Archive | February, 2013

2013 Best Beach! La più bella spiaggia del mondo!

23 Feb

This time of year, many of us who are experiencing the grey days of winter often turn our thoughts to warmer times. With spring just around the corner, and the blossoms getting ready to emerge from winter hibernation, it won’t be long before spring turns to summer and people head to the beach.

Since we are still in the dreaming months, which beach is best? You might be surprised to learn that in a recent Trip Advisor traveler survey, the top billing went to Rabbit Beach, on the remote Sicilian island of Lampedusa. Yes, Sicily! And why not when Italy has so much beauty to offer. Lampedusa lies in the southernmost part of Italy, about 176 kilometres (109 mi) from Sicily.

Location of Pelagie Islands on a map

Location of Pelagie Islands on a map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The island, population less than 5000, is only accessible by boat or air. It is described as an incredible nature reserve and is one of the only places in the Mediterranean where loggerhead turtles lay their eggs.

Loggerhead Sea Turtle escaping from a net via ...

Loggerhead Sea Turtle escaping from a net via TED device (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Beach oh Rabbit's Island in Lampedusa...

Rabbit Beach on Lampedusa Island Sicily:  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coastline of Lampedusa

Coastline of Lampedusa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the name sounds vaguely familiar, the 2002 Italian film Respiro, or Breath, was filmed on the island.


Respiro (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, if your Bucket List includes the world’s best beaches, be sure to add Rabbit Beach to your list.

Guitgia, Lampedusa

Guitgia, Lampedusa (Photo credit: lucasiragusa)

Lampedusa, Cala Grecale, 2003

Lampedusa, Cala Grecale, 2003 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


And don’t forget your sunscreen!

For a list of the top 10 beaches, check out



A Fitting Epitaph for Ciccio, the Faithful Dog

19 Feb

Ciccio, the dog who continued to “attend mass” after the death of his longtime owner and caregiver, has died from cardiac arrest. In my January 25 post, Losing a Faithful Companion, I shared the story of Ciccio, the faithful companion of Maria Lochi, who continued to search for Maria each day at church after her funeral.


With health failing, Ciccio, also known as Tommy, had been hospitalized in a local clinic.  He had become quite a celebrity, with local people making sure he was cared for. He even had his own Facebook page, which published many messages of encouragement to the dog after the death of his beloved Maria.

Farewell, Ciccio. Thank you for warming the hearts of so many and for leaving us to wonder, as my friend Pat expressed, “did he die of heart failure due to old age, or could it have been heart break due to the loss of Maria?” I guess we’ll never know, but what we do know for sure is this: he loved and was loved in return. A wonderful epitaph indeed.



Buona Festa degli Innamorati – Happy Feast of Love

14 Feb

You might be happy to learn that Valentine’s Day was not created by the greeting card companies. It seems, instead, that is was a religious holiday created in 496 by Pope Gelasius I to replace the pagan festival of the Lupercalia, a Roman festival. The new feast, celebrated on February 14,  became il giorno della festa degli innamorati, or the day of the feast of love, and it was dedicated to Saint Valentine of Terni who preached the message of love. Eventually, the date became linked to romantic love, and in Italy, it was the love between a couple that was celebrated.

Early 20th century Valentine's Day card, showi...

Early 20th century Valentine’s Day card, scanned from ca. 1910 with no notice of copyright. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Up to the 19th century, hand written notes were the norm. Today, however, the greeting card industry has commercialized the concept and love expressions are extended to all family members and friends. According to data from the Greeting Card Association, approximately one billion valentine cards are sent world-wide each year, second only to Christmas. The most common symbols associated with the day are hearts, doves, and cupids.

Scan of a Valentine greeting card dated 1909.

Scan of a Valentine greeting card dated 1909. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Years ago, I asked my husband and daughter to forego cards for my birthday, Valentine’s Day, etc., and instead write me a note or letter. They usually oblige me, or at least take time to write their own thoughts in a card, and I truly appreciate the effort. No matter how good the preprinted poem or phrase, there is nothing that compares to words from the heart.

It would be hard to beat Paul Child’s words to Julia:

You are the butter to my bread –  the breath to my life.

But since it’s the thought that counts…

to my husband and daughter, and to family and friends I am lucky enough to love,

You are the wine in my cup –  the smile in my heart!

Author: Bagande

Author: Bagande (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Valentines Day!

Buona Festa degli Innamorati!

Happy Feast of Love!



Some Papal Facts and Legends

12 Feb

Benedict XVI (2005-present, Episcopal form of ...

English: Pope Benedict XVI during general audition

By now, just about everyone knows that Pope Benedict XVI will resign at the end of February. And although this is unusual, it is perfectly legal under Canon Law and not the first time a Pope has stepped aside. But here are a few other facts you might not know about Papal history:

Papal Nationalities:
While popes can hail from many countries, the majority, or 217 of them have been Italian. The next largest number, 17, comes from France. Rounding out the top five countries are Greece, with 13; Germany with 8, and Syria with 6. Several countries including Africa, Portugal, and Spain have at least two, followed by one each from Galilee, England, the Netherlands and Poland.

Youngest Pope:
In 955AD, at the age of 18, John XII  became the youngest pope. Although there seems to be a myth about Benedict IX being only 12 when he became pope, records set his actual age  at 20.

Fact or fiction?
Was there ever a female pope? According to legend from the 13th century,  John VIII, elected in 855, might have been a British woman posing as a man. “He” was embraced by the Church as a great teacher and ultimately became a bishop before ascending to the papal throne.  After two years, however, the legend says that “Pope Joan’s” secret was out when she gave birth while on horseback. Ultimately in disgrace, she was stoned or hung. Today, there exists no records of a female pope nor scholarly confirmation of her existence.

Papal Names:
It wasn’t until the sixth century that some popes adopted new names upon their election to the papacy. Choosing a new name wasn’t mandatory; rather, it signified whom a pope might want to honor and emulate. Later, the tradition became customary and every pope since the 16th century has done so. The most common names chosen by popes are John, Gregory, Benedict, Clement, Innocent, Leo and Pius. There has only been one Peter.





8 Feb

In the grey and cold days of winter, it’s fun to think about some of the beautiful hill towns of Tuscany. Lucignano, a remarkably preserved medieval walled village, is one of those towns. Laid out in elliptical rings, this beautiful town sits 414 metres above sea level and offers its visitors a trip back in time.


Although Lucignano sits between Siena and Arezzo, it came under Florentine control in the 1500s, when a great deal of construction ensued. Today, one can still see the Puccini’s Fortress; Vasari’s 1568 sanctuary of Madonna della Querca; the Cappucini convent, c.1580; and several churches including Misercordia, c.1582, and Chiesa della Collegiata, c.1594.  In addition, the Museo Civico offers many artistic treasures including the L’albero della vita, or tree of life, a gilded and jeweled tree holding a crucified figure.








In the village’s website,,  Lucignano is described as “a pearl of the valdichiana, a small village that represents one of the more extraordinary examples of medieval urban planning for its system of elliptic rings…” Today, the village continues its agricultural and artisan traditions and produces products ranging from olive oil and honey to ceramics and gold jewelry. In addition, should you wish to purchase inlaid furniture or have a piece in need of repair, the skilled artists of Lucignano are ready to oblige.

One of my favorite English signs was this:


Nice People – Is that referring to the owners or a requirement for entry? It was closed so we didn’t find out.

And this wonderful Italian thought:


Wine is the poetry of the earth…I’ll toast to that!

Early Sunday morning, the men all gather…



While the ladies smell the flowers and pick fresh basil for the feasts they are preparing…



A lovely way to spend a day, enjoying food, friends and family, and of course, the poetry of the earth. Just wish some of those nice people had invited us to dinner!



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