Italy or… wow, is there a lot of pasta on the grocery store shelves or what?

 

We took the train out of Nice, France. Our destination was Lucca, Italy. Lucca is a medium size Italian walled old city of 40 square blocks. We stayed just outside the wall in the “modern” part of Lucca. One neat thing is Lucca has made the top of the wall around the city a green belt and park. You can walk around, ride a bike, etc. all on top of the walls. Rossini (as in the William Tell Overture) is the cities most famous citizen. While there we did a day trip to Pisa and, you guessed it, the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The tower really does lean and is made of white marble, it was actually more beautiful than I thought it would be. From Lucca we also did a day trip by train to the Cinque Terra area ─ a series of isolated seaside villages that are only assessable by train or boat . We wanted to hike in the surrounding mountains above the villages but there had been too much rain and the trails were closed; not to mention there was danger of landslides.

From Lucca we traveled deep into the Tuscany region and stayed in another walled city, Siena. Siena is world famous for the horse races they have around the town’s odd shaped plaza. Here is a link to if you want to see how crazy the race is.

http://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A2KLqIEF1IdRcW4Aphb7w8QF;_ylu=X3oDMTBvcTJzcm5xBHNlYwNzcgRzbGsDdmlkBHZ0aWQDVjEzMQ–?p=siena+horse+racing&vid=f0b2fc62f4022bd251211864f64abc64&l=2%3A35&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts2.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DV.4943362308377073%26pid%3D15.1&rurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DgfSXmALnFns&tit=Palio+Horse+Race+in+Siena+2009&c=0&sigr=11a6gg44j&age=0&&tt=b

Siena is divided up into small neighborhoods with their own flags and marching band. The horses you see in the race all come from sections of the city. You might hear about the austerity in Italy, it is not in Siena. There was not one shop closed and as far as I could see the Italian angel of death has passed by Siena.

Our next stop was Florence which is the center of the Renaissance arts world; where there is more “old master religious” art per square inch than most anyplace in the world. It is a great place to see many of the fabulous sculptures by Michelangelo.

From Florence we traveled to Ozu artist residence about 45 minutes outside of Rome. It was wonderful spending two weeks in a really small village in the picturesque Italian countryside and the food they served us was the best we had in Italy. Ozu is just outside the quaint city of Monteleone Sabina(mountain lion) ─ a place where they might get 200 tourists a year who just happen to wander in. They don’t even have a hotel, only one b&b. When we arrived in April the country side should have been busting out with spring lush, but spring hadn’t “lushed” and it was cool and winter still nagged us at every opportunity. We stayed there for 2 weeks and Anita painted and I finished my murder mystery (first rough draft) and worked on my web site. From this secluded area we took a bus to the Eternal City of ROME.

I was a little apprehensive about going to Rome ─ all the talk about crazy drivers and the organized mayhem of Roman streets. Apparently the austerity in Rome has thinned the number of cars because the traffic was normal. There were a lot of tourists, make that a way lot of tourists swarming the streets and the usual ruins like the Coliseum, Circus Maximus, etc. We visited several more Roman ruins and now we were “ruined out” especially after all the Roman ruins in Turkey and Israel. No mas. We had gone to one too many Roman or Greek ruin. I will mention we were disappointed in the catacombs just outside of Rome. The tour cost $18 Euros and was too short, 20 minutes, and you didn’t see much except small niche holes in mud. 30% of the people buried in the catacombs were children, hence small niches. VATICAN

Rome is a sophisticated and cosmopolitan city. I could live in Rome. From Rome we went to Napoli. If Rome is sophisticated, Naples, or Napoli, is rough, tough and raw. People in a rush, a city of kamikaze scooters, this is a hell bent for leather city. It is a city that lives under certain death of Mount Vesuvius and sneers at the danger of sudden extinction. Napoli was also the dirtiest city we visited with piles of garbage everywhere. The one redeeming factor is this is the Italian city with the best pizza. (Not as good as pizza in the US–Anita) None of that flaky cracker crust with a smidgen of cheese. These are the real deal pizza pies, big, bold, thick crust, lots of cheese and meat ─ with a cold beer….ahhhhhhh. Another disappointment was Pompeii just a 40 minute train ride outside of Napoli. The Italian government has ripped out most of the good stuff like murals, artifacts, sculptures, etc. and put them in a museum in Napoli. The entire time we were in Pompeii walking around we saw zero as in not one person in uniform watching over visitors. The sites that did have remnants of murals or floor tile were locked up and not open to viewing. The government is ruining the ruins of Pompeii by neglect, so sad.

From Napoli we took an overnight train to Venice. Venice is one of the most visited cities in the world. They have over 12 million visitors a year. Don’t even think of going there in July through September. In summer St. Marks Square is shoulder to shoulder. The pigeons can’t even find space to land on. We were there in April and this is not close to high season and we found it very crowded. There are over 1000 restaurants and twice as many gift shops. Now you would think they would restrict visitors in some way ─── no chance Pinocchio. This is Venice, the city that gave the world international commerce. Think Marco Polo. Business runs this city and they want as many people as possible here. In Venice there are no such words as too crowded. Venice is the hotspot for romantics, newlyweds and women in particular just love the place. There is no doubting the charm and “cuteness” of Venice. I was told by an American who lived there the best and ONLY time to visit Venice was Christmas time.

We took the overnight train from Venice and headed to Austria, Vienna ─The city where it is impossible not to hear the Blue Danube song once during the day.

View photos at https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151399175816516.1073741828.667416515&type=1&l=8ca3caf34f

3 Responses to “Italy or… wow, is there a lot of pasta on the grocery store shelves or what?”

  1. Allenda Moriarty Says:

    Sounds like a fabulous trip. I’m enjoying your posts. We took the overnight train from Venice to Vienna, too. Loved Vienna, of course we loved all of Europe. What is not to love?

  2. Susan Bzoza Says:

    We spent 2 months in Trastevere in Rome and then another month or two driving through the rest of Italy. Still a favorite. Good memories.

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