Wednesday, October 21, 2015


After we left Monte Cassino, we drove down to Gallipoli, where we had rented an apartment for a week. The apartment was lovely with a huge terrace, that we were not able to use as much as we would have liked. Gallipoli is on the Ionian sea on the inside of the heel of the boot of Italy. It has a population of around 20,000 people and has a long and complicated history. There is a very strong Greek influence that remains in the city. We were in the old part of town.
This is the view outside our window.

Our roof terrace that we didn't get to use as much as we would have liked. Note the thunder clouds gathering.

The above photo was also taken from our terrace. Note the skull and cross bones beneath the cross. It is not a symbol of pirates, but of the death of Adam and the cross represents the resurection. At least that's one explanation.

On a clear day, the water was spectacular.

The above shot epitomizes why people love Puglia. Clear water, unpolluted air, and FISH!!

 The local fish market in Gallipoli.

From market to plate...

The colors in Puglia are very vibrant. They remind me of the colors in Mexico.

The colors of the windows are such a deep blue they almost look like the sky breaking through.

It was a little windy. The Stoic One has a hold of me thinking I might blow away.Note again that fantastic Puglian blue.

And at night, the perfect sunsets.

Monte Cassino Part II

I wanted to share more photos the Stoic One took when we were in Monte Cassino. The treasures that were saved from the bombing in WWII are fantastic, but really the display is equally notable. The curator of this museum not only edited the treasures with a fine hand, but also had a delightful sense of color and fun in their display.

Remember, this is underground of a Benedictine monastery. To use these colors to display the art is genius.

This is an example of the art that is displayed on the walls. You are looking at inlaid marble, cut perfectly in ornate floral design. We saw this in a workshop in Florence and is called commesso fiorentino..The stones must all be natural colors of the marble. We were told the hardest color in marble to find is the blue. Note how little of the blue there is in the work. The artisan must not only have a remarkable knowledge of stone, but also a very steady hand for cutting and piecing together the marble so that it stays in place with no mortar or glue. If you rub your hand over it, which we did not do, it is perfectly flat and seamless. Truly remarkable.

These are book covers worked in silver and leather. They covered the Missal for mass.Note the blue that they used for the background and now note the color of the sky outside. Not quite the same but...

Even the photographs of the monastery after the bombing were poignantly displayed. As you walk through the room, you got a total experience of the devastation but also of people with picks and shovels working to put it back together.

This is not just about the art. The monastery is a religious site. I have been to many religious places in Italy, but for me, this was the most spiritual place I have visited. I encourage you to take time from your trip to Rome to visit.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Monte Cassino

We left Venice, came home for a day to gather up our clothes, and then headed down to Puglia. We stopped at Cassino about 80 miles south east of Rome. Monte Cassino is the home of the Benedictine monastery. Benedict built it around 529. Then it was burned, then it had a major earth quake in the 1300's, sacked by Napoleon in 1800 and then the Allies bombed it in WWII. Talk about a phoenix. We were all in awe of the monestary, its art and its history. This should be a major tourist site it is that impressive.

It is definitely worth taking a few minutes and reading about the history of this place. The restoration process that the people went through to get the monestary rebuilt after the war is astonishing. A very sad episode of WWII and shows the impossible damned if you do and damned if you don't situations in war. In addition, it was later learned that the bombing was done by mistake. A translation error.

In spite of what the Allies believed, there were no Germans hiding in the monestary, only about 250 local Italians who had gone to the monestary to take refuge. Heartbreaking. It was a German officer who helped save the art treasures from the monastery. He got the abbot to agree to ship them to the Vatican. There was one truck that went to Germany, but I believe most if not all of the art treasures were recoverd after the war.They are now beautifully displayed in the museum.

The entrance way into the monastery.

Standing at the Polish cemetery, and looking back up at the monestary perched on the hill.


Sorry it has been a while since I have updated you, but we have been traveling with our good friends, Donna and Michael. They arrived a few weeks ago and we visited places around Umbertide and then took the train to Venice, a city I absolutely love. It was not very crowded this time of year, always a blessing. We had a tour of the Duomo at St. Marks and then a tour of the Doge Palace. We all agreed it was definitely worth the time and money.This is the tour that we took, from Walksofitaly.They get tickets for you, so there is not walking in line, and they lead you to the high spots, explain the history along the way and keep you moving. We enjoyed it very much.

As many times as we visit, we never tire of seeing Venice. This time we took a vaporetto tour of the Grand Canal. It was a very good way to get an overview of Venice. I definitely recommend this particularly on a stormy day.

We ate at an interesting restaurant that I would recommend, Ai Mercanti.It's close to St. Mark's Square, a little bit of a challenge to find, but it is is worth it. Service very good, and the food quite interesting and well priced.