Author Archives: Luisa

About Luisa

I am a traveller, a Nonna, and a wannabe Italian!

The Journey. . . IS the Journey

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Ok. Time for a look behind the scenes of the Don and Linda trips.  It’s a combo “True Confessions” mixed with “Reporting from the Scene. . .”

I, Linda, plan our trips.  I imagine them, play with dates, spend late nights and early mornings researching accommodations, restaurants, interesting places to visit, trying to take into account each and every element that would make this trip special, memorable, and fun.  I plan surprises, a variety of accommodation types, schedules for tours. In other words, I OWN THE TRIP!!

One thing I didn’t take into account on this particular trip was the difficulty we would have in finding the accommodations I had booked. Sometimes we were given only a village name, sometimes an address which defied all logic.  And the heat.  Each time we pulled into a town it was probably close to 90 degrees F.   We were toast.

This caused stress.  And arguments. And me saying, “That’s IT.  I will NEVER travel with you again.  I HATE this.”  Read into this crossed arms, lots of harrumphing on both sides, and exasperation.

About half way through the trip, faced with yet another hot afternoon, unknown streets, and the knowledge that ONE of us strongly dislikes walking up hills and down hills, I think I really lost it.  And it was at that point that Don came through with some words something like, “Lin, this is part of this trip.  It’s really part of the journey, part of the mystery, part of the hunt.  Sure,  the goal is to find our apartment, but really, let’s just enjoy the process.”

Later in the evening, reflecting upon what he had said, these words just popped right out of my mouth, “You know, you were RIGHT.”   Don, in mock or maybe real disbelief fell over laughing and for the rest of the trip we chuckled when we looked back upon this AHA moment!  

We still found ourselves confounded at times, trying to decide between a map, a 10-year-old GPS, or signposts.  I learned to ask our hosts in emails where we could meet them to find the apartment.  People were very ready to help and direct us,  and if we were both listening to directions we could piece it together.  We relaxed and discovered that walking up and down hills looking for an address  strengthens hips and legs,  stress and anger produces more body heat, and ultimately, we were never really LOST,, just temporarily mis-guided.

 I loosened my grip on MY TRIP to allow for the unknown, the unexplored, the untested.  With my concession to Don that he was RIGHT, he loosened his grip on . . .well, he just loosened his grip!! 

Is it a metaphor for Life?  

What if it really IS possible to loosen your grip, approach each unfamiliar road with curiosity, forget the drama and pre-suppositions, accept that Mother Nature gives you what She does, not be so focused on the end result that you miss beauty.  

Speaking only for myself, I liked the journey much more from that point forward.  

And this just might be the best photo of the entire three week trip through Maremma and beyond! 

 Arriverderci, Italy!  You always change my Life!  Grazie mille!

Doors and more.. . 

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Starting to wrap things up, as today is our final day here in Italy.   We are up early, having heard the myriad bird calls, roosters, and the local braying donkey here in our country house by the Monster Park.  In going back through photos, here are some that didn’t make it in to other blogs but seem worthy of mention.  I’ve collected quite a few “door” photos.






And then there were two sweet menu covers, not to be forgotten. . . 


The wood-burning oven and lower terrace at our country house in Bomarzo.  We imagined summer nights of friends sitting under the stars, eating pizza, just like in Gemma’s favorite pop-up book about Strega Nonna.  And we remember the best night ever, doing just that, at Donna and Joe’s.


Watching “Say Yes to the Dress” in Italian.  I even remembered that exact episode!!


Elina and Sergio’s cat who I found sleeping on my feet one night!  After I put her out once, she found her way back in through an open window.  SHE PERSISTED!!!


The pomegranate tree at our Bomarzo country house. . . 


And our hotel near the airport, the Golden Tulip.  Don has gone to return the car, so here’s a view from our balcony. . . 


We’ll have lunch and maybe even a dip in the pool.

Getting ready to say Arriverderci to Italy. . . But we still have a few hours remaining!

Bomarzo and a warning!

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Warning. . .parts of this blog are X-rated!  But first, just a few photos of tiny Bomarzo itself.

We ventured into the town after lunch and discovered yet another sweet Medieval town, but this one was different from others.  It was built much closer together than others we’ve visited.  Passageways seemed narrower and stairways closer together.


The entrance to the Duomo was unobtrusive and on a “back street” but inside. . .wow. . .a beauty.


In the evening we went out for dinner at 8 pm and discovered that there was to be a wedding reception at the restaurant.  We were excited!!  What would it be like to be a witness to the fun.  Don even told the restaurant owner that we had known each other for 50 years and he brought us a rose for our table.


We imagined guests lounging with drinks in hand under this sweet cabana, wisteria overhead, stone table and chairs ready and waiting.


We tried to guess if it might be the elegantly dressed, English-speaking African wedding party we saw in Bomarzo in the afternoon, and what they had been doing in the interim.  We were told guests would arrive at 9 pm.  Of course, that’s Italian time, and it was now 9:15, so we ordered dolce and caffe to prolong our stay.  Oh, and while we enjoyed all the American dreamy music that the Dj was playing for no one in particular (we were the only ones eating outside), we decided to dance under the perfect breezy evening, our second last in Italy.  

When we heard car doors slam, we knew guests had arrived.  We eagerly watched, hoping to see the elegantly dressed guests ready to enjoy the balmy and beautiful evening under the stars.

MAMMA MIA. . .  WHAT IS THIS???!!


It was a BACHELORETTE PARTY!!  CARRYING A HUGE INFLATABLE C*#K!  

Help, Sara, I need to ramp up my Italian to better translate what I thought I heard the restaurant owner tell us!  

The party came alive with the DJ singing to the girls, karaoke, and all the ensuing misbehavior of the bride and her friends.


Oh, what a night. . . .

Bomarzo and the Monster Garden

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The sign for the Sacred Wood is adjacent to the road which leads to our house.  We live right beside the Monster Park!

The sculptures were created by Prince Vicino Orsini, grief-stricken after his wife died in 1552.  The great architect Pirro Ligorio designed the rock sculptures as the behest of the Prince and include figures of monsters, dragons, mythological subjects and exotic animals, a crooked house, a funerary temple, fountains, seats, and obelisks with carved mottoes and inscriptions.  There is no coherence or commonality, and even the most impassioned scholars can’t really make sense of it all.  After centuries of neglect, artists and intellectuals began to pay attention to it, including   Salvador Dali, Goethe, and others.  It was restored during the 1970’s.

So let’s take a look.  There are SO MANY amazingly fanciful huge massive sculptures.

Cerberus, the three-headed guardian of the Underworld.

Proteus, also known as Glauco. The colossal head with its prophetic mounts and long waves is the son of NeptunekProteus . The castle on top of the globe is meant to be Orsini’s, signifying the power of the family in the world.



Elephants carrying castles were popular symbols in medieval and Renaissance art, standing for both strength and restraint, often with reference to Hannibal’s famous use of elephants to invade the Italian peninsula. This elephant holds a wounded or dead Roman soldier in its trunk who, in turns, holds a now unidentifiable object loosely in his right hand. Scholars argue over whether he is being caught or thrown by elephant–protecting or discarding. Regardless, the elephant represents both the triumphs and defeats of Roma. It is an African elephant and, therefore, likely to be recalling also Scipio, an African who, according to legend, never left the side of his war elephants.


The strange, leaning house serves as a passage to the upper garden level. The head-spinning unease of standing inside is meant to spur you on to the rest of the garden. The Orsini coat of arms and motto are inscribed on the facade of the house. As for me, I just wanted to get out of there!


The wrestling giants depict the struggle between good and evil. Hercules, as the protector of the weak, stands as he “rents asunder” Caucus who stole food from the poor. Hercules serene expression indicates that his intention is not one of mere brutality but a moral act in overcoming evil.


Proserpine (and Luisa) greet visitors with gifts of Italian melons.


The turtle, a blessed symbol of the feminine powers of the waters of Aphrodite, fortitude, strength and longevity, supports the female figure of winged victory standing on the globe. They all face the water and stare into the open jaws of the whale, representing power and ancient knowledge.


The Whale


The Ogre. . .Orcus is also one of the names of the king of the Underworld. The crumbling inscription around the lips names of the extraordinary infernal vision reads: All Reason Departs. It can be completed with reference to Dante’s inscription above the mouth of hell in which Dante’s damned are told to abandon hope. The tongue forms a bizzarre picnic table inside, with seating for a small party.


The sculptor gave this Venus the matronly, hard features of an Etruscan woman, naming her as the Virile Venus, friend of Mars, guardian of chastity and virtue.



So there you have some of the highlights of the Sacro Bosco a Bomarzo.  There really is so much more!  WE heard a lot of English spoken here, the most we’ve heard in 3 weeks.  It is a great place for families and kids.

The weather was breezy and the morning was quite enjoyable.  We found some lunch at a bar called Il Quadrofoglia (The Four Leaves) and had a pleasant conversation with an American couple and their 8-year-old son, traveling fromSan Diego to Sicily for a family wedding.  

Then, of course, it was back home were we SWORE we wouldn’t have a nap.

Fake News. . .We had a nap!  

A Quiet Day

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Rain this morning.  Much-needed.  So we thought we would just wait it out in our Civita B&B over coffee and rolls, the typical Italian breakfast.  We returned to our bedroom and watched the rain pelt down from our window.  And sure enough, by about 10:30 am there was a break in the heavenly action and the sky seemed to clear.

We visited the church of San Donato, right on the piazza.


Yesterday we noticed that the church clock tower was held together by large rubber bands, which vibrated when the wind blew!Sorta like a big Jenga  box!


Oh, news flash, Don just told me he snapped two photos when he was up during the night.  What the heck are you doing taking photos at 3 am!!??



Before leaving town I was drawn to a new l’erbosteria and found some delightful products made from donkey’s milk and olive oil!


So with the rain stopped we made our way down the steep incline with Don continuing to remind me, “No twisted ankles.”  OK, OK, OK!!!

Off to Viterbo to find some lunch and oh, I was so happy when we pulled in to town and saw this happy sight!


The Porchetta Truck!!   My mouth was watering just imagining the juicy goodness of a porchetta sandwich.  Alas,  he only had a tiny end left, not even enough for a decent roll.  Boh!!

So back into the car to drive into a bold faced city filled with the traffic we had avoided to this point.  Our object now was to park, eat, and get out.  And yes, we did.


When Don went in to pay the bill and pee, he seemed to be taking a very long time.  Experience told me there must be a story, whether it was about an unexpected toilet saga, or some other reason.  When he came out smiling and holding something behind his back, I knew he was up to no good.


Oh yeah. . .we need another Coke tray at our house!!  But OK, this one is Italian and there’s a good story and it was FREE.  Count on some crazy American to take your old junk off your hands!

(Sigh)

On our way out of town we pulled over to photo this surprising piece of sculpture, which Wikipedia tells us is by Seward Johnson and called “The Awakening.”


Upon doing a bit more research, I learned that Seward Johnson founded the Gardens for Sculpture in New Jersey which I’ve visited and is fabulous.   Love these unexpected surprises!

So now on to Bomarzo where tomorrow we will visit the Garden of Monsters, which I saw on Atlas Obscura and thought, “Hey, we’ll sort of be in the area, so why not make a bit of a detour to visit.”  For the next two nights we are staying at an Air BnB Country House which is literally right beside the Monster Garden.  It sleeps 6, so if you’re in the area, cmon over!!



My rating–9.5. (If there would be snacks in the frig I’d call it a 10!)

Cost–$100/night

We are off on a country road and no one would EVER believe that there is a house here.  

This is our spot to unpack our bags and re-pack for the journey home.


I just said to Don that it feels like we didn’t do much today, but then I read this blog and I guess “doing” is all in the definition.

June 29, 1967

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Fifty years ago today I was a college freshman at Millersville State College, now Millersville University.  I had been there about 2 weeks, having graduated from Lebanon High School and started college immediately.  As I was eating dinner with some new-found friends, a guy came over to the table and told me there was someone who wanted to meet me.  Naive that i was, I went with him, and he introduced me to his friend, Don Weinberger who was in summer school because he had failed two courses.

Nine months later we started dating.

Eleven years  later we gave birth to Ben on this very date.

And a Facebook post by our Catherine today revealed that on June 29, 2005,  38 years after Don and I met, Catherine and Martin met.  On the same date.  It’s times like these that I tend to believe in a Higher Power!

Fifty years later we are celebrating the date with 1) a special lunch right on the edge of Lake Bolsena 

The day was breezy and cool, finally! We chose to eat “fuori” outside despite the wind. The owner said that Italians, Germans, English, and French don’t like to eat when it’s windy, so they were all inside. Wonder what that says about Americans??!!

The three fish dishes we ate from this lake were beyond amazing. We asked the waiter for recommendations, and wow, did we ever get the BEST dishes!! BTW, this was all in Italian, just in case you were wondering!


and a 2) night at Civita di Bagnoregio, a magical place we visited some years ago and never thought we’d have the opportunity to spend the night.


Best part is. . .I kept it all a secret from Don and only told him about our night at Civita at lunch today!   Give me carte blanche to plan a trip and you never know what. might. happen!

Yes, we ignored the ZTL roads, parked under the bridge as instructed by my new best friend Franco who owns the Civita B&B, pulled our one suitcases up the bridge.  Steeep?  A..yeahhhh!!  Somehow we didn’t remember it being this steep three years. ago!


But up we went and finally reached our B&B–put on the map probably by Rick Steves.  The B&B itself has only 3 rooms and a taverna where we noticed one whole wall dedicated to photos of Franco, the owner, and Rick. Sometimes I don’t know if you should bless or curse Rick Steves!  In fact, folks in Maremma is hoping he does NOT discover their hidden treasures.

The room is tiny and features the seriously most tiny shower we have ever seen.  The bed is comfy, as evidenced by our daily nap which found us each sleeping peacefully!


The view from our room. . .and who else but Giuseppe Garibaldi in the piazza!  That guy gets around!


Cost of the room–$85 per night.  With breakfast.  

Civita di Bagnoregio is like no other village.  Built by the Etruscans centuries ago, they chose a good place where they could see invaders for miles around but they failed to take into account that the tufa is soft and eventually nature would take its course.  Chunks of houses and roads around the perimeter have fallen away over the centuries.  

There are about 10-12 full time residents, some eateries, gift shops, a few artists, but what I like best is its ethereal vibe.  At times during the year it is shrouded in mist.  I’m hoping to find a snow photo tomorrow.  I vaguely remember one from a previous visit.

On our passiegata (walk) around town tonight we discovered more than a few interesting vistas looking out over the surrounding valleys.These four were snapped by Don.




A few hidden gardens revealed some gems. . . 



I discovered a path that took you down, down, down with the tufa rock rising up, up, up beside you.  A little spooky, actually!


There’s more to Civita di Bagnoregio but internet traffic is very slow tonight, so I will end for now.  

Actually, who would ever even expect to have internet on top of an ancient Etruscan tufa rock town with only a dozen residents!!?

Porto Santo Stefano

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And then it happened. . .it took us by surprise. . . .it was RAIN!!!


We were grateful and hoped that it would bring some relief from the heat.  But we also wondered,”What will we do on a rainy day in the ONLY port town we’re visiting?”

We didn’t have to wait long to realize the rain was short-lived, it didn’t change the heat, and it brought more humidity.

Porto Santo Stefano sits on a promontory connected to the mainland by two roads.  It’s an absolutely stunning port, known for excellent seafood and its old Spanish fort (which, by the way, we found was only open on weekends).  


Keep in mind that we are still in Tuscany!!  

We knew this AirBnB was on a third floor, so we re-packed our stuff into the smaller suitcase, thinking we’d have to haul it up three flights of stairs.  Surprise. . .we had an elevator!  Our hostess, Sonia, was waiting outside for us and we parked right in front of our apartment.


My rating–9/10–fantastic view, rock-hard bed, AC works well

Cost–$85/night

Now sitting at the top of the cliff means only one thing:  when we walk down into town, we’ve got to walk UP.  But off we went, in search of food.  We quickly realized that today is WEDNESDAY, and in this town, that’s the day that restaurants and shops are closed.  Just our luck!!

But we happened upon Osteria di Pace, right on the water, with a table available outside for lunch.  Score!!!


We can uphold the reputation of wonderful cuisine and fabulous seafood.  After two dishes which we shared, we were filled with all sorts of sea creatures which had given up their lives for our eating enjoyment!  

Strolling along the wharf we enjoyed looking at some of the beautiful yachts of the rich and famous. . .or rich and not-so-famous, just rich.


We couldn’t avoid our fate any longer.  We knew we had to make the climb home.  Now hilltowns are a challenge, but literally climbing up this cliff nearly did us in!!  With hearts pounding, sweat dripping, and legs shaking, we made our way into our apt. 

I promptly fell asleep for the next 3 hours!