Mar 19 2011

View from our Window #1

Published by under Puerto Rico,Vieques

We arrived on the island of Vieques yesterday. This is our view from our first B&B where we only spent one night.


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Aug 31 2010


Published by under Italy,Rome

We looked back to see what we posted about Rome in 2008.  We barely posted anything.  We packed a lot into a few days, and essentially didn’t have time to post anything.  Well, fast forward to 2010 – we spent even less time than in 2008, but we’ll do a little better job blogging, if only because we’ve included pictures this time.

We spent our two and a half days walking all around town.  We stayed in Trastevere, so all the major sights were within walking distance.  On Saturday afternoon/evening, we got our bearings, sticking close to the center of town (Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Navona, Pantheon).  On Sunday, we covered a lot of ground – probably too much, because on Monday, my tootsies were a wee bit sore.  We set out at about 8:30 am for the Colosseum and Forum.  Then we walked over to Piazza Navona to do some people watching and eat a ridiculously overpriced but decent lunch with crap service (expected).  Then we walked up to the Spanish Steps, climbed them and strolled around in the Borghese Gardens for a couple hours (this was wonderful – we didn’t go here last time, and it was beautiful and shady and had a lot of fountains with drinking water so we could cool off from the 90+ degree heat).  We walked back across town via the Trevi Fountain and got home around 6:00 pm to rest a little bit before dinner in Trastevere.  On Monday, we went to see St. Peter’s Basilica.  We didn’t go to the Vatican Museum and see the Sistine Chapel, but if you go to Rome, you should definitely do that (we did it last time).  Then we strolled around some more, ate lunch at a wonderful and cheap tavern near Piazza Navona, walked around some more, went home, rested, then went out to dinner at the Peroni Birreria (like an Italian-German beer hall, complete with sausage and sauerkraut!), and then walked to the Trevi Fountain to see it by night.  Pictures below:



One of the statues in the Piazza Navona



Another statue in the Piazza Navona



Detail of one of the statues in the Piazza Navona



The crowds move through the entrance of The Pantheon.



The interior of The Colosseum



A view over a part of the Roman Forum. The garish, white building in the background is the Victor Emmanuel Monument.



Meredith leads the way through the Forum with guidebook in hand.



Detail of the Arch of Septimius Severus in a corner of the Forum.



Drinking from Il Nasone, one of Rome’s many public fountains.



Meredith loved the many dragons around Rome. This one is another public fountain.



Domes of buildings in the Piazza Venezia in front of the Victor Emmanuel Monument.



The view down the Spanish Steps.



A view from the Villa Borghese Gardens out onto Rome, with the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the background.



Boating in the Villa Borghese Gardens.



The Trevi Fountain during the day. Actually, not the fountain but the perpetual crowds around it.



Here we are at the Trevi Fountain at night when it is lit up and looks very nice.



At the Vatican, the Swiss Guard stands ready at one of the entrances.



A Bernini altar in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.



Detail from the ceiling in St. Peter’s Basilica.



Outside L’Antica Birreria Peroni where we had dinner.



A typical night scene in Trastevere.


– Meredith & Dave

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Aug 30 2010

Mangiamo in Italia!

Published by under Italy

When people ask, “what did you do while you were in Italy?” we’ll be able to talk about all the hill towns we visited, with old churches, and museums and art.  And we’ll describe the gorgeous Tuscan countryside, with row upon row of grapevines, cypress trees, and villas on hilltops.  But let’s be serious, people.  The story of the trip would not be complete without describing the food and wine here.  In fact, it’s an essential part of enjoying our time here.

Whether we are in a restaurant, a trattoria, an osteria, a caffe, an outdoor terrace, or at the dining room table in our villa, we eat and drink and love it.  I’m not saying every meal here is the most amazing food (yes, there are mediocre cooks in Italy too).  But each meal is an experience that combines the food, atmosphere, people and wine to make a memorable event.  Below are some representative pictures:



The four of us eating dinner at the villa in Tuscany


The dining area for the villa in Tuscany



Pizza with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella



Gnocchi with tomato sauce



Filletto di manza with roasted potatoes and spinach



Rigatoni with oxtail sauce (YUM!!!)



Meatballs and beans



Cacio e pepe



Sometimes we ate dinner at the apartment because we were still full from lunch!



Hands down the best view while dining on the trip – that’s the Ponte Vecchio in Florence behind me…sweet!






Crepe with pumpkin, leeks and cream sauce


Tortelloni with ham, mushrooms and peas






Lemon tart with strawberries and cream



The four of us eating in Rome


– Meredith

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Aug 29 2010

View from our Window #3

Published by under Italy,Rome

We left Tuscany Saturday morning and are now at our apartment in Rome. We’re staying in a neighborhood called Trastevere which is very active at night with restaurants and bars. Below are two pictures from our window, one at night and the other in the morning when it is really quiet.



— Dave

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Aug 27 2010

Massa Maritima

Published by under Italy,Tuscany/Umbria

We spent our last day in Tuscany exploring a hill town that we did not visit in 2008 and that is not visited by most tourists (at least most Americans). A coworker of mine also writes travel guidebooks about Tuscany and Italy and he generously gave me a copy before we left. In his book, he describes a town in southwestern Tuscany called Massa Maritima as an “undiscovered gem” so we decided to check it out. It turned out to be exactly that – very charming and worth a return visit. It’s a very small hill town with the usual picturesque red tile rooftops, great views, steep streets, and cafes tucked away in side alleys. For such a small town, it has a lot of options for places to eat and as we left in late afternoon, lots of cars were passing us in the other direction. The town’s population must expand a lot at night.


The view over the rooftops with the sea in the background.



A typical view down a steep street.



The main square in the old town with the cathedral and campanile.



The cathedral shows a change in architectural style as it was built. The lower part with rounded arches is Romanesque while the upper part with striped marble is Gothic.



The other side of the old square with lots of cafes.



A view down an alleyway with cafes, shops, etc.


— Dave

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Aug 26 2010


Published by under Italy,Tuscany/Umbria

We spent one of our last days in Tuscany in Montepulciano, one of our favorite hill towns and it didn’t disappoint. The town is very picturesque, not as crowded as some others, offers tasting of local wines, and has plenty of side streets and back alleys to wander. It turned out that the town was preparing for a festival that night and, while sitting at a cafe on the main piazza, we witnessed a group rehearsing a routine that involved lots of drums plus carrying flags and then throwing them high in the air to other members of the group. A very cool thing to watch while we cooled down from the hot sun.



A view from Montepulciano over the surrounding countryside – a very typical view from a Tuscan hill town.



Meredith and me outside the Cantucci Cantine after tasting some wine. I recommend a visit with Adamo who has been making wine for over 50 years.



The group rehearsing their flag routine in the main piazza.



The group throws their flags in the air across the piazza.



More flag waving. 



More flag throwing.



Members of one of the local “contradas” emerging from their headquarters in the evening in full costume before heading up to the piazza for the main event.


— Dave

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Aug 24 2010


Published by under Italy,Tuscany/Umbria

Who doesn’t love Siena?

We spent a really nice day with Dan and Han checking out the sights and walking around town.  Some pics below:


One of the buildings on Il Campo, Siena’s main square.


An apartment building with one of the town’s many churches in the background.


The Duomo’s nave and dome.



Detail from the organ in the Duomo. 



An original stained glass window from Siena’s Duomo made by a Sienese artist named Duccio in 1288.  It’s now in the Duomo Museum, while the church has a copy.



I could spend hours in the small Piccolomini Library, just off the nave of the Duomo.  The frescoes around the walls portray the life of Aeneas Piccolomini (1405-1464), who went on to become Pope Pius II.  The ceiling is intricately painted with geographic designs and scenes from nature and mythology.  There is a statue of the Three Graces in the middle of the room, and lining all the walls below the frescoes are hymnals with illuminated scores of music.  This room is fantastic!  


– Meredith

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Aug 23 2010

Did a pigeon really just shit on me?

Published by under Italy,Tuscany/Umbria



– Meredith

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Aug 23 2010

San Gimignano

Published by under Italy,Tuscany/Umbria

Since we are here in Tuscany for a week, our typical plan is to visit a different historic hill town each day. On Sunday, we visited Volterra which was one of our favorites in 2008 but this time was made a little more difficult because they were holding a week-long festival. This made the town very crowded and kept some of the most interesting areas (the central piazza) inaccessible unless you were willing to pay for an expensive ticket. Still, there were plenty of beautiful things to see and we enjoyed walking around the town.

On Monday, we visited San Gimignano, about two miles from our villa. San Gimignano is one of the more famous hill towns because it is quite scenic. Many hill towns still have a medieval tower or two but San Gimignano has the most remaining (13 or so). It is sometimes called the Manhattan of Tuscany due to its skyline. We walked up and down the main streets, explored some smaller side streets, and climbed one of the towers that is still open to the public for some great views.


San Gimignano at sunrise


The view from the top of a tower. San Gimignano’s central piazza with the Tuscan countryside sprawling in the background.


People walking past a cafe in the central piazza.


The two of us on top of the tower.


A view down on to Piazza della Cisterna, one of San Gimignano’s other large squares.


Meredith begins her harrowing descent from the tower (don’t worry – she made it back to solid ground).


San Gimignano at sunrise with the full moon behind it.


— Dave

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Aug 22 2010

View from our Window #2

Published by under Italy,Tuscany/Umbria

We’re staying in a villa in Tuscany just outside San Gimignano. We stayed here during our 2008 trip and loved it so much we decided to come back. Last time, because there were only two of us, we had a small apartment that didn’t have much of a view from the window. This time however, with four of us, they put us at the top of the villa and we can see the beautiful countryside in many directions. So you, dear reader, get three pictures today. I present View from our Window #2:


This overlooks the pavilion where the villa serves dinner three times per week.


Vineyards of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, the local white grape variety (yummy!).


Cypress trees and more loveliness.


— Meredith

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