Monthly Archives: May 2012

Quattro. . .l’ultima gamba

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“The Last Leg” of the

Where’s Weinberger Odyssey of 2012

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It seems like a lifetime ago that Don dropped me off at the Philadelphia airport for the ” prima gamba”  (first leg) of my trip to Montepulciano. After those fabulous two weeks at ilsasso.com, I went on to Amsterdam to meet Don, Betty, Lee, for the “secondi gamba” of biking and barging through Paese Bassi (Holland). “Gamba Terzo” was the almost one month which we’ve now spent in Italy.

Today began with saying “ci vediamo” to la Donna Giorgio at http://www.bbcasamario.com/_Old/default.asp?Lingua=E

It’s really a superb little b&b, halfway between Bevagna and Montefalco. again, piove, piove, piove (rain) as we drove toward Fuimicino and our favorite hotel near the airport. . .

http://www.hotelclubisolasacra.it/uk/

Upon arrival, I was happy to see the man who helped me nearly 6 weeks ago when I inadvertently made the incorrect reservation. . . .”prednatazione errata.”  “Te aiutarmi,” (you helped me) I reminded him, and he gave me a warm smile. I was doubly pleased when it was time to check in and he didn’t need my passport number. . . I’m in their system!! What a great feeling to be recognized in Rome at a hotel. I’m starting to feel like a regular!!

We love the restaurant at this hotel, so after getting to our room, we went to lunch. We ordered a meal we had last time we were here, the “antipasti” of mixed seafood. The waitress told us that it was a rich meal of dishes, and we assured her that we knew it. But we were surprised when they wheeled a cart of 9 dishes to our table. . .

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We feasted on mussels, clams, baby squid, cuttlefish, two types of sardines, crab, a variety of seafood salads, and a bottle of sauvignon blanc. And then we made a reservation for dinner!! After all, it IS our last night in Italy.

While Don returns the car to the airport, just 10 minutes away, I have some time for reflection. Often while driving along these past few days, we play games of naming things from the trip in alphabetical order or in categories, like “best meal,” “most surprising place, ” etc.

So here are a few, in no particular ranking, except for number one.

1. Travel is a trade-off. We love to travel, but we love our family more. Who would have ever guessed that Cat’s mother would become ill and pass on during our time away. Should we have stopped the trip and gone home? I’m still not clear on that, but we kept on with the trip. On countless occasions I found myself with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. I’ve lit candles and said prayers in every church, cathedral, and duomo for Rosalie and her family. Travel is a trade-off.

2. Most surprising event/ aha moment. . . lunch at Osteria da Gemma, Roddino, Piemonte. Also, the funivia almost one mile up on Lago di Garda (and we thought it was just a dinky tourist ride).

3. Second most surprising event. ..feeling the earthquake of 2012.

4. Best meal. . .haha. . . It’s a joke. . .can’t choose among Gemma, Trattoria nelle Vigne, Antica d’ Porto ( today’s lunch), L’alchemista, lunch in Bevagna, Gattivecchi in Montepulciano, Montforte d’ Alba, breakfasts at all of our b&bs, Albergo la Marianna on Lake Como.

5. Biggest disappointment. . . Deruta ceramiche museo closed for the THIRD time.

6. Biggest affirmation. . . . In the words of the Beatles, ” People are the same wherever you go.”. In my own words, ” You attract who you are.” The inexplicable kindness of hosts and hostesses, the smiles, the warmth, the assistance, the generosity. . . . We are all connected. Here’s our last, most wonderful hostess. . . Speaking only Italian, we communicated perfectly!!

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7. Most important learning, which I actually knew before I left, but now I REALLY know. I will wear one pair of pants and take one skirt. Period. One pair of earrings, one bracelet. Period. A few tops, a sweater, leggings, two pairs of shoes. Period. Remind me of all of this next time. Period.

8. Biggest personal gain. . . .I can no longer say, ” I’m no good at languages” because I’m making good progress with Italian. Once again, it’s a matter of opportunity, and the old saying, ” It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.”

9. Biggest decision as a traveling team. . . .one month, or at the very most, 5 weeks is our limit. Both reasons for being constant companions and for being away from home and family.

10. Smallest sweetness. . . The flowers high on top of Monte Baldo, blooming brilliant purple in the high, thin, cold Dolomite air.

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11. Soul-satisfying view. . . Fields, hills, and roadsides of poppies. . . .and the poppies Don picked for me and gave me in Verona. . . “for giuletta. . . ”

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12. International reminder. . . Americans are the loudest tourists. Period. You always ask someone if they’re Canadian first, because, sadly, few want to be identified as Americans. What can we do about that???

13. Most beautiful smell. . . .jasmine on walks in Cadenabbia, poppies in Anna’s garden, wood-burning pizza ovens at night, fresh earth after the rain all over Italy.

I’ll stop for now. After all, we have a bottle of wine to finish before dinner tonight!!!

Quattro . . . A return to Montefalco

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OK, so there’s two more nights before we go to Fuimicino and then home. We tried to find another homestaybooking accommodation, but couldnt come up with just the right place. don happened upon another website bbitalia.com, so we started to explore. We also were looking for a geographical location at least halfway between Venezia and Roma.

Bingo. . . We chose to return to Umbria, once again to tiny towns hardly visible on the map. . . Bevagna and Montefalco. We found what looked to be like a good place. Once again. . .amazing. B&B Casa Mario is a family owned place run by Georgia who speaks only Italian. Thank goodness I can hold a small conversation when needed!!!

The room is beautiful. . .

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Another ” look at the view” Samantha Brown view from our bedroom window. . .

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And the next morning at breakfast, oh, Che Bella sorpresa!!

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I have the date marked on the calendar when I’ll go back to Weight Watchers!!!!

The weather was ” piove, piove, piove,” rain, rain, rain, so we thought, ” let’s go to Deruta to the ceramics museum.”. We had been to Deruta two times in the past, each time on a Tuesday when the museum is closed. Today is Monday. Surely it will be open. WRONG. At this time of the year it is closed on both Monday AND Tuesday, and then opens only for a few hours on other days.

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Deruta, you’re killin’ me!!! So we crossed our fingers, or should I say, I crossed my fingers that our favorite ceramics maker would be open and guess what. . . .

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Yep, there’s now two pieces of Deruta ceramiche in my suitcase. I couldn’t justify anything bigger because I have two pieces waiting for me in Beaufort because Donna and I each had two pieces shipped from Montepulciano. But I did get a piece here in Deruta that is typical of the painting of this area. It’s called Raffelesco. . .

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Headed back to Bevagna, looking for lunch, and really found the most delightful spot with the most delicious food. Truly, it ranks right up there as one of our most favorite places. Only three tables!

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Even though the glass of sagrantino nearly put me to sleep, we decided to backtrack and go to Santa Maria degli Angeli near Assisi. We missed it on our last trip. You’re not allowed to take photos, so here’s a link

http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/assisi-santa-maria-degli-angeli

Quite beautiful.

Back home, over dusty roads, definitely taking the” roads less traveled”. And now it WAS time for ” fare un pisolino.” A nap. . . Yes, Paolo, a LUNGHI pisolino!!!!

Don woke me up just in time to make it to our dinner reservation at one of our all-time favorite restaurants in the world. . . .

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g608939-d1531928-Reviews-L_Alchimista-Montefalco_Province_of_Perugia_Umbria.html

amazing food. So amazing ,that after we finished the meal, I realized I hadn’t taken any food photos. . .

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But after the bruschetta with creamy cheese and fava beans, a tortelloni stuffed with bufala burrata and wild asparagus, filet cooked in sagrantino, insalate misto, patate arrosto, tiramisu, passito con biscotti. . . .we looked like this. . ..

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How can you not LOVE Italy??!!

Quattro. . . Maria and Claudio

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We continue to be grateful for the unparalleled hospitality we encounter when we travel. We hit the jackpot once again in Spinea, a small town near Venice, at the home of Maria and Claudio, whom we found on homestaybooking.com. They also have their own website for their fabulous b& b at http://nuke.osakasamia.com/

The name sounds sort of Asian because Maria lived in Japan for 3 years and speaks fluent Japanese. Maria is a language teacher and I’m ready to be her student when she starts doing Skype lessons!!

Take a look at this gorgeous couple. .

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We had so much fun, so many laughs, such a good time with them, that it was difficult to leave because they felt like family!!! On the evening Maria invited us for dinner I planned to take photos but we were so busy talking, eating, and laughing, I totally forgot. But here’s part of the dinner. ..

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It was fabulous. . . Lasagne, spinach pie, pizzas, tiramisu, and wine from Paolo and Chiara!!

Don and Claudio shared info on cars and music. And as you know, it doesn’t take much to get Don talking about either of those subjects!

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all I can say is this: just like cities in bold face print, hotels in bold face print have their place. Sometimes you want a place where you can just hole up and be anonymous. But if you want to be a traveler, to really know people, to understand life on a person-to-person basis, then you stay with folks like Claudio and Maria.

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Grazie Mille to claudio and Maria. You made our hearts sing!!

Quattro. . . Terremoto

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Sleeping soundly on Saturday night in our cozy bed at Claudio’s and Maria’s, I was awakened by a shaking that moved back and forth, not up and down. Immediately, a new vocabulary word popped into my mind, “Terremoto,” the Italian word for “earthquake.”. I thought I heard a siren, and then I fell back asleep.

When we got up on Sunday morning I asked don if he felt anything and he said that he thought there had been an earthquake. We were both sort of incredulous, so we got online immediately and were shocked to see a Google entry for “Italy earthquake 2012.”.

Well, as you know, it’s true, and the devastation is significant. We are hoping we can find a way to donate to help this area recover.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/21/italy-earthquake-2012-aftershocks_n_1532178.html

We were leaving Spinea on Sunday, traveling south to the Umbria region. Funny thing, or maybe not so funny, was that we had left 3 days at the end of this odyssey trip to decide where to go. I had looked at the region around Modena and Bologna, but couldn’t get my act together to really make any plans to go there. Don suggested we return to an area of Umbria that we liked, so more on that later.

It’s always good to take an easy path. .

Quattro. . .Burano and Murano

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Well, here’s my “take” on travel, and I know we’ve said this to friends before. we really could do without the places on the map that are in BOLD FACE print. Like Rome, Venice, Athens, Philadelphia. . . You get the idea. Now don’t get me wrong. . . .they have their place, and to me, their place is to be a hub for transportation, great museums, cultural events. . . . And tourists, which of course, help the economy. But honestly, the small places that you have trouble finding on the map, well, those are the places that sing a special song to me.

Take Burano, for example. . . .and we did. Claudio printed out maps and vaporetto numbers for us and we set off on a beautiful day. Leaving the crowds of tourists behind in downtown Venezia, we were charmed. . .

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Burano is known for lace-making. I had a delightful conversation in Italian with a lace maker in a shop. I watched her stitch designs using only thread ( no bobbins) and was very interested because I’ve done a little drawn thread work myself. I understood her method, and had the greatest respect for what she was creating.

I was sure I wouldnt buy any lace in Burano. WRONG. Both some hand done lace pieces and some loomed pieces are now in my suitcase!!

The day was beautiful, the sky blue, the flowers lovely.

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The jewelry was really special, too, but I fought the urge and did NOT buy any. My efforts continue to simplify, so I will just need to enjoy the creativity and move onward. . . .

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Speaking of moving onward, after lunch we did. We went to Murano, known for glass-making. It was easy to admire the pieces and leave them all the for someone else to buy!

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So after a day of seeing a few of the places on the map in lighter print, those little places that might not get quite as much press ( although both Burano and Murano are famous), we happily boarded the number 6 bus and returned to our home away from home in Spinea, another place in lighter print where real people live and work. . . .far from the maddening crowds.

Quattro. . . The America’s Cup

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Well, after arriving at home at 1:30 am we set the alarm so that we could get and out to the second of the premier world events that were taking place in honor of our visit to northern Italy!! Gioco. . . .I joke, of course! But we honestly didn’t know that either of these things were happening here when we planned the trip. fortuitous, I guess you could say.

We straggled out of bed by 8:30, took showers to try to wake up, and enjoyed yet another wonderful breakfast served by Maria. We were on the bus to Venice by 9:50.

Venice was definitely more crowded, but we had decided to get tickets for the vaporetto (water bus) because 1) we were already tired, and 2) we were not about to try to navigate the streets again. So on the vaporetto we passed our first ship of the day. . .

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Looked like a really nice cruise ship with decks and decks of balcony cabins. we enjoyed some of the water scenery along the way. . .

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and reached Arsenale, the sight of the staging area for the “grande barca di vela.”.

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and there they were. .

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OOPS. . . Wrong photo. . . But they ARE Italian and this was a shot Don took. Now, the boats. . .

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We successfully connected with my friend Rene, a student in my class at il Sasso. After studying for 4 weeks, she is traveling in Italy for 4 weeks, We celebrated being together again and ” graduating” from il Sasso!!

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Now Rene is a sailor, so she was able to explain the races to us. We sat at the Arsenale and watched the first race on the large screen with hardly anyone else around. . .guess they all went to watch the race on the water. We decided to meander on down to the waterfront and get a good vantage point for the next race. It was amazingly uncrowded and we stood right next to the water. It was really exciting to see the boats in full sail, gliding on up the Grand Canal.

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I think this was my best photo of the day. . .right at the finish. . . Italy nosing out the US. . .

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Very exhilarating!!! Wow. . . Two major world sporting events in two days. we wondered if anyone else watching the AC had been at the MM.

Walking on down towards San Marco. . . The bridge of Sighs in the background. .

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We said, ” Ci vediamo” to Rene and went to investigate the Doges Palace. . . And what a palace it is!!! Gold leaf on so many ceilings. . .i was hoping a bit might peel off and land in my hair. No luck!!

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A peek from inside the Bridge of Sighs to the outside, the last view a prisoner might have seen after being sentenced and walking over the bridge to the prison cell. Sigh. .

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We finished the afternoon at another landmark. . .

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At this nearly 300 year old coffee and tea shop, here is what we saw. . .

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Here is what we drank. . .

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Here is what we listened to (we paid €6 each as a music charge)…..

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And here was our bill. . .

€31

Yep. . . Gotta love Italy!! And we do!!!

Quattro. . . The Mille Miglia

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“Miglia”. . . . A word that isn’t used a whole lot in Italian, unless of course you are talking about one of the world’s foremost car races. . .the thousand mile( not kilometer) race that now features only cars from 1927-1957, the years that the race originally was held. It was discontinued in 1957 because of safety concerns, mainly for spectators who were getting killed when cars went out of control and into the crowd. Now it’s a rally, and the cars start and return to Brescia in northern Italy.

So who knew it was being held when we’re practically staying right next doors! Well, Spinea is only an hour away from Vicenza, so off we went in the afternoon, thinking we’d better get there early to find parking, etc. WRONG, we could have gotten there at 6 or 7 pm because mot of the spectators were local residents who just came home from work and came out to see the cars.

So we started the day with a picnic In the park. . .

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Watched the workers getting ready. . .

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Browsed the store windows which were decked out for the Mille Miglia. . .

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and then we sat. . . And sat. . . And moved somewhere else. . .and sat. . . And waited. . . .and went to the duomo. . ..and sat. . . And went to get gelato. . . And sat. . . .and went to the cafe. . . And ate…. . And drank. . . .and ate. . . And. . . .

Finally, the crowds began to gather, the light was starting to fade. . .

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and in the distance we heard a distinctive sound, the low rumble of the first of over 100. . . .

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Ferraris. . . .yep, 100 of them, all shapes, sizes, colors, models. . . .we’ll probably never see so many again in one place. They loved fish-tailing right around the corner where we stood. . .

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Now those Ferraris started showing up at about 8 pm. We had already been there since 1:30. The Ferrari “parade” lasted until about 9:30. The MM had yet to begin. The sky darkened more. . .

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And finally we began to hear the first of the 380 “auto d’epoca”….. Classic cars. . . .

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Now I did attempt to take more photos, but the darkness, the speed of the cars, the crappy camera. . . .well, these are the only decent photos I got in the first hour and a half. I did tke a few short videos but i cant post them on the blog. If I ever figure out youtube, theyll be there.

By now it was 11 pm and the crowd had thinned considerably. It was cold, too. The cars kept coming. we moved down the street to the stage area where each car drove through, received a gift from an important looking man with four beautiful Italian women clapping. I won’t show you all the photos we took there, but we DID manage to see some of the 6 Triumphs that were in the rally.

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Near the very end we found PEARL’S LITTLE SISTER!!!!

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By 12:30 am we were ready to call it a day. The final cars were lined up, ready to be congratulated, and the rally continued into the night, enroute to Ferrara, a few hours away. Our last look at the famous Mille Miglia was a familiar sight to us. . .

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We miss you, Pearl!!