Part 3: Verona

2 Oct

The last two days of our trip north were spent in Verona, a main tourist destination due to its location on the Adige River and its heritage. The city has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of its urban structure and architecture.

One of the first sights that greeted us was the Castelvecchio, or Old Castle. Established in 1353, it is considered the most important military construction of the Scaliger dynasty that ruled the city in the Middle Ages.

©blogginginitaly.com

The castle is described as powerful and compact in size, with very little decoration, built of red bricks. It is considered one of the most prominent examples of Gothic architecture of the age,

©blogginginitaly.com

with imposing M-shaped merlons running along the castle and bridge walls.

©blogginginitaly.com

It seemed like such a natural place for a selfie.

©blogginginitaly.com

Once we crossed the bridge, the look back was stunning. The Ponte Pietra, or Stone Bridge, was originally completed in 100 BC and is the oldest bridge in Verona.

©blogginginitaly.com

One of the arches was rebuilt in 1298. Centuries later, toward the end of WWII, four arches of the bridge were blown up by retreating German troops. Fortunately, the bridge was rebuilt in 1957 using original materials.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

Once we crossed the bridge, we took the tram to the top of the city. One could walk, of course, but the day was very hot and humid, so we happily opted for the tram. (Photo taken at mid-point.)

©blogginginitaly.com

I had not expected Verona to be such a large city, and the high vantage point provided views of how various parts of the city are divided by the river.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

It also highlighted intricacies of the architectural weaving of buildings.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

After our walk, we decided to lunch along the river, enjoying good food and great views.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

Nighttime in Verona takes on a different vibe. As we headed to the famed amphitheater, we walked through Piazza Bra, the largest piazza in Verona and, some claim, the largest in Italy. (Piazza Unita in Trieste is considered the largest piazza on the waterfront.) Bra, as it is known, is lined with restaurants and cafés, as well as several notable monuments.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

The most noted monument is the Arena, a Roman amphitheater completed around 30 AD and the third largest in Italy after Rome’s Colosseum and the Arena at Capua. (It is thought that the arena in Capua was probably the model used for Rome’s Colosseum.) When first built, the Verona Arena could seat some 25,000 spectators in its 44 tiers of marble seats. Shows and gladiator games once drew spectators from far beyond the city.

©blogginginitaly.com

The round façade of the building was originally composed of white and pink limestone from Valpolicella, but a major earthquake in 1117 almost completely destroyed the structure’s outer ring. The current two-story facade is actually the internal support for the tiers; only a fragment of the original outer perimeter wall exists, with three stories remaining.

©blogginginitaly.com

The interior is virtually intact, and has remained in use for public events, fairs, theatre and open-aired opera during warm summer nights. (Seating is now limited to 15,000 for security reasons.)

Our final “tourist attraction” was related to Shakespeare as two of his plays were set in the city of Verona, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Romeo and Juliet. Obviously forgetting my high school literature classes, and not having seen many Romeo and Juliet modern movies, I had forgotten that the tale was based on some true events. But such forgetfulness was definitely not the case for the throngs of people lined up to enter Juliet’s house, step on the famous balcony where supposedly the young lovers met, and plaster hand-written notes all over the entrance walls to the property. (Throngs are not our thing.)

©blogginginitaly.com

For those interested, however, here is a bit of interesting history from the Museum and House of Juliet.

©Inside the Museum

©The House of Juliet Museum

Afterward, we walked around the city a bit longer, taking in a large market and several other monuments and sites. Having had enough touring, Len and Carlo thought of making a quick get away, but quickly agreed to aperitivo instead.

©blogginginitaly.com

Although our trip to Fruily-Venezia Giulia was coming to an end, the six days had provided us with new sites, sounds, tastes, and an abundance of history about this northeast Italian region bordering Austria, Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea.

We could think of no better way to spend our last night than to sip regional white wine, enjoy local cheeses and charcuterie, and witness the illumination teeter-totter as the sun went down and the lights came up over the ancient and beautiful Castelvecchio of Verona.

©blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2: Udine, Cividale and Venzone

27 Sep

After leaving Trieste, we took a train to Udine, which would be our base for the next two days. While we didn’t spend too much time in the city center, one of the most impressive sights is Piazza Libertà, the oldest square in the city and considered one of the most beautiful.

©blogginginitaly.com

Created in Venetian style, the piazza includes columns, statues and, if you’ve been to Venice, several recognizable symbols of Venetian power.

Next stop was Cividale, founded as a Roman city by Julius Caesar around 50 BC.

©blogginginitaly.com

The small town, although no longer an important regional power, still attracts tourists due to its historical medieval center and lovely location on the Natisone River.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

The Devil’s Bridge, (Ponte del Diabolo), which attaches two parts of the town, is accompanied by legend.

Wikimedia

According to Cividale.com, “The popular fantasy has connected the construction of the bridge to the supernatural…, according to which the devil would have facilitated the construction of the bridge overnight in exchange for the soul of the first person passing through… But the inhabitants of Cividale mocked the devil, sending through the new passage  an animal, (dog or cat), according to the versions.”

The most interesting place we visited, however, was the Lombard Temple of Santa Maria in Valle. After touring the monastery, we arrived at the Oratorio, the most important and celebrated monument of the era. In 2011, the Monastery of Santa Maria in Valle and the Longobard Temple were declared World Heritage Sites [Italia Longobardorum. Places of The Power {568 – 774 AD}].

©blogginginitaly.com

What made this especially fascinating was our ability to see the restoration effort occurring in real-time in a nearby church. Piece by piece, the restorers are working to recreate what once existed.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

This man, I was told, is the head of the project.

©blogginginitaly.com

Before leaving, we lingered a bit longer to soak in a view only nature can provide.

©blogginginitaly.com

Our final stop of the day was Venzone, a town hit by a major earthquake in 1976. Per the pictures below, you can see that almost all of the historic center was destroyed.

What is of great interest is how, over a seven year period, the town was rebuilt. After the quake, stones of collapsed buildings were carefully catalogued and stored, providing the foundation needed to rebuild what once existed.

In 2017, Venzone was chosen as one of Italy’s most beautiful villages. Borghi Belli judges said one of the reasons was because it was “one of the most extraordinary examples of architectural and artistic post-earthquake recovery”. Bravo Venzone!

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

The next day, we would take the train to Verona, the last stop of our northern adventure. It was time, however, to bid arrivederci to Carlo’s wonderful cousins, who not only shared so much of their time with us, but also served as excellent tour guides for the area they call home. Grazie tantissimi!

©blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

 

Friuli-Venezia Giulia

19 Sep

Of the 20 regions of Italy, there are only a few we have not visited, and now we can check Friuli-Venezia Giulia off that list. This region, not to be confused with Veneto (home of Venice), is Italy’s north-easternmost region.

Our trip began in Trieste, the regional capital.

©blogginginitaly.com

As an important seaport lying between the Adriatic Sea and Slovenia, its history has been influenced by Latin, Slavic and Germanic cultures. It was one of the oldest parts of the Habsburg Monarchy, dating from 1382 until 1918. The world wars brought various occupations, and in 1947, the area was divided into two zones, A and B. Finally in 1954, in accordance with the Memorandum of London, the vast majority of what had been Zone A – including the city of Trieste – joined Italy.

A visit to Castello di San Giusto provided interesting history,

©blogginginitaly.com

as well as incredible views.

©blogginginitaly.com

I call this Regatta between the Branches.

©blogginginitaly.com

After lunch in a small fishing village, we headed to Grado, an island town situated between Trieste and Venice, and one of the nearly 120 islands in the Marano-Grado Lagoon. Once mainly a fishing center, today it is a popular tourist destination, known commonly as L’Isola del Sole (“The Sunny Island”).

The old town is filled with restaurants, bars and – for one’s viewing pleasure, a harbor right in the center of town.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

Although it was hard to leave, our next destination was Aquileia to see the Basilica started around 313 AD. Because the Edict of Milan had ended religious persecution, the Christian community was able to build its first place of public worship.

©blogginginitaly.com

Over the centuries, and after the destruction of the first church, the locals rebuilt it four times, each time using the previous structures. Today it is in Romanesque-Gothic style.

©blogginginitaly.com

One of the most significant aspects is the floor, a 4th century colorful mosaic refurbished between 1909-12.

©blogginginitaly.com

Another is the history of the altar and crypt below.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

As we headed back to Trieste, the shadows were long as the sun was just beginning to set over the Basilica of Aquileia.

©blogginginitaly.com

Our final “to do” after dinner and a wonderful day was to see Trieste at night, and it did not disappoint.

Piazza Unità d’Italia is the main square of Trieste, often said to be Europe’s largest square located next to the sea. It was built when Trieste was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and includes palaces and the city’s municipal buildings. Waiting patiently, I was able to get a few almost people-free photos!

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

Another beautiful sight was the Grand Canal, built between 1754-66 as part of an urban renewal plan, right in the heart of Trieste. This is the view to the sea…

©blogginginitaly.com

and this the view toward the city.

©blogginginitaly.com

How did we accomplish so much in one day? Lucky for us, we have friends who live in Udine, about an hour away, and they were excellent tour guides. In fact, our next two days of the trip would be based in Udine. Stay tuned.

For a person who loves the sea, our visit to Trieste and surrounding areas provided new insights, wonderful memories and incredible views. In the future, when we see shows that have been filmed in Trieste, (Len and I watch several), I’m quite sure I’ll smile as I recall the beauty of the city and the tranquil, peaceful, and simply spectacular sunsets over the harbor.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

BOCCE Cortona

24 Aug

When we lived in Austin, we actually had a bocce set. As I recall, non of us knew the rules, so we made them up depending on who and how many were playing. And that held true until yesterday, when we learned to play bocce at the hand of a champion!

Many years ago, we are told, Cortona had a bocce court in/near Porta Colonna, before it became a parking lot. Today, however, bocce is played just outside of Cortona in Tavernelle.

There we found  BOCCIODROMO Communal, or the community bocce dome. Not just any dome mind you, but a semi professional one that held the special olympics some years ago. And according to the Special Olympics website: Next to soccer and golf, bocce is the third most participated sport in the world.

©blogginginitaly.com

Inside are three bocce lanes made of cement and covered with a special resin. Championship banners and trophies of all sizes adorn the walls.

©blogginginitaly.com

We were graciously met by Lidio, a local champion, who proceeded to demonstrate several methods of tossing the bocce.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

We divided ourselves into two teams and learned basic rules as we played. First team to 12 points would win.

©blogginginitaly.com

I must admit, I was hooked. Although the basic principle of the sport is to roll a bocce ball closest to the pallina or target ball, there are so many styles and strategies as well as a great deal of competitiveness at play.

©blogginginitaly.com

And the more we learned, the more competitive we became.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

Lidio even helped with measuring who was closest to the pallina.

©blogginginitaly.com

Unfortunately, I was not on the winning team, but it was such great fun for all that these two characters decided to play one more time while Lidio gave some of us more advanced instruction.

©blogginginitaly.com

Many thanks to Lidio for his time, instruction, and most of all, patience,

©blogginginitaly.com

from his new BOCCE fans!

©blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

How Does our Orto (Garden) Grow?

17 Aug

With warm sunny days, sufficient rainfall, and tender loving care, “our” garden grew from this at the end of April…

©blogginginitaly.com

to this in August!

©blogginginitaly.com

After giving a thumbs up to the garden’s success, Len decided to take in some sun and enjoy a Toscano, a small Italian cigar (that actually doesn’t smell bad),

©blogginginitaly.com

while Fernanda and I were ready to pick, baskets in hand.

©blogginginitaly.com

We filled our baskets with three of the four varieties we had planted…

Ciliegino (Cherry)

©blogginginitaly.com

San Marzano

©blogginginitaly.com

Camone

©blogginginitaly.com

and the not quite ready, Cuore di Bue (Beef Steak)

©blogginginitaly.com

We also picked susine (plums) from the brimming trees that not only keep the orto from scorching in the summer sun,

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

but also provide fruit for delicious marmellata.

©blogginginitaly.com

Then it was time for our “casual” county lunch ~

Our Al Fresco Menu included:
freshly cut prosciutto and sliced melon;
hand-picked tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and garden basil;
just cooked porchetta from the market;
cannelloni beans sautéed in fresh tomatoes;
Toscana Rosso di Montalcino

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

Talk about farm to table –  and so much more rewarding since we are the planters, pickers and very fortunate eaters!

After lunch, it was time for some serious relaxation.

©blogginginitaly.com

Little did we know two years ago how incredibly rewarding this small garden would be. How does our garden grow? Well, we may not be experts, and the local farmers still offer much advice, but for us, everything about the orto is perfectly wonderful, perfectly delicious, and so proudly our own doing. We just can’t help but smile!

©blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

A Grand Slam Night!

9 Jun

Last month on my birthday, while still in Cortona, Benita called with birthday wishes and a surprise gift – she bought us tickets for a CUBS game on June 6. So off we went last Wednesday.

As is always the case, whenever I get near Wrigley Field, I love seeing the iconic marquee above the entrance, one that has welcome fans for the last 80 years!

©blogginginitaly.com

What was new for me was all the renovation across the field on Clark Street. I knew that a hotel and many restaurants had opened, but this was my first time seeing them.

©blogginginitaly.com

Should you not have a ticket to the game, every restaurant has open seating with large TV screens. And while you can’t literally see inside the ball park from there, you can certainly partake in the cheering!

Benita had chosen Dutch and Docs for our dinner, opened just 2 weeks ago, and named in honor of players who had carried one of these two nicknames over the years.

©blogginginitaly.com

We started with the cauliflower toast – delicious!

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

Len and Benita followed with fried entrees while I opted for a salad. We put off dessert till later, walked around a bit, then headed for our seats. Our view from behind home plate was terrific!

©blogginginitaly.com

At game time, the sun was shining, the skies were blue, the wind was still and the temp was 70° – a perfect evening! Benita posted this on Instagram:

©blogginginitaly.com

As for the game… for about half of the game, CUBS led 3-0, until the Phillies scored two runs in the top of the 9th inning. Damn.

It was about 10 PM, bottom of the 9th, and after two CUBS were on base, Len wondered aloud how many extra innings this game might go. Suddenly the bases were loaded and Jason Hayward was facing the pitcher.

With two outs and two strikes, he let one go deep into right field. And that, my friends, was a walk off grand slam!

The over 41,000 fans erupted! CUBS WIN 7-5! CUBS WIN!

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

Oh, what a night, what a very fun and memorable night…

©blogginginitaly.com

And what a very perfect birthday celebration for me.

Thanks, Benita, you sure know how to pick ‘em!

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

Egg-ceptional!

25 May

Ok, I am ruined. We have all heard of farm to table. Wonderfully fresh food from local farms delivered to nearby restaurants. Delicious!

But have you ever tasted warm fresh eggs, right from the hen?? Nothing compares. As you might expect, they are “nonconformists”, with differences in size, color, speckling, etc. And those golden yokes – just delicious. You truly can taste the difference.

©blogginginitaly.com

Fortunately for us, we have Italian friends who are happy to share their fresh eggs, and we are most happy to cook them in a variety of ways.

Baked potato, topped with fresh ricotta, covered with fried eggs.

©blogginginitaly.com

Scrambled eggs with potatoes, onions, and cherry tomatoes.

©blogginginitaly.com

Fried eggs on toast with sliced tomatoes.

©blogginginitaly.com

So, I’m ruined. It’s hard to imagine that I can ever purchase a dozen “matching” eggs at a large supermarket again.

But farm fresh eggs – any way we cook them, they are egg-ceptional!

Ciao,
Judy

Celebrating with Friends

23 May


My most heartfelt thanks for all the birthday wishes I received yesterday via hugs, phone and video calls, emails, messages and social media. The best part for me was seeing the names of special people in my life –  family members, relatives, dear friends I’ve known forever and new friends I’ve made along the way.

One of my brothers-in-law suggested that whatever I do, I should share the day in photos, so here are some of the wonderful highlights.

Breakfast at Tuscher:

©blogginginitaly.com

Hair Cut at AF:

©blogginginitaly.com

Lunch with a few friends (they brought the party items!) at Cafe Braceria Chianina:

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

The chef, server and the piping hot grill:

©blogginginitaly.com

Shared antipasto:

©blogginginitaly.com

Various menu items ordered –  Pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil,

©blogginginitaly.com

Filet topped with bacon,

©blogginginitaly.com

Stuffed rolled turkey breast,

©blogginginitaly.com

and my favorite – grilled chicken breast!

©blogginginitaly.com

Dessert was self-select, and I managed to only get a photo of the tiramisu.

©blogginginitaly.com

After a most leisurely lunch, we headed to Fernanda’s for caffè and sambuca,

©blogginginitaly.com

and then Len engaged in his new favorite pastime – small Tuscan cigaros!

©blogginginitaly.com

Later in the evening, with no one hungry, we had an impromptu toast or “brindisi” at Tuscher.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

What a perfectly wonderful way to spend my birthday, being utterly relaxed, showered with gifts and loving wishes, including an upcoming CUBS night game from Benita, and sharing it all with dear friends in Cortona. Len said he wishes my next birthday could come sooner, but I’m quite happy to wait another year!

Till then, many many thanks to all who helped make my day so very special, and most especially, this guy.

©blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

 

Mille Miglia Cortona 2018

17 May

Cortona was ready…the Mille Miglia was passing through the town for the first time ever and the spectators eagerly awaited their arrival. Although the main viewing area was Piazza Repubblica, where each car was announced as it arrived,

©blogginginitaly.com

each car first had to pass through the adjacent Piazza Signorelli, my first vantage point. I was in place as the first car arrived in this three-day Italy event from Brescia – Roma – Brescia.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

Other cars soon followed. Given that I took nearly 200 photos today, I leaned on Len to help choose a good sampling.

©blogginginitaly.com

As the cars passed from one piazza to the next, the delighted crowds cheered and waved flags. I love that some drivers seemed as taken with Cortona as the spectators were with them (see driver in the red sweater!).

©blogginginitaly.com

And then the parade continued, sometimes in single file 

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

and sometimes in clusters.

©blogginginitaly.com

Stopping isn’t as easy as one might think – these cars have mechanical, not power brakes.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

An exception, of course, is this Ferrari pace car which Len said was too beautiful to leave out. Ok, ok.

©blogginginitaly.com

I decided to head toward the area where the cars were entering Cortona. On the way, I passed this vintage car on Via Dardano.

©blogginginitaly.com

Entering Porta Colonia is a rather tight turn, and I was interested in seeing how the drivers were maneuvering. This driver made it look pretty easy as these cars also have no power steering. 

©blogginginitaly.com

However, when I passed through Porta Colonia to Piazza Mazzini, I discovered the answer. The usual parking lot had been turned into a wide turning radius, greatly minimizing not only the tight turn but also the chance for scratches and scrapes.

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

And then the cars kept coming and coming and coming. Whatever the final count, the original estimate was around 600 – with such an impressive array of makes, styles, colors, and sizes. 

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

©blogginginitaly.com

Not quite sure I could spend three days/1000 miles in this!

©blogginginitaly.com

Kudos to Cortona for making its debut in the 2018 Mille Miglia circuit and for a job well done! 

Arrivederci, Mille Miglia, hopefully we meet again.

©blogginginitaly.com

Ciao,
Judy

 

 

 

 

Mille Miglia – 1000 Miles

16 May

For the first time ever, the famous Mille Miglia open-road endurance race is coming through Cortona. If you are a car lover, or just a fortunate spectator, this will be a spectacular treat.

The race took place in Italy 24 times from 1927 to 1957 (13 before the war, 11 after 1947). From 1953-57, the race was also a round of the World Sports Car Championship. Today’s local paper proclaimed that this is the first time the event will come through Cortona,

IMG_2007

©LaNazione

and posters are all over town.

©blogginginitaly.com

The race was banned after two fatal crashes in 1957, killing both drivers and many spectators. From 1958 to 1961, the event resumed as a rally-like roundtrip at legal speeds with a few special stages driven at full speed, but this was discontinued also.

In 1977, the Mille Miglia was reborn as a “race” for classic vintage cars produced pre-1957. The round trip route is Brescia-Roma-Brescia, similar to that of the original race, and takes several days to complete. 

Here is the route, published by the Mille Miglia official site:

Below are some excerpts taken (and translated) from an email I received this morning detailing some of the logistics. I imagine the times are estimates based on weather conditions and traffic. What is significant, however, is the sheer number of cars, upward of 600, expected to move through the streets of Cortona tomorrow.

Cortona for the first time in its history will be a stop in this race. Everything is ready in the city to welcome this historic passage. About 600 cars will participate in the Mille Miglia 2018. 30 Super Car Mercedes, 100 Super Ferrari Cars and 450 historic cars. Among these, 70% are made up of foreign crews and many famous people. The passage will last for four hours.

In Cortona the reception will be special: the cars will start arriving in the city between 12.30 and 13. The approach path will … enter the city from Via Dardano, Piazza Signorelli, stop for stamping in Piazza della Repubblica and exit from Via Nazionale.

Among the well-known characters at the start, Coldplay bass player Guy Berryman, Oscar winner Adrien Brody, Dutch prince Van Oranje, Piero Pelù, Spanish singer Alvaro Soler and former Formula One driver Giancarlo Fisichella, actress and model Francesca Chillemi, the patron of Prada Patrizio Bertelli.

Per Mayor Francesca Basanieri, … The Mille Miglia is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most famous and celebrated car races in the world, and having brought it to Cortona, even if only as an intermediate stage, is a very important result.

If you would like more info, from the years of history to this year’s event, this site is well worth visiting: http://www.1000miglia.it/MilleMiglia/ 

As for me, tomorrow will be a photo-op dream.

Just hope the weather cooperates! Stay tuned.

Ciao,
Judy

%d bloggers like this: