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Hello, everyone,

I am sad to say that this will be my last blog post from Italy this year. We have had a great time. First there was a group of 6 of us travelers, then Susan and I had one week in the Dolomites, where we met more friends, then we went to Florence and Jayne joined us for this last 3 weeks.

We have experienced a heat wave like I have never felt before, but still we kept going…not doing as much as we would have like to do, because of the heat, but fortunately, for us, Italy has some amazing beaches.

We elected to bypass Rome during the heat, and instead, spent our last seven days in Sorrento. While the weather was still pretty warm, it was tolerable. We especially love the Marina Grande in Sorrento. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the commune of the “Fisherman’s Village” had covered the rocky beach with some great sand, apparently dredged up from the sea near there, as we were told it was native sand, not sand that had been brought in from somewhere else

The Marina Grande. Now one can rent a sun chair and umbrella and enjoy the beach. Many of the restaurants loan chairs and umbrellas to their customers.

The Marina Grande, at night. Ourfavorite restaurant in Sorrento, Delfino’s, is the furthest one out. During the day, one can rent a sun chair on the deck and swim. There is a ladder on the north side of the deck that goes into deeper water, while on the south side, a ladder takes you into shallow water. Just perfect!

On Tuesday, we toured the Amalfi Coast. We had hired a driver to take us on this tour. . Raffaele Monetti, of Monetti Taxi, picked us up at 9:00 a.m. He escorted us down the coast. What beautiful scenery all along. We stopped in Positano and Amalfi, then had lunch in Ravello.

The sea was so blue, the islands just coming out of the sea. There was still a bit of morning haze when we stopped to take this picture.

Positano. How did people ever think to build these houses right into the mountains? Incredible.

More of Positano.

This rock has been standing there, just like that, for thousands of years. Raffaele told us the local people say it resembles the Virgin Mary. What is most remarkable about this rock, is that “Mary” has a crown of flowers in her hair and is holding on a bouquet of flowers. Those are always there. I do think that rock is blessed.

Another peaceful, beautiful cove on the Amalfi Coast.

This is the remnant of an ancient watch tower. It was not a lighthouse…it was a tower where a watchman could spot ships of invaders, and light a fire in the tower to warn the people, who could flee to the upper parts of the mountains. These were in use over 700 to 800 years ago. The invaders were the Turks and the Moors. Raffaele told us the Moors were the most feared, as they were so violent. They would kill the men and take the women and children for slaves. Then, there were also pirates from Portugal and Spain. Seems like lots of people wanted a piece of this coast.

By lunch time, we had reached Ravello, which is 500 meters above sea level, up the hill from Amalfi. This is a view taken from the restaurant, Salvatore, where we had an awesome meal..
There is a staircase, hundreds of years old, made of stone, of course, that goes from Amalfi to Ravello. There are over 3,000 stairs in that staircase. That would be a difficult walk.

Here is a portion of the stairs. Even Susan, who loves climbing stairs, declined this walk.

Finally, we had to go back the way we came, back to Sorrento. It was a very enjoyable day. I have had tours with Raffaele several times. He is the nicest person, and thoroughly enjoys what he does. I asked him if he ever gets tired of driving that coast, as the traffic gets horrendous. He told me, “No, how could I get tired of this lovely sea coast.” He told us his father has done these tours for 45 years, and he is still not tired of driving the coast.

We spent the next day packing and getting ready to leave. Believe it or not, it was too hot to go to the beach. We were told, that evening, that someone had to be taken from the beach to the hospital, because of the heat.

Now we are at our hotel near the airport in Rome, so that we can fly home tomorrow. This hotel is situated in the town of Fiumincino, right where the River Tiber meets the sea. It is beautiful. I just have to send you a picture of our sunset tonight.

Taken from the little deck off my hotel room. This makes staying near the airport so much nicer.

We will be home in 37 hours! I will write more when I have another adventure.

Ciao for now,
Dolly

Hello, again,

Yes, we are in Cinque Terre now. We were so happy to escape the heat in Florence, that when I saw the forecast for Monterosso as being in the mid-80’s during our stay, we were happy. We had no idea of what 69% to 85% humidity felt like. Now we know. I can only hope that I have perspired enough to leave a few pounds here when we leave, which will be tomorrow.

Actually, the weather did change some today. It has been cloudy, still warm, but I spent most of the day at the beach, so I was happy. Fortunately for me, there were no jellyfish in the water. I had been warned to look for them, and in fact, I did see them one year when I was here, but today the water was simply cool, refreshing and clear.

The beach at Monterosso

Before we hit the beach, though, we had to stop at the best bakery in town, Il Fornaio. This is one bakery that does as well with pastries as it does with bread. They also make espresso, so after a cappuci con doppia caffe, and a croissant crema, I was ready to go.

I wanted to take a picture of the pastries, but the interior of the shop was so small and packed with people, I couldn’t get back in to do that. Oh, yes..my double cappuccino and pastry cost €3.40, and I sat at an outdoor table to enjoy these. Love it!

Most of the beachfront here is not free. We went to Stelle Marina, as it was a favorite of mine. We each rented a beach umbrella and a lounge chair for the day. It was fun watching the families with their little bare-butted babies playing in the water, little boys building sand castles, little girls
screeching when their brothers splashed them….interesting to me to notice that kids are kids, no matter what language they speak, or screech in.

The view from my lounge chair.

I spent several hours at the beach. Finally, I realized, despite the cloud cover and the cooler temperature today, I really should get up and get moving. I was happy that I had this day. I read almost half of the book I have been trying to read for the last three weeks. By the time I left, the clouds over the mountains were a bit darker, so that made me think it was time to go home. No rain is predicted; possibly some drops during the night.

Clouds over the mountains. We can actually see Vernazza from the beach. Look between the second and third umbrellas from the right. Vernazza is my favorite Cinque Terre village, of the five villages. Monterosso is my second favorite. Monterosso has the best beachfront of all.

Tomorrow will be a long travel day. We will go from here to Sorrento, which I can only compare to traveling from Sacramento to San Diego in a day. I believe it is about the same distance. However, I have never gone from Sacramento to San Diego by train, so I will have to let you know how that goes, after we get there. We leave here at 9:30 a.m. and we will arrive in Sorrento at 7:00 p.m. We had planned to spend three days in Rome, but with this heat wave, we changed our plans. We will now spend seven days in Sorrento, then we will come back to California.

We have done our laundry, dealing with the nuances of a temperamental Italian washing machine that flooded the floor when the door was opened. Travel, to me, is always an adventure…some adventures are more pleasant than others. The laundry room floor has been mopped twice now.

Tonight we will find another good restaurant and have another excellent seafood dinner. This is one of the perks of staying in this region. The fish is so fresh…right off the boat. Also, the Cinque Terre white wine is also excellent. I shall have both fish and wine, I do believe.

So I must leave you now, and I will write again from Sorrento. Stay tuned.

Ciao for now,
Dolly

Hello!

I was reminded by my fellow traveler and assistant tour guide, Susan, that I have fallen behind in my blog posts. Mamma Mia! How could that happen??

When I last posted, Susan and I had left Castelrotto to return to Florence. We spent one night in Bolzano, which is not enough for me. I do love Bolzano, also, but we did have time to go to dinner at one of the local breweries/restaurant.

I do not usually eat like this, but I was missing Frank, and I know that the roasted pork shank, Schweinhocksen, with all the trimmings, is one of his favorites, so I ordered this meal. I could not eat even half of it. However, since it was our last night in Süd Tyrol, I gave it a good try. By this time, I had to change my drink back to wine. I do think the Tyrolean beer is excellent, but I could already feel the waist of my pants was getting tighter..I cannot blame the Würstel. Potatoes, Weinerschnitzel. Ha!

We arrived back in Florence on Saturday, exactly one week ago. We have had a heat wave here like I have never experienced in Florence before, and I have been coming here every year for the past 8 years. The temperatures are in the high 90’s, and over 100, but the humidity is anywhere from 35% (at night) to over 60%. We are not used to the high humidity, so the heat has been very draining. Therefore, our adventures in Florence have been pretty limited: early morning walks. (Susan), late evening walks and entertainment: Susan and Jayne.. My adventures have been to the Mercato in the morning and cooking in the evening. Until today.

All three of us took a bus trip up to San Gimingnano last Wednesday, and escaped the heat for a short time, but it was pretty warm up there, as well. Jayne is experiencing her first Italy trip; therefore, she is just happy to be here, and doing as much as we can.

San Gimingnano is always lovely; however, this day, there were hundreds of tourists from the cruise ships, Japanese tour groups, which, for some reason, always number about 50 per group. And us. We realized later that most of these groups would have gone to Siena, but the Palio was being held in Siena that day. Next time I will check these things out first.

Even with the many tourists, we still found quiet areas, lovely places to see the beauty of this hill town.

Looking south, at the Tuscan valley.

Some of the towers.

Yesterday, our landlords,our friends, hosted us at their home in Viareggio, on the seacoast. We were more than happy to accept their invitation, to escape the Florentine heat.

Aaah. The cool sea breeze, and the lovely, clean water of the Ligurian sea.

Jayne’s feet, in the sand of the Ligurian Sea.

Later, our host took us to an art show in nearby Forte di Marmi. While we were there, we could see dark clouds over the mountains, then some thunder, then lightning and thunder. We hurried to the car, as we had to catch our bus back to Florence. While driving, the rains started…it got heavier, more lightning and thunder, heavier rain. Massimo took us back to their home, as they had left all the windows open. What a mess! Massimo took us to the bus station, giving us each an umbrella, while Magda started mopping up the rain from the floors.

We got back to Florence and hour and a half later. No rain here. In fact, the rain stopped before our bus had even reached the Autostrada out of Viareggio. Temperatures were still very warm when we arrived at 10:00 p.m. We went out for a pizza and home to bed, and air conditioning.

This morning, there was a nice breeze blowing, so I went for a long walk. Susan was gone on her walk, and Jayne elected to stay in the apartment. The breeze helped a great deal. I finally got up to Piazzale Michelangelo. I walked along the Arno to S. Niccolo bridge, traveling some streets that I have traveled many times.

The “beach” on the Arno. This puzzles me.. Apparently, many people enjoy going to this beach, but one cannot swim in the Arno…the people just sunbathe. Looked pretty hot to me, but to each their own pleasure.

Kayaker on the Arno

Ponte Vecchio, as seen from Piazzale Michelangelo.
And, of course, my favorite view of the Duomo, and the Florence that I love.

I also went to the Bargello Museum, walked over many more familiar streets before coming back home. I was very thankful for one day, where I could really enjoy my Florence.

In just two days, we will go back to Cinque Terre, but we are staying in Monterosso this time. We think it will be cooler there. But we will be on the seacoast again, and I personal plan to spend most of our three days there on the beach.

I shall plan to post a blog from there….

Look for more adventures.

Ciao for now,
Dolly

I simply must write. Today is our last full day in Castelrotto. I want to stay longer, but I do have to get back to Florence. We have had a lovely stay here in the Dolomites. I have been having trouble adjusting to the altitude (I hate to think that my lack of stamina has anything to do with eating too much or partaking of too much of the local, delicious wines and beers! So I will blame it on the altitude.)

I love being here, and as much as the weather would permit, I wanted to be out in the fresh air and the mountains. Therefore, I decided I should only do down hill walks. That is not so difficult. Yesterday, I took a chairlift up to Panorama station, then walked down to Compatsch. That was about 45 minute walk. The view from Panorama was outstanding. By standing near the end of the chairlift, I had a 360 degree view of the mountains around me.

This is one view, looking westward. The mountain in the foreground is the most famous point here in Alpe di Suisi, the Schlern or Sciliar. In the background, the snow-covered peaks are Swiss Alps. This northern part of Italy is actually pretty narrow, so therefore, Switzerland is not so very far away. The Swiss Alps link up with the Dolomites.

I was still standing in the same spot, but looked toward the east. These rugged glacier mountains are part of the Dolomites, going up into the Austrian Alps. You can see the continuation of Alps: Swiss to Italy to Austria. Different names is different places, and terrain is also different in each area.

A view of the valley, as I walked down toward Compatcsh.

Once I reached the village, I walked over to another cable car station, and took a gondola up to the northern part of the valley. I reached the top of the mountain, then had a choice of walking further uphill, or just going back to Compatsch. Being a lazy hiker, I elected to do the one hour trek downhill. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. The path was wide, scenic, but very steep. I had to walk zigzag down the hills, as my knees were screaming!

Horses. Mamas and babies in the field on my way down.

Isn’t the view worth doing zigzag walking?

I thought doing a couple hours downhill hikes was enough for one day, and by the time I got back to Compatsch and the gondola, it was after 4:00, anyway. So I went back to Castelrotto and took a nap. I was proud of myself for my accomplishments, until I compared notes with Susan, and of course, she being part mountain goat, had far surpassed my accomplishments.

Today, I did almost the same thing, different route for the second hike. This time, I took my young friend, Ally, along with me. We went to Panorama by chair lift, but the clouds were hanging over the mountain, so Ally didn’t get to see the panorama like I saw yesterday. Also, the wind was picking up, so after our downhill trek, we got back onto the gondola, rode down to the bus station and came back to Castelrotto. From here, we took the chair lift up to Marinzen, had lunch and hiked back to Castelrotto. What a lovely hike that was, through the forests, and the meadows. That took about an hour and 15 minutes, but that was also enough for both of us for the day.

Yes! We are almost back home. What a lovely sight. But there are some dark clouds hovering in the background.

The most amazing thing happened yesterday. About 6:00 p.m, I decided I needed to do some laundry. I took my things down to the laundry room. I just happened to look out the window, and saw 4 people trudging up to the back door of the hotel, with their luggage. I did a double take…here were my friends, Lew and Amber Lasseter, and their 2 daughters, from Elk Grove, California. I had helped them make their travel plans for an unforgettable Italy trip, but I did not remember the dates for all of their Italy travels, so we were all unaware that our paths would cross here in Castelrotto. What a lovely surprise. We all went out to dinner together last night, and made plans for today. Ally did not want to go on a strenuous hike, so we agreed we would be buddies for today, while the others would start out with Susan.

I still don’t know how the others did, but Ally and I had a very good time. She is adorable. And I would take her anywhere. Thank you, Ally, for an enjoyable day..

Once back in Castelrotto, I went to the pharmacy, got some Epsom salts, and later, I will put some in the tub and take a long, warm soak. It was surprising to me, that once I convinced the pharmacist that I wasn’t going to take this Magnesium Sulfate internally, she allowed me to buy 4 little packs (3 ounces each). I told her that I was going to put the salts in my bath water. She was amazed. She had never heard of such a thing. I don’t know what they do for achy muscles here, but I know my knees and hips are nagging me to get this bath started.

Therefore, I will go and soak my achy muscles, and write to you soon. We are going to Bolzano for one night. Then back to Florence. See you there.

Ciao for now,
Dolly

Hi, Everyone, again,

I apologize for the Verona post going away before I had barely started writing. So, now, I will tell you about Verona.

If you look at a map of Italy, you will see that Verona is about an hour’s train ride, west of Venice, on the way to Milano. Verona is also the crossroads of the north-south rail line. To get to the Alto Adige area, Süd Tirol, or the Dolomites, the route north goes from Verona. Verona has been an important crossroads since Roman times. The ancient colosseum, Arena, still holds many musical events, due to the great acoustics of the arena. The biggest draw here is the annual opera festival in the summer.

The Arena

During Roman era, this arena was actually outside the city walls. Although I have been to Verona several times, this time I actually paid attention to how small the original city was. The main part of the city has the river, Adige, as its boundaries around the peninsula-like area. The ancient city was this small, few blocks long area that had the river on three sides, for protection from the enemies. The gate to the city, Porta Busari, is about 3 blocks north of the Arena. I am not a fast walker, but I covered the perimeter of the old city in 15 minutes, even stopping to look at things.

It is still a beautiful city, with the old Castel San Pietro sitting just across the river at the point of the peninsula. High on the hill a bit north, but above the Castel, is the Austrian fortress, built in the 19th century, as was the Austrian city hall that faces the main piazza, Piazza Bra

This is the building that was the Austrian city hall. The statues in front are actually part of the stage set for the opera, “Aida”, which was to be performed on Saturday night, in the Arena

The little park in the piazza has a fountain that celebrates the link between Austria and Verona.

This plaque states that the fountain symbolizes the link between Verona and Salzburg, with the two cities separated by the Alps.

However, history lessons aside, my primary purpose for staying in Verona was to see the opera, “Nabucco”, an opera by Verdi that I had never seen. I love the one chorus number from that opera, “Va Pensiero”, or roughly, ” Go, Hebrew slaves.” This is a biblical account of the Hebrew children of God, being held captive by King Nebuchadnezzar.

The opera was scheduled to start at 9:00 p.m. Friday night, with the gates to open at 8:00. About 7:00, it started to rain. But we had to show up at the gates, anyway. After paying as much as I did for a ticket (not to mention the increased hotel rate), I was definitely going to be there.

We hardy souls stood in the rain, with our umbrellas, waiting for the gates to open. Finally, about 8:20, we were ushered into the Arena. Miraculously, the rain stopped within a few minutes of our getting into the Arena.

The Hebrew slaves, on the stage. I had an excellent view from my seat.

The opera did go on, without a hitch. The stage setting was quite simple; the costumes were in keeping with the poverty of the Hebrew slaves, while the costumes for the royalty and the royal soldiers were so beautiful without being gaudy. And the voices! The soprano, who played Abigaill, the king’s daughter, was amazingly wonderful. But for me, finally hearing the chorus sing, “Va Pensiero”, was the highlight. The voices of probably 100 Hebrew slaves, was spellbinding. Apparently, the rest of the audience felt the same, for when the number ended, there was absolute silence for about a second, then the crowd went wild with applause, and “Bravi”, so much that the conductor signaled to the orchestra, and the number was repeated. I have never, ever seen that happen before, but we all enjoyed it as much the second time as the first.

Finally, it was time to call it a night.

The Arena, after the performance.

I was cold, so I went to a cafe across the street, had an Irish coffee, then returned to my room to get a few hours’ sleep, as I had to leave in the morning for the Dolomites.

The entire 2 days’ stay in Verona, was certainly worthwhile. I hope I get to return another time for an opera experience, although it will be hard to top the performance I saw Friday night.

I continued my journey to the Dolomites, where I am staying now. Here there is definitely the Austrian feeling, from the very good Tyrolean-style food, to amazing beer, and German the primary language.

Again, I am so happy that I have had the opportunity to travel, savor the feelings from different cultures, and I am building a lifetime of memories to enjoy when and if I ever get to old-age status.

Ciao for now,
Dolly

Verona

Hi, Everyone,

While I have time, I must tell you about Verona. After all my group had left Venice at the end of our three-week tour, I traveled by myself to Verona. This is another ancient city that had once been the domain of the Romans.

Ciao for now,
Dolly

In the Dolomites

Yesterday I left Verona, traveled north by train to Bolzano, then I caught a bus that brought me to Castelrotto, in the Dolomites. While I am still in Italy, it doesn’t feel like Italy any longer. I feel like I am in Austria. I can almost hear “Sound of Music” coming from the hills.

On the bus ride, I could just feel myself relax, muscles unwind, brain letting go of stress.

One view of the valley near Castelrotto.

When I got to the hotel, I met three of my friends who had arrived here a few days before, while I stayed in Verona. I checked into the hotel, opened the door to the small terrace, and was greeted by this view:

That mountain is so breathtakingly gorgeous. The color changes, depending on time of day, the light. This morning, with a bit of cloud cover, the mountain was blue.

It was chilly last night, so we didn’t venture further than the nearest good restaurant for dinner, some good red wine from the region, and called it a night.

Today, two of the friends left. Susan and I took the chairlift up to the small area of Marizen.

Marizen. This is a Refugio, where hikers can relax, have something to eat and drink, and the “hutte” does have places for hikers to spend the night, if necessary. They only have a few dorm-style beds, so reservations must be made in advance for overnight stays at any of the Refugio. I like this place because of the goats that hang out here, usually some cows (none today), and some horses.

This one is for Patrick, my goat-loving grandson, who loved this place.

My lunch: Wurstel, fries and a beer. These are all so good up here…couldn’t resist.

Later, I took the chair lift back to Castelrotto, while Susan hiked back.

Some dark clouds were gathering in the distance. I did get a few raindrops on my head on the ride down, but that stopped almost immediately, and the rest of the afternoon was very pleasant.

This evening, we took a little walk around town before going out to dinner.

Another striking mountain in the hills above Castelrotto

The start of a trail leading up into the mountains.

From the Main Street of town, I looked down on another little village below Castelrotto. I think that needs to be checked out tomorrow.

Finally, we went to dinner, and had a fantastic meal. The dinner was Austrian food: roast veal with bread dumplings in a rich sauce, followed by an Italian dessert, panna cotta. Of course we had another local wine with dinner, then waddled our way back to the hotel.

My dessert. Panna cotta with mango sauce.

On that note, I will close. We are hoping for good weather in the morning, so that we can do some hiking. Or, maybe a stroll in the meadow. I am just so happy to be here, and I am enjoying the lovely scenery, the fresh mountain air, that I really don’t have an agenda. I will just savor the moment.

Until next time,

Ciao,
Dolly

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