Monday, April 30, 2007

now, please meet Joey!

Hey ~ we spent 14 days teasing Joey about never downloading
the 435 photos she was taking to her computer. And then last
night she emailed (!) many/many and I must say they are quite
wonderful. Better than mine in many instances (more expensive
camera and a great eye on her part) and here she is in those
gardens above the Spanish Steps. Check out the trees which I
neglected to write you about.

Joey was a flight attendant and has a million stories about
traveling with (ahem) Tommy Lasorda, Frank Sinatra, Natalie
Woods and a bunch more celebs. And she would grab my suitcase
and flick it into the overhead without breaking one long nail.

With the addition of her photos, these after-Italy posts
should last way into July. Thank you, Joey ~ Africa in 2008?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

a little history with your artichoke?

We know most major European cities had walled districts and the Jews
couldn't come outside after dark. This lasted for about 300 years. Above is
the synagogue in Rome and below is the large menorrah. The Jewish
Quarter is located on the Tiber River and we had one of our best ever
meals here at the Ristorante Piperno. Thanks to The Great Plotnik, we
enjoyed our first fried artichokes. We never figured out why this is a
"Jewish dish", but I did find a recipe for them. Untried, as yet.

One can eat the entire artichoke. They look much better than in this
photo, by the way. Tender and crisp and superb.
From Red, White & Greens Italian vegetable cookbook:
4 artichokes cleaned and trimmed ~ keep in water acidulated w/ lemon
4 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup flour in a bag
Sea salt to taste
Drain the artichokes and pat dry. Heat the oil to 325 degrees. Shake them
in the bag of floor and fry until golden brown. Drain.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

ready for roma?

Open the window, then the shutters ~ here is the view from my hotel
room. I couldn't wait for the sun to come up so I could spend another
delightful day sightseeing and getting lost and eating, walking, looking
at everything and talking. Oh, yes, and searching for the ATMs and
laughing with my travel mates. I must return...
My tiny bed in Rome...cloister-like, no? Perfecto, no?
This is the view from our Hotel Mozart in the heart of Rome, about 2
blocks from the Spanish Steps. We all loved this hotel because they
served huge breakfasts and our rooms, though v. small, were perfect.

I'm glad to be reliving the trip here and now. This past work week was
one of the worst I've ever experienced. Or maybe I've just forgotten
all the other bad times ~ selective memory and all that. I try to keep
my head when all about me aren't, but I couldn't this time. I'm so glad
I had Italy to help keep me sane.

Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out
over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never
break off from the journey.
Pat Conroy

Friday, April 27, 2007


I saw this bumper sticker on a car here in (surprise)
San Francisco. I agree...

ginger, fiamma and elisa

For some reason this didn't publish in the post, but you
all need to see these delightful people...

le lance on the hill above firenze

You might notice that I am using more than one photo (I
hope) today and I normally don't put my friends in, but
I know they want to be seen and admired.

Restaurants in Italy ~ don't be in rush, they are civilized.
cooking from scratch and everything is FRESH. Do not order a
cappuccino after noon and there is no such thing as a doggie
bag. Everyone is friendly and the portions are perfect ~
not built for trenchermen as in our country.

We never ate lunch before 1 or 2 (or sometimes 3pm) and the
restaurants did not even open until 7:30pm and then the other
diners would be mostly Americans until the native Italians
started arriving about 8:30 or 9:30.

And the families! Young, old, in between. Well behaved
children in every instance. An experience, not just a
delicous meal. I miss it.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

molto motor scooters!

What with the Euro (high) vs. the Dollar (low) and the
whole litre vs. gallon vs. grams and kilometers business,
we could never really figure out how much a gallon of
gas costs in Italy. We would start the conversation,
then morph into 5 tangential American women w/o calculators,
and god knows we had problems just dividing the lunch
check evenly. But trust me, gas is MUCH higher in Europe
than it is here in the states.

People who know and love me realize that I sneer at SUVs
and gas guzzlers and the American me-first kind of greed.
Note the photo above with just a fraction of the thousands
of scooters in Florence. There is a helmet law for these,
but not for bicycles, interestingly enough. This was taken
as we walked once again along the Arno River towards the
center of Firenze.

In the present ~ I awoke with lovely work worries, so I
worked on the photos early and now I'll catch up on some
more TV. Watched 3 hours of The Sopranos yesterday, my
other Italian family. The sun is coming up and it looks
like a clear day here finally. Work worries too will pass....

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

breakfast for one, per favore

Don't you love it? We saved a TON of Euros on this trip
because our hotels all served breakfast. Then we would have
a huge and late lunch and (usually) a small and late dinner.
I figure I saved enough to splurge on a leather jacket...
photo to follow one day.

Our home base (6 or 7 or so nights) was the Villino Magnifico
in Florence. It is about 3 blocks from Adriana's and even
those without any sense of direction could move back and forth
to her place with ease. I was, of course, always the first
person down here for breakfast and I would grab the best table
near the window and write in my journal, scribble on post
cards and have too many cups of cappuccino with extra espresso
from that machine you see on the left. This was when I missed
my laptop the most, but also I loved just sitting here all
by myself reliving the day before and wondering what today
would bring.

It is my observation that one feels more deeply when traveling
without a Significant Other. Or maybe it's using different
muscles that lay dormant, being freer and yet not. Trying to
remember everything to report at a later date. I dunno, I
ramble this morning.

Finally a day off after 3 days at the big box. Not easy for a
woman who should still be in Italy. Sleep is starting to get
normal as I slept in until 5am this morning.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

chalk one up for ginger!

On our trip Ginger was constantly comparing Florence to
her home town of Santa Barbara, and we were constantly
teasing her about this. There are a few similarities such
as the tile roof tops and maybe some of the trees on the
hills around the city...but that's it. An American city
can't really compare to an old and distinguished European
city and I've seen enough of SB to know that every strip
mall and shopping center is built to look just like the one
down the street, in an effort to keep it looking all clean
and uniform. And, yes, pretty.

Then we saw the chalk drawing here! "Just like Santa
Barbara", we said in unison. They draw down there at the
Mission for some festival or other, but this guy (and
several others) were here working for coins on the street
in Firenze. It takes a talent that I certainly don't
possess and I have a feeling that they have to erase their
work every night and start from fresh the next day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

my favorite photo, so far

This is the one I've selected for my desk top, replacing
the placid ducks floating on that little lake in Oregon,
if you must know.

I took more than 200 photos, some of the sidewalks in all
three cities. I am trying to arrange them ~ label and
organize and remember. (I hate to delete even the sidewalks)

This is the famous Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) in Firenze,
shot from the 2nd or 3rd floor of the Uffizi Museum. I
spent many perfectly delightful hours in group and solo
mode, walking up and down the Arno River. Our B&B was
only 3 blocks away and having this as an easy focal point
was extremely helpful. I knew I would never really get
lost and there was always something to see along the
banks of the river. Picnics, families, vendors, dogs and
always the tourists, of course.

There are about 50 shops on this covered bridge ~ mostly
selling gold and silver. No cars, thankfully. We walked
across it the day we visited those lush gardens at the
Pitti Palace and Adriana also took us on a group walk
here (with Iside) on Easter Sunday. I could live here.
Send Euros....

Sunday, April 22, 2007

be careful, pablo!

Some of my happiest moments were spent here in Adriana's
dining room in Firenze. Pablo has a habit of falling
asleep on this window sill (3rd floor) and tumbling
down onto the street. I've owned two tuxedo cats and
they are usually pretty sweet ~ with one exception ~
my aged Tosca who was (ahem) difficult.

Anyway, most of the shutters are this deep green, so
impressive with the soft mustard, peach and tangerine
buildings typical of Italy. Muted. Lots of those photos
to follow, but I thought you might want to meet Pablo
first. So fun to see how others live, isn't it?

Work today? Yawn. I fear that the morning meeting was
a travelogue, but everyone was polite and feigned interest.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

back to work & jet lag

But first, a quick recap of Friday, our final day. We
took a two hour walking tour with Corine and saw lots of
little streets and canals including the Carampane District
which used to be where the prostitutes worked. They had
to dress as men and could not wear black or white. We
even took the local water taxi (for .50 Euros) back and
forth on the canal and we stood up in the boat so we
would look like locals. Went to the big outdoor fish market
and Strada Nova which is the largest street in Venice.
Then we had excellent pizza at an outdoor restaurant at
Campo St. Angela (Acqua Pazza). Campos are areas that
used to be fields in the city and each one features a
small church for the local people. After lunch my travel
mates enjoyed some Meloncello and pronounced it even
better than the Limoncello. They are now cello experts.

Our treno left at 4:30 and we arrived back in Firenze
in time for a late dinner at Adriana's. Then we said our
farewells and now it's over. A long and boring day on
airplanes, but I did get to see Beatrix Potter and of
course I got all weepy because it is such a sweet story.

Rainy and cold here in SF. Husbando had flowers and a
clean house waiting for me. Nice to be home, but, as I
said, another week of sitting/staring would have been
excellent. I really had a fabulous time and now join the
millions of people who say, "I L-O-V-E Italy!". My thanks
to Ginger and Adriana for this memorable trip...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

the blog of sighs

I'm packed and ready to go and, of course, I finally
slept last night. Today was another fabulous one with
a 3 hour tour of the Doge (duke)Palace and all the
history of Venice that our guide Corine could pack
in. We crossed the Bridge of Sighs where prisoners
walked to their deaths, heard all about the rich and
unusual background here. So different than Roma or

Then, finally, one of my dreams. To tour St. Mark's
church with the tiny gold mosaics in the ceiling and
the famous hi fi sound system that I had read about
20 years ago. What an amazing experience. The church
is only lit for about an hour a day, and Corine was
aware of that and also the clanging of the old bell
down at the other end of the square.

We had a sandwich for lunch and walked around Venice
some more until it was time to have coffee at the
oldest cafe in Europe, Cafe Florian on St. Mark's
Plazza. Didn't know we had to pay an extra €17 for the
music, but it was such a great experience that we
didn't really mind.

Last night we sat outside at Bar Verde for a salad (!)
and sandwiches, then finally took the gondola ride
around the small back canals of Venice. What a perfectly
delightful experience. So quiet and peaceful. No car
alarms or honking. We could look into the backs of
homes and restaurants and the gondolier sang out a
"ohhhhhhoooooo" loudly when he came to an intersection,
but there was v. little traffic.

Another 2 hours with Corine this morning, probably a
walking tour. Then the 4pm treno express (we hope) to
Florence. Dinner at angel Adriana's and a domani un
giorno of airports and planes. Talk to you Sunday from
SF and msBook. Thank you for pushing me to do this
blog, even if it costs almost as much as the jacket.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

glass, opera, peggy & fish grams

I have to get all of this down before I forget, so this
journal is really for me, but I am happy to have you
reading over my shoulder. Back at the expensive computer
so I will type quickly and forget about the commas...

Ginger had a bright idea and called the glass factory
on the Murano Island for a free pickup this morning.
We took the v. interesting tour and Boise bought a
gorgeous art piece (don't call it a vase!)and suffered
buyer's remorse all day the way I did with the leather
jacket. But she has recovered by now, I'm sure. The
free ride from Murano to Venezia did not appear until
Boise signed on the dotted line, however, so we didn't
get to Venezia until after noon.

Boise, G and I took off to sightsee while Linda and
Joey shopped. We saw the following:
.La Fenice Opera House, newly rebuilt
.Peggy Guggenheim's home and museum, filled with
some glorious pieces by many of my favorite artists
including Arp, Pollock, etc. She lived between two
canals and that was really a wonderful experience
.stopped for lunch (bean and pasta soup for 16€)at
Ristorante Alla Borsa on Calle delle Veste and
had some forbidden cappuccino (it was too late for
that officially in Italy)and rested our tired feet
.talked to a 50ish woman who had lived in Venice all
her interesting
.took a million photos and stopped a hundred times
just to look up and down the alleys at all the
colorful and surprising twisting streets - some so
narrow that only one line of people on each side
could pass. It is heavenly quiet w\o traffic and
not worrying about being run over or losing an arm
to a side mirror like in Roma
.the canals are beyond belief and I would like to
spend a week just sitting out, watching people and
sipping espresso or cappaccino
.dinner at Fiaschetteria Toscana where 2 people (not
me this time, yeah) ordered fish by the gram (whatever
that is) and the damn thing cost €60...surprise!

After dinner we walked through San Marco Square - it
was overwhelmingly beautiful. No pigeons or tourists
with 3 bands playing. It is huge and magnificent and
it took my breath away. Alas, the photos would not
have worked. A fabulous day.

Our tour starts from here at 9:30 a domani, so I had better
get to bed. I appreciate the comments and your attention.
My feet hurt from walking and my stomach from laughing
Life is so good.

Down to that phase of travel where I don't have to worry
about laundry anymore. Soon I'll be home and will want
to burn my clothes, my 3 black outfits.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

luxury on lido

I also keep a little written journal and that's often
the only way I know what day it is. I am eager to get
over to Venice, although a few more hours sleep would
have been beneficial. So it's Wednesday and the many
bright red mosquito bites are less obvious this morning.

This 5 star hotel is glorious and I should have slept
more, but I should be used to this by now. This little
island reminds all of us of New Orleans (before) and
last night after a beach walk with Ginger, the five of
us walked to Valentino's for one of the best meals ever:
grilled fish, liver, pasta and raw artichoke sliced
v. thinly. Sat outside and talked about how lucky we are.

I will report in later from a less expensive computer.
This one is 15€ an hour as compared to the 4€ at the
Internet Train in Firenze.

primera impressions of venezia

Everything worked out beautifully on the treno
even if my travel mates knocked back some Lemoncello
at an early hour. We arrived around 1pm and when we
emerged from the train station I made everyone stop
for a moment while I gasped and took my first of
many Venice photos. Another "pinch me" moment.

Unfucking believable. Despite seeing this a million
times in photos and in movies, I can not tell you
what a total magical place it is. We are blessed with
warm and clear weather, so the city sparkled. The
canals appear clean. Just some random first thoughts:

. the little canals that lead into the city are from
one to two row boat sizes wide
. I have not been inside the actual city yet as we are
staying in a posh hotel on the Lido Island
. We took the inexpensive (€6) boat to San Marco Plaza
and then the Westin Excelsior has a free hourly shuttle
service. It is 5pm now and Adriana warned us that the
natives move even more slowly here than they do in
. the gondolas park perpendicular to the decks which
are lined with people sitting and hanging out
. the first boat I saw close up was carrying a bath
tub and some remo lumber - I loved that
. it is more spread out and lower than I expected...
of course that makes perfect sense now
. yes, many buildings are delapidated, but I also saw
some gorgeous gardens and even some modern buildings
. I thought the gondoliers and their boats would be corny
but they are enchanting in black teak(?) with bright
red lining - the guys wear those horizontal striped
shirts and delightful ribbon trimmed straw hats
. it smells good here and Ginger says they have cleaned
up the water since last she was here

Our pizza last night was not as good as SF, so we are
going to try again tonight. We think that last night
they were in a hurry since there were so many of us.
Of course we had a wonderful time anyway.

I have about 30 lovely mosquito bites so Adriana gave
me some "After Bite" and that helps. Couldn't sleep
again last night due to Virginia Tech news on CNN. I so
feel for those college kids, their parents and my country.

But, I will concentrate on the positive and how v. lucky
I am. Thank you for the leather jacket hoorahs, we bought
the coats at The Leather Factory near a major church at
a major piazza very close to the main shopping district.
Adriana knows and trusts them.

OK, gotta figure out the phone and how to call Husbando.
Ciao everyone!

Monday, April 16, 2007

boboli, the old pharmacy, the new jacket

Oh, oh. I found the leather jacket and now I'll need to
find a part time job when I come home. Thankfully our
angel Adriana "got it for us wholesale" and it as soft
as a little black lamb. And sleek. And perfect.

But first. Yes, the Boboli Gardens at the Pitti Palace
were well worth the long hike. Today it was only Ginger,
Boise and myself as the other two wanted to shop. The
weather continues warm, almost hot. I finally figured
out how to get CNN on TV last night and saw those East
Coast storms and I've been thinking about you, Leah
and Ms. K. Yuck.

After cappucinos and a long walk in the Garden we met
Adriana and the shoppers for lunch at Cantinetta dei
Verrazzano on Via Dettavolini and as always when we go
with our angel hostess we get extra special service and
unusual dishes. Also a delightful salad which we poor
Americanas have been missing. So today we had salami
made from wild boar and cheese with a special red
pepper sauce and lots of other exotic and fabulous
foods. I've been meaning to mention that the NEW food
treat here is honey spread on cheese. I think it appeals
to the younger tongue.

I also neglected to tell you that a New Balance Marathon
was held here yesterday starting under the fake David
at the Piazza Della Signoria. Yçu know how in my country
the obsessed runners are all lined up at 6am? Well, here
it began at 10am. So civilized.

The morbid mama sent us to the Old Pharmacy and I thank
her for that. Ginger who almost lives in Firenze had never
been and we found it enchanting. They get lots of attention
there now because it was in the movie Hannibal and Adriana
said we should watch this just for scenes of Florence. It's
over by Santa Maria Novella, if you are taking travel notes.
It smelled devine, not one bit like Walgreen's.

I love the stationery stores here and when I shop this is
where I head. The ceramics are beautiful too and all the
people who work in the stores are as friendly as can be.
I should mention that Ginger also bought a leather jacket,
hers is green, a rich olive green. Boise bought some shoes
and now I think we are ready to head to Venezia. A domani.

Finally pizza tonight with all 5 of the formerly rich
Americanas, Adriana and her delightful daughters Elisa
and Fiamma. When Ginger asked me the other day how I felt
about this trip, without thinking, I said, "one hundred
times better than I ever expected".

When I was young the idea of travelling with a bunch of
women would have made me run and hide. Funny how life
works out, isn't it? Each of them have enriched this trip
for me beyond belief. Now back to the Magnifico to freshen
up before dinner. See you a domani on the Grand Canal.
El treno correcto departe at 10am. Buona serra!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

an american keyboard!

It's after 3pm here and of course we just finished
lunch (at the Osteria del Porrcellino on Via Val di
Lamona) and our waiter worked at the Moscone Center
for 3 months. This is a differet Internet Train and
I just fell on an American keyboard by happy accident.

Some things I have forgotten. We did have gelato at
the famous Vivoli yesterday. It is warm here still
and the light breeze keeps us comfortable. Last night
we all went to our rooms early and took care of
journals and laundry and tour book reading. I did
watch some silly American movie in
come their ads are so much more interesting than ours?

First I had a long solo walk along the Arno and ran
into an Irish Setter named Pepe. They have small dog
runs in the parks here, it appears. This was right
before sunset and I enjoyed every minute of my walk
and never once felt nervous.

At lunch yesterday Adriana told me that I had a fine
Italian accent. I think she is comparing me to Ginger
who might have the worst. So that class and Luigi
must have helped after all!

Seeing the magnificent David at the Accademia under
natural light was an experience I will never forget.
Our tour guide here in Florence is Chiara and she
is fabulous. She educates us on the history as well
as the art and makes everything so very interesting.
It's fun to watch the Americans try to hook up with
us because I have done that very thing in the past.

Today we visited the Uffizi Gallery (means Officials
as it was once a government building) where the famous
Venus Rising and The Primavera reside. We saw the
highlights and then moved on to the Medici Chapel
with that glorious Night and Day statues by our now
friend Michelangelo. Actually he did the entire
chapel before he moved permanently to Roma.

Tomorrow could be a free day, but Dancing Jen has
recommended the Boboli Gardens, so we will go there
in the morning. The others are shopping now and I
will answer a couple of emails and join them soon.

Just because so many of you have asked, Adriana's
horse is named Zanzibar. Zanzi for short. We finally
got to meet her delightful boyfriend (Andrea) yes-
terday and he way too generously picked up the
check for all of us at La Lance on the hill. I'll
show you photos when I return to the USA.

Reading this over I see that it is a jumble of
thoughts and needs a rewrite, but at least you get
an idea of my busy, happy hours here in Firenze.
When we arrived from the l-o-n-g train ride I said
to my travel mates, "it feels like home!" And it does.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

the vatican, the treno, the david and sleep!

No way can a person travel without writing about it for two
whole days. At least, not the way we are doing it. There
was, by the way, a graph to accompany that Sleep Whine and
it had to do with our all-women conversation about how
awful it must be to go on a Honeymoon to Europe and not
know how the other person travels. It can be stressful,
but at least we all have separate rooms and the chance
to drift away and gather ourselves without any hurt feelings.
Someone pre-deleted that graph of Thursday. No loss.

I did finally sleep last night. Today about noon when I
made a particularly obnoxious comment Boise said to me, "oh
your drugs are wearing off".

OK, back to travel. We met the marvelous Patrizia at 8:30am
Friday she got us into the Sistine Chapel within 30 minutes.
The line was already around the block. They get between
25,000 to 35,000 visitors PER DAY there and most people miss
the most amazing sculptures lining the hallways outside the
Chapel. Being with Patrizia is like taking a history course
and one of the things I so enjoy about these women I am with
is that they are interested in everything and as curious as
can be about all sorts of things.

One of the Popes was offended by the nudity and had fig
leaves place on many of the male statues. Patrizia reports
that there is a warehouse in Roma filled with marble and
limestone penises.

I had not seen The Ceiling since it had been refurbished back
in 1985. I remember Michael saying that he had visited during
the cleaning. Nothing was touched up then, only cleaned. It
was dark and dirty from the candles and pollution. Many assume
that they added color, but no, this is the way it was and it
it completely mesmerizing. Patrizia gave us a thorough lesson
on the ceiling and then we went in and were overwhelmed. I
really could not believe it, even though I've seen it a few
hundred times in books and postcards.

Next we visited St. Peter's and appreciated the Pieta again,
now behind glass, of course. This is (I believe) the largest
and richest church on earth. It is HUGE and even though there
were thousands of other tourists in there, it appeared almost
empty. We had more art history lessons, then walked outside
to see where the Pope speaks and the faithful gather. They
had thousands of chairs out for the Sunday service and I thought
back to the many times we have seen the ceremonies on TV and
how small our world really is these days.

It was after 1pm when we said our fond farewells to Patrizia
and I have her name for the next time you visit Roma. A private
tour is expensive, but really the only way to do this, I think.

More fried artichokes, this time at a restaurant named Paris
in Travestere area, across the river. I felt like I knew the
place since Anthony Doerr lived there.

Now the adventure. Back to our hotel for our baggage and we
called for taxis and one arrived and one did not. Our train was
leaving for Firenze at 5:44 and we finally all got to the station
(through heavy traffic)at about 5:40. If there is one thing the
5 of us have in common it is that we are always early. Not today.
We ran with our bags and flawless Italian and scrambled on the
train through any door we could find. Whoosh. Then ooooops.

Wrong train. We had reservations on the express (under 2 hours)
and ended up on the stop everywhere, but at least we were going
to the right city. The confusion was due to the fact that there
was a rare (joke) train strike that morning and the two trains
were leaving at the exact same time. We did not get home until
10 pm. Exhausted. But a funny trip because we took over some
man's compartment and he refused to leave even though there were
no assigned seats, he did not speak English and there were about
700 other empty seats on the train.

Pasta at Adriana's and finally got to sleep about midnight. Got
to meet her darling daughters and had quite a few new things to
talk about since last we saw here.

Today - the Duomo, the real David (yes, TGP), Santa Croce and
another fabulous long lunch. A domani. I can gather the comments
here, thanks Blogmaid!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

italia on 4 hours sleep

vesuvius, pompeii, naples & who can sleep?

Whooooosh, long day of driving, but a fabulous day
indeed. My travelling mates finally discovered that
I must have breakfast alone and I believe that they
have accepted that. I treasure my early morning alone
time and Husbando quickly learned that after knowing me
for about 3 days.

But, let us recap today. We met Adriana and Jockamo
(sp?) at Popolo Piazza at 9:30 and drove in a van,
that once carried Kevin Spacey, south to Pompeii.
Two hours and much traffic and assorted bad jokes
and guffaws. Forgive me, this Italian computer does
not honor spell check...

Weather remains beautiful. We were not the only folks
at Pompeii, but we met our guide Antonio after parking
the huge van in a v. small space and walking a few
feet to buy tix (£11 each). I have always\always
wanted to see Pompeii and my initial impression was
that it is much bigger than I expected. It was a city
of 20,000 and there was great wealth and elegance. I
really could picture the life there, especially after
Antonio described the homes, supermarket, temples and
bars as we walked by. On purpose, we think, he talked
about the big sheets of marble and kept referring to
them as "big shits". We behaved.

Exceedingly small mosaic tile floors and frescos of
unbelivable warm colors, some even with a 3-D effect.
Imagine. We could see not only Vesuvius but the sea
from this town and the slightly warm breezes helped
paint the picture of ancient life here. Once again
the whole amazing water system was evident. (I did
read "Pompeii" by Harris and that was beneficial
because the hero was a water engineer.)Fascinating
information and I hope to remember 1\3 of it.

Our tour was 3 hours and we were hungry, but did
get lost before arriving for a lovely lunch outside
on the Mediterranean Sea across from Naples. Or was
that Naples? Is it Thursday? We had many appetizers
and lots of fresh fish (grilled and fried) and some
gelato and espresso and it was after 4pm when we
finally left. How wonderful to sit outside and hear
the splash\splash of the water and once again feel
the breezes. The restaurant is Mustafa and it is
at the bottom of a steep hill (one of those 2 way
streets that shouldn't be)on Marina di Equa. Very
nice service with a waiter who took all our cameras
outside on the street to get our photos while some
of his fellow townspeople smiled knowingly at him.
A wonderful day. Indescribable.

Home after 9pm and not ready to sleep. I finished
Doerr's book and he leaves Rome as I do giving me
this perfect quote. "Roma", they say, "one life is
not enough".

These weird computers do not allow me to check the
comments, but the dear Blogmaid forwards them to me
for which I am v. grateful. Back to Firenze a domani
after checking out the Sistene Chapel. Grazie e amore.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

titolo: the too muchedness of rome

I read that line in the Anthony Doerr book, but have to
hurry since it's 10.30pm and I don't want to stay up too late
again and I need to wash my smalls (Noel Coward) and
my hair, which isn't easy in Italy, or Europe, for that matter.
There is some issue with the blog, so I'm asking Michael
to cut and paste this for me. Grazie.

Since today was Free Day, we only walked 45,000 miles
and ate 567,789 calories. We walked up the Spanish Steps
to the Villa Borghese. An early start when the crowds
are almost non existant. Early here is 10am, of course.
I had no idea that these gardens on the top of Roma are
so massive! We passed the Villa Medici and headed to
the Borghese Museum where Ginger desperately wanted
to go. We did not have tix and needed them, but an
Americana from Orange County had one ticket so we
pushed Ginger to buy it and we 3 walked around the gardens
while she looked at Bernini statues and learned the origin
of the word nepotism (the pope's nephew). She loved it,
so once again things worked out.

Another beautiful day, even warmer than yesterday and so
clear. How perfect. Spent the next hour plus finding stamps
at the Tabac and then trying to find the Post Office. It's
never quite "right down that street" or "a few blocks left"
as you might remember from your travels in a foreign country.

Lunch was one of the best ever. Thanks to TGP for sending us
to the Jewish Quarter (Ristorante Piperno on Monte De'Cenci)
for fried artichokes. We supplemented these with fried mozarella
and zuchinni squash blossoms, some pasta, some gelato and
always the espresso. I was the Heroine del Giorno today! I am
telling you that it was €36 each, mostly so I can use the Euro<
symbol which I just found here. Of course it was about 4pm
when we finished eating and walking around this area of town.
Visited the synogogue where they were searching backpacks...

Now we are five. Linda arrived from Eugene, Oregon. Adriana
returns to us a domani and since some of you are confused,
there are now 6 of us going to Pompeii at 9am. Well, make
that 7 because we have a driver (Adriana's boss) who will
also be our tour guide. Pompeii is 2 hours approx. from here
and I thank the morbidmama for suggesting we go here when
I first mentioned the trip to her about a year ago. She was
so enthused that I was quite willing to go solo...

I haven't mentioned Joey. She lives in San Diego. The Susan,
Joey, Ginger connection is from Big Skye. Joey used to be
a flight attendant and is a total pleasure to travel with.

Dinner not so great tonight, maybe because we couldn't
possibly be hungry. Le Grotte on Via Della Vite. The worst
floral wall paper that I have ever seen, and that's saying

Now to try to sleep. I wish I were just a bit tired right now.
Buona notte my friends.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

glorious giorno en roma

No, I was not really homesick, just sleep deprived
and a little overwhelmed by this bustling city.
We spent 4 hours with our guide Patrizia this
morning. She was an art history major and knows
so much that my head was exploding by the time
we left the colleseum. Here is some of what I
.they built the huge dome on the Pantheon back in
125 AD from the TOP, had it packed with dirt under
and buried coins so that when it was finished the
citizens would remove the dirt for them
.there is a special retail store for nuns & priests
and the window displays were quite lovely
.they clean out the Trevi fountain every Monday and
give the money to the Red Cross
.saw the forum where Julius was whacked!
.the colleseum had a retractable awning roof, imagine
.Roma is dependent on water and you can drink from
any fountain in the city - same aqueduct (sp?)
system from the BC or AD years...lots of water
symbolism in the statues
.the women had to sit on the very upper tier of the
colleseum because they were "closer to God". They
also had to climb 45 gazillion stairs and couldn't
see worth shit
.I saw a flock of fresh faced young priests in
black...not one woman. Surprise
.everyone hated that wedding cake building at first
.also lots and lots of historical facts that I won't
bore you with right now

I had never taken a walking tour in a small group
(just us 4 women) and it was fabulous. We didn't
have to wait in any lines and Patrizia is taking us
to the Sistine Chapel on Friday. We are all hoping
for the same no-line happy outcome.

Lunch at Re Degli Amici on Via Della Croce. Many
appetizers and 3 pastas to share. Yummy. And, they
let me pick up the check. Yeah, instant guilt

The Lira - yes, according to my source, "most
Italians lost a lot of money when the Euro came
here and many want to go back to the Lira". But
it sure is easier for the tourist.

Embarrassing correction. Adriana's dog is not
Easy Daze but Isides - some damn goddess or other.
The cats are still Pablo and Ginger Skye.

Not very good dinner in some damn alley, but we
4 managed to giggle like school girls and cause
a little rucus. Great fun. Now, to sleep. No
more 4am wake-ups please. Oh, and we walked along
the Tiber River before dinner and had drinks at
a cafe on the Piazza Navona. A v. special day!

Monday, April 09, 2007

is this a good idea?

I'm wearing my SF Mime Troupe tee this morning having
slept for 5 hours, so things must be getting better.
Remembering that nice day last year w\ Rachel and The
Plotniks Great. Am I homesick?

Made the mistake of reading Anthony Doerr's "Four
Seasons in Rome" advance reading copy that some nice
fellow worker left on my desk. He is here with his wife
and 2 new born twin boys and has worse trouble sleeping
than I do. He lives in Boise where Susan, my traveling
companion resides. I like her immensely.

Am disappointed in da blog because I want to tell you
about the surprise wisteria and the v. old buildings and
the silly expensive designer stores. The Vuitton (sp?)
was closed and instead of a metal gate it had that famous
and often knocked off brown\beige funny locks logo all
over. Clever. I dislike that brand, but I didn't travel
4 million miles to tell you that, did I?

Doerr points out that the Pantheon was built in 125 AD
and they had to lug all that stuff from Egypt. In MY
city we think of the 1800s as old. Stuff is a little
known architectural term. You are welcome.

My favorite thing so far today (it's 7am) was opening
my window, then the heavy shutter and peering down the
exceedingly narrow alley that curves gently onto yet
another shopping street. Air is sweet and we will have
more glorious spring weather.

There is guilt because Ginger and Adriana have been
picking up the big ticket meals and that must stop.
I love the Nescafe in the hotel rooms and why can't
we get good instant coffee in my country? These are
the heavy historical thoughts on my mind this morning.

Now to check emails and wish I could blog like TGP
and The Tonsil Warrior when I travel. But no, I talk
about Vuitton and Nescafe. I miss you all.

the glory that is mozart

Our hotel here in Roma has 4 free computers! It is v. near
the Spanish Steps and has a delightful rooftop cocktail
area and my room is itty bitty and perfect. I want to
thank whomsoever designed the Italian trenos that are
impossible to get comfortable in, especially if the woman
travelling needs a wee nap.

Late lunch for Ginger today at Belcore Ristorante
near the train station. So no dinner tonight and I have
a chance to catch up and thank you for your attention.
I keep meaning to tell you that most restaurants have no
smoking signs! Progress. I finally had the tomato and
buffalo mozzarella salad to start, truffle pasta and
3 desserts. No wonder I'm not hungry tonight.

My second walk today was with the 3 other women while
Adriana tended to her horse in Bagno a Ripoli, very near
Florence. We walked for about an hour and ooohed and
ahhhed over the villas and mansions and green hills.
Up and down narrow roads. Breathtaking vistas, all so
green and lovely.

After dinner last night we finally had gelato (from "Orso
Ghiotto", I know Dancing Jen will want to know). About 6
different kinds, the best being the creamy vanilla and
deep chocolate. That was after the lard spread (!) from
that butcher yesterday and some truffle butter too. I
often think of Chef P here because the food is so v.
fresh and delicious.

This is the second post I have written you from the
Hotel Mozart. Don't ask, my Italian is not perfect.
I now know how to say "delete this" in Italian. My
first post was better, frankly.

V. crowded and warm here in Roma. Today was some sort
of post Easter holiday and everyone says it always rains
on this day, but not for us this year.

Yesterday, Easter, impressed me in a few ways. For one
thing our hardboiled eggs had been blessed in a church
and we were instructed to eat them before our lunch.
Then even the young Italian men were wearing ties and
the children v. well behaved. Lots of families and great
fun to watch.

OK, buona notte. Sorry you missed the good post. A
domani the colleseum and more. Now to do the laundry
and pray for more than 4 hours of sleep.

was it as good as The Olive Garden?

Finally figured out phone card and that was Husbando's
first question after I told him about our lavish outdoor
Easter lunch at Oltre il Giardino in Panzano in Chianti,
a perfect little hillside town about 1\2 hour from
Firenze. I have much to say and v. little computer time.

Adriana is a friend of Ginger's who lives here. She grew
up practically next door to Santa Croce. A beautiful
and generous woman with two young daughters. She had an
American mother and Italian father. Picture
this last night after long drives and city walks:
Five women sharing stories and secrets, getting to know
one another in a beautiful peach colored dining room
with two cats on the window sill and Easy Daze dog at
our feet. Pablo has fallen out of the window (3rd floor)
twice and we worried and fretted.

When Husbando and I first went to Europe we kept saying
"pinch me" and yesterday was that kind of day. I can't
believe I am here and so lucky. Thank you all for your
emails and comments. Tonight in Roma, a Wi Fi city.

I was walking solo at 7am this morning. No tourists and
I watched the vendors setting up. Ordered a cappucino and
told him it was ottimo.

Famous butcher yesterday in Panzano...I will tell you
about him later, but he served red wine and proscutto
while opera played loudly in the background. So NOT
Pennsylvania, nor Pumpkinville...nor Santa Barbara.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

titolo = easter en firenze

Grazie per 4 comments! Wowza. Last night we 6 women
went for cocktails to this posh resort up on a hill
in the Fiesole district. Villa San Michelle where
one could spend $1000 a night or more in either dollars
or Euros or who cares? Adriana knows everyone and our
service was THE BEST. Then for dinner down the hill at
Le Lance Restaurant...3 pastas, dessert and lots of
laughter and joy.

Finally slept last night thanks to 2 cups of Trader
Joe's Sleepy Time tea and 1\2 magic pill. Slept in
until 8am! Lovely solo breakfast en Villino il Mgnifico
and walked to Adriana's where I found her computer,
her 2 cats (Pablo the b&w, Ginger the grey and white,
dog is Easy), and now 4 women. Gotta run. Later.
Molto grazie e amore.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

a little holiday music!

Pardon my keyboard problems here at the Internet Train
somewhere here in Firenze. I have not slept much, so
this will be crazed. "Have yourself a Merry Little Xmas"
was playing when I walked in here...Perry Como?

Flights were fine, crowded, of course. On time. Weather
is beautiful! Joey and Susan met me at the airport and
we found the one taxi driver who does not, or will not,
speak a word of English. I sat up in the front seat with
him and Luigi was a big help after all.

I love\love my little hotel room with the typical shower
that gets the entire bathroom wet. I have been having a
long solo walk and managed to purchase USA phone cards for
myself and my 2 new friends who are napping.

There are no words to describe how happy I am to be here
walking around and feeling so happy and alive. Smug might
be the correct word. Mostly walked along the River Arno
this afternoon and then cut north (right) into town. Now
I need to rush back and I will return a domani, since I
have figured out the blog and the internet and the entire
Italian nation.

Friday, April 06, 2007

arrivederci ~ ci vediamo domani

Pretty soon to the airport. I've been adding and
subtracting to the bonsai bag all morning. I do
like the Cube® and the most interesting photos will
now appear in this blog. One can purchase these
mesh/canvas bags in all sizes and some people use
them 100% in their normal size luggage, or so the
saleswoman told me.

Husbando requested one of MY salads last night and
then we watched the Giants finally win a game.
Before that "The Departed" ~ could we have ANY
more violence in movies? Well, we avoid the horror
flicks, so the answer is probably "yes".

Grazie to ognuno for all the help and good wishes.
I'll check in next from Firenze. Now for the first
of many Airbornes®...on the rocks.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

behold ~ a reverse miracle

Now you too can see the Incredible Shrinking Luggage!
When last I used it (Santa Barbara, last September) it
held 14 complete outfits and 55 books. Of course I was
driving and there might have been a little spillover,
but sheeeeez, this is certainly not a walk in the park.

I'm down to 3 black tops (one sort of dressy), 2 pair
of jeans (one sort of dressy ~ well, black), 1 tee shirt,
one purple velour scarf for Venice, cosmetics and camera
stuff. Oh, and one very light sweat suit. One pair of
black sandals, I'm wearing the black new New Balance on
the plane along with a black sweater and my light SF Giants
jacket. I have about 33 books to choose from and a few
Luigi notes and dictionary. Those files will fit in the
back zip pocket and I'll take one on the plane. I'm using
the Cube® for under garments and laundry aids. Oooops,
4 camis too, but they don't take up any space.

Yes, I decided to take the horrid pink backpack that I
take to work everyday. Husbando laundered it yesterday and
I figure no one will steal it and there's no mistaking it
for everyone's basic black backpack. I'm including an everyday
purse in the cute little bonsai suitcase pictured above.

Nervous? Yes. More like excited, not scared nervous.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

lunch @ pastores; dinner @ the india garden

My friend Mary asked me to post about food in SF
because she moved from here to Arizona and the
menu choices are somewhat limited there. This
morning Husbando said, "I'll take you to dinner as
a going away present, what would you like?" I said,
"anything but Italian".

But first we had lunch down at Mission and 30th at
this perfect little restaurant with one woman (Irma)
cooking and waiting tables. The rare chiliquilles
are here ~ I took a photo but it looked not very
appetizing. Everything was as fresh as could be and
we ate too much and enjoyed every bite.

For dinner we went to one of our favorite Indian
restaurants for onion nan and lamb with spinach.
The chef there always wears a baseball cap and
once again we were able to park on Folsom Street
right in front of the restaurant.

And breakfast? The best croissants in this city are
to be found at Costco of all places.

OK ~ tomorrow we'll discuss the packing. It's
somewhat discouraging at this point.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

soon it's all about me, but first...

Nice day today as I wrapped things up and delegated
and gave/received goodbye hugs. My itinerary is hanging
on the door to my office and yes, Tonsil Warrior, I am
almost packed. I will do some test packing a domani or
the day after domani.

Now I want to plug an event for a wonderful woman
named Karen who is having a book launch at the big
box on Sunday, April 29. Karen is in my writing group
and has been working for a long time on this gutsy
compilation of essays by people with disabilities. She
is not only a great writer, she is my friend and we
want to sell her book! It is my staff selection this
month, so you may buy it early if you like.

In the meantime, mark your calendars:
Sunday, April 29
2 pm
Book Launch Party
4th floor
Borders Union Square
Post and Powell
(coffee and sweets will be served)

After this post, it's me/me/me.

Monday, April 02, 2007

beef brisket, no elijah

It's late and I have to be at the big box at 6am,
but did want to report in on the magnificent
Seder dinner we went to tonight. I love the story
and ceremony, more so than many Jews do, but even
Husbando (who is Jewish) said it was one of the
best that he has ever been to. Lots and lots of
food (delicious) and laughter. Such interesting
people ~ a marvelous evening. Thanks Plotniks!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

what price fame?

We watched this Hollywoodland movie last night, rented
from the Flix®, as you might have guessed. Then I googled
George Reeves and found that it really was based on fact.
Interesting to see Ben Affleck all grown up and bulked out.
Diane Lane is always excellent as are Adrien Brody and Bob
Hoskins. I guess to this day no one knows how the first
Superman died. Some great SoCal location shots too.