Saturday, May 31, 2008

Day 18 Italy 2008

Cortona was our next point of interest. That is the area where “Under the Tuscan Sun” was filmed. When we entered the village, we came upon a great little store where an artist Paolo Scala and his girlfriend made beautiful glass jewelry. I bought a ring and Cheryl bought a bracelet. Our next stop was lunch (I guess you’ve noticed that we’re eating our way through Italy). We finally tried the Tuscan T-bone steak that everyone has insisted we try. Well….we should have just ordered one. It was HUGE!!!

We moved on to another beautiful church - Il Duomo (Cattedrale Santa Maria della Assunzione) a portion of the facade dates back to the 10th or 11th centuries. It is believed to rest on the site of an Etruscan temple.

Here are some pics we took along the way:

Then we climbed another steep hill to the grand Cathedral of Santa Margherita which is a 19th Century Church.

On our way home we found a Sam’s-like grocery store, so we stopped and purchased some things. We found when we checked out they wouldn’t take our credit cards, so we had to pay cash (the cards they took were like membership cards…I guess we were lucky they let us buy things). We had enough that we made a light snack for dinner, since we had the steak for lunch!

Ah, another day under the Tuscan sun!!!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Day 17 Italy 2008

Today we went to Arezzo. We first walked around the medieval city where we found a lovely little art store. We found a few things to buy…surprise! We each bought some interesting palette knives for our encaustic paintings:

I also bought a watercolor pad and a wonderful sculpting tool:

We then had lunch in the Piazza Grande.

We visited the Basilica of San Francesco which houses the fresco cycle of the Legend of the True Cross, the masterpiece which Piero della Francesca painted for the Franciscan church between 1452 and 1466. The subject of the cycle is taken from the “Legenda Aurea” written by Jacopo da Varazze in the 13th century. It was an amazing series of frescos where we could not take pictures.

We stopped at an outlet mall on our way home, but were disappointed that almost everything there was from the US, and very overpriced for an outlet.

We had dinner at our favorite pizza restaurant in Monteleone before heading home.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Day 16 Italy 2008

Today we caught up on laundry and our correspondence. I walked around and got a few movies of our area, then later we joined some of the other residents for “fish night”.

As usual, it was a multi-course meal including and eel and octopus salad, mussels, fried calamari, anchovies in olive oil and spices, squid, crawfish, cuttlefish and stuffed Italian tuna. We had a lovely chocolate tort with ice cream for dessert.

Some of these things were new to my palate and were interesting. I kept thinking of my daughter Angela being presented with a dish of “face of calf” when she lived in France!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Day 15 Italy 2008

We had breakfast served in our room and got ready for the day. We first went to the Uffizi and waited in a very long line. It did not seem to be moving. Since we both had seen it before, we decided to go to a couple of places we had not seen. My first choice was San Miniato al Monte. It was on the other side of the Arno River and up a very steep hill. The steps seemed to go on forever. I kept telling Cheryl it was worth the hike, and she kept looking at me and saying “it better be”!! Here are the pictures.

We went back to the hotel to check out and continued on to lunch. After lunch we passed a leather store that had the coin purses I wanted. We bought a few things and continued on to the Academia that housed Michelangelo’s “David”. We waited in a long line, but as always, it was well worth it! We then went on to the Florence Cathedral. There we met a lovely couple from the UK. We visited in the cool church for about 45 minutes, and when I told them my name was Hearne, which I understood was a common name in England, they said yes and mentioned their friend Nick Hearne….I said..”oh my gosh that’s my husband’s name!”

We walked around another hour, took these pictures

then went back to the hotel to get our luggage. We walked back to the train station and caught the train to Fabro Scalo.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Day 14 Italy 2008

We were off to Florence. I woke up at 5:20 a.m. in anticipation. Franco told us to park at the train station where we saw the white lines (the free spaces), which was somewhat of a trek to the main station. We bought round-trip tickets & were told to cross over to the other side and stamp our tickets before getting on the train. We had our rolling bags so we took the very long ramp. The machine that validates your tickets was not working, so I had to “run” back over to the other side and validate them…the “run” back with 4 minutes to go…and European trains leave on time!!!

When we arrived in Florence we rolled our bags to the hotel, which was right by the Duomo. Here is a picture from our room.

After “settling in”, we went to the American Express office to cash some travelers’ checks, and waited in line an hour. We got €303.09 for $500….yikes!!! With money in hand, we went to lunch and got a chicken and French fry plate, water & wine to the tune of €18 each. One almost gets use to thinking of Euros in dollars, but you have to remember that €18 is $28.15. So, when shopping, you need to multiply the euro by 1.56.

After lunch we went to a leather shop where I looked for my favorite change purse that I had bought almost 10 years ago. They did not have the exact one, but I bought a few things.

The weather was in the 90’s, to which we were unaccustomed, so it slowed us down a bit. We went on the Church of Santa Croce, where Michelangelo’s tomb is located. It also has the cloisters and Pazzi Chapel designed by Brunelleschi, as well as a magnificent museum of Renaissance art.

Tomb of Michelangelo

Pazzi Chapel

We then went back to the hotel, refreshed and went to dinner at “IL Latini”. It was a place where you sat at a table with six people. Cheryl and I had both been there before. They started bringing out the food course by course and we had not seen a menu, so we had no idea of how much it was going to cost us. While it was all very delicious, it was pretty costly…€35 apiece…around $55 each. Oh well, it was a great dinner!!!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Day 13 Italy 2008

Today we finally got on the internet for a long time. We caught up on our blogs, and made plans to go to Florence tomorrow.

I visited with Bozena in the garden and took some videos. Here are some shots of today’s take: cherries, artichokes, peas, and onion….and of course the wine. They are all products from Casa Rondini.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Day 12 Italy 2008

Today is Sunday and we awoke to new neighbors with kids. Lots of noise. They have already been in the pool. It doesn’t seem quite warm enough for us. We have been trying to update our blogs, but the internet keeps coming in and out.

Franco told us about two festivals going on celebrating the "Corpo di Christ" (Body of Christ), so we jumped in the car and first went to Montegabbione where they had a religious festival and created beautiful images with flowers all along the streets.

This one was made from roses from the rose garden of Casa Rondini!

Next, we went to Citta della Pieve to see the festivities there. This was our third visit to this charming town.

We then went to Monteleone and had a great pizza at La Tana del Gufo, before heading home.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Day 11 Italy 2008

We went to Deruta today. On the way, we saw a herd of sheep (or maybe angora goats???) being directed by a dog. We tried to take pictures, but the dog keep coming up to the car and barking. It was on a severe curve in the road, and I worried that a car would come around the curve and hit some of them. The Italians drive very fast!!

Deruta is known for its beautiful ceramics. We strolled the many shops and found them to be pretty expensive. There seemed to be some preparation for a festival with balloons, foods, etc. When we asked what the celebration was, they said their soccer team had won a big tournament. We took some pictures of the boys before the festivities began and waited for a time, but decided to leave as we were not sure when the festivities were to begin.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Day 10 Italy 2008

Today we drove to Perugia, which is the capital of Umbria. The weather was beautiful when we left Casa Rondini, but became overcast when we arrived. We parked at the bottom on the hill between two trees (and weren’t really sure it was a parking spot, but others were parked there, so we felt ok). We climbed up to an area that had a beautiful Roman arch which was the entrance to the old city. As with other towns, it was all uphill. When we got to the top, we stopped for tea and cappuccino under the umbrellas. Luckily we were covered when it started to rain (and of course we left the umbrellas in the car). Piazza Quattro Novembre marks the center of Perugia. There we found the Fontana Maggiore which was designed by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano in the second half of the 13th century. The upper basin has a bronze bowl with a sculpture of three nymphs. Two lower basins have sculptures that were carved by Nicola and Giovanni with the months of the year, signs of the zodiac, the liberal arts, and biblical scenes.

We also visited the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. They were doing some restoration, but the ceiling was magnificent. There was a service being conducted and the acoustics were wonderful. On a pedestal at the side of the Cathedral is a bronze statue of Julius III by Vincenzo Danti.

The National Gallery of Umbria houses the most important and most complete collection of Umbrian painting in Italy from the 13th to the 16th century.

I had forgotten that Perugia is known for its chocolate until my daughter Angela reminded me in our IM chat that evening. So, I guess we’ll have to revisit Perugia!!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Day 9 Italy 2008

Today we went to Siena. What an amazing city of seep medieval alleys susrrounding the Piazza del Campo. The major building of he city was between 1260 and 1348, with wealthy citizens contributing to building projects.

I was surprised how large the old part of the city was. In Italy, you will find they keep the old cities protected from the new developments. Since it was the middle of the week, I had not expected such large crowds. We were very lucky to find a free parking lot and a gentleman motioned to us that he was leaving…or we would have driven around for hours looking for one.

Our first stop was the Cathedral di Santa Catarina, Sienna’s patron saint, Catherine Benincasa. She was the daughter of a tradesman who took the veil at the age of eight and experienced several visions of God including the stigmata. She was the one who influenced Pope Gregory XI to return the papal seat to Rome in 1376. We were not able to take pictures in the church.

We made our way through the narrow steep streets with lots of shops along the way. We stopped at a leather shop where Cheryl bought a nice red bag for her camera equipment. When we got to the Piazza del Campo where the Palazzo Pubblico is we found a nice place for lunch, looking out on the piazza. We took some pictures which show how crowded it was with people. They also had some entertainment for children with an inflated trampoline which was fun to watch.

As we left the piazza, we looked in shops and I decided to look again in the leather shop we had visited earlier. There was a purse I liked, but I really wanted it in yellow. There was a young lady there who said they probably had it in yellow at one of their other stores…and they did! It only took about 10 minutes, and I got my yellow purse!!!

We took a different way home, which was so picturesque. Cheryl took her GPS, which came in very handy, because the road signs are not as great as they should be over here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Day 8 Italy 2008

Today we went to Todi. It sits high on a hill and is a beautiful city. However, when we got there, it began to rain and the only free parking place we could find was at the bottom of the hill. Walking up to the cathedral was very steep. I must say that my calves were sore by the end of the day. I’m sure it would have been much more exciting if the sun had come out. Here are a couple of photos. I didn’t use my Canon 40D, because I didn’t want the lens to get wet.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Day 7 Italy 2008

Today it has rained very hard. Still no internet. I called Nick from Cheryl’s phone to tell him we’re ok. He didn’t answer, so I left a message.

We relaxed today and did some laundry.

Tonight was pasta night in the kitchen of Casa Rondini! We were provided flour, salt and eggs and made our dough. Then, we pressed it through the pasta machine. After cutting round circes the size of biscuits, we put the pasta in little ravioli presses that Franco says his mother sent him.

Franco then cooked them and served them with various sauces. The first sauce was a tomato sauce, the second was a cream sauces with sage, and the third was olive oil with basil and rosemary. We had a great chocolate tarte for dessert.

We had a good visit with the others staying here. The first couple from Wales, Andrew and Wendy, arrived the same day as we did but were only staying one week. They will be leaving tomorrow.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Day 6 Italy 2008

Still no interenet!
It rained some today, but we went again to Citta della Pieve to see the cathedral that contained the Peruginos. We ran into a nice Italian couple who explained how to turn on the lights over each painting in this very dark church.

Then we went across the street to get an espresso.

We then drove to to Montepulciano in Tuscany. It was another lovely town on a steep hill with an interesting Romanesque cathedral. The alter had a triptych by Taddeo di Bartolo.

We drove home, had a light dinner, and watched “Across the Universe” on my laptop.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Day 5 Italy 2008

Today, still no internet!

We went to Panicale to see the Church of San Sebastiano which had “The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian” by Pietro Perugino, a fresco dated 1505. In this work Perugina attempted to find a different solution to the problems of space that he had tackled since his youth. This painting has the bowmen shooting arrows at St. Sebastian with only two arrows stuck in his back. It was in amazingly good condition.

Another fresco in the church was done by three of Perugino’s students, “Madonna and Child with Music-making Angels and Saints”. It had been moved from the Church of San’ Agostina in Panicale where it had been damaged through the years from humidity. Two of the students were Giovanni di Pietro, known as ‘Lo Spagna’ and Raphael.

We ate at Ristorante Masolino, which was good, but when we got our bill, we were charged 4 euros for the bread. Franco said that was probably the service charge.

We later drove up to Castiglione del Lago with a castle on the hill, but decided to visit on a later day, when we had more time.

This evening we attended a “Saffron Dinner” at Casa Rondini. We had risotto flavored with saffron, as well eggplant and vegetable lasagne, with roasted potatoes and fried fresh mushrooms. Our desert was a cherry torte with ice cream. We had the red and white house wine. Franco brought out this year’s Savignon Blanc for everyone to try, which was delicious. We also had a choice of liquers like grappo & limoncello.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Day 4 Italy 2008

Today, still not internet. It has rained a lot, but has cleared up enough to enjoy our travels.

We went to Orvieto. The town is magnificent on a large cliff. I am so glad I finally saw the cathedral.We sat out on the piazza and had lunch (marguerita pizza) and wine.

We drove to Allegano, because Franco told us there was a Renaissance festival, but we discovered it was to be the next day. It was a lovely drive back to Fabro, going through a federal park, where we almost ran over a wild boar.

We stopped at the store and bought some tuna, bread, cream cheese to put together for dinner.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Day 3 Italy 2008

Today, we went to the town of Chuisi. We found a place that sold spirits, so we bought a bottle of wine and a bottle of grappa.

We found an ATM and got cash.

We had parked in a spot that said 60 minuti, and were gone for about 50 minutes. When we returned to the car, we had a 36 euro parking ticket. We were very upset and drove all around look for the police to explain we were ticketed wrongly. When we returned to Casa Rondini, we were telling Franco about it and he told us there was a paper clock in the windshield to set when you parked to let the police know when you arrived. THE CAR RENTAL PEOPLE HAD NOT TOLD US ABOUT THAT!!!!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Day 2 Italy 2008

We were able to get on the internet briefly this morning, but it went down shortly afterwards.

We drove over to Montegabbione, which is a beautiful village on top of a hill. It is the nearest town and very picturesque.Then, we went to Piegaro for a lovely lunch finished with a gelato.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Day 1 Italy 2008

Nick drove us to Houston and dropped us off around 12:00 noon. Our flight to Italy left around 3:30 to Frankfort. There was a nice gentleman between us from Houston who was born in Bombay traveling to join his family in India.

We got only an hour of sleep, because the seats were so cramped.
We had only a couple of hours to wait in Frankfurt, before flying on to Rome. The flight attendant made me check my carry-on. I had to quickly take out my camera equipment before giving it to her to check. Then, when I got to my seat, I worried for two hours, because I had all of my travelers checks in that bag ($2000). Luckily, all was fine when the bags came through.

After arriving in Rome, we got our luggage and went to pick up our car. It cost us an extra 100 euro for the second driver. The young Italian girl was not very nice and kept rolling her eyes. When we found the car, which was a bright blue Fiat, we were off to Fabro Scalo, then to our Casa Rondini in Montegabbionne.

Casa Rondini was even more spectacular than we ever expected.