Blog Archives

Quattro. . . Maria and Claudio


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 They also have their own website for their fabulous b& b at

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. .


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. ..


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!


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.



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

Quattro. . . The Mille Miglia


“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. . .


Watched the workers getting ready. . .


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




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. . .


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


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. . .




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. . .


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






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.





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


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. . .


We miss you, Pearl!!

Quattro. . .of Piedmontese chiesi e musei


Did we know before we came here that the Piemonte region is filled with castles, churches, and beautiful small towns? actually, no, and actually, we knew almost nothing about the area, other than the fact that we want to explore all the regions of Italy and this one was on the list. so we have eagerly delved in to exploring the villages, most of which are within 10-15 minutes of here, the farthest, which we visited today, just about an hr. Let me show you some of the beautiful bits of churches and monasteries which we have discovered. . .

I especially like to photograph the incredible ceilings. . .




and the museums. I’m always amazed at the ancientness and the surprising things one finds in certain museums, this one the Civic Museum in Salluzzo. . . But it WAS a very important home a few hundred years ago. These beds are, oh, only about 400-500 years old!!!






We chuckled when we saw this all-too-familiar scene at the museum. .



The fourth generation owner, with whom we had a lovely conversation, sharpened them for me. . .

<;;;img src="

Here they are. . .


And the day finished off with a visit to a pasticceria. Honestly, why can't we wrap up our purchases like presents.


And when you open it up, well, you just can’t help but be happy!!!!!


Quattro. . . Moving to Piemonte


We left Turin on May 2. Seems like we just got here, and now it’s time to go. Our time with Marialuisa at her wonderful home went quickly.

First order of business, get the car. Donna had suggested we rent through because not only are their rates good, they give a 0 deductible for insurance. And Marialuisa arranged for us to pick up the car nearby her house instead of going back to the airport. So Don set out to find the car, while I packed, blogged, and talked to the housekeeper, Maria, who is from Avellino, the same town as Nana Weinberger’s parents.

I could tell that Maria was getting nervous because she kept asking if I could call Don to find out where he was. . . This is all in Italian, of course!! I told her he would be Ok. I later discovered that she wasn’t so worried about him, but she herself wanted to leave and wanted us to leave before she did! Anyhow, soon don arrived. . .


We packed the car, took one last look at our house. . .


And off we set, to the Piemonte region. Within a mere half hour out of Torino, we were seeing beautiful rolling hills. . .


and in an hour we were close to our destination, Cascina Sant’Eufemia
Now we had read about this place in one of our favorite magazines, Budget Travel, and after some investigation, a few emails, we knew this was the place for us. How did we know that?? Because the town of its address, Sinio, was NOT on our very complete map of Italy. So we remained true to our mantra of avoiding places on the map in bold print, and instead, seeking out those you can barely see!!!

HOWEVER. . .we were hungry and Sinio had NO places to eat. NONE. we started thinking, ” Wait, this is Italy. there must be food.” In my best Italian, I asked a delivery guy if he could tell us where to find lunch in the area. He recommended OSTERIA GEMMA, about 10 minutes away. Well, we knew with a name like that we’d be sure to remember it. Off we went. soon, a good sign. . .


Then we saw cars and BIKES parked at the entrance. A peek inside, dishes clattering, we knew we’d found food.


I was interested only in making sure that we weren’t too late for lunch, and the sign on the door gave the hours, so I knew we were there before closing. I didnt stop to read the obvious. . .

We went in, were seated, ordered a bottle of wine, and before we knew it, a server brought a cutting board with salamis. . .sort of a serve yourself. Sorry, no photo. . . We didn’t know at that point what was to come!

The salumi board disappeared and then a bowl of what turned out to be ground raw meat appeared. Sorry, no photo. . .we stills hadn’t caught on that this was a fixed price, “Non-democratic” menu. We were served what everyone else was being served. vegetarianism be damned. . .Im in Piemonte and whatever this stuff is, it’s good and I’m eating it. Turns out it was veal and now I’m really in chagrin. . .

Well, that dish disappeared and then another one appeared. Now I started taking photos. . .Vegetable salad


then the next appeared. . . Roast beef with a creamy dressing. . .


we were guessing the next course could be pasta. . .yep, we were right. . .delicate and thin. . .


Oddio!!!! a second pasta dish. . . Tiny raviolini. . .OMG. . .so delicious. . .


we knew we must be getting close to the meat course. Sure enough, here it is. . .Beef cooked in wine, rabbit, and endive. . Divine. . .


We nearly dreaded to know that the next course was dolce. . .sure enough. . .FOUR of them. . .


Yep, we ate them. . . Finished off the bottle of wine, too. I said to Don that we HAD to be officially Italian and end with a coffee, so we did. . . A decaffeinato. . .


We kept thinking that the meal was going to cost us a small fortune and agreed that we frankly didn’t care because it was so good. Well, the meal was €25 each plus €2 for the bottle of wine. . .a total of €52 for an amazing meal and a wonderful introduction to the Piemonte region!!!

Back in the car, we found our way to our agriturismo, Cascina Sant’Eufemia with the excellent directions given to us at OSTERIA di Gemma. . . And with a name like that it HAD to be excellent.

Our studio apartment here is bright, sunny, cozy, and exactly what we want for the next 7 days. . .





We unpacked, settled in, went out to a small market to pick up a few ” spuntini” just in case we got noshie later.

returned, sat in the sun. . .YAY, sun. . .you’re back. . Agreed we could not possibly eat even ONE morsel. . .and by 9 pm were tucked into the antique bed in our room. . .the bed that once belonged to Chiara’s grandparents. . . With a mattress stuffed with wool. . .so cozy and comfortable I didn’t move all night. . .


Biking Holland. . . The final out-takes


The trip was great and sometimes arduous. Honestly, if we hadn’t trained for it, we would really have been in trouble. Some days after we got back to the barge I was so tired I could hardly get undressed!! But now that it’s over, I can truly say that it was an exhilarating experience.

Some photos never made it into regular blog posts, but before we get on to the next chapter, let me finish out Holland with a few more photos. . .

Relaxing on a street in Amsterdam. . .


a sweet little girl we met on the cheese farm. . . A bit younger than our G, but made us miss her. . .


a horse and rider with matching purple duds. . .


the wall in the subway station near Rotterdam. We took the photo so we could remember where we were!!


My bike seat, which was really quite comfortable. . .


Leila, the barge pooch. . .


Me’n’ patate frijtes. . .


One final bridge to cross!!!!


a view from the top of the Amsterdam library where the four of us had a final dinner. . .


playing in the library. . .


Cool lighting. . .


“Green Bike”. . . .


One last apple pie at the airport. . .

<img src="

2012/04/20120429-210329.jpg” alt=”20120429-210329.jpg” class=”alignnone size-full” />

And a final, silly laugh in the airport, waiting for our flight to Torino, Italy. . .


Biking Holland. . . .Uithoorn back to Amsterdam


We had a great night’s sleep last night. I didn’t take any chances. . . .two extra strength tylenol and two melatonins. READY TO ROLL today. . .

7 am. . .sunrise over the barge. . .bikes ready. . . Get your key!!!




We were off to Flora Holland, the largest flower auction in the world. It was truly massive, with trolleys of flowers moving like a specialized ballet.







We watched the flower ” stock exchange” where flower deals are made and flowers shipped out to florists worldwide, from the tiniest corner shop to large wholesales.



After an hour and a half at the auction we set off To


as Suzie says. . .

Through the woods on the outskirts of Amsterdam. . .



The ride was beautiful and peaceful. . .another one like others that took us through serene countryside. We were headed to a pancake house ” in the forest. ” as Suzie said. She also said that it was about 4 miles. That probably means at least 8 miles in Suzie-speak!!!!!!

But soon we were there, and it is truly delightful. . .


And the pannekoeken were even better. . . .




the day was beautiful and we biked through outlying neighborhoods and in to Amsterdam. Along the way we found our final windmill and a statue of Rembrandt.


and finally, back to oosterdock and the Feniks barge. WE MADE IT!!!!!!


More to come. . .

Biking Holland. . . Gouda to Uithoorn


Well, the day started out sad for us. I had a hard time sleeping last night, thinking about Rosalie, regretting what we never got to do together. Praying for her family. . . Missing being at home. We biked into the town of Gouda, just a short distance, and I realized that I had
1) forgotten my travel pack which never leaves me, and
2) realized that my camera battery was ready to die.

I’m just not myself today. Sorry, the wont be many pictures, but as the day progressed, there was little time and effort for anything but pedaling.

But first, a little glimpse of Gouda.

You know, the Universe works in amazing ways. One of the first places I saw was an almshouse with this name. . .


Read the rest of this entry