Sunday, July 8, 2018

Miami, Florida and the sister

Why Miami at the end of June, you may reasonably ask. Well, for one thing, it was cheap. But the most important thing is that there is a direct flight from Milan to Miami. No need to change planes, the bane of travel these days. My sister and I try to take at least one week a year  to spend with one another, away from kids, husbands and friends. It is a time of rejuvenation and reconnection for us and a time we both really treasure.

This is the second time we visited Carillon in North Miami Beach. The bad news is that the hotel is located in a rather seedy part of town, the good news is the location on the beach. It is private, uncrowded and the sea is beautiful. The rooms have been repurposed from a Canyon Ranch Spa, so they are all suites, with living rooms and little kitchenettes. We had a fantastic view of the ocean and since I was jet lagged, I was awake to witness beautiful sunrises from my balcony.

The above photo is what the sky looks like just before the sun breaks through. The colors of the clouds are yellows, pinks and oranges. And then in a moment, there it is. Just a fleck of little thing that heralds a new day. I could hardly believe it was the sun the first time I saw it.

Being from California, I am used to seeing the sun on the opposite coast, and it is going down over the Pacific Ocean not coming up. I suppose if I were a geoscientist, I could tell by the photo which way the sun was going, but quite frankly, it looked remarkably like a sunset in reverse to me!

In a nanosecond, or so it seemed, the sun would be up and a new day had begun.

Sarah, not being jet lagged, slept through the whole thing. She would usually drag herself out onto the balcony look at the sun and squawk that it was already hot.

In spite of the squawking, hers and mine, we enjoy each other's company. We have the same sense of humor, the same politics, and a very similar view of life, which makes for easy conversation.  I usually try to get her to do one "foo-foo" as she calls it, appointment a year. This year, I left her alone after we both were scanned and weighed and told our percentage of body fat. It was a humbling experience and the beginning of a type of spiritual awakening for the both of us.

She discovered treadmills after that, and I remarked how much technology on treadmills had changed in the last 6 years. We slept through movies together, talked of family, and laughed a lot. I recently read an article in the NYTimes entitled, "A Sibling Fight Survival Guide." A sentence in the article struck home..."Our hope is that our children will be one another's playmates at home and allies out in the world, and that they will be there for one another long after we are gone." This perfectly describes the relationship I have with my sister. We were playmates as children and are allies as adults. It's a life long, profound relationship for the two of us.

Before I knew it the week was over. Future ocean sunrises will be unseen by me until next time.

We did have a Moon over Miami moment.

With all of the craziness in our world, nature never disappoints. It is always larger than me and more spectacular than I remember.

Happy Summer!

Monday, May 28, 2018


It has been a while since I have checked in. The Stoic One and I have been busy playing host to visitors and traveling.

Our latest stop was Trieste a city and seaport on the northeast corner of Italy bordered by Slovenia. A city I had never visited before. As a matter of fact, ask most Italians, and they will not have visited Trieste either, which is a shame. It is a city definitely worth a stop. Here are my reflections on the city.

Like a butterfly pinned to a board, Trieste is a city we admire up close and personal for her past splendor and unique beauty, and yet we, like her inhabitants yearn for this city to take flight. Like so many grand Italian cities, Trieste has one foot in the past, in this case the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the 18th century, and the other desperately seeking a solid footing in the 21st century.

This is a city whose history is long, complex and often bloody. She was colonized in second century BC by the Romans who called the city Tergeste.

The remains of this Roman theater are open to explore. Originally with a seating capacity of 6,000 the theater is only partially excavated.

 During Roman times the Adriatic sea reached all the way to the edge of this Roman theater, so patrons could enjoy a beautiful sunset over the water in accompaniment of their entertainment. The theater was discovered in 1814 by Piero Nobile, but was not unearthed again until 1938 when Mussolini had plans to replace the Jewish ghetto with monuments to himself and Facism.  Once he demolished the buildings, he was shocked to find the old Roman theater under his ambitious designs. As our guide told us, something good came out of the hatred and destruction. Mussolini's plans were put on hold and the ruins of the Roman theater remain.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city was variously ruled by the Byzantine Empire, Charlemagne, and most unhappily, by Venice. In 1382 Trieste begged Leopold III of the Hapsburgs to take over their city, and it seems to me their hearts have been with the Hapsburgs ever since. 

I am always amazed when Italians talk about their history as if it just happened rather than events that occurred centuries ago. Wander the quarter of Borgo Teresiano and listen to how important MarieTheresa is to Trieste history, and architecture.  She is talked about as if she visited and left her imprint on the city just last week.

One of the lasting gifts from the Hapsburgs is the Piazza Unita', which the Triestini say is more beautiful than St. Mark's square in Venice since it is open directly to the sea. If you look out between the two posts in the photo below, you will see the Adriatic Sea on the horizon. 

The piazza is remarkable both in size and the fact that it is the only large piazza in Italy that does not have a cathedral or duomo as a center piece. The buildings that surround the piazza are all secular.  Straight ahead, in the photo below, you are looking at the municipal building.

It is stunning at night and artfully lit.

Trieste, like Venice, boasts a Grand Canal, but truth be told, it is hardly the same. It was built between 1754 and 1766 upon salt marshes. The Triestini wanted an easy place to load and unload merchandise that was coming in from the port. The original intent was to have canals throughout the city, but the Grand Canal is the only canal that was actually built.

Today it is lined with cafes and restaurants which make for a picturesque tourist walk.

Trieste is known throughout Italy for its coffee. It is the home and headquarters of Illy coffee that was founded by Francesco Illy in 1933. He developed the first prototype of the modern espresso machine. Trieste prides itself on being a coffee society fit for intellectuals. There are coffee bars everywhere and the pace for drinking and chatting is slow and mellow. Trieste is not Milan or Venice or Rome. This is a city with its very own rhythm and style. illy coffee trieste 
To say that Trieste is serious about coffee would be an understatement.

Since Trieste has been at the crossroads of various civilizations, the churches reflect this diverse history. There is a Serbian and Greek Orthodox Church that are definitely worth a visit.

Miramare Castle on the outskirts of town is worth a visit particularly for the gardens. The castle was started in 1856 and finished in 1860 for the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife Charlotte of Belgium. Unfortunately the Archduke was executed in Mexico in June 1867 so he never really stayed here.

After the end of World War I, the city and surrounding territory were given to Italy. After the Italian Armistice of 1943, the Germans occupied Trieste. Under their rule, the only concentration camp with a crematorium on Italian soil was built. It is estimated that 5,000 Slavs, Italian anti-racists and Jews died at Risiera di San Sabba.

In May 1945 the Allies rushed up the Italian peninsula wanting to liberate Trieste but they were beaten by one day by the troops of Yugoslavia. Trieste was divided into two separate zones, one administered by the Americans and the British and the other part administered byYugoslavs. Trieste became a hot bed of spy versus spy during the Cold War.  Finally, in October 1954 The London Memorandum was signed by the US, Great Britain and Yugoslavia giving the city back to Italy.  There is a movement underfoot to change this relationship.

The city is mainly unhappy about the Italian taxes. They are at one with the rest of the country in this regard. 

James Joyce lived in this city from 1904 to 1920. He supported his drinking and writing habit by teaching English through Berlitz school. Dubliners was written here. There is a bronze statue of Joyce on one of the bridges. 

Trieste has not only excellent coffee but also excellent pastries and food. My favorite meal was had at Trattoria NerodiSeppia. It is a family owned trattoria with creative fish and wonderful pastries. Highly recommend it.

In 2017 a new Eataly opened on the waterfront of Trieste. Wonderful produce and products.

Trieste is a city that is trying very hard to reinvent itself. Although the past is what will draw you as a tourist, the people will entice you to return. If you are tempted to go to Venice, do yourself a favor and take a tour to Trieste. The people are very welcoming, looking for tourists to help their economy. The restaurants and cafes are reasonably priced with excellent food. I can not say the same for Venice.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Summer Food Part II

Of course being in Italy is not only about escaping to the sea in the summer months, it is also about eating well in spite of the heat.

Our piazza celebrated the summer season with food and lots of wine. A perfect Italian rememdy, great food, great company and lots of laughter.

Eating on a terrace with lots of friends is another way to beat the heat. Just make sure that the sun has gone down first.

Smaller portions will still allow you to eat the most delicious things such as these spinach ravioli and not feel as if there is a bowling ball in your stomach.

Then again you may want to skip the primi or first dish and go directly to the secondi. In this case, a sauteed fresh tuna with shrimp dish and lemon wine sauce. The dish was both light and delicious.

The Stoic One has gotten into the idea of summer and made his first ever Salade Nicosie. It was as excellent as it was beautiful.

Good job, hon. Very delicious.

Finally, a great way to escape the heat is to head up to a roof top bar at a local hotel and enjoy an "apricena" which literally dinner. It is a time for cocktails, appetizers had at your leisure from 6:00 until sunset.

Hope your summer is filled with beauty, great food and wine and most of all friends who love you.

Summer 2017 Part I

We are in the dog days of summer as they say. No offence to Mr. Luca.

Although the summer did not officially start until June 21st, for those of us living in Italy, it started the end of May when the temperatures soared to the mid 90's and have never let up.

What else could we do except escape from the heat by going to the lake.

First to Como:

We both love this lake, and it never disappoints. Beautiful, clean water, soft sunsets and healthy fresh lake fish.

Unfortunately, we did not see George and family, but we heard many kind stories about him and how the town tries to protect him from prying eyes. 

Taking the ferry across the lake and visiting all of the little towns is a true pleasure even if you don't spot George. 

Unfortunately, we had to leave this calm retreat and head back down the penninusla to Umbertide. Ciao Lake Como until the next time.

My sister arrived and we decided that a trip to the coast would be a good thing. We found a great spa on the Mediterranean side and the water was pristine.

When the heat is too much, the Italians head out to the sea. A great idea.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Spring 2017

Once more it has been a while since I have posted. We have been back to the US several times for work and are still exploring and traveling in Europe.

We had a beautiful spring for about a day!  The say April is the cruelest month. Just when we thought the cold rainy days were over, we were reminded that it is still April.

Now, however, we have May! Let's hope that this spring time is for real!

The cherry tree near us was in full bloom.

They cleared our piazza of all cars for some political event, and the Stoic One took that opportunity to take a few photos.

We, or course, think our piazza is the most beautiful and without any cars around, it certainly shows its lovely symmetry.

I think that spring in Umbria is the best. Umbria is called the green heart of Italy, and in the spring that green reminds us of hope, growth and prosperity. Hope you are having a delightful spring.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

February in Umbria

It has been a while since I have posted, as I realized this is my first post in 2017! We had a very quiet January with a short visit from my friend Leslie. She came with her daughter and her daughter's friend and they were having fun exploring the Italian cities. It is great in the winter because the crowds are so much less and the Italians are more at their ease with the tourists.

 Living in the country side, we are very much tied into the seasons, and winter is time of quiet reflection. The light at this time of year is always changing and there is a serenity in the starkenss that appeals to me.

We make our plans for the year ahead, and try to stay warm! We have a pellet stufa or Franklin Stove, which we use a lot. It's important to get the higher grade (more expensive) pellets, or the ash will clog the pipes. Other than that, we have had no problem with it, and it heats the living room very nicely.  They have different styles and sizes but we like this one that fits nicely in the corner.

We have been off to Bologna a few times. We love that city and found fabulous restaurants and shopping. It is a young city with a large university population (Bologna is home to the world's oldest university)  which also makes it fun and lively, particularly in the winter. It is also home to a wonderful hand made shoe shop that the Stoic One adores.

On Sundays we continue our tradition of going to Calagrana for Sunday lunch. The food that Alberto prepares is second to none. He is a true artiste and we enjoy both the company and the food.

We began today's meal with pork popcorn! In the US we call them pork rinds, but these are a bit of deliciousness that melts in your mouth.

Then we were on to a fantastic shrimp dish.

The main course, or secondi, was beef fillet with potatoes and mushrooms.

Then to finish, we had carmel semifreddo. Wow! On Sundays, this is definitely worth a stop to admire the fantastic view and admire the artistry in the kitchen, and indulge!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Buon Natale 2016

Images of Christmas from Verona:

May all of you be safe, healthy and surrounded by people and animals who love you.