A New Year and Too Much Stuff Happening

Ciao a Tutti,

Oh my goodness, so much going on. The holidays exploded all over my best-laid plans and took me on a roller coaster ride of fun, family, laughter, and love. (and a little flu but, hey, you gotta take the bad with the good.)

I am not complaining but just a little saddened that my time with my blog friends is going to be changing. Of course, I am also happy because I think in the long run the changes will all be for the better. Let me tell you about my plans for the future of Karyn’s Corner before I tell you about the last month.

I am trying to get a better handle on how social media works so I am able to utilize it in my blogging, Instagram, and various other media outlets. To that end, I will be releasing only one blog per month and working to release 

more Instagram posts. (If you don’t follow me on Instagram now is the time to jump on that bandwagon – you can find me @ karyns_corner) 

I know some of you keep up with the crazy life that Will and I have by the blog but I encourage you to check out the Instagram feed and also ‘like’ my ‘Karyns Corner’ page on facebook. And please, please, please be a little patient with me as I work to get this whole social media shebang up and running. January and February might be a little bumpy with school starting but I am hoping to have a handle on my posting by March. (Fingers crossed, I think the learning curve might be a little steep.)

So, what have I been up to the last month?

Probably the same as many of you, holidays, too much food, a little too much wine, not enough gelato (apparently 32 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold even for my love of gelato). Family, fun, laughter, oh and did I mention my parents came to stay with Will and me for a month.

First, let me say that even though I love my parents and my parents love me (and Will too) 28 days away from your own environment might be too long to endure. It’s a weird feeling when you are still semi-living out of a suitcase and don’t really have your own things or your own routine. That being said we had a really good time. Minus the fact that my mom brought us the flu and Will had to endure being dragged all over northern Italy sick. Thank goodness for farmacia’s (The Italian version of a pharmacy but better in many ways).

So a quick review of the last month and then please check out my Facebook page and Instagram for some more information and photos.

We started with a week in Firenze (Florence). My parents loved the old streets as much as I do. We visited the Gelateria Castellina, as many of you know I judge all other gelaterias by this spectacular gelato. It is about 30-40 minutes outside of Firenze, up in the hills, but so worth every minute for the taste of this gelato is amazing. Okay, so I could wax poetic about Gelateria Castellina for days but for the sake of word count let me move on.

The Firenze Duomo was as awe-inspiring as the first time I saw it. (Though I admit this is not my best photograph.) It will always bring mist to my eyes when I view it after an absence. I read a great book on the construction of the Dome and if anyone is interested I would highly recommend Ross Kings’s Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture. Though we did not climb the Dome this trip it is back on my ‘To Do Again’ list so I can look for some of Brunelleschi’s architecture in action. Will pointed out to my parents the safest spot in Firenze. There is a circle of marble on the ground commemorating the night of January 27, 1601, when the golden ball on top of the cupola was hit by lighting, detached, rolled down the dome and fell to hit the exact spot that the circle of marble now marks. Now, if you believe that lightning never strikes twice you know the safest spot in Firenze.

The holiday lights all over Firenze were ablaze and many of the shop windows were decorated in fun displays. We took a food tour with a group called ‘With Locals’ and our guide Christy was a great source of tasty information.

Will and I were also able to experience the Odeon Theater, a local old fashioned theater that plays the newest, hottest movies out – in the language they were filmed in- we saw Bohemian Rhapsody and I was very grateful to be able to see it in a giant theater, sitting in a plush golden chair.

Also, Firenze seems to have an agreement with Heidelberg, Germany and the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) was down in the Santa Croce Piazza. We like a good Weihnachtsmarkt and enjoyed the sights and smells of a mini German market.

Oh, and before we leave Firenze I need to do a quick shout out to one of our favorite restaurants in town Rooster Cafe on Via Porta Rossa. The food, the atmosphere, and the service are outstanding. Plus they have a house wine to die for. If you are in Firenze, even just for a night hit up Rooster Cafe for some tasty food.

After we came home to Vicenza we spent the days leading up to Christmas in a baking frenzy, fattigman, crispels, thumbprints, jammies, molasses spice, and chocolate peppermint sandwich cookies all made their appearance at our house.

Christmas came and went with a nice meal, presents from family near and far and a lot of love.

 

The day after Christmas we went to Venezia (Venice) to see the Moscow Ballet perform Swan Lake. It was magical, it took place in Teatro Goldoni, a theater built in 1622. Small but beautiful and pretty comfortable seats. Then it was a couple of days to prepare for a weekend in Milan.

 

Milan was hosting a Caravaggio exhibit in multimedia,

it was the story of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s life. He died in July of 1610 at age 38; he was a huge loss to the artistic community but his importance was lost and only rediscovered in the last century. The exhibit was amazing, audio and video while sitting in a room with large screens on three sides, immersing you in the life of Caravaggio. It was very, very well done. I may be a little biased since I am a huge Caravaggio fan but preferences are how things gain importance in our lives, so there you have it.

While in Milan my parents went to see The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, another painting worth seeing. (If you remember Will and I went to see it in October.) Then we all took a tour of the Casa degli Atellani where Leonardo’s personal vineyard was. It is an interesting house that has long times to the city and the Sforza family.

On our way home from Milan we stopped in Verona to take a tour of the Arena, get some gelato (of course) and my parents also went on a tour of nativities from all over the world.

Home once more we took a trip to Murano to see glass blowing in action, we also took a quick trip to Asiago to check outFort Corbin from World War I. Then back to Venice for another Leonardo Museum a quick view of San Marco Piazza and some shopping to round out my parents trip.

It was a long but delightful month and I am always happy when my family can visit me and I can share some of my life with them.

Now that the visit is over and school is about to start my life is going to undergo some shifts. There will still be adventures but probably more spread out and because of that and my commitment to school, I will, as I said earlier, be writing only once a month. But I am hoping to supplement that with my Instagram and Facebook. It’s going to be a great year and I look forward to sharing it all with you.

Ciao miei amici

 

Time Goes by so Fast

Ciao,

I know it has been a couple of weeks but I did warn you that with my daughter and her family in town I was going to be ultra busy.

And I was.

So busy I even neglected my house for two weeks, which, if you know me says a lot. I spent the last two weeks hanging out with my daughter (A), her other half (Z), Will, and the most adorable, and might I say, highly photogenic, grandson (Finnrito or F) anyone could ask for. It was a wonderful treat to have them here and it went by way too quickly.

We did so much I am just going to give you the highlight reel and it will still probably end up as a long post (Roll your eyes A!)

It took Finnrito about 2 days to shift his body clock to Italian time zone. It took A and Z a little longer. The first night after their flight we took them out for some excellent pizza with our local friends. Then we went for gelato at one of our favorite local places, Gelateria Rigoni. With that pizza and gelato as the ones to beat we began our adventures of sightseeing and lots of food.

On Saturday we took them to Malcesine Castle in Lake Garda. It was unfortunately hazy but we still had beautiful views and the kids enjoyed their first taste of Italian sightseeing. And F enjoyed dipping his toes in the lake!

I should have prefaced this with A has been to Italy before, in 2016 she came with Will and I on a 10 day whirlwind trip of sightseeing in Florence, Naples, and Rome. This was Z’s first time across the pond and also Finnrito (being only 9 months old) hasn’t made it over here before. Honestly, I am not sure how much F cares other than his new found love for gelato. However, I did try and take his picture in front of several notable places so he could say he has at least been there (even if he won’t remember it.)

We tried for several down days, as anyone who has done extensive traveling with a baby knows your time schedule is much different than when you are on a marathon “see all the sights, eat all the food, drink all the wine” trip. Your marathon days get pushed to nap time, which is okay. I also want to say that Finnrito is seriously the best, most laid back, easy going, happy baby I have ever dealt with. I have already told the kids not to have any more children as their next will most certainly been the devil’s spawn. Heck, even if he missed nap time his melt downs were nowhere near as bad as mine are when I am hangry.

I did try and make yummy treats on our down days, cinnamon rolls one day and fresh croissants another. Got to keep up that “I am a good mom” image!

Monday we went to Asiago, Z has an interest in WWI history and Asiago is home to a beautiful WWI memorial that is the final resting place for 50,000 soldiers. We managed to stop for some cheese but our plans to head up to Monte Zebio to walk the trenches was a bust because of road construction, then we tried to go to Fort Corbin but it was closed on Monday. (Totally my fault for not checking the open and closing times and dates) The same held true for the WWI memorial and I finally admitted defeat. The area of Asiago is beautiful and we did get to show them a little of the town so it wasn’t a total loss but I had made grandiose plans in my head of all the things I wanted to show Z, so my disappoint probably outweighed his.

Tuesday we went to Verona, I had promised A that we could go to Juliet’s wall. They have been doing some clean up of the area but it is still covered in colorful messages, bubblegum, and band-aids (which sounds much grosser than it really is.) I had Z & A rub Juliet’s breasts for luck, then while F slept they took a turn on Juliet’s balcony. They also explored the Verona Arena (much like the Coliseum but smaller, however, still used for performances. But not the gladiator or lion eating people type.)

Finnrito and I hung around outside and I got his picture in front of the Arena, just in case he had to prove his visit to Verona.

Thursday we took a trip up to Marostica and made the kids hike to the castle. It was a warm day but they made it to the top. (It is a pretty steep climb) This is the city with the giant chess board but Finnrito only hung out with chess pieces his own size.

On Friday we left for Cinque Terre. A drive to La Spezia to catch a train into Riomaggiore. We stayed at a great Airbnb in town (though a lot of stairs to get to it.) After a fantastic dinner we called it an early evening because we were going to try and go to a bunch of towns the next day.

A quick side note – Not only is Finnrito a good baby, completely photogenic, and a great adventure/traveler but he is also a ridiculous flirt!! Seriously, I think he makes it a mission to seek out every woman in a 2 mile vicinity and turn them into grinning idiots! We used this shamelessly to our advantage in every restaurant we visited.

Early-ish the next day we jumped on the train at Riomaggiore and took it to the top of Cinque Terre. The farthest town on the Cinque Terre tour is Monterosso al Mare. As suggested by the name it is a beach town and even at the end of September tourists and locals alike were baking themselves in the sun. Brightly colored beach umbrellas and beautiful scenery prevailed and there was nowhere to look that wasn’t gorgeous.

It was supposed to be a town of shopping and beach laying and though the beached people were very much in evidence the shopping was not so much. After taking in the views we called it and headed back to the train station to hit the next town on the list, Vernazza. This is a much more narrow town, nestled into a valley and pushing its way down to the ocean. The beach area is very small (though F managed to dip his toes in the water) the little stores and shopping were much better than in Monterosso. With a patient Will, Z, and F my daughter and I wandered in and out of many shops looking for treasures. We found just a few but it was fun to look. The views of the ocean were great, the rocky shore adding a dynamic that wasn’t the same as Monterosso. We enjoyed our time there but all too quickly we were hopping the train to the next town, Corniglia.

Before I talk about Corniglia I should mention two things, first F weighs roughly 22 pounds and secondly Corniglia sits on top of the bluff. It is 365 steps up to the town. I was the one carrying F in the back pack carrier at this point. I huffed my way up all those steps, F just enjoyed the ride. Corniglia was also spectacular but different than the first two towns. It sat away from the water so you looked down into the ocean. Made up of narrow winding streets that were really meant more for pedestrians than cars. Little shops and trattorias are everywhere. We stopped at one of these places at the last moment to get some lunch and they very kindly served us even though it was 3 in the afternoon. Will and I had pesto pasta with beans and potatoes. It was out of this world tasty! 

After eating we wandered around a bit but decided it was getting late so we headed back to the train and Riomaggiore to spend the evening in. (At this point F had only taken two micro naps, less than a half hour each time so he was also done for.)

Saturday evening we ate what might have been the worst takeout I have ever had in Italy (or ever.) Greasy and not heated all the way through,  none of us made it through our food, opting for yogurt from the fridge instead.

The next morning (as if to make up for the previous evening) we got a great takeout cappuccino, some donuts and muffins and headed to the train for La Spezia.

We had decided to take a detour on the way home and show the kids Pisa (courtesy of Z pointing out how close we were and some Google calculations that said it wasn’t really too far out of our way.) They enjoyed the sites and we all had a good time rolling our eyes at the tourists angling for the perfect picture “pushing” the tower back up. I gave them the Campo Santo tour (it was one of the main research points on my last college paper and holds a place near and dear to my heart). We took F up to the top of the Basilica but wouldn’t let him climb over the railing. 

The next two days were down days but then, as must happen in all visits, we went to Venezia (Venice.)

Z and A really enjoyed Venezia. I assume F did too by the waitress he made goo goo eyes at while we had lunch. The only disappointment of the day was the loss of the hands. A sculpture titled Support  was put in place on the Grand Canal by artist Lorenzo Quinn. Will and I were lucky enough to witness the sculpture first hand (haha pun intended) in February but it was removed, to A’s great disappointment, in May 2018.

Despite that heartbreak it was a great day and we returned home to prepare for the kids leaving.

How did the time go so fast??

On Thursday we drove back to Milan and got one last hurrah in before the trip was finally over. We were able to experience The Last Supper, a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci in the late 15th century. It has suffered much damage, starting with Leonardo’s own decision to paint it as a dry fresco using experimental paint and pigments. It was also damaged by the humidity of the kitchen it abutted and the decay of the church due to wars, Napoleon’s sanction against the churches, and its use of as an armory and then a prison. In WWII it was almost destroyed when bombs caused the collapse of walls around it. Through all of this the painting remains but in such poor condition that they only allow so many visitors in a day for a fifteen minute peek at the famous work.

As with many other pieces of art and architecture that we have gazed or stood upon in our European adventures I was awestruck and admittedly a little teary eyed to be in the presence of something that was created almost 500 years before I was born. These moments speak to the historian in my soul and I continue to treasure them.

After that phenomenal experience we had to get some food and sleep so the kids could fly out the next morning.

It was with a heavy heart and tear filled eyes that I hugged Z one last time, gave Finnrito last minute snuggles and wrapped my arms around my daughter not wanting to let go. Too quickly they turned and headed for their gate and Will and I took our leave to drive home.

Though I am always and eternally grateful for the adventures and experiences provided by the choices Will and I have made in our lives my heart breaks to be 5,000 miles away from my family and no matter how long we spend together it will never be enough time.

On the bright side, the kids have seen where we live and can picture our lives as we describe them and I will continue to taunt them with pictures of my gelato every time we have the tasty treat.

Until next time

Ciao miei Amici

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

Verona, Coins, Antiques, and Mother’s Day!

Ciao miei Amici,

Goodness, some weeks I think I don’t know what I am going to talk about because I haven’t done very many things and then there are the weeks where I have done so much.

Wednesday I went to Verona to meet a friend. I met her while flying back to the states in January. She is from California but she and her husband have moved to a small town near Lake Garda.

Before we met I did a quick run up to Juliet’s Balcony. The tradition of rubbing Juliet’s right breast remains strong as tourist after tourist (including groups of young boys) jumped up on stage to have their turn taking a hand to Juliet. I did some research into this area and the idea is that by rubbing (touching, groping, or any other odd things that can happen to a statue) Juliet’s chest one is supposed to have good luck in love. After much discussion, Will and I decided that someone thought this was a funny/cute idea and it became a “thing”. It has become such a “thing” that the city of Verona has had to replace the original statue of Juliet as her chest was becoming quite tarnished. I have plans to visit the Juliet house/balcony on another visit to Verona to see if I can find any other information out pertaining to this topic. (The internet has failed me as of this time)

Anyway, back to my friend, we all need English speaking compadres here so she and I spent a lovely afternoon having lunch and then walking around Verona while nibbling fruit and gelato (Black Forest flavor, in case you were curious). I was able to see several more sites and make some plans for more exploring.

 

My plan after we return from Scotland is to try and do some weekday, mostly solo, exploring. I need to (want to) get a better idea about the area in which we live and some of the historic sites that get easily overlooked. Hopefully, this means I will have fun little tidbits to share with you in the following months.

Speaking of fun tidbits, I just found out this week that most of the countries in the European Union mint their own coins with a different design on the back. (Apparently Will knew this but didn’t bother to tell me, how rude!) I dug deep into my coin purse and bowl etc. to find out how many different designs I had. More .50 cent pieces than 1’s and 2’s but I didn’t know I was going to need this information until this week.

This website gives you each country’s designs

https://www.ecb.europa.eu/euro/coins/html/index.en.html

 

I know this will come as a shocker but Saturday we went by the garden center. Yep, I know, I am becoming predictable. No, but really, my daughter wanted me to have some lavender plants for Mother’s Day and I wanted some more color on my patio. So my daughter bought me these beautiful plants and Will bought me a great flower stand and I spent Saturday afternoon putting together my front patio. Totally in love with it, now I just need a bigger table and some more chairs. Of course Sunday we had a hell of a storm and it blew down my flower stand and un-potted my flowers creating a muddy mess on my fabulous patio. (You can’t see it but I have a very sad face just thinking about this). I cleaned it back up and it is back in order but since the weather is calling for cool and rainy all week I don’t guess we are going to do much patio sitting this week.

Sunday, before the storm of the week blew through, we went to the antique market downtown Vicenza. It takes place every second Sunday (except in July and August). We found some neat doo-dahs and some odd trinkets plus some major pawing through boxes of stuff. In the end I didn’t feel like it was so much an antique market as much as just a market, where old and new, junky and neat all were available. I got a t-shirt. Nope, it wasn’t an antique but it is cute.Quick update on the Scotland prep. I think we are almost good to go. My mom, who is awesome and the best mom ever (just saying), got us some extra socks and a sent me a couple wicking shirts. We need to run and grab some pack towels but other than that and fuel when we get to Scotland we are planned, bought, and sort of packed. On Sunday I did the laundry with my pack on. Photo credit goes to Will, who was napping on the couch at the time. On Monday I cleaned the upstairs with my pack on. I would be lying if I said my quads didn’t hurt but I figure the last 8 days before we go are about adjusting to having a pack on so I am not miserable on day two or three. I make no promises not to cry while I am there but I do plan to blame it on haggis and/or the pretty scenery (whichever is more applicable at the moment).

Anyway, that was my busy week. This week may be more relaxed but I never seem to know what is going to happen.

Until my next adventure

Ciao!