Closing the Book on Italy

We’ve been home for a few days now.  I’ve had the chance to get back to work, have a margarita, and spend a very lazy Saturday lounging with the animals in my bed.

I’ve also downloaded all my camera pictures from our trip, and will share some of my favorites in this post.  It’s so hard to pick and choose, because honestly, I love every single photo I took.  I loved our trip and I loved everything about it; even the frustrating moments.  (road signs, lack of internet, lack of a/c, etc!)  So, as I post these, please indulge me one last time on some of the highlights of our trip of a lifetime.

My favorite place we visited?  San Quirco D’Orcia–it had the Tuscany vibe I was looking for and had dreamed about.  It was peaceful and laid back and absolutely stunning.

01-DSCN002203-DSCN0034I had my best ever meal, in my life, there.  Steven bought me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers, and we made our first friend.

02-DSCN0027We figured out the Italian road system, drove through 987 small towns and spent time in the most wonderful hotel.

I also loved how everywhere you looked, there were little artistic renderings.  The majority of carvings and statues were Jesus or General related.

05-DSCN0067I loved the city of Genoa, as it showed us a completely different side of Italy.  I’m not a huge fan of big cities, but I did enjoy walking around Genoa, looking in the shops and seeing the crazy world of the scooters.  Seriously, those scooters rule the city.

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08-DSCN0114I loved all the beautiful architecture.  I loved that you could buy beer and wine everywhere, at any time.

06-DSCN0101Dogs are everywhere.  They are on leashes, in bike baskets, in owner’s arms as they ride their scooter or bike.  Most of them are teeny tiny dogs.  But, they are much loved and very present.

12-DSCN0143And, very accepted.

10-DSCN0128Lucca charmed us both.  We were so lucky to rent a beautiful apartment next to the Music Institute.  It was very special to hear the students playing the piano, guitar, trumpet and practicing scales.

09-DSCN0120It was such a treat to ride our bikes around the town, and especially around the wall that surrounds the town.

11-DSCN013313-DSCN0146And then to finish in Pisa, and view the Tower.  It was truly stunning.

14-DSCN0170It already seems so far away now.  But, what a very special time for us in such a lovely country.  Sometimes, dreams really do come true!

Nobody Does It Better

I’ve now had a couple sleeps in my own bed. I thought they would be great sleeps. I was wrong.

I worked today and right now my head and body are tired. I’m sure glad tomorrow is a Friday! What a whimp.

I came home with a ton of bug bites, one huge one on my right boob. I remember getting bit by that one.

Things Italy Does Better
Outdoor eating
Bottled water
Preservation of natural resources
Scarves
Hills
Sunflowers
The Bidet
History
Cleaning
Work Ethic
The Siesta
Wine
Men’s clothes and cologne
Relaxing

Things We Do Better
Ice
Internet
A/C
Friendliness
Iced Tea
Equality toward women

I’m sure there’s more, but my brain just told me to stop for the night. Just a few more Italy posts. I promise.

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Wrapping Up

We are home!

Pooped, but home. Is there anything better?

I still have a few more Italy posts up my sleeve. I hope you’ll stick with me, because I don’t know when I will get this good a subject again any time soon.

Our last day in Pisa, we actually went to a shopping mall. It was a good way to end the vacation, and get ourselves ready for re-entry into our world at home. (Even if we never go to the mall here!). That night, we had our last nice meal at an old restaurant, Bruno. We had an old stodgy waiter who insisted on calling us Sir and Madam. The food was good, but overall, my best meal was the first one, so many many days ago.

Our return trip was as uneventful as a twenty-five hour trip can be. By the time we got home, I was stinky, sweaty, sore and sleepy.

So, before it’s back to work and the real world, here’s a few more pix. The last two? Our last meal in Italy, and our first meal back in America.

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One More Sleep

Yesterday we arrived in Pisa, walked around looked for a place that might be playing the ManU game, and with no success, booked it back to our hotel.

We are finishing our stay in a nice little Boutique hotel. The room is quite large, has a/c, and those marvelous shutters that block out the world! I must say that Expedia and Trip Advisor had great recommendations for the hotels. I have been very pleased. And HomeAway.com is also an excellent source. With the exception of the hayloft, we have enjoyed all our stays. And to be fair, the hayloft was exactly as promised.

We had a meal just outside the Leaning Tower area, where we watched the Chelsea-Man City game. Even though I loathe both teams, it was so nice to watch the sport of which I’ve fallen in love. After the game, we headed down the street, lifted our heads just a tad bit, and there it was in all its leaning glory.

The Tower of Pisa truly impressed me last night. It was simply beautiful. The sunset lighting helped quite a bit, but it was just flat out pretty. I wish I could post pictures today, but we are back to a not so good internet set up. Be assured, I will devote an entire post to the Tower. Of course, I did the cheesy tourist photo, holding up the beast. I even talked Steven into doing one. EVERYONE was doing it.

So, today is our last day. We might take a little road trip to Livorno, where rumor has it, there is a mall. Tonight, we will have a nice dinner, pack, and in the morning, begin the long journey home.

I thank each and every one of you for reading this blog, liking it, commenting on it. This trip has been an amazing one, all my dreams came true!! I feel so very lucky to have been able to take this journey and experience all that we have. I am one lucky Bella.

Ciao for now.

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Saying goodbye to Lucca

It is Sunday morning, and in a few hours we are heading to Pisa, which is the last leg of our journey. The time has flown by so quickly! I do think we booked it for the right number of days, in two days when we return home, it will be time.

We went to some photo exhibitions yesterday, one was free, the other not. The free one was more interesting to me. (Although, I think Steven’s pix are better than most of those). We also saw an exhibit from Robert Capra, famous for capturing images from WWII. It was quite good, just not enough photos.

After a nice nap and some Italian MTV (I am dying for some crime TV in English now) we rode our bikes to the church where the “Night at the Opera” was held. I have no idea how old this church is, but suffice it to say, it is O L D. Puccini is from Lucca, so every night, all year long, they put on some sort of operatic performance. We were treated to a pianist, a soprano and a tenor. The tenor, Nicola Mugnaini, blew me away. He would make a great Val Jean in Les Mis! Anyway, it was the perfect way to end our stay in Lucca. We ate another late night meal, and met a family from North Carolina, It was good to hear that good old Southern twang!

Before I sign off in this post, I wanted to share a story about my dad. Prior to his getting sick with Pancreatic cancer, he and I weren’t close, and hadn’t spoken much for a few years. As we were finding our way back to each other, he told me of his plans to go to a Italy for a vacation. It was something safe for us to talk about, and he was really excited about it.

He was never able to make that trip. As I’ve toured this beautiful country, and experienced all it has to offer, I know he would have fallen in love with the country, the food, and the people. He would have made friends with everyone he met and been sipping Limoncello with all. This is a country made for him, if ever there was one.

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Rainy Day in Lucca

Well, it POURED yesterday. We had great plans, including the opera, but that all fell by the wayside. Instead, we did a Lucca Pub Crawl.

The Lucca Pub Crawl is much different than one in America. For one thing, I have no idea what any of these folks are saying.
For another, I was drinking wine.
There really aren’t bars over here, more so cafés, little shops or restaurants.
We started managed to hit three places before I needed to take a little nap.

At the final place, we had a nice “chat” with Mauricio. He and Steven got acquainted the day before, so we both returned to spend some time there. Mauricio is 55. His mother, who is 81, works in the shop with him. Mauricio loves rock music. He listed his favorites for me: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Jimi Hendrix. We had a great time discussing, “The Godfather” and reciting lines.

I made scrambled eggs for dinner and we called it an early night. Today we hope to do the things we couldn’t yesterday, including the Opera tonight. This is our last day in Lucca, then we head to Pisa tomorrow for our final two days.

Time flies!

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Puccini’s World

Today has been simply awesome. This town of Lucca is something else.
After another salami sandwich for breakfast (most of the cafés offer pastry, sandwiches and ice cream) we hopped on our bikes and tooled around the town.

Let me repeat that for you: we rode bikes around the town.

We rode through the town, stopping to take pictures of anything that caught our eye; which was a ton of stuff. I can’t wait to go through my photos when we get home. It will be like taking the trip all over again.

We found an outdoor market and I was able to buy some cheesy junk. I had a tuna pizza for lunch and Steven had the biggest calzone I’ve ever seen; accompanied by a liter of beer. I thought this place had margaritas, and tried to order one, only to find out that was the Margherita Pizza offered. Duh.

After lunch, we rode on the wall that surrounds the city. It was perfect weather, and there were so many people walking, running or riding. Steven raced a little kid and showed his skills by skidding on the gravel. We are cool everywhere we go.
Stopped for a gelato and rode further, until we got to the point where we entered back inside the wall and to the old amphitheater. It is filled with shops and restaurants and great people watching. I was able to order my Margarita, and while it was teeny tiny, it was also quite tasty.

After tht, it was home for a nap for me, and mor exploring for Steven. I wish he would blog, as he always has some fun adventures. He has fallen in love with the music of this city, and tomorrow night, we are going to see an opera recital. It just keeps getting better.

Before I add the plethora of pictures to follow, just a few one line thoughts to share—

My bottom is missing my Quilted Northern
Riding bikes was much easier than walking
I haven’t read one single book yet, not even on the plane.
Peach gelato rocks.
All gelato rocks.
Dogs, dogs, everywhere. And for the most part, they all look Italian.

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36 Steps

That’s the number of steps from the ground to our front door

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This picture is a bit blown out, but know our door is somewhere up there in the sunshine.
Our first place we stayed? 42 Steps.
I have never been so out of breath and sweaty. But, it is soooo worth it.

Today, we made it to Lucca. On the way, we stopped at the gas station on the autostrada. For those of you from PA or NJ, autostrada is very similar to the turnpikes. There are few places to stop. I love these stops. And over here, they are awesome; fresh pastry, fresh sandwiches, Legos, Birra, Wine! We bought a few crappy souvenirs and headed back down the road.

Lucca is a town encased within an old Roman wall. There is little parking within, so we had to pull our suitcases from the only parking lot. (Talk about feeling like tourists!!). Please imagine pulling your luggage down he cobblestone streets of Charleston—very similar here.
Steven just told me that Lucca became a Roman Colony in 180 BC. I don’t know about you, but it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around that.

We are staying in the most beautiful apartment. This is the first place I chose when we started planning. We can walk to shops and restaurants, if we ever want to leave these gorgeous surroundings. The building is 400 years old, but is gorgeous in every capacity. Everything is top notch. There is ac, internet, gorgeous appliances, a double shower, books galore, and satellite TV. Yes, we are spoiled.
Our landlord was as sweet as can be. There is artwork of the “perfect man” on the wall, and I taught her the term for the man’s “V.” Like I said, some things just easily cross the language barrier. She met us on her bicycle. How cute is that?

We took a stroll around the tone, found a SEPHORA store. (Am I in heaven?) we finally had pizza, and it was divine. Steven had four cheese and I had salamino piccate. (Pepperoni!!)

Dogs are everywhere. Very few billboards. NO paper towels. Huh??
In Genoa, everyone rides a scooter, and they are scary as all get up. Here? It’s bicycles.

And, as I stated on FB, most of the male dogs are still endowed with their balls. And, no, I’m not looking, they are just hanging low!

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Thanks to Steven for a few of these pix. Oh hey, don’t miss the salad with the anchovies. They sold that at the gas station. Ahem.

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You say Genova, I say Genoa?

Wow, what a difference a day makes!

We had a great night’s sleep. The body really needs sleep, by the way. My body probably needs more than most.
So, today, we started with walking around the city of Genoa. One of the first things I saw/heard, was a woman singing lovely opera and playing for tips. We should have bought the CD she was selling. I’m pretty sure she is the next Maria Callas.

Finally, we found some shops. And, boy did we. Think of an exclusive shop, and we saw it. (No, we didn’t buy!) I bought a few gifts for Taylor, and some fancy reading glasses for me. Wow, how times have changed. Readers as a souvenir??

We caved and went to McDonalds today. Steven wasn’t going to have anything, but once he tasted my fries, we opted for lunch there. I finally had my iced tea, and it was heavenly. (Even if it was peach). It was so crowded in there. Genoa is a big city. Big city means lots of people, more dirt and beggars. But, we really enjoyed our day here.

We finished our day at an “English Pub.” Fish and chips for Steven and Cider for me. We go back to the Italian lifestyle tomorrow and for our final days. We leave for Lucca in the morning.

Just a few notes:
So great to hear from everyone back home. Even though we are having a blast, it’s still nice to feel like you’re all with us.
The music has been great. Between the radio, piped in music, and especially music videos, it’s been awesome. Check out the Jezebels. Heh heh heh.
Thanks to Sarah for watching our babies at home, and all the peeps chipping in at work to make this all possible.

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