Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Thanksgiving 2017

Thanksgiving 2017 – Friday 11/24

Norm, Eric and Andrea took off to tour Wall street and Lower Manhattan first thing in the morning. They took the subway to Brooklyn and then walked back to NYC over the Brooklyn Bridge. They were challenged to try the subway system for the first time, having negotiated BART in San Francisco and The Metro in Washington D.C. previously.

BrooklynBridge Brooklyn Bridge with Freedom Tower at One World Trade Center (with the spire) in center view. (Photo by Norm Ritter)

They also saw the Wall Street Bull and the Empowered Girl.

2017-11 Andrea -StrongGirl2017-11 Norm:Pig NYC

Norm found another friend, and they both say hello!

I had a leisurely breakfast at Friedman’s in the lobby, and then walked to rehearsal at Park Central Hotel, from 47th to 56th. In the early morning, my feet held up. Our Call was for 11:45 with rehearsal from noon til 5PM. I will always be seated, by request, so I shouldn’t have problems with my feet, but no one will be able to see me on the stage as I will be placed, along with a dozen others who are seated, directly behind the orchestra.

Norm, Eric, and Andrea met me in Park Central lobby and we walked to MOMA (Museum of Modern Art). It was crowded with art students, but we joined the crowds to see three panels of Monet’s lilies, Van Gogh’s Starry Night, Kirchner’s Street from Dresden, a Hopper, an Andrew Wyeth, and two Seurats. After a couple of hours, we crossed the street to Connelly’s Irish Pub for dinner. The walk back to Hotel Edison was not far and we were ready to call it a day.

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Thanksgiving 2017

Thanksgiving 2017 – Thursday 11/23

We were awake and up fairly early as we needed to switch to larger rooms before heading out and about. We walked around Times Square and Rockefeller Center, eventually settling at 51st and 6th (near Broadway) to watch the Macy’s Day Parade. The angels outside Rock Center welcomed us and the camels were awaiting their stage time in the spectacular at Radio City Music hall. The windows included the Anthropologie store, The American Doll store and the Lego Store. We had visited this area in a summer in the 1980s as a family so it was a good starting point.

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We chose a street corner where the parade would not perform as those spots would be overly crowded. We just wanted to see the balloons and wave to the participants.

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We grabbed brunch at Heartland Brewery and Bakery on 5th Avenue, and we then continued down 5th Ave to view window decor, starting with Sak’s 5th Avenue where “Snow White” is the theme this year. St. Patrick’s Cathedral came up in the middle of our walk.

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We also walked to Bryant Park – Winter Village and watched skaters.  After walking about 16,000 steps in all, we returned to our hotel by 4:30 and rested a bit. Then we walked around the block to enjoy our traditional turkey dinner at Bond 45 on 46th across from the theater where “Hamilton” is being performed. Followed by … Hotel Edison…  Sleep…. We didn’t plan a destination day, but just wanted to experience New York City for a day. I think we accomplished that, but there is much more to see and do!

Copyright© 2009 All images and text in all categories are copyright of Mary A. Ritter (aka M'Unique) and may not be reproduced without express permission. · Thanksgiving 2017

Thanksgiving 2017 – Wednesday 11/22

We boarded Amtrak in Cary at 9:30AM (about an hour late due to heavy ridership). Comfortable, roomy seats with lots of leg room were a plus. We arrived at Penn Station @ 7:30PM, and grabbed a cab to Hotel Edison at W47th Street and 7th Avenue. A conversation in the lobby with a visitor told us security and long lines made viewing the balloon inflation impossible. After settling in, we began exploring Times Square. We soon were at Rockefeller Plaza and enjoyed some memories from long ago. (The first picture below is from Tuesday’s rehearsal). We found iL Fiorno in Hell’s Kitchen for dinner. Good meal. We walked back to the hotel and settled in for the night.

0Cary Community Choir assembling for first 2017 Messiah rehearsal - 47th Annual Concert
Assembling for our first rehearsal before heading to to NYC Messiah Concert in Carnegie Hall with a 400+ voice mass choir from around the USA and world.

image   Our Amtrak Route from Cary to Penn Station.

There is not much to photograph along the route. Here we are crossing the Potomac River going into Washington DC.
Blurry – but GRIDLOCK says it all, outside Baltimore, Maryland.
We are here and checked into the Edison Hotel – right in the heart of Times Square. We ventured out for a walk and ate our dinner at Il Fiorno Restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen.



Italy 2017

October 20, 2017 – Friday, Milan

October 20, 2017 – Friday, Milan

It’s an early start to Milano. The van loads the very heavy luggage, weighed down with delicious cheeses, wines, olive oils and balsamic vinegars. We don’t dare mention the ceramics, scarves and … there has to be something else. The van groaned as the driver stepped on the gas.

We settled in at Hotel Berna. Once settled, we took a more leisurely pace. There are only four of us remaining. Katie and Walt left us in Arezzo and returned to New Mexico, via Pisa.

We walked to the beautiful Duomo di Milano and wandered around that piazza, visiting the beautiful shops in the Galleria.


Then we headed to Peck’s where we settled into the coffee shop for our last bottle of Prosecco and tray of prosciutto, salami, and cheeses.

2017-10-20 Peck's b4 flight homeJust four of us remain by the time we get to Milano. We enjoyed our farewell at Peck’s and got set for the airport in the morning. That brings this blog on Italy to an end. I will return to blogging about art quilts again as soon as I get back into my studio and begin to create. Ah Italy. What a show you have given us…. never to forget.

Thanks for joining me on this journey. Arrivederci! Ciao!


Italy 2017

October 19, 2017 – Thursday, Cheese, Pork & Vinegar!

October 19, 2017 – Thursday, Cheese, Pork & Vinegar! – a dairy farm (Parmesan), a pork processor (prosciutto) and a balsamic vinegar distiller. This is the last of our long excursions, but these days have been a favorite of mine. I love seeing the countryside and experiencing a bit of the life of the locals, through their employment in most cases.

Off we go-first to the dairy farm.  -Azienda Agricola Biologica Reggiani- The address that came up on my iPad photos was this: Savignano sul Panaro, Nonantola & Castelfranco Emilia, Emilia-Romagna. Obviously, I had no idea where I was most of the day, but the hilly countryside with its narrow winding roads was delightful.

Milk the cows and then what happens? ( If the slides go by too fast, click on the vertical double bars between the arrows. This will stop the slideshow and you can advance or retreat at your own speed by clicking on the arrows.)


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Once it is a solid piece, it takes super human strength to deal with it. I purchased two big chunks of cheese, one aged 36 months and one aged 24 months. I could have bought cheese that was aged for 60 months, but after tasting it, I thought it was too dry and strong for our use.


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And now it’s time for BREAKFAST!!! Espresso AND wine?


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Into the van we go, and we are off to the balsamic vinegar distillery.


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Another stop – the Prosciutto processor – delicious to be sure.


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But of course, it is now time for lunch! Who is hungry?


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Better yet. Just come and stay for a week or two!

CorteAibo copy

It took six slideshows to tell about this day. It was jam packed with interesting locations, delicious food and more wine than it is possible to taste. Once back in the van, we wander the roads back to Bologna where we pack up for the early start to Milano in the morning. I could not do slideshows prior to this page because the WIFI in the hotels allowed me only to upload one photo at a time….. slow agony. Only one day in Milano and then…. it’s home to the USA.


Fiber Arts

October 18, 2017 – Wednesday, Onward to Bologna

October 18, 2017 – Wednesday, Onward to Bologna!

The most difficult part of the day was getting our suitcases packed tightly with all of the purchases we have made, and then moving them down the elevator to the van. Once that was done, our last breakfast was eaten in the common room, and we said our good-byes to Monica and her staff at Hotel  L’Aretino, we were “on the road again”!

Our first stop was at an ongoing architectural dig, Komainu, where Etruscan artifacts and foundations have been revealed in recent years. The Etruscans lived here 2000 years before Christ with an advanced society that is surprising, as revealed by the artifacts. They were eventually conquered or absorbed by the Romans. Many advances credited to the Romans were actually developed by the Etruscans.

After a brief visit in this location, we moved on towards Bologna. Once there, we settled into Hotel Novecento – a beautifully decorated venue with art surrounding us, and delicious food choices always available for snacking and resting. One saying about Bologna is “la gross (the fat) é la dotta (the learned) e la russo (the red)”- the fat because of the food, the learned because it has the oldest university in Europe and the red because it was associated with communism for decades. We spent the late afternoon and early evening, strolling around the Piazza Maggiore and Piazza del Nettuna, checking out the shops and enjoying the architecture and the huge crowds of people who were just enjoying their evening outdoors with their families. We found another excellent place to enjoy a meal – lasagna for me as Beth says lasagna in Bologna is an essential taste.

San Petronia Basilica, the sixth largest church in Europe, is impressive in its distinctive style difference to other large churches we have seen. The façade has been described as a plowed field, and that is quite true, but it is still very impressive. We wandered about this huge piazza that has served as the gathering place and market for centuries.

We enjoyed an evening meal at Trattoria – Pizzeria La Mela where I enjoyed the lasagna.


Fiber Arts

October 17, 2017 – Tuesday, Arezzo-Excursion #4-Romena, Poppi, Stia

October 17, 2017 – Tuesday, Arezzo-Excursion #4- Romena, Poppi and Stia

We have a very busy day today, as tomorrow we leave for Bologna. We visit three small hill towns and see some gorgeous countryside.  In the evening, we return to Chef Lalla’s for our 4th cooking lesson.

Romena: the unrestored Monastery of Pieve

Romena  is near the highest point in the Appenines, start of the Arno where water is clean and clear enough to swim – above the leather tanneries which pollute the river. The landscape is rolling hills and low mountains showing beautiful fall colors.

Stia – Pratovecchio area

We stopped for some shopping of woolen items in Stia and went on to Pratovecchio for another delicious luncheon. The scenery on our walk through the city reminded us that fall is on the way.

Poppi – we drove on after lunch to visit what appears to be a very livable castle on a hill, built by Count Guidi, dating back to the 10th century and maintained in the Guidi family until the 1440s. Battles between the Nobles and the feudal workers brought down this lifestyle. The Nobles could not hold their own against the feudal armies and eventually were simply eliminated. The site included a moat, a surrounding wall, a guard house, a courtyard, and a tower. The bells in the tower date from 1423 to 1722. Noted internal features include: a stone staircase, a balcony, original wooden ceiling, frescoes by Taddio Gaddi from the early 1300s, and especially noted is its library filled with medieval manuscripts and texts.

After a long day with rewarding vistas, we arrived back at our Arezzo hotel, Hotel L’Aretina, at 3:30 and were off by 4:30PM for our final cooking lesson with Chef Lalla. It was rewarding and delicious, as usual. Stuzzichini: Prosecco, melon balls wrapped in prosciutto, pear infused yogurt with peppercorns and cheese sticks.

Pasta: Fusilli – egg and flour pasta wrapped on sticks and allowed to dry; then cooked in water. After they have dried, the crew is busy removing the sticks before adding them to the boiling water. Nancy shows her skill by helping Chef Lalla stir the boiling noodles. The basil pesto is made and added to the fusilli. Oh my!

Meat: Veal, raised in a humane setting, braised and served with potatoes, riced and mixed with warm milk; then seasoned with salt and pepper.

After the veal is sautéed, the tomato sauce is made and it all comes together. The recipe is basic: butter, olive oil, garlic, diced tomatoes (canned). Let it simmer. The milk (latté) is heated to mix in with the potatoes.

Vegetable: The sweet/sour onions with raisins and pine nuts were delicious, as was the be-flowered salad.

Dessert: Vanilla pudding with carmelized almonds. Obviously, we saved room for this delicious treat.

Everything was served with appropriate wines. It was a long, delicious day, filled with historical buildings, scenic drives and ending with another wonderful evening of cooking, eating and drinking wine! La Dolce Vita!








Fiber Arts

October 16, 2017 – Monday, Arezzo-Chef Lalla #3

October 16, 2017 – Monday, An Arezzo Walk and Chef Lalla #3

Today is my full day of rest, self-imposed. Beth took Andrea, Nancy, Katie and Walt on an expansive stroll around and up to the higher points in Arezzo – 9,000 steps according to Andrea’s Fitbit.

I was so relaxed and ready for our third, five-hour cooking lesson and meal with Chef Lalla. She greeted us once again with stuzzichini (cheese with fig jam and crescents rolled around a sausage mixture) and prosecco. Now down to work. Our pasta tonight is pici – a thick spaghetti. The dough is simply semolina flour and water, no eggs. It is Walt’s birthday, and his choice was to go to Chef Lalla’s to cook and eat. I think a surprise awaits him.


Then in usual fashion, we served as sous chefs as she prepared the remaining dishes. Side dishes are cooked carrots and spinach in butter.



The main dish is pork with peppercorns, along with pici in a tomato, butter and garlic sauce. Can’t you just hear it sizzle and smell the garlic and tomatoes?


Now to end the meal… A salad and a dessert fruit cup…


And a special wine with the birthday cake! Happy birthday Walt!







Italy 2017

October 15, 2017 – Sunday, Arezzo-Siena

October 15, 2017 – Sunday, Arezzo-Siena

Sunday was an unexpected free day, so we boarded a bus and headed out to Siena, home to Il Palio, the famous horse races held in their piazza, del Campo, with the tall bell tower, El Mangio in the Palazzo Public. The art gallery featuring El Palio in a painting is Galleria D’Arte.


Andrea took a wonderful panoramic shot of Piazza del Campo. Can you imagine horses racing around the edges of this piazza?


After you climb the hill above the Piazza del Campo, you catch a glimpse of the beautiful Italian Gothic cathedral, Siena Cathedral.


Looking for our lunch place, where I had cheese-filled ravioli in sage/butter sauce, we crossed paths with another ceramic shop. Oh. Oh.


It took many steps to find our bus back to Arezzo and a good night’s sleep. All the steps were well worth the day filled with adventure and vistas.


Fiber Arts

October 14, 2017 – Saturday, Florence Food Tour

October 14, 2017 – Saturday, Arezzo-Florence Food Tour

The train station is quite close to our hotel, so we hopped aboard for a short ride to Florence. We met our guide and began the walking food tour. Little did we know that we would walk 17000 steps before we dropped into bed. We were saved by stopping for food and beverage quite often.

Let’s start with a pastry!

Now for the coffee…

Just passing by…

Now some wine and bruschetta… (Procacci 1885)

Now into the Mercato Centrale.

Can’t leave without sampling balsamic vinegar and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

How about some Tuscan beefsteak?

Some lunch, perhaps? But of course, we need to have gelato.

Nancy, Andrea, and I took a later train so we could shop. We visited a fancy paper shop and a hand-painted ceramics shop that had been in existence for 7 generations. Then we returned to the outdoor mercato. Some scarf merchants were very happy when we left.

Seven miles of walking and an hour on the train brought us back to Arezzo, but there was an International Food Festival occurring in Arezzo, so we toured through that on our way to L’Hotel Aretina, stopping in a German booth to have a brat! Then back to the hotel, where we were so glad to just sink into bed. Every step worth it.

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Italy 2017

October 13, 2017 – Friday, Arezzo

October 13, 2017 – Friday, Arezzo

Italian language class in the morning. After some free time in the afternoon, the van/driver took us high above Arezzo to an organic winery. We were quite melancholy as we looked across the rows of grapes as we had just heard about the fires in Santa Rosa. Andrea and I have such fond memories of that region of CA.



Podere di Pomaio is the only vineyard and winery in Arezzo. The property had been abandoned and neglected after WWII. The family bought it in 1972 and have built and upgraded it ever since. The foundation for cellars and walls are stones harvested off their property from the Etruscan era. Notice their private selection of wines stashed between the rocks.

They now have their family homes as well as two guest villas that they rent to visitors, in addition to the winery and tasting facility.

My friend Nancy and Andrea and I took advantage of the good light and shadows to shoot some portraits in this beautiful place. It was sunny when we arrived, but dusk settled over us, so we enjoyed the beautiful transformation from day to night.

We ate dinner at a Trattoria across the street from the Hotel L’Aretino where we are staying.




Italy 2017

October 12, 2017 – Thursday, Arezzo- Excursion #2

October 12, 2017 – Thursday, Arezzo- Excursion #2

The van and driver picked us up in the morning for a drive to the northeast to La Verna, where the sanctuary of St. Francis of Assisi is located. The last distance was on a narrow mountainous road through a woodsy area. We thought it ironic that no animals were allowed. The physical beauty of the sanctuary and the vista from atop 3700 ft elevation is exquisite.


The sanctuary was donated to St. Francis in 1213 by Count Orlando Cattani. The grotto where St. Francis slept and the rock upon which he slept can also be viewed.

“The Sanctuary of La Verna, located a few kilometers from Chiusi della Verna (Arezzo Region), in the National Park of Casentino Forests, Mount Falterona and Campigna, is famous for being the place where St. Francis of Assisi would receive the stigmata on September 14, 1224. Built in the southern part of Mount Penna at 1,128 metres (3,701 ft) high, the Sanctuary is home to numerous chapels and places of prayer and meditation. In August 1921 Pope Benedict XV elevated the church to the status of minor basilica.” Wikipedia

in addition, the della robbia artwork inside the sanctuary matches the physical beauty of the outdoors.


“Luca della Robbia (1399/1400–1482) was an Italian sculptor from Florence. Della Robbia is noted for his colorful, tin-glazed terracotta statuary, a technique which he invented and passed on to his nephew Andrea della Robbia and great-nephews Giovanni della Robbia and Girolamo della Robbia. Though a leading sculptor in stone, he worked primarily in terracotta after developing his technique in the early 1440s. His large workshop produced both cheaper works cast from molds in multiple versions, and more expensive one-off individually modeled pieces.

The vibrant, polychrome glazes made his creations both more durable and expressive.  His work is noted for its charm rather than the drama of the work of some of his contemporaries. Two of his famous works are The Nativity, c. 1460 and Madonna and Child, c. 1475. In stone his most famous work is also his first major commission, the choir gallery, Cantoria in the Florence Cathedral (1431–1438).

Della Robbia was praised by his compatriot Leon Battista Alberti for genius comparable to that of the sculptors Donatello and Lorenzo Ghiberti, the architect Filippo Brunelleschi, and the painter Masaccio. By ranking him with contemporary artists of this stature, Alberti reminds us of the interest and strength of Luca’s work in marble and bronze, as well as in the terra-cottas always associated with his name.” Wikipedia

This is definitely worthy of a car and driver for a day trip. Or, stay at  an agritourismo nearby: Agritourismo Sassi -

On the drive we visited the birthplace of Michelangelo, also the home of his youth in Caprese, Italy. He had a solid “upper middle class” upbringing. Some works and those of others are displayed here.


We also stopped to view the the fresco painting by Piero Francesco, Madonna Parto, also commonly known as the pregnant Madonna. Here’s some basic information from Wikipedia.

“The famous work showing this subject is a fresco painting by the Italian Renaissance master Piero della Francesca, finished around 1460. It is housed in the Museo della Madonna del Parto of Monterchi, Tuscany, Italy.

Piero della Francesca finished it in seven days, using first-rate colors, including a large extent of blu oltremare obtained by lapis lazuli imported from Afghanistan by the Republic of Venice.

The fresco was at one time located in Santa Maria di Momentana (formerly Santa Maria in Silvis), an old country church in the hilltown of Monterchi. The edifice was destroyed in 1785 by an earthquake and the work was detached and placed over the high altar of the new cemetery chapel; in 1992 it was moved to the Museo della Madonna del Parto in Monterchi. The work was attributed to Piero della Francesca only in 1889. Its dating has been the subject of debate, ranging from 1450 to 1475. The 16th century artist and writer Giorgio Vasari wrote that it was completed in 1459, when Piero della Francesca was in Sansepolcro for his mother’s death.”

Partners in adventure shown below are Nancy and Beth who, 50 years ago, spent a college year in Spain where they met. Nancy lives in North Carolina and Beth in Oklahoma. Mary and Andrea are mother and daughter from NC.

There have been so many wonderful days on this trip, but so far with another week to go, this is a favorite. When you plan a trip to Italy put this on your travel path.

Italy 2017

October 10, 2017 – Tuesday, Arezzo- Casamonte Excursion #1

October 10, 2017 – Tuesday, Arezzo Excursion #1- Cintosienese Pork Farm

We started the day with a walk up to San Francesca, a 13th century church that houses the fresco series “The Legend of the True Cross”. (enlarge the pictures with a click)

Soon, we boarded the chauffered van to begin our trip to the “pig farm”. That had our interest peaked. We traveled through Tuscany to its internal region named Chianti located between Florence and Sienna. The farm is called Casamonte (hill house), and we saw beautiful country side and hilltop villages along the way. As we drew near, the van slowly crawled along a very narrow gravel road between two rows of cedar trees.

The feet are still attached in the first picture so the butcher/marketer can determine the breed. The worker is dressed in white to keep the area extremely clean. The pigs are actually a part of Italy’s controlled selection of the finest pork. Cinta, which means belt, have a belt of white across their chest and down their front legs. Cinta Sienese (from Siena) is the full name for this breed. They can be compared to Kobe Beef, but they are not mistreated. They roam the property and are fed a controlled scientific diet in addition to whatever they eat as they roam, which includes lots of acorns as in Spain.. The property is fenced to keep the wild pigs from entering and destroying the purity of the breed. The farm raises 600 pigs @ €12,000 per mo. for their feed.

Prosciutto di Chini is cured for 2 yrs. wrapped in rice flour, fat and mostly pepper. It is low in cholesterol and never smoked. Their meats include prosciutto crudo, Finocchiona, Capricola tenderloin, filet, and pancita ritolata which has spices incorporated.

Casamonte also has 6000 olive trees which produce 800 liters of olive oil. Their vineyard produced Chianti Classico and Chianti Classico Reserve. The vineyard also has contols by the industry so the number of vines always remains the same. The logo is the black rooster. If there is a white band around the bottle label that means it has been approved,


After touring the meat storage area we enjoyed a typical five course meal which introduced us to the wines, the olive oil and the pork products.

When we arrived after our long van ride, the owner greeted us with a glass of prosecco and a tray of cheese.


After the tour, we were treated to a “light” lunch that included:

Meal- light lunch with Chianti Classico and Chianti Reservi
Pasta with capricola pork tenderloin, ground, in a white flavorful sauce.
Meats tray with three cold cuts-  proscuitto crudo, pancetta ribolata and salami            3 bruschetti (pronounced bruce ketty): cream cheese with olives; tomato sauce; mushroom and truffles
Parmesan cheese with aceto balsamico (25 years old)                                                  Tuscany L’Elogid di Casamonte – black and white label dessert wine; Super Tuscan,   Double fermentation
Dessert: frutta jam on tarta. Tart black cherries and orange.

We were a very happy group as we rolled along in our van, returning to Arezzo for the evening.


Italy 2017

October 9, 2017-Monday Evening, Arezzo

October 9, 2017-Monday Evening, Arezzo

Andréa, our driver, picked us up in the van and drove us across town to Chef Lalla’s cooking studio. Little did we know how fabulous this would be. She greeted us with stuzzichini – a delicious bruschetta, cheese with clementine jam and an aperitivo of  prosecco.

After donning our aprons, we mixed the flour and eggs together for the pasta, and we began to roll the dough.

Here is the pile of noodles made by the six of us. We all got busy with food prep while Chef Lalla gave advice and worked at the stove top.

The Tagliatelle “au coltello” Con Ragú di Salciccia e Timo, the primo or first course was ready. Tagliatelle refers to the type of noodle. Since we cut all sizes of noodles for practice, our version isn’t just tagliatelle. Ragú di salciccia e timo means it is a sausage meat sauce with thyme. It was delicious,hearty and savory.

Chef Lalla ate a small portion, but then returned to her cooking station, a five burner gas range, to complete the preparation of the Segundo, or second course, escalloped Italian zucchini and potato. She also prepared the chicken fillets, cooked in vinasanto, a sweet white wine. It is customary for Italians to eat all of these courses in a slow hearty meal. While we enjoyed eating the segundo, she prepared the dessert – sliced apples also cooked in the vinsanto and topped with ricotta mousse and pine nuts. For the official Italian, see the menu below.


Our cooking adventure has begun, and we have 3 more of these extravagant lessons ahead of us.

Italy 2017

October 9, 2017 – Monday, Arezzo

October 9, 2017 – Monday Daytime, Arezzo

Italian language class in the morning – we have a terrific teacher named Paola who really kept us on our toes practicing practical Italian like arrivederchi, ciao, buon giorno, buona serra etc. She filled her whiteboard with a spray of related words several times, explaining as she went. When Nancy told her we needed restaurant Italian, this is the spray of words she came up with.


Quick with her iPhone, Nancy clicked a picture we could keep for reference. Since our classroom is above a caffetteria, it is a particularly helpful to practice our Italian.


After class and a light lunch in the caffetteria, Nancy and Andrea decided to take a stroll around Arezzo. Being the senior member of this group of 7 by 9 months, I decided to return to the room for a rest and some blog and internet time. They came back laughing about how many times I would have objected to the route they took. Look at this one… They walked UP this street –  I most certainly would have taken a cab.

Photo by Nancy Garman

They did, however, get to see this beautiful Roman gate and wall.

Photo by Nancy Garman

Italian cooking class this evening – see next post.


Italy 2017

October 8, 2017 – Sunday, Arezzo

October 8, 2017 – Sunday – Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy

Beth hired a van and driver and we were off for 10 days in Arezzo. After checking in to Hotel L’Aretino, we strolled about the area. We ended up at Piazza Grande on top of a rather steep in cline. We had a delicious lunch as you can see.

Piazza Grande, Arezzo, Italy


prosciuto, melone, mozzarella bufalo

After some quiet time on our own, we ventured forth again for a light dinner in a trattoria near the hotel. We shared a sausage pizza and had potato and leek soup. Always, a glass of red wine for me.


Italy 2017

October 7, 2017- Saturday, last day in Florence

We met Beth for breakfast at the hotel, and then were off for our 8:30AM tour at the Uffizi. We were glad to get there early because it is so crowded and despite the stringent crowd control, the air conditioning just cannot keep up. We left Beth for lunch on our own and grabbed a taxi to Piazzale Michaelangelo Plaza, a terrace high above the city for an overview of Florence.


The Ponte Vecchio is in the foreground with the post-1945 rebuilt bridges lining up behind it. After enjoying the sunny weather, we took a taxi part of the way, but walked through the streets once we were closer to the hotel, stepping into the shops to explore the extravagant good available.

Our friend Nancy arrived earlier in the day, and after she rested a bit, the four of headed out for an aperativo and dinner. We took a long stroll through the historic district. Nancy took this shot of us rubbing the nose of the florentine boar which will bring us back to the city again someday. We had a delicious dinner at Trattoria Ponte Vecchio.

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Italy 2017

October 6, 2017- Friday in Florence

October 6, 2017- Friday in Florence

Today in Florence, we have time to enjoy just being here. After the activity of Cinque Terre, we slept in until after 9 AM, and then leisurely walked to the Accademia Gallery where we had a guided tour which included Michelangelo’s David. It is always inspiring. On our way back to Albergo Firenze, we spent some time browsing through the Eataly store. This store was originated by a group of international chefs, including Mario Battali and Lydia Bastianich, and has many unique items to see.

Albergo Firenze, our home in Florence
The Eataly Store

From our hotel, the Albergo Firenze, you can look to the left and see the carousel of Piazza Repubblica. If we take a few steps to the right and look down the crossing street we can see the Duoma Cathedral. I took a picture of the Bell Tower adjacent  to the Duoma with Andrea, arms crossed, dwarfed in front of it.


We took a short rest in our room, and then met up with Beth, our guide for the remaining days in Italy. She tooks us on a stroll around the area. We arrived at the Arno River to see scullers drifting in front of the Uffizi Gallery with the Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) just beyond.


During WWII, the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge not blown up.  It could not hold the weight of armored tanks, so it was saved. The Allies were on the left bank and the Nazis were on the right side, each shelling the other. This part of Florence was destroyed and then rebuilt after the war.

The Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio – lined with jewelry shops and only open to pedetrian traffic.

Before stopping for dinner, Beth snapped a photo of the two of us with the Ponte Vecchio in the background.


After a long walk, we enjoyed dinner at Antico Fattoria. I enjoyed a favorite…fried zucchini blossoms and pasta with truffle sauce. Andrea also tried the zucchini blossoms and had pasta with wild boar and tomato sauce.



Italy 2017

October 5, 2017- Cinque Terre, Italy

October 5, 2017- Cinque Terre, Italy

The alarm rang at 5AM, and we were off and running! It was too early for breakfast at the hotel, so we grabbed a breakfast bar to eat later in the morning. Our cab was prompt and dropped us at the train station from which we would catch a bus. Then we were off on a two hour ride to reach Cinque Terre, a national heritage site much like our national parks. It consists of 5 towns built along the Ligurian Sea, on the northwest coast of Italy. When we reach the city of La Spezia, we know we are close. The city hosts an Italian Navy base and was heavily bombed in WWII. Now rebuilt, it remains a beautiful seaport. I caught a quick snapshot through the bus window of this thoroughly modern bell tower.


The bus dropped us at the top of Manarola’s heights from where we descended on foot to Manarola. My term for this is “Immersion Fitness”! Once we reached the bottom of what seemed like 1000 stairs, and probably was, I whipped out my sturdy collapsible cane to meander (or is that wobble) down the steep declining streets- luckily – no cars to contend with. One charming young guy was always at hand to assist me when the steps were huge or the decline more than I could handle. My ever-troublesome feet held out OK. It was “jelly” legs that were the problem.

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
The cliffs of Cinque Terre holds as many miles of terracing as miles in the Great Wall of China
Manarola Harbor, Cinque Terre, Italy
Manarola Harbor, Cinque Terre, Italy
Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
Rio Maggiore Port, Cinque Terre, Italy

Once on somewhat level land, we proudly strutted our way through town, looking from side to side at the homes and shops, and boarded a train which took us to Rio Maggiore. Once, there we walked from the train station to the landing dock where we would board a water taxi for a boat ride along the coast. Andrea managed to find some magnets depicting the five villages, and I found a coloring book of the same. Since I brought my Inktense pencils along, I hope to begin coloring the village-scapes soon.

Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy
Corniglia- the one village without a harbor.

Once we arrived at the 5th village, Monterosa al mare, we had a delicious lunch and then boarded the train for the ride back to La Spezia and the bus back to Florence (Firenze). We slept well after we walked 12,000 footsteps (6 miles) according to the Fitbit. Our legs are telling us all about it too!