Last week I left you with the knowledge that two of us like heights just fine and two of us don’t. I am sure it is not surprising that I like heights just fine, mostly I worry about things much crazier than falling from great heights.
Like what, you ask?
You know silly stuff, like what happens if a tunnel collapses while our car is driving through or the idea that the top of the Duomo is really only a foot or two of concrete on the top. I am not claustrophobic and I don’t hate heights, I hate the idea of catastrophic failure.
Why would I worry about catastrophic failure at the Duomo?
Quick history lesson, the Duomo is the dome that finishes the Florence Cathedral, formerly known as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. The Cathedral was begun in 1296 but couldn’t be consecrated or considered complete until the dome was in place. Construction on the dome didn’t being until 1420. That is over 100 years later. The Duomo was also the first dome constructed in the Renaissance without creating a scaffolding system for the concrete to sit on while it cured. This was an impossibility since the Duomo’s great height (374 feet or 114 meters). Filippo Brunelleschi was the main architect in the domes construction. He had spent many years in Rome studying the architecture of the ancient Romans. With those ideas in his mind he constructed a dome held together by the angle of its incline and bound by four sets of chains that encircled the entire dome like barrel hoops. These were then also enclosed in concrete. There is an inner and outer dome and the outer one is only 2 feet thick with concrete at the bottom, narrowing out to 1 foot of concrete at the top. Honestly, that’s not a lot of concrete to have withstood almost 600 years and millions of visitors. Do you see the potential for catastrophic failure?
When you are climbing the Duomo, which has 463 stairs, you actually climb between the outer dome and the inner dome and then make your way up the side of the final stretch of dome to peak out of a narrow hatch. From there you can take in panoramic views of all of Florence.
I am going to add some pictures of the four of us. You already know I don’t care about how high it is. See if you can pick out the two who do.
On Thursday we headed back towards Vicenza and our home. We stopped briefly in Bologne to see the leaning tower there. After having seen Pisa it was rather anticlimactic. The town didn’t seem to take care of their city very well and after the majesty of Florence we were all a little disappointed. One plus was we found an excellent vegetarian restaurant, which made A very happy. We finally made our way home and our cats were happy to see us.
Settled in we made Hugo’s and Aperol Spritz and then ventured downtown Vicenza for some gelato. I didn’t say more gelato because there is no such thing as too much gelato.
Friday we took A & C to Venezia (Venice) we walked and hit all the major highlights but as I have said before Venezia is a big place and you can walk a long time without covering the same tracks twice. Not Will and I, we have covered most of it at least once but we still have a bunch of outlying islands to get to. We ate, had gelato, ate more and then when it was dark out called it a night.
We went to Soave Castle the next day to see the castle and get some lunch. Will and I had been here before for a wine festival. I must say some of the best wines in the region come from this little area (in my opinion, of course). The construction of the castle was begun in the 10th century and from then until 19th century it changed hands many times. Since 1830 it has remained in the same family and they take care of the castle and the grounds. It is not a functioning castle, other than tourism but the ruins are still neat to wander through and it does maintain some of its frescoes and furnishings. It is a neat way to spend an hour or two exploring the rooms and turrets. We stopped at our super market on the way home and bought cheese, olives, bread, etc for a light dinner meal which we ate out on (as Will likes to call it) the lanai.
All to quickly the next day it was time to say goodbye to C & A. We are already making plans with them for next year, maybe somewhere new!
This last week we had to recover from the adventure and some bug that I managed to pick up along the way.
The weekend was spent getting ready for my daughter, Z, and the Finnrito to visit us. (We pick them up at the airport Thursday!) You have no idea how un-baby proof your house is until you start looking at all the knick knacks that are at baby level. Yikes!!
Our next couple of weeks are going to be packed with family and adventures and if I don’t make it to the blogging table don’t despair, I will be back before you know it.
Until we talk again
Ciao miei Amici
Wow, I can’t believe it has been two weeks since I last wrote to everyone. Time flies and craziness ensues when I don’t keep up. Truthfully, only the last week or so has been crazy. The week before was the calm before the storm. My feet hurt, I haven’t been on my bike in 10 days, and I gained at least five pounds. I totally blame C & A for these problems but it was worth every second for a wonderful week with fantastic friends.
Let me give you some highlights of the first couple days and hopefully next week I can catch you up on the rest of it.
First let me remind you that Italian holidays are not American holidays and vice versa. I know that seems obvious but sometimes it is easy to forget, even when you live here. What that means is some days Will has to work when our neighbors stay home and sometimes we have a holiday that isn’t celebrated by the Italians. Labor Day is one of those days. As an American worker celebrating the day of American workers Will and I headed down to Firenze (Florence) to pick up our friends C & A for a week of adventures!
We grabbed the two of them from the Santa Maria Novella train station and then took a scenic drive up to Castellina in the Chianti region. You might think for wine but you would be wrong.
Nope, we went up there because they have the best gelato in Italy. Hands Down!! Yes, I am making that claim. It is just pure heaven. Please if you have a car and you are in Tuscany make the drive to Gelateria di Castellina. You won’t be disappointed. And if you are, then you obviously don’t understand good gelato.
We headed back to Firenze after walking around Castellina; where Will and A bought new cycling kits with large black roosters. It started a theme for the week and we looked for roosters everywhere we went. (Full disclosure, we had many themes for the week but that’s what happens when you are hanging out with good friends).
Our Air BnB was wonderful, a little outside of the inner circle of Firenze’s old city. Honestly, it was a small walk to and from but the neighborhood was quaint and believe me when I say that we needed all the walking we could get. (We ate a lot of food, drank a lot of wine, and finished it all off with gelato).
Firenze has a vibe to it that reminds you that it is the Renaissance. If Roma (Rome) incorporates the technologies well beyond its own time then Firenze reminds you that beauty and art were meant to have a part in the world. From Michelangelo, to Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Duomo designed by Filippo Brunelleschi.
To view the Duomo is to view beauty in itself. If you aren’t moved by the site of the Duomo, I am not sure that we can still be friends.
The people also takes great pride in their city and despite the millions of tourists (10.2 million in 2017) that pass through Firenze each year the people remain helpful, kind, and gregarious. (The tourists don’t seem to possess as many of these good qualities)
We took in the city and C & A’s first view of the Duomo in the evening after a fantastic meal at, wait for it…
Rooster Cafe!! Their food was exceptional and if you are in Firenze I suggest you hit them up. They are close to the Church of Santa Trinita. (That would be the church I got in trouble in a couple of years ago because my flash was on auto and made bright lights while I was taking a picture. A BIG No No in museums and churches!)
The Church of Santa Trinita is known for the frescoes created by Domenico Ghirlandaio, a Renaissance painter of the third generation and a contemporary of Sandro Botticelli (he painted the Primavera and The Birth of Venus two of my favorites.) Ghirlandaio is not as well known, unless you are into Italian Renaissance art, but he was also quite talented. He ran a large workshop that Michelangelo passed through to learn and work. Ghirlandaio was known for putting contemporary people into religious narratives.
We did a quick run in to the church to see some of Ghirlandaio’s famous frescoes before our Rooster meal, then a quick tour around town and some gelato at Perche, No?, which, while not as good as Castellina is still pretty tasty.
Tuesday we drove up to the Piazzale Michelangelo for breathtaking views of the city. Then we did a grocery store run, which if you haven’t shopped it an Italian grocery store is a treat (Remember! Don’t touch the produce without a plastic glove!). After dropping the groceries back at our BnB we walked to town, wandered through a couple of leather markets, found some lunch and a bunch of street art. Then we dropped of C & A to take in the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David. Truly another don’t miss ticket item in Florence. Michelangelo was a mediocre painter, in my opinion, but his sculpture was bellissimo. And David is one of the finest sculptures, in my opinion, to exist (and to think Will had to talk me into seeing it the first time).
While they were viewing the David, Will and I found a music store and a store called Fiori del Tempo (Flowers of Time) that makes beautiful artistic jewelry. I bought two pairs of earrings, Will did not buy a guitar or an amp. He, obviously, has better self control than I do.
We found C & A, went and ate more food, headed home and took a leisurely morning before we went to climb the Duomo the next morning.
I’ll talk about that next week but just a quick note, two of us on this trip are not concerned with heights, two of us are. Next week when you look at the pictures see if you can figure out who is who!
Until then, have a fabulous week and I will begin to clean my house in preparation for my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson’s visit in 10 days!!!
Ciao miei Amici
Sometimes the biggest adventure lies in just living. I don’t mean the highs and lows; though I know we all have plenty of those. I am talking about the drudgery of life; the house cleaning, meal preparing, laundry hanging, getting up and going to work, then doing it all again for all the days and weeks of your life.
In the spirit of that idea, guess what I did this last week or so? – and because I always have a Honey-Do list Will was honor bound to join me.
Is my house cleaner? Not really, it is a house, we come and go, we have cats and shoes and a life, hence it is still dirty (always dirty) No, not dirty, lived in.
Laundry is a never ending battle between deciding to go pantless and deciding that I can hang out one more load of laundry today (but only if I don’t have to fold it until the morning).
And let’s be honest Will is awesome for doing the daily grind (it doesn’t matter if you like your job, some days it still means getting out of bed and putting pants on).
Meals are a weird paradox for me. I like food, the very fact that I have to spend so much time riding my bike is a testament to my enjoyment of food. I also like to cook and bake, new ideas, new recipes, a well kept secret is that even though I might make the same food more than once (lasagna, meatloaf, beef stroganoff, etc.) I almost never use the same recipe. Sometimes I think “oh remember that one time I made such and such, it was so good. What recipe was that?” The likelihood of me remembering which recipe I used, let alone finding it again are slim to none.
Baking is a similar problem though I do tend to follow the recipes much more accurately than when I cook. When you cook it is a moment to experiment, to wonder if you should add dill or rosemary and what will that do to the flavor. Was that too much pepper? Should I have added lime juice to the meat when I was tenderizing it? The questions are endless.
Try asking those same questions when baking and you end up with cardboard flavored cake and bread that you can use as a doorstop.
Long story short, cooking/baking is fun but not when I ‘have’ to do it. Too bad we still have to eat and I can’t hire a cook for the days when I don’t feel inspiration strike.
We actually had two good meals (that I didn’t cook) this weekend, one was at Trattoria Cortese. They specialize in less regionally common meat, such as kangaroo or bison steak (not a lot of either of those animals running around northern Italy).
Saturday night Will and I wandered downtown and grabbed an aperitif, did a little shopping, had a lovely meal at a restaurant in the plaza, then finished it off with some gelato. We did all that and still managed to be home before the hoards of Italians hit the evening for their dinner and drinks. (Italians eat late!)
This week I am helping my neighbor’s daughter get ready for an English grammar test and getting ready for September, which will be a guest laden month. (Really excited to see everyone that is coming).
And I am trying to survive the last weeks of summer. It is so hot here I am considering grilling all my food on the front walkway.
My life this next week or so is going to be more of the same, not terribly exciting but an adventure because it is life and that is the best adventure.
I know the fall is coming and I am not sure I will be able to keep up with all the blog worthy events that are upcoming.
So until September takes us all by storm (and hopefully some cooler weather) I will leave you all to enjoy your last days of summer. Talk to you in a couple of weeks!
Ciao miei Amici
It was a fast trip to Germany and back, based on our 36 hour timeline, but we hadn’t counted on close to eight hours of traffic. When you take that into account plus another seven or eight hours sleeping and then five more hours home, well, we barely saw München (Munich) at all. Luckily for us it wasn’t a sightseeing trip but more of a food trip. So, quick trip or not we accomplished our goals for the weekend.
We took off around eight Saturday morning after collecting R & C from their domicile. Then we hit the bar for some morning cappuccino and croissants (yes, it was apricot). Then the trip got real; real and full of Germans heading back to Germany after holiday. Lots and lots of Germans heading north. Google just kept adding on delays and traffic, it was a long line of red. We took some beautiful back roads and avoided other travelers until we no longer had a choice. When there are only so many passes through the Alps sooner or later all roads must converge. So into traffic we went.
Austria and Germany are pretty green (despite the lack of rain and heat wave they are having) It really does make you want to sing “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music”. I didn’t (and everyone was grateful) but I wanted to.
We stopped in Innsbruck for a late lunch and it was fantastic, everything I had been missing about German food. Sauerkraut, slices of pork and knodel (bread dumplings, kind of like a round ball of stuffing).
And beer! Of course!
After some food and a quick stretch of our legs we loaded back up for the final stretch into München. We finally checked into our hotel by five-ish and set out for the wilds of Altstadt München (old city). We walked and came to a Augustiner Beer hall, stopped for another beer, then headed on down the street. We went into a couple of churches (Italy is not the only one with beautiful churches though München tends to have more gothic structures *in my opinion*).
St. Michael’s church is built in a Renaissance style with a beautiful statue of the Saint, himself, standing watch from the back of the church.
The Frauenkirche is famous for its gothic architecture but more famous for the Devil’s Footprint. A black footprint set into a paving stone just inside the entrance of the church. The legend says this is where the devil was when he realized he had been duped by the builder/designer Jörg von Halsbach. He (the devil) thought that Halsbach had built the church with no windows. Depending on the legend the devil’s derision was based on the idea that he had compelled Halsbach to build the church with no windows for financial help or maybe he thought it had no windows and was a worthless place of worship. Either way if you stand in the “Devil’s Footprint” you can see no side interior windows and for several hundred years you also could not see the front window because it was obscured by a large altar. The “Devil’s Footprint” is either a stamp of glee or anger depending on your interpretation of the story but either way it has been there since the completion of the church around 1525.
From there we found our way into the side of the Rathaus (town hall) and found a great restaurant for more German food. With everyone full and happy we moved on down and scoped out the Hofbrauhaus.
The Hofbrauhaus is restaurant commissioned in 1589 by Duke Wilhelm V as part of the Royal Brewery. Despite its long history the interior reminds me of a Furr’s cafeteria, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furr%27s) a restaurant of questionable taste from my childhood. It was also hot and loud and just not over all appealing but that may because I am not 20 anymore.
Germany, unlike Italy, closes down early (by 22:00) and so we made our way back to our hotel for one more nightcap (I had water but it was like a nightcap because I was so tired). Our hotel was very nice and clean, slightly surprising as we walked past Hookah bars and several club erotica’s to get to it. Comfortable and cozy, lulled to sleep by my water nightcap I slept all to briefly before we got up Sunday to have breakfast.
Ah, Germany, the land where I don’t have to have filled croissants. I like my croissants perfectly flaky and I really like them plain, though I have accepted apricot marmalade in my croissants since moving to Italy I will never truly love them that way. Not only did I eat a croissant but I also ate a pretzel (another hard to get item in Italy). After breaking our fast we headed back to the Altstadt to watch the Glockenspiel. The clock tower in Marienplatz (one of the main squares) that plays/performs for the tourists a 2-3 times a day depending on the season. It consists of 32 life size figures that joust, dance or watch the proceedings in glee, this is all timed to the 43 bells that toll along with the performance. It lasts about 10-15 minutes, which is a long time to stand with your head cocked up at a strange angle.
After that was done we got back in our car and headed back to Innsbruck, where we just happened to find a Fish Festival. It was small and the day was hot but we were able to finish off our trip with Bratwurst on a roll, vegetable kabobs, beer, and ice cream.I could not have asked for a better finish to a German food weekend.
Now, we are just trying to recover from our quick jaunt and Will has somehow managed to catch a cold (in the middle of summer).
Not completely sure what the next weekend will hold but if it is exciting I am sure I will be writing about it.
Fino alla prossima (Until next time)
Ciao miei Amici
Some weeks I plan so much that Will questions his life with me, some weeks I plan so little I question my life with me.
This last week was one of those where I questioned my inner motives. I mean, sure it’s nice not to drive Will crazy with all the things I want to do, and yes the temperature has been hovering a little above and a little below 100 degrees (with disgusting amounts of humidity). But honestly, are those really reasons to not run all over creation? Apparently this last weekend the answer was yes.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we didn’t stay home all weekend crashed on the couch watching movies (though Avengers Infinity Wars came out on video and I still haven’t seen it!) and eating bonbons but there were a lot less shenanigans than usual.
I did put my new composter together this last week, which I found exciting, though I know that might not be every person’s bag of Snickers. I have been wanting one forever and since I have decided to explore growing lavender and heirloom vegetables having a good compost supply seems like a smart move. Not for the lavender really, I have never read about a plant that likes such crappy soil and so few nutrients but produces such loveliness. In comparison to lavender roses and and orchids are like the prima donnas of the flower world. I can still manage to kill a few here and there (lavender but probably roses and orchids if I tried hard enough). The hot weather this summer led me to overwater and root rot two of my plants. It’s a personal problem thinking that since I need water my plants do too. Some like my daily drink, some not so much. Sorry little lavender plants.
The heirloom vegetables are a next spring project but I am already prepping for them.
Saturday we ran some errands and bought patio furniture. It’s exciting since we have this lovely patio that I have been “nesting” (Will’s word, not mine) in and about since we moved in. The furniture is the ones we had been looking at AND it was on sale. A happy coincidence since I would have paid full price for it. Now, if only the weather would cool down enough for me to have my morning coffee out there.
Sunday was pesto day.
I have never made pesto from scratch. I am not sure why this has never happened but this was my first foray into the basil-y world of pesto. In true Karyn fashion I overcompensated by buying 7 more basil plants. Now I have 8. To be truthful 3 of them were the basil “plants” you buy in the produce section but I stuck them in pots yesterday morning and they seem to be happy as pigs in mud. If they die I am not out too much since I used leftover pots and they were throwaways. If they live… well, fresh pesto all winter!!! A win-win if I ever saw one.
I also made fresh pasta, I think this might have been a first for me too but since I have an Italian grandmother I am not prepared to swear to that. Pasta is not hard to make but it is a very delicate balance between too much moisture (makes it too sticky to roll out) and too dry, making it crumble when you try and roll/cut it.
It took a little practice but with Will’s help we got it done. Dinner Sunday night was chicken stuffed with parmesan and pesto, fresh pasta with more pesto sauce, and salad (of course). The verdict? I ate too much. It was a little too garlicky for me so I would cut that back some next time but overall not too bad considering I haven’t done a lot of from scratch cooking lately.
Next weekend is about eating German food. We are making a quick run up to Munich to have some schnitzel. (Seriously, Italian food is delicious but even this half Italian gets sick of pasta and pizza).
So I will leave you with this short look at my normal week (no major adventures involved). We have this Germany weekend and then two “not planned” weekends before we meet A & C in Firenze (Florence). I can’t wait to see them!!! So a couple more weeks until our fall takes off and gets all sorts of crazy!! Stay tuned!
Ciao miei Amici
For those of you who know me this comment will not come as a surprise, for those of you who don’t know me it may not be all that surprising based on some of my posts.
I tend to be a planner.
I know, revolutionary, right?!
In fairness I am a lot more relaxed than I used to be. (I swear, it’ true) We are talking about a woman who used to have the children’s packing list, for any and all trips on an excel spreadsheet. The pantry was also on a spreadsheet. In fact, my whole house might have been on a spreadsheet…you will have to decide that on your own. I already know I am neurotic, I don’t need confirmation from outside sources.
However, in recent years I have moved away from the spreadsheets (believe what you will), now, I just make lists. Daily lists, weekly lists, lists for my lists, and (sometimes) even lists for my husband. But even more important than lists, spreadsheets, and plans is the fact that I get ideas. Ideas of how something is supposed to go, turnout, look, happen. Well, those ideas rarely pan out the way I have mentally set them up to pan out. (It is really why I write, I get to edit my ideas until the plan works out perfectly, life never does that)
Our fare un’escursione (hike) on Sunday was much like the best laid plans of mice and men. You might remember that we had planned to hike last weekend but Will ended up sick so we moved it to this weekend. The temperatures are in the 90’s and the humidity is trying to catch the temperature so it seemed like a great time to go to the mountains. According to several websites finding hiking locations should have been a breeze. The way that some of the websites made it sound you couldn’t go into the mountains without tripping over a trail or two dozen. The reality was that you couldn’t go into the mountains without tripping over several dozen Italians (like A LOT of Italians). After Scotland, where we would go a whole day without seeing anyone, this was not what I was hoping for. I believe that exercise (hiking, cycling, etc.) can be a shared experience but I choose who to share my experience with; dozens of Italians (or people in general) were not on the top of the sharing list.
The trip into the mountains should have taken an hour and a half tops, add an extra hour to that for holiday traffic, then add a wrong turn (No Google Maps is not always right) to the bottom of a gully and a decision to walk/hike the 2-ish miles to where the restaurant area was supposed to be.
There was no straightforward trail and we ended up traipsing through the woods (this part was actually no big deal and the most relaxing part of the whole “hike”). We ran into an Italian lady who was lost and spoke no real English, since I speak no real Italian we communicated in one word sentences. We got her to the road and then left her with a bottle of water and people to converse (ask directions) with in Italian. Good deed done for the day.
We were planning to eat at the restaurant (bad idea on my part) it was crowded and no tables were available. I hadn’t packed much food beyond a couple of Clif bars. No, I don’t know what I was thinking. Yes, I know I become hangry easily. Don’t worry, Will is still alive! And No, I won’t be making that mistake again.
Anyway, we decided to take a short trail that was on a sign post and set off into the Italian wilderness… haha after Scotland the wilderness was well tamed and marked by white stone pathways, that were ridiculously slick from condensation.
Oh, quick note here, not only was this area a restaurant but apparently people take their campers there. They also spread blankets all over the hillside and have siestas. It was not organized like German campgrounds, which are neat and orderly with planned activity areas, but there was no wilderness to the camping. Other than it was a free for all park wherever and set up stuff kind of wildness. I was overwhelmed by the unorganized chaos. (Maybe because I was hungry.)
Okay, back to the trail. If I admit that I was huffing and puffing it is just because we haven’t hiked since Scotland and I felt ill equipped (and too hangry) to be hiking. The trail scenery was actually pretty, (minus some excrement) and we came across this big cavern that had been fenced off. It went so deep we couldn’t see the bottom from the side we were standing on. The trail was also lushly green, heavy on the moss and all the rocks were slippery with condensation from the air. I know this since I slipped and fell on my butt.
What I did not expect (and quite frankly, was less than pleased about) was how many people felt the need to use the sides of the trail as their personal bathroom. Oh, don’t get me wrong, nature calls to me while I am out hiking too, and I also must answer its call. But I know how to bury my poop, a skill that does not seem readily available on the trails here about.
Yeah, I was a little disgusted by it, okay maybe more than a little.
Needless to say I was not having the hiking day of my life and we decided to head back to the car sooner than later. It did start to rain on us a little as we headed back, making me glad that we cut our excursion short. Plus I was really, really, hungry (this is a problem I will take great pains to fix in the future, honestly, don’t know what I was thinking.)
We made it home much quicker than we made it up there. So with a quick pb&j then some emergency pizza to follow we kicked back and watched My Cousin Vinny. It is possible that I should have made it a movie marathon day instead of a try to find a hiking trail day but without the less than exciting adventure how can you really love the great ones?
Until next week
Ciao miei Amici
I know I promised a month or two ago I was not going back to Venezia (Venice) until the hot, humid, sticky, sweaty tourist season had ended or until A & C showed up in September. Oh, what a liar I have become. I could say Venezia calls to me; it is true that I love the city with its winding canals and labyrinth streets. But the influx of people, heat, humidity, and body odor… I mean it’s hard to think of a worse combination this side of hell. Still, as C pointed out to me in our chat today, I have not only lied once about going to Venezia during the summer (thanks M & B, totally your fault) but now I can blame J & W too!
And blame them I will!!!
Now, B is one of Wills oldest high school friends and so exceptions have to be made for a friendship that has endured that long but J is just a cousin. I mean an eighteenth cousin, six times removed on the fourth quadrant of the second lateral of his fifth family (does blood even relate when that happens).
HAHA! I am kidding of course! They are cousins and since Will remembers J as a baby and she grew hearing stories of his misspent youth (holy moly, if my husband had a misspent youth before I came along he must be taking the middle years of our lives with a charging cry of ADVENTURES R US!!!) it was imperative that we meet up with J and her husband.
Now I am going to be completely blunt and honest, when my alarm went off at 6:30 this morning I did not like J & W at all! Not even a little bit, family or not, I am so not 20 anymore, a fact which my body was all too happy to remind me of this morning when I blearily opened one eye with a squint to see if Will loved me enough (despite his own exhaustion) to bring me coffee. I can honestly say that if there had not been coffee next to my bed I would have said the heck with it and closed my one eye back up tight and ignored the fact that my alarm was tapping out a staccato beat on my nightstand. Fortunately, or unfortunately (as my body keeps clearly reminding me despite the fact that I am feeding it a steady drip of caffeinated gold), there was coffee by my bedside and I dragged, I mean rolled, stumbled, and fell out of bed to begin this beautiful Tuesday!
J & W are lovely!! I had a wonderful evening with them in Venezia, we had dinner, introduced them to Prosecco, limoncello, Italian pizza, and gelato. Everything a person needs to survive in Italy. Oh, wait, we forgot the caprese salad and the Hugo’s. I guess they are going to have to figure those ones out on their own.
But let me backup for a quick minute. We live close to Venezia, and by close I mean an hour in the car or on a train provided there is no traffic. And as I am sure you know from other posts, or maybe reading, or maybe you are just smart, Venezia doesn’t have any cars on its islands. The trains and cars stop on the edge of the island, in the station or car parks respectively, and then all people must take water taxis, water buses, or their own two feet to get where they want to go. Another thing to note is that though Venezia’s square mileage (of the main islands) is not huge, it’s also not small. Think back to those picturesque canals and narrow streets, now you have to wind your way through and over or around. Google maps is so sweet about wanting to take you the quickest way to anywhere, sometimes that way is across the water. (FYI water buses are 20 euro for a day pass per person, doesn’t matter if you are taking one trip or ten.) So, after Google took us to a water bus stop (in the wrong direction) and then to San Marco square (I swear to you that’s not what we typed but Google, much like Apple, has a mind of its own) we finally made it to J & W’s hotel. (And only 30 minutes after we said we would be there). I tried to blame it on traffic, oh wait… yeah, no cars.
Did I mention the hot and sticky part? Yep, walked around in that “bowling for tourists” as my father puts it. (I am constantly amazed at how rude tourists can be, taking up the whole narrow street as they walk 3 or 4 abreast and even stopping in the middle of the walkway to decide where they are going or just to talk to each other. I mean seriously, other people are on vacation too *not us, of course, but other people, you know people we don’t know and our cousins too* )
So, now that I have made that short story long, we had a great evening and hope that J & W schedule another trip back and hang out with us a little more next time.
All of that happened last night and we did do a couple other things last week, nothing too exciting since it was hot, humid, and miserable. (Italy in the summer!!)
I learned how to run our elaborate sprinkler system, which requires an attachment to get the water to flow. We have well water in the back but without the sprinkler attachment we can’t water anything in the front without filling very large water containers.
My landlord only squirted water into my face twice while trying to show me how to use it. I thought that was an acceptable amount of times to be sprayed considering we can barely communicate outside of pantomime.
We also said goodbye to our 2000 Volkswagen Golf. It was no longer cost effective to fix it, so adios, the junkyard came and picked it up today. We didn’t go hiking due to a bad case of food poisoning from some olio picante, maybe this coming weekend. I began to harvest dried lavender buds, still not completely sure what I am doing with them.
Other than all that and our Monday night adventure with J & W it was a slow week. Until next week, which I fully expect to be even quieter than this week…
Ciao miei Amici
Here it is, another week gone by and I could almost call it relaxing. I don’t think Will would necessarily agree and I am not sure I could or should ever go so far as to say relaxing and Karyn in the same sentence. A dozen things happening at once… squirrel… back to projects… that is really more my speed. Luckily, Will balances me out most of the time. It’s a good thing otherwise I might just explode one day from all the activity in my brain.
But I digress, this last weekend I got the idea to head up to Asiago and check out the World War I Memorial and then take a drive up to Monte Zebio. I didn’t quite know what I was getting us in to. Luckily, neither did Will or he might have had a different plan for the day. It was a good thing he didn’t because it was really neat.
We grabbed Will’s music friend “D” and headed up the very windy road to Asiago. (Yes, D, the one that plays guitars but is no longer allowed to pick the adventure plans! I am kidding, he finds some good adventures. No seriously, the whole Nove chicken thing came from him and now his wife if a proud owner of an anti-assassin chicken too!)
The road to Asiago has 14 hairpin turns and it is the one road that I see the most concentration and the least line crossing by Italians. (They are horribly distracted drivers). Once at the picturesque mountain town we hit up a cafe for dinner. It was overpriced (though Asiago is like a Telluride, and everything but cheese is over prices.) but the food was really good. I also got the idea for dinner tonight from the restaurant, chickpea burgers with thick slices of mozzarella on top, they should be tasty.
After lunch we headed to the World War I Memorial. It sits at the top of a hill (a short walk) overlooking the town. The hours are strictly kept and the area guarded and gated when not open. After reaching the top and walking around the outside (several different artillery weapons were set up outside) we headed inside. It was overwhelming, I had not known it was also a crypt and that the remains of over 50,000 Italian and Austro-Hungarian soldiers were interred there. The inside was quiet, a place of contemplation and reverence for those that had made the ultimate sacrifice for their countries. I was able to find five soldiers that I share a last name with (maiden not married), and after searching through rows of names and visiting the small museums displaying artifacts and pictures from the Great War we quietly left.
My next idea for the day was to drive up to Monte Zebio because I had read there were still remains of trenches up there. The distance between the two was less than 10 km (roughly 6 miles) but I had no idea what I was asking my poor little two wheel drive car (CHIPS for short) or Will to do. The road started out winding up what I will loosely called a paved track. The asphalt had caverns in it that could swallow half my car but it was still asphalt so paved it was. To say it actually got better when we hit the dirt is a small stretch but there was some improvement. Anyway after about 40 minutes of winding our way up this hill/mountain that really was only wide enough for one vehicle at a time we came to the bottom of the trenches of Monte Zebio. The area is owned or maintained by a rancher with a large herd of dairy cows, we had to do the cow patty jump and avoid all the way up the hill. Still their bells gave the mountaintop a riotous symphony that was scenically beautiful. When we made it part way up the grassy green, wild flower covered hill we took a left instead of a right and found a track of trenches that surprised us (actually the whole trench line of the hillside was surprisingly intact). Me, being me, ignored the wooden sign that read “Pericolo” (danger) and jumped right in to walk the trench line. Some places were dug out of solid rock, then that rock was used to fortify other areas, creating a trench line of sturdy rock that helped protect the inhabitants from attack.
In fact, the Italians held this ground for over 40 months. After viewing their fortifications it is something that can be easily believed. Though there was a devastating accident of landmines set off days too early by a lightning strike, killing over 120 soldiers the area was so well fortified that the Austria-Hungarian troops were forced to find another way into Italy through other mountain passes.
After climbing out of our first set of trenches (Will couldn’t resist the lure of traveling the trails for too long but D took the high ground as our guide) we move back to the right and found another complex set of trenches and fortifications that included tunnels and storage depots cut out of the rock.
We cut some of exploration short due to the time and some concerns about a storm heading across the mountain (2-wheel drive car, narrow dirt roads, just saying) and headed back down to the Vicenza valley with the intention of stopping at the best ever (in the Vicenza area) gelateria for some gelato. So yummy!!
Sunday was a yard work day for me and a guitar day for Will. I potted plants that had outgrown their current location and added a couple new plants, turmeric, mint, and shockingly another lavender plant, as well as some succulents. By the time I cleaned up it was hot and I was ready for a couple hours inside.
Then out of nowhere, bam, Monday happened, wth? Where does it come from? Monday is always sneaking in without any warning.
But here it is Tuesday and I am already planning a low key weekend to write about next week.
Ciao miei Amici
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
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.
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)!