Monthly Archives: October 2013

Taking on a Second Job


The sun shone beautifully for our second day at school.


Class is going well for each of us, with lots of new vocabulary, verb forms, music, and some “Italianisms” thrown in to help us sound Italian!

Today was our long-awaited lunch at Gattavecchi which we planned months ago as a “must-do” on this return trip. We ate there together last year, I had a cooking class, and also returned multiple times by myself for lunch, for the view, and for their free wi-fi!!

I literally bumped into Jonathan, the owner as he was coming out of the bathroom and I was going in. Nice, huh. . .a bathroom bump. Anyhow, we chatted, and I told him that Telma and Luisa would be coming tomorrow evening for a cooking class with his wife Lillian, one of my FB friends!!

The vino Nobile Riserva was wonderful, as was the fresh mushroom sauce served over pasta made with vino Nobile. Che bella!!


A large group of Russian tourists took up nearly the entire second floor, and it was fun to hear jonathon explain the wine in Italian and then have his words translated into Russian.

After our sumptuous lunch, we were in the mood to shop, so off we went to some of our favorite stores. Mimi and Coco’s is a vey sweet shop with beautiful and unusual handmade items.



Suits her perfectly, wouldn’t you say??!!

After a few more stops we worked our way down the hill, back to the car, and set off for Pienza.

Yes, it’s Tuscany and postcard beautiful!

New addition to Pienza. If we’d known, we could have invited her on our spa day!


WIth some cheese, porchetta, salami, and bread in hand, we headed home across the now-dark countryside, hoping no cinghiale, wild boars , would cross our path.

Compiti, homework, is finished, and now it’s time for a few small bites, some Internet surfing, some studying, and then bed. Telma remarked that this is starting to feel like a “job”.. . .out the door at 7:45 am, busy all day, coming home after dark.

Hey, if this is a job, I’ll sign up for life!!

Thelma e Luisa, Insieme di Nuovo!


Yep, we’re together again! After meeting at the Rome airport and getting our Fiat Panda, Donna and I ( aka Telma e Luisa) set out for her apartment near Radicofani in Tuscany, a 2.5 hour drive.


After a stop at the supermercato, a trip to Radicofani for a dinner of pici, Tuscan pasta, we dragged our butts up the ancient stone steps of La Loggia, unloaded the groceries and crawled into our respective beds.

The next morning found Telma in the kitchen making soup, a staple for busy students. Oh, did I mention that the purpose of our sojourn is to take the language course once again at Il Sasso in Montepulciano.

But today our purpose was squazzare, to wallow in the warm, thermal waters of San Casciano dei Bagni, readying ourselves for a week of study and potential stress!!! We were good at wallowing!!!



We left without one ache or pain in our bodies. . . Happy campers!


So today it was back to school. We both felt so very happy to be back in Montepulciano , a quintessential Tuscan hill town, and more importantly, to be back at il Sasso. We completed our placement tests, got into our classes and started parla, parla, parla, or chiacchierata. . .chatting, talking, and then reviewing, and enhancing our knowledge of La Bella Lingua.

A few hours later we revisited the site of our first lunch last year. Just as good as we remembered it!


Visit Telma’s blog to read more. here it is:

While T took another TWO hours of private lessons, I browsed, shopped, bought boots at 50% off.


A dinner of soup, wine, small bites, and then compiti. . .homework. . . .

A Domani. . .see you all tomorrow!!

(Sorry, T, forgot to insert this soup-making photo!)



One of us is going home and one of us is staying in Italy. I think you know which is which!!

We decided to spend our final night in Rome at the Golden Tulip, about10 minutes from the airport. We’ve stayed here many times before and have watched it evolve from Hotel Club Isola Sacra with a dinky lobby to an upscale, chic Italian hotel. I personally was pleased the last two times we were there to be “in their system,” and this time even recognized by our waiter, Luigi.


Artwork adorns the walls and pedestaled sculptures add a distinctive Italian flair to the lobbies.





The restaurant is outstanding and the breakfast sumptuous.


Hey, they’re not paying me to write this, but for those of you who always ask where we stay, this is it!! Golden Tulip Fiumicino

I suggest you book the superior room. You won’t be disappointed. Here’s my view from our balcony:


Don left on the 9 am shuttle. I stayed until check -out time at 12 and took a special shuttle.

And then it was time to wait, and wait. I knitted, I cleaned out my inbox, I cleaned out photos, I paced the arrivals terminal. I was waiting for. . .


Ode to Sophia


We take a girlfriend with us on every trip. In Italy, it’s Sophia. We’ve known her for about 6-7 years. She has the attributes of a good friend. . . There when you need her, gently makes suggestions, becomes insistent when she knows you’re off course, and can be quiet for long stretches of time.

She knows everything but never boasts. She’s been everywhere. . . Even in tiny alleyways, up farm lanes, and down long driveways.


Only occasionally does she become confused, which might look like this. . .


Or this. . .


But mostly she has been everywhere we want to go, even before we’ve been there!


Please meet our best friend and trusted traveling companion, Sophia!!!


Fico d’India


Back in Willow Grove, Don met a Sicilian guy who told us that we must try the fico d’India , literally, “fig of india,” Now, I know about figs, but what was this?

At this time of the year in Sicily, fichi d’India (plural) are plentiful. Indeed, we passed fields of cultivated cacti, mostly bare of their fruit, but the occasional cactus still sported a ruby, albeit spiny, gem.



They’re plentiful in the markets and seem to be the kind of fruit that’s eaten “as is,” since they have so many seeds inside.

How to handle these little succulent fruits? Carefully. I fruttivendoli, fruit vendors wear rubber gloves. I asked a vendor in Donnalucata if we could taste one and he happily obliged. Then he gave us two with the warning, Attenta!! Be careful of the spines! I swear that every time I even came close to those due fichi I ended up with an invisible spine in a finger!

I asked Paolo in Avola, Per favore, mostrarmi, Please, show me ( how to peel it).


It’s garnet-colored flesh is the prize hidden inside a thorny exterior.

Hmmm. . .just wondering if there’s message there??!

Green, White, Red, and Blue


Those were the colors of the flags we saw the next day.


After our very full day in Siracusa and Ortigia, the beaches beckoned us once again. We headed to the south coast and the beaches of Pozzallo. Now, there are eight “blue flag” beaches in Sicily, and four are located in Pozzallo. What’s a blue flag?

Four beaches in Pozzallo have received the Blue Flag award by the FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education), a prestigious award given to beaches which meet strict criteria dealing with water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, and safety and other services.

Another blue flag location we enjoyed a few years ago was Pacuare Lodge in Costa Rica.

We walked for miles, enjoying the water, sun, and wide, sweeping, empty sand. Truly restorative!


With a little message to la nostra nipotina, our granddaughter, Gemma. . .


After our picnic lunch under a little palapa, we decided to drive further south to discover the southernmost point in Europe.

OK, so there’s some controversy. Maybe we should simply assert that we were at the southernmost tip of SICILY, because Lampedusa is further south.

Isola Della Correnti is another amazing beach, with just a few bathers. There’s a lighthouse, but not the northeast US type we know. The heat was more searing, and there was a more parched feel to the sun. Indeed, the latitude is further south than Tunisia!


The 60 km stretch of beach from the Marina di Modica north to Scoglitti are the same beaches where the Allied forces landed during World War II. We thought of Uncle Felix, who was part of that landing, and returned from the war “shell shocked” , which today we’d know as PTSD.

The beaches will remain in our memory on many levels.




Really, you could spend a few days in this area of Siracusa. The tourist map has a exhausting series of dots, stars, and crosses indicating important churches and points of interest.


We parked “by the marina” thinking that would be a good landmark to remember how to find the car, and we set out to explore.

The duomo is the star of the piazza. She dominates one of the largest, longest piazzas we’ve seen.



It’s always difficult for me to adequately capture the grandeur of any cathedral or small church, for that matter. I’m continually awed by the love, crafts,a ship, and passion evident in every detail, from inlaid floors to soaring ceilings. My few paltry attempts:



The Doric columns were originally part of a temple of Athena.

In one of those most beautiful chapels in the cathedral we spent a few moments in reflection and gratitude. I had to don a shawl because my arms were not covered. Of course, no photos allowed.

More churches, more visits. We discovered a poster advertising a jazz concert the following evening. We missed the puppet theater. . .prossima volte, next time.

Pranzo/em>, lunch. . . A Sicilian delight. . .granita and a brioche. Very little nutritional value, but good for the soul, as we sat and people-watched on a side street in Ortigia.


Remember the marina where we parked because we’d be able to find our car? Ti sciocca, silly us. . . We are on an ISLAND, for god’s sake! So under the Sicilian afternoon sun we walked, we asked, we back-tracked, we found the car.

NOTE TO SELF: before the next trip, print out a map of where we’re going and have the parking attendant mark an X on the parking lot!!!!