A city chick trying to keep her creative side alive! "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." - Pablo Picasso

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Italy: Cinque Terre

That's not a post-card, that's Patrick and Rio Maggiore.
And like every other tourist - we had to take a picture kissing on the Via Del Amore. (It was, after all, our ten year anniversary trip!)
We stayed in the central town - Corniglia. It's so much less crowded and this is why:
You have to climb an obscene amount of stairs to get to it. Patrick was proud enough to snap this photo of me in action!
There's so much to say about this magical place: amazing pesto, the best wine you'll ever sip, views from the hilltops that literally take your breath away, cobblestone streets, sheets hanging to dry in the Mediterranean sun. I truly learned what it means to relax here. The sun baked away any worries.
For more information on the Cinque Terra and the amazing hiking trails connection the "Five Lands," click here.

Italy: The Ape50

I can't remember his name, nor could I even TRY to pronounce it.
But, he's my favorite man in Italy.
As I struggled up the hill from Montieri to our hotel,
with my stomach screaming for drinking OJ and milk at the same meal,
I hear the Piaggio Ape 50 chugging up behind me.
"Please let him stop and pick me up! Please,"
I'm shouting silently in my head.
We exchanged, "Buon Giorno's."
He kept driving.
But, after a quick chat with a friend,
he stopped again, offering me a ride, I think.
(It was in Italian... but I got in anyway!)
We squeezed together on the seat designed for one.
To communicate, I tried to blend Spanish, Italian and hand gestures.
Not surprisingly, he didn't understand me AT ALL!
Yet, squished in that tiny seat, we connected through kindness.
As the Ape 50 struggled up the hill, with it's extra burden, we laughed!
I told him how "bella" Italia was and "gratzied" him for the ride.
As I went to exit the truck, thrilled to share my adventure with Patrick,
The little old man gave me one more, and one very "Italian" memory:
In a gentleman-like fashion,
He reached his arm over me to open the door,
grazing it across my chest...
"Accidentally" copping a feel along the way!
I saw him with his friends several more times on this trip.
I can only imagine what they were saying about that "Bella American!"

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Italy: Surprising Siena

We hadn't planned on travelling to Siena, but cruddy mountain bike rentals in Monteri led to us finding a new adventure. The morning started with a bus ride... and buying tickets in a town where no one speaks English and we don't speak enough Italian, proved to be a real challenge. Somehow, we made it, even with a bus transfer in Ciciana, only to discover what may be my favorite city in Italy. (The 3 professional-looking photos are courtesy of my favorite: Lonely Planet.

The town is immaculate. It's situated on this hill with the most incredible views and vistas. We started our tour at the Duomo:

The striped black and white marble pillars, topped with the dark blue night "sky" and gold stars, is the most gaudy but gorgeous combination you've ever seen. And the inlaid marble floor was just beautiful. It's only on display in September, so we felt so honored to get to see it. Patrick and I decided the entire cathedral was very "art deco"... before it's time! Someday, I'm painting a bathroom just like it!

From there, we wound our way through the tiny cobblestone streets to the Palazzo Pubblico:

We shared lunch on a sunny step in the plaza and people-watched. All around, mounds of gelato beckoned us inside little shops. The aromas from the Caffe's lured us in to taste espresso... and orzo (not my favorite). We took this picture of the butcher for our friend Tim, who LOVES meat:

This is just a beautiful ceiling we saw. I've decided I like the "folk" art most:

I'm so glad we made this side trip!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Italy: Refugio Prategiano

See this swimming pool?That's where I enjoyed many of my afternoons in Toscana!
Once again, Patrick discovered this quaint hotel in Montieri: Refugio Prategiano

It's well known for it's horseback riding (too allergic), mountain biking (too steep for me), and hiking to see the incredible views.

The hotel also has very impressive food... with the best homemade Tiramasu! And the kindest, most helpful staff.

Patrick and I learned what it truly means to RELAX here. The days felt so long, with nothing to do but explore, read, nap and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Italy: Montieri

Rome one morning, to rural Tuscany that afternoon:
This is the view of Montieri:Only 616 families live here, and very few of them speak English!
The region around medieval Montieri is an oasis for nature lovers.
Patrick picked this spot due to it' s incredible mountain biking and hiking!
The town is so quaint, cobblestones everywhere, with the "elders" taking steps around the hills!
And it's so cute how quiet they get when you walk by.
Everyone knows everyone... and they know when you're an outsider.
This was just a "funny" sign on the way from our resort to the town:We did learn first-hand how everything shuts down for the afternoon. They are serious about their siestas! From 1pm to 5pm everything is closed. But at 5:01pm the town comes alive! I don't know where they all came from, but dozens of friends and neighbors file in to the town square to hang out.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Itlay: Stumbled on Surprise

After seeing the "Mouth of Truth," we decided to cross the river and explore. After the most tasty Italian Ice - Lime & Coconut - we stumbled upon these ruins in the area known as "The Ghetto."

I couldn't read any of the signs - all in Italian, and I can't seem to find much information on what these ruins are... But by far, they were our favorite. There was a sense of peace walking down in them - no crowds - just history. The coolest part - people LIVE above them! You can see the windows up on the very top! If I ever live in Rome - this is where I want to be!
Right next door, the famous "Da Gigghetto" Restaurant. Try the deep fried artichokes and the stuffed zucchini flowers. YUM!

Italy: Tourists

The "Roman Holiday" lover in me had to see the famous Spanish steps.

This is the view from the top. "Scalla di Spagna" dates back to the 1720's and is surrounded by a very high-end but fun to window-shop neighborhood.
At the Santa Maria in Cosmedin, is the "Cocca della Verita," or the mouth of truth:

The marble face is thought to be an ancient drain cover. Medieval tradition says the jaws will snap shut on liars - a useful way of testing faithfulness of spouses. Looks like we're ok. Just like every other tourist, we had to take a picture with our hands in it's mouth. Why are we all silly when we're on vacation?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Italy: Moto Mania

Vespa, Vespa, and more Vespas!!!
I know there's some Italian in me somewhere,
I envied every moto-driving hottie in Rome!
Here are my top five "Only in Italy" scooter observations:
1. Ladies riding in short skirts and high heels, carrying purses.
2. Cell phones jabbed in to helmets to they can ride and ride.
3. Blackberry-using scooter rider.
4. Puppy on a moto! (Watch out Sigmund!)
5. It's every moto for themselves!
Also - what's the deal with everyone honking all the time?
Motos, cars, cabbies, the trolley, buses, bicycles...
they all honk all the time!
And if you want to cross the street in Rome -
First, pray.
Second, get in your running stance.
Third, run!
Drivers don't even slow down for pedestrians.

Italy: World Famous Caffe

Caffe Grecco -

This caffe dates back to 1760 and is considered one of the oldest in the world! Famous artists and writers enjoyed a cappuccino here, so why not me? This is the place (I guess) to see and been seen... eating delicious Tiramasu! The cocoa dusted confection and cappuccino - divine, the tuxedo clad service - prompt, the decor with it's velvet seats and dark wood - lush, and the prices - PRICEY! But this afternoon treat was worth every Euro.

Italy: Wilder Style

On our third day in Rome, Patrick had the swell idea to eat "in." So to create the perfect meal, we headed to the Mercato Esquilino:

Talk about fresh off the truck, this place was a feast for the eyes! It's the largest covered market in Rome and the produce puts everything here to shame. For about 16 Euro, we purchased pasta, veggies, EVOO, Parmesan, cantaloupe and focaccia. Later that evening as we sat down to enjoy our gourmet meal, it was all made even more perfect by the chimes ringing from Santa Maria in Trastevere:

And the accordion player serenading us outside our window.
(That's Patrick enjoying our feast!)

Italy: Best Bakery

This is Panella:
This is what heaven must look like.
Bite sized bits of baked goodness,
with a perfect cappuccino that's topped with some wacky custard.
The only problem with this place, you can't taste everything at once!
I'm not good at deciding between baked goods.
Panella makes Patrick and Anita very happy!

Italy: Trevi Fountain

Fontana di Trevi - made so famous in "La Dolce Vita" and "Roman Holiday."

A great place to see at night... because you can then eat at "Il Chianti" for the best dinner!

It's run by a mother and her two daughters... and enjoyed by tourists and locals alike. I enjoyed Cheese baked with fig compote and served with warm bread, pumpkin tortellini, and the best pear and blue cheese salad that exists. For Patrick, it was prosciutto and melon, and this amazing spicy pasta. No room for dessert... sorry. That's why we have to go back!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Italy: Pantheon

This is one of Rome's rare Gothic-style buildings. The obelisk is Egyptian... dating all the way back to the 6th century B.C. That's crazy... and cool!

Next to it... Bernini's fountain:
(That's me in the corner eyeing the Pantheon)
I took so many pictures of building facades because they're just so rustic and charming. The most beautiful combinations of windows, shutters and balconies!
And to think... we TRY to make things look like this.

Italy: Best Cappuccino Ever

You're looking at what is the very best Cappuccino I've ever had the pleasure of drinking in my entire life. That's a big statement... but I mean it!

Cafe Sant Eustachio is just steps from the Pantheon. It's been pleasing coffee connoisseurs since the 1940's. Everyone who goes here, inevitably comes back for another one. There is a secret concoction they use to make this creamy, dreamy goodness. In fact, they make it behind a wall so you can't even watch them! Whatever they do... they're doing it right!