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Showing posts from 2009

Juliet's Breast in Verona

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When we left for Italy, my husband Bill knew we’d be visiting my deceased husband Vittorio's family and friends. He thought maybe he'd meet five or six. By the end of the trip he'd met 24. The final batch of family members waited for us at the bus station in Verona -- Catarina, a fiery Sicilian beauty, who'd helped me connect with many of these relatives was there with her equally spirited mother Maria Rosaria. So, too was a pensive Livio (Vittorio's nephew) and his vivacious wife Marilena.

Perhaps it was the presence of the Sicilian faction that added the spice to our visit, making it one of the most memorable; perhaps it was the four women in Livio’ s life. Whatever the seasoning, the arguments, laughter, and singing that punctuated the time we spent in Verona that made it the day Bill and I recall with the greatest delight.

How Livio’ s family loved their “discussions.” Livio’ s women argued with Livio about what to see and how to get there with as much determina…

In lovely Sirmione on the Lago di Garda

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We departed Trento on a cool misty October 22 and headed from the Alps down to the lake country. The drive along Lago di Garda thrust me back into the past, when I traveled there with my deceased husband Vittorio and our baby Thomas when we stopped for lunch at a small roadside trattoria. The owners, a lovely warm couple with a wide-faced smiling daughter told us they did not open until evening but, seeing the baby, told us to come back in an hour and we could share lunch with the family—a delicious minestrone with crusty bread, greens from the garden and wine. While we waited, we rented a small rowboat and floated happily offshore with the warm sun on our faces and our baby asleep in my arms.

Bill and I were spending two nights in Sirmione, a tiny lakeside town on the peninsula on the south-side of Lago di Garda. Villa Rosa, a lovely family run B&B only a mile’s walk from the heart of the historic town , was family owned and operated. One of the family actually spoke fluent Englis…

Trento in the Italian Alps

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The Grand Hotel in Trento, is a classy old hotel smack in the heart of the city. Delicious room, tasteful décor, scrumptious breakfast buffet, great drinks in the piano bar, and my precious Bill enjoying i there with me.

Trento was on our itinerary, not only because it is a beautiful city in the Italian Alps, but because we wanted to visit with my deceased husband Vittorio’s niece Concetta and her family who live just above the city in Piano di Sopra.

Unlike Teresa, who seemed content to leave us on our own during the day, Concetta, immediately assumed the role of tour director. That afternoon we walk through streets lined with Renaissance palaces, visit the Duomo and descend to the recently unearthed early Christian church beneath it; then sit and sip espresso at a small café on the main square. That night, Concetta’s entire family comes for supper: her two sons, their wives and children fill her small home. It’s all Italian conversation in Trento but we manage to chatter away, and B…

Forte Dei Marmi on the Italian Riviera

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From Florence, we headed to Forte Dei Marmi, a lovely seaside town with exquisite villas tucked behind walls on tree lined streets. After settling ourselves at the Hotel Pigalle a simple, summery B&B only one block from the heart of this fashionable seaside town on the Ligurian Sea we headed to the town center where, at an outdoor café, s little girl of around four approached our table with a pad and pencil, and pretended to take our order. She set off for the table next to us where she encountered a baby in a high chair and decided she’d rather play with the baby.

We’d come to Forte Dei Marmi so Bill could meet some of Vittorio’s good friends and enjoy the sea air and relaxed atmosphere. Giuliano took us and his wife and 12-year-old son to one of the exceptionally fine seafood restaurants in the area. Wanting to share the sea’s bounty with us, he ordered our meal. The first course, was also a first for me -- individual plates of raw fish: tuna, oysters, sea bass, and squid. Grant…

Impressions of Florence

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After numerous turns around a town square outside the walls of Florence, the GPS system leading us to the wrong building in a different section of town with the same address, and several phone calls to Donatella Mia, the proprietress, we finally arrived at Villa Malavolta B&Bwithin walking distance of the city of Florence.

Rather than write about the city with its famous landmarks, I want to focus on my impressions of our stay there, memories that continue to enchant me six months later.

Impressions of our B&B: Donatella, tall and elegant and the exquisite walled villa that had been in her family for hundreds of years. Books piled on tables, on floors and nested in towering bookcases; walls rife with paintings; wooden floors supporting heavy antique furnishings; our blessed room – white and sun-washed, with its comfortable bed and little terrace overlooking an inner garden. On that terrace, accompanied by bird song and under the gaze of an ancient pine we ate chocolates and che…

Assisi: parking ticket and all

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We came to Assisi seeking St. Francis and Clare. We found them. We found, as well, a greeting from the Assisi police: a parking ticket. Parking in Assisi is limited to residents only.

Unaware of the ticket that awaited us on our return to the car, we blithely visited the Basilica of Santa Chiara and knelt before St. Clare's “miraculously preserved” body which, though blackened from its exposure to air, is in much better condition than poor St. Lucy, whose "in-corrupt" body I’d viewed years earlier in Venice.
a chapel at the Carceri on Monte Subasio
We then set off for the Basilica of San Francesco, and happened upon a side alley leading to a small shrine I’d not been to before. The Chiesa Nuova is the home where Francis once lived and where his father – a wealthy cloth merchant -- once imprisoned him.

On the way to Assisi: Foligno

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We ate breakfast on the terrace in Amalfi, served by skinny Renaldo who buzzed and hummed about, making an occasional nervous foray into conversation about his marriage to a Russian woman from Eastern Siberia, his three year old child, how he works all night and goes home to play with his child before sleeping in the afternoon – all in Italian mind you. The young man who helped Bill carry our bags to the car, down the numerous flights of stairs, was not nearly as affable.

“For one night in this hotel you need all these bags?” We didn’t bother to explain that bringing all the bags into the hotel wasn’t our decision. The young woman who helped us unload informed us that “Your car will be parked in a public garage,” and insisted everything be removed before giving it to the attendant to park.

Even our GPS had a hard time finding the Delfina Palace Hotel in Foligno where we would spend two nights while visiting Assisi. A new 4-star hotel, the Delfina was a sprawling but mostly empty hotel…

Positano and the wine of memory

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Bill and I woke to our final morning in Piano di Sorrento to the sound of children's voice emanating from a small school one block away: the Scuola Via della Acacha -- A public elementary school with a choir of little ones that sang like angels.

As if the Pied Piper were leading a group of singing children down the streets of the town, I felt the pull of that music. The children were still singing as we pulled away from the Maison de Titty and began our trip to Positano.

I know it sounds extreme, but Positano holds the wine of my most potent memories. It was there, many years ago, that the sight of small school children dressed in blue smocks and pinafores skipping home for lunch, brought an ache to my heart. There where we ate freshly caught fish on the beach and bought baskets of strawberries and wine. There in a hotel overlooking the sea --where the bougainvillea-covered patio shielded us from the sun as we ate breakfast, where in a room filled with the scent of blossoming lemo…

Slide Show of our first days in Italy: Rome

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This should have been posted before the Ostia Antica to Amalfi as the slides in this smilebox preceded that trip by four days.

Make a Smilebox slideshow

Hot Dog Rolls for breakfast and a day in Capri

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As if she'd been awaiting the exact moment of our arrival on the patio for breakfast the next morning, Rita –Titty’s mother (of La Maison de Titty), hurried out with tiny éclairs with Nutella, coffee, and . . . of all things … hot dog rolls. These rolls tickled our funny bones. We’d hoped for the small hard rolls we’d slathered with butter and jelly in Rome but had gotten hot dog rolls. We did have prosciutto and cheese, however, and I found that these together with jelly (don’t cringe) on dried tostini (melba toasts) made a satisfactory breakfast.Michele, Titty’s father, was waiting for us when we emerged with our cameras and carry bags from our room to drive us to the port in Sorrento. After showing us where to wait for the ferry to Capri, he disappeared, reappearing again suddenly with two bus tickets for our return trip to Piano di Sorrento that evening. Touched by this generosity, we found it easy to forgive La Maison de Titty the hot dog rolls for breakfast.Determined to do

Piano di Sorrento, Le Maison de Titty, and Ristorante Betania

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Having raced at speeds of over 160 kph on the autostrada the night before, I find it amusing that I should greet that very same autostrada with relief the following morning. Escaping the snarled suicide rush of autos, bicycles, motorcycles, trucks, buses, and pedestrians around the Naples Termini felt miraculous.We were finally “out-a-there.”(Apologies to all Naples lovers.)
Photo L to R: Michele, Rita, Titty, Beryl, Bill
The drive to Piano di Sorrento, where we would spend the next two nights at Le Maison de Titty, was gorgeous with fantastic views of the bay. Finding Piano di Sorrento was another matter. We drove right past the small sign announcing that town and were well on our way to Salerno when a phone call to the owner got us back to the town of Piano di Sorrento, north of the city of Sorrento. The hidden backstreet where the B&B was located continued to evade us. Unable to connect again with the owner, whose phone was busy) we asked a motorcyclist waiting next to a small ch…

At a loss in Naples

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The center of the city and not the Docks at Naples was what we were looking for when we arrived in Naples late the night of October 10, my 69th birthday. The docks are a poorly lit jungle of dead ends and warehouses that we escaped only when a kindly policeman came to our rescue and told us how to get back onto the highway and what exit to take.

Described on its web page as "situated next to Piazza Garibaldi, in the heart of Naples, only 200 meters from the central railway station," the Hotel Garden on Corso Garibaldi. should have been easy to find but the area around the railway station was such a confusing tangle of dim and dirty streets that it took three phone calls to the Hotel receptionist before we found the modest little hotel situated within a block of buildings on one side of the Piazza.

Though "parking" was listed as a hotel amenity, we could find no hotel parking lot so we pulled into an empty place across the street. “Oh you must not park there,” we were…

Don't do Naples on your birthday

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On my 69th birthday, we left Rome for Naples. This was not a wholly good idea, unless one thrives on travel tension.

October 10, 2008 started off innocently enough. We took a taxi to the Termini station where Avis has a rental pick up. Easy right? The taxi ride yes. Renting the car anything but.

Walking several blocks from the rental desk to the pick-up garage would not have been a problem if the carts we rented worked. But they didn't. When the first cart's wheels locked, we got another. When this also refused to move, we complained. The response? Termini’s luggage carts were not allowed outside the building. Their wheels lock automatically. So much for luggage carts.


Our largest suitcase, which handle broke at Fiumicino airport the night we arrived, together with our other medium- and small-sized suitcases, made a do-able situation difficult. When Bill's attempt to transport three bags collapsed onto the sidewalk, I turned back to the desk.

"We need to have the car dr…

Those gorgeous Italian women

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At the small restaurant on Via Mario Fiori we checked the prices for breakfast -- 25€ ($38) for an American breakfast, 35 € ($53.20) for an English breakfast, 18€ ($25.70) for a continental breakfast.The cheapest breakfasts are eaten at a café bar – standing up. Order your coffee and biroche, pay the cashier, eat at the bar. Sitting down costs more. At the open air café on Via Frattina, we decided to sit anyway. I wanted to watch the people on that busy street, especially those gorgeous women of Rome who make jeans and a button down shirt look glamorous. Of course those jeans are often worn with high boots or stiletto heels (how they manage to stride so elegantly in those ankle-breakers is beyond me). The jewel-toned scarves they’ve tossed loosely over their shoulders or about their necks add just the right touch as do their shiny leather bags large enough to hold computers.The men weren't so bad either! These police in formal dress certainly cut an impressive swath along Via Frat…