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May 23, 2012

All Wet but very Happy

After sitting in the plan3 for a good 2 hours in ATL (first needed a new "battery pack" then a weather delay) it was great to get off the ground. I went to sleep before the dessert was served having watched most of Iron Maiden and not feeling compelled to finish it.

I think I slept about 4 hours though before it was breakfast and we were only about an hour from Rome.

We got a bunch of euros from the ATM/Bancomat at the airport and our driver (arranged by the apartment management) had my name on his iPad screen along with a big welcoming smile. It was a pretty long drive, lots of traffic at 9 in the morning but we made it into the apartment. To let us off, he parked right in between the vegetable stands on Campo dei Fiori and the door to the building is just next door to the "Pig heaven" place Antica Norcenria Viola.

We check into the apartment learning how to work the washing machine and the wi fi. and Here we were with still a full day in front of us. First objective was to go grocery shopping. But first "due caffe" at the Bar Farnese just around the corner. SO wonderful to have real Italian coffee again. We walked to a smallish all-purpose store just a few blocks away and neither one of us could focus enough to really shop logically. We just got a very few basics and strolled back home by way of the nearly empty Piazza Navona. All this time it's been drizzling off and on. When we are nearly home we stopped at the bakery right here, Il fornaio, and Ken got a couple of nice rolls and I got a delicious piece of spinach torte with ricotta and we made our first foray into the pork heaven. We got some salame tartufo, speck, and tradtional prosciutto. And I went out into the market and bought a bunch of very pretty arugala. There was lunch.

My sweet friend Colleen K from Boston had loaned me her Italian cell phone but we couldn't get it to work. So after we took naps, read and tried to clear our jet lagged heads, we set out to find a Voda Phone store. We found one right near Piazza Navona and, affter a long visit with the cute guy there (does anyone else notice that the phone stores always employ cute Italian men and not so nice women??) we had to get a new SIM card--no big deal except I know colleen really worked hard to maintain this one and had some money in it.

Then we just decided to wonder in out customary way. We found ourselves on Via Condotti where all the designer shops are and I had fun window shopping. We hung around the Spanish Steps for a while and walked and walked some more while the rain was becoming a reality and we were having to use our umbrellas all the time.

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Finally around 7:00 we both were tired and hungry. I though to look for a wine bar for a glass of wine and some snacks. We used our EatRome app but since there is no internet on Ken's phone we got lost trying to find Ditrambo which I thought we were very near. Finally we went into Osteria Pistoia--a contemporary looking place with a chalk board menu. We had 2 glasses of prosecco and the wonderful little "spuntini" complementary snacks. Realizing how wet and tired and lost we really were we decided to just stay there, this lowly place which is not on any of my highly recommended lists. And we were really glad we did. Ken got a plate of pasta Amatriciana which was wonderful if quirky by using the large "rotelle pazze" and I asked for a cooked vegetable plate.

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It was just perfect for me. We also each had a glass of vino rosso (Chianti) and our tab was 38euro.

Finally we made it home, quickly having gotten directions in the restaurant.

I am us early this morning listening to the sounds of the set up out on the Campo. Lovely!

Here's what it looked like yesterday afternoon during the clean up time:

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May 24, 2012

"Every 12 feet there's another Piazza"

Kenny says "every 12 feet there's another piazza" trying to read the map and navigate these little twisting, turning streets in Roma's centro storico. Between the two of us we are managing to get where we need to go but I'm quite sure it's not the most efficient route.

We started out the morning with coffee at the Bar Farnese. We really like it there--very simple little place but the coffee is perfetto.

Then we walked back to the Vodaphone shop to find out our number for the new SIM card. It's 3427580585 in case anyone needs us. Then we walked to the Pantheon, very close by. We sat outside for a bit just to take in the beauty of it and the lovely fountain in front:


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I took a bunch of totally inadequate photos inside. It was impossible to capture the literal awesomeness. The place is perfection. We saw a few little puddles on the floor from all the rain yesterday but it was amazing how well it had all drained off. Just in dealing with the rain through the open "occulous" of the roof it was an impressive engineering masterpiece--and then there's the beauty of the marble, the tomb of Raphael--on and on. I was pretty much choking up the whole visit.

From there we walked to the Trevi Fountain. What an exhilerating scene! So many languages, so many types of people, and the overwhelming beauty of the fountain itself. We made our way to the bottom in order to toss our coins into the pool (it worked last time--I'm back) and there was a young couple sitting with a camera. I could tell they wanted to get a picture but they were very timid. They didn't speak Italian or English--just "tourist." I took their picture and they took ours:

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We sat for a while to watch the international parade. I loved it. So many smiling people in so many "costumes" speaking so many languages. Huge entertainment value! I filled up my water bottle:

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and we made our way back to the apartment to rest a little bit before lunch.

We met Slow Travel friends, Sandra, who lives in Rome, and Heidi and Marlene for a really nice lunch at Da Francesco. We followed Heidi the Teatro gelateria and really enjoyed it. I loved the nocciolo/hazelnut flavor. Heidi and Sandra came to see our apartment and then it was time to re group.

Ken and I went to the L'arcobaleno store in the Jewish ghetto area to buy my European flat iron. It was easy to find the shop and we enjoyed the wide quiet streets of the ghetto. From there we walked through some beautiful Roman ruins (Portico Ottavia)
where I was enjoying taking pictures:

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and up to the top of Campidoglio for the perfect evening view over the Roman Forum and several other well know pieces, including this of Romulous and Remus:

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We stopped at Il Fornaio for some pizza bianca and also bought a nice cold bottle of pink Prosecco.

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I cooked some chicoria and we had a nice little dinner including the left overs from the pork place.

There was a lot of action in Campo dei Fiore--a ridiculous group of young Christian performers doing some juggling, dance and preaching with a big sound system. Pretty annoying. Finally we closed all of the windows and shutters and were able to read and relax in the bedroom.

May 25, 2012

"This is the new one--put in around the 5th century"

Today we toured Ancient Rome. I have only one photo because our tour guide (Mino from Three Millennia tours http://threemillennia.com/) was so captivating I didn't want to miss a moment of what he was saying.

Starting at the beginning--we had to get up early because we were to meet at 9am and wanted to go to Bar Farnese for coffee before walking over to the meeting place at the entrance to the Palatine Hill. We walked along Vittorio Emanuelle stopping for just a quick look at the Largo Torre di Argentina. (I discovered today it is named for some King from Strasbourg who was Argentus and has nothing at all to do with South America). We made it in plenty of time to meet charming, passionate and enthusiastic Mino.

There were just the two of us signed up for the tour so we began right away. Mino explained as we walked that we would do the tour in chronological order, for the most part. There was SO much information. I realized my embarassing ignorance of ancient history but at least I had a lot to learn. For me, one of the most impressive moments was seeing the burial place of Julius Ceasar, strewn with flowers, recently placed. Mino made the place come so alive, I could just about imagine men with robes strolling among us. Another moment I loved was seeing a small display of Roman glass work. It looked so modern, beautiful and accomplished; it was hard to believe.

At some point we were joined by a couple from New York who didn't have a guide and really wanted one. We really enjoyed their company although conversation only distracted from the priceless info from Mino.

We saw the homes of the Vestial Virgins and of Augustus, ancient frescoes in tiny rooms, small gardens, huge temples, learned about the different kinds of rock and techniques used for construction. Just so much...

We stopped at this privat field of Nero's (I hope I am rmembering correctly) and our now friend, from NYC asked me to take a picture:

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This is the one that is newer--put in around the 5th century, covering up the original.
It all boggles the mind--especially my mind.

We finished in the Colosseum. Finally we said goodbye to Mino and our friends and slowly walked around the upper level of the colosseum, just mostly shaking my head and feeling overwhelmed.

Once we got our bearings outside (we have used Ken's iPhone compass a few times--very helpful) the walk back was easy. Stopped at a grocery stoer for a few supplies and made a bee line for the porchetta truck in Campo dei Fiore. If a better sandwhich exists on Earth don't try to tell me about it. Tired and hungry we unwrapped the warm panini in our sweet apartment and the satisfaction flowed.

We hadn't planned to go out for dinner. "Well, let's just go get a glass of nice wine somewhere" was how we began. So we strolled towards Gocetto wine bar. We tasted 2 kinds of Franciacorta, a champagne like chardonnay from Lombardia and anothe bubbly white from Trentino. As we were walking home from there, down via Pelligrino, I told Ken there was a restaurant "on my list" right on this street--Settimio. And of course in 2 steps, there it was. It was just 8:00 so we stuck our heads in and he told us it was too early--come back in 30 minutes which we did.

We absolutely loved our meal! Started with the gnocchi (it's Thursday, after all) with a perfect amount of rich pomodoro sauce. I loved how you could really taste the potatoes in the gnocchi; they were not "light as a feather" but substantial without being heavy. We followed with stuffed roast veal, stuffed with hard boiled egg and a little prosciutto. Two small slices were perfection -- delicious and tender. The cauliflower was soft, salty and yummy. We had the Mont Blanc for dessert. I had never tried it before--although super sweet it made the perfect finish to our meal.

Content and very full, we strolled home.

May 26, 2012

Three Churches in One day

We got a late start but finally made it out the door. At Bar Farnese they knew our order and made it with a smile. We love this bar already!

We had downloaded a Rick Steves guided tour for Tratevere so off we went, walking along the river and passing by the big synagogue, we crossed the Ponte over Tiber Island.
Rick was entertaining if a bit too corny for me but we enjoyed the tour and the price was right.

First stop was the church of Saint Cecilia:

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The day was warming up--it was a bit over 80° today and the interior of the church was nice and cool and full of beauty. I'd forgotten just how beautiful these churches are and how I can feel them deeply. My favorite part was the prone statue of St. Cecilia at the base of the altar.
We walked by this sign which made me chuckle:

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Following Rick's lead, we walked through the small streets to a busier part of Trastevere and visited the big Piazza and church of Santa Maria, The fountain is beautiful and the mosaics sparkled.

We walked back home from there for lunch. Ken had to have another porchetta panino but I just ate an egg and cooked some spinach and had some goat cheese we bought at the supermarket.

We had a good restful afternoon and took off at around 5:30 for Vatican City. We walked over the Vittorio Emanuelle bridge enjoying the views of Castel Sant Angelo and realizing just how many thing we aren't able to do and see on the one week trip.

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St. Peters--no line in the late aftenoon but still plenty of people. We listened to the whole Rick Steves tour before we sent so we had a good feel for what we were seeing.
They had a lot more of the Basilica roped off/closed to the public and I think it took away from the over all impressiveness (also it was not my first visit) but it was still awe inspiring.

From there we walked all the way around to the entrance to the Vatican Museum where we had a voucher/reservation for the Friday evening "Vatican Under the Stars".

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It was such a different experience than last time when we were crammed in shoulder to shoulder. While still a little bit crowded we could easily see whatever we wanted and listen peacefully to the audio guide we bought for 7 euros. The museum really is over whelming! We tried to go through quickly so we wouldn't be burnt out by the time we got to the Sistine Chapel and we were fairly successful. There was just too much to even comment.

We walked back to Campo dei Fiore (yes my feet are getting a great work out) and stopped at Il Fornaio for some pizza, spinach pie and amaretti cookies. Came upstairs and drank a nice chilled bottle of Prosecco and called it a day.


May 27, 2012

The Scavi tour

We got up early and got our coffee because we had 9:30 reservations for the “Scavi tour” at the Vatican. Scavi means excavations and we had booked this tour, in English in January. It’s a tough ticket to get. They only allow 200 people per day to go through the area underneath St. Peter’s Basilica, to see St. Peter’s tomb; now I understand why.

When we got close to the huge piazza we could hear singing—and buzz from lots of people. We later found out there was a gathering of community churches and there were about 20,000 people having an event there.

We found our way to the special gate to go through security for the “uficio scavi” and, of course, had to wait there. We talked with four people from Louisiana for a while who were also going on the tour with us. The others in our group, of about 12 people were from a Masters in Theology class, from Kansas. Finally we met our tour guide who was from the Ukraine and has recently written a book about St. Peter and the history of his remains.

First he showed us some models so we would better understand what we were to see. He explained the history of the grounds and the construction of the “largest Christian church in the world” (but, Oh by the way—there’s a new one in Ivory Coast that may be bigger).

We descended through the levels of excavations. Much of it was done in the 1940’s by just 4 men, in secret. He showed us the difference between the pagan and the Christian sarcophagi. We reached the place where, it is believed, Peter, who lived into his 70’s, was actually buried. And finally we saw the “graffiti wall” where, it is believed, Peter’s bones are today.

There is no proper way I can describe the tour. You have to do it yourself, I think. Yes it’s a lot of archeology and history but the emotional/spiritual impact was great. To see and feel “the rock” whether you are Catholic or not—it’s something.

After we came out we sat at the base of a pillar, listened to more of the choral music from the square and watched these Swiss Guards doing their job. Finally we realized they were twin brothers.

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We walked back into Rome by way of the front of the Castel Sant Angelo—very crowded --and over that bridge. At some point we came back to reality. Time to think about lunch! I called L’Asino D’Oro and made us a reso for pranzo. (not necessary, maybe because it was Saturday, they were’n very full) So we came back to the apartment for a bathroom break and shoe change and walked the 30 minutes to the restaurant in the Monti district. Lunch is a 12 euro fixed menu (best deal in Rome!) Including a glass of wine and water. I could see, if I lived here, going there very often. We started with a little crostini of olive and ricotta paste. Next was bread soup with beans from Bolsena. Next course was the best for me—a lovely crespelle stuffed with cheese and covered with a “sugo finto”, simple but packed with flavor, tomato sauce. Last was a plate with 2 small meatballs, saucy beans and carrots topped with some fantastic olive oil. It was a lot of food for me but Ken thought it was perfect. The food was very “down home” not at all fussy but the flavors were all true, fresh and full.

We walked back through Piazza Navona to hang out a little bit.

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It was crowded but not overwhelming because it looked like rain. Back at the apartment we rested and it did rain intermittently throughout the rest of the day. During one of the breaks we went out and got some prosciutto, salami and bread for dinner and a few other food things.

The Campo was full of partiers all night and the noise was bothersome but we did enjoy the music, leaning out our windows—way better than TV!


May 28, 2012

Sunday in Roma

This was the only day we had nothing scheduled. We both slept late and it took us a while to get going. We decided to go to Piazza del Popolo. As soon as we got onto Vittorio Emanuelle there was a large protest group walking towards us. We stopped to watch.

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The marchers are looking for justice and truth around the disappearance of Emanuella Orlandini. The Vatican police are somehow involved in this and not in a good way.

The walk was pretty straight forward but I could see we would be passing very close to Torce Gelato so we stopped in there. So many flavors! I tasted the ginger sorbet but finally settled on chocolate/raspberry and a mixed nut gelato called "fantasia di Bronte." Ken had bacio. I thought it was the best gelato I've tried! Highly recommended with a nod to Katie Parla's blog.

Piazza del Popolo is very large with several points of interest. I especially loved the Egyptian obelisk in the center:

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We sat on the church steps for a while just watching the show. And it was very entertaining. I talked to a guy sitting beside me, a Finnish ordination student in Rome for semester break. A bride and groom were delivered to the piazza for a photo session in a white jaguar. There was a guy playing violin and lots of "beautiful people" arriving, in taxis, at the restaurant Dal Bolognese.

We walked home doing some window shopping on the way on Via del Corso.
Came home just in time to get 2 porchetta panini from the truck in the Campo.

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For dinner I made the fresh tortelloni I bought the day before. The green ones have cheese and arugala and the others are stuffed with artichoke.

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We ate them with some sauteed zucchini and olive oil.

We took a walk after dinner to Trastevere and got gelato (yes, again!) but it just didn't compare.
Came home by way of Piazza Farnese where the were about a hundred motorcycles revving their engines???

And passed this curious church:

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We hung out on Campo de fiore for a while, listening to the music before going upstairs.

May 29, 2012

Last full day in Rome

We could feel it in the air and the weather forecast confirmed it. Rain, today. So we took it kind of slow and finally walked to Largo Argentina for some cat watching in the beautiful ruin and that’s where it really started to come down—the rain, that is.

We decided to make the short walk to see the opulent, baroque Church of the Gesu. I wished we had a better guidebook with us but eves dropping on a tour group helped. This photo is of the over-the-top tomb of St Ignatius said to include the largest piece of lapis in the world.

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In one of the side chapels, 2 people were doing some restoration work. Fascinating! Look under the table for the other guy.

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As you walk out they have a big mirror set up so you can really look at the amazing painted ceiling without killing your neck.

Came home for a little break, got some pizza from our campo:

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Then we headed back out for our 1:30 reservation at Palazzo Valentini. We walked right by it the first time and we were getting a little panicky that we wouldn’t make it on time by we finally found it with 3 minutes to spare. It was a very interesting, multi media show. For the most part, you walk on Plexiglas floors while listening to a recorded explanation. All of it is enhanced by clever lighting, dramatic music and projected images on the actual ruins of a big home from around 4th century Rome. At one point they are showing you a mosaic with lots of sections missing and they are able to fill it in with projection. Cool!
Finally the tour, of about 16 people, ends in a very small theater where they explain Trajan’s column and how they believe this is where his Temple would have been. The whole experience reminded me of something you would see at the World’s Fair or at EPCOT.

Came back to the apartment to dry out a bit and figure out dinner. I wanted to go to a real restaurant for our last night in Rome. We chose Pompiere in the Ghetto—an easy walk from here. Luckily the rain had stopped.

I loved Pompiere. The setting is very old fashioned with well-dressed waiters and well-dressed tables. And the food is totally traditional. We finally got some fried artichokes (carciofi alla Giuda) and loved them. I tried the pasta with lemon cream sauce based on the Eat Rome app; it was lovely but way to rich for me. Ken had bucatini amatriciana, which was fantastic, and he cleaned his plate. Way to full, we sat for a while and ordered dessert and coffee. I was really grateful for the 10-minute walk home.

May 30, 2012

Arrivederci Roma

Busy busy this morning trying to fit everything back into the suitcase. somehow things have expanded. And I brought way to many things! Those three last minute tops I put into the suitcase were totally unnecessary!
We went downstairs to have our last coffee at Bar Farnese:

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and some random shots of the Campo de' Fiore:

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We got a cab in the Campo to the Hertz place on via Sardegna. Their electricity was out so it took a while for them to do all the paper work by hand. We are now the proud renters of a Fiat Punto. Our luggage just fits in the trunk. The car is a compact, for sure.

Of course, we got lost getting out of Rome. Not our finest moment--those one-way streets really didn't help. but finally we saw the green sign for the autostrada and we were on our way.

We stopped in Orvieto for lunch at La Polomba--the "scene of the crime" where I first fell in love with truffles. We parked behind the duomo and walked into the small piazza. There is an "i" office there so I got a little map and the easy walking directions to the restaurant. So much was familiar to me--it was 8 years ago we were here with Josh and Kate. We were lucky to get a table--many without reservations were turned away after we sat down (about 1:20). Of course, I got the umbrecelli with truffles as did Ken. I also got some delicious chicory. While not quite swoon worthy the real truffle flavor was there and that earthy perfume--yum.

A couple of quick shots of the duomo in the awful mid afternoon sun: a column and the striped marble of the side.

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Without getting lost, we got back onto the A1 heading north. Our directions from google helped but there were many turns--getting off at Sinalunga, we made our way through Trequanda and finally arrived in tiny Montisi. Peaceful! You could easily walk from one end of town to the other in 15 minutes. The grounds and the view here at La Grancia are gorgeous! there is a lovely garden in the back with lemon trees loaded with lemons and a cherry tree--yes, we can pick whatever we want.

We got settled in, walked the 3 minutes to the small grocery store and bought some things from the very helpful worker there. We explored around the town some more and came back to relax and appreciate the peace and quiet.

The noisiest thing here is the pigeons!

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May 31, 2012

Lovely Tuscany

It's been quite a few years since we have spent any time in Tuscany--thinking it's too touristy and we are right BUT it is with good reason. It's gorgeous here! The views of the green hills, cypress lined roads, beautifully manicured villages and the golden evening light-- No wonder everyone wants to come here!

We are loving the quiet. Hearing the birds in the morning is perfect for us.

We started the day slowly and decided to go to Pienza. First thing we did was walk to Latte di Luna to reserve for lunch. We DO have priorities after all. Then we walked back into the center (this is only about 2 blocks) by way of the wall surrounding the town. We had really nice views of Mt. Amiata and flowers blooming in pots everywhere.

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We went into the big church for a while, did a lot of window shopping:

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You really can smell the Pecorino as you walk down the streets. Finally it was time for lunch.
Latte di Luna, written up in mnay places did not disappoint. We both had pici with cinghiale sauce. Then Ken had white beans and I had a perfect little sformatto (timbale) of zucchini, with lots of nutmeg.

Here was the view from our table:

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We talked to the people at the next table who have been coming here for 6 years. Really nice folks! Of course, they wrote down restaurant recs for us. While talking to them they said--you really should go to La Foce and see the gardens. I said--oh we are, on Wednesday at 3:00 for the tour.--Wait a minute! This is Wednesday and it's 2:00--let's get out of here!

How we made it onto that tour was just a bit of travel magic. We really didn't know where we were going. Somehow we found it and, just as the tour was leaving, we joined onto the tail. We didn't even have time to sign up or pay. We did it afterwards.

La Foce is an amazing place. The gardens are beautiful and the history and architecture are fascinating.

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Our tour guide was a very interesting woman who spoke many languages--she gave the tour in English but as we walked to the next place translated it into Italian. And answered a bunch of questions in German. You could tell she loved the place.

From there we drove to San Quirico; we pulled into town and it began to storm. We parked and hail stones were popping on the roof and all around us. Luckily it only lasted about 10 minutes. I mostly studied the maps while we waited. We decided we'd had enough for one day, found a COOP to do some grocery shopping and made our way home by about 5:30. We saw Agusto, the owner here at La Grancia and he invited us to see the old part of the home where, they are very proud that the Duke of Tuscany stayed in the 1700's. He was a friend of one of the great great grandfathers of Agusto. They've kept the old rooms untouched--like a little museum. And he told us some of the history of La Grancia--show us historical photos, etc. Thirty minutes well spent! Afterwards I went down to the garden to pick some cherries off the huge tree and got a lemon, too.
This is really a stunningly beautiful place in an unfancy way.

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By the way--I am loving all the comments! Thanks for keeping me going.

June 1, 2012

Red Poppies and Yellow Broom

Papeveri e Ginestra in Italian. Two beautiful roadside flowers that we saw today driving through the Tuscan countryside. There were many more, different varieties lining the roads, some familiar and some not, but the fields of poppies were the most impressive.
I tried to get some photos but the car was moving to fast--we pulled off at one spot and got these:

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We started out the day by meeting Gail Hecko
http://www.gailsgreatescapes.com/
for coffee. We sat at the bar for a long time catching up and telling stories. Then we walked down to Da Roberto to meet Robert and see their restaurant, right across the street from our apartment. The restaurant is closed now but they will reopen soon. We loved watching the adorable kittens they have there, seeing the kitchen and visiting with Gail and Roberto.

Finally we decided to drive to Montalicno. It wasn't far. We parked and walked a bit. found a restaurant, Le Potazzine, right near the Fort and sat down for lunch. I had the eggplant parmigiano and after half of it I was completely full! We also ordered sausage and bean which were really delicious but I only at a little bit. While the food was pretty good we didn't really like the restaurant. The service was not good and the place had the general feel of a tourist trap. Oh well...
We really enjoyed the glasses of Rosso di Montalcino. Le Potazzine is a a wine company, too.
Here is a snapshot I took sitting at our table:

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We drove back to Montisi in the late afternoon and never left our apartment. We both just read and did some research for the next chapter of our trip.
Our biggest need right now is to do some laundry but I think we have it figured out.


June 2, 2012

Last day in Tuscany

Where to go???
Finally we decided to visit the Abbey at Monte Oliveto Maggiore only about a 30 minute drive from here. It was beautiful in a peaceful rural setting. The big cypress were lovely to walk through.
Here's the entrance:

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We passed by this lovely statue:

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She (Santa Caterina) always makes me think of Kathryn.

Then we went inside to see the frescoes of the life of St. Benedict and to visit other parts of the museum.
I thought the pharmacy room was really cool:

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We passed by the dining hall with the long, dark wood tables all set for lunch. It was right out of a movie set.

Seeing all the various monks in their "costumes" gave the visit a special touch:

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Back down to earth--we had laundry to do. We drove into Asciano --what a beautiful quintessentially Tuscan drive! I asked at the "i" place about the lavanderia and got directions out of the old town into the "industrial zone" and we found it. Ken loved the color of the walls (NOT!)

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Then we went back into the centro of Asciano and at a lousy lunch--too salty pasta with mushroom and chicken with rosemary that was incredibly dry. Oh well. the place was La Mencia. If you're ever in Asciano, don't eat there. Well, at least the glass of prosecco was good.

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The roses all over this area are in full bloom. This one was in a pot in Asciano.

Came home to read and relax for a while. I hung out a bit in the lower garden here at La Grancia. In the evening we met Gail and Roberto for some wine and cheese. Roberto had the most amazing, truly unforgettable pecorino he had just bought from the Sardinian sheep people yesterday. The fresh! ricotta was out of this world and the aged pecorino, too. We drank wine and talked about food and travel but most importantly we toasted the life of our long-time Slow Travel friend Robert Rainey who was murdered in his office in L.A. yesterday. All over the US and in Italy friends were toasting Robert last night with fine wine and I was glad to be a part of it.

June 3, 2012

A Day in Arezzo

Today we said goodbye to Tuscany. Checking out of La Grancia went smoothly and off we went. First stop Trequanda to get gas. Self serve is NOT self explanatory however. Lucky for us there was a really nice guy hanging out there who helped us through the process.

We had decided to spend most of the day in Arezzo (in Tuscany) before moving on to Le Marche. We arrived into a really busy city, the traffic was awful! This was partly because it was the first Saturday of the month--the Antiques Market which draws about 25,00 people. It took us a while but we finally found a parking space in the Eden lot. We walked up to the Piazza Grande from there.

I kept thinking of Kris. She wanted to come to this so much but we never made it.
It was nice walking around. Lots of junk mixed in with real antiques (well, really--how would I know???) I liked these old restaurant machines:

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We walked around the old/alta part of the city and found this statue right in front of the duomo:

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I thought he looked like Jackie Gleason.

Here's a wall in the Piazza Grande:

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And here's me in a hat I bought for 5 euros on the street--Kenny's been nagging me like crazy to get hat to keep my face out of the sun:

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Here's where we went to lunch:

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The food was fantastic and the experience was, too. You had to take a number and wait, place your order at the glass counter filled with all kinds of prepared foods. Then you pay and they bring it all to your table in another room downstairs. I struck up a conversation with the woman waiting beside me--I love really using my Italian in social situations. And the food was really great!

Walking back to the car we passed a ruin of a Roman amphitheater and a little park where we stopped.

Arriving at Locanda delle Valle Nuovo was a longer drive than I had realized. We drove through the Appenines climbing over the peaks heading east. We are south of Urbino, near Fermignano. The views were amazing--beautiful trees and strange rock formations.

This agriturismo is full of roses. The interior is all in light oak. The overall effect is--calm. Giulia showed us around, all the while an amazing smell of baking cake is surrounding us.
The big treat of the day was seeing our old Slow Travel friends, Palma and Brad.
We hung out with them and their friends for a while and went to dinner with them all to a funky pizza place nearby.

June 4, 2012

Urbino

First off--I just accidentally deleted a bunch of great comments. If yours don't appear--I read them but just clicked the wrong thing and they were gone. So sorry.

Started out the morning with a sweet early stroll to literally smell the roses and a wonderful breakfast here at Locanda delle Valle Nuova.

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We took off for Urbino. Of course, we got a little lost finding the "right" parking area and it didn't help that the machine for the lot was broken and the attendant explained to me, in rapid fire Italian, where we should go. But we did get the car parked and began our day in Urbino. First thing we saw was a small farmers market including a few local cheese producers. This man was doing a demonstration right there:

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They use partly sheep and partly cows milk. We sampled the cheese and of course, we liked it.

We walked to the Palazzo Ducale and bought tickets. The ticket seller gave us special treatment because he asked us a bunch of travel questions about Florida. He's planning a trip to Miami and the Keys. We spent quite a while walking through the rooms with our audio guides. The inlaid wood panels like these were something I had never seen before--very realistic.

Here is a well in the "cortile" of the Ducal Palace:

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Giulia had suggested a place for lunch which was right there so we went. It's called 0 Km--or Zero Killometers--which is the phrase for very local foods. I was excited about the lunch because not only was it delicious but I ate 2 foods I had never tried before. One is crescia. The woman was describing it to us and she said, in English, it's like a crepe but solid. (Ken thought we were getting crab salad--it was pretty funny--crepe solid/crab salad) Well not quite but close. I think of it more as a flat bread. Giulia told me the reason it's so good is it had lard in it. Not surprised. Anyway you fold it around what ever you want--like pita but much better. We got a sampler platter of local pork products and cheeses. In the center was the other new taste. I can't remember the Italian name but it's a crispy pork skin/meat thing. Giulia says they boil it in the lard and dry it. Not my favorite thing on the platter but not bad either. Ken tried a local artisinal beer called Amarcord and it was really nice.

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I had fun speaking Italian with the two women who worked there, too. I got some coffee and they gave me a little plate of cookies with it. It was a great lunch!

We explored around Urbino some more going up and down the steep streets. We peeked through an open doorway and saw this:

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We drove back "home" and had a nice rest and then took a little nature walk. Ken visited the horse:

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I took lots of flower photos and shots of the views. All the textures and shades of green don't quite translate in my photos but the views are truly glorious.

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We watched the full moon rise from our bedroom window--read and just took it easy.

June 5, 2012

Loving Le Marche

It is so beautiful, calm, quiet and really rural here at Locanda delle Valle Nuova. When we woke up we realized the weather would not be picture perfect. After a great breakfast---including a bowl of just picked strawberries and and little preserved plums we decided to go to Urbania. Not Urbino but Urbania which is a small town known for ceramics, about 20 minute drive from here.

Unlucky for us,a lot of shops are closed on Mondays. We did have a nice walk about and looked into the 2 open ceramics shops. My word for Urbania would be quaint. They have these old porticos on a few of the streets in the old center:

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We went into the church which was really nice--interior much fuller than the modest exterior. The floor was a striking mosaic:

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On our way back to the car we walked through the little park and I noticed the flag at half mast for the earthquake victims:

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We drove around in the drizzle and finally came back to the room. Most of the afternoon, it rained so we just rested and read.

Dinner was a special experience. Giulia and her mom were cooking for us. (They offer this on Friday and Monday nights) We met Palma and Brad in the "lobby/library" area
and Brad had a nice bottle of sparkling wine from Trento. Palma brought glasses of it into the kitchen and we all toasted together. Giulia's dad came out and talked to us for a while in his intentionally slow Italian. He is likeable and charming.
The meal was wonderful. We started with a platter of cheeses and salamis with fresh crecsia, home made bread, green tomato chutney and a tiny little bowl of saba(?) a wine syrup.
We talked and ate and Giulia came out of the kitchen telling us we had to come outside. There was a really spectacular sunset! I love it when the kitchen stops to insist the guests see the sunset!

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Giulia's mom called us back inside saying the asparagus risotto would wait no longer. It was yummy! Next we had a bollito misto platter--chicken, beef, sausage and tongue--all from their farm, boiled together with a wonderful coarse salt. With the meats they served homemade zucchini pickles, fig mostarda, eggplant and "homemade from scratch" ketchup. It was a real feast. The wine and conversation flowed. The dessert was a simple and simply perfect pannacotta with a sour cherry syrup.

It was really a treat to have a home cooked meal in such a comfortable setting and with our wonderful friends. We were for sure "contenti."

June 6, 2012

On the Road

So this morning I looked out the window to this:

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And by afternoon I looked out our new window to this:

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We have also traded the sounds of small birds and leaves swishing in the breeze for church bells, boat traffic and people voices.

But most of all we feel at home here. So glad to be able to unpack and stay in one place for 3 weeks. The big exhale--it's here.

We said our goodbyes in the morning to Palma, Brad and Giulia and took off in our Fiat Punto. We stopped once, for coffee and a panino and the drive took us about 4 hours.

Turning in the car and walking to the apartment was easy. I had really studied the google map and Sebastiano, our new "land lord" gave me landmarks to look for.

We love the apartment. It is probably the nicest place we've ever rented, well equipped, too. This guy has thought of everything. Here's the welcome gift he had on the table when we arrived:

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He stayed here talking with us for quite a while--restaurants, neighborhoods, kids etc.. He's a nice guy.

After Sebastiano left we walked back to Piazzale Roma and topped up our vaporetto cards from last time. And we went to the big COOP grocery store.

Then we went for our first official walk around our new Dorsoduro neighborhood. We weren't 5 minutes into it when we were seriously lost. Lost in Venice, holding hands and smiling--that' the picture. Finally it was 7:30 and I still had to cook dinner so we found our way home, with the help of the map, a few times, of course.

Took this picture right around the corner:

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I made pasta with onions and pancetta for dinner and we had some already cooked (and pretty tasteless) chard from the COOP. And we drank the Prosecco Sebastiano had left for us. Perfect first cena in Venezia.

After dinner we went for another walk, this time in the direction of San Polo--much more familiar territory--we walked to the Frari church, Ken got a gelato and that was it.

If you can't tell--I'm thrilled to be here!

June 7, 2012

Waking Up in Venezia

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I get up early--around 7:00. It's practically silent but totally lit by the morning sun. Slowly you hear one or two people walking by, boats coming in and unloading supplies, the occasional rolling suitcase. By 8:00 the soundtrack of Venice is on low. The church bells ring at 8 and the carts begin bumping on the little bridge. Some of the "cart guys" sing or whistle but usually not until a little later. When a big boat turns our corner they honk the horn--some of them have music on board. It's like pulling up beside a car with the windows open and hearing their music but this is generally a lot mellower but often not Italian and not blasting bass. By evening there's a lot more singing, in groups and the occasional "OYE" shout from the gondoliers, although we are off the beaten gondola path. And there are playful kid sounds too. It's a Top 10 Soundtrack.

We wanted to go for a good long walk-- we passed through San Polo for our first stop Cafe del Doge near the Rialto bridge. We love the coffee there. Fortified, we strolled through the Rialto market, bought some pretty little apricots and some blueberries for breakfast. Then over the bridge towards Castello and Cannaregio. No chance of getting lost around here. We remember it all so well from our month here 2 years ago. We wander by "Pat's Campo" known to the rest of the world as Santa Maria Formosa, and over to the SS Giovanni e Paolo Church which is covered with scaffolding. The hospital facade is still beautiful and intriguing. We walked over the bridge past our home from last time, wanting to visit the family who had the bar but it had a new name and new faces. From there we went down Strada Nova and decided to have lunch at La Cantina. We just don't have good luck there. The service was not very friendly and although I loved my mixed seafood platter, it was way too much --food and $$ for me. Ken had a salumi and cheese plate which was a much better deal but he was not thrilled. I thought the cheeses were fantastic though.

We continued down Strada Nova all the way to the Guglie bridge and finally to the train station, over the "new bridge" and back home. Ken has the pedometer app on his iPhone and it was less than 3 miles but enough to earn us a nice afternoon rest.

Guess whose laundry this is hanging out the window?

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For dinner we decided to go for a walk into Dorsoduro; we found Campo Santa Marguerita easily and checked out the Il Doge gelato place for later. We walked to the Zattere from there to enjoy the view of Giudecca Island.

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And over to the Squero where they still make gondolas the old fashioned way.

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We saw the crowd at Cantina Schiavi and decided to join the fun. I had a spritz--I really get it now--it's totally refreshing like a beer with its slightly bitter taste. Ken had red wine and we got a small plate of cicchetti and ate outside on the wall on the water:

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We finished by walking back to Il Doge gelato and indulging.


June 8, 2012

Ten Thousand Steps

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I can't remember where I took the above photo??? But isn't Venice pretty?

Ken is having fun using the pedometer app on his iPhone. Wanting to make it to 10,000 steps each day has got us doing a ton of walking and not riding the vaps. I'm not complaining--it's working our great.

We started out wanting to find the most direct route to the Accademia Bridge. As we approached Campo San Barnaba we saw the fruit and vegetable barge and a little antiques market and stopped to browse.

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They had these lamps that Kris loved:

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and lots of old glass, old books, beads and buttons.

From there we went to the bridge, pausing on top to look at the view and all of the "love locks"--people actually put small locks onto the railing of the bridge, I guess to seal their love. We walked into San Marco to find Formamentis where I heard they teach Pilates. I went in and "reserved" to take a class tomorrow morning. They don't speak English though, so I'll have to review my "parts of the body" in Italian before I go.

Through San Marco and back over the Rialto bridge--did a bit of shopping in the market and headed home to make lunch:

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I felt very Italian, using the left over pasta to make this healthy fritatta for lunch.

In the afternoon I heard some excitement in front of our place. This Lab was getting his exercise by fetching his ball in the canal. He had drawn an audience of some kids coming home from school. The owner threw the ball for him for at least a half hour:

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Later on we went to a jewelry shop to get Colleen K some earrings--she had lost one and had given me the address of the place. It turned out to be the same place Pat and I got our matching bracelets! I was wearing mine and had fun talking Italian to the very friendly woman. got the earrings, colleen--mission accomplished.

We met Nan for a pizza dinner at All' Anforna. It was a really nice walk, all along the Grand canal and then into Santa Croce. It was wonderful catching up with her and the pizza, salad and wine were fine!

And we made our 10,000 steps!

June 9, 2012

Pilates in Italian

I woke up all excited about going to Pilates class in Italian. We walked together, stopping for coffee at Rizzardini and going over the Rialto bridge:

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It was, as my teacher Sue Carpenter would say, challenging. There were 4 women in the class. Of course, I was the oldest and from the little bit I watched the others, I was probably the most experienced in Pilates. The room was small--just enough space for the 6 reformers with maybe 12 inches in between. The teacher was very sweet but her English was about as bad as my Italian. We agreed that I would tell her when I couldn't understand. I liked the word for flex the feet--flettere i piede and for pelvis she always used the English. Mostly I could feel my brain working hard to concentrate on Pilates and the language at the same time. I would love to go back again--veddiamo (we'll see).

I walked home fast because it was starting to drizzle but it never really rained. Ken and I had a lunch reservation at Il Ridotto, reputed to be one of the best fine dining, restaurants in town. Because of the drizzle we decided to take the vaporetto, going to San Zaccharia stop. It took forever! We were worried about missing our reso and when we finally got there, we were the only ones in the place. The lunch: Beuatiful plating, fabulous quality ingredients, very nice service, beautiful china and fine Murano glasses BUT way too much salt! I like salt but the over kill really ruined the meal for us.
I had 2 appetizers--first langoustines with cauliflower puree and almonds:

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This was really nice, langoustines cooked perfectly but the puree had very little flavor; more prominent was the olive oil, not complaining but...

Ken had the calamari fritti:

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What a great presentation! The little sprigs of fresh oregano were perfect with the briefly cooked tomatoes and olives underneath.

Ken followed with orrechietti with asparagus and vongole veraci. The little pasta "ears" were home made with perfect texture, the asparagus was in shaved discs and the clams were fresh with ocean flavors but just a little too much salt.

Then the really bad dish: Scallops with carrots. Wish I had a photo. It was picture perfect on the plate. About 7 scallops with their roe, caramelized to a lovely light brown, the carrots were quartered lengthwise and laid on the plate with their tops. There was a slight hint of ginger on the sauce but each scallop was overwhelmingly salty. Boo! I tasted salt all day. Ken had a wonderful tiramisu and we both had coffee. We had 3 glasses of wine--one Prosecco, one delicious Franciacorta and one "Orto Venezia" malvasia. The bill came to 128 euros. Too much! That's definitely the end of our fine dining choices.

We walked home getting a few snap shots on the way and took a good nap.

Back side of the Bridge of Sighs:

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and this clever graffiti:

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In the late afternoon a painter appeared on the bridge below our windows. Watching him was great entertainment. Here's him and then a photo our of my window towards his view:

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Later, we went down stairs to say hello:

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and we took a walk into Santa Croce:

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And stopped on the way home to join the crowd at Le Le(as seen from our window) for a spritz and a red wine:

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June 10, 2012

Klimpt/Hoffman show

We made our own espresso using one of the 3 mocha pots supplied here. Not too bad but I really missed the little macchiato.

The morning's goal was to get our train tickets to go to Trieste on Monday morning. After checkng it all our on line, I had a pretty good idea of which train we wanted but didn't (still don't) know how to book without having a printer. So we strolled around a bit and into the stazione. First window on the right; we got our tickets there las time when we went to Bologna. Wait on the line--about 6 people in front of us. Struggle with the Italian/English thing. We end up paying 106euros for 2 round trip tickets. Iam sure this is too much and I say so to the woman behind the glass. She assures me this is what we need and the right price. I walk away confused and start scrutinizing the paper tickets. There's no time or date on them and we are both confounded. Looking for someone to ask, Ken finds the "customer service office" for trenitalia. No line. The guy is super nice to us. Explains everything and writes a note to the lady in front. He tells us that that particlar booth is an agency! And they get commision and don't really know the score! Yikes! So we march back there; this time I notice all the signs, and there are several, saying "main ticket booth" --o well. We wait and ask the agency woman for a refund which we get minus 7 euros commission. We walk into the main lobby of the train station and buy our tickets from the machines for about 30 euros less and we're all good.
But--a little frazzled. So we do what we love to do--walk--through Canareggio until we find Ken's favorite salami sandwich at Rizzo. I'm feeling rushed because I know I want a tuna sandwich but there aren't any and there are people in line behind us. So finally I stupidly as for chicken. I realize it's like a fake fried chicken patty but we just move on. We find a picnic spot by the canal. I turn around and give my chicken panino to the man begging for "a little money to eat", he says grazie and I go into the bar right there and get a fabulous tuna and artichoke tremezzino. I'm happy and fortified. This is what I was looking at, over the little canal while we ate:

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We continue on to the Ca D'oro gelato shop and it was still my favorite nocciola in Italy. We sat on a dock and ate our ice cream:

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From there we walk to San Marco (everything seems very crowded this Saturday) and right into the Correr to see the Gustav Klimpt/Josef Hoffman show. Ken enjoyed it more than I did because he loved all the model buildings of Hoffman's. The work was beautiful and I thought of Powell when I saw the small jewelry display. From there we walked back over the Accademmia bridge, stopping at the veggie barge at San Barnaba for a melon for tomorrow.
We felt pretty tired. Really needed a good rest and we did.
We made a quick trip to the COOP at Pzle. Roma for supplies. Then came home to get ready for dinner.

Took this shot on the was to dinner and as I looked through the lens I felt like I was channeling Bob, just a little bit:

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There's also this one right near our place; I'm a sucker for the Ventian flag:

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La Bitta was Ken's favorite last trip and it did not disappoint at all. We had a reservation and sat outside in the small garden. We had a wonderful woman server who was strict about my errors in Italian (and I loved that) and advised us very well on ordering. We shared everything: Salad with Burrata, taglioline with zucchini and saffron, and chicken with peppers. No photos this time but I particularly appreciated how they serve a little pile of shaved parmigiano beside the bright yellow and green pasta--so you could sample it without any and add whatever you liked. We loved every mouthful. We drank a fruity, local and delicious red "dalle Crode, Castagnera" with the meal. Yes we drank the whole bottle. and had one Tiramisu. Tab was 63euros.

We both felt great coming out of there. And it wasn't just the wine.

June 11, 2012

Which Bridge?

We are discovering that there are several ways to get to our little corner of Venice. Sometimes one block away seems totally unfamiliar and sometimes it seems like all bridges lead home. I wonder how long you would have to live here without ever being confused.

This morning I really wanted to go to Tonolo for coffee and a treat. Every time we walk by the baked goods look amazing. This Sunday morning we didn't make it there until about 11:00 and most of the shelves were empty but there were a few flavors of cream puffs left. I asked what they were called in Italian and I thought she said pegne or begne maybe. Any way, I had a mocha one and Ken had crema and they were "to die for" just a little too good because now I'll want to go get one every day! The coffee there was also great!.

We were feeling mostly undecided about the day's activities so we strolled back through Dorsoduro towards the Zattere. (We got to the fruit and veggie barge at San Barnaba and turned right and went all the way ...) then we walked the whole length of the Zattere,

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around the Punta del Dogana (FYI--the "frog boy" is no longer surrounded by a glass box. Two guards watch him at all times, instead and he seemed much smaller to us.)
Here's Ken putting his feet into the canal at the Punta:

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and back towards to Guggenheim Museum. We had seen posters for a wood scuplture show in a gallery near there. We found it and went in; it was a very small gallery. He had maybe 15 pieces--jackets, socks, scarves, hats--all carved, very realistically of wood. A British couple was in there buying a piece so we didn't get to talk to the artist but it was some very cool stuff.

We came home and made salad for dinner, read and did some laundry.

We had 7:30 tickets for "Silent Moving" at the Doge's Palace. We got there a little bit early so did some great people watching in the Piazzetta including these wedding photos:

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It was, let's say, performance art. Mostly we didn't "get it" but it was extremely wonderful and awe inspiring to be in the Doge's Palace at night, in silence. The show involved "dancers" fully clad in black moving long red sticks, sometimes pieces of fabric, moving through the various parts of the palace. It took about 40 minutes. Here's 2 photos from it:

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We had a nice walk home in the cooler breeze. We made pasta for dinner and watcher soccer on TV. another awesome night in Venice.

June 12, 2012

La Festa in Trieste

"La Festa in Trieste"--It rhymes and Bruce shouted it several times during night.

On the train now, the morning after, returning to Venice from an amazing night.
The guy across the isle has his Springsteen T shirt on and an American flag scarf around his neck. He is smiling and tapping his foot as he listens to his earplugs. A woman 2 rows in front is singing “The River” with her Italian accent. Oh yes. Bruce has been here.

The fantastic, take no prisoners style show aside, here are a couple of things we noticed: Barely any Americans in the audience. Bruce packed a soccer stadium, not in Milano or Roma but in the more remote city of Trieste. A reminder of how universal his spirit has become. And, for the most part, he had them eating out of the palm of his hand.

The age of the crowd. Many many let’s say, middle-aged folks. There were families with kids—not young children but young teens and twenty somethings with their parents. The young woman next to me, from Treviso, had bought the tickets for her parents for a Christmas presents. For the “Dancing in the Dark” segment when Bruce pulled someone out of the audience, there was a sign that said, “Dance with my Mom, please” and he did. The woman was about my age and thrilled!

The concert went on and on a full 31/2 hours. The finale included a video tribute to Clarence Clemons whose nephew is doing a great job in the band currently.

No pictures.

We ate a great lunch in Trieste at Da Giovani, recommended by Lydia Bastianich in a little article on Fodors. This amazingly bustling place is in the heart of downtown, near our Hotel (Filoxenia). Pork products abound and were first rate. Through a language lapse I didn’t get the “cren” (freshly grated horseradish) on mine. We’ll have to go back—Ken really wants to try the sauerkraut next time, too.

Because we had never gotten our tickets in the mail we took the bus in the middle of the day out to the stadium to retrieve them—no sweat. Relieved and with tickets we took the bus back and wandered a bit.
Really looking forward to returning here in 2 weeks with Amy and Kev but wondering about having a car???

June 13, 2012

Return to Venice

We are both feeling exhausted--spiritually and emotionally hung over. It was quite a trip!

On the train home I had a wonderful, unforgettable conversation with the woman sitting across from us. She was 55, from Le Marche and very ordinary looking. (What Cecelia would call "state worker") When we first got on the train Ken said to me "I'll bet she didn't go to the concert." But she did. She'd been given the ticket by her daughter who lives in Trieste--a birthday gift. We both gushed about the show for a bit and then she told me she thinks Bruce stands for everything good about America. She went on to talk about how bleak things are here in Italy politically and economically. We both ended up crying, sharing tissues. It was "a moment."

We got off the train, glad to be coming home to Venice, the city we love so much. Got into the apartment and tried to unpack--both of us disoriented and not functioning at our highest level. Finally we decided to get some coffee and a snack for lunch. Went to the Majer bar, right near us. Good coffee, good scene. I'm so into the tuna tremezzino (triangle sandwich on white bread)--it was a great little lunch. We walked back to the west from there and found a new (to us) area, near the Santa Maria Maggiore; I took a few pictures.

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We helped out a young guy from Montreal. I had seen him looking at his map, on his little blackberry, right outside of our apartment when we left. Then he appeared out there in remote Venice--still looking at his tiny little map. We ended up walking him back to Santa Margherita. He needed to be near San Marco and wanted to just "get in a Taxi." He was on his way to Ukraine to see Euro Cup soccer, spending the night in Venice. Ken said it was the most exciting thing that happened to us today!


That was until we found out there had been a tornado here. No, we didn't notice it. We may have still been on the train??? The weather was really crazy all day though. One minute clear and blue and cool and breezy--then you would walk through a pocket of warm humidity. The skies got eerily dark in the evening while I was cooking dinner. I took this photo our of our kitchen window.

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Went to bed early.
Tomorrow Missy and Mark and family arrive!

June 14, 2012

Getting Back on Track

I had a date to meet Daniela (Slow Travel friend from Treviso) at 9:30 at the train station.
This gave me the opportunity to do one of my favorite things: walk fast in Venice. I pretend I really live here and have somewhere to go--like I am walking to work. To get to the train station I have to cross the newest bridge, the Ponte Calatrava. It's been controversial here; I don't know the details but I think it's beautiful and certainly does the job of connecting the Piazzale Roma (bus terminal and car park) with the train station. The morning was very bright with a swift cool breeze. The water was sparking. Venice at its best! I stopped at the top of the bridge to look out to the north and could clearly see the snowy tops of the Dolomiti Mountains. Glorious!

I met Daniela and we walked to Cafe del Doge which we agreed had the best coffee in Venice. We had a terrific visit--talked and talked in 2 languages. Daniela has a language school in Treviso, to learn Italian in am immersion program and it sounds wonderful.
We asked a nice Austrian man to take our picture:

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I walked, very quickly this time because I didn't want Kenny to worry about me and the time had flown, back to our place. We had an exciting afternoon planned. Our good friends Mark and Missy and their family was coming to town with way too much luggage. We knew which train they would be on so we could meet them and help out. Their little 15 month old, grandson Sammy is a heart stealer! We got a water taxi which dropped us off at Sant Angelo. And making the obligatory wrong turn over an extra bridge, we finally found their hotel. We hung out there for a while to help them get settled. Mostly I watched Sammy play in the bidet--the kid is going to be a plumber when he grows up.
We went to lunch with them all in Campo San Stefano. I was thrilled to be sitting there with Missy!

After lunch we could tell a storm was coming. It got dark, cold and windy. We took them to the top of the Accademia bridge for the view and to see the locks and we headed home. We did get caught in the rain but not too bad.

Forced by the thunderstorm to stay in and read, go on the computer and play cards wasn't so bad. As soon as it stopped, around 8:00 we went to get some dinner but both places in Campo San Barnaba we wanted to go to were fully booked. so we tried Pane e Vino; I think it's a chain actually. Not bad. I had a plate with veggies and a roasted pork shank. Ken had pasta with mushrooms he thought was pretty mediocre. I was frustrated about "wasting" a night out in Venice but all of our cooking plans were foiled by our unwillingness to get soaked in the rain to shop. Oh well.

On the way home we stopped at Grom for pistacchio and dark chocolate gelato.
A great ending to our day.

June 15, 2012

Art Cred

So, after all the time we've spent in Venice we had never made it to the Accademia Museum. Our mission today--fix that.
We started with coffee at the Majer bar just one bridge behind us. Nice little view from that bridge which is one of the "Tre Ponti"

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And off we went to the Accademia. I was excited to see the paintings of Giorgione, La Tempesta and La Vecchia. Giorgone figures prominently in a pretentious and predictable fiction book I'm reading. Of the 24 rooms at the Academmia, those paintings were in #23 and well worth waiting for--really evocative. Blasphemous in Venice but I am not totally crazy about "old" art; I did enjoy the museum but the audio guide was pretty poor.

We couldn't resist a nice pause at the top of the Accademia Bridge for the view:

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We walked from there to Mille Vini, the wine store and got three bottles of wine with the gentle guidance of the nice guy there. He gave us a little discount for being return customers from 2 years ago.
Then we went to the Rialto Market, got a few things and walked around. Next stop, Aliani where we got some prosciutto and a few other things and finally we stopped in the little bakery at Campo San Toma for some bread and the Burano cookies Ken is addicted to.
Here's what lunch looked like:

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After a nice rest we took another walk. We are in search of a hotel to book for our last night after traveling and before the early airport trip. So we actually looked around Piazzale Roma (not a stroll I would normally suggest but...) and ended up on the top of the Calatrava Bridge to watch the sunset. The big bright orange ball was not photo friendly but the view back into Venice was:

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We came home after a while, drank our local sparkling wine and watched Italy playing soccer on TV. Living the dream.

June 16, 2012

Giudecca

Today we had a goal: to visit the Island of Giudecca.
We atarted with a quick visit to Majer for coffee and then caught the 4.1 vaporetto.
We got off at the Redentore stop and visited the beautiful Palladian church. They had amazing flowers in there which, I discovered, were left over from a prominent musicians funeral. Look in this picture of the entrance--you can see Ken and me, in my hat and San Marco reflected in the glass doors:

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We walked east from there exploring the small residential neighborhoods and canals.
I took lots of photos.

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So much more laundry hanging out here than in Venice!

Loved this gate with bright white hydrangeas in the garden behind:

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We found a building called Casa dei Tre Occhi which had a photography show by Elliot Erwitt. I loved the show, on three small floors, of black and whites full of historical (mostly 1950's--70's) commentary and humor. It made me think more about the photos I take and what I "see" through the lens.

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The outside wall of the 3 Occhi:

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We went to lunch at Figlie delle Stelle right on the canal.

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It was a wonderful lunch. We started with a really nice, home made bread basket which included my favorites: taralli then ordered an app-- a fava bean puree with sauteed greens and crostini. We shared a primo of spaghetti with mussels in a very light tomato sauce and the pasta was made of farro flour. It was so much better than any whole grain pasta I've tried at home! The frittura mista was next. It had lots of shrimp and squid and little fish as well as vegetables. Gotta love fried food! We shared everything but couldn't finish the frittura. Bill was 60.50.

We walked a bit more on lovely Giudecca and took the vap home.

We were able to meet Mark and Missy for a spritz at Campo Santo Stefano before they went to dinner. It was wonderful!

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We just had left overs for dinner--still full from lunch.


June 17, 2012

Just a Normal Day

We have both been a little antsy about settling on a hotel for the night we have to return here before our flight out so we spent the morning getting it sorted out. We booked a room at the Olimpia Best Western right near Piazzale Roma; at least it's better than staying in Mestre and they have A/C and Wi Fi.

Then we walked into Santa Croce to Campo San Giacomo dal Orio, my friend Palma's favorite campo in Venice. I could easily see why. With all the trees and plants and people hanging out, It's like a little bit of Italy in the center of Venice.

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I liked the little garden space:

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We visited the church, too. It is one of the oldest--from the tenth or eleventh century. We read a little about it in a guide book before we went. Apparently St. James made the pilgrimage in Spain on the cammino to Campestelo di Santiago.

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The guidebook said to look for fossils in the floor:

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Next stop--Rialto market to get a few things. While we were there the people from the Muro restaurant had a stand set up. They were selling a plate of fried seafood, a slice of polenta and a glass of wine for 8 euros.

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I had to have it! We ate sitting in a breezy spot with a great view of the Grand canal. It was all so good! Here is what we looked at while we were eating:

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I wanted to go to the Coin department store so we wandered around in there for a while. Took this from the top floor looking down:

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Walking home we stopped at Vizio Virtu for gelato. I had grapefruit with chocolate chips and Ken had lime/mint and a scoop of dark chocolate. All really good!

After our rest we went to the COOP and later walked over Campo Santa Margherita. On the way home we stopped into a little art gallery where the show was called "Hopper Secondo Rosso" It was original paintings but almost copies of Hopper's. I enjoyed it but it was a little weird how close they were to the originals.

This is a building we always pass--right down the street:

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For dinner I made the asparagus ravioli we'd gotten at Aliani. We ate them with a little simple mushroom sauce and the fresh spinach from Rialto. We drank the whole bottle of the I Frati Lugana--got to get another one.

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June 18, 2012

Warming Up

We're having a heat wave. I read something that said we are getting hot African winds; the temperatures are up--today it was around 30° which is 86°. While it feels hot here because we are walking all over, it's not humid and muggy like at home.

After a slow start, we went for coffee and an explore in Dorsoduro. Shannon had told us about a bocce place near San Sebastiano and we wanted to find it.
We did but it was all closed up. We saw one court:

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And these hydrangeas were right there:

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We happened on the church of Raphael the Arcangel and visited there for a while.
We walked over to the Billa on the Zatere because I wanted to buy the small Nesti Dante soaps. They had them AND they were on sale! We walked down the Zattere for a bit, enjoying the breeze off of the water and then turned back into Venice, walking by the squero again.

Somewhere in Dorsoduro:

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In the late afternoon we went for another explore--this time we walked to the western part of Cannaregio--over the Guglie Bridge and following the Cannaregio canal out. We found a largely residential neighborhood with colorful if more modern buildings:

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We wound in and out of the streets and we kept seeing a woman, on her phone, walking a very cute dog. We both miss our Luigi!

At the end, where the canal meets the lagoon, is a big restoration project--lots of construction, so we didn't hang out there very long.

I saw so many beautiful flower boxes today--geraniums and petunias are everywhere:

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On the way home we saw this sign:

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No wonder people are always studying their maps!

We are really enjoying this apartment! Love the people watching out of our living room windows:

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June 19, 2012

Still My Favorite

This was my third visit to the Frari Church. The full name is "Santa Maria Gloriousa dei Frari" and I'm not sure which came first the naming or the painting but the Titian painting is the definition of glorious.
We had a lot of laughs inside the church because we were sharing the earphones on Ken's iPhone listening to the Rick Steves tour. It took us a while to get coordinated so we weren't constantly yanking the other ones ear piece out. We had to learn to work together. Always a good exercise. We took our time going through the well know pieces and stopping at some of the others too. Sitting in the chapel where the amazing Bellini Madonna is always chokes me us. This time I was very intersted in the Donatello statue of St. John and how Steves pointed out the contrast between the Florentine and the Venetian art of the time.
No photos are allowed inside the church but I snapped these of the exterior. This is the second highest tower in Venice:

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And as we were walking away:

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We got a take out mini-feast from a place called Mi e Ti in Campo Santa Margherita. I had read about it in Michela Schibilia's book "Venice Osterie". The restaurant has a few tables but most people eat on the Campo. We decided to take it home. We got curry chicken, a sweet and sour chicken with olives and prunes, stuffed cabbage, vegetables in yogurt, curried vegetables and rice. I really loved it. Everything tasted really fresh and the eastern flavors were a treat to my palate. Highly recommended if you're in the mood--all that stuff cost 20euros.

After rest time we went to the Voda phone store and to Vizio Virtu. They had ginger/lemon gelato today which I loved. Then off to a jewelry shop where they make silver stuff. The brother and sister metal artists are in the back making it right there. It's in San Polo near Nomibolli. I got a nice pair of earrings for me and for Kathryn.

We ran over to the COOP to grab some wine to drink with all the left over pasta for dinner. We checked out all the sizes of cars--worried that our (admittedly too much) luggage will not all fit when we meet up with Amy and Kev in Trieste. We hung out there for a while but never did actually see a Fiat Croma which is what we have booked. I thought I found a great deal online on Europcar but when I called AutoEurope to change she made me realize the the "great deal" was in Euros!!! Dang!
So we will just squeeze into whatever we get and make the best of it.

We stayed in to watch finally get a win in the Euro cup 2012! Go Italy!!

One more canal shot from today--somewhere near the San Polo/Santa Croce line:

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June 20, 2012

Ken's big Adventure and Murano

Ever since we got to Italy Kenny's been saying he wanted to get his hair cut here. Mind you, he hasn't had a professional hair cut in about 20 years; he just does it himself. Sometimes he does a good job but sometimes it looks a little rough.
Well, today's the day. We went downstairs for coffee (trying a new place right below us which we think must have been closed because we'd never noticed it before) The people in there were really friendly and they suggested a place for "The Haircut."
One of the guys in there even walked us to the store.

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Well, the haircut is really great. I love the back, especially. It was an adventure because the people didn't speak much English and I had to do all the translating. Fun!

After that we did a little grocery shopping. Somehow we ended up with paper towels instead of toilet paper???

We took the #3 vaporetto--no stops. It was really heating up outside so the wind on the lagoon was really nice. We went first to the Glass museum to book the English tour at 2:30 and then into the San Donato church. Lunch was next at the Alla Murano, right across the canal from the museum. Wet had two great salads (one with prosciutto and one with shrimp, a glass of wine and coffee--all for 40 euros. Right when we were waiting to go on the tour Kevin called from London--Ken was so happy to hear his voice--it was cute:

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We did the tour at the museum which was not too great. Lucky for us, the other couple on the tour were young honeymooners from Richmond, Va. and she knew a lot about glass. I was amazed how modern some of the centuries old pieces looked. And the contemporary stuff in the museum was gorgeous. From there we walked to the
Scuola Zanetti to watch some actual blowing. A man talked to us, in Italian, and I did the translating to the group (not very well but...)

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If we thought it was hot outside--well the furnaces are littlerally burning. Everyone is completely covered in sweat!

We came home taking the vap to Fondamenta Nuove and walking from there. It took us about a half hour and it was really tiring. But--no rest for these intrepid tourists. Sebastiano, our land lord, was coming to visit. And he did for about a half hour. What a nice guy!

At 9:00 we went to a free cello concert at the Frari church.
Here's me waiting for the concert to start:

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The players were not professional but very skilled "gioveni protagonisti" as they were billed. There were about a dozen of them and their teacher/leader. The concert was very sweet with many familiar and beautiful pieces. But the setting! Absolutely worth it!

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It was almost as if the music was a background for studying the Titian. No words...

June 21, 2012

Treviso

We wanted to do one more day trip during this Venice stay and we had decided to go to Treviso. This was before I met Daniela. Meeting her there and going to "her" coffee place were the icing on the cake.
We took a really nice train and met Daniela on it. I was so excited to see her waving, walking towards us.

We got off at the Treviso Centrale station and followed Daniela through the town. She pointed out all kinds of things from a great linens store to the area of town which was bombed by the Americans in WWII. Finally we arrived at the Caffe Indimenticabile (unforgettable)

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We loved It! It had a wonderful Northern California vibe. There were books on all of the tables and many more on shelves. This was the first coffee place I'd been to where you could choose your own coffee for the espresso. I had Sumatra and it was great. Ken had a "shakerato", Italy's version of iced coffee:

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We could have stayed there all day but we wanted to see some of Treviso before it got too hat to walk around much. So, Daniela walked us over to the Santa Caterina Museum. I had read a couple of articles she wrote so I knew what I was looking for and looking at. Good thing because we had only 1 hour inside--they were reluctant to sell us the tickets to go in because of the short time but it was really perfect for us.
First we saw the fresco cycle of the story of Ursula by Tomas de Modena. Knowing the story in advance really helped.
Next, I knew we wanted to see the sculpture of Arturo Martini. Really loved this work. It showed his affection and humor.
The museum sent a young woman to accompany us; she said she was just there to "watch" but I asked her to point out to us the most important and most famous works in the painting gallery. The Bellini colors really stood out and we saw some other fabulous work. We made a very quick tour of the archeological side of the museum and it was just about 12:30--closing time. From there we walked to the Duomo taking in the sights like La Loggia dei Cavalieri:

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The Duomo was closed for the afternoon. So we sat on the steps of the Duomo for a while and took a leisurely walk back towards the train station.

The Sile River:

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We stopped in a bar for tremezzini and water. In the train station we found we had just missed a train to Venice and had to wait a half hour for the next so we went back across the street and got some gelato while we waited. I think I could live in Treviso--that's how much we liked it on this first glance.

This public sculpture is right near the train station; it's called the Grand Sphere:

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We took a nice long rest to stay out of the heat. I stressed over where to make dinner reservations. So many restaurants/so little time! Finally we decided on L'Anice Stellato in Canneregio. We were a little late because we'd gotten on the wrong #2 vap and had to ride past our stop, get off at Rialto and walk back. This restauraint has been on my list for years and apparently everyone elses because it was filled with tourists. We had a nice table on the quiet canal. View from the table:

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I loved the food and the service. We started with spaghetti with razor clams. And then we had grilled pork filet with a salad of fresh fennel and grapefruit. I thought all of it was very good. The 2 really outstanding dishes were dessert and contorno (side) of peperonata. Peppers cooked with tomato sauce and fresh herbs. It really hit the spot. We drank a few different white wines by the glass. The dessert was fantastic. It was a trio of frozen zabaglione (a custard made with marsala wine) one was "classic" with just a drizzle of caramel sauce, one was with a raisin compote and the third had crushed amaretti cookies and cherries. We also drank a Friulian sweet wine with the dolce.

We had a really great walk back home. Venice at night. Very quiet. Totally safe if not just a tiny bit spooky. (think ghosts not robbers). When we got near the train station there were still a bunch of people out. We stayed on the top of the Scalzi bridge to enjoy the view.

June 22, 2012

Low Key Day

We seem to be sleeping later and later each day. We ARE on vacation, I guess.
We went to the bar downstairs and had coffee. I just love the women in there! They remind me of "Alice doesn't live Here Anymore"--happy, chatty waitress style.
Anyway they are so much fun to talk to!

We wanted to check out the restaurant Alla Staffa because it looked, online, like they were closed. So that was our first goal--through San Polo and over the Rialto Bridge. I love to scamper over the bridge but I had to stop for a quick breath and view at the top.
I saw this guy--I think he may be the same painter we saw here.

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We walked under the Sottopotego, to Santa Maria Formosa and down the Calle Lunga to find the Alla Staffa and I made a reso for Friday night. They must be very busy because he really hesitated when I asked for Friday but then I said we are just two and he said OK. We forget that in Italy when you reserve it's usually your table for the night--no body before or after, in general, will eat there.

Back towards Giovanni e Paolo which is covered in scaffolding now, past our "old house" and back to Rialto. We stopped at Mille Vini and went on to the Mercato to get a few things. I saw these tiny artichokes:

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Had to get some--crazy price-- 6euros for 5 pieces. I cleaned them and we ate them raw for salad at dinner but they were really nothing special.

We came home. The heat is really sapping our energy. We made a simple lunch here including some nice foccacia from the bakery in San Toma.
Next assignment was to do some work on the rest of our trip. Long story short: We changed around some of our plans to go into the mountains next week where it won't be so hot.

I made us a nice dinner using the ravioli I bought at Casa del Parmigiano. They were stuffed with ortica (nettles) and had a unique, herby, green flavor. And we drank a bottle of Prosecco.

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After dinner we walked to the Alaska gelato shop I had read about online. The flavors were good but it wasn't the creamy consistency I love at other spots. Saw this interesting graffiti on a wall near there:

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Came home and watched soccer and that was it.

June 23, 2012

Why Do we Love Venice?

Slow going in the morning but finally we set off for Ca Pesaro, a large 17th century palazzo which is now a modern art museum.
Here's me ready for the day--this is for Cecelia, she knows why:

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On the way there we did some window shopping and saw some small paintings we really liked. We decided to go back after the museum. I took a couple of quick shots on the walk:

This is looking down the calle to the traghetto stop:

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And this is just a door:

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Ca Pesaro is marvelous. When I walked in and saw the characteristic pink and white floor in a huge room with a view out to the canal, I could imagine the people in their fancy clothes having a party there. It brought back lots of novels I've read set in Venice. This is the well in the courtyard:

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The art was wonderful. Mostly from the early 20th century Italian painters but there were quite a few others including Kandinsky and Chagall. Our best surprise was a small room filled with art of Arturo Martini. We were so happy to see this since we had already gotten to know him in Treviso. I really love his work, especially the sculpture.

Looking at art is hard work, so before leaving we went to the "cafeteria" (really a little restaurant) for nourishment. We just had prosciutto panini and I had a spritz. While sitting there I said to Ken "people ask us what do we love about Venice so much: This"
Here are 2 photos I made while just sitting at the table, to illustrate the point:

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We walked back to the little gallery of Lorenzo Usitti. We spent a long time there talking with him and finally choosing a painting to buy. He also gave me a gift of a small tile I admired that his mother painted.

Here's a graffito we passed--this is for Kathryn:

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The afternoon was spent doing research for the rest of our trip. It's complicated...

Our reservations for dinner at Alla Staffa were for 8:30 and by 7:30 we were on our way to Piazzale Roma to catch a vaporetto. Ah yes--we are really in Italy--sciopero means strike--and the vaps were on strike. Much confusion at the stop but we just decided to walk. It took about a half hour but we got there on time.
The food was really good, the service--not so much. We shared the clams and mussels in ginger broth for a starter--good thing because it was huge! And delicious; I loved the ginger in there. The mussels were no all perfectly cooked but the broth was fantastic! Ken had the lasagna which we both loved and I had fish. It was 3 different small, baked, whole fish on a platter of salad greens. There was also a shot glass with a foamy lemon sauce. I thought the sauce was funny but the fish were top notch. We each had a glass of Prosecco and then shared a 1/2 liter of the pretty good, white house wine and a tiramisu for dessert. Our bill was 53euros.

We walked back home much more slowly, down Strada Nova.

June 24, 2012

Indimenticabile (Unforgetable)

We spent the morning working on the rest of our trip and I think we've finally got it set.

We wanted to go to Castello and walk around a bit and also find the building that's in the painting we bought. We went to catch the vap and there were tons of people there going our way. Everyone's going to Lido. so we had to wait for a pretty long while to get on and we were crushed on there. We got off at San Zaccaria, near San Marco but we went right while just about everyone else went left. So we turned up a quiet calle and wandered. We stopped in front of the San Zaccaria church to admire the beautiful facade:

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Then we wandered some more. I realized we were at Rio Osmarin and so we walked on there and down the fondamenta towards the San Lorenzo church which had been very much under construction on our last trip. It looks much better now:

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From there we headed for Calle Laterano to search for the right place but we never did find it for sure. Oh well, it was a great walk. From there we went to Mille Vini and to Rialto for shopping. Saturday: the outdoor fish fry is not to be missed so we got a plate again and ate it in the nice breezy spot we discovered last week. We really like the fizzy chardonnay they sell with the fish!

We walked home by way of Tonolo for a treat. I had a shakerato (iced espresso) and a piece of Sacher torte. Yum!!! And the shakerato really hit the spot.

I began noticed all the beautiful iron work around Venice and of couse, the doors. I could have taken a thousand pictures of doors and windows but here are a few that really caught my eye:

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This is the most important one because it's "our" house:

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We came home to read and nap.

Daniela and her husband Paolo had invited us for dinner and we were very excited about going. We got the train and they picked us up in Mogliano, about a 30 minute ride. Mogliano is a very pretty town. Daniela took us into her school and I took these pictures:

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Now that I have gotten to know Daniela I can see how the school really reflects her personality. And "Joyfulit" is the perfect name for it! We then drove to their pretty home of which Paolo is very proud. They made a total Venetian feast for us with really fabulous wines from the Treviso area. It was just an amazing evening! Paolo is an accomplished cook and together they make an unbeatable team in the kitchen. We felt so comfortable with Daniela and Paolo that we stayed much too late. Daniela had to drive us home because there were no more trains. We got home after 12:30. Really late for me! It was extremely difficult to say good bye to them both and I really hope they come to Tallahassee some day so we can reciprocate. I am sure we will be friends for life.


June 25, 2012

Sunday Venice

I'm starting to get melancholy about leaving and at the same time excited about or upcoming adventure with Amy and Kev.

Sunday mornings are so quiet around here. I took a bunch of pictures, from our windows with no people at all on the street.

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After a while we headed out for a walk. We had told Gail we would check out a hotel for her "Gails Great Escapes" special "Spirit of Italy" trip in September. So we went to Campo San Barnaba and into the hotel which was really nice. We walked to the end of the calle, towards the vap stop and hung our for a while on top of the little wooden bridge to Ca'Rezzonico.

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A big group of rowers came by:

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Nan told us that all the rowing clubs came out together for a big show of support for the damage from the recent tornado.

We sat on a shady bench in Campo Santa Margherita for a while with the other old folks. It was warm (not too hot) and breezy--nice for sitting.

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Walking a bit afterwards, I saw this window full of wine bottles and corks:

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And we checked out lots of amazing iron work:

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We came home and made a nice salad for lunch, did laundry and relaxed.

We met wonderful Nan for for a glass of wine (which turned into dinner) at Al Timon on Fondamenta degli Ormesini. Funny--we sat at 3 different table during the night.
First we sat right on the canal. Had a bottle of very nice Soave and a platter of various crostini. While we were eating a guitar player and singer (with microphone) set up right beside us--using a boat in the canal for a stage. Too loud, so we moved to another table near by.

Ken and Nan had a major iPhone consult during which I was laughing and taking picutes.

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We were still hungry so we moved inside and ordered more food and, of course, more wine. This time it was Diano d'Alba dolcetto. We had to put it into an ice bucket for a few minutes to really enjoy it. The food was great! We shared a bunch of stuff--grilled lamb chops, duck breast with balsamic sauce that I could swear had butter in it but Nan said no. The potatoes were outstanding--real fried "spears" and the vegetable plate was delicious too. Over all it was a wonderful meal and I so enjoyed being with a good friend who is so much like me.
We rushed home from there because the "partita" (soccer match) had already started.
We finished the night watching Italy win on overtime penalty kicks.
Forza Italia!

June 26, 2012

Last full Day in Venice

Taking it easy today. It's muggy and the air is, I think, smoggy although I don't know if they really have smog here.
After coffee and a short visit with Antonella we decided to walk to the Accademia Bridge and over to San Marco. We have not seen the basilica much on this trip and we wanted to say goodbye to the stunning symbol of Venice. The closer we got the more and more crowded it became. We have experienced such a different city than these people there 3 weeks. I saw this store window:

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What is that all about?

We stood in the shade and admired the Piazza San Marco. So much beauty or ridiculousness depending on your focus. Just like life.
From there we wanderered a bit more until we found ourselves in Castello and getting near Ospedale so we could walk on Calle degli Mendicanti to Fondamenta Nova like we always did last visit. From there we took a vaporetto to Guglie and walked home. I had spoken to the man in the flower shop right near us about getting a little plant for the coffee bar friends. He was there, spoke no English and I got it--no sweat.

We came up to start packing. Had a make shift lunch and got to work. We're shifting things around to make it easier for transportation. My white linen pants got stuck in the pulley of the clothes line and have a big black grease stain on them so I'm leaving them here. Have to make space for the well wrapped painting we bought.

By around 6:00 Ken was getting hungry and we were both antsy. We decided to go for a walk. I ran into Sebastiano and said goodbye. The wind helped my get this nice shot of the Venetian flag hanging on a hotel on our street:

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and I saw this sleeping gondoliere:

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We found a new little street that arrives at Campo San Barnaba. We passed by this "underground garage"

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and breathed in a little more of Venice on a bridge near there:

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We had talked about just getting a spritz and snack for dinner and we wanted to pop into La Bitta to reserve for when we are back here for the last night before flying home.
We took a look at their menu in the window, knowing that they open at 7:00 but are generally fully booked. When they opened the door we were standing right there. I asked if there was a place and Deborah said only in the front room which is actually our favorite. So, we sat down for a wonderful chance dinner at La Bitta. We didn't order too much. Shared an app of some "mountain salami" which was made of goos and lamb with cumin and other spices--it was warm and great with the white polenta.
Next we each had our own pasta dish. Ken's was tagliatelle with sausage and peppers and a little cream. It was not at all greasy and you could really get the sweetness of the peppers--not a complicated dish. I had small gnocchi with fresh ricotta and fresh tomatoes. Loved it!
We shared a big piece of "fluffy spice cake" it was like a sponge cake with poppy seeds and a drizzle of honey. It was still a bit warm and true comfort food. We shared a really nice, light sweet wine: Soandre Verduzzo Donato which was perfect with the cake. We drank house wine ( 4 glasses) thorough the meal. Bill was 60 euro. Satisfaction quotient: huge.

We walked home and decided to go up to the "Constitution" bridge to see the sunset. We had a nice breeze and view before we went home and did some more packing stuff. Domani--una nuova aventura.

June 27, 2012

To Trieste

I have to make this really short because we are all trying to get ready to go spend the day in Duino.

Yesterday:
Left Venice. Went very smoothly.
Stopped in Aqueleia at Ai Due Leoni restaurant, recommended by my ST friend Deborah. Food great, setting great, rustic, almost rural but on the road to Grado. Saw a beautiful nest of baby swallows there. Great mixed seafood platter.

Arrive in Trieste: NEVER RENT SOMETHING WITHOUT RELIABLE REVIEWS. Long story short. The apartment sucked. Moved to Residence San Giusto--no problem but A/C not really working and jack hammers outside from 8am. Picked up Kev and Amy at the train station with the car. A minor miracle that we got there and found them. Took us a long time driving back but everyone's happy.
Had a nice seafod dinner here at San Marco Ristorante. Happy to be together.

Stayed up very late trying to figure out what to do next.

June 28, 2012

Up, Up, Up

Woke up in Trieste. Jack Hammers and diesel fumes from the machinery flooding our room. Yuck!
Kevin and I both were on our computers checking out places. Finally, we decided to call one. The Hotel Maribel in Madonna di Campiglio in the Dolomites. Great move.
They gave us a wonderful "last minute rate" and we are in good shape.

Ken went out early to a grocery store and got cereal etc. for all of us. We went down to a bar a half a block away for decent coffee. No exaggeration--on those 2 blocks there were at least 6 coffee bars!
We got packed up, checked out and were easily on our way north to Duino, fulfilling Kev's dream to see where Rilke, his favorite poet, wrote. We parked at the information office in Sistiana and walked a trail along the coast to the beautiful castle in Duino. There were amazing views out to the Gulf of Trieste around every turn and interesting plants, too:
This one was called "Christ Thorn" but I don't remember ever seeing it before.

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View from Sistiana to our destination at the beginning of the trail:

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View of a castle ruin:

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We arrived at the Duino Castle and went into the museum. The gardens were lovely--"Don't walk on the grass."

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Kev explained to us a bit of the philosophy of Rilke--dark stuff.

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My 2 favorite things in the museum were the dining room:

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and seeing Kevin thrilled to be there:

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This is the stairway:

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We stopped for a quick panino and took the bus (a minor adventure in and of itself) back to where we had left the car.

The drive up to Madonna in the Dolomites took us past Venice, Verona and up to Trento and finally into the mountains. Ken watched the car's outside temperature reading drop, with glee. It took us about 5 hours with one stop for coffee at an "over-the freeway" Autogrill which, we were told, was designed by the famous Italian architect Nervi. Arriving at Hotel Mairbel was wonderful. While it is not a deluxe place the service is. We were shown several room to choose from and finally settled on 2 together in the corner of the hotel on the 3rd floor. Then, Andrea served us each a welcoming glass of prosecco, parked the car for us and brought our suitcases upstairs. I took a quick bath (so soothing!) and we went to dinner in the hotel. Fodd was delicious if a bit too rich. I had ravioloni with chard and a bit of julienned speck on top with a rich sauce. Ken and Kev had bucatini alla Amatriciana which was a little less successful but still nice. Ken and I shared a little sausage with potatoes and mushrooms which was really tasty and seemed a much more local dish. I loved the buckwheat flavored bread. We drank a bottle of Kerner wine--didn't love it and all shared a pannacotta for dessert. The plates were garnished beautifully and the service was, again, top of the line.

I watched some of the Spain vs. Portugal match in the lobby with 2 families from Rome. When it went into overtime I came upstairs. Amy was sleepy in the bed but Kev and Ken and I watched til the end, with Spain winning on PKs. The bed is so comfortable! The air is chilly and mountainy. I think we're going to be very happy in this "off the beaten path" place.


June 29, 2012

My First Rifugio

We met Kevin and Amy at 9:00 for breakfast, which was a very nice buffet.
Hiking was on the agenda and we even had a map. The trail starts just behind our hotel so off we go.

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It was fairly well marked and pretty steep going up in some rocky areas but we knew we were close when we saw this sign:

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It took us a little less than 2 hours to arrive at the Rifugio (a small restaurant in the middle of hiking country) on Lake Magletta. We sat on the lakeside and talked and laughed and rested for a while before moving on to a simple lunch of salad and a cured meat platter at the restaurant.

There was a tiny little rustic church up there:

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The views were sublime. It was truly beautiful.

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We saw tons of wild flowers, just like Marta said we would, even wild azalea.

We were almost all the way down when we started hearing something that sounded like a bunch of huge chimes. As we got closer we saw it was a small heard of grazing cows, all with varying sizes of bells around their necks. The sound was all new, euphonious and surrounding us.

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Finally we saw the "cow man" and his dog; I talked to him a bit in his heavily accented Italian.

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For the afternoon we indulged ourselves in the "wellness center" of the hotel--in door pool, saunas, hydro foot massage etc. In our big white terry cloth robes we felt--well--indulgent. Everyone seems happy.

In the early evening we drove down to the sleepy in the summer, ski town, Madonna in Campiglio to walk around.

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The whole town is one hotel after another and most were closed. We window shopped a little, got some money from the bancomat and drove back up to a restaurant we had seen. It was early for dinner--just after 7:00 and we were the only ones in the place. The waiter said they had fresh local "finferli" (chanterelle mushrooms) and porcini. So we all had something with mushrooms. Amy had them with the local polenta taragna which had brown specks of buckwheat flour in with the corn meal. I had a plat of cooked veggies and mushroom soup and the guys had tagiatelli with mushrooms. I really enjoyed the dinner.
View from the restaurant:

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We left just in time to make it back to the hotel to watch Italy defeat Germany in the Euro cup semi final. How exciting!


June 30, 2012

Vacation within the Vacation

This is so relaxing!
We got up and met Amy and Kev for breakfast at 9:00.
Then we sat in the cozy lobby for a while, pondering the trail map for this area, which is called the Val Rendena.
Kev's knees wouldn't want to hike so just three of us went. Destination Lago Nambino:

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We again saw incredible displays of wild flowers, in meadows and on the trail:

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We paused at this spot with a view of Madonna di Campiglio below:

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It took us about an hour, full of great conversations, to reach the Lake and rifugio. It was a funny place---a mountain resort, kind of. There was a full restaurant, red canvas chairs for rent for 2 euros, a rectangular, cement trout pond full of fish and a bocce court:

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Ken on the trail:

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We came back to the hotel and just took it easy for a while. Hung out with Amy and Kev a bunch.
Dinner was here in their more rustic downstairs room. The food was really nice but not really noteworthy==Ken and I both had pork. I love the polenta with the buckwheat in it. Maybe I can bring some home. We tried a local Marzemino red wine we really loved though.

View from our terrace:

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July 1, 2012

Return to Trento

It was hard saying good bye to the Dolomites and to Hotel Maribel. At breakfast we finally confessed our thoughts to the "head waiter" that we thought he used to be an actor. He told us, in English, "I had my chance" and the whole charming story. They are all so good at making you feel your best. While checking out I got into a wine discussion with Mario, the owner. The result was he gave us a bottle of Pinot Nero to try and send him feed back. He's thinking of putting it on his list. It's hard to let go...But more Italy and travel adventures are calling.

So we take off and make the 2 hour drive "back to Italy". Trento is lovely and quiet. We check into the Aquila D'oro easily. First priority is to get the laundry done. So we walk the few blocks on the other side of the Piazza Duomo and find the self service lavanderia. We got it done, leaving it all for a while to check out the beautiful baroque duomo. Amy and I listened to the history on one of those telephone booth things. There are bones in the crypt under here from 372bc because it is the site of an early Christian church. This is an odd photo of the side chapel:

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And here's the clock tower:
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Doing the laundry was SO hot. Believe me--it was just too hot in there. We walked back by way of:

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for a lemon granite.

After some down time, we got dressed (ever so slightly) up for our dinner at Ai Tre Garofoni. We sat outside hoping for a breeze. His amuse was a cold cucumber yogurt soup. We all ate very well. The apps were the best part. Ken's pasta, a play on traditional Ligurian pesto with potatoes and little green beans also had a shrimp ragu but tasted mostly like pesto. His was outstanding. Our other 3 were just plain excellent. I had a squid and vegetable fritter, Amy Polenta, mushroom with soft white melted cheese on it. Kev's fried cheese from Moena in a buckwheat crust came in a martini type glass with an apple cabbage slaw under it. After complimerntary glasses of prosecco, we ordered a bottle of white. The owner suggest a Kerner thought we'd give this wine one more chance.
The entrees were just a tad less successful. Ken had wonderful pork with an eggplant and a zucchini mush. I tried, for the first time ever, baby goat. The flavors were wonderful but for such a hot night I realized that eating braised meat wasn't the smartest choice. The small potato pancake and the chard on the side were perfect.
Amy had fabulous ravioli and Kev had fish wrapped in "crispy Turkish angel hair"
We go 2 dessert for the table and neither of them thrilled us. The bill was 198 euros.

We strolled around the pedestrian area, window shopping. The sales are on.
It was about 11pm and still too hot:

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July 2, 2012

Day trip from Trento

Realizing the day would be another scorcher,with the help of our new hotel friend Fiona, we decided on a day trip. After breakfast we took off for Rovereto, less than half an hour south of Trento to visit the MART--modern/contemporary art museum. It was such a surprise that a city as small as Rovereto would have such a large and sophisticated museum. The building itself was impressive. Here's the entrance courtyard (back to the museum:

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At the end of the visit we went outside to the sculpture garden. The works are huge. I like how this one's line seems to mimic the view:

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Then, like just about every other family in the area, we drove to Riva del Garda. The lake is a natural beauty but the people watching was so distracting sometimes I forgot where we were. Where we parked the car it was really hot--like mid 90's but when you get close to the lake there is a wonderful cool wind (not breeze) blowing. It was instant comfort. We sat and strolled; Amy and Kev actually went into the water which was much rougher (think real waves) than I would ever imagine. The beach is mostly stones but for just a few feet, then there's a lovely soft grassy area where we sat in the shade. I took most of these pictures from where we sat:

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It was a feast of human interest.

We came back to the hotel and very quickly went downstairs to the bar for a spritz or beer and some little snacks they were serving. Amy said they were "Costco" food and I think she nailed it. She and I sat outside gazing at the piazza duomo and feeling the excitement building in town for the Euro cup final between Italy and Spain. Lot of people were in blue shirts, carrying Italian flags, faces painted. Big time!

Fiona reserved us a place for an early dinner which was an easy walk. We all had pasta dishes--mine was a tortellini filled with ricotta and local truffles with shave "grey" truffles on top. Quite good! I liked Amy's very green spinach gnocchi. All the food was good and the bill for the 4 of us was just 72 euros.

We walked home through the piazza. The light was beautiful.

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Lots of young people gathering all over the place with large screen TV's at many outside bars. I got red/green/white stripes painter on my face and we came up to watch the disappointing game. We went down for gelato at half time but by then the crowds were already subdued by the increasingly obvious inevitability of the loss.

I called Kathryn at the half and she answered screaming "Viva Espana" and her voice made my night!

July 3, 2012

Trento all day

We realized there was still plenty of Trento we hadn't seen and Amy really wanted to shop so we set off on foot and took in a lot of territory. Many of the historic buildings have written (Italian, German and English) explanations out in front. This is something I don't remember from our visit 2 years ago. Here's Kev reading one:

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We were constantly looking up at the frescoes and designs.
We passed by this little galleria:

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There were several frescoed buildings and interesting statues. We spent a long time appreciating one palazzo with phytomorphic (plant like--a new word for me) designs and lots of detail:

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We spent a while in a hardware/cookware store that also sold fancy swords.

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We walked through a community garden which was a restoration of an ancient Roman garden. Amy and I loved all the herbs and roses. The sign said something like "We care for the garden; we care for each other".

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The Castel Buonconsiglio was our goal even though we knew it is closed on Mondays. I wish we could have gone inside.

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Then we went to a park and sat for a while. Kev hated the modern monument in honor of DeGasperi, a local political hero.

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Finally we got some panini and sat on the duomo steps in the shade to eat. We were just 100 yards from Grom. They would have been so insulted if we didn't partake. I tried their new flavor of the month--peach with bits of amaretto cookies and chocolate chips--not my favorite but the raspberry was the perfect hot day treat.

Before dinner we wanted to go back to the Duomo and we did get to explore the little museum underneath with the "paleochristian" ruins including mosaic floors and sarcophigi. Also all of the local Bishops are buried down there.

I love the back door of the duomo:

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We went up to the hotel for a rest. A brief but intense hail storm came through and cooled everything off.
Dinner time: downstairs for a nice rose of Trento DOC sparkling wine and then we walked to a pizza place called Rosa D'oro. The pizza was good and so were the salads but I ordered grilled veggies with cheese and it tasted like it had been in a refrigerator for too long. We also had a side order of "crauti" warm sour kraut wih bits of bacon(?) in it--it was a Tyrolian restaurant after all.

A little walk after dinner and that was that.

I took this classic Trento shot during our "picnic" lunch:

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July 4, 2012

Ciao Trento/Ciao Bergamo

We all got up early to pack, have breakfast and run a few little errands in lovely Trento. Amy had to go to the post office so Kev and I walked with her there. Kev went back to Aquila D’Oro to finish packing and I went in search of a little present we could leave for sweet Fiona who had been so kind to us. Mission accomplished—I got her a 5 euro bag of mixed candies and they even put a nice ribbon on it for us. I was thrilled to be walking the lively streets of Trento by myself. Check out was easy and we were on our was to Bergamo. I think the drive took us a little over 2 hours and shocking, given the paltry direction we had--we didn’t get lost, at all.

The little apartment we rented at the Hotel Il Gourmet is just fine although it took Kenny about 15 minutes to get the air conditioning to work and communication was difficult with the staff.

We met our dear friend, Massimo, at a little coffee/bakery right down the hill from us—5 minutes walk.

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Kind of a crazy scene there with lots of kids coming in to buy candy or gelato. And the waiter insisting that we learn Bregamasco dialect instead of the Italian we are already struggling with. We also got 4 little pastries to taste including the local polentina which is a little cake made to look like a pile of polenta with a tiny animal on top—either a pig or bird. It was mostly marzipan and tasty but Massimo tells us it’s just for tourists.

With Massimo as our private guide we walked through the crowded streets of the citta alta.

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He told us some of the history, religious significance and some personal notes. We even got to visit his high school. Highlights for me were going into the special Tasso library where he has done so much of his work becoming an expert on the 16th century poet from Bergamo. Look closely and you can see that these, very well dressed, women are trying to read and interpret an old text. The pages were partially transparent and the old hand written words were brown.

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Here's Kev and Massimo posing with Tasso in the library:

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This picture is for Anthony and Lyn—Massimo with his poet, Tasso.

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We spent a while in the Colleoni chapel, an over the top example of Baroque. Colleoni was a very rich and self important mercenary. And we went into the Santa Maria Magiore church right beside it which is also full of incredible details. The were doing some interesting restoration work there. The exterior was chock full of detail in marble. Massimo had us touch, for good luck, a symbol of 3 balls which stand for Colleoni.

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We walked on to the other side of the citta alta learning and gaping with interest the whole way. Finally we gave up—so tired and Ken and I really needed a shower before our visit to Massimo’s parents.

Massimo picked us up at the hotel and drove us to his parents home which is really beautiful. They have lots of cool art on the walls and the themselves could not have been sweeter. We ate outside on their patio in the fresh air. His mom cooked and the dad helped clean up. She made pasta with pesto (yes, just what I have been craving!) and then we had some cold meets and cheese with bread and salad. We brought the wine we’ve been carrying around with us and it was good.

After dinner we went on a short walk with Massimo and his mom. I felt great walking beside her talking about our families like old friends. We are truly so extremely fond of Massimo and I think she can tell that beyond our words. He drove us home and we chatted with Amy and Kev for a very little while before getting into the welcome bed.

July 5, 2012

Citta Alta

Got up and went to the cheerful garden for breakfast.

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It was a total surprise that we got breakfast here at all because we are in an apartment so, even though it was just coffee, yogurt and rolls, it was welcome. We met 2 Norwegian couples who have traveled together often, like we have. It was great talking with them.

Bergamo has two parts—the old city is higher and called the citta alta ;the more modern city is the citta bassa. Our hotel is in the citta alta. It was a short walk to the botanical gardens where we enjoyed seeing all the local plants and trees. Then we took the finiculare car up to the top and walked around ending with a little explore of the castle and Amy, Ken and I climbed to the top of the tower.

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An amazingly lit Japanese maple we walked past:

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and a view of the citta alta form above:

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We took the finiculare back down and after a short walk into the citta alta chose a large restaurant call Circolino to stop for some nice salads for lunch. We came back to the hotel for a while and then Amy and I struck out on our own for her to find gifts to bring back. We went into several stores on the main street and finally she found what she needed and I got a bag of the polenta taragna I was wanting.

The restaurant we wanted to go to for dinner was closed so we went, instead, to Da Ornella. It was very simple (not a problem) but they did have casoncelli which is the local Bergamasco stuffed pasta and it was wonderful in a butter and sage sauce. We also shared “stinco di miale” a roasted pork shank with polenta. Amy and Kev had a roasted chicken with garlic and parsley. All the meats came with polenta (normale not taragna) and were good home style cooking. Bill was 72 euro.
We all had a local Cabernet which was nice and cool and went down very easily.

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Final Day 2012

We got up early. I crammed in my blog post and we all had a quicky breakfast at the hotel. We drove Amy and Kevin to Linate airport; there was some traffic backing up around Milan but it was not horrible and they got there with time to spare. Good byes were teary, loving, huggy--well just imagine. We had really done this trip and along with the sadness we were all just thrilled we had made this dream a reality.

Ken and I turned the car around and headed for Venice. Got here around 1:00. Checked into the Imperial Hotel right near Piazzale Roma. Our room is tiny but the A/C definitely works and it was no hassle coming from the car rental place, with all of our baggage, and going back to take the bus in the morning will be easy.

We headed over to the very nearby Majer for shakerato and a couple of tremezzini. We had a list of little errands to run--gifts to buy etc. We broke it all up by sitting in Campo Santa Maria Formaosa with a spritz and a beer for an hour. It was in the mid 90's here today--not conducive to walking, full speed ahead, through the crowded Venice streets. We got everything done, just about, or we gave up on some things. We got our shuttle bus tickets for the morning and rested in the room for a while.

Dinner was a big decision and finally we decided to go to Osteria ae Cravate--not too far and not too fancy. We had walked by this place a thousand times and never eaten there. it was a perfectly satisfying dinner. We started with fantastic, super fresh mussels and clams in a nice broth with a little bit of chopped fresh tomato in it.
Ken had a pasta with pesto which was OK but no WoW factor. I had monkfish with vegetables which was on the same level. Ken had a beer and I had a very generous glass of prosecco and we shared a tiramisu. Bill came to 57euros. Not too bad for a fine meal sitting outside in Venice.

Now we are back in the hotel room. Everything is organized and packed. We plan to catch the 7:20 shuttle to the airport.

It's been awesome in the literal sense of the word. I feel satisfied and ready to go home.

This was a great trip!

July 10, 2012

Random Photos

I still have a small bunch of photos which I left on my desktop but never quite fit into a blog post. They all represent great memories to me so I thought I'd share them.

I'll try to put them in chronological order.

First, the door to our apartment building in Rome. You can see we were in the best possible location! I still remember the wonderful earthy smell of the "all things pork" shop, right next door.

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I saw this man and his dog in the little piazza in front of the Ducal Palace in Urbino.

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Ken waiting for the start of the event at the Doges Palace in Venice:

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Our apartment, in Venice, from across the bridge over the Fondamenta Minotto--white building, top floor on the right:

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Two very different views of the Bridge of Sighs:

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View from our apartment looking left:

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View from the street towards our neighborhood:

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Graduation celebration parade heading for the little bar called Lele:

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I think that's enough for one post.
More, soon.


July 19, 2012

More Photos

Oh, how I miss Venice and Italian travel in general! I think of the freedom, the visual beauty, the musical language, the adventure, the clear tastes and layered smells.

All of these photos are from Venice.

A wall...

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A window in Campo Santa Margherita:

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A wall on the far side of Giudecca:

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Kiosk right near where we sat to eat the "fish fry" on Saturdays at Rialto:

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Where the public signs are insufficient, the local residents have done this:

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Such a pretty little bridge, at Campo San Barnaba:

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Hot day: A spritz for me and gelato for Ken--at Campo Santa Maria Formosa

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One of the saddest, Catch 22, type things in Venice is the presence of the "grandi navi" the giant cruise ships that are destroying the canal. They dump thousands of tourists onto the precious island. They don't usually spend any money except for a few trinkets because all of their food and board are provided on the ships. And the ecological impact is enormous. Here they are from the hotel window (Hotel Imperial, last night in Italy)

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View, looking the other way, from the hotel room window :

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I will do one more post of shots from out of Venice--soon.

July 24, 2012

One more installment--Rome, Tuscany and Le Marche

These photos are not from Venice but the first half of the trip.

We started with a week in Rome and this shot of a lone poppy in the ruins near Portico Ottavia is memorable:

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and this one of a photographer set up inside the Pantheon--a place I wish we had gone to more than once.

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Our first stop was Montisi in Tuscany where we made a little day trip to Pienza and then to the garden tour at the La Foce estate. The tour guide was straight out of central casting:

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Staying at Locanda dalle Valle Nuova near Urbino was a treat. I had "known" Giulia online for years but we had never met. She is so engaging, entertaining and full of life! I will never forget when she interrupted our special dinner with wonderful friends, Palma and Brad to show us the sunset.

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The views and the flowers--just so much natural beauty:

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August 1, 2012

Keeping the memories alive

This is, really, my last installment for Italy 2012.
All of these photos are from the "third half" of our trip--after Venice and through to the end.

First off--Amy and me taking it all in, on the trail to the Duino castello, just north of Trieste:

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This one was taken with the self timer and the camera on a rock during our second hike in the Dolomites. We were really feeling good!

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View...

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Sign in the valley indicating that the area is a Unesco World Heritage site:

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My dear dear friend and travel companion, Amy, on the balcony of our room at the Hotel Maribel:

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And another glamour shot of Amy on the street in Trento:

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Street in the center of Trento:

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Ken and Kev--they never missed a bench-talk opportunity:

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I got my face painted in the Piazza Duomo before the Euro Cup final match:

faccia.jpg

Do we look happy or what?--Gelato tasting at Grom in Trento:

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One more from the baroque Santa Maria Maggiore church in Bergamo:

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The orchard behind the Hotel Il Gourmet in Bergamo:

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Thanks everyone for reading, commenting, encouraging and coming along on our wonderful ride.

Hope I'll be doing it again in a couple of years!

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