Nove, Venezia, and Caprino Veronese & Chickens, Gondola’s, and Italian 4’th of July

Ciao,

I did it again! Booked us beyond adventure full! Will and I have been so busy I am unsure of how to fit our lives into a blog. I mean, ya’all shouldn’t worry too much, next spring I go back to school and then my posts will become much more boring. So, I guess that means we should soak up all this craziness while we can!

I think I can (somewhat) safely say that we are in a lull until September, but I have thought that before and it has come back to bite me.

Let’s start with where we left off, for it certainly seems like our lives blend one week into another, never stopping.

Will’s high school friend (B) and her partner (M) came back to stay a couple of days. (I have to start identifying our friends by initials because we actually have a bunch of them. Seriously, how did that happen?) They had a whirlwind trip through Cinque Terre, Florence, and Sorrento before we picked them back up at the airport Monday night. In between good food and lots of drinks we managed to make it to Bassano del Grappa, Marostica, Venezia, and Nove to grab a ceramic chicken pitcher.

What?! you ask, why would anyone (apart from those who decorate with chickens) want a chicken pitcher. The short answer…so assassins don’t sneak in and kill you and your family.

Sounds confusing right? Who has to worry about assassins?

Well, apparently Giuliano Medici, though I am guessing thanks to their wealth most Medici’s had to keep a vigilant eye. The problem was that in 1478 Giuliano wasn’t as interested in keeping a vigilant eye as he was in throwing a lavish party. The Medici’s strongest rivals, the Pazzi’s used Giuliano’s playboy ways to their advantage and waited until he threw an epic party. So much wine was imbibed at this hoedown that everyone passed out drunk. The Pazzi’s knew this was the time to send in their assassins. Too bad they had hired themselves some discount assassins. The fools made so much noise sneaking up on the partiers that they roused the suspicions of every chicken in the courtyard. Now, anyone who has had chickens as pets, egg layers, or future stew knows that chickens are a bunch of busy bodies that can’t keep their mouth shut. (I mean, who hasn’t read the story of Chicken Little?) So, these suspicious chickens took to making a racket, like a bunch of old biddies woken from their slumber while they waited up with their shotgun for their daughter on prom night. The racket caused by the chickens was enough to wake the previously passed out guards. Giuliano’s guards were still better at their jobs drunk and hungover then the cheap assassins the Pazzi’s had hired and they killed all the would be killers’.

Giuliano’s was so pleased with the chickens that he threw another epic shindig. For this frolic he had the local artisans make wine pitchers that looked like chickens. He then handed them out to the local populace stating that the chickens were a sign of good luck when warding off assassins. I notice none of the credit was given to the guards, that still managed to save Giuliano’s butt while still intoxicated. It was probably this exact lack of favor shown to the guards that allowed the Pazzi’s to make good on their assassination attempt in April of 1478. Nowadays, chicken pitchers are given to friends and family to ward of danger and trespassers. (FYI there are some major problems with the story as a whole, because of the timeline and the city where this was all purported to have taken place no longer existing, but all in all in makes a charming reason to buy a pitcher that looks like a chicken.)

Chicken pitchers purchased we also took our M & B to Bassano del Grappa and Marostica but I told you about those places last week so I will skim ahead to the next day (which happened to be July 4th). The four of us went to Venezia (Venice) for the day. We started the whole day with a gondola ride. All four of us were gondola newbies, so it was a new adventure for all. Our guide, Cristiano, explained all about the history and construction of Venezia. I learned some really neat things about how to date the age of the buildings and how some canal passages are only accessible at low tide. It was a fun tour.

We spent the rest of the day milling around, looking for masks (it is what Venice is known for), eating and drinking (I don’t know if my liver will ever recover from their visit but I plan to flush it with good old fashion water for the next month or so just to be safe). We ended the evening  back at our place on the front patio eating typical Italian fare. Mozzarella, tomatoes, salami, fresh bread, olives, and more wine. We said a fond farewell to our friends Thursday, and prepared for the weekend.

Another set of friends (E & W) were hosting a Fourth of July party Italian style. What does that mean you might ask? It means BBQ with copious amounts of Prosecco, guitars played by locals (and Will) featuring music we knew and music we didn’t. Tongue twisters in two different languages, lots of laughter, more food, dessert, food, and did I mention Prosecco. (I’ll tell you a secret, I just kept filling my wine glass up with water so I didn’t have to worry about anyone adding Prosecco to it). There were only about 7 of us that spoke English, we were definitely outnumbered by the Italian speakers (who mostly only spoke Italian) but we made it all work and had a wonderful time.

We stayed the night in a charming b&b with a gorgeous view of a church on hill. Our hostess served us breakfast that included her husbands first place winning salami. Now, you all know how I feel about salami but I must have eaten close to a dozen slices of this homemade wonder. After breakfast we headed back down the hill to W & E’s place and then went on a hike with them through the woods close to their place.

 

There was an art in the woods event where local artists (I am assuming local) have created displays for one to happen upon as they hike along. Some we liked, some we didn’t but overall, it was really a neat display.

Finally we headed back home to try and get some sleep to mentally prepare for the coming work week. Honestly, I don’t know how Will balances the adventures I keep dragging him on with being so good at his job but he does manage and for that I am grateful.

It’s thanks to him that we get to have these wonderful adventures!

This week promises to be a little quieter (I think/hope) as I try and figure out how to harvest lavender seeds and try and decide on what kind of composter I want to build. Not as exciting as Italian Fourth of July but I do need some recovery time before our next guests arrive!

Until next week

Ciao miei Amici

48 Hours Part 2 – Where did the Week GO?

Ciao,

This week and weekend went by in a flash, like zip, smack, blam, oh heck it’s Monday morning already?!

I assumed (apparently incorrectly) that this week was going to end up being pretty mellow and I would get to tell you all about my last Sunday’s trip to Maristoca and Bassano del Grappa. And I will give you the highlights but dang, it is getting crazy up in Italy for the summer. I am going to need a summer to recover from my summer if we don’t slow down soon. (Hopefully, that will happen in another two or three weeks and then I can catch a breather before we have friends and family start showing up for the fall).

When I left you last week we had just experienced our first Italian block party and we had a good time. Sunday we grabbed another one of our friends and headed towards Marostica and Bassano del Grappa.

Both cities (maybe they are too small to be called cities…villages isn’t right because they are too big for that, I am going to settle on towns) are within 30 minutes of us. Marostica is known for its living Chess Match, which takes place every other year in September. Yep, I said living! People dress up as the king, queen, bishops, pawns and knights etc. and then are moved around a giant chessboard in the town square. And yes, we already have tickets. Marostica is also known for its cherries. Soooo tasty! We climbed up to the top of the Superior Castle. Ruins where they have a B&B, a restaurant, and I am guessing a venue for weddings. It was a hot and fairly steep grade climb but well worth it. (I managed to hike it in my sandals, if I can so can you). The views were spectacular. After a drink at the top and a hike down (some in our group called it easier but they weren’t wearing sandals) we found a place for some pizza before heading towards Bassano del Grappa.

I am guessing by the name alone you can guess what Bassano del Grappa is known for. That’s right!! Grappa! Many different varieties and flavors. Yeah, I know I don’t like grappa but I still like the idea of experiencing the history of it. Now, speaking of history, the Romans settled in the Bassano area around the 2nd century BC but artifacts that have been found in the town place inhabitants in the area as early as 7th century BC and some suggest people had settled here even earlier than that. The town was originally just called Bassano Veneto named after a 2nd century Roman called Bassianus. Obviously over many centuries it became identified as Bassano Veneto, part of the original name from Bassianus and then Veneto as the region it was located in. In World War I there was a terrible battle on Mount Grappa where thousands of soldiers lost their lives. In tribute to these brave men the name of Bassano Veneto was changed to its present name, Bassano del Grappa in 1928. The symbol of the town is a wooden bridge the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) (yes, there are many old bridges in Italy) or Ponte degli Alpini (Bridge of the Alpini). The Alpini are an elite force of soldiers that are known for their mountain fighting. The bridge was designed in 1569 by Andrea Palladio (the same man responsible for designing the majority of historical structures in Vicenza).

Our friends from Florida showed up Wednesday morning and we spent the day with them before turning them loose at the train station to make their way around Italy. (We pick them up tonight and I am sure there will be some shenanigans over the next three days).

Friday night we accidentally ended up in a Street Fest downtown Vicenza. How do you accidentally end up in a street fest you ask? Mostly because we didn’t know it was happening until we got down there and then tried to look for a restaurant for an hour and a half. After tentative plans to meet friends down there (they had a friend visiting from Germany) we realized there was a lot of music and people (A LOT of people). We finally managed to find food and then I saw a little girl with a balloon that had lights on it. (I have a penchant for balloons). (I know they are bad for the environment but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them). Well, these balloons were plastic not latex so they will be easy to recycle and the string was fairy lights. Will loves me (I mean he loves me anyway but he also indulges my silliness) and for the very large grin he received happily purchased me a balloon with fairy lights. BEST STREET FAIR PRIZE EVER!!!

The next night we went to dinner with the friend we took to Marostica, because he also had a friend in from Germany (not the same German friend, in fact an American friend teaching in Germany visiting friends in Italy) (Yeah, keep all that straight, I barely can)

On the way out of his apartment he accidentally left the keys in the lock inside the door. Locking yourself out of your house actually happens a lot in Europe. I have done it twice, I know Will has done it at least once (but I left a window open that time). The problem this time was the keys still in the lock, so even though he had a spare set it didn’t do him any good at 10:00 at night. Our friend and his friend became our first overnight guests. Ha! The best laid plans and all that jazz. But I had clean sheets for everybody and that was the important part (and new toothbrushes which I think earns me extra brownie points). Seriously, a couple of errands, a nap, some dinner and early bedtime where did my weekend go?

Several loads of laundry and a quick house pickup, floor sweeping madness later, I am ready for the next guests and some more adventures. Oh! Oh! Oh! We also have another party to go to this coming Saturday an Italian Fourth of July party (don’t try and figure that one out, you will just hurt your brain) Italians don’t need an excuse for a party but they will use every one they can. I can’t wait to tell you about this coming week. It’s going to be awesome.

Till then,

Ciao miei Amici

A quick note… this handsome little devil turned 6 months!!! Oh my goodness so much cuteness. I can’t wait until his Mama and Dad bring him for a visit in September! Love my nipote (grandson)!

Old Friends, New Friends and a Trip to the Past

Ciao Amici!

Allora, (basically, well then, in Italian) it has been two weeks since the return from our hiking trip and Scotland and I really miss the cooler weather. With the temperatures jumping up to the 90’s (32 c) and the humidity staying strong at a soul crushing 70% I could use a cool ocean breeze. I have decided to cook only with slow cooker or electric pot with minimal use of the stove top and absolutely no oven. My oven may not get used for months in these temperatures.

So with the heat upon us I decided it was a good time to teach my Italian friend how easy it is to make tacos and guacamole (at her house, of course). Tacos, guacamole and too much wine. The argument could be made by some that there is no such thing as too much wine but I personally would have to disagree. I like my summer wine cool and refreshing without the added effects of a headache the next day. One of our friends does not believe in empty glasses, so while I cooked he made sure I had plenty of wine until I reminded him that I needed to drive home too. He then turned his attention to Will, this is the result…

Not his usual ride but he rode it with a certain panache.

The next day, a slightly headachy Will and I took off towards the mountains of Lake Garda. We made a quick stop in Verona for cheese.

Yes, cheese.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when we discussed how aghast my father was about what a bad Italian I am? Well, he is such a good Italian that he and his wife have already eaten the 20 pounds (9 kilos), yep, I said 20, of cheese that they brought home with them last year from Italy. Apparently it was a cheese emergency, they were down to their last 400 grams and so I had to find a specific brand of parmigiano reggiano to send to them. Yesterday, I sent them 10 pounds to hold them over. Honestly, that’s the most cheese I have ever bought at one time in my life. Thank all the gods for self checkout so I didn’t have to try and explain my father’s cheese emergency in my terrible Italian to a confused checkout clerk.

After procuring the cheese we drove on up to Caprino Veronese and met some newer friends. The town is a smaller community and everyone seems to know each other. There is less English there and Will and I stumbled through the spattering of Italian words that we know. Our friends, showed us the house they have bought, it is a 400 year old pasture house surrounded by forest and pastures of sheep. It is a beautiful old building, which they will be doing some small renovations too, I would love to live there. Up on the hillside surrounded by nature. Though I would probably have to downsize my home again. We ate lunch with them, tomatoes and mozzarella, hard cheeses and nuts, grissini (breadsticks), crackers and fruit. It was a wonderful repast and very typical for Italy in the heat. Plus I do love me some tomatoes with some mozzarella on them. I don’t keep them in the house because I could honestly eat a mozzarella ball a day and that isn’t good for anyone’s waistline.

We drove up even further into the mountains to Mt. Baldo and looked at some WWI trenches and talked about some hikes and bike rides that we might do in the future. It would be nice to hike up in the hills and get out of the heat down here.

After exploring some of the area we headed towards Affi and the walled area of their Old City where there was a medieval festival happening.

Now, I have been to several kinds of medieval fests in several states and a couple of countries and each one has something different to offer you. If you want a party and good time I recommend the one in Maryland. Libations, singing, entertainment of various natures as well as scantily clad bosoms abound in this area (I may have participated in one or more of these areas when I lived there). In Arizona they had great villages set up but the Arizona fest seemed more geared to the children then the adults. (The exact opposite of the Maryland fest). Less music and entertainment over all.

When we moved to Germany we found that during the late spring, summer and early fall months you could (depending on how far you were willing to drive) got to a renaissance or medieval fest almost every weekend. We had a wonderful time exploring different towns and taking in the different levels of their commitment to re-creating a medieval or renaissance atmosphere. One of our favorites, Burg Lichtenberg, was great because they not only did the summer fest but also a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) in the medieval style also.

A new fest every weekend is one of the things I miss about Germany. That’s not to say Italy doesn’t have their festivals, they do, but they are not necessarily centered around the renaissance or medieval period.

The one in Affi was more of a reenactment of life for normal people (You know, not nobility, because no matter how much some people would like to believe that everyone had a cushy rich life with servants in the renaissance some people had to be poor, really the majority of them. Cushy lives were not the norm).

So, what I didn’t like was that they had very few food vendors for snacking. They had a set eating time (7 pm) and if you were hungry before then you were mostly out of luck. The other issues was the only drinks seemed to be beer or wine. Kids (and those people that didn’t want alcohol) apparently just had to suffer until dinner time. There also didn’t seem to be very much for sale. I have found in other fests that artisan wares are plentiful but in this one it seemed harder to determine if something was for sale.

What I loved was the people dressed in hand sewn costumes, some with beads and buttons they had made from pouring metal into a mold. I loved the fact that many of them were working their crafts while we watched. They were also willing to explain their crafts to onlookers. Many of them spoke English but for those who didn’t they spoke slowly and gestured to what they were doing, plus we had several people with us that spoke both Italian and English.

My favorite? Whew, that is a tough question.

I liked the man that was making string instruments by hand (carving the wood for the neck of, well some kind of instrument) I really liked learning how they made paper from old rags of cotton or linen, that was then pulverized, mixed with water and then gathered on a wire mesh to dry. I enjoyed the companionship of the washer women as they beat the long sheets against the water before ringing them out. The man who designed leather cases for everything from glasses, to cups, to combs was neat as he walked us through the process of making a wooden mold and then stitching the leather before dying and tooling it. Then there was a woman who was re-creating buttons and jewelry. She explained making molds out of squid bone or soapstone and the process of melting down the metals and finishing them.

Everyone was interesting and it was another of example of how I can’t wait until I understand the language better so that I can learn more.

After a while we decided we were too hungry to wait for 7 pm dinner and took the short drive back to Caprino Veronese to the Pizzeria Olympia for a pizza and beer.

It was a great adventure all the way around.

We have nothing too exciting planned for the next week as we begin to get ready for the hordes of visitors we are hosting this fall but I am sure I will come up with some story to tell you

Until then

Ciao miei Amici

Scotland Part 2

Ciao di Nuovo,

This technically means “Hello of New”, the Italians don’t actually say this much but they might say “Ciao Ancora” which means “Hello Again”. I think I like them both so I will have to start using them more often. So, Ciao Ancora, here I am again to tell you the next stages of our adventure.

When I left you yesterday Will and I had just finished our lunch and had set out again towards St. Abbs. We were starting to get sore but our spirits were high. The fog was rolling in and then receding allowing us glimpses of spectacular cliffs and the North Sea crashing onto the rocks below. Honestly, I am pretty sure that the fog played into our favor, WIll is apprehensive of heights but the fog gave the illusion that the fall wasn’t that dangerous. Realistically we were a couple of poorly placed steps away from death by falling 500 feet (150 m) and being smashed onto the rocks by the added weight of our packs, unless, we were lucky enough to have a heart attack on the way down.

I wisely, did not mention these possibilities to Will while we were hiking. Regardless of the threat to our left Will decided that this was the time to tell me he loved tacos more than me. Yep, we are on a coastal path 500 feet (150 m) above a saltwater, rocky demise and my adventure partner tells me he would trade my life for a crunchy corn shell filled with seasoned ground meat, shredded cheese, lettuce, and taco sauce. I turned to look at him and he just laughed at me, so here we are several miles from St. Abbs and I have been usurped by a taco. Like that’s not heartbreaking, I mean tacos are good and all and I suppose if you eat them from a questionable venue then they will keep you warm at night but can you really have a scintillating conversation with a taco? And when you finish eating it’s gone forever, but my sarcastic wit and snappy humor (along with temper tantrums from lack of coffee) lasts a lifetime. I contemplated throwing him off a cliff for roughly two miles. Then as we approached the St. Abbs lighthouse he told me he had reconsidered the situation and if he had to choose between me and a taco he would let the taco plummet to its crunchy death. I was somewhat mollified.

Taco’s aside, you know what’s worse then trudging uphill when your legs are sore?

Stairs! Stairs are the worst.

We climbed them to get up to the promontory of St. Abbs lighthouse. The St. Abbs lighthouse is one of 200 along the Scottish wild coastline to help provide safe passage for ships in the area. It has provided light to the coastline since 1862 and its precarious position on a rocky ledge jutting over the seas reminds us of the dangers to be had traversing the coastline of the North Seas.

I couldn’t resist looking over the edge to see the drop and angular rocks below. Will waited for me on the path and I tell you truthfully that would have been the place I would have tossed his taco!

However, not having any tacos and loving my husband enough to not torture him with the death of a taco we walked on.

We both felt excited about the fact that St. Abbs was “within our sights”. Now, according to Google Maps St. Abbs is a quick 40 min walk… Google Maps does not follow the Coastal Path, in fact, Google Maps is just mean! A couple of hours later after many uphills, more stairs, downhills, and a walk through the St. Abbs Nature Reserve (which was beautiful and full of humanity as several people took advantage of the nice weather to walk through the Nature Reserve) we arrived above St. Abbs. It had been a beautiful day with stunning scenery but both of us were glad to make it to a town. More stairs, and yes down is as hard as up when your legs are jello, but we made it from the cliffs down all the stairs and began to look for a cafe to get some coffee and food.

When you walk into an unknown village or town there is a strange expectation that a cafe is just going to appear but often when your transportation is your own feet food establishments are not as apparent. They tend to cater to other forms of transportation. Another thing to consider is that many restaurants in Europe keep their hours “differently” than American hours. In America we are used to being able to get anything we want 24/7 in Europe they have restaurants close between lunch and dinner, or maybe they don’t serve dinner and are only open until 2 or 3. Maybe they don’t open until 11 in the morning. No matter what it is you have to be very aware of opening and closing times. When you are on the trail opening, closing and proximity must all join together to form a perfect union.

Most everything was closed or not near (4 miles is a long way to go for food when you are on foot and would have to walk those 4 miles back to get back on your route) but we found the EbbsCarr cafe. We walked up and the server told us we have stopped serving food because we close in less than an hour. I think she could see the abject defeated desperation on our faces because the next words out of her mouth were, if you chose quickly I will fill your food order. It was like being given a magnificent present. We ordered soup, rolls, coffee, and sweet bars.

A quick aside about the weather. It had rained lightly the previous evening and yes we had rolling fog but all in all the weather for our stay in Scotland was wonderful! Mostly sunny and very little rain. Many people expressed how lucky we were with the weather. The downside was that Scotland is significantly cooler than were we live in Italy. If we weren’t hiking I was cold. Hence, the soup and coffee was divine!

After profuse thanks to the ladies at EbbsCarr Cafe we set off again crossing the beaches at Coldingham Bay and then climbing back out of the St. Abbs area. It was now after 5, we were tired and thinking that we needed a to find a camp spot. But there was no camping near Coldingham Bay so up and down into the next bay. It didn’t have a great place for camping and so we forced ourselves on. The next bay we came to was called Linkim Shore. There was not much sand but there was a shelf of grasslands before ferns took over. It was here that we camped. In my mind it was more beguiling than our first camp spot. The rocky shores made it an unlikely place for most tourists but the raw beauty appealed to me. I broke down and collected two shells to carry with me. I had been adamant about not adding extra weight but sometimes you give in. We set up camp and enjoyed the evening, finally crawling into our sleeping bags.

Did I mention that our legs were sore? Yeah, well it was during the night that I realized I couldn’t lift my left leg without help (you know pulling up on my pants to lift my leg up and set it where I wanted it, my legs were toast). I was also cold, much colder than I had been the night before. With my thermals on and all the blankets covering me I finally dozed, then high tide came in. We weren’t that far away from the high waterline to start with but far enough that we weren’t worried about getting wet… we hadn’t counted on the sound of hightide against our rocky shore. It sounded like the water was going to crash over us at any second.

We talked about it the next morning and strangely neither one of us had looked outside of the tent during the night not wanting to confront the idea that the water was closer than we had expected. A look at the beach area in the morning showed that hightide hadn’t come anywhere near us. It was just noisy.

We relaxed as we rehydrated breakfast and then packed camp, moving much slower than the previous day. Our legs protested and I needed Will’s help to get my pack on, I was definitely exhausted.

We climbed our way out of the Linkim Shore bay and started towards Eyemouth. It wasn’t all that far and we came around the corner to encounter a circus that had been set up and active during the weekend (it was Sunday so it would probably be running again later on). With the fog it looked like every haunted Stephen King book I had ever tried to imagine. I wouldn’t have been surprised if something was silently watching our progress as we skirted the carnival and headed back onto the path. Another hour or so brought us around to a walkout section towards the Eyemouth Fort. Not much there but a couple of cannons but we did our obligatory walk around and then continued on into town.

All the gods be praised we found a bakery/dinner that was serving breakfast!! We sat down to eggs, bacon, and toast with coffee.

And here I am leaving you again, I am always leaving you on a full belly so that is good. Apparently, I have more to say about this trip than I thought so I guess we will have at least a Part 3.

Just picture us relaxing with a cup of coffee in a small fishing harbor town and I will get back to you soon!

Until then,

Ciao miei Amici

We’re Alive!!

Ciao Amici!

I just wanted to let everyone know we survived. We landed back in Italy at 23:00 on Tuesday evening. The trip was a tiring and wonderful experience which I look forward to sharing with everyone. However, despite my best intentions between the exhaustion and a dentist appointment today I will not be blogging until next week. 

What??? A whole week without me rambling, how will you ever survive? Hey if I can manage to not push Will off a cliff when he declared he loves tacos more than me then we will all survive another couple of days without my jibber jabber! (He actually said he would save the taco if we were both on a cliff edge. In fairness, he recanted this remark after another two miles)

Until next week,

Ciao Amici.