Archive for October, 2014


Friday, October 31st, 2014

DSC02484Today is All Saints Day and in Italy it is a big occasion. The day has been observed in the Catholic church since the first century and it has been a national holiday since 1949. Nov 1 sees families visiting churches and grave sites and the flower of choice is the mum.

We have driven by a couple cemeteries and florists have set up temporary stands to sell bouquets and potted plants of mums. The churches are filled with mums like we fill our churches with poinsettias at Christmas. It’s a big day!

Now tomorrow is All Souls Day. Whereas Protestants believe that all Christians are saints upon the acceptance of Christ, the Catholics believe it’s just for the dead. People in Italy, clean off the grave sites, frequently eat a meal at the cemetery or set a place setting for them at home. Some regions in Italy leave food and water out for the deceased to quench themselves and this is the time the dead have a yearly window to communicate with the living.

In a couple regions of Italy, the dead bring candy to the children as a way to stay linked with the younger generations.

I like that people take time to remember those who have passed away. Steve and I lit a candle last night at the cathedral and took time to remember and reflect our grandparents and parents.

But for me, Nov. 2 is about living cause it’s my BIRTHDAY!

Where Next???

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

We have 3 days to figure out where to spend the next 3 weeks,and we need suggestions!

We drop off our car in Munich next week and are footloose until we have to be in Basel, Switzerland on the 27th of nov.

We were mulling over Prague, Budapest, Vienna, Mittenwald????

We will be on trains and toting our bags.

Any and all suggestions would be appreciated. Tell us YOUR experiences!

Tower of Terror

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 is awesome! Everyplace I reserve is a uniquely different experience.

We have returned to Florence to see the Pitti Palace and Bobboli Gardens and shop at the San Lorenzo Market (a girl can’t have too many scarves).

But we wanted a quiet place out of town yet on the bus route.

We are currently residing in an ancient tower! Circa 1120 a.d. and right on the Arno River. It was for defense and was inhabited by guards or Medici soldiers. It has been incorporated into a B & B and we lucked out with the Tower Room.

DSC02958We squeeze up an enclosed circular staircase and use our skeleton key to let ourselves into the all stone lookout. The Arno rushing by sounds like Niagra Falls. The bathroom is several steps down on a different level.

Yes, middle ages improved with indoor plumbing.

And what do you say to Steve at bed time? Night,Night,Knight!!!

TP Trees

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

In  the region around Lucca, there are all sorts of groves of birch-like trees planted in any little spare plot of land available.

They don’t have many leaves or branches but they are THE source for Toilet Paper in Italy! Hmmm, guess I’m glad they’re around.



Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Carol and breakfast in Certaldo, Tuscany

Carol and breakfast in Certaldo, Tuscany

We found a hill town in Tuscany smaller than Montalcino and have relaxed and enjoyed the ambiance and flavors of this region that is anchored between Sienna and Florence. This is Chianti region!

It has been a sad year for the olive and grape growers all over Tuscany. Damaging rain came when the olive flowers were due to bloom  thus crippling the olive oil crop for this year. I know Italians who are gonna have to buy their oil from out of the country. And just when the grapes were to soak in the sugar- encouraging sunshine in August, the rains came again and most of their harvest was ruined.

But Certaldo is a little gem of simplicity high on a hill with their claim to fame as home to the writer Boccacio (the “Decameron”) and to the Blessed Julia of Certaldo (hometown example of sacrificial faith).

Enjoyed worshipping with them this morning and Tomasso, their organist, invited my to play. I met him yesterday as he practiced and we shared ‘shop talk’. I declined the honor but loved his spirit. Isn’t it great God speaks italian too?

While enjoying the view from our second floor sitting area, we watched the hotel staff get ready for a big wedding. The beautiful couple had a wedding luncheon, were married next door at the town hall, and came back for cake and champagne. As the gals from the hotel were placing the cakes, a gust of wind tossed the ceramic cake top onto two of the layers and then splat on the brick patio. Seeing the panic that ensued, Carol and I rushed down there, helped them repair the cake (whipped cream in a can!) and glued the pieces back together just moments before the happy couple walked back in. It lasted for the photographs and cake cutting, but a couple of the youthful guests picked it up and it came apart again (the worst break was the groom lost his head!). The staff sent up wedding cake for us to enjoy after we retreated to our lookout, and the next day they gave us a nice bottle of chianti as we checked out. Italy becomes special when you connect with the people!

Driving in Italy

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014


Hats off to Steve who usually keeps us on the road and fends off the adversarial, oncoming, out of their f-minds Italian driving maniacs. Did I make that clear?…lol)

We’ve amassed hundreds of dollars in tolls, killed millions of bugs while driving through farm land, and felt every one of the kazillion potholes those tolls are supposed to pay for. But today took the cake: three cars who all had the same idea simultaneously, let’s pass the truck ahead! Three cars abreast on a two lane jockeying to get by the large transport. Our jaws dropped open in disbelief, but they narrowly made it after seeing who would then be the leader of the pack.

Italians “take” the road.

If you hesitate or even think about being polite and letting some one cut in, BAM! it’s done and they sneak in between you and the narrowest space.

Steve has been keeping his cool while I strangle the handle and clutch at my seat belt and cease breathing. My only thrill is counting all the men who just pull over to the side of the road and let nature call. I’m still trying for a photo so you can have a visual!

We pray every day for God’s angels to protect us and the car, and indeed they have been working overtime!


Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Italy gives you tax advantages if you have a small bit of agricultural land and you fix up some part of it to host guests. These small farms can’t always make a go of it without some financial help and a few euros from folk like us who would love a breath of country air.

We are in one tonight that produces all of it’s own food: huge hogs, sheep, chicken, veggies, fruit trees, grapes, walnuts, and that’s just what this city girl could recognize. It’s an Ecofarm as well so it’s harder work too.

Our weather changed overnight and it is in the high 40’s and drizzling but that didn’t keep us from exploring.

Meet my new friends.

Debbie,Steve, and Carol eat their way thru Italy!

Debbie,Steve, and Carol eat their way thru Italy!

On the Heel

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

When you think of the sights of Italy your mind probably does not wander to Gollipoli. Martinofranco, or even Lecce. These are the towns of the heel of Italy.

Steve got a chance to dip his toes in the Adriatic and Mediterranean Seas at the same time because this is where they meet. Water as blue as could be and a warm Indian summer day.

This is where Italy and much of Europe goes to vacation, but on this October day, most is closed up and will reopen in May.

We had a lovely seafood lunch with the regional fizzy wine at the one seaside restaurant we could find and called it a good day.

warning:southern italian drivers drive like it’s a pinball game


Where am I?

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014


Prize for identifying the building type and where it’s found. We spent two nights in one…honest and….

Not Pompeii

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

We are not far from Mt.Vesuvius, which still rumbles from time to time.

And if you find yourself in the neighborhood you should pass up it’s famous neighbor and head to Herculean. It too was devastated back in 79 A.D. and was a seaside resort for the rich and famous of that day. It is beautifully excavated and there is so much more to see here.

At about 1/4th the size, most of its relics and frescoes are still here and not in a museum. Wandering around gave us a true picture of daily life. They even had fast food restaurants and wine shops as well as gymnasiums and elegant communal baths.


Located in the southern part of the city of Naples, it revealed an elegant and organized lifestyle, unlike the area that surrounds it. Naples is dangerous!

Herculean is many times bigger but they are unable to excavate because the ruins are buried in ash and lava under a slum neighborhood of today. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit but took little money, no purses, one credit card, and were grateful for a new, monitored parking facility next to the site.

Gotta watch your back, not just for volcanoes!

old,new,and the volcano

old, new, and the volcano