Archive for April, 2009

Rapeseed Oil

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

rapeseedfieldThe hills behind our house have patches of bright yellow that have bloomed over the last several weeks.  I thought they were a cover or fertilizer crop because they grow a lot of wheat here at different seasons.  Lo and behold, I found out it was rapeseed.  

That rang a bell, so I googled it and found out that is was a crucial ingredient in the life-saving diet of Lorenzo Odone. Remember Lorenzo’s Oil(with Susan Sarandon)? Sadly, Lorenzo died this year, just shy of his 30th birthday, but because of his parents tenacity and research, he lived long past the 4-6 year life-expectancy. Amazing

Liberation Day

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

liberationbandWe had quite a day yesterday Saturday, April 25, 2009.  It was Italian Liberation Day-celebrating liberation from the Nazis and Mussolini.  Funny that there was no mention  who liberated them.

The community band led the way of the Mayor and other dignitaries, who gave brief speeches and laid wreaths to honor those local folk who gave up their lives during WWII.  The day started with a 10k run, and included a big cookout behind the fortress to raise money for the youth soccer clubs.  There was a volleyball tournament at the school and the village was filled with visitors and families had barbeques and get-togethers!  Everything but the fireworks.bannerliberationday

Hilltowns in Tuscany

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

montepulciano-duomoaltarSomedays it all starts to look the same.  But if you quiet your spirit and look closer, each of the hilltowns we have visited thus far, have their own distinct flavor.  Each of them was  an important oasis for traveling either to Rome on a pilgrimage or to the Holy Land on a Crusade.  The hilltowns were markers and way-stations leading the greatest of personages-such as Charlemagne– to the lowliest laborer on their faith-quest dating from the 700’s.  There are even walls, catacombs, and art remaining from the Etruscans 900 b.c.

These walled-cities were fortezzas and places of refuge for the travelers and later places to hold off the sieges of waring tribes and provences.  Much greater populations were in these towns then (Montalcino pop. 5000 was said gargoylesquiricoto be around 15,000).  All sorts of services rose up to fill the needs of sojourners, and they were also surrounded by farms, orchards, and herds to sustain the populace.

Montepulciano, Pienza, San Quirico d’Orcia, Bagno Vignoni (hot springs) and Cortona (of “Under the Tuscan Sun” fame), San Angelo en Cole, Buonconvento, and of course our own Montalcino, may seem like notches on our belts, or another set of photos to label, but listening closely we hear the voices of the so many as they struggled to live, love, and hammer out an existence in their own time in history.

If stones could speaks and walls talk…

Angels Unaware

Monday, April 20th, 2009

With a little help from my friends…

There have been a few times where Steve and I found ourselves stressed, lost, and grumpy and God has seemed fit at that very moment to let us know He’s still watching over us.

seattlefamilyIn Mont St. Michel, we had had a long (lost) day and we were entering the city when a bird flew over and did a major CRAP on my head. A nice family speaking English(!) helped me clean up. We found out they were from Seattle, great fellow- Christians, and they included us at their dinner.  Thanks Harriet, Ken, Ray, and Mom for making our day!

dupreefamilyJust arriving in Montalcino and wanting some connection, we heard Bea talking with her daughter Paige at the outdoor cafe in front of our building. We found out they hailed from Burlington, North Carolina and this was their 10th visit to Montalcino! I took notes when they talked of the “best” of everything we should try. Jim, Bea, Paige, and Michelle shared so much of themselves with us. Paige sings in her UCC choir back home, and was missing Easter too.

There was the vacationing Sheriff from Poway who patrols 4S ranch whom we met at the 2nd wine tour. There were the college girls in Vernazza who were also looking for a room. They happened to be from Pt Loma Nazarene and were good friends with Tyler Kuehl from the Church of Rancho Bernardo.

Even KC and Jonathan’s friends, Jenn and Mike and their new baby Logan in La Spezia, were welcoming on a rainy Sunday.

More signs of amazing grace.

A Loaf Of Bread, A Jug Of Wine, And Thou…

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Enotecas

jugwine

This is our second jug

Wine shops with tastings available abound in this part of the world. Brunello di’ Montalcino is one of the most famous wines in the world and costs like it, too! But you can’t drink the libation of the gods every night or else you’d go broke.

THE answer to this is to buy the local table wine. You bring in your own jug and they fill it from a barrel in the back of the store. It is my unassuming beverage of choice, diluted with a diet sprite and maybe a slice of citrus. A little pecorino or parmesan cheese dipped in local honey, homemade bruschette and thou! It doesn’t get any better than this!

Cinque Terre: Amazing x 5

Monday, April 20th, 2009

vernazzatownWe bid a sad farewell to Mary and Ron at the Pisa Airport (”Galileo Galilei”) and with a change of undies in a backpack, headed up to the Cinque Terre (5 lands).  There are 5 incredible towns clinging to sheer rock faces still inhabited by families going back many generations.  Tourists have found this unique site (thanks to Rick Steves, and we all carried around his tour book) with its train and trails connecting all five towns.

We spent the first night in town two, Manarola, and found it charming and approachable.  We even ate the local seafood at mealtime.  The next morning we ventured up to Vernazza, #4, and deemed it better than Toast in Cinque TerraManarola.  It took us awhile to find a room.  We ended up with a shared bathroom across the hall, which was ok by us as the town was filling up.  At least we had found a place. 

When we got back on the train and went up to Monterosso, the #5, it became our new favorite  It had delightful beaches and was more spread out.  We had a great panino and prosecco outdoors at a place with tables nestled snuggly on a rock.

padlocksWe took the train down to the first town, Riomaggiore,where we hiked the “Via del Amore” – a short paved path between the 5 towns – with breathtaking sheer drops to the sea.  Steve clung to the wall. 

Many proposals of marriage happen here.  The seat and the padlocks that couples bring in honor of this romantic occasion are to seal the deal.

Then, it was back to Vernazza for pizza on the waterfront, and on to Il Pirata Cafe for two Canolli – the best yet!

A little rain did not dampen the adventure.

Firenze

Monday, April 20th, 2009
All aboard!!

All aboard!!

candleinflorenceduomo

We conquered train travel by rolling down the hill from our apartment to the Buonconvento Station and catching a 2 hour train directly to Florence!

It was a little intimidating for at first, but along with the Jensons, we caught the train so that we could get closer to town and got ourselves to the Duomo. We found it amazing on the outside, but a real bore on the inside.

Steve and I continue to pray inside each church we visit, for a European revival of faith. Inside each church we also light a candle for my little church back home. All of the churches still have their altars banked with Easter flowers and it is very pretty!

We had made a reservation at the Uffiziand we were there at our appointed hour of 13:15 (they use a twenty-four hour clock everywhere). I think we managed to see what we wanted to see: “Birth of Venus” by Botticelli and a painting by pontevecchiojewlryLeonardo di Vinci. The copy of the statue of “David” by Michelangelo in the public square was good enough, rather than face more lines to see the original.

We headed to the Ponte Vecchio (“old bridge”) which is covered with jewelry stores! We consumed more gelato, tried cannoli, and had a waffle sandwich (fudge sauce, gelato and whipped cream) that was to die for. Hey, Italy isn’t only about wine and pasta! We got back to the train, and shared a copy of USA Today while we bounced back home after an amazing day.

Savoring Siena

Monday, April 20th, 2009

sienasquare

What a beautiful town and very user friendly!  We drove 40 minutes from our little hideaway through Tuscan hills and even found parking.  We left breadcrumbs to find our way back home.  We really enjoyed the Duomo, the museum, and the famous square–all of which were teeming with people due to spring break.  We had warm weather and we encountered lots of different languages, colors, aromas, architecture and art inspired by faith.

sienaduomo

Back To Pisa

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Not here for but a  minute…

We are taking the Jensons back to the Airport tomorrow and will be continuing on up to Cinque Terra for a day or two.  I do not know if I will have any internet service.

I am so glad to have had the Jensons here , and to have been able to show someone how special this place is.  I have enjoyed their company a lot.

Because we will be in a new town, it might be a few days until you hear from me.  

Be safe.

xoxo

Florence

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

I would take the outside of the duomo in Florence over the inside…disappointment.   The Uffizi museum was ok, but crowded with easter breakers.  The train was the way to go.

More later.