Tag Archives: Italy

Five Day Challenge – Day Five

The Five Day Challenge is
Post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph and each day nominate another blogger for the challenge.

ONE YEAR AGO

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 One year ago we were in San Gimignano in Tuscany in north-central Italy.  This is a small walled medieval hill town known at the Town of Fine Towers it is famous for its medieval architecture and for the preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses.

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The town is immediately recognisable  as it sits on a hilltop and the towers on the skyline make it visible for miles around

We spent several happy days wandering around this lovely town and admiring the architecture much to the delight of the Architect.

And once again special thanks to Cat at Catterel for nominating me.  Now I nominate Granny at Granny1947.  Granny lives in South Africa, a place I have never visited, but I love to read Granny’s posts to learn a little about the country.

A Year In The Life of …

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver

Well, once again I have fallen badly behind.  My excuse?  We have had a very busy time this year and are only now finding time to do the things we enjoy – and I certainly enjoy writing my blog.

The year started with a hiss and a roar and I related much of it in a post in April.

Then it was off to Europe for three months.  What a lot of fun that was.  We have friends in Como and made this our base for our travels.  Coming back to Como to welcoming friends (and a washing machine) was great.  These people have been my partner and his family’s friends for years and so it was with some trepidation that I agreed to go to Como.  And I am so glad that I did.  They welcomed me with open arms and within a few days, I felt one of the family. We enjoyed our time with these people and their family.  Three little grandsons were around almost every day and Claudio aged 3 was teaching me English.  His constant plea was ‘Storia Judith”  Well, of course, it was a picture book but as I know little or no Italian and he knows no English,  story reading time was hilarious.  He kept correcting me and I don’t know how many times he told me “pompiere” was the word for fireman.  “No no” he would say and fall about laughing at my pronunciation.  What a joy he was.

We had lunch with friends of our host and hostess at a lovely villa on the hills above Lake Como.  A dazzlingly beautiful day, great fun although much of the conversation went over our heads.

Venice (of course) beckoned as did Tuscany, Spain, France and the UK.  Three months is a long time to be away but hardly enough time to do all the things we wanted to do.  A visit to Germany to meet our friend’s mother who is 93 years old.  A pleasant day indeed.

In Switzerland, we had lunch with our hosts’ son who lives in Como and works in Lugano.

We spent a couple of weeks in Spain with our hosts and then went on to Barcelona for 9 days on our own.

Tuscany, of course, was a delight.  We stayed in a lovely converted farmhouse five minutes from San Gimignano for almost a week discovering and rediscovering the countryside and lovely towns and villages.  Florence called again and this time we found ourselves in a 15th Century converted farmhouse owned by a delightful young couple and only a ten-minute bus ride from Florence.  I have said before that Fiesole is one of my most favourite places in this wonderful world.  I waxed lyrical (?) about Fiesole when I stayed in Florence last year.

And this year we visited my favourite spots in Florence having somebody to share these things with at last.

We came home after our trip to Europe with the prospect of moving house looming.  We were still in the brother-in-law’s house but after a few days back here I organised the removal company to deliver the furniture.  What a huge job unpacking all that was.  Forty-six years of living in one house had my partner moving boxes and boxes and boxes of belongings.  My furniture and effects?  They were and are, still in storage.  Note to self –  make a decision about this..soon.

But now after three months, we are totally settled into our new abode.  My stuff is still in storage and by the way, talking of storage, the arsonist who set fire to the storage facility at the beginning of April has been charged and is currently being tried.  Would you believe he has pleaded Not Guilty even though there is CCTV coverage of him entering the facility complete with a petrol can?  Well, let’s see the outcome of this trial – what a waste of taxpayers’ money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Having Fun in Italy

Men in boat

I omitted this photo from the last post.  It shows two men rowing on Lake Como in a typical rowing boat and in a typical stance.

We have been so busy with friends and sightseeing that there seems no time to write my blogs.  So here is a condensed version of the last 11 days.

Week beginning 5 May (what a long time ago that seems)

Galleria Milan

Galleria, Milan

Monday morning found us on an early train from Como to Milan.  I have only ever spent a day in this city many years ago with my late husband so I was looking forward to rediscovering its joys.

Of course, we went to the top of the Duomo and admired the view from such a height.  They are busy cleaning all the stone parapets and adornments – a virtual hive of activity.

Duomo Milan

Duomo Milan2

We took the lift u as far as we could and then climbed the remainder of the stairs.  I wish I were 20 years younger.  Wandering around the roof area we s the men working, suspended high above the street as they cleaned the facade.

Then we went into the Galleria – a wondrous building in which were all the fashionable shops of the world.

Prada Models - Milan

Display window – Prada Shop

And of course, the stunning mosaic floor in the centre

Galleria Mosaic floor Milan

We ate lunch in a rooftop restaurant and looked down on the city.

 

Street in Milan

We were enchanted by the narrow streets once we got away from the hustle and bustle around the city centre.

La Scala Milan

Of course, we went to see La Scala – but what an unimposing building for such a world famous Opera House.

Oh and the crowning glory to the day?  I insisted on a drink in the Galleria – E28 for a G&T and a beer – $NZ44 and $US38.  Not something to be repeated often.

So tired and happy we caught the train back to our friends/family in Como.

Wednesday found us wandering the back streets of Como on our own.

Lane in Como

Como side streetNowhere escapes the scourge of the graffiti artists.

Statue in ComoMy partner, the architect, was entranced by this statue.

Friday found us boarding the express train to Venice.  How I looked forward to this trip – third time lucky for me to visit Venice.

We visited the Rialto Bridge, St Marks Square, the Bridge of Sighs and all the main tourist spots but most of the time was spent in the little alleys and backstreets far away from the hoards of tourists.  One day there were three huge liners docked close in and they each disgorged a couple of thousand tourists.

St Marks Square

St Mark’s Square

Another small canal

A small canal

A quite back street canal

A quiet back street canal

Rialto Bridge

Rialto Bridge

We spent several hours at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum and I was entranced by the statue garden.

Savour Kindness PG museum

The plaque at the entrance to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum

Another statue PG Garden

In the Peggy Guggenheim Statue Garden

Henry Moore in the Peggy Guggenheim Statue Garden

Henry Moore in the Peggy Guggenheim Statue Garden

Woman statue Peggy Guggenheim Statue Garden

Woman statue Peggy Guggenheim Statue Garden

One day we went to the Jewish Ghetto established in 1516 established under special laws of the Government of the Republic.  Jews were confined to this area and could not leave from sunset till dawn.  The area was closed in by gates watched over by guards.

The Ghetto existed for two and half centuries until Napoleon conquered Venice and tore down the gates allowing Jews the freedom to live wherever they wanted.  Many still live in this small enclave containing houses, restaurants and businesses particular to the Jewish people.

Shops and apartments Jewish Ghetto Venice

Shops and apartments Jewish Ghetto Venice

 

Plaza - Jewish Ghetto Venice

Plaza – Jewish Ghetto Venice

And some 1000 more photos to bore our friends with when we return.

And now we are getting ready for our foray into Spain.  This time our friends in Como will accompany us for the first 12 days, leaving us after Granada.

I hope you are enjoying this trip as much as we are.

Note:  The photographs with dates are mine, all the rest are courtesy of my partner, Jon Craig.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Italy Calling

Como 1We are still with our friends in Como and having a really good vacation.

May 1 is a Public Holiday in Italy – Labour Day.  The day dawned bright and clear and it was decided that we would go to the Cernobbio on the lake for coffee and a little look around.

station at ChernobbiThis is a beautiful small place and as we know George Clooney spends much of his time here.  No, we didn’t see him.  We are told that the locals do not make any special fuss for him.  Fortunately, we were with our hosts who knew just what would happen at the lake on such a lovely day – crowds of people flocking there on a mid-week holiday.  So we went early in the day, found a car park and a lovely outdoor cafe for coffee.  Our hosts refer to 10.30 am as cappuccino time.

Market at Chernobbi

Open air market for May Day

We then walked around this lovely small town in the sunshine, people watching and more particularly for my architect partner, building watching.  He is an avid photographer and took many photos.

Shop keeper just opening for the day

Shop keeper just opening for the day

We left before the town became really busy and had a leisurely drive back home for lunch and a leisurely afternoon complete with a siesta.

A very wet day and a very bad head cold kept us housebound for the next day except for the necessary visit to the supermercado.

On Saturday we were invited to dinner with friends.  As they live a short distance away around the lake it was decided to leave early and visit Bellagio on the way to Erba.

Narrow road

But as we know ‘The best laid plans…”  We rounded a bend to be confronted by

cars at crash scene

A walk around the next very narrow bend showed us the reason for this long line of cars

car crash 03:05

This is such a narrow road that all traffic in both directions was at a standstill.  We waited (im)patiently for the police and ambulance to arrive

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and after having conversations with various other travelers, we decided to reverse (with difficulty) and take the alternate road high above the lake.  This is not a drive for the faint hearted.  The road drops many metres down to the lake on one side and is two way all the way.

We eventually arrived at our friends house and were all very grateful for the drink that was handed to us as we arrived.

Friendship isn’t a big thing
— it’s a million little things.
Anon

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Adventure Begins

Thursday, April 24/14. 

At last, after a fairly hectic few days, we are at the start of our journey.  To get to Como from Wellington we have three flights.  Wellington/Auckland – 1 hour; Auckland/Hong Kong – 12 hours and Hong Kong/Malpensa, Madrid – 13 hours.  This is followed by a 40-minute car ride to Como.

The adventure is just beginning and a charming young Asian steward brought a glass of champagne before the plane took off.  Then the purser appeared with a beautifully produced menu for lunch.  I chose salmon with apple and wasabi mayonnaise salad, followed by stir-fried prawns with XO sauce, jasmine rice and vegetables.  Delicious.  But before lunch, the same young Asian man brought me a perfectly mixed Bloody Mary complete with a small bottle of Tobasco sauce as he didn’t know how much to put into the drink.

We had fully flat beds and after such an early start they looked very appealing.

It is a few years since I was last in Hong Kong and the changes to that airport are amazing,

And the Cathay Pacific lounge has to be seen to be believed.  It is without a doubt the most beautiful airline lounge I have been in.  Carrara marble on every surface and while that sounds awful it was absolutely beautiful.  They call this lounge The Bridge as it bridges two areas each complete with bars and cafes with every type of food imaginable.  But who really wants to eat after a 13-hour flight?  We had some broth and a cup of coffee.

We had four hours wait in this fabulous lounge.  And even at 12 midnight, the shops were open offering high-class goods.

Friday, April 25

Then it was time for the next leg of our journey.  This time I slept most of the way – all through dinner and the next round of snacks.  It is great to be able to stretch out in full-length beds and sleep the hours away.  Breakfast was served and suddenly we were beginning our descent into Malpensa.

Our friends were at the airport to meet us and drive us to their home for a few days rest and recuperation after our long flight.

In Italy, April 25 is a public holiday – Liberation Day.  It marks the fall of Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic and the end of the Nazi occupation in Italy in 1945, towards the end of the second World War.   This is also a public holiday in New Zealand – ANZAC Day.  It commemorates the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) at Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War I in 1915. This event, also observed in Australia, remembers all New Zealanders who served their country in wars and conflicts. Links to posts written for Anzac Day 2011, 2012 and 2013 are at the end of this missive.

As everybody was on holiday the whole family came for lunch on a glorious spring day.  Small children, adult children and their spouses all gave us a great welcome to Italy. It was such a lovely spring day that we ate outside in the gazebo. But once the family went home, we retired to our beds for a welcome siesta.

Saturday, April 26

Another lovely warm spring day and so after breakfast we went into Como to parade around, look at the lake and do some people watching.  But first, our host had to have coffee.  What a beautiful old city this is.  The church, Duomo, is 12th Century and we decided against going into it as there were so many people around.  Instead we chose to just wander around for several hours.

Then back to our hosts’ house for another siesta.  We were becoming very used to this custom by now.

Sunday, April 27

All the family came to lunch again.  As it rained heavily we were all in the house and the children became a trifle grumpy as they couldn’t get out to play.

Monday, April 28

Today it rained as if it would never stop.  Typical spring weather in Italy we are told.  Good friends of our hosts came for lunch which went on well into the afternoon following which we had another siesta.

Tuesday, April 29

A wet start to the day but it improved to hot sunshine later.  We went into Como for the necessary espresso and to acquire Italian sim cards for our phones.  But we didn’t have our passports with us and so we had to go back home to retrieve them.

We did some window shopping, bought another suitcase and had lunch in a restaurant atop a four-story building affording fantastic views of both the Duomo and the lake.

Buying sim cards and a USB for the internet proved to be more difficult than we expected.  Vodafone would not take a credit card or cash for the USB and after trying several of our cards our host came to the party with a cash card to pay for the connection.  With the difficulty of language, their not taking our credit cards or cash this transaction took over an hour.  So we were all pleased to find somewhere for coffee and then go home again.

“The traveler sees what he sees.
The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
― G.K. Chesterton

Links to ANZAC Day Posts

 

Florence Day 9

Workmen have left

I awoke this morning to the sounds of silence from the street.  The workmen have gone.  All that remains are the barricades to stop people driving on the newly laid tarmacadam.

So after the call from NZ and shower I was ready to begin another day in this most fabulous city.  After my usual breakfast I took the bus into town, but again I had jumped on the wrong bus.  I realised this shortly after I got on but with my new-found confidence, I got off  and found my way to connect to the correct bus.

A different bus stop

View from the new bus stop

For several days now I have been going to the Ponte Vecchio but each day I have become waylaid by all the wonders around me.  Today was to be the day, but first I wandered around the streets again

More door knobs

More door knobs

Entrance bells

Entrance bells

Peep of anither spire

Peep of another spire

More door knockers

More door knockers

until I found a little restaurant/bar in which to have lunch.

Spag bol Italian style!

Spag bol Italian style!

Then I decided to get real so I took a cab to the Ponte Vecchio.  The bridge is fascinating and was more crowded than any piazza in which I had already been in Florence.

River Arno from Ponte Vecchio

River Arno from Ponte Vecchio

Mask in shop window

Mask in shop window

A Display of masks inside the shop

A Display of masks inside the shop

Shops full of the real thing - bling

Shops on the bridge sell only gold and fine jewellery. The real bling

Houses along the River ArnoHouses along the River Arno

Houses on the Arno

More houses on the river bank

River Arno rom Ponte Vechio

River Arno from Ponte Vecchio

Vehicles drive through this arch

Vehicles drive through this arch

Plaque  on hotel wall

Plaque on hotel wall

Plaque

Plaque depicting Virgin and child

Side street at Ponte Vecchio

Interesting – side street leading where?

Busy crossing

Busy crossing

So many sights, so many people, so much activity, it is almost overwhelming.  But around every corner there is yet another wonder to behold.
As Mark Twain said
“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo.”

And just for fun, this is how I feel after another busy day being a tourist in Florence

Tired panda

Sightseeing is so very tiring!

 

Florence Day 4

Well today started out as usual with a long Skype call from New Zealand, then a warm shower and out of the door for breakfast.

Florence Day 4 005

But before breakfast I had to remove the rubbish.  There is no rubbish collection and householders take their garbage to collection bins.  These are all around this suburb.  So recycling is alive and well in Florence.

Florence Day 3 2013 008

Then into my favourite place for breakfast.  This is the sight that greats one as one enters the premises.  Mouth watering to say the least.  But I stuck to my macchiato and brioche.

Then the bus into town.  Yesterday I was accosted by two separate people one to ask directions and the other for my signature on a petition against drugs.  This second girl/woman chattered away to me in Italian and when I told her “Non parlo Italiano” or I don’t speak Italian she then switched to English and told me that I looked like an Italian.  I think maybe that was a compliment; certainly when I look at the fashionable Italian women around this city.

And today on the autobus on the way to town I was asked the way to the Santa Maria Novella train station.  This was easy with a few pointed fingers particularly as it was almost exactly opposite where the bus stopped.  She spoke Italian and I understood her to say that she came from Poland and that she would like to visit New Zealand sometime.

Academie di belle arte

via Wikipedia

Then I set out for the Academie de Belle Arte.  This is of course where one finds the original David by Michael Angelo.  A gentle saunter through streets now becoming more recognisable to me, brought me to the Via Risoli and there at the end was the Academie.  But what a long queue confronted me and it was so long and so many people around that I have resorted to Wikipedia’s photo for this. The photos I took show only people queuing and once inside photography i forbidden.

David 2

This is the plaster copy of David that now stands in the square where the original stood for several centuries.

I decided to join a small group being shown around the Museum.  For E60 (gulp  that’s $NZ96/$US81) we went straight in by-passing the queues, had one and half hours with this delightful (pregnant) guide Lara to show us around and talk to us about the artworks, paintings and of course, David.

 

Florence Day 4 007

The traffic is fast and furious  Look out if you try to cross other than on a pedestrian crossing.  Drivers take no notice of the road rules.  They stop and double park wherever they choose.  This of course, makes it very difficult for the buses to get around corners, particularly the very long buses with the groin in the middle.  And cyclists I guess,  are the same the world over.  They appear to disregard any road rules, traffic lights or pedestrian crossings, and they are everywhere in this city.

But I did see this one guy arguing with the traffic warden as she was giving him a ticket.  Unfortunately my photo disappeared into the great blue yonder when I was downloading my camera today.

Florence Day 4 011

And then after David, I strolled through the square into a market that seemed to be completely filled with vendors of leather goods.  All beautiful of course.  After all this is Italy, and all competing for attention.  But I priced a couple fo items at several of the stalls and they were all the same price.

Florence Day 4 013

By this time it was well past three o’clock so  I decided to have lunch.  Not a great success.  The pasta was dry and the sauce lacked body but I was eating it in a pavement café in Florence.  How bad is that.

After that and another stroll through the almost familiar streets to the autobus stop at the stazzione for the ride back to the apartment.

I rounded off the day with a visit to the local supermercado.  That was quite an experience.  But easier this time than the first.

And now I am exhausted.  I was out for over six hours today, mostly on my feet so I shall say goodnight to all my friends in the blogosphere.

And a few more photographs:

Florence Day 3 2013 030

Florence Day 4 006

Florence Day 3 2013 017

 

 

 

Florence Day 2

London and Florence 062 I was woken up early this morning by the workmen who are digging up and (presumably) re-sealing the road outside the bedroom window.  This started around 7 am and now at 5pm they are still drilling.  Maybe they get paid by the hour.

That was followed by a long call on Skype to my partner in New Zealand.  Oh how very far away that is.

Then into the shower – another tepid one asI just can’t get the hot water to flow  Really have to do something about this.

Then Day 2 in Florence started. The sun was shining brightly and I was really pleased with myself :

  1. I found again the market that Ornella had shown me when I arrived on Sunday.  It’s a seven-day market apparently selling food and clothes.  It was very busy.
  2. I found a passticerria close by where I had a macchiato and a brioche for breakfast
  3. I got on the right autobus to take me to the stazione from where it was only a short walk to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Fiore (The Doumo)
  4. Found JK’s on the piazza for an elegant late lunch, then
  5. Found my way back again.

The woman at the bus stop spoke no English but we managed to communicate as I did with the two bus drivers.  It was a little more tense coming back because I had to look for something recognisable.  And it was the market.  So I jumped off the bus and almost got run over by a police car.  Many years ago I had a ticket for jay walking in Santa Monica, California and I really thought I might get another today.  But the policeman simply said “andare, andare” which I took to mean go!

Lunch at JK's Florence 2And lunch..  All the tables on the piazza were reserved but the charming maitre d’ (what is Italian for that)  suggested I might like to eat inside.  And what a joy that was.  There are several photos at the end of this missive.  It was like a beautiful home open for lunch and dinner.  I had sesame chicken salad, served with oil and balsamic vinegar, preceded by a basket of bread and  rolls and oil for dipping.  Heaven.  It was  rounded off with a pot of Twining s tea with lemon so my meal was a complete success.  I decided then that I wouldn’t need dinner just some fruit that I had bought yesterday and a couple of brioche from the same passticerria.  So I am all set.

Here are a few photos I took today.  I am sure you don’t need to see all 55 of them.

London and Florence 017London and Florence 012London and Florence 013At the market

London and Florence 019 London and Florence 048London and Florence 026The Duomo

London and Florence 057 London and Florence 058 London and Florence 059JK’s on the Piazza Duoumo

So another day in Florence comes to an end.  I shall sit and read my book as there is no English TV programme available here. Well maybe there is but not in this apartment.