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!

 

May Days

Ciao miei Amici,

The poppies are blooming here in Italy and I think they are beautiful. They always remind me of my daughter back in the states. FYI, she celebrated her birthday and her graduation from college this last week so a huge Happy Birthday and Congratulations to her!!  

I wasn’t sure last week what I was going to write about we had no great adventures planned for the weekend, in fact, we have nothing major planned leading up to Scotland. (16 days and counting down) I thought about doing a memory lane and then considered telling you all about how I feel driving in Italy. Believe me that last one is totally blog worthy but I drove to the supermarket today and felt like I nailed driving “like an Italian”. So I will save that post for a day when I am exasperated and frustrated by Italian drivers and their “weird rules that I don’t have to follow’” attitude. (or maybe next week)

Will and I had a pretty decent week, minus some weird sinus infection (which I have come to believe is more likely an allergy to the cotton trees which are pollinating like crazy). Nothing too exciting, we are not always moving and shaking sometimes we are more like sluggy couch potatoes.

However, the best thing of the week was my score on plane tickets to go to London for Will’s birthday in October. I ended up paying less $300 after all the extra fees and taxes for both of us roundtrip! (seriously, airlines charge some outrageous hidden fees). I call that a major win, plus I have never been to London so a double win for me!! Yes, I know it is for Will’s birthday but he has been to London before, soooo maybe it is more like Will’s birthday celebration for me to go visit somewhere new. Besides we are going to Scotland for my birthday so it is a fair trade.

Though, honestly, his objections, if one could call them that, revolve around the fact that I keep telling him it is his birthday weekend and we can do whatever he wants but wouldn’t it be great if we visited the National Gallery, took a hop on and off bus, or went to Platform 9 ¾’s. To which he replies, “Nope, can’t do that, it’s my birthday weekend. All we are going to do is eat fish and chips.” I don’t eat fish so this is usually met with my gasp of horror. Probably the reaction he was going for in the first place.

Saturday we had some errands to run, first to Will’s favorite store Mezzanota. (A store for those who are musically inclined. This would not be me as I sound like a cat on a hot tin roof and I only learned how to pluck out twinkle twinkle little star after 6 months of practice.) But Mezzanota is great and can help anyone in the area with instruments, repair or new, and any other equipment one might need.

Then we went downtown and had Indian food at a tasty little restaurant. We discussed Will’s wish to visit the color festival in India (known as Holi) So we are putting that on our bucket list. Maybe 2020?

And on a less colorful but more humorous note, I finally remembered to take pictures of the squat toilet. These toilets pop up now and then in the Vicenza area (and other cities too). It is interesting (for lack of a better term) to use them if you never have and I am not ashamed to admit I don’t think I have mastered them quite yet. No, I haven’t fallen in or peed on myself! I suppose, in the end, if you don’t destroy the bathroom, and come out emptier, and cleaner than when you went in it is a win. They just leave a disquieting thought in my mind that somehow this should be reserved for outdoors activities only. I think the problem is that I have spent my life using a throne for my bathroom duties (at least inside) so the idea confuses my sensibilities. Though I can attest that if you have to go bad enough your sensibilities can go to hell.

From lunch we walked downtown Vicenza taking in the sights. The beautiful rose tree (bush) has to be pretty old. The blooms were spectacular and I love the way it hugged the side of this old building. I ended up finding a couple things I needed and Will did also before we headed to the more boring chores of the day (you know groceries and household items from the military post).

I even managed to get the lawn cut before the rain came down.

Sunday we ran to our favorite garden center Viridea Garden Center. It is a little farther away from us but it is just beautiful on the inside and I could visit there every week and just walk around soaking in the atmosphere of the plants. 
I didn’t need (wanted but didn’t need) any plants but we did some fungicide that wasn’t harmful to humans. It is always an experience trying to communicate those kind of needs to people when they are trying to help you and their English is as good as your Italian. (limited to one word questions or child like sentences)

In the end we worked it all out and they were great. Some lunch out, (there was this giant koi pond area and the water lilies were beginning to bloom)  home for house cleaning and repotting plants and to get ready for another week.

See, even we have to clean house and do yard work; we aren’t on a perpetual vacation even if we are having a wonderful life of adventures!!

Oh, and guess what? I taught the cashier at the supermarket today how to count to 15 in English! That was pretty nifty!

One more shout out, I finished my mom’s shawl a week ago and finally managed to get it washed and ready to ship. It came out beautifully, even with the couple of flaws. It is to date the most complicated piece I have ever done!! I love it and I hope she will too!

 

I must go peddle my bike to get some cardio in (always preparing for Scotland and beyond).

Have a wonderful week. Until next time

Ciao miei Amici!!

Venezia until September

Ciao Amici!

What can I say but, Venezia, how I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Venezia (Venice) is visited by a couple types of people; tourists that are marking it off their bucket list, they ‘oooh’ and ‘aahh’ and then they are off to the next city on their grand tour itinerary.

Those that live elsewhere but work there (I would imagine, especially after looking at a realtor listing, that it would be crazy expensive to live there). I wonder if these people work there because they love the city or because it is a job, probably both.

Those that have lived there forever (or can afford to buy there) I think if you have lived there forever you might get annoyed with the tourism and the crowded streets but this is where your family has always been so this is where you shall remain. If you can afford to buy there did you buy because of the prestige of living in Venezia or where you, like myself, captivated by the charm of the city, the history, and the feel of the ancient vibes that sweep through the streets.

Then there is me, I love the feeling of the city but unless I am there with the specific mind of tourism (Carnival) I look at the tourists with apathy (silly tourists always getting in my way). Now, those of you coming to visit me don’t take that personally, I adore the idea of playing tour guide with you, my apathy is reserved for tourists I don’t know. I am just kidding, of course, tourists give Venezia part of its charm and the people watching is amazing!

Venezia is a city of narrow shadowed streets and sunlit squares, hurried people and leisurely food and wine. The houses and buildings seem to rise tall (though they are rarely over three stories). Each balcony shares its own story. Locals hang clothes to dry and flowers to bloom giving the drabber walls a beautiful array of color. If you can find a street where there are no people and a small caffè or trattoria then you have probably hit the jackpot. It isn’t that their food or drink is better than one on the main street but that you then can feel the charm that the city will work on you if you are lucky enough to get a chance to sit quietly and feel it speak to you.

History claims that Venezia was originally populated by Roman citizens fleeing the Germanic and Hun invasions. They took refuge in the marshy islands and from there they created a city of sophistication and taste. The sophistication took a while, it is hard to build a commercial empire when constantly being invaded and burned to the ground. So first they had to suffer through the invasions of the tribes, then the black plague, financial difficulties and other small issues, but hey by the 18th century they got their crap together and made an elegant city.

Today the city survives on the aforementioned tourists and some sources say that the city is largely bankrupt, high prices and tourism not being enough to keep the city afloat (pun intended).

One can only hope that the city continues to survive and thrive.

We have decided because of the tourists (It gets really busy in Venezia in the summer) and the heat that we will probably make more mountain trips than beach trips this summer so this is probably our last trip to Venezia until September. Our Saturday began on the train, which makes it just seven euro and fifty minutes away. After wandering through back city streets, soaking up the feel that is uniquely Venezia and occasionally coming back to be swept through the busy tourist filled streets we made it across the city and close to the gondola harbor. Also known as San Marco Piazza.

We turned off the main street again, and a couple of streets plus two left turns down we found a restaurant that was less inhabited, though that may also have had to do with the very fishy smell wafting up the street. The lunch was good as lunches can be when you are dining outside, taking in the street sounds, smells, and sights. Behind us was some graffiti “No Tav” which we found out later had to do with a high speed train that the city wanted to put in Venezia and the people, obviously, did not want.

As we sat there drinking our wine and aperitifs men would walk up the street dripping water and fish blood down the road. (Here was the source of the fishy smell). The restaurant was less than pleased about this and took several buckets of water out to wash the streets down, it seemed to me like an unwinnable battle but they continued to try and wash the blood down through the cobbles.

After eating we made our way down the street and came out onto the end of a Saturday farmers market, or maybe in this case fishers market. It is a wonderful feeling of freshness and maybe a just a little old worldness when you stumble upon a market. You can almost imagine people trading their eggs for vegetables or fish and taking home their gains at the end of the day to cook up for their families. Nowadays it is a lot less trading goods for goods and a lot of trading goods for money but the feel remains.

We wandered through the vestiges of the market stalls and finished making our way to the main attraction of San Marco Piazza. It was much less crowded than at Carnival but the large open expanse still held many tourists walking through, eating lunch and shopping and strangely enough being swarmed by pigeons. Now, I personally am against having a bunch of flying rats landing all over me but the children seemed to be having a grand time with it. I noticed that the Museo Correr was part of the square and asked Will if he wanted to go. He hadn’t been and readily agreed.

Inside the museum was four museums hooked together, the palace, the archeological museum, the art museum, and the libraries.

Now I love art museums, (to my fathers horror and dismay I could happily walk through rooms of paintings for half a day looking for the one painting that tells the best story) but I could give or take archeological museums (yes, even though I am a historian). However, the palace rooms were exquisite and the Venetian shoes were probably one of the best things we saw in the museum. The museum  was well worth the look and a Bellini collection helped to make it even better.Oh, and they did have an amazing collection of old globes dating back hundreds of years, which was pretty cool.

After the museum we wandered back towards the gondolas looking at the street artists, some of the best pieces of artwork I own are the ones I picked up for twenty euro. Some of it is really good work and some of it is really good memories. In my opinion it is not the cost of something but how it makes you feel. I didn’t buy anything but one day I will own a small piece of Venezia.

We started making our way back across the islands and canals towards the train station, it was warm (actually bordering on hot) and we had been out and about for over six  hours and thought maybe we should head home.

A small break for gelato was necessary as it always is when you are on adventure in Italy. It was good gelato but a little on the sweet side and not as refreshing as I had hoped. Kudos still going out to the best gelato known in Italy, a small shop in the Tuscan countryside called Gelateria di Castellina.

But I digress, after wandering through the streets, getting lost, backtracking, having a glass of wine at BlusBar we finally made it back to the train station.

Strange little factoid about Italian trains, pay close attention when you buy your tickets to the train number. Why? Because it is not printed on your tickets and so you have to correlate the train number (not printed anywhere on your ticket) to the board that shows what train platform your train will be arriving at. Yep, this one has confused us more than once. Also don’t forget to validate your tickets, you could get fined if caught with a train ticket that has been purchased but not validated.

When our train showed up we hopped on quickly to get seats (we had stood all the way down to Venezia) and were lucky enough to sit the whole way back, on the other side of lucky there was a drunk stag party finishing up their day in Venezia by singing loudly all the way home. I can’t tell you whether it was good or bad but I will say their enthusiasm was loud. We made it home around eight to our cats chagrin and collapsed with an emergency pizza (freezer pizza) on the couch.

It was a fantastic day with a wonderful adventure partner and as always I look back on my adventures with wonderment that I live here and our life is spectacular!

Until our next adventure,

Ciao Amici!

 

What a Week!

Ciao Amici!

Do you ever have so much going on that you look back a week later and can’t keep it all straight? That is how I feel about this last week. In fact the weekend was so busy that I decided to break my post into two parts, one about the general events that occurred during the week/weekend and one about Saturday. *Spoiler, Saturday was a Venezia (Venice) day! I love that city.

I need to learn to take more pictures during crazy weeks so I can keep up when I try to write about it, but I didn’t so what do you do (I am shrugging here for lack of an emoji)

On Tuesday I told you all about Lake Garda, and honestly I don’t feel like I gave it the justice it deserved but I am sure that Will and I are going to head that way a couple of times this summer so I will try and do better next time.

On Thursday I made the decision to get my own shoppers card at the local supermarket. It is the one that allows you to scan your own groceries and then you just pay at the end, instead of having to go through a regular check out. It is even quicker than self check out because you have already done all the scanning. I went in to the customer service counter with my stomach all fluttery with anxiety. I know it sounds silly but after eighteen months and two different countries I still have freak outs about speaking, you would think I would know by now that I am just going to butcher the language but nope I think I can do this and then my inner child goes, Nope! Prepare to be laughed at!!! Muahahaha!

Now, I know my inner child is an idiot because to this day no one has laughed at me, at least not to my face. But the apprehension remains. Still between my really bad Italian and her much better English we got it figured out. (FYI waving your hand back and forth and saying “scanner beep! Beep!” really doesn’t help, but my brain panicked). All in all I am calling this one a success!

I also made reservations for a group of us to go to dinner (If you want to go out on a Friday or Saturday around here reservations are a must! Otherwise you will not be getting a table). Now, in the nature of full disclosure I have to say up front that the gentleman on the phone spoke English but I had the same conversation with my inner child, in which she wailed that I was trying to starve her and how were we ever going to eat and how was I going to explain to all the people in our group that they were going to starve? What if this turned into the Donner party? And on and on, what a drama queen she is!

What can I say, my inner child is a sadistic idiot. Of course none of this was the case but man, is that kid a loud and whiny voice when I get scared! Some people are lucky, some people have an inner child that is all rainbows and unicorns shouting kumbaya, let’s play twister and have a movie marathon; mine, however, is well versed in psychological terror tactics. Also in full disclosure, I have never let Will, myself, my inner child or anyone else commit cannibalism or starve, which just makes my inner kid a brat!

With reservations in hand, Friday night we met our friends at a restaurant which was supposed to serve German cuisine, I will nicely say they fell far short of this goal. But their uniforms were great, lederhosen and dirndls. The staff was sweet and amusing and the best part of the whole night was when a server came by and said (Now say this in your best late night tv Italian accent)

“Canna I take’a yoor’ platt’a?”

It made the whole evening! Sadly we probably embarrassed the nice man but he was good natured about the ribbing we gave him.

 

The next day Will and I went to Venice and had a wonderful day! I’ll tell you more about that in another post.

Sunday, I was planning to hike fully loaded but weather made this less than a desirable option. We did get everything out of our packs, lined up what we were going to need, including food and clothing and repacked our bags. Before I add water mine comes in at roughly 36 pounds (a little over 16 kilos for those of us on this side of the pond).

I will honestly say that I am worried about my forty something body being able to haul that weight for four days but Will assures me that we will do whatever makes the most sense, including bailing if the weather and/or hiking weight become unmanageable. Those of you that know me know I am not very good about giving up but as I have gotten older I have become better about knowing my limitations, so we will see which side of me wins in another three weeks.

We ended the day having pizza at one of our favorite restaurants with great friends. I had a little too much wine and my favorite Biancaneve pizza (white pizza with tomato and rucola, yum!) Then it was home just in time to get ready for another week and bed.

All in all a fantastic week!!

 

Until our next adventure,

Ciao Amici!  

Lake Garda and Castles

Ciao Amici,

I have to start this week by giving a shout out to my husband, Will, he is awesome. For all the usual reasons, of course, but today for the fact that he never smothers my spark for adventure. I say things to him like, “Hey I was perusing Pinterest and saw this castle up on Lake Garda…

 

He usually responds with, “Okay, let’s go!”

He is the Adventure Partner extraordinaire!

He frequently forgets to ask me important questions, like how far away or what are we going to do there, or any other multitude of questions that could arise when one’s spouse decides she wants to make impromptu trips every weekend or so. Now, admittedly, not all of my “great” ideas pan out, like the time I wanted to go to Parma and the temperature was less that freezing. (FYI, we had lunch, went to the Museo Lombardi [Marie Louise and Napoleon] and came home; we spent more time in the car then in Parma). However, sometimes I choose a jewel of a day and it is decided while we are there that it shall be one of our favorites.

This was how we felt about the Scaliger Castle in Malcesine and specifically about Lake Garda. It was a beautiful day, warm, maybe a little too warm; but the drive was spectacular and the lake itself was breathtaking.

I had no idea what we were getting into, I just knew I wanted to go and when we dropped down into the valley that holds Lake Garda I knew I had been correct. The lake has sailing, paddle boarding, kite surfing, paragliding, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, the list goes on. The perimeter of the lake has many towns to visit, shop, sightsee, hiking, cycling, mountain biking, mountain climbing, and on. Basically, if you like the outdoors, whether you are a sedentary person or not Lake Garda has you covered. As soon as it gets warm Italians, like Americans, feel this crazy need to take off as many clothes as possible and bake themselves crispy and the lake has these jutting rock, cement, and gravelly sand piers that one to five people take over, they set up camp and begin the baking process stopping only when they are lobster red. (I have always thought this idle afternoon purposeless and boring not to mention harmful to my skin and health; to each their own). But I digress…

We parked and walked down the hill (plenty of hills, prepare to get your calves in shape) to Malcesine. They were having some sort of local market but we were mesmerized by the water and went towards it. We quickly found out that not all streets lead to an accessible waters edge. We could get to water but…it was also a ferry stop so we really couldn’t get to the water, also remember this area is not ‘sandy’ so we ended up on the ferry pier with rocks and buildings on either side. Not quite what we were looking for.

Heading back up the hill we spotted a bench and decided to stop for lunch. Now, we have made a joint decision to start packing a lunch with us when we go out for a couple of reasons, first eating out all the time is expensive, so if we pack a lunch it leaves more money for gelato, beer, and wine. Secondly, in direct opposition to the second half of my first statement you can’t lose any weight or even stay the same weight eating good italian food all the time* (No, I have no idea how Italians stay so skinny). As I am trying to lower my weight to a healthy hiking level I can’t eat cheese pasta and pizza everytime we go out, thirdly if I want to keep having adventures, drinking beer and eating gelato I need to be a little frugal. (I know these statements don’t all seem to go together but they really do, I swear!)

After sandwiches and apples we decided it was time to visit the castle. Scaliger Castle was everything I had been missing in castles since we moved to Italy. Ramparts, walkways, winding stairs, hidden areas and a big tower to climb. Though there is no date for its exact origin the year 1131 carved into a fourth floor vault lets historians know the first years of restoration. Making it clear that it has stood for close to, if not far over, a thousand years. The area itself has many geographically defensible and profitable characteristics and the area has likely been used since prehistoric times. So, the castle, or a settlement of stronghold nature has likely been there for a long, long time.

From the walls sweeping views of the lake, town, and mountains are visible and there is no where to look that isn’t beautiful.

                      

We walked through the castle and visited the natural history museum giving a visitor information on local flora and fauna. From here we decided to find the path we saw from the ramparts which curved its way along the lakes edge.

We headed back down the hill with accurate remarks about having to trudge back up the hill on our way back, but the walk was worth it.

It was during this walk that we decided that this might be one of our new favorites and made tentative plans to come back and hike, bike, paddle board, maybe even kitesurf, who knows. Most likely none of this until after the Scotland trip, which will be upon us in a scant 29 days, Yikes! (so not physically ready for this!!)

We walked back up the hill in search of gelato but decided to stop for a refreshing drink first and I found a new love. A local craft beer by Manerba Brewery, refreshing, light, a perfect summer beer!

After relaxing with our drinks we did eventually find gelato. I second guessed myself and instead of going back to a place I had sussed out earlier I bowed to pressure of a line and went to a place that had a steady stream of customer. Though it was tasty it was as fake as fake gealto can be. Artificial flavors and colors with bright green pistachio and jolly rancher flavored watermelon. Oh well, live and learn, always go with the first gelato instincts. After the gelato we headed back up the hill to our car, (lots of hills in Italy) a perfectly wonderful day by the lake and plans to return. What a gem of a find!!

Until next week,

Ciao Miei Amici

* I tell everyone who is going to visit they should lose 5-10 pounds prior to coming, they will definitely be putting it back on.