Category Archives: Fun!!

39 Days

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It’s been a long journey. I’m having difficulty remembering that five weeks ago I was a student at BABILONIA in Taormina, Sicily. I’ve traveled, made new friends, seen new places, revisited and glorified in the treasures of Tuscany, delighted in the company of Telma, reveled in the remembrances with Sally and Johanna. It’s been a long and wondrous journey.

As I sit in the Doubletree near Heathrow, I’m reflecting on these past weeks with gratitude, anticipation, and wonder. I’ll share some secrets.
. . .I was brought to tears walking down a small vicolo, alleyway, in Modica, after acknowledging to myself that I can do something I’d never imagined possible. . .speak, and almost, sometimes, understand Italian.
. . .I adore Italy and all things italian. . .even half-italian, like Don.
. . . I believe this will be my final 39 day trip for a long time, for a variety of circumstances.
. . .i can travel through 3 climates with a carry-on bag that’s been crushed and filled with things I never intended to buy.
. . . We shared this trip with Nana Weinberger. Her ashes lie under a lemon tree in Sicily, in the Ionian Sea, in the Alacantara Gorge, in the garden of Bristol Cathedral, and on a beach in Sicily. She was a traveller and we intend to keep her traveling!
. . .I missed my mother on her birthday, November 8.
. . .I worry about my family when I’m away.
. . .Im extraordinarily grateful for opportunities. It’s really about seeing the possibilities and having the courage or stupidity to follow through.

A few outtakes of photos. . .

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Con Te parterĂ². . . Time to say goodbye. Wheresweinberger closes today, until the next adventure. Where?? When?? Chissa!. . .Who knows?!

The Bristol Broads 1976-2013

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In 1976 I was the recipient of a Rotary International “Teachers of the Handicapped” award, which enabled me to choose a country in which to study special education. But a broader purpose of the award was to serve as an “Ambassador of Goodwill” and speak to Rotary Clubs, attend functions, sand represent my country. It was an awesome responsibility and opportunity.

At that time I spoke no foreign languages so was limited to English-speaking countries. A chance connection with a rugby player from Bristol,England led me to the place we called home for the 1976-77 school year. May I be so hackneyed to say that year changed my life? Yes, I think I’ll go for it. The connections, friendships, and opportunities from that year continue to enhance my life and that of my family and friends.

And so it happened that Johanna Kristjansdottir, another Rotary fellow, and I became friends along with Sally Harvey, a native Bristolian. We remain friends all these years later. Johanna has seen Sally, I’ve seen Johanna, Johanna has seen me, I’ve seen Sally. . .well, you get the picture, but the three of us have not been together for over 35 years.

This is our week.

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Johanna is in the middle, I’m second from the right. It was a lifetime ago.

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This is us now. The sun welcomed us back to Bristol, and for that we were grateful.

Roma. . .Incantata!

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Our final jaunt took us to The Eternal City. Don and I “slept” (as the Italians would say) in Rome for 3days a few years ago, with the accompanying tourist goals and google-eyes. This was different. The hours stretched in front of us with no particular plan and a feeling of lots of time to wander. The rain was behind us in Toscana.

It’s good to be a tourist sometimes and take the tourist shots. I tried not to miss any opportunity!

First stop, the Victor Emmanuel monument, more commonly called the Wedding Cake monument. Made of white marble, it sits atop a high hill and is visible from many parts of Rome. Controversy surrounded its construction, as it took a large chunk of a medieval neighborhood as its footprint. The white marble was also thought to be a bit garish compared to the worn brown of many of the surrounding buildings.

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But for Telma e Luisa it was the first of our photo ops of the day.

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Il Fiume affollata di gente , a crowded river of people, thronged the streets of Rome, the trattorias, the attractions. We made our way to the Pantheon along with the crowds. . . .

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. . .then wandered on to Piazza Navona, filled with artists and street performers.

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With tummies growling, we decided to use Rick ‘s guide to find one of the “best restaurants in Italy.” A quick look through Campo di Fiore didn’t reveal any of the best, so our feet took us back toward the pantheon, along the way discovering two much-needed items. . A car charger for Telma’s GPS. . .and a delightful tassel shop.

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Did you not know that tassels trump tummies?!

Close by we reached our goal:

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Caught between pranzo and la cena, we nonetheless knew we wouldn’t go hungry. The restaurant was brightly modern and simple, and at this in-between time, it’s only patrons. We both agreed the food was good, but not what we’d consider among the best we’d had. But, hey, the rain had now caught up to us and we drank prosecco as we heard it splashing on the cobblestones.

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I had never been to the Spanish Steps, so we soldiered onward, despite the rain. Where were the umbrellas?? In our suitcases, of course.

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Now thoroughly soaked, we did what any sensible women would do. . . We went to la galleria, the mall, and had a drink.

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With the rain now a memory, the Roman streets glistened as we linked arms Italian-Signora style and enjoyed our stroll back to the hotel shuttle. Le castagne roasted on the street corner drew us nearer with their earthy toasted aroma.

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With hearts and tummies full, our coach returned us safely to the Hilton airport hotel. All too soon the next morning it was time to say arriverderci to Telma.

Telma e Luisa have coined our tag line. . . SEMPRE PRONTE. . . ALWAYS READY. . ..for more adventures, fun, food, wine. . .and whatever the Universe serves up!

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Brunello and Bare Feet

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Both In the same day!! A first stop in Montalcino to browse the streets and enjoy the market.

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At Lillian’s the other night Telma asked about the diffence between a castgna and a marrone. One is smaller and sweeter, one is browner and larger. We saw a great example today:

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After a coffee and juice break, we were ready to climb to the fortress for tasting Brunellos, some of the most famous wine in the world that’s produced in Montalcino. With Telma, the expert, and Luisa, the newbie, we were thrilled to be in the capable hands of Tamas, who presented us with nine tastings. He based his choices on Telma’s knowledge and his own instincts.

I am happy to report that I am no longer new to Brunello. But Telma is the connoisseur and made a tidy haul.

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Two favorites of mine were:

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After that most wonderful event, we congratulated ourselves and set off for Bagno Vignoni, home of natural mineral waters. I read about this town six years ago before our first trip to Italy but never managed to get here. We barely could find a parking spot today, but were not deterred. With beautiful temperatures on November 1, it seemed that everyone had the same idea to be outdoors. We found what had to be one of the last remaining parking spots.

The amazing “piazza” is a giant pool of thermal water, bubbling up from an underground acquifer. We walked further along to discover the streams finding their way downhill to waterfalls and pools.

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Telma and Luisa had no choice but to plunk their Brunello-tasting toes in the water.

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By now we were ready for a little sumpin’, and found the last available table at La Loggiata, a little outdoor cafe. How Tuscan was my bowl of ribollita. . .

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Back at home now, packed, and ready to go to Rome tomorrow. Arriverderci Toscana!

We Did It Again!

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Telma and Luisa have completed another course at il Sasso! It was a great week. . .4 days only because of All Saints Day holiday. . . .filled with condizionale, pronomi, vocabulario, congiuntivo, and conversazione. Are we ready to do it again?? You betcha!!

Our teaches are great and they need the occasional break from those of us who stumble and fumble with La Bella Lingua.

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Sara, on the right, will be offering Skype lessons beginning in December. So if you’re a wannabe Italian I can put you in touch with her. She’s a fabulous teacher!

Afte our last class we went off to another one of they well-known restaurants in Montepulciano,

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It’s a bustling Tuscan spot, close tables, excellent food. Folks drive for hours to get here, and by the time we left there was a line outside.

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Telma was happy and well-satisfied after her meal and wine. . .

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Then it was time for some goofy fun in the piazza. We were greeted by new statuary.

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Fun for me took another turn when we returned to our favorite ceramics shop owned by Giovanni, near the Duomo.

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At the bottom of the stairs we thought we were looking at an Etruscan tomb, but it was actually an ancient kiln for a bell.

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I was taken by some turquoise pieces that will find their way into our new home. No, I didn’t buy ALL of them! But I did alert Don to watch for a rather large and heavy shipment!!

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So, with some sadness but anticipation to return di nuovo, again, we say farewell to il Sasso and Montepulciano. But to paraphrase some infamous words, We’ll be back!!

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Cucinare di Lillian

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Lillian Gattavecchi runs the tiny cucina, kitchen, at Gattavecchi, a ristorante and cantina nestled beneath a centuries old chiesa, church. The wine cellar is a former monastery with barrels that hold 3300 bottles each, and an Etruscan tomb lies beneath that.

But what beckons me to Gattavecchi is Lillian. . .her warmth, smile, and cooking. We were fortunate that during this week, as in my last trip to il Sasso, a cooking class was planned with Lillian, so off went Telma and Luisa for a culinary adventure.

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Greeted by Lillian’s son, who gave us a tour of the cellrs, we were treated to their vernaccia (grapes are grown near San Gimagnano), cheese, salami, and marmalade. Then it was time to hit the kitchen and make la cena, dinner, complete from antipasti to dolce!

Our antipasti focused on zucchini, both fried and grilled. Nothing leaves Lillian’s kitchen without a touch of fantasia.

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Lillian, who is exacting in her kitchen, sharpened each knife to perfection. I’ve never had a knife simply float through a tomato and create a perfect slice!

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We prepared a pork tenderloin which received chestnuts, both as a roasting accompaniment and a cream, sauce. It took four of us to peel all those darn boiled chestnuts, which by the way, were the sweetest I’ve ever eaten.

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The fun continued with making pasta that incorporated Vino Nobile.

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Under the tutelage of The “Mrs. Patmore” of the kitchen, we successfully rolled, floured, and cut out pasta into tagliatelle, although Lillian proclaimed that there were a we pieces of papardelle that snuck in!

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The final results. . .

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Well-sated after the sumptuous meal, with coats on and saying farewells, Lillian would have none of that. Back to the table we went for a pecorino cheesecake that was light and flavorful. Then, with gift bottles of Rosso in hand, we found our way back to the car and drove home over darkened Tuscan roads.

Thanks, Lillian for another memorable evening and delicious food. I’ll try to recreate it in Pennsylvania, but it will only be a shadow of its former self!

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Thelma e Luisa, Insieme di Nuovo!

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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.

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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!!!

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

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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!

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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.

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

A Domani. . .see you all tomorrow!!

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