I believe the structure with all the white poles is a famous landmark in Genova.
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I am not quite sure what this is either. It looks like some sort of huge greenhouse.
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If you are interested in seeing more photos from the aquarium, click on the "Continue reading..." link below.

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July 28, 2008

more photos of Genova

When walking out of the Genova Brignole train station, I saw this magnificent arch in the distance. I headed straight for it. Of course that immediately got me off track and slightly lost.
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I kept on walking away from my planned out route to get a closer look at the beautiful designs in the grass and the wall at the top. I thought about walking up those stairs to get a close up view of the wall, but I knew I had a lot of walking ahead of me and not much time.
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As I got back on the route I had planned out for the day, I stumbled upon this doorway and fell in love. I think this might have been a hotel, but I can't remember now.
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Continue reading "more photos of Genova" »

July 29, 2008

close ups ~ Genova Duomo

Last year, after Bob the Navigator from Slow Travel posted this photo, I added Genova to my long list of places to visit. When I decided on Santa Margherita Ligure as one of my bases for my summer trip, Genova was on my list of daytrips. I had did have a momentary thought of using Genova as a base but decided that I better visit it for a day first before committing for a longer period of time. While planning my trip, I read about a few things to visit while in Genova, but my main goal when I arrived was to visit the Duomo, also known as the Duomo di San Lorenzo or Cattedrale di San Lorenzo (where Bob took his photo). I was so excited when I finally arrived. This church was incredible (even if the sun was behind the church when I arrived which seemed to be a pattern for me). It did not have that immediate beauty as say the Duomo in Florence or Siena or Orvieto but instead it had a hidden beauty, one I found more in the close ups of the church. Here area some of my favorite close ups (and don't forget to check out Bob's photo):

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Continue reading "close ups ~ Genova Duomo " »

July 30, 2008

more of the Duomo ~ Genova

Now this is a cool photo! Imagine visiting the Duomo back then.
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(photo from Wikimedia Commons - click on the photo for the source).


Here are a few more photos of the Duomo from my visit this summer:

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And for a peek inside...

Continue reading "more of the Duomo ~ Genova" »

August 3, 2008

the Castello Brown in Portofino

As requested by my dad, here are more photos of Portofino. One of my favorite things I did while in Portofino was visiting the Castello Brown. If you ever get to Portofino (or return and have not visited this place yet), I recommend that you check this place out.

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The entrance to the castle (looking back down from the top of the steps):
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Inside the castle:
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Continue reading "the Castello Brown in Portofino" »

August 15, 2008

pretty buildings in Portofino

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Continue reading "pretty buildings in Portofino" »

August 20, 2008

views from Castello Brown

One more post on Portofino...

These photos are views of Portofino from the Castello Brown. Last week, I posted a few close up photos of some of the pretty buildings in Portofino.

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Continue reading "views from Castello Brown" »

August 23, 2008

"wrinkled" ~ PhotoHunt

PhotoHunters

This was a tough theme. I almost gave up until I remembered taking these photos while in Santa Margherita Ligure...

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And the two windows together...
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August 25, 2008

climbing the tower in Modena

I went to Modena for the first time this summer. The main purpose of my visit was to climb the tower, the Torre della Ghirlandina. If you don't know already, I love climbing towers. I took the one hour train from Bologna on a Sunday morning (the only day of the week that the tower was open for climbing).

I was surprised at how fast I fell in love with Modena. The colors of the buildings were quite similar to the colors of the buildings in Bologna and the architecture styles were also quite similar, but it seemed more open, more peaceful and a lot less crowded than Bologna. I also have to admit that I was a little bit in "city shock" after leaving tiny Acqui Terme and arriving in bustling Bologna a day earlier. Later after visiting a tourist packed Florence, my opinion of Bologna changed. I guess it is all relative. In the end, I loved all three places and oh would I give anything to be in Modena, Bologna, or Florence right now. Lucky Palma, lucky Sandra, lucky Anne, all who are heading back to Italy and will be in one of these three places very soon.

I took tons of photos and have lots to share of my visit to Modena. I will start with my tower photos since that is what drew me to Modena in the first place.

After leaving the train station and stopping in a bar for an espresso and the toilet, I headed for the centro. My heart skipped a beat as I experienced my first views of the tower. I knew in advance that it was being restored and so I was prepared to see it covered.

This first photo shows what the tower would look like if it was not covered.
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I'm not sure who this guy is and what he did to get a statue but I thought it was a cool photo. **Updated by Leslie: Alessandro Tassoni - a noble and a poet, did good works around 1600 in Modena.
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Finally, the Torre della Ghirlandina
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Continue reading "climbing the tower in Modena" »

August 29, 2008

the original bucket & the Palazzo Communale ~ Modena

After climbing the Torre della Ghirlandina, I visited the Palazzo Communale (town hall).

Stairway up to the Palazzo Communale:
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This is where the original bucket is kept:
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Continue reading "the original bucket & the Palazzo Communale ~ Modena" »

August 30, 2008

"beautiful" ~ PhotoHunt

PhotoHunters

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I took this photo outside the Villa Durazzo in Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy this summer.

September 1, 2008

il Duomo di Modena

The Duomo of Modena is huge! It was impossible to get the entire church in one shot.

There was a mass taking place the first few times I attempted to go inside the Duomo. Each mass was packed. Finally the last mass of the morning ended. There was so much to see. In just 15 minutes, the workers started to close the church for the day. I wish I had more time to spend inside the church. Modena is definitely on my list of places to visit again.

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Continue reading "il Duomo di Modena" »

September 2, 2008

close up shots of the Duomo of Modena

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Continue reading "close up shots of the Duomo of Modena" »

September 3, 2008

the elektrocar

While in Modena, I saw a sciopero sign at a bus stop attached to one of the poles where the bus schedule was listed. It was a strike notice.

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I was aware that there was going to be a national train strike the following day, but I was not aware that the strike would also include all local buses until I saw this sign. That meant that I had to rethink my plan for Monday (in Bologna).

My original plan was to walk up to San Luca.
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(Photo is linked to the San Luca website where this photo is from.)

After finding out that the buses would also not be running, I thought about changing my plan for the day. It looked like it would be much too far to walk by foot. The person at the front desk at my hotel told me that it was only an extra ten minute walk to the beginning of the 666 arches which lead up to San Luca. This is where the "do not try this at home" warning comes in, especially if you have been walking and walking and walking for the past two weeks. It was definitely NOT a ten minute walk.

As luck would have it, because I took that walk, I saw my first little Italian Elektrocar.

Not far from my hotel, as I started my walk to San Luca, I saw a tiny yellow car parked on the side of this little road next to the ring road. At first, I thought it was a Smart Car (my favorite car). As I walked over to the car to take a photo, I realized it was even smaller than a Smart Car. It turned out to be a very cool yellow electric car.

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Just as I was about to take a photo of the car, the woman, who I assume was the owner of the car, showed up. I asked her if I could take a photo. She seemed pleased that I was interested in her car. After I took a photo, she opened up the tiny latch, which I swear was made out of plastic, to show me the plug. I put an arrow where the latch is located because it is hard to see the latch in this photo. The tipped arrow is where the hinge is. The latch opens from the windshield side outward and obviously bends at the hinge.

As she opened the latch, I wondered if the entire body of the car was also made out of plastic. That is one mystery that I have yet to solve because I was not brave enough to ask her this question. As she pulled out the plug, she explained how she charges her car. I wanted to take a photo of the plug, but again was not brave enough. I didn't want her to think I was a crazy American obsessed with her car.

September 8, 2008

church of San Domenico ~ Modena

One of the first buildings that caught my attention when arriving in Modena was this vibrantly colored building located in Piazzale San Domenico:
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To the right of this building ~ the church of San Domenico:
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I find myself fascinated by so many of the church buildings in Italy. I loved the colors of this church. I would have liked to take a peek inside. Unfortunately the church was closed when I was there.

Continue reading "church of San Domenico ~ Modena" »

September 10, 2008

where to start ~ Acqui Terme

I have not posted any photos from my time in Acqui Terme yet because I still have not been able to organize them. I think part of the problem is that I was continuously lost in while staying in Acqui Terme. Don't get me wrong, I LOVED Acqui Terme, I just never found my bearings while there. I even took photos of ways to get from my hotel to the train station and still ended up getting lost!

So for today...here are a few random photos of Acqui Terme.

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Continue reading "where to start ~ Acqui Terme" »

September 13, 2008

"wild" ~ PhotoHunt

PhotoHunters

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*Taken in Genova down by the waterfront.

September 15, 2008

the guy in the fiat

No, this is not a post about George Clooney...

I saw this cool car while in Alessandria this summer. My second favorite car in Italy, the Fiat. FIAT is an acronym for Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino (Italian Automobile Factory of Turin). This summer, I heard another cute acronym for the Fiat: "Fix It Again Tony". I can't take credit for this acronym though. A friend of Diana's told us this joke while we were having dinner at her B&B one night. But back to the car...oh I mean the guy in the car.

While wandering down a street in Alessandria, I noticed this beautiful building. I think it was either a hospital or a senior citizen home. As I got closer to the entrance to try to read the sign, I noticed this cool car. Just as I went to take a photo, the guy noticed me and gave me "stink eye" (a local expression). That's my story. Nothing worthy of the gossip rags, just a guy in a car...

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September 17, 2008

beautiful yellow building

These are the three photos I took of the building in Alessandria where the car was parked (previous post). Because the street was a very narrow one way street, it was impossible to get the entire building in one frame. I wish I took a photo of the doorway.

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September 18, 2008

hat shop in Alessandria

While wandering the streets of Alessandria, I came upon this lovely little hat shop called Borsalino. Too bad the shop was closed when I was there. I would have loved to have spent some time inside trying on a few hats.

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Little did I know when I took this photo that Borsalino was a famous name of a hat company. According to the History of Straw hats & Felt hats - Borsalino hats page of the Hat History website, Giuseppe Borsalino set up the first artisan workshop for the production of felt hats in Alessandria, Italy. Check out the website for more interesting facts about the Borslino hat company.

Close up of the store name:
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Does anyone know the Italian word for "hat store"?

September 29, 2008

my hike up to San Luca under the 666 portico arches

I finally organized my photos of my hike under the 666 portico arches to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Il Santuario della Madonna di San Luca ) in Bologna. After a 45 minute walk to reach the beginning of the 666 portico arches, it took me an additional 40 minutes to reach the top.

The first photo (which I did not take) gives a good idea of the hike to the top.
It's a good thing I did not see this photo before doing the hike.
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(Photo is linked to the San Luca website where I found this photo.)

Because I had to stand on the sidewalk to take the next photo, I had a difficult time getting a good photo of the start of the walk. I decided against standing in the middle of the street and possibly risking getting run over.
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Photo of the first few arches of the walk ~ at this point, I am thinking, this is going to be an easy hike.
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Continue reading "my hike up to San Luca under the 666 portico arches" »

September 30, 2008

inside the Basilica della Madonna di San Luca

First, I would like to share this plaque, which provides more information about this church (if you can read Italian). These informative plaques can be found all over Bologna.
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And now, I would like to give you a glimpse of the inside of this magnificent church.
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Continue reading "inside the Basilica della Madonna di San Luca" »

October 3, 2008

the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca

Here are my photos of the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca (Il Santuario della Madonna di San Luca) in Bologna.

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Continue reading "the Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca " »

October 8, 2008

smart car sightings 2008

The first time I saw a Smart Car was in 2001 while staying in Ferrara, Italy. Ever since then, I have been a huge Smart Car fan. Since blogging, I have realized that I am not alone.

Leslie is also a huge Smart Car fan. Today, she posted a photo of a Modena Smart Car.

Kathy has been lucky enough to drive a Smart Car. She rented one while staying in Siena in 2005.

And, Smart Cars have finally made it to the US. Jane recently spotted a Smart Car in her cul-de-sac in San Diego.

Here are some of my favorite Smart Cars from my stay in Italy this past summer.

Santa Margherita Smart Cars:
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Continue reading "smart car sightings 2008" »

October 30, 2008

gelato in Acqui

One of the things I miss about Italy...

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Continue reading "gelato in Acqui" »

November 25, 2008

liquor & sweets

I have been working on a few blog posts but have not finished them yet. Meanwhile, I thought I would post these photos of a cute little shop in Nizza Monferrato (Piemonte).

I was not able to get the entire storefront in this photo due to the narrow street and the archway.
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Liquor & sweets. That seemed to be all that is sold in this charming little shop.
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The owner gave me a photo of this sign after she saw me taking a photo of it.
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January 4, 2009

processione in mare - part of the festival of Sant' Erasmo

One of the events I wrote about while in Santa Margherita Ligure this past June was the Festival of Sant’ Erasmo. Sant' Erasmo is the patron saint, the protector of the fishermen. I attended three of the events.

The first event was a procession at sea (processione in mare). Saturday morning, June 28th, I walked down to the boat area across from the church where I believed the procession would be taking place.

A few minutes after I arrived, I noticed a very handsome priest, all dressed up talking to a few people in the small crowd. Next came a small procession of people, also dressed up, along with four men carrying the statue of Sant' Erasmo. The statue was placed on a big fishing boat. This was quite an interesting ordeal. Once the statue was safely aboard, the people involved with the ceremony boarded the boat.

As I was taking photos, one of the men (who I believe had had something to do with the event) told me that if I was interested, I could go on a boat at the imbacadero. I understood everything he said to me except I was not sure where the imbacadero was. I walked down the waterfront in the direction he pointed but did not see any boats that looked like they were boarding passengers. I was just about to walk back, when I noticed a few ladies who were also watching the statue being placed on the boat walking towards the main boat dock where the boats left for Portofino and Rapallo. How obvious! The imbacadero meant the dock where you could catch the boat.

I followed the woman to the boat. There was a huge crowd waiting for the next boat to Portofino. The women weaved through the crowd and said something about the procession and were given free tickets to board a boat ready to depart. I followed the women and was also given a ticket to board the boat.

Our boat followed a bunch of other boats out to sea, motoring almost to Portofino. The breeze on the boat felt wonderful as it was a very hot day. As we motored out, a sweet older woman standing next to me started pointing out some of the sights; where she was staying, what beach she went to, etc. At one point I said "wow". She replied, "Oh, you are not Italian". I smiled. After we established where I was from, how I learned my little Italian, etc. she went right back to describing the various houses and villas she knew about. She also told me more about the procession.

We stopped at a spot near a big building on shore where monks lived. The priest said a short mass using a microphone so everyone could hear. All the boats blew their horns when the mass was finished and a wreath was thrown into the water. For some reason, I thought the statue would be going in the water, but it never did. I think I thought this because I remembered seeing a movie once that took place in Italy where a statue was put in the water. I think it might have been The Talented Mr. Ripley.

I felt very honored to be a part of this event. My guess is the family on board the boat lost someone at sea.

Everyone on my boat was very kind to me. I think I was the only American tourist on the boat. On our way back, we stopped closer to Santa Margherita Ligure. A few people on the boat that carried the statue and the handsome priest started waving to a few people on my boat.

Here's an album I made with some of the photos I took.

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And a so-so short video. Clicking on the arrow on the bottom right corner and then clicking on HQ after the video starts will display the video in high quality. Warning - turn your volume down a little bit. Also this video is a little shaky. It may make you motion sick.

Here's the festival notice with events listed:
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January 6, 2009

albero della cuccagna - part of the festival of Sant' Erasmo

The second event of the day listed on the poster (processione in mare post) of the festival of Sant' Erasmo was the tradizionale "Albero della Cuccagna in Mare". I was quite curious about this event. I knew that albero meant tree and in mare meant the sea but could not for the life of me figure out what albero della coccagna in mare meant.

When I arrived at the waterfront, I found this sign. No help there except I assumed ricchi premi meant something about a rich prize.

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A group of mostly men along with a few teenagers and younger boys were gathered by a long green pole hanging over the water with four pieces of paper dangling at the end of the pole along. This made me even more curious. I had no idea what was about to take place. A man with a microphone was trying to recruit more participants for the event. After about 30 minutes of recruiting and going over the rules, the event finally started.

One by one, each participant tried to work their way down to the end of the soaped wooden pole in order to grab one of the pieces of paper dangling the end of the pole. The first five or six participants tried various ways to move down the pole. Each one fell into the water before successfully grabbing one of the papers. Some didn't even make it half way down.

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Next up was a boy of about 12. I just happened to change my camera to video mode during his try. He ended up being the first person to reach the end of the pole and grab one of the papers successfully.

Here is the unedited video I took. I love listening to the excitement of everyone cheering him on in Italian as he works his way down to the end of the pole.

I stayed for about an hour watching this event. I never found out what what the prize was (if there was one) and have no idea what was written on the pieces of paper that dangled at the end of the pole. I guess this is one mystery that my never be solved.

January 9, 2009

last of the festival events of Sant' Erasmo

The last of the three festival events I attended was the "Processione sulla Banchina con i tradizionali "CRISTI" e la Confraternite." This took place at 6pm, starting at the church and ending across the street at the marina. The men took turns carrying the crosses. They looked pretty heavy and there were a few moments when I thought one of the men would topple over while attempting to balance their cross. The procession was short with more cars stuck in traffic than out watching the parade. I thought it was pretty cool even though it was not well attended.

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Continue reading "last of the festival events of Sant' Erasmo " »

February 8, 2009

dinner at Osteria al 15

I have been meaning to write about my memorable dinner at Osteria al 15 for quite a while now. This osteria can easly be missed since it is located on a quiet side street. Outside this osteria, you will find the only written menu.
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I was shown to a table in a little room up a few stairs. I think I remember there being five tables in this little area. A group of four American college girls studying in Bologna sat at one table and an Italian couple sat at another table. View of the entrance area from my table:
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After being seated, my waiter, who I am pretty sure was also the owner, started rattling off the menu items rapidly in Italian. Because I am always confused between the tortelloni or tortellini, I stopped him when he mentioned one asking him if it had meat. He asked me if I was a vegetarian. I said yes since I did not see fish or chicken on the menu outside (both of which I do eat). He recommended a few dishes to me that did not include meat.

I hesitantly chose the ricotta all’ aceto balsamico caramellato not knowing what to expect. OMG, it was incredible!!! Delicious ricotta cheese topped with a homemade combination of Modena’s expensive balsamic vinegar, honey, and caramel.
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I was also given a basket of some type of fried bread which I dipped in the balsamic sauce. Heavenly!! (this photo unfortunately came out a little blurry)
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For my primi, I had the tortelloni con burro e salvia, one of my all time favorite dishes.
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When the waiter returned, I asked him about the newspapers on the ceiling. He was very proud of the ceiling and told me a story about how the newspapers ended up on the ceiling. He and a few others (I forget exactly who now) saved all of the old newspapers and put them on the ceiling themselves.
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After telling me about the newspapers and the ceiling, he took me on a tour of the rest of the restaurant showing me some of the older pots and pans on a wall near the back of the restaurant, all of which he found at different outdoor markets.

When I returned to my table, he asked me if I was ready for dessert. Sadly, I had no room. I asked him if the osteria was open for lunch, hoping to stop by again so that I could enjoy another meal at this osteria and try some dessert. He told while pointing to his dark tan, that he was only open for dinner because he goes to the beach during the day,

I highly recommend Osteria al 15. Not only is fabulous food served at this osteria, but it is also a fun place to have dinner. The bonus for me was that Osteria al 15 was only one street away from the hotel where I was staying. I highly recommend this osteria for the food, the atmosphere, and for the kindness shown to the customers. I think about the times I have felt unwelcome as a single diner and have even been turned away because I was a single diner and then think about my wonderful experience at this restaurant. This is how customers should be treated everywhere. It will be tops on my list of places to return to the next time I am in Bologna. Thank you Amy for reminding me of this fabulous little osteria in Bologna.

February 21, 2009

"warm"~ PhotoHunt

PhotoHunters

This was a very difficult theme for me. I searched through all of my Hawaii photos, beach photos from both Italy and Hawaii, and sunset photos. I just couldn’t decide on which one to use. Instead, I decided to go with a photo of the Bollente in the Piazza della Bollente in Acqui Terme in Piemonte, Italy. The water that comes out of the Bollente stays at a constant temperature of 75°C or 167°F.

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The Bollente at night:

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Piazza della Bollente during the day:
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For a moment, I thought about posting the following photo as my main "warm" photo, but then decided I better not. I was afraid all my friends dealing with the cold weather right now might throw a few shoes at me for posting this photo of snow.

Snow day at my school on a warm winter day in Hawaii.
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February 26, 2009

photos of the Basilica di San Petronio in Bologna

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There are very strict guards that stand at the entrance of the church by the bottom of the steps. No backpacks or large purses are allowed inside the church. They are very serious about this rule. I even saw the guards turn away a priest with a backpack! I only had a minute to take the second and third photos before they told me to move on. I was not allowed to take any photos inside the church.

February 27, 2009

the boy and the fountain

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March 5, 2009

the Basilica di Santo Stefano

Santo Stefano ~ Reason #9 why I love Bologna.

Bologna is home to many beautiful churches. The Basilica di Santo Stefano is nicknamed the Sette Chiese (seven churches) because there were originally seven churches in this complex. You can see the comples of seven churches (1200-1600 d.C.) in the bottom right corner of this photo.

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Only four churches remain today. If you enjoy visiting churches, I would definitely recommend a visit to the Basilica di Santo Stefano. In this post, I will share some of my photos of the buildings (inside and out).

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Continue reading "the Basilica di Santo Stefano " »

March 6, 2009

treasures inside the Basilica di Santo Stefano

Yesterday I shared some of my photos of the buildings of the Basilica di Santo Stefano.
Today I would like to share my photos of some of the treasures found inside these beautiful buildings.

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Continue reading "treasures inside the Basilica di Santo Stefano " »

March 13, 2009

visiting the Jewish Museum in Bologna

Museo Ebraico di Bologna ~ Reason #10 why I love Bologna.

I have always had a fascination with Italy's Jewish history. During my visit to Bologna last year, I visited the Museo Ebraico di Bologna (the Jewish Museum) on Via Valdonica, 1/5.

When you arrive at this museum, you will find a locked gate and a sign saying to ring the buzzer. The ticket office is inside the building where the temporary exhibitions are displayed.

The day I visited, there was an exhibit of black and white photographs by Robert Capa from 1948-1950 of Israel displayed. I enjoyed spending time looking at these interesting photographs. Searching the web, I found this link with many of the photos which were displayed in the museum when I was there.

After spending time looking at the photographs, I paid 4 euros to visit the permanent exhibit.
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The permanent exhibition is located in the building next door. You are given a set of headphones to use while visiting this part of the museum. Inside the permanent exhibit there are 4 short narrated films along with information on each wall. The films are about the history of the Jewish people, the Jewish religion, the history of the Jewish people in Bologna, and the history of the Jewish people in Emilia Romagna. I enjoyed all four films along with the information on each wall. Although it was a very small museum, I spent quite a bit of time there.

*Edited March 14th - forgot to add this screen shot of the layout of the museum (from the Museo Ebraico di Bologna website)
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If you have any interest in learning about the Jewish people of Bologna and Emilia Romagna, I would highly recommend a visit to this museum. Photographs were not allowed inside the museum.

This is a photograph of a few buildings in the area near the museum.
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This summer, I hope to visit more museums in Bologna. The museums were closed on the day I attempted to visit last year due to some sort of museum employee meeting. If you are planning to visit Bologna, check out this informative website, which contains information on many of the major museums in Bologna.

May 16, 2009

"painted"~ PhotoHunt

PhotoHunters

I decided to go with painted buildings that use the trompe-l'oeil technique, creating optical illusions, which make windows, shutters, bricks, etc. appear to be three-dimensional. The first two photos were taken in Santa Margherita Ligure and the last three were taken in Acqui Terme.

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All but the shutters are painted in this photo.

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Close up of the trompe-l'oeil technique above the door

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Whoops! This one really fooled me. I thought the shutters were real at first.

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June 1, 2010

boat ride into Portofino

Happy June everyone!! School is out and I am back :)

Two summers ago, I took some video while on a boat going into beautiful Portofino. The wind noise ruined the sound on the video. A couple of weeks ago, I attend the Apple Summer Institute 2010. I learned so much, including how to finally use GarageBand, an application I have not touched up until now. During one of the breaks, I asked the presenter of the GarageBand session if he could help me get rid of most of the wind noise in the portion of the video where Portofino is announced. He did a great job. Even though you can still hear a little bit of the distortion, it sounds so much better than the original video did. After editing the video using iMovie, I played around with some of the apple loops and added some music to create this short video. Warning, the video was all taken while hand holding a camera and I panned a bit too fast so it is not the most professional video. Nether the less, I hope it gives you an idea of the beauty of Portofino.

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