Saturday, June 24, 2006


Photoshoot: at the Pescheria, the site of a busy fish market since the 1400s. The market was over for the day and a fashion shoot was taking place. We really loved the light through those red cloths. So did the photographer I assume!

Venetian Door Handle: One of the delightful architectural details Bob enjoys shooting.

Tourists at Work: Tourists doing what tourists do best, shop, lounge, take pictures and wander around looking simultaneously lost, gleeful and confused!

The Grand Canal: Taken from the vaporetto, one of the floating buses that take you take to get from one point to another on the Grand Canal. It's a great way to enjoy the city, especially after walking around all day seeing the sights on foot.

Venice Views

People waiting to get in to see St. Mark's: this was taken from the inside out. We had arrived earlier in the day and only waited a short time. By the time we left the basilica, the line was around the square!

Mosaics, San Marco: St. Mark's Basilica was built originally in the 9th century but destroyed by a fire. It continued to be rebuilt starting around 1063 and remodeled extensively over the next centuries. There are over 40,000 sq ft of golden mosaics covering the domes, walls and floor, with the earliest dating from the 12th century. From 11:30 to 12:30 in the afternoon, they turned on the lights and it's completely dazzling!

Classic Venice: Tourists drifting along the canals in gondolas being serenaded by classic Italian songs like "Volare" and O Sole Mio."

St. Mark's Horses: These are the originals, The Quadriga, housed in a museum within the basilica. They are either Roman or Hellenistic, from the 3rd century BC and were stolen from the top of Hippodrome in Constantinople in 1204.

Torre dell'Orologio: The clock tower in St. Mark's Square. We climbed up the steps to get a close look at the amazing, golden mosaics. From there, it is possible to go out on balcony for a bird's eye view of the Square and a closer look at the the four horses, replicas of the gilded bronze originals, now inside the church for protection from the elements.

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Day in Venezia 6.15.06

Bob and I drove to Venice last week. How fun is that! The night before we really said to each other: "What do you want to do tomorrow?" I don't know. Do you want to go to Venice?" And so we did. We could have taken a train that leaves from the station in Verona but we decided to take our car and take our chances with finding a place to park. Most people advised us not to try to drive in but we thought we'd give it a shot. We left early in the morning, around 8am and were in the parking lot at Piazza Roma by 9! It was a bit costly, around 20 euros for 12 hours. With gas and lunch and everything, it's not a "cheap" day but, heck, it's Venice!

I spent too much time looking for accessories for my dress for Andrea's wedding in Germany but there are so many shops selling beautiful glass bead jewelry, I had a hard time resisting. The first place we wanted to visit was St. Mark's and we should have gone straight there by vaporetto instead of walking from the parking garage, stopping at all those little shops. At any rate, by about 10:30 we were at Piazza San Marco and the line wasn't too long to get in. By 11:30 the lights came on inside and it was incredible.

The other place we knew we wanted to visit was the Peggy Guggenheim collection of modern art, which includes a large number of paintings and sculptures from almost every modern art movement. We had missed seeing it the last time we were in Venice. It's in an interesting Palazzo, nicknamed Palazzo Nonfinito because they only built the ground floor (it was supposed to be 4-stories).

After getting up early and wandering around Venice all morning we ended up finding a quiet corner along the canal, sort of in the backyard of the museum and just sat and dozed, watching the gondolas and other boats drifting by on the canal.

Lunch was an expensive pizza and a wonderful plate of grilled vegetables. Next time we need to search out a more of the way place, but we think Venice is just expensive.

More wandering and then we decided to take a ride on the vaporetto as a kind of a tour of the Grand Canal and then head back to our car and head home.

Here are some of the things we saw that day. We hope to take more trips there and find some less visited corners of the city and show you things you haven't seen before. But here are our first impressions this time around.

A presto
Rosemary e Robert

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Shopping Mall!

OK, here's my addendum to the tirade I just posted. Now that I'm done searching we actually found a giant shopping mall a short drive from our apartment in Verona. It figures!

We're going to Cologne! 6.22.06

We are going to a wedding in July, in Köln (Cologne), Germany. Actually the wedding will be in Bonn, near where our friends live in Köln. We are excited to be going to this wedding as it gives us the opportunity to share in the joy of one of our favorite people in the world, Andrea, who was our exchange student when Jessica, our daughter was 16 years old. Jessica in fact spent her 16th birthday in Köln and Andrea's family threw her a surprise birthday party that included a ceiling full of balloons and an experience that she will never forget. Through the last 16 years we have remained friends. When Bob and I took our first trip to Europe about a dozen years ago now, we met Andrea's parents and they treated us royally. When Jessica and Nick were married almost 6 years ago now, they all flew to Arizona for the wedding. Two years ago when we were in Italy and our crazy flight plan had us flying home from Rome via Munich, Andrea and her parents took a 3-hour train ride to spend an evening with us and we enjoyed a meal with them in that beautiful German city. We are excited to be able to return the favor now and go to Germany for this very special day.

I think I am almost set with my outfit for the wedding. This has been one of the biggest challenges for me, living in Italy. You wouldn't think this would be the case. There are certainly shops filled with beautiful things everywhere you go. In Perugia I had the most difficult time finding clothes that fit me, that didn't cost a small fortune. There were many, many shops that catered to the young, hip college students but I could never find anything in any of those shops that came close to fitting me. Almost everything I own is either a size 10 or a size 12, I swear, so I'm not looking at trying to find Plus sizes or anything. I certainly see women who are my size and bigger but who knows where they go to find clothes??

We came prepared to spend two years here so I really have not needed all that much until now but this wedding had me stumped. I thought there would probably be opportunities for shopping here in Verona but wanted to have it all done with by the time we got here, since there were only a few short weeks after we arrived that we would have leave for Germany. Finally, finally, I found a dress in Sicily, in Ragusa in fact (not that I can remember the name of the little shop!) It's a simple red silk dress - as in tomato red - and it's one of those with a slip under and a silk sleeveless shift type thing that goes over it. The only problem was that it needed a little altering because of a funny little thing around the armholes that could be easily adjusted (or so the lady in the shop recommended and I thought "how hard can it be to find someone who can do a little alteration?)

Shopping with my husband is a real challenge also because A. he hates to shop and B. well, he hates to shop. I know he is honest with me in whether he thinks something looks good on me or not, but then I think he's biased in his assessment because he loves me (thankfully, for all I put him through on this shopping extravaganza) and C. he hates to shop and wants it to just be done with. He's one of those typical male shoppers who goes into a store looking for a blue shirt. If he finds one, he buys it. If he doesn't he goes home. I, on the other hand, must look at everything, even if I've found something I like, just to be sure I haven't missed something and there is something much better just waiting in the next shop. You can imagine how these two shopping "styles" don't' exactly mesh together!

But as I really didn't come to live in Italy to spend all my time shopping, I bought the red dress. But of course you are not done there, now all the accessories must be found. This is where shopping in Italy is more of a challenge. There does not seem to be - at least I have not found it to be the case - a big department store like Macy's where, if you find a dress, you can also find underwear, shoes, a purse, a scarf, jewelry, make up, the whole shebang all in one shop and maybe, maybe you have to stop in one of those little fun accessory shops for the finishing touches but really you can do it all in one place. Not here. (OK, yes, there is the COIN and UPIM but so far I haven't found much in either of those stores that would work for me.) If you want shoes, you go to a shoe store. And there are zillions of shoe stores. Dresses and clothes stores do not sell shoes. Dresses and clothes shops do not sell underwear. And as I said, finding shops that sell my size has been really difficult. It seemed like there were the shops that the young and slim shop in and then the shops for the old and wide. I had quite a time finding something for me, sort of in between the two.

I did find a cute pair of sexy sandals to go with the dress in a little shoe store in Marina di Ragusa and now I was committed to the color scheme. The red dress with these little black shoes. But I needed a scarf in case the evening was cool and just to accessorize. That seemed to take me forever as I was looking for something that had just the right shade of red in it - not scarlet red or pinky red or orange, but somewhere in between. And urrgghh! I really want to be sightseeing and not shopping in every store that seemed possible! Bob was not thrilled with this either and we've both been a bit cranky over the whole thing!

Finally! In one of the little shops somewhere along the way I managed to find a scarf and some jewelry and then the most difficult of all, the underwear! There are at least a million of these cute little underwear stores. Every town, regardless of how small has a least two. Like the nail places in the states, they are everywhere. But again finding one that had anything that came close to looking right for me was the challenge and so far, this week alone I have had at least 6 salesladies, shall we say, "measure" me for the correct fit. I have never been touched my so many, so intimately, in my life! For naught! Nothing fit right, nothing was going to work. What was I going to do? In desperation I asked my daughter to shop for me in the states. She does this. She sends me photos on the Kodak Gallery that I can look at. I consider ordering a mug with the Olga bra on it, just to commemorate this moment. (Those of you who have visited the Kodak gallery to see friends' photos of their newest baby or vacations shots will know what I'm talking about.) She promises to bring all of them and I can decide when she gets here.

But there is still the question of the alteration. We drive around the neighborhood. We ask at the dry cleaners. No one knows. Oh, it's usually just someone somebody knows who does this for them. Or they do it themselves, it's not a big deal. Bob suggested I go to the hair dresser I found who cut and colored my hair to ask her advice (I'm back to being a brunette, by the way. Many of you have commented about how blonde I was getting) and she tries to think of someone who can help me and finally offers to do it for me herself. She likes to sew, it would not be a big deal. So I put on the dress. She pins darts into the front and tells me I should really have the right bra for her to adjust properly. Damn! I don't have it. Won't have it till Jessica comes but she tells me where to go, to a shop she likes where the ladies will help and advise me. I go there. I try on 3 or 4 and select one I like. It's costs a fortune but at this point, I cannot care. Back to Analisa who fits the dress and promises to call when it's done. Jessica and Nick will be here next week and we plan to do a lot of sightseeing with them so I want all of this done before they get here.

I am no sooner at home (just a few minutes away) when Analisa calls and says there is a problem (or a mistake? I have a harder time understanding the language over the phone) and can I come right back. I do. She laughs as I walk in and holds up the dress, which is now on a hanger. She spins it, showing me both the front and the back. She shows me the back because what she was adding the darts to was actually the back of the dress. I had been all along putting it on backwards! So of course there were funny puckers at the armholes! (Why the lady in the shop I bought it didn't realize this is beyond me.) There was no tag in the over dress, just on the slip and I always kept the two pieces together and didn't realize it had been flipped! What a dork I felt like! We laughed together a lot. I think I've made a friend and happily, I now have everything I need for the wedding, don't need any alterations and I'm all set to enjoy my daughter's company and go to the wedding! Whew! Of course, now I really need to stay on that diet because otherwise this red dress won't fit me and I'll be back at square one, shopping for something else and I just can't bear the thought of it!

Now I can just focus on getting to know this area and finding cool places to go before my husband kills me!


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

More Views around Lago di Garda

Sirmione: Roses lined the sidewalks along the way to the town of Sirmione. We had to park outside the pedestrian-only zone and walk in to the historic center.

Ducks: The canal in Sirmione.

Rocca Scaligeri: The beautiful 13th century castle in Sirmione, the peninsula that extends into the southern end of Lago di Garda. Sirmione dates back to Roman times but it is mostly medieval with narrow stone-paved streets and is filled with shops and restaurants, with flowers everywhere.

Sirmione: A beach area along the lake where the tourists were sunbathing

Borghetto: Another view of charming little Borghetto. It's not on the lake, but just a short drive to the south.

Borgehetto is a postcard like village this is a tower on the defensive bridge that crosses its river.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Impressions of Lago di Garda

Here are some photos of our day at Lago di Garda visiting the towns along the lake.

The town of Peschiera and all the restaurants and cafes that line the harbor.

On the right, part of the Fortezza del Quadrilatero in Peschiera, a 15th century stronghold built by the Austrians in the 19th century.

Our next stop was the sweet little town of Lazise, This shows part of the defensive wall perimeter. The old part of the town was built within the walls.

Colorful boats in the harbor at Lazise

La Grotta, a restaurant in Lazise. I did a painting of this building I'll try to post later.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A Public Toilet in Northern Italy

We had read about these toilets on the floor before our first trip to Italy about a dozen years ago but have not encountered them so far in Umbria or anywhere in Sicily. In fact, the first time we saw one was in Milano, surprising for such a fashion conscious, modern city. This one was in Verona. So far we have seen several, all in public places like restaurants and the like. Seems very antiquated to us but they apparently still use them up here and it's always an adventure!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Impressions of Verona

Juliet's (Giuletta in italiano) balcony: This is the site a gazillion tourists go visit every day with no basis in fact that these star-crossed lovers ever existed outside of literature, but tht never stops a tourist on the trail of "history!"

Casa di Giuletta: Modern lovers stick little love notes and scribble their names on the walls of the courtyard of "Juliet's House."

Castelvecchio: 14th century castle and the "ponte pietra" (stone bridge), Ponte Scaligero

The Roman Arena: In this photo you see the only standing part of the outer wall.

River Adige: This is the river that winds its way through Verona.

Friday, June 16, 2006

First Impressions 6.16.06

Today is Friday, the 16th of June, 2006. We have been in Verona now for just over one week and we have already been to so many places I feel I cannot begin to describe all of them in great detail, so we have decided to simply do a photo journal and to briefly tell you about these cities. The north of Italy, and the Veneto in particular, is chock full of gorgeous large and small cities, vineyards, lakes and mountains, there will be no shortage of places to go and things to see. It definitely seems a bit more expensive up here than in Sicily so we'll have to be careful not to exceed our budget but we do pretty well, living cheap and making our art and hope to continue to be frugal and enjoy what each day brings.

We've spent a few days just exploring Verona. Lovely. We took drives to Padova (you may know this as Padua, birthplace of St. Anthony) for the feast day of the Saint, Lago di Garda (Lake Garda) and several of the cities along its shoreline like the Sirmione peninsula, Peschiera and the small and charming Lazise. We drove along the eastern shore of the lake up to its northern tip, near Turbole, where the windsurfers looked like so many butterflies flitting across the surface, turned around and drove south again back to Verona. Some of the little towns nestled in the mountains could easily make you feel that you've gone too far north and ended up in Germany! There are castles and church towers reaching up to the sky and we want to return to so many places we have passed along the highway.

With our friend Myles, we drove to Borghetto, a picture postcard pretty little town south of the lake. We spent a day in Venice, trying to get our bearings and visiting the gorgeous Basilica San Marco and the Guggenheim Museum of modern art that we missed the last time we were here. We found Venice filled with tourists, more shops than we remembered, and more souvenir stands than really seem necessary since they all sell pretty much the same stuff but still unique and lovely as always.

On the 25th of this month our daughter Jessica and her husband Nick will be coming over for a visit. We will spend a week touring the Veneto with them and then all of us will pile in the car for our trip to Cologne and Andrea's wedding. We hope to see several other friends while we are there in Germany, as well as a stop in Switzerland to visit our lovely Helena from Perugia. We're very excited about this trip on so many levels!

We're thinking of all of you and hoping life is treating you well. We hope you enjoy the photos and the brief descriptions we've added. We are still getting to know the city and are doing our best to be accurate!

Buona giornata,
Rosemary and Bob

Impressions of Verona

Roman Arena & Aida: We will be attending a performance of Aida at the Roman Arena, built around AD 30, the third largest in the world, after Rome and Naples. These pieces of the opera's stage set were scattered around Piazza Brà, the large public square at the entrance to the city.

Glass hearts: On display at one of the vendors in Piazza Erbe, in medieval times an herb market, now lined with art galleries, upscale shops and filled with the umbrellas of a colorful daily market.

Shoe store: We couldn't resist these adorable tiny shoes in the shoemaker's window!

Piazza Erbe: This is the piazza that used to be an Herb market (erbe in Italian). These are the 16th century frescoes of the della Scale Mazzanti houses. This piazza has been in use since Roman times and was the location of Verona's Roman forum.

Via San Tomasso: A steep and picturesque street next to the Caffé Il Teatro near the River Adige.

Impressions of Verona 6.16.06

Porta Nuova: You walk through this porta (gate) to find yourself in the old center of Verona, facing a row of beautiful pallazi and outdoor cafes on the left. On the right, the green space of Piazza Brà and the massive face of the Roman arena. Welcome to Verona!

Ponte Scaligero: A view of Verona from the Castel San Pietro. Bob climbed up while I sat and painted. That's the Ponte Scaligero (or stone bridge) built in 1540, the people of Verona rebuilt it using all the old stones they rescued from the river after it was destroyed by retreating German soldiers in 1945. That's the Duomo's bell tower in white, beyond.

Castel San Pietro: Its origins date back to the 14th century but it gets its present appearance from the Austrians who rebuilt it in the 1854. I guess they didn't see the end coming in 1860 when the citizens threw them out and formed a united Italy without foreign domination.

Face of Verona: Architectural detail. We've noticed that this type of detail seems more realistic than the fanciful baroque grotesques we loved in Sicily.

Centro street: A view of the old center of Verona. I believe that is the Torre dei Lamberti in the distance. (still getting to know the city!)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Borgo Roma, Verona Sud, 6.8.06

Here we are in Verona Sud. It's a suburb, or as they say in Italy, in "periferia," the periphery of the Verona. We searched and searched for a place in the north and originally thought we wanted to be in Belluno, in the Dolomites but couldn't find anything affordable since that is such a high tourist destination as well. So when we found this one and it was just outside the city of Verona, within an easy bus ride, we thought, why not! It will be a completely difference experience from the last two and that is one of the things we want to do in moving around the country like this.

We arrived yesterday afternoon and met Laura and Giorgio, our new landlords and they were lovely. They even helped us up the stairs - we are on the first floor - two flights up - in a smallish apartment building. All the other people in the building own their apartments and there are geraniums spilling out of the flower boxes and everything seems well tended and cared for. There are shops within walking distance, everything we need: a grocery store, butcher, fruit & veggies, coffee bars and bakeries for bread. It doesn't have the medieval charm of Verona, but it is very quiet, especially at night for sleeping. There is a rush hour in the evening when everyone comes home from work and there is a bit of traffic for a while, but otherwise, it's very quiet and peaceful. There are kids living around us and a few babies, as we see tiny little clothes on some of the clotheslines and at the house with the big blue bow on the front door, the sound of a new baby crying. We met one of the neighbors in the building who greeted us warmly and said she was pleased to meet us and we hope to meet more.

The apartment is about the same square footage as the one in Perugia but it seems a bit larger. We think it's just the way it's laid out. It's completely modern and even has a dishwasher! The floors are stone tiles, very shiny and pretty. We also have a small balcony off the dining/living room and it's nice to be able to open the doors and have fresh air blowing through. We've been trying to find places for all of our things and there are still some piles of things that don't have a home yet. Laura and Giorgio have said we could put our big suitcases in their storage room in the garage. The building has a private parking garage, which is wonderful and something we hadn't expected.

The bus stop for Verona is just down the street from our apartment and we must then switch to another bus that takes us into centro. All of this takes at the most a half hour. We had never been to Verona before. Today we made our first trip in and we were totally awed by the beauty of this city that somehow seemed to us a cross between Venice and Florence. There is a river that winds through it, gorgeous medieval buildings, towers and churches and incredible palazzi everywhere. It is quite stunning. We can't wait to explore it further and will be able to, since we will be here a while. Today we left our guide books home and just wandered around, wherever our eyes took us. There were a lot of tourists but nothing at all like you would experience in Firenze (Florence) at this time of year. The weather was gorgeous. At every corner it seemed, the view changed to yet another beautiful one! Like every other Italian city we have been in from north to south, they also have their share of scaffolding so we will just have to deal with it, and keep reminding ourselves it is a good thing that these beautiful cities are being lovingly restored for future generations.

Now I'm feeling pretty wiped out from our first day in Verona so I will close. Thanks for keeping up with our adventure. We can't wait to explore this region and hope to have lots of photos and experiences to share!

A presto!
Rosemary e Robert

Due Torre at Massa Martana

Larry & Shelly's home "Due Torre" in the countryside

A double rainbow near Due Torre

Around Perugia

The beautifully restored church of San Ercolano in Perugia

Marta's new antique loom at Guiditta Brozzetti

Perugia is still beautiful

Monday, June 12, 2006

Perugia and Massa Martana 6.3.06 to 6.7.06

Our expat friends Larry and Shelly have a gorgeous stone house - actually a cluster of houses or "borgo" in Italian, in the countryside near the Umbrian town of Massa Matana. When we knew we were passing through from Sicily to Verona, and decided we wanted to spend a few days in Perugia, Shelly and Larry kindly offered to let us stay at their place, even though they would still be in the states at the time. It seemed a perfect solution. Several of our friends invited us stay at their homes but with everything we had in the car we didn't want to impose on them by filling up their homes with our all our stuff (think "Beverly Hillbillies!") and this allowed us to unload the car for a few days without inconveniencing anyone.

June 3 was also the date of the "Monster Get-together" that the expats folks had planned. We weren't sure, with the car and insurance snag that we would actually make it in time to participate but we did and it was fun to see some familiar faces and hang out with some of our friends like Art and Barbara and Janet and Stephen, not to mention Kelli, Isabella, Judith, Pio and Diane, Bruce, and Anikka (who has commented on our blog and who came all the way from Sweden!) and finally getting to meet Cristina face to face. She's the woman who is the guiding light for the web site and deserves a lot of credit for not only planning this giant event but also bringing all of us together in one central location. We thought it was great and enjoyed ourselves very much, in spite of the weather not being exactly ideal.

We spent the next few days going back and forth to Perugia visiting our friends there. We had lunch with Marco and Analisa and their daughter Viola at their lovely, art-filled apartment in Perugia. Bob and I met Marco in Corciano one day when we had recently arrived in Perugia and he and his wife showed us such warmth and friendship on subsequent days. They are originally from Napoli and spoke enough English for us to communicate in those early days. This time we felt that we were able to have an actual conversation in Italian and understood most of what they told us. We hope to see them again on our way south in the fall and then perhaps when we are in the Napoli area and they go there for the Christmas holidays.

We took care of some business we had to attend to like closing our bank account in Perugia (I will have to write about that in a separate blog!), getting original copies of our title from the car dealer, and shopping for a wedding gift for Andrea in Koln, which we will be attending in July. We had something special in mind and knew exactly where to go. In case she's reading this I won't tell you what we got!

We had coffee with our friends Sergio and Rita, our former landlords in Perugia and it was so wonderful to see them again. All seems just as before except that their little dog Momo died last month and they were very sad about that. We stopped in the garden to say hello to Giovanni, the gardener and he remembered us warmly and stopped his work to shake our hands and wish us well. To be able to look out over "our view" one more time meant so much to us as well and we savored the moment. My heart hurts though thinking of all the paintings I made in that garden that were stolen from me. So I just can’t think about it.

We stopped to visit with our Phoenix friends John & Gail and their two daughters Erin and Zoe who are staying in Sergio & Rita's country house outside Perugia and seemed happy to be there, even though the weather was pretty cold for these Arizonans!

We planned some lunches and dinners that fell through and walked from one end of the city to the other to say hello to some of the people we had met during our days in Perugia, like Sylvia from Re.Leg.Art on Via Fiorenzo di Lorenzo ( who works with disabled people to produce the most gorgeous hand-made leather books and journals, to Claudia and her father Remigio (who was not there, sadly) who own one of our favorite shops that sells "prodotti tipici" called "Il Tempio" located near the Tempio Michele Arcangelo, another of our absolutely favorite places in Perugia to go and taste wines and chat with these two warm and welcoming people! She proudly showed us the May/June issue of National Geographic TRAVELER that contains a brief article about her and their shop in Perugia. We spent several hours with our friends Art & Chris and also with John from the Tempe Fire Dept and his "entourage" there one afternoon tasting wines and cheeses.

We popped in to see Massimo the Magnificent, our computer wizard who helped us out so many times at All Media Service on Corso Garibaldi near the Tempio ( Massimo was out, but we had a nice talk with his partner Federico. And of course visited with our friend Giovanna at the internet point, who promised to have lunch or dinner with us the next time we come through this way and we will hold her to it. We even ran into Francesco from Della Rosa Café on Piazzale Europa and had a nice chat with him! He gave us a hard time for not sending him a postcard and we promised to send one from Verona.

Amazingly, our Australian friends Guiseppina (born in Sicily) and Myles who bought an apartment near Lago Trasimeno were in town. We knew this only because we saw them boarding a bus and arranged to share a glass of wine in between visits we had previously arranged!

We managed a coffee with Janet and Stephen and a glass of wine with Art & Barbara. We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to go to all of our favorite places in Perugia. The city looked better than ever, with many of the restoration projects complete and the scaffolding down. Even San Ercolano was completely finished and we were delighted to walk up the old marble staircase and stand back to admire its beautiful façade. The Giardino Carducci is also finished and it was lovely to walk beneath those trees and among the paths of flowers. It was closed the entire time we were in Perugia although we could see by the time we left that it was near to completion. The weather those few days was fresh and cool and only rained on the last afternoon, as we visited with Sergio and Rita in their apartment with the bird's eye view over the countryside of Perugia.

We also couldn't miss a brief stop and a chat with Marta at the artisans "Guiditta Brozzetti ( and see all the gorgeous things they are making by hand on those ancient looms with historic Perugia patterns. She showed us another ancient loom she is learning to work and all the different colored threads it uses to produce a piece of multi-colored cloth.

Staying in Massa Martana meant about a 40 minute drive back and forth but also afforded us lovely quiet nights in a wonderful old stone house "Due Torre" and we appreciate so much the generosity of our friends in allowing us to stay.

The morning of the June 7th we re-packed the car, being sure not to leave anything behind (except the surprise we left for Larry & Shelly) and trying to clean up after ourselves like good guests should.

By 9am we had turned over the keys and were on the road to Verona. So in a matter of a week, we had driven through Sicily, Campagnia, up past Lazio and into Umbria, Tuscany, past Emiglia Romana and finally, the Veneto and Verona. Quite a journey. We are full to the brim with happy memories and fortunate to have made good friends all along the way. We hope there are more friends to come as well as more opportunities to see again, the ones we have made. We will treasure all of them.

Rosemary & Robert

Friday, June 09, 2006

From Messina to Salerno 6.1.06

On June 1st, we cleaned out our apartment in Marina di Ragusa, said our goodbyes, packed up the car and drove away. Both of us were crying our eyes out, it was so hard to leave. The weather made it a little easier as it turned a bit colder that day and looked like rain. Not a day you would want to spend at the beach and we were glad we had taken full advantage of the unseasonably warm days in the month of May and swam in the sea every day that we could.

We left Ragusa around 4 in the afternoon and made good time driving to Messina arriving in that city around 7pm. It was difficult to find a place to eat near the port but we finally found a rosticceria and ate a picnic lunch by the water of roasted chicken and fried potatoes. The sunset was quite spectacular and with all the shades of red and orange, it looked like the city of Messina was on fire. We were so early, we had to wait for a few hours before the ferry would allow passengers to board and we just sat in the car. When they opened up the window for passengers to pick up their tickets (we had purchased them in Marina di Ragusa the day before from Antonio at Ragusana Viaggi) I napped while Bob waited outside. Poor guy, it was pretty cold by this time and he didn't have a jacket with him, as it had been so warm, he packed all his jackets away!

We were so tired we couldn't wait to get into our cabin, only to discover we were in the middle of a teenage field trip to Salerno. These kids partied all night. We tried to get them to be quiet but they just ignored us. Finally I remembered that I had earplugs and we were able to get a few hours sleep before the sound of the captain telling everyone to get ready, we had reached Salerno. Bob swears if he makes this trip again that he is going to drive through Calabria in spite of what everyone says about the roads! (You might remember our sea-sickness when we traveled from Napoli to Catania in December!)

We arrived in Salerno around 9am, waited to be able to disembark and drove to meet Nigel and look at the apartment he had found for us. First he wanted to show us around Salerno and it's obvious he likes this city very much. He's from the UK and has transplanted himself in this southern Italian city and seems very much at home there. Since our car was packed to the gills with all of our possessions, and there was no room for Nigel, he called Monica, whose apartment we were to see, to come and pick him up and we arranged to meet in Cava di Terreni a little later in the day.

I should clarify that this apartment in the Napoli/Salerno area is for next winter and we would be looking at renting it from November to end of March at which time we expect to actually go home to the United States. (Everyone asks how this is possible and how we will do it, but that is the plan at this point, as our litte granddaughter is getting bigger by the minute and we feel certain we will be anxious to get home to spend time with her while she is still little.)

We found the area around Salerno, close to Amalfi, very beautiful and the little town of Cava di Terreni charming. It turned out that the apartment is actually close to the little village of Santa Lucia, very near (maybe 5 or 10 minutes) from Cava. It is in the countryside of Campagnia, with farms all around and the big mountains part of our view from this lovely apartment. It's a two-bedroom place this time and seems to have everything we would need to be comfortable there through the winter including a working fireplace. It's close enough to Napoli for visits to that city and to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast and that entire region and close to the highways that take you there. They are undergoing some construction projects at this time, doing some repainting and building a "tavolina," a sort of den and assured us that these projects will be completed before we get there. We're keeping our fingers crossed but also asking Nigel to keep his eyes open for a second possibility if they aren't. We don't want to find ourselves spending the winter in the middle of a construction site and hope they are certain that it will all be finished long before we arrive.

So it would seem that we are set for the next and last part of our great adventure. It really is hard to think about leaving Italy. It has truly been an incredible experience. And really, it's only half over. We still have almost a year (10 months) left to go. I know it will go really, really fast!

From Salerno, we drove north, headed for Verona and our home for the next 5 months. But not before stopping for a few days in Umbria to visit some friends.

(to be continued. See "Perugia and Massa Martana")

Rosemary & Bob

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Leaving Marina Today 6.1.06

The last word. I promise. Just to let you know, the check came, we met Peppe and went to the bank where it took an inordinate amount of time and we learned that we will have a fee to pay (possibly 100 euros) for the privilege of cashing it, paid Peppe and went home to finish packing.

We had a lovely dinner last night with Elio and Giovanna in Modica and had one last look at a very gorgeous Ragusa Ibla at night before a very tearful goodbye. We will miss these wonderful people who have become dear friends.

So now this truly is our last day in Marina di Ragusa. It’s a little rainy and grey, which goes along with our feelings about leaving. It’s been difficult to get too excited about what comes next because we really are so sad to leave Sicily. We promise to return in the future and hope we can keep this promise.

We will pack the car this afternoon and drive to Messina, put out car on the ferry and spend the night in a cabin, arriving at Salerno in the morning. Nigel (expats will know this name) is meeting us to show us a possible apartment for after Verona and we are excited at the opportunity to preview it, as we have not had this chance with each of the other places we have so far chosen. Not that it has turned out badly. To the contrary, each so far as been more than we had hoped for. But as we are passing right through the area on our way north, we thought it would be a good idea.

We will be staying at a friends house in Massa Martana, not far from Perugia, so we can visit friends in the area before heading further north to Verona. Our plan is to arrive by June 7.

If all goes well we might even be able to attend the ExPats get-together on the 3rd but we aren’t counting on it just yet. There is much to do in these next two days!

Allora, now I must sign off for now and get our things together. We want to take a final walk on the beach, and say our last goodbyes to the “guys” here in Marina.

I’ll write soon to let you know how it all went.

Baci baci baci,
Rosemary e Robert

Last Post from Marina di Ragusa 5.31.06

Today is Wednesday. It was supposed to be the day we departed Marina di Ragusa. But as we are expecting the check for the insurance to arrive today, we decided to just put it off until tomorrow. We had originally thought that once the check arrived we would deposit it in the bank, have them make a transfer to Peppe's bank (the car repair guy) and then pack up and leave. The ferry from Catania to Napoli leaves at 9pm and you should be there at least 2 hours prior and it's around a 2 hour drive to Catania so we thought it might all work out. But in talking with Elio this morning and thinking about really wanting to have a proper goodbye with our friends, we decided that it would be best not to rush it and wait until tomorrow to leave.

I got up early today, around 5am to go down to the beach and watch the sunrise. It was a cool morning with a slight breeze and the sky had purplish pinky streaks at the horizon and turned blue with white clouds as they sun came up, lighting up the Torre and all the little buildings that are Marina di Ragusa as it curves around the sea. I was alone on the beach with the exception of a single jogger along the promenade and a few dogs further down the beach playing with an old sock. Salvatore was just opening up for the morning, sweeping and setting up the chairs and tables, getting ready for his day to begin. We exchanged a "buon giorno!" as I passed, going back upstairs to see if Bob was awake yet.

Coming into the apartment, I checked my email and Bob got up. After having a cappuccino and cornetto at Salvatore's place "The Summer" we walked along the Lungomare another time. We ran into Giovanni and then, in centro, Angelo. He's not looking so good these days and we wonder what type of illness he has that has turned his usual youthful and peppy personality a bit restrained, his breathing labored. He greeted us warmly, took our hands in his and said something about the weather, the pressure, mal di testa (headache), and at his age, we worry about him.

And now, we are really at the end of this chapter. We will most likely leave tomorrow, grateful for one more day. But we wanted to let you know that this will probably be our last post from Sicily and the next time you hear from us it will be from our apartment in Verona, with tales of the journey north. We hope you will stick around and forgive me for my wordiness!

A presto!
Rosemary e Robert

A Cantina day with the Burrafatos & friends

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Sunday we were invited to join Elio, his brothers Pippo and his wife Rosalba, Savatore and Marinella and their friends Rino and Lucia (among others!) for a visit to one of the Cantinas that was to be open for wine tasting and eating local products. Of course we were delighted to go along as this was one experience we had not had in Sicily, visiting the cantinas - the wineries. There are many in Sicily and we had even picked up a brochure with a map outlining what type of wine they made and where they were but just never got around to doing that.

We all gathered at Pippo and Rosalba's house and went upstairs for her to show us her watercolors. We share this in common, she also loves to paint flowers and her watercolors were lovely. She had told me recently that it had been a long time since she had painted, what with family obligations and everything. But, we were also happy to hear that since she and I had spoken about painting that it had kind of inspired her to get started again and she showed me a lovely drawing she had started with three little vases of hyacinths. Very graceful line work and the beginnings of a beautiful painting.

And then we were off. The cantina was in the town of Comiso, not far from Ragusa and after a beautiful drive through the countryside we arrived to find picnic tables set up in a big courtyard with a barrel of wine set out for tasting and plates of sandwiches. They were serving ricotta calda, my new favorite thing in the world to eat, putting chunks of bread in to soak up the liquid, you spoon it up like a soup and the flavor is out of this world. Bob and I shared one of the panninis - crispy bread spread with pomodori secchi, olive oil, salt and "sapori" (seasonings) that were absolutely to die for and we shared a second!

Inside we watched them prepare a giant tray of pasta. Into an enormous wooden trough - maybe 5 ft by 2 ft - they tossed penne pasta, cooked in an enormous pot right on the spot, and ladled on a rich tomato sauce with eggplant, tossed it all around and served it to the very delighted crowd. A woman next to me explained that this was how the contadini - the day laborers - would have been served in the old days. The final course was grilled sausage and it was crispy and a bit spicy and simply wonderful. I don't think I could have eaten another thing!

We were given a tour of the facility - a very modern operation, not at all like the ancient methods we have previously seen in the museum at Buscemi or Palazzolo Acreide. This one has all the bells and whistles, using all the latest methods, down to the machine that fills the bottles, puts in the corks and applies the labels. It was very interesting. And again, we never would have known about this if it weren't for Elio. And, one of the wonderful things about this event, was that it was completely gratis, free. No one was selling anything, we didn't even see any signs of people buying bottles of wine here. It just seemed to be a day for the community to be invited to share a meal and to see the winery. Public relations I suppose and all very low-key and non-commercial. They had a few bottles of their wine on a display table but that was really the extent of the advertising. We understood that many other wineries were doing the same thing and so I suppose you could visit several and taste their goodies. For us, we couldn't eat another bite and were content to call it a day and go home.

We were home by the early afternoon, put on our swimsuits and spent the rest of the day at the beach, then upstairs doing some packing. We are down to just a few days now and we want to spend as much time in and on the sea as possible!

Buona Giornata,
Rosamaria e Roberto

(photos to come)