Category Archives: Trip Report

Trip Report – Sestri Levante and the Ligurian coast

FINALLY! A Trip Report! If you’re not interested just ignore.
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For our anniversary we decided we needed a short trip to celebrate. First trip since last September. Long, long days of lockdowns and restrictions. We decided to go to the Mediterranean coast. North of the Cinque Terre and south of Genoa. We haven’t explored this area before.

We left Umbertide at eleven. It’s only around a three and a half hour drive. We stopped for a picnic. They don’t make that easy in Italy. They have rest stops but they seldom have a picnic area. I think we did see three places with a parcheggio and tables but two of them were too early and the one we thought was perfect was closed! So we kept going. Finally by 2PM we found a rest stop with a few picnic tables in front of a shop. We decided to just go for it. I’d brought some pasta pesto salad and some fried chicken. Can you say picnic? We also had some wine. So it all worked out.

We continued and arrived in Sestri around three. We were staying in the Hotel Vis a Vis. Way up high above the town. As always, the parking and access are ridiculous. The hotel assured us there was parking. And I guess technically there is. The drive up to the hotel was several very sharp hairpins and super steep. We negotiated it OK but, not having ever been here before we didn’t know what we were headed for. We were nearly at the top and a woman waved us back. So we backed up and got out of the way…two cars cannot possibly pass each other. The woman helped her husband to get out of his parking place…no easy feat. We figured we would continue on up and we took his parking place. Luther said he didn’t fancy taking the car back out so we will probably just hang around the ‘hood and see what’s to be seen. At least for tomorrow.

Reception checked us in and took us to our room which wasn’t quite finished so we went to the rooftop bar for a drink. Beautiful space. Views to die for. I forgot my big camera but this one is from my phone. It’s the view. And the bay is called the Bay of Silence. Isn’t that a pretty name?


After relaxing and getting cleaned up we enjoyed the bottle of champagne and strawberries we had in our room while watching the football match — Italy/Wales…Italy won 🙂. Then we headed for dinner. The restaurant in the hotel is Olimpio. On the fourth floor with glass walls all around. Good table spacing. It was my first time eating inside a restaurant since last fall. The sunset was gorgeous.

The meal was good. I had oysters again. And we split the Dorado catch of the day. It was baked in a salt crust and beautiful and tender.

Monday
Morning and it is our actual anniversary. First to breakfast. They have it in the dining room and there is a nice outside garden space. Typical Italian breakfast with many breads and pastries, yogurts, ham and cheese. Also available were hard boiled eggs and toast and cereal. For extra money, you could get eggs anyway or a whole list of omelets.

Today we planned to explore the town and do a walking tour. So by around 10am we were off. The hotel has this cool elevator that goes right down through the mountain to the street level below. Makes for easy access to the beach and the town. The first thing I noticed was the brightly painted houses. And many, many trompe l’oeil facades. This yellow house below has a flat wall. The 3-D affects are painted on. Very well done I say. If you click on the photo and look closely on the right side, I’m pretty sure that the house painter actually signed her work. There were many, many more in town painted like this.

We walked down to scope out our restaurant choice for tonight. It is on the Bay of Silence, named Portobello and owned by our hotel. The bay of silence has a breakwater and is quite small.

We did a lot of walking. It is pretty touristy with small streets. We stopped for refreshments. Here are some pictures.

We returned and rested and cleaned up and headed for dinner. Portabella was a nice place right on the beach with much to watch. Little kids were still out playing on the beach. Adults were swimming. Boats were returning.

Liguria has very different food from our part of Italy. It is almost completely seafood based, but what is the biggest surprise is the prominent place potatoes play in so many dishes. When we were here a couple years ago I had octopus which was served atop a pile of mashed potatoes. I was surprised. But now I see it was not unusual. My pasta dish was a thin twisted pasta served with a sauce of cooked diced potatoes, green beans and pesto. Of course, everyone knows pesto was invented in Genoa so I had to try it. It was a strange dish. But very good! Luther got stuffed anchovies. They also use a lot of olives and tomatoes in their dishes so it had that. For his main meal he had a seafood dish with a prawn, mussels, a scallop, and a little tower of fish, potatoes and other things. I had a filet of Ombrina. They called it Croaker in English but it sure wasn’t anything like the Croaker I’ve had in Virginia. Very dense and thick white fish. I finished with a scoop of sorbet. A nice anniversary dinner.

Tuesday
We have two nice balconies. One faces the town. One faces the water. Every morning and evening I spend a lot of time out there.

We decided to explore the coast north of Sestri this day. This meant we needed to move our car 😳. Just kidding, it wasn’t too bad. Our parking spot was better than most, believe me! It’s like sardines here. Once we got out , we held our breath that no one would be coming up the driveway. It is not big enough to pass.

We headed for Portofino so we could say we had been. It was a bit of an ordeal. Driving there is not recommended. Judging from the number of people we saw walking along the road I’d guess most people get there on foot. We did make it and as anticipated there was no parking. So we returned to Santa Margherita Ligure, the town just next to Portofino. I did manage to snap a nice picture of Portofino on our way out.

Turns out there was quite a lot of street parking in Santa Margherita. The Angelo Giallo.

Once parked we wandered the town. It’s very cute and has a lot of small streets and nice shops, restaurants and bars. We stopped for refreshments. I tried a spritz made of St Germain, Prosecco, ginger ale, ginger and mint. It was refreshing.

We found a lunch spot, Il Patio, and had a tasty lunch. I had spaghetti with vongole, spaghetti with clams. Luther had a fish Ligurian style.

While we were eating a blackbird found a treasure just across from us! A cherry. He had a good time pecking and chasing it and pecking it again. I got a pretty good shot.

Pictures of some of the streets.

They had a pretty and very baroque church.

We returned to Sestri and stopped in the supermarket to buy a picnic for dinner. It would be beautiful to sit on the balcony and watch the evening come. But first we wanted to go to the roof top bar one more time before we left. It is a beautiful place.

We had cocktails. I had a Mojito. Luther a spritz. They always bring a nice plate of munchies to go along with any drinks you order in Italy. It is not done to drink without eating.

We enjoyed our picnic of cold meats, cheeses and fresh sweet cherries. The weather was wonderful.

All in all it was a nice and relaxing trip. I would go back to this area again. It wasn’t my favorite beach but the town itself was nice. The hotel Vis a Vis was not quite the cruise ship it tried to be. It had lots of good things going for it. They just need to up their game on a few easily fixed items in the room.

We left at around 10:30AM and got home by 2PM. It is ungodly hot in Umbertide. Like a blast oven. It makes me want to go RIGHT back to Sestri!

Ciao for now!

Torlonia Marbles – Rome

Off to see the the Torlonia Marbles in Rome. They have been long buried from sight. They are amazing. Here is a great link from BBC about the Marbles.

We drove to Foligno and took the 9:20 Frecciabianca. Comfortable train, fast and with few stops we arrived by 11am. When we exited the Termini Stazione we first saw a vaccination clinic set up in front in the parking lot. I’ve heard Lazio, the Region that Rome is in, is doing very well with the vaccines. Most of the people waiting looked young.

We took a taxi for our 11:30 tour. I bought the tickets online. We’ve only been to Rome four or five times in our lives. This was a very different Rome. As so many have said, it’s empty. Our first trip there many years ago we foolishly drove. When we FINALLY got to our hotel the desk clerks asked “what made you think you could drive in Rome?!” We have avoided it ever since. But yesterday? The taxi zoomed freely down the wide and mostly empty streets. It was a breeze. I said to Luther “we could do this!”.

The taxi let us off at the bottom of Capitoline Hill. Now it is a series of museums but back in the Roman times it was where the Senate met. It’s up high with great views all around. On our way we passed a great viewing point for the Roman Forum. It was empty, save for a couple of families. Once up on top, it again was quiet. As Luther said, “you could hear a mouse dropping…” sorry 😊. We found the entrance and went into the exhibit. Do read the article I linked above to understand where these Marbles came from, how the man who collected them locked them away in a filthy space for years and years. See below picture I borrowed.

Now they shine brilliant, bright white. I found the faces of the statues so expressive. I did take a “few” pictures. So I’ll post some here. Hard to choose which to pick, so I put a lot in. They all come from Rome or Greece and are dated from around 200 BC to 300 AD. I will include text in the captioning under the pictures if I can remember anything.

Old man from Otricoli. Luni Marble.
Frieze detail.
Frieze detail.
Seaport. Greek marble.
This is a magnificent bowl. One piece of marble. Enormous. You can see Luther’s leg just stepping out for reference.
I love the detail of the basket.
Odysseus, escaped from a blind giant by hiding under a sheep. The giant was touching everything that was leaving. All he touched here was a sheep…so Odysseus got away.
Baby strangling a goose.
Guy lost his head…but his nose? I guess maybe they cut it off first. I’m sure there’s a story somewhere.
Statue of a resting goat. Amazing detail. Greek marble.
Of all the statues I’ve ever seen, this is the ONLY one with a ‘stash. Check it out!
Archer. Greek marble.
A satyr, the caption said. I thought they were goat-men, but apparently not always. There were two side by side. They were so relaxed.
I love this statue. Don’t remember what it was called.
Married couple.

We were hungry now and had reserved a table in a restaurant nearby. Ristorante Dulcis in Fundo. Took us a while to figure out how to get off the Capitoline hill and down to the normal streets. On the way we passed a great overlook of the Forum. Amazing. And with only a couple people in it.

Then this place was tucked away on a small, and quiet street. Nice outside space. Yesterday was the day restaurants can serve inside, but I prefer to be outside. As we sat down, I spied, with my little eye, another patron eating a plate of oysters on the half shell. I haven’t had them since my last trip home which was two years ago now. We got menus, in English. I hate English menus. So I asked for Italian ones. But the oysters were nowhere to be seen. The word for oysters is Ostriche. But when I asked they assured me I could get them. So I did! And then a plate of fat noodles with shrimp. Very good. Luther got the antipasto fruiti di mare. Seafood plate. And then a spaghetti with shrimp.

All in all the day in Rome was great fun. We returned on the 5:25 Frecciabianca and were back in Umbria by 7pm. One of the reasons we like it here is that both Rome and Florence are easy day trips. It’s good to visit the big city, but I want to live in a smaller town. For me, big cities are fun only in small doses.
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Today is Republic day which commemorates the end of the Monarchy in Italy. The people voted to do away with them. It’s a national holiday. Buona festa della repubblica! 🇮🇹

Senigallia on the Adriatic

We had a nice overnight with friends to Senigallia. It is an easy drive. About 1.5 hours if you don’t stop anywhere. We planned some visits to wineries along the way so it took longer. Most of the trip, outside Umbria, was in Le Marche. A pretty region similar in landscape to Umbria except for the proximity to the Adriatic.

Our first target was Matelica. The landscapes and views are beautiful. It’s agricultural and also pretty mountainous. They’re are lots of wineries. They make primarily Verdicchio which is a nice white wine. If you find a good producer, it can be very complex. We chose ColleStefano. A nice property. All the wineries are in the middle of the harvest and the crush so we had a bit of trouble visiting them. We bought a case of the Verdicchio and a few Rosati (Rosé).

View from the tasting room.

Our next goal was finding a place to have the picnic we brought. We visited another winery. We could purchase, but not taste because the family was busy with the harvest. No place to picnic.

Pretty view from the second winery.

Off we went towards Senigallia. No picnic tables to be found. Finally along the Lungomare, the sea coast, we found a small park with a table. The town is quite empty. Quiet. We checked into our hotel, TerrazzoMarconi. Our view.

The Pavillion

The evening was a fancy dinner at a Michelin 3 star restaurant Uliassi. Seafood. It sits right on the beach. It was sprinkling as we walked to dinner. We had to wait a bit for the doors to open. Here are a few pictures.

Cuttlefish with quinoa and nori seaweed pesto.
Shrimp in a citrus sauce.
Pasta with oyster sauce.
Sea bass in squid ink.

A nice evening.

Thursday morning. We had a nice if surprising breakfast. Buffets have disappeared since the advent of Covid. We had seen none until today when they had a completely open buffet. No glass covers over the food or anything. No restaurants in the Marche took our temperature or contact info. I suppose all the regions have their own rules. We even had a mini-bar, also a thing of the past since Covid.

Luther and I took a walk on the beach. It was hot!

We got underway and headed for another winery for a tasting and to purchase. This one was near Jesi.

Winery entrance.
Fall is coming.
First Verdicchio.
2nd
The house of the property.

After our nice tasting we headed for Fabriano and lunch. There is good news. And there is bad news. We arrived and parked and walked to our intended restaurant. They were closed. So we went to a small piazza not far away where there was a nice bar. So we settled in and ordered lunch. The bad news was, the food was awful. I can’t remember when I’ve gotten such bad food in Italy.

The town of Fabriano is known since the 1300s as a primo paper making city. They are even a UNESCO heritage site for this to this day. I love this city. Here are some pictures.

It was a fun little giro. I must keep in mind that the sea is very accessible and go more often.

Trip report. Naples and Positano

Here’s a trip report. The trip was short but the report has plenty of pictures. If you are not interested, as always, just skip!

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We took the train to Rome. It was a FrecciaBianca. One of the high speed trains but the slowest of the three kinds. We booked first class. There weren’t many people in our car. The seats were staggered anyway so no one sits near anyone else. We all were wearing masks. This was the longest stretch that I will have worn a mask non-stop. I put it on at 9:15am and it will come off around 3pm. (Except for eating)
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Then we boarded the FrecciaRossa to Napoli. This is the fastest train. We got up to 298 kph. We can get from Umbria to Naples in just over three hours, including a change of trains. We were in the business class car called “Area Silenzio” the silence area. Nice in there. Big cushy seats. Only one other passenger. Took just over an hour to get to Napoli from Roma. Before we boarded they passed out little bags with: a mask, gloves, antiseptic wipes, a cover for your seat back, water, cups and napkins, nice.

FrecciaRossa
Our speed.
party pack! Masks, wipes, gloves, etc.
I booked the Area Silenzio. It is so tranquil.

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I brought a picnic. Egg salad sandwiches with tomatoes, and peanut butter cookies courtesy of my friend Jen (yum – thanks Jen). And a bottle of white wine. Livin’ large on the FrecciaRossa.
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We had, for the first time, hired private transport from the Naples train station, to Positano – two hour drive.

Cliffs of the Amalfi coast.
COVID portrait. Our driver insisted.

The other two times we’ve visited, Luther drove rental cars. This time, our driver was waiting for us and he drove us expertly to our destination. All we had to do was walk down the hill to our hotel. It was pleasurable experience. If we ever again have guests who manage to come, we will do this again.

Our hotel is called Palazzo Murat. Our first visit to Positano was in 1994 when we lived in Germany. This is the hotel we stayed in then. So, kind of for old times sake, I chose this one again. It is much more luxurious than before. Might be the best place in town. They have a pretty patio bar. Our room has views of the sea and the duomo. There is also a large garden beneath our window. 

Across from us.
Breakfast terrace from our balcony.

The entire building is wrapped by a bougainvillea that is more than a century old. It’s main trunk is as big as a tree. For a plant enthusiast it is incredible. Along the balconies, and above the walkways there is a Genus Bignonia. There are also a banana plant, and tropical plants. My friend Doug would love it. There is even an entire trellised lemon, orange and tangerine grove. To one side there is the restaurant’s garden full of beautiful ripe tomatoes, and herbs and salad greens used by the chefs. All of this in the center of Positano. 

Vegetable garden.
Pool
Centennial bougainvillea

I was intrigued by the history of the Palazzo. It is 17th century and was the summer home of the King of Napoli. He was the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1808 he visited Positano and fell in love with the house. He spent summers with his lovers away from the politics in Napoli. 

Now the house is the home of the Attanasio family. Several generations have lived here and made the hospitality of the hotel their careers. Each member of the family looks after a specific department. 
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After we arrived we rested and showered and met our friends Gary and Bill for drinks in the pretty bar as the sun set behind the cliffs. They had taken the boat from Salerno, where they live. I met Gary, virtually, a few years ago through my blog. We had met in person in Rome for lunch back in December, what seems worlds away now. I was happy to try an interesting drink so Gary and I tried a Bellini. Peach juice (fresh) in Prosecco. One of us tried the Fresh Breeze, a cucumber based drink. And one got a white wine.

Bellini.
Fresh breeze.

After drinks we wandered down to the beach. Gary and Bill had already made reservations for us at Chez Black. This restaurant has been there since 1949. We even ate there in 1994. The food was good. And the servers were nice. We started early. By the time we left the place was packed. That had been a surprise. Positano is positively packed with tourists. Mostly young people. They have mandatory masks inside but not on the street. I admit to not feeling comfortable with this.

Octopus carpaccio. Oh my. So good.
Spaghetti al mare…seafood pasta. Also very good.
Luther had the grilled fish plate.

After dinner we sat in the patio bar where Luther could smoke his cigar. Pretty at night.

Cigar man
The beautiful patio at night.

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Our one full day in Positano I wanted to do some shopping. We rose and took our time going down to breakfast around 9:30. I thoroughly enjoyed it. They brought a plate of pastries and jam. And we ordered OJ (fresh squeezed – no surprise being in the citrus capital of Italy) and cappuccini. Then we ordered a la carte the smoked salmon Insalata dressed with a mustard, honey vinegrette. Very yum and light. 

My delicious smoked salmon salad breakfast.

After breakfast we walked all over Positano. The shopping was not what I had hoped. Maybe when I get to Napoli. Or maybe not. I was looking for some interesting necklaces. Not expensive but kind of large with interesting colors and stones or shells or … But I found only one store with interesting things like that and they are an expensive store. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spring for that amount of money. Maybe tomorrow morning, before we leave I will go back. Or not…

Park bench pal.

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Dinner in the restaurant at our hotel with Gary and Bill. First drinks on the patio. Such a pretty place. We just had to walk down a set of steps to the restaurant. I’m afraid I wasn’t impressed with the food. We had a bruschetta gift from the chef. I had tuna with a Bloody Mary sauce. It was not notable. The squash blossoms looked good. It was still an enjoyable dinner with good conversation and companions. 

Squash blossoms
Tuna bloody mary
Polpette aka meatballs
Bye Bye Positano.

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We breakfasted and left our pretty hotel to meet our driver Vincenzo. He whisked us straight to the Grand Hotel Excelsior.

Luther’s eggs.
My own personal frittata in a cute pan.
The Amalfi coastal drive from the van.
The Amalfi coastal drive from the van.

For this, our first trip to Naples, I chose the seafront. There is a row of big hotels. They sit directly across from the Castello Ovo. All around the castle are seafood restaurants. It is a quiet area compared to in the city center. Next time we come we decided it would be more fun to be in the city.

Our hotel is described as the Grand Dame of hotels. It was nice enough, if a little dated. Very large room with olive flocked wallpaper. High ceilings and a decent bath. Two big windows looked out on the sea. The room had a seal across the door indicating it had been sanitized. The hotel takes all the Covid precautions. The top floor is a roof terrace. Pretty flowers and trees around and among the tables. They serve breakfast here as well as drinks at night. The breakfasts were good.

Sidney the seagull was our assigned gull during our stay. Always on duty.

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The first night we decided to have dinner at La Scialuppa. Right beside the water. Outside tables. They took our temperature and then we had to fill out a form with our contact info – document number telephone etc. everywhere we went they took our temperature. Food was good enough. I had the Caprese salad and a pasta – big tubes with a pistachio cream sauce and prawns. Very rich. I was glad I had ordered the Caprese. And we could actually see the island of Capri where the Caprese is said to originate

Couple of guys entertaining us. They were fun and serenaded me with “that’s Amore”
Our hotel from our table. Hotel Excelsior is on the right.
Luther’s appetizer
My pasta.

We returned to the hotel and went up to the roof terrace for Luther to have a cigar and an after dinner drink. It was very pleasant.
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After a good breakfast of scrambled eggs fruit and toast we grabbed a cab and went to the Museo Archeologico. The cab ride was beyond exciting. The traffic in Naples is legendary and our taxi driver was expert.

We have two full days here and today was the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. We’ve wanted to visit here for years. They’ve got all the original Pompeii art, frescos, mosaics etc. Also Greek, Roman, Etruscan, and all the prehistoric societies in southern Italy. We toured for almost 3 hours.

The museum was really great. In it they have all the bits of Pompeii and Herculaneum that they removed. Entire walls from houses with their frescoes. Mosaics. All kinds of ceramics and pottery. There was an Egyptian section. A Roman section. An Etruscan section. A Greek section. Even a prehistoric exhibit. Lots of carved statuary. The focus is on the bottom of Italy. The heel and toe of the boot up to about Rome and also Sicily and the islands like Capri and Ischia. Excellent museum. We spent about 3 hours there.

Roman sculptures

They had a cute photo installation with some of the sculptures juxtaposed into photographs. Here are just two of them.

Decoration from a Pompeii villa
Portrait of a Roman intellectual woman.
Map of the early settlements at the base of the peninsula.
One of the beautiful floors. We had to wear shoe covers.
I don’t know why I liked this, but I did. Until he removes her helmet, he doesn’t realize he killed a beautiful woman warrior.
Greek drinking cup.

We left the museum and headed down Via Toledo. It is one of the main drags in Naples. Very busy street. We were looking for a place to stop for refreshments and to rest our feet. We found a place in Piazza Dante. It didn’t have food though and we were hungry. We used the phone to find nearby restaurants and went to one called Cisterna. It was close. I ordered a wonderful ceviche with lime. Cool, light and refreshing. We were planning an outing later in the afternoon so took a taxi back to the hotel.

My ceviche.

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After resting we headed out to find the cigar store that Luther had heard of to see if he could buy some cigars. It was about a 15 minute walk but the sidewalks were very hard to walk on. Hard stones and uneven surfaces. And lots of traffic and crosswalks. Very chaotic. Not liking it. We found the store and Luther got his cigars. Then we headed to a wine bar he had found. We had a glass of wine and walked back to our chosen restaurant, 28 Posti Bistro con Gusto. I was sorry to see it was inside dining but the tables were far apart. After a temperature check and document filing as usual, we sat down and ordered. I had bruschetta with colorful tomatoes and peppers. And then a spaghetti con Vongole. Both tasty. We walked back to our hotel and I turned in. I was bushed after a very full day.

Thursday. Our other full day in Naples. The weather has been hot. And no rain. We left after breakfast. I had downloaded an app called GPSmyCity. You can pick any of eight or ten walking itineraries or custom make one. We took a taxi to the starting point at the Duomo of Napoli. The duomo is enormous. And very pretty. We started following the tour. It was nice. It told you where to go and then had nice write-ups of the sights. The second stop was the Naples Underground. I really was enjoying this neighborhood. Skinny streets, lots of shops. Lots of people shopping for their groceries at the individual food shops. One for fish, one for pasta, one for bread, one for fresh vegetables. Lots of life. This is where I’d like to stay next time.

Duomo.
One of the cool little streets near the Duomo.
Fish monger.

Then, there was this sign. Translates as — Top signs says, they are awarding degrees immediately. The second sign says they are hiring housekeepers who have the measurements of 90-60-90 with offers of food, accommodation, washing, rinsing, drying, ironing, massage and sex at will. Okay then….

We kept going, seeing Piazze, and churches, statues, and landmarks. The tour actually ended at our hotel. We decided to stop for lunch. We couldn’t find anything with outside tables. Eventually we found a cute trattoria. It didn’t have outside tables but it didn’t feel too cramped. They took our temperatures and we filled out the forms. They are required to keep the forms for two weeks. If anyone gets infected they can use them for contact tracing. I had Caprese insalata again. It is just so good because we are in the land of Mozzarella di Buffala. It is much creamier than what we got in the US or even in Umbria. We also noticed it is spelled Muzzarella here. From the dialect of Naples. Which is getting closer to the Muzzadell’ you’ll hear in NJ and NY Italian communities. After the Caprese I had another pasta with seafood dish. It had Pecorino cheese in it. It was sort of a cross between Caccio e Pepe Roman specialty and pasta with seafood. Strange. But good. 


Since we had a big lunch we decided to stop by the grocery on the way back and put together a picnic. We got ham, mortadella, and two cheeses. Along with a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. The end of a nice day.

The following morning we breakfasted and packed and checked out. We grabbed a taxi to the station and found our train was delayed 25 minutes. It meant we’d miss our connection. But we grabbed the next one so not terribly inconvenient. The downside was the train was a Regional and it was packed. Everyone put their bags and backpacks in the seat next to them, taking up 2 seats each. They had no seats marked restricted which would have helped with the distancing. But this meant that a family who got on couldn’t find seats. No one wanted to sit right next to, or across from anyone. Including me!
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Final thoughts. I always love Positano. Taking the private transport from the Naples station there was seamless, relaxing and painless. The town was packed on the Sunday afternoon when we arrived. I was surprised. Monday was not as bad. But still a lot of people. Masks are required indoors but not outside. The hotel Palazzo Murat is amazing. The food in Positano was not at all notable. Chez Black was the best.

Naples was as I expected. Busy chaotic Italian city in the south. Lots of horns honking. Millions of Vespas and motorcycles. Crazy drivers. But they did let you cross in the crosswalks. The neighborhood up near the Duomo was the most interesting. There are many places we didn’t see of course.  They don’t seem to use the word Ciao as often in Naples as they do further north. The food in Naples was not notable. Not bad but not great. We didn’t get any pizza. Maybe next time.

Road trip! Abruzzo!

This is a mini trip report. We decided to do an overnight to one of our favorite areas, Abruzzo. We also traversed Le Marche on the way. The motivation was to revisit a restaurant we had visited a couple years ago that we really liked then, and also to arrange a winery visit and tasting. To get away for a while. Change of scenery.

We were just coming off of a bad heat spell that had broken with storms. We left on a Tuesday morning with fresh air and sunshine. Perfect top down weather. We drove south through Spoleto and headed east along the river and through the gorge that cuts through the mountains to Norcia. Then over the mountain pass and down into the flats near the Adriatic sea.

Our winery, called Tenuta Torretta, was up in the hills just into Abruzzo. We had an appointment at 2:30. We were having some pretty spectacular thunderstorms. The winery had amazing views to the Gran Sasso mountains and the sea. And a ringside seat to the lightening show as the storm moved up the coast.

Here is the storm over the Adriatic. Lightening streaked from clouds to ground as we watched.

Later, after the storm passed. The sea is a pretty aqua.

Here is the view towards the Gran Sasso – I’m sure it’s spectacular when the storms aren’t around.

The view out over the olives and through the vineyards is gorgeous.

We were met by Cinzia (the Italian version of Cynthia, my sisters name). And afterwards her sister-in-law and her father. It became a real family affair. I think they have missed having visitors during the Corona lockdowns. Anyway we sat outside at plastic tables and tasted three whites, a Vermentino, a Pecorino, a Chardonnay. The big surprise was the Cerasuola, a wine made from Montepulciano d’Abruzzo grapes which they allowed to sit with the skins for only half a day. Then the skins removed. But in that short time the wine becomes quite red, redder then a Rose but served chilled just the same. And more full flavored. Then we had two reds. Along with the wine we had good bread and sausages.

I liked all the family. The two sisters were super friendly. And the Dad mostly talked to Luther about the winery. He was probably our age. We bought three cases (of six). It was WAY more than a tasting and I think it lasted almost 2 hours! This is the kind of experience I enjoy most here.

Cinzia.
Dad.
The brother is missing. They missed having visitors I think!

Here are pictures of the wines we tried and the sausage nibbles we had along with bread.

Cerasuolo. Interesting cross. Not quite red, not quite rose, and served chilled
Cerasuolo – see the color?
Chardonnay. Vines were very old.
Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – the big red of this region.

~~~~~~~

We headed down to our destination for dinner, Villa Maiella in Guardiagrele. The hotel is mostly empty. From the breakfast tables there were five rooms occupied. It is also a very basic place. It sorely needs an upgrade. The bed was comfortable enough and the AC was great.

The claim of this place is its restaurant. It does not have an a la carte menu. Just tasting menus. Differing sizes. We didn’t feel up to a 12 course dinner so we chose the smaller menu. It was good-ish. Not as good as I remembered from last time. The biggest downside was the dining was inside. Widely spaced tables but still, I am not comfortable in an enclosed, interior space. And most tables were full.

Good bread.
Stuzzichino – gift from the chef.
Gift from the chef. Mousse.
Chitarra di patate – literally, Guitar of potatoes. The circle is pasta made from potatoes. The type (shape) of the pasta is Chitarra. Loved this course!
Bianco di tacchino con finocchi, arancia, nocciola – Turkey 3 ways.
Ravioli di burrata allo Zafferano deL’Aquila e Lenticchie di Caprafico – mmm mmm good.
Stinko d’Agnello – Shin of lamb
Nettarine e bavarese bianca
Our wine. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
The terrace where people had drinks and got the menu.
The dining room. Pretty well spaced tables but I’ve been reading a lot about ventilation carrying the air hither and yon.

~~~~~~

The morning dawned very cool and partly cloudy. Someone said, we went from August to October overnight! We had a nice view of the Gran Sasso mountains, the biggest in Italy and they are now a large park. We had a nice breakfast in the basement. The hotel, after reopening from the lockdown, moved the reception into the basement.

We set off for home, deciding not to visit another winery. We drove through almost continuous thunderstorms all the way up the coast super strata. This highway is very nice. It runs from Bari all the way to Ancona. We turned inland and passed through some of the pretty Marche countryside. The rain finally let up just after we arrived in Umbria. All in all a nice short getaway and change of scenery.

~~~~~~~
Stay safe everyone and be vigilant. 🌈 andrà bene.

Our first trip since Lockdown

Sunday, June 28
It was a birthday celebration. The plan was simple. We were driving on our first road trip from our house in Umbria to a hotel on the Mediterranean coast to a town called Castiglione della Pescaia. It would not be a long drive, only 2-3 hours.

We drove the Angelo Giallo for the first time since lockdown. We had taken it to the dealer for it’s annual servicing and it had a coolant leak. So we were all set. We left at 1:30 and drove from our house to Siena on the decent four lane road and then went south and slightly west to our destination. A pretty and interesting route.

We arrived at about 5pm, just after our friends Susan and Gary. It was Susan’s birthday trip and Luthers birthday is July 5 so kind of a piggyback. Hotel L’Andana is a few kilometers from the coast. From certain parts of the property you can see the sea. It is over 500 acres of land. They have hundreds of olive trees, all regimented and perfectly shaved. They look like they have all had the exact same flat-top haircut.

This is the driveway and gate. It was 900 meters long.
Maremmana cattle. Amazing horns. Nearly went extinct. Mussolini drained the swamps where they were adapted to live and work.
Our room. Great AC!

The next two are pictures of the property.

We rested and changed for dinner at the hotel. They have two restaurants, only one of which was open. The more casual of the two. Nice spot outdoors. Lots of spacing between tables. Everyone wore a mask. Unfortunately for me my main course was inedible. Grilled octopus on mashed potatoes. The octopus was a Goodyear retread tire. Almost impossible to chew. I rarely have an experience like this, and never in Italy. So I sent it back and got chicken. Susan and Gary got the Branzino cooked in a pouch which they loved. So, it was a mixed result. I might also mention, this restaurant was EXPENSIVE. 

Monday, Susan’s birthday. And today was to be her day. Beautiful sunny weather but would be hot. We had breakfast outside under the trees. Near our dinner spot from last night. They’ve got loads of help here, so service was great. Not always experienced, but always someone there. I had scrambled eggs. There was a big buffet but they had to serve us. Buffets aren’t allowed since Covid. Luther had smoked salmon. There were croissants and bread and butter, yogurt, freshly squeezed OJ. Eggs, any way. Just fine.

Outside dining area. Breakfast and dinner.
Outside dining area. Breakfast and dinner.

We left after breakfast and headed for the beach. Castiglione della Pescaia is the pretty town nearby. We drove through, turned towards the beach and ended at a dead end. Finally extricated ourselves and headed down the main highway that parallels the coast. We drove through a big park. It was a huge forest of umbrella pines. Quite amazing. Campgrounds were in and among the trees. At the end, I saw there was a town called Marina di Grosseto. I peered down the first road we came to and I saw umbrellas and a big parking area under the pines. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth we parked and walked to the beach. Tre Stelle, a little Bagno, or beach restaurant with its own umbrellas out front. We rented two, and four chairs and even finagled towels. The beach was beautiful. Maybe 40% full. Lots of empty chairs. And all the umbrellas were well spaced with at least six feet between them. Felt very safe. Nice breeze. Susan got her birthday wish to sit on the beach, go in the water. I did too but since I had no suit I got my pants good and wet but didn’t swim. The water was a perfect temperature.

Our beach.
Our beach.
Our beach.

After a few hours enjoying the beauty. We headed back to Castiglione della Pescaia. We had reservations at Bagno Tito. Right on the beach. We found a free on-street parking place and walked to the beach. Just 3 blocks. It was a really nice little beachy place. We sat under umbrellas on the beach. The food was good enough. Not great but fine. We had nice local wine. A nice breeze. What else could you wish for.

Lunch. Bagno Tito.
The view from our table, right on the beach.
Luther got Alici…fresh anchovies. Cracked pink pepper cornes perked it up.


We visited the local Coop grocery store where we bought food for a picnic in the room. Then, back to the hotel for showers and a nap. The picnic was fun. Nice conversation. Later, Luther and I sat outside while he smoked a cigar. I listened to the night noises. Owls maybe? Or small creatures? Horses neighing. Long soft sunset like we get during the longest days of summer. 

Tuesday — We met for breakfast at nine. More scrambled eggs with salmon. A good breakfast. We had to get out by ten because we had an appointment to taste Bolgheri wines an hour away, up the coast. A place called Fornacelle.  As always it was a wild goose chase to find it but we persevered and with the help of google maps finally found it. These wineries are all on the flat lowland between the beach and the bluff rising to the mountains. And the area is networked with little one lane roads. 

Our hostess, Sylvia, was a member of the family which owned the winery. A small operation. She showed us the cellaring room with the oak barrels. And an art installation along with art upstairs in a gallery. They use this on their labels. We finally settled on a pretty patio outside to taste. We had a 100% Vermentino Zizzolo white, a 100% Semillion white (aged in oak), a Rosso Zizzolo blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. These two are named for a small fruit tree which produces an apple-like fruit. They had a tree next to the patio. Next we tried a Red made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. And finally a 100% Cabernet Franc called Erminia. This last one was a beautiful wine. My favorite. She brought crostade with their good oil. A very fun tasting which lasted longer than expected. We had a second appointment but couldn’t keep it and make our lunch reservation.

The cellar.
Zizzolo tree and fruit.

Next few are of the patio where we tasted the wine and some of the wine bottles we tried.


Off we went to Agriristoro La Cesarina. Another exciting adventure in tiny one lane roads, eventually going up the bluff to the top where the restaurant was situated. What a view. Small, casual, place. Obviously their home as we interrupted their lunch. The whole family was there. Turns out Nonna was the cook. Very traditional Tuscan cuisine. But all good. We had antipasto for all four of us plates of meats with melon, cheeses with figs and fig jam. Bruschette – red pepper and liver. All good. Then we had main courses. All the choices were very long cooked meats. A roast pork with carmelized onions. Roast cinghiale, roast beef. Everyone liked theirs. The wines were Bolgheri wines and good.

La Cesarina dining area.
La Cesarina dining area.
The view.
After lunch digestivo. Anise and something else I couldn’t place.

Driving home was another hoot. Up and down the mountains through the valleys. But we got home in time for Susan’s conference call.  
We again gathered for snacks. Watermelon, a little cheese was left and some mortadella.

I rose a bit early and tried to sit outside but the humidity has risen and there are millions of gnats and tiny bugs. So I had to retreat. I did take a shot of the long morning shadows which I thought was pretty.

We breakfasted and got on the road. Home in 2 hours 10 minutes.
~~~~~~~

Impressions for our first trip. Restaurants were generally doing well with good distancing. Bagno Tito, the beach restaurant had no paper towels. That was bad because after you wash your hands you don’t want to touch handles etc. All other places had immaculate and fully equipped bathrooms. The hotel was very nice, clean and had great beds and linen. No worries there. The two beaches were sparsely populated and all umbrellas and chairs widely spaced. Unless in the great out of doors, everyone wears masks. So I’d give Italy an A.

During the trip we saw 2 German tags, 3 Swiss, 1 UK, 2 Monaco, 1 Lichtenstein, 1 Netherlands, and one Austrian. Every other tag was Italian, so Italians far out numbered everyone else, very few crossing the borders.

~~~~~~~
I see things aren’t going so well in the US. The EU decided not to let travelers from the US into Europe. The benchmark scientific metric used was new cases over the past two weeks per 100,000 people. The average among the 27 European Union countries was 16 in mid-June; in the United States, it was 107.
Please everyone, wear your masks when not in open countryside. It would slow the virus to a crawl and the economy could come back without drastic shutdowns. It’s really not hard…I hate the masks, but I wear them.🌈

Road trip!

So, tomorrow we are off on our first excellent adventure since total lockdown here in Italia. A heady time! Also, a little nervous-making. 😳  But you have to put your toe in the water sometime as I say.

Today was all about packing, ironing, doing last minute errands, and buying picnic stuff. All of which we have finished. We also went out for an apperitivo at Bar Mary. Almost all the tables were taken. We sat at a table next to a guy alone at another table. Heard him talking, British. But I recognized him….then I finally got it. Ralph Fiennes. I knew he had a place here in Umbertide but never I had actually seen him. Wow. I had a drink next to Lord Voldemort! 😳
 
I have friends who are avid bikers. They took this picture on their recent ride. One million happy Umbrians – thanks James and Virginia Lupori!

January 6 – Epifania

The Feast of the Epiphany commemorates the arrival of the Three Kings in Bethlehem when the Magi came bearing gifts for the Christ Child. This festival marks the end of the Christmas season.

We were invited to visit friends who live in Florence to see the Cavalcata dei Magi. Riders on horseback, knights, ladies, soldiers, peasants, drummers and flag throwers wind their way through the historical center of Florence. This Cavalcade has been celebrated since the 15th century. The costumes of beautiful silks and velvets are inspired by the famous fresco, “the Procession of the Magi” by Benozzo Gozzoli in the Palazzo Medici Riccardi.

It was a beautiful day. Cold and crisp. We walked to the Pitti Palace where the procession begins. We were there about 20 minutes early and got to stand right in the front but we had to defend our territory against many front row wantabes.

Of course I took a lot of pictures and these costumes are so amazing it was hard to narrow it down. So bear with me and scroll through, peruse as you like and try to picture this same parade happening 600 years ago!

First I will show the many banners that  represent the Contrade, or neighborhoods of Florence.

The bearers of the gifts.

The three kings.

The procession of lords and ladies in beautiful costumes!

This one intrigued me. This proud looking woman walked with her right hand extended and upraised as though being escorted by an invisible person. Why? Was she a proud widow? I don’t know.

Now come many soldiers, flag bearers and probably important men.

These are the Falconers with the amazing raptors!

Now the archers…

Peasants…

And finally a couple of pictures from the beautiful property where our hosts live. it is south of the Arno but easy walking distance to all the sights.  It must be 5 or more acres of lovely gardens. With a view of Florence from the top that is spectacular.

Greek trip – part IV

Links to all parts of the Greek trip

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV

~~~~~~~~
Wednesday July 31
Arrived in Patmos at 8AM. Another sunny, hot day. We planned a down day today. Breakfast at nine. I had chocolate banana pancakes. A rare indulgence for me. Then we kicked back for a couple hours and headed into Patmos to explore the small town of Skala. And find lunch. I should mention the island of Patmos is famed because John is reputed to have written the Bible book of Revelations in a cave here. There were tours up to the monastery and cave.

We took the 11am tender in. This was the first time we used the Windstar tender. A bit choppy but we all got on and off OK. The town was tiny.

Pretty pastels

Main square. I think that’s a palm tree encased in a vine!

Loved this pink vespa! Need one!

We had done a bit of homework on restaurants and we wandered the streets dodging the vespas and motor bikes and cars. Oh and trucks and busses! No real sidewalks. All the recommendations appeared to be closed for lunch. No problem. We stopped for cool drinks on a covered hotel terrace.

Cindy had the prettiest cider which came with apple slices and a cinnamon stick.

My rose.

Then we randomly chose Ostria. It had a pretty covered dining area with trees. After we sat we noticed mostly Greeks eating there which was a good omen.

Our small, old man waiter (maybe the owner?) warmed to us through the meal. At first he tried to sell us the house wine but Luther persisted and we got a nice Greek white. Luther had pork gyros, Bill had pork Souvlaki, I had the pasta di mare, and Cindy had the pasta arrabiatta. Everyone liked their choice. Mine was the seafood and it had big prawns and mussels visible. But under the pasta was a lot more seafood in the sauce. Small shrimp, octopus, clams very yum. It was tomato based. I broke all the Italian rules here. Can you guess what I did “wrong”?
 

We had thick Greek coffee which was much like Turkish but not quite as strong. Obviously made the same way as the bottom was covered with sludge. We had small drinks on the house. A nice lunch for €67 for four with two bottles of wine.

Off to the ship on the tender. Later this evening, after dinner we had a crew talent show. Some were pretty good.
~~~~~~~~
Thursday August 1
Kalomeno. A new Greek word I learned. It means have a good month and is always wished on the first of the month.

Today was Santorini, the fabled, arguably most beautiful of the isles. We learned there would be eight cruise ships here today! Lucky for us most were pretty small. Not the mega ships. Santorini is pretty amazing. We woke up in the Caldera of a volcano, ringed with sheer cliffs. What, at first looked like a dusting of snow on top of the cliffs resolved itself into houses…all white…atop many of the cliffs. The caldera is almost 1,000 feet deep so we can’t anchor and must constantly do some thrust to stay in place. We had booked onto a wine tasting tour. We would have seen very little on our own.

We took the port tender in, a much bigger boat. Then we met our guide and enormous bus. We were only 7 plus one crew member, Jesse, who came along on his day off. Our guide was Irena.

Bus trip up Cliffs of Insanity (you gotta be a Princess Bride fan)

We first visited the most beautiful town of Oia – pronounced ee-ya. It is the one most people think of when they think of Santorini. The one with the blue domes. And sparkling white houses. We disembarked our bus along with thousands of others from other busses. It was pretty awful. I would have turned left rather than right to give the people a chance to move on. But we followed the big tours and had to fight to get pictures from the view points. But I must say, it is unbelievably beautiful and I took quite a few pictures (of course!)

Houses tumble down the cliff. Pristine white. So inviting…

The view across the city

One of the famous blue domes. I Just love that brilliant blue sky against the white.

Main upper square church

Bougainvillea

Famous blue dome

Another down-hill view

Happy Oia cat

Stairs down, down…

Afterwards we met and reboarded our bus. We next visited the wine museum. It was on the estate of the oldest winery on Santorini. We had been passing growing things that hugged the ground which turned out to be the grape vines. They don’t trellis them and we were told they put specially shaped baskets under the vines to keep the grape bunches off the ground. I have to say, I never saw any baskets peeking out of these small bushes. The wine museum was obviously made by the family. Rather crude manikins were in dioramas depicting scenes of the evolution of wine making on the island. We were treated to a tasting of four wines; a white, red, a sweet dessert wine, and a vinsanto. We had a bit of a discussion about this as he claimed the sweet vinsanto was a protected name and no one else could use it. We explained that where we live we have Vinsanto too. The white was my favorite made from a local variety called Assyrtiko.

Next we visited a cooperative making wines from the grapes of about 1,200 farmers. We tasted two whites and a vinsanto. And last a small winery where we tasted a white, rose and a vinsanto. We learned the word for a toast in Greek is Yamas!

View of the caldera from a winery. The island nearest us and to the right is the new dome being formed by the volcano under us.

We bussed to the final stop Firá from which the cable car descends the cliff to the shore where the tenders dock to pick up passengers. We stopped for a subpar lunch and enjoyed the cable car ride down. They are made up of five individual pods that travel together like a train. Each pod holds six. We caught the tender back

Firá above us. See the sad donkeys going up the hill. I hope people will stop using them so they will let these donkeys stop this horrible labor. They are underfed and forced to go up and down this steep hill in incredible heat with little water, carrying heavy people – over and over everyday. 😢

You can walk down the stairs. We took the cable car!

The big port of Firá tender.

Cliffs of Insanity as we leave Santorini. The “snow” dusting the cliff-tops?

Kevin my favorite bar man. Always cheerful. Bad photo, too dark and it’s the only time I saw him not smiling.

Sails going up!
Friday August 2
Last day. Monemvasia.  Sad. We had breakfast and rehashed our trip. We’ve all had fun. We didn’t arrive until 11am so the morning was free. They had demonstrations and tours scheduled on board. I took the galley tour to see the kitchens. It was interesting. All the menus are done by corporate. The head chef just runs the show. He does the final check on orders and oversees. They do the AmphorA main dining room as well as room service 24/7, breakfast and lunch, yacht club functions and also feeding the officers and crew. They have a separate cook for the crew. They are all Asian so they want it spicy! I wish I could eat with them 😕

We arrived at the Rock.

An enormous piece of rock that is compared to Gibraltar. There is a narrow causeway across to the “almost” island. And on the island is one small village. There is a castle up on top of the rock and the village is beneath it. But it is all called The Castle. The village has defensive walls ringing it in. It looks very defensible and it quite unique. We took the tender across and then a bus to the gate.

Just a few pictures of the town. Very different from the white and blue ones from before. Chimney.

12th century church

This is the main square with the church and up above, the castle.

Streets below

Streets

It was already lunch time so we wandered and looked in the shops. Lots of artisans and artists. We chose a restaurant and had a nice lunch. We shared Tzatziki and fava beans on bread. Then I had yet another Greek salad! They are so cool and refreshing in the hot weather. It reached 105 this day!

This cat reminded us all of our childhood cat, Smokey. He was acting hungry but wouldn’t eat beans, yogurt, cheese, ONLY meat. Not really THAT hungry!

View

Fava bean puree, nice and lemony. And Tzatziki, very cooling.

Kanoni, our restaurant. They were very nice.

I was saved by Greek Salads. They were the perfect “go to” lunch in the hot weather.

We bussed and tendered back to the ship. And retired to shower and rest up. I did most of the packing. We had to have the suitcases in the hall by 6:45 AM Saturday. We went up for our final sailaway. We had the music and the “time to say goodbye” song. And we had full sails!

The small town of Monemvasia, also called the castle. You’ll see a castle up above the town but note the walls surrounding it. The whole thing is called The Castle.

We went to the lounge for the Captains farewell address and a briefing by Pavlo for disembarking. All the people who had bought anything in Kusadasi had been entered in a drawing to win a Turkish rug. Well, I won it! I never win anything!

Crew farewell. A great group.

Then we went to dinner which was probably my favorite one on board. I had a seafood chowder and the lobster risotto. Quite good. Up on deck after dinner people were saying good bye to each other and prowling around the ship. It was perfect weather. A light breeze and nice temperature.
~~~~~~
Saturday August 3
Time to say goodbye 😕 Transport to airport in a bus for the 4 or us. Alitalia to Rome and then drive home.

🇬🇷 Trip recap.

  • Sad to say we did not complete the jigsaw puzzle they put out for us. First cruise I’ve been on where it didn’t get done.
  • The weather was hot and no rain at all. It was expected.
  • I was saved by the Greek salads. Amazing, cool and refreshing.
  • I was happy the sails were out all but the second day.
  • I missed Captain Belinda and found Captain Simon aloof.
  • I recognized many crew members.
  • The food was good enough but still not very exciting.
  • The staff was again excellent. It is the best part of the Windstar cruises. I hope Windstar appreciates that their success depends on these hard working and relentlessly cheerful people.
  • We learned 7 Greek 🇬🇷 words. Kaliméra, good morning; Kalispera, good evening; Kalomeno, have a good month; Efcharistó, thank you; Parakaló, you’re welcome; Yamas! Cheers!; Ne, yes.

My Best and worst list

  • Best Greek salad – Athens in Eat with Milton
  • Worst Athens food – rooftop restaurant in St George Lycabettus for dinner
  • Best Athens food – Scala Vinoteca
  • Best shore lunch – Captain’s in Mykonos and Ostria in Patmos
  • Worst shore lunch – Firá Santorini
  • Worst shore food – Ephesus dinner (catered)
  • Favorite stops – Mykonos and Nafplio
  • Least favorite stop – Patmos
  • Prettiest island – Mykonos and Santorini
  • Worst crowds – Ephesus and Oia on Santorini
  • Best cruise ship – Wind Star!
  • Best tours – Athens full day and Ephesus
  • Good thing – private transfers to from airport and harbor
  • Nicest people – all the staff on the ship. The Greeks we met in general were nice folks.

Links to all parts of the Greek trip

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
~~~~~~~~

When I return from a trip I’m normally happy to be home. I was happy to see my cats, who missed us, but I felt very sad the trip was over. That says a lot!

Greek trip – Part III – Kuşadası

Links to all parts of the Greek trip

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
~~~~~~~~~
Tuesday July 30
Kuşadası Turkey. A new continent for me – Asia. And the farthest east I’ve ever been. It was going to be hot!

We got up early and breakfasted and headed down to catch the tour bus to Ephesus. We had a nice guide. Impressions of Turkey were favorable. The city goes up a small mountain and has the name Kuşadası in big letters reminiscent of the Hollywood sign. There are some pretty pastel houses up on the hill that shade from peach to pink, blue, violet and green. We drove out of town and the land was very arid and mountainous around a large flat plain. The plain had been the sea back when Ephesus was a thriving city but the river eventually silted it up. The land is very fertile. Lots of olives and fruit orchards.

We drove up into the mountains and way up on the very top stood Mary’s house – the mother of Jesus. It is said she lived about 9 years here at the end of her life. It is small and stone.

Then we drank from the holy water fountains. I drank the one for miraculous health recovery. Next to this was the wishing wall where people write their wishes down and put them on the wall hoping the wish will come true. We were told they periodically set the wall on fire to send the smoke from the notes heavenward.

We left there on our nice bus and went to Ephesus. Once it was was a city of 300,000 and was on the ocean as I mentioned. It thrived for 1,100 years (from 400 BC to 700 AD) until malaria killed most of the people or they left because of it. It lay buried for over 1,000 years until it was accidentally discovered by people building a railroad in the 1800s. Now it consists of a lot of bits and pieces waiting to be reassembled like a huge jigsaw. There are many parts that are nearly complete. The library is 80% original and is magnificent. They are also restoring the theater which is huge and held 24,000 people. There were a LOT of people here. Crowds. Way more than I expected.

Our guide. He was good.

One big, 3D jigsaw puzzle. Wow.

Original clay pipes carried water. Remember these are from 400 BC!

Unearthed Mosaic. Well preserved because it was buried.

Beautiful details in the next few.

The huge fountain

A little humor. These people didn’t mind not having privacy when going to the bathroom. Literally cheek to cheek. The gutter in front of the toilets had constantly running water in which people washed their hands after wiping…no toilet paper of course.

Finally the famed library.

Beautiful details. 80% original.

The large theater holding 24,000 people.

After that we returned to Kuşadası to the bazaar. Here’s where the trouble started. Windstar has a deal with two shops here. It guarantees the quality and authenticity of the products.

It started out with a demonstration of how they use silk from cocoons to make the thread. It is the second strongest natural fiber after spider web. They boil and soak the cocoons for several days. The woman showed how, with a brush she addled the cocoons which caught bits of silk which she made into a thread with several strands. Then she used a foot petal to roll it on big spools. They showed us the raw silk which is quite coarse and rough. Then they showed the beautiful silk after being treated and dyed. So soft. Next we went to the big carpet room. First they served us drinks and snacks. Turkish coffee and Rakeen a liquore. Or Turkish wine, or tea. Young men then rolled carpet after carpet out. The most beautiful carpets I’ve ever seen. They would spin them and they would transform into a different look. The same colors but much more intense. They were wool, or cotton treated like silk, or combinations or pure silk, even bamboo. I would have bought one but the cats would ruin it.

First she addles the cocoons which have been boiled and soaked for a couple of days.

Then she lifts the brush and several strands of silk have come loose from the cocoons.

Unfinished rug

Rug in progress

Unfurling the rugs. Amazing colors and variations.

We went downstairs where they had jewelry. Uh-oh. Cindy and I both ended up buying jewelry. Beautiful pieces. They treated us to lunch on the roof. Good Turkish kebabs, lamb, chicken, beef. Flat breads, roasted tomatoes and peppers. Rice and French fries. Very yummy. We were kind of a captive audience once we’d accepted lunch so we bought more than we ever would have. But these guys are GOOD. It’s really hard to say no.

Tee hee. In the bazaar.

Colorful stairs

Mosque

We returned to the ship. And relaxing before the big dinner being held in Ephesus in the library. Just for Windstar.

The dinner was in a magical place. Too bad about the food. I guess you couldn’t expect much from catered food. We arrived in six buses at the gate to Ephesus. It was much different from earlier in the day. The sun was still up but it wasn’t hot anymore and there was a breeze in the rows of pines lining the path. Stray dog and cat population was much in evidence. There was an amazingly cute kitten who was so tiny, and so friendly. I could have stuck him in my bag.

We walked up the old roads and got to the Library where they had set up tables seating eight each. We shared with a nice family from Toronto. Mom, Dad, a girl just entering her senior high school year and a boy just starting high school. They were all having fun. I was a little surprised about the kids because there is not a lot to do on the ship. We had assorted appetizers, bread, oil, a fried roll stuffed with cheese and spinach, and a veal stew with veggies. We all had fun feeding the feral cats. There were so many. I guess this is the way they make their living in summer. Heaven knows about winter for them 😢.

During the dinner a string trio played for us. Quite nice. Pavlo, our entertainment director gave a toast from the wall in front of the theater and when we all raised our glasses the lights came on in the ruins. THIS was magical. They were beautiful. And it was a lovely opportunity.

Tables set up in front of the Library

Magic, isn’t it?

Just WOW.

I took a ton of pictures on our way out. Only this one came out.

We returned by bus to the ship at about 10:30 to find all the crew out on the concrete pier with lit candles playing pounding music, and cheering and dancing us back on board. Later we figured out they had had a crew meeting and party. Quite a few of them had had a few drinks. One waiter, who shall remain nameless, was totally bombed. He looked at us with drunken eyes, forgot or got our orders wrong and when he did come with drinks he danced holding the glass high and sloshing half the wine out. He disappeared shortly later so someone must have noticed he probably shouldn’t have been working 😅 . I was amused and happy for them. They work hard and deserve a break. We watched sailaway and turned in.

A fun, if expensive day.
~~~~~~~~~

Links to all parts of the Greek trip

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV