Abode {W}

Monday, September 2, 2013


 Orvieto. I have always loved Orvieto. Even the name is beautiful. My father took us there for the day, the summer I was eleven. That day is one that stands out in my memory as being a golden day.
 It seemed fitting to end our trip in one of our favorite Italian towns. My sister and I only had one day there, but it was enough to know that Orvieto was as charming as we had remembered it to be. I don't have a lengthy report of what we did or what you must see if you go to Orvieto some day. We really just wandered the streets, taking it all in and enjoying our last day before heading to Rome and then home. We stayed in the Hotel Virgilio, which is in the main square, right across from the Duomo. I can highly recommend the hotel, both the location and the service.
 This sign cracked me up! It was outside of the restaurant where we ended up eating dinner, and it was wonderful! I wish I could remember what we ate, but I do remember it was one of the best meals on our trip.

 Detail on the front of the Duomo. It is incredible, and hard to believe such intricate work was done so long ago and all without power tools. Truly a work of art.
One last picture as we walked across the square to catch a bus to the train station. I know the importance of learning to be grateful and happy in your circumstances, no matter where you are, and know that if you can not learn to be happy where you are, you will never be happy. That being said, I always find it so hard to leave Italy. I like the old buildings, the food, the language, and the culture. I like sitting outside at nine at night, drinking a last cappuccino and watching people walk by. I like the Italian people, and the rich histories they love sharing with you. However, after two weeks of living from suitcases, running for trains, missing trains, being crowded in to trains, and restaurant food (no matter how excellent it may be), coming back home was an event we both looked forward to immensely! A dream of mine is to someday rent a huge house in Perugia for a few months and drag all my family along.Then, while we were there, our friends could come and visit us and stay in the huge house with us. We could cook fabulous meals and all go exploring together. It is a fun dream, and maybe someday it will come true. In the meantime, my life here is full, rich, and happy, and for that, I will never cease to be grateful.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

On to Siena!

One of the drawbacks to traveling is that sometimes you fall in love with a place and find it hard to leave. This was definitely the case with Manarola. I could have spent weeks or even months there, but after only one full day, it was time to pack our suitcases again and head to Siena. Siena is a lovely old city, famous for it's Palio races twice a year in the summer time. The city is divided into districts, and each district is represented by an animal. Each district races through Siena's ancient streets to see which team will be crowned as victor. Apparently, this event draws large crowds from all over the world, and even being a spectator can be dangerous. My sister and I, when planning our trip, assumed that Siena would be calm and uncrowded in early April, still several months from the races. Wrong. What we didn't know is that Easter Monday, (the day after Easter) is a national holiday, and the Italians all take little trips on that day. The trains were all packed, one of them to the point that we were crammed into the entryway of the train so tightly that the door closed on my backpack. standing upright on a tightly packed moving train while trying to keep your wheeled suitcases under control is difficult to say the least. Excruciating for someone with claustrophobia like me. The last train (it was a four train journey from Manarola to Siena) involved a vomiting child seated directly across from me, but we made it to our destination in one piece so all was well. After checking in to our lovely hotel, we started walking to Il Campo, Siena's beautiful city square. It was a fairly long walk from our hotel, and we stopped and had a pastry and cappuccino to fortify ourselves for the walk. As we got closer to Il Campo, there were more and more people on the street, until, just a short distance from our destination, it became almost impossible to walk because of the crowd. The entire Campo was full of people, stores were doing booming business, and a festive holiday atmosphere prevailed. However, it was very hard to get any pictures, and if you stood still for too long, you were likely to get ran in to as the crowds kept surging along. We popped in to a few stores, and getting out of each store was like trying to merge on to the freeway during rush hour. Finally, we walked back to our hotel, napped, and then walked up to a pizza place for dinner. This place was recommended by a young lady at the front desk, and it was excellent! We liked it so well we went back the next night, and were not disappointed that night either.

Tuesday, we walked back to Il Campo, and the crowds had vanished. It was so much easier to see things, really explore, and check out the stores. We found a fantastic grocery store, which had specialty foods from all over Italy for sale. Big displays of fresh pasta, rows of beautiful produce, and the most amazing meat counter I have ever seen made me wish I had access to a kitchen so I could actually shop for and prepare a meal with all that lovely food! We spent the day shopping in some really neat little shops, including a store full of vintage Italian clothing.

All in all, Siena is a lovely town, and I am delighted we had two days in which to explore it. If we had had more time, we would have taken a day trip or two to explore one of the nearby ancient, hill top towns that lie a short bus or train ride away from Siena. Next time? Stay tuned for the next, and final, stop on our whirlwind tour, Orvieto! No pictures of Siena, because I can not figure out how to upload them on my new Mac book! I will keep playing with it, and then post them later. I never feel so inept as I do when trying to figure things out on a computer!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Getting there is half the fun

I am sure we have all heard the saying "getting there is half the fun". I do not know to whom that quote can be attributed, but whoever it was surely never relied on the Italian train system for getting from point A to point B. Getting to Manarola from Florence was quite the journey, and it was only fun in retrospect. It sure did not seem fun at 5:30 on a chilly, drizzly Saturday evening when cold,,tired, and hungry we were told the train (and last leg of our journey) from La Spezia to Manarola had been canceled! The next hour and a half was spent dashing from one platform to another, getting on a train headed the wrong direction, pulling our suitcases up and down stairs multiple times, being totally misinformed by the charming bulldog of a lady in the information kiosk, and finally spending 40 Euros to take a taxi to Manarola.

The taxi driver, in spite of driving like Jehu, was very helpful, and actually got ahold of the B&B owner at whose establishment we stayed. If not for him, we would not have been able to get through to him, as my phone had very poor reception there. So, the whole train fiasco turned out to be for the best, as taking the taxi also meant we were dropped off at the top of the hill and not the bottom, as we would have been if we had been on the train. Upon arriving at our room, we found out that what Giovanni (B&B owner) called a bed and breakfast was just a bed. No breakfast. He also wanted to be paid in cash, which neither of us was prepared for. We were tired, frustrated, and hungry, also unsure of how we would get breakfast in the morning, as it would be Easter and most businesses are closed on Easter. We were, truthfully, despairing a little bit. We tossed around the idea of just leaving, but decided to go check things out and have a cup,of coffee and a good meal. Coffee and good food always make things seem better. After deciding this, we opened our window to see the view. The picture below shows the view that greeted us.

Lovely! Just seeing that made us feel better! Soon, all talk of leaving vanished. We walked down into the main part of Manarola, bought bread and fruit and yogurt for breakfast, and enjoyed a delicious dinner in a,little restaurant overlooking the ocean. After dinner, we wandered into a little cafe, and the very nice young lady there told us that all businesses would be open on Easter. Greatly cheered, (sure we had food for breakfast, but still hasn't figured out how we would get our daily coffee fix!) we walked back up the hill and went to bed satisfied and happy. Manarola is an absolutely charming little town, built into a cliff overlooking the Ligurian Sea. The people who live there were friendly, the town itself clean and lovely, and the views were incredible. Manarola is one of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre. The towns are connected by train or hiking trails, and people come from all over the world to hike the trails between the towns. The main hiking trails were closed due to stormy weather, so we contented ourselves with walking around the town and the hills it is built into. I went to Mass Sunday morning, in a beautiful old church just a few yards away from our hotel. Exploring this lovely town was one of the highlights of the trip for me. On Sunday afternoon the sun came out, and the town came to life as villagers and tourists alike walked the path around the cliff. Stone benches carved in to the face of the cliff were full of people basking in the warm sun, and the gelaterias were doing a brisk business.

Ultimately, getting to Manarola was fun. We look back on the hour and a half spent trying to get there from La Spezia and laugh- it makes a great story now, and was a good adventure. However, actually being in Manarola was wonderful, and though I would gladly go through all the craziness of getting there again, being there really is more than half the fun!

I leave you with pictures of the lovely town, and the advice that if you ever have a chance to travel to Italy, put Manarola on your list of must see places. Next up? The adventure of getting from Manarola to Siena on a national holiday when the trains are crowded and you have to ride,on four separate trains! Ciao!







Wednesday, May 15, 2013

On to Florence!

Thursday morning found us on our way to Florence. I remember going to Florence as a child; our father took us there for a few days, and we went to countless art galleries and museums. I remember loving it, and have always wanted to go back. However, leaving Perugia was hard. I was just getting reacquainted with the city, remembering all I had loved about it as a child, and then it was time to leave.

We lugged our overstuffed suitcases down to the lobby, ands took care of checking out of the hotel. We asked them to call a taxi to take us to the train station, and stressed the fact that it needed to be a large taxi, not a tiny little Fiat. Cute as they are, fitting four large Americans and all of their junk in to one little taxi is physically impossible. The taxi came pretty quickly, and it was an itty bitty little thing. The driver was a very surly man, who was actually angry that he had to try to fit us all in to his taxi. He was cursing under his breath (and between his teeth which were clenched upon a cigarette) and slamming our suitcases around. We finally decided that two of us would walk to the station while the other two rode with the luggage. This seemed to appease Mr. Surly Pants, and so Sally and I wedged ourselves in amongst our suitcases while Sarah and Jenny began the trek downhill to the train station. With a lurch, we were on our way as well. It was a wild ride- dodging pedestrians, squealing around corners, barely fitting through the narrow streets. The lovely man was still muttering darkly, and even though I understand quite a bit of Italian, I didn't even try to understand what he was muttering about. I am sure it would have been unrepeatable.

Halfway to the station, Sally leaned over and told me that she was about to barf. Just like old times in the family car as kids. However, we made it to the station in one piece, and guarded the mountain of suitcases until the others joined us. We made our train in time, and after the adventure in getting to the station, our sadness at leaving was lessened.


Florence is, as you probably know, an incredibly lovely city. Full of art, beautiful old buildings with gorgeous details on them, and stately bridges over the river. The city was very crowded, but it didn't seem noisy, and the city was clean. We stayed in a very nice hotel, and it was close to everything we wanted to see. We spends hours just walking around, taking it all in. There are a lot of high end shops there- Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Fendi,Yves St. Laurent, Pravda, and so on. It was pleasant to just wander with no agenda, just stopping and checking out things that interested us.

The Duomo in Florence is truly incredible. Very intricate, and covered with statues and frescoes. We did not get to go in to it, as it was Good Friday, and the church was not open to tourists that day. Since we are determined to make another trip soon, we were not too disappointed. It will just go on to the "must see" list for next time! On Friday afternoon, we had massages in the spa at our hotel. The massage ladies were not great, but it still felt good and relaxing.

I loved the expression on this policeman's face! It looks as if he and the motorist are sharing a good joke.

This is where we had the best meal of the whole trip! It is named the Buca Lapi, and was recommended to us by an older man who operated a shop selling Swarovski jewelry. After we had made our purchases, he pointed us in the right direction, and we are so,glad he did. The service was great, and the food was outstanding. I had a wild boar ragout, served on top of polenta. They serve a chocolate cake that is justifiably famous, and even though we were stuffed, we managed to share a few slices and wre so glad we did. The restaurant had started as a wine cellar, and when that grew too large for the space, the wine business moved to a larger space. The family then opened a restaurant in the old space, and it has been there for a long time. You can still buy the family's wine, which we did with our meal. It was wonderful, probably the best wine we had on a trip filled with good wine! The bicycle outside belongs to the owner. We stopped by the next morning to take a picture of the place, and watched him climb on his bike and ride away.

About twenty minutes later, we were trying to get a shot of the four of us before we left Florence. Who should come along but the owner of the Buca Lapi on his bike. He saw us trying to figure out how to get a camera set to take a picture remotely, and came over and offered to take a picture for us! So, we were able to tell him how much we enjoyed his restaurant. He was delighted, shook our hands, and rode away. It was a fitting end to our stay in Florence- a last encounter with a charming Florentine in a truly charming city. Directly after the picture, we checked out of our hotel and headed to the train station. Sarah and Sally headed to Rome, to fly out on Sunday, and Jenny and I headed to Manarola, in the Cinque Terre area. So, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways, content and grateful that the Sister's Italy Trip 2013 had not only actually happened, but had been a truly wonderful time. Good food, long walks, good wine, reuniting with friends, reliving good memories, a few memorable adventures, and laughing until we cried. It was wonderful.

The story does not end here though, as Jenny and I still had another 6 days in Italy. Furthermore, we all hope that there will be another Sister's Italy Trip in our futures. Stay tuned for the story of getting to Manarola, and two days in one of the most beautiful,places I have ever seen! Ciao!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Perugia, Corciano, and a reunion

After spending Saturday in Rome, Sunday morning found us in a train headed for Perugia. This was the moment we had been waiting for, our return to Perugia after a 33 year absence. Perugia is the largest city of the region of Umbria. The city is famous for its chocolate factory, named Perugina. The best known Perugina product is the Baci, which means kiss. The company also makes some pretty delicious hard candies, and has children, our neighbors kept us well supplied with Perugina candy.

Just for fun, we stayed in the hotel we lived in for five days in 1978 while my father found us an apartment. The name of the hotel is the Albergo Fortuna, and it is a lovely hotel. It is located right in the center of the old section of the city, and was very convenient for exploring. Also clean and quiet.

Here we are in the lobby of the hotel, just before walking out to our old house. Sunday was spent walking around the town, finding our old favorite places. Graham was very tolerant of our constant stream of reminisces, and it was fun to show him the landmarks of our childhood. Our old favorite pizza parlor. The aqueduct we walked over daily to get to and from school. The gelateria we frequented, and the beautiful old fountain (Fontagna Maggiore) in the town square.

The views from the old section of the city are beautiful! This picture was taken from the stairs leading down to the open air market my mother used to shop at weekly. This is also the starting point of the city's mini metro system, a cute little car on rails than buzzes about the city.

This slightly blurry picture shows the home of the Virgin Mary's wedding ring, which is in the church in the main square. I can't remember the name of the church, but it is beautiful. The ring is taken out and put on display one day a year (July 19th, I believe) and I would love to be there to see that!

The first six months we lived in Perugia, we rented a nice, fairly modern apartment just a short walk from the center of the city. Then, my father decided that was too expensive, so he rented a little old farmhouse on an olive farm. This house was a good four mile walk outside of Perugia, in a little town named Ponte d'Oddi. This is one of the roads we walked down every day, going to and from school. In the distance you can see an old tower, which is the entry to the city through the old city walls. This is called the Porta San Angelo. Every day when we walked by, we would check the iron door into the tower. It was always locked. Finally, one afternoon, we found it unlocked and climbed to the top of the tower. The view was fantastic, and that afternoon exploring the tower was one of my favorite memories of Italy.

As we walked out to the farmhouse, we met up with a nice old lady who heard us speaking English. She told us we must go see the church (pictured above) as it was very old and beautiful. It was just to,one side of the tower, up a short flight of stairs. I don't know why we never checked it our as children, but I am sure glad we did this time around! It was beautiful, and fascinating. The old lady, whose name is Angela, has always wanted to come to Oregon. I gave her my phone number, and told her to call me if she could ever come. She was thrilled, and we continued on our way knowing we had made a friend.

One more tower picture! This tower was so much a part of my childhood. The road into town from our house was just a narrow country road, not really meant to walk along. The cars would whiz past us as we flattened ourselves up against the stone walls lining the road. I never felt really safe until we had gone under the tower, at which point there was a sidewalk of sorts!

This is a little roadside shrine, which is where we waited for the bus in to town when we had money for bus tickets. I tended to spend my allowance on candy instead of bus tickets, but when we did ride the bus, we would run up and down these stairs as we waited. Pretty cool to see my son, 33 years later, on those same stairs!

And, this is our,old house. I suspect that no one has lived in it since we moved out in 1980. The place is a ruin, as you will see in the next pictures. The yard is all overgrown, and we should have just admired it from afar instead of entering the house, but we had yet to discover that. As my sister Sarah said later, "No longer safe to enter!"

This is the old kitchen and dining room. Notice the sagging ceiling beams? The crumbling walls? This should have been a clue, but we were caught up in the excitement of being back in the house.

A different view of the same room. The floors in the back part of the house were gone, as was much of the roof. We prudently avoided that section!

However, I imprudently went in to this room. Notice the tiles on the floor under the window? Those had, at one point, covered the entire floor. Without them, the floor was not stable. I found this out when the floor caved in on me, and I fell 15 feet in to the basement below the house. One moment I was in the room having my picture taken, the next I was coming to in a dark basement on a dirt floor, with sunlight streaming through a hole above me. I hit my head on the way down, and was dizzy and bleeding. Long story short, I spent the next eight hours in an Italian hospital. That was quite an adventure, with a few hilarious moments, such as the elderly lady who was fascinated by me and kept coming to look at me and stroke my hair. She was so kind, I wish I had been in a condition to talk to her. Anyway, telling all about those eight hours would turn this in to an epic, so we will just move on to the reunion part of the trip!


When we lived in Perugia, we had a good friend named Rosella. We went to her apartment every night to watch Happy Days when we lived in town, and once we moved to the farm, she would come play with us on the weekend. She was our best friend, and we always felt badly about losing touch with her. The best part of the trip was seeing her again! It felt like, in spite of our limited Italian and her limited English, we were able to pick up right where we left off. She is a delightful person, and it was SO good to see her again. She is pictured above in the purple coat. She and her husband have a small weekend house in a little hilltop town outside of Perugia named Corciano. On Wednesday she drove us out there, and we had a great time exploring this beautiful little town.

The town was so peaceful, and almost every building had flower boxes full of flowers or greenery. The streets were clean, and it seemed like a very pleasant place to live. Rosella tells us that they rent out their house to people, so I am saving my pennies and hoping to drag my husband away from the farm someday to go stay in Corciano.

Another picture of Corciano. Once again, I was very much struck by the beauty and peace of this little town.

Rosella the took us to a giant shoe factory, where we looked at thousands of Italian shoes. It was a factory outlet type of store, and even with that huge room full of shoes, there was nothing to fit my huge feet! I wear a European size 42, and the largest size I found there was a 41. Rosella was determined to find me a pair that fit, but eventually even she gave up. We ate lunch at her favorite pizza restaurant in Perugia, and then said our goodbyes. It was hard to say goodbye again, but now we have e-mail addresses and phone numbers, and will be able to keep in touch. After we left Rosella, we did some more shopping ( I overdid it in a wonderful little food store and had to ship a box of food home) and walked around the city for a few hours, taking in all the sights and sounds and smells, as the next morning our time in Perugia would come to an end. Now that we have been back, we are all determined to make another trip happen soon. Italy has always been very dear to me ( sounds sappy, I know, but our years there were very happy ones) , and I would love to be able to go back regularly. It is a good incentive to be more frugal in my daily life here, so I can save enough to make another trip. Next up, the beautiful city of Florence!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A sisters trip!

It has been such a long time since I have blogged. Life has been busy and full, but I don't feel as if any of it has been worthy of sharing with the world. However, I am wanting to blog about my recent trip to Italy, so this seems like a good time to resurrect my neglect corner of the Internet. I hesitated before blogging about my trip-it can be just as dull to the reader as the slide shows of my childhood. But, one of my main goals in blogging is to have a record of my days, a collective memory of sorts. The nice thing about blogging is that, unlike the stuffy, dark living rooms of slide show days, the viewer is able to leave without any hard feelings. If the narrative if my epic sisters trip to Italy is unendurable, just the click of a mouse will bap it away, to be replaced by something more diverting. Also, if anyone is up for a stroll down memory lane with me, the are welcome to come along. So! With out further ado, I present you Sister's trip to Italy 2013.

Before I begin, I must go back in time to 1978. September of 1978, to be exact. That was the month that my parents moved, with their four girls in tow, to Perugia, Italy. In June of 1980, we came back to America for, what we were told, was the summer. We would return to Italy in August, in time for school to begin. As it turns out, we never went back. So, last summer we hatched a plan to return to return to Italy together, and spend a week revisiting our beloved Perugia. After much planning (and cajoling husbands) and praying that nothing would happen to prevent our going, we got to take our trip. We left on March 22nd, flying from Portland to Amsterdam and then on to Rome. Everything went perfectly ( we even flew first class, which pretty much rocks), and we were greeted in Rome by warm, sunny weather.

We spent the afternoon wandering around Rome, drinking cappuccino and eating delicious toasted sandwiches (panini) as we walked. Rome is full of beautiful old churches, and no matter how many I see I am still amazed at their beauty and lavishness. We only went in to two churches though, as it just felt good to be outside in the sunshine, part of the happy crowd.

Every where we walked that day, we could see these horses and their chariots watching over the city. We only explored a small area, as we were beginning to feel the effects of not sleeping for over twenty four hours. After walking about for five hours, a good meal, a bottle of wine, and hot showers sounded better than another monument.

My eldest son, Graham, went along with us. He spent the first night in Rome with us, came to,Perugia with us for two days, and then returned to Rome to hang out with a bunch of his friends who happened to be there at the same time. He was a great companion, and loved very minute of the trip. Tomorrow (hopefully) I will chronicle our four days in Perugia, which is where we had some real adventures.

Rome was lovely, and a great place to start our trip. I know people who don't like is, because it is crowded and noisy. I can understand that, and know I wouldn't want to spend a lot of time there. However, Rome is a rich city- rich in history, beauty, mystery, and culture. In spite of the crowds and noise, I have always found it to be a delightful city, and wish we had had more time to explore. Next time, assuming there is a next time, I want to see Rome Ostia, which is the ancient port of Rome. It sounds fascinating, and after doing some research on it, it is on my must see list.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Random post

In which I attempt to add a photo while blogging using my iPad. I know it can be done, but have been unsuccessful so far!Random post, random picture, but really want to figure this out!