Grazi, prego, si, ciao - my few Italian words learned while on a tour of this beautiful country. In case you may have been wondering where I've been for so long, Italy is where I have been. So today's post is devoted to the photos I took (with my iphone) while there. It's a little far afield from the Hamptons, but will continue there next time.
I had such a great visit and probably took way too many pictures, but promise to bore you with only 54 (I took over 150). Please feel free to scan through them quickly since photography seems not to be my forte. Our tour started in Montecatini, a charming little town in Tuscany. The scene below is what we saw as we approached what was to be our home-away-from-home for several days - the Grand Hotel Plaza.
We decided to take a little nap before exploring Montecatini, and this is the view we saw when opening our room's shutters. "OMG," I cried, "we're in Room with a View," one of my favorite films.
After our two hour recuperation-from-overseas-travel nap, we explored Montecatini a bit. "This is so Italian," I kept saying. What did I think it would be - so Belgian?? Though maybe thinking these words, my friend never said them. She is so tactful.
Naturally, we found a small cafe where we enjoyed much needed refreshment.
Pat had an espresso sunday and I had the strawberry gelatto. I dislike coffee anything but love the way it looks and smells. Seems so sophisticated, those little cups and all; still I'll stick to gelato. We sat here and watched the Italians go by deciding Italian men are very, very attractive and so well groomed. Italian women are very chic. We felt so American.
Grand Hotel's terrace where we met Mickayla, our tour guide, and fellow tour members.
A photo taken from the bus as we head toward Cinque Terre in the rain the next day.
Notice the hillsides. Because the land is so steep, grape-growers must terrace the land. It takes them many hours and small carts to harvest their yield from their very narrow vineyards.
Cinque Terre is a group of five small towns in nothern Italy. We visited only those most accessible by coach. Because of the rain, we were all happy not to hike between towns. I believe this one is Monterossa. Again, isn't it just so Italian? Don't you just love it? We did.
More terracing, more buildings built into the hillside. Pat and I had visited Rome while in college years ago. This time we longed to see small town Italy, and we did.
We vowed not to visit cathedral after cathedral since we had done that, but I could not resist this small church by the sea, where so many Italian fisherman worshiped.
Loved the stone interior. So plain and pure.
View upon exiting the church - part of what Rick Steves calls the Italian Riviera. Rained a bit while we were here - very un-Riviera-like with umbrellas in the distance fastened down, but still beautiful.
More fishing boats.
Walking up from the sea. Note the terraced vineyards atop the town.
A pretty window along the narrow street.
Roadside entrance to a stone house.
View of the coast from Monterossa to Vernazza.
Love these narrow spaces between buildings. "Until the advent of tourism, the towns were poor and remote. Today tourism stokes their economies.... There's not a chain store anywhere, and each of the five villages comes with a distinct dialect and its own proud heritage," writes Rick Steves. Our guide for Cinque Terre actually met Steves and attributes these towns' prosperity to him and his books.
Next day, even more rain in Florence. We first went to the Academy Museum where we viewed Michelangelo's "David." We could take no photos here, but take it from me Michelangelo is a genius. I was awestruck. (On a personal side note, here in the Academy Museum, I happened upon two hometown, longtime friends. Who knew such a coincidence could occur! Such a small world.)
Pat and I broke our vow about cathedrals here, but the Domo in Florence is spectacular.
View toward the rear of the Domo. Looking to the left is Bonnie, one half of a very fun couple we met on the trip.
Avery wet day in Florence as you can see, but we tourists were undaunted.
Famous golden doors of the Bapistry of San Giovanni and more rain. Infants were not admitted into the Domo until baptized; the sacrament first took place behind these doors which is across from the Domo.
As we were leaving Florence after a time out for lunch and shopping, the group stopped to take pictures of the Ponte Vecchio. Weather cleared a bit as we were leaving.
Outside of Florence, we stopped to take pictures of a "David" copy.
A view of Florence from afar and near the statue above. Ciao Florence.
Next day, Pat and I decided to sign up to see Siena, not something we had originally planned. Funny, in spite of the continual downpour, it turned out to be my favorite city. Our guide here (with pink umbrella) explained the rivalry existing between Florence and Siena, Florence being the more masculine, industrial city, Siena being the more feminine city whose economy is based on banking, the very bank below - the Monte dei Paschi, oldest surviving bank in the world. Our guide explained that everyone in Siena is employed by the bank, retired from the bank, or is hoping to work for the bank.
The city is so pretty, and the shops which we had no time to explore, nor which we could afford, looked very lovely and very expensive.
The narrow, hilly streets of Siena spoke to me.
Siena's own more petite Domo, which we could not enter on Sunday.
Birds-eye view of Siena. Everywhere I looked was a picture.
Toward lunch time, Pat and I were very wet and very cold. We knew this restaurant was going to be expensive, but we threw caution to the wind and enjoyed its elegant warmth,
its warming wine,
its cheese plate, its delicious mushroom souffle
and dessert plate.
The next day, we traveled south from Tuscany and Montecatini to Sorrento, its Europa Palace Hotel and the Amalfi Coast. Our first stop along the way was Pompeii and its ruins from Mount Vesuvius. Our guide here said it had poured just before we arrived, but for us the sun came out and shone on the glistening paths and stones.
See, blue sky!
Here, archeologists determined is where the gladiator events took place. The doors in the rear were where the gladiators and/or horses awaited their fate - sort of akin to our football stadiums.
Here is where the more civilized events took place - plays and operas. By the by, the woman in black aiming carefully is my friend her very self - Pat.
When it rained, water would rush down the stone streets. The citizens of Pompeii used these huge stones to remain dry-footed as they crossed.
A wonderful, sunny view of Vesuvius which looks so innocent now hovering over ceremonial grounds it once ruined.
The road to Sorrento and Amalfi is very beautiful but very treacherous. Mickayla said on the ride to Amalfi, everyone says, "Mama mia!" On the return trip, everyone prays, "Oh, my God!" I'm just glad we had an experienced driver who had grown up in the area.
There are three islands off the Amalfi coast and one in particular was purchased by Rudolph Nureyev. I kept trying to get his island, but think I missed.
And its wonderful streets.
The gardens of Capri and some of its views.
Am continually amazed how vegetation can root itself into rock, as seen from this beautiful garden above the sea.
One of our last meals in Italy - minestrone and pizza (which arrived later). Another wet, chilly day prompted this menu choice - everything was delicious.
If I had visited any Italian kitchens (which I did not), I imagine them to resemble the ones below. (See - always trying to remain true to my blog's title.)
And the food that would be prepared in these kitchens would look something like this. (Actually, much of our food did look like this, but we ate too fast for photos.)
Have you been bored to death? Buck up, little campers, next post I will be on task - two more posts about the Hamptons, then onto cozy New England and England, with all their kitchens and interior decor just in time for the holidays and chilly winter. Stay tuned.