Kaffee Klatch

Little of this, little of that...from an avid coffee lover and wanna-be world traveler.

Location: Houston, Texas, United States

Would knit all day if my fanny and my hubby didn't get so sore.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Italy Redux

Looks like Ted is slated to go back to Italy in 2 weeks. There's no way I could go, but maybe I can live vicariously. He can take pictures everywhere he goes and email them to me each night. I want pictures of the car, each meal, the wine bottle he tastes, the gelato & cappucino. Mmmm...I can smell the cappucino now!

He'll want to take my new camera. Is it worth it? Where's the closest gelato shop in Houston? Closer than Italy, I bet. I actually tried to make a pizza the other day like the one we had in Salice Terme (see Torino Part Duo). I forgot the Gorgonzola...not something I generally have in the fridge. Also found out you should add the raddichio after the pizza's already cooked or maybe the last minute of cooking so it doesn't look like shriveled brown worms. Tasted good, but not like the original. Maybe if I made my own crust...yeah right!

Hopefully Mom can come down and visit while he's gone. She misses the kids anyway, and it'll be fun visiting.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Giornali Milano Finito

April 18

Only one more day in Italia. Can't sleep, can't rest, gotta catch a train! Had seen Sandra the previous night in hotel restaurant and she wanted to trek to Milano with me...brave girl! So we took the bus into Voghera and bought tickets. Luckily the train was 10 minutes late.

Sandra wanted to shop a little, so we headed on foot toward the guidebook's suggestion for inexpensive shops. No Gucci or Ferragamo this trip - ha! We walked for a good 20 minutes and window shopped a bit. But as we neared the shops (at least I think we were near), perhaps she thought we had too much walking still to do, so she said let's see the Duomo.

On the way, we strolled by La Scala, where Salieri (Mozart's infamous rival) reigned supreme and composed the inaugural opera. Next we entered the Galleria Vittoria Emmanuele II, a colossal glass roofed shopping arcade (okay we window shopped a bit more). Lunch at McDonalds was really, really crowded! Then we watched all the soccer fans parading with Italian & Spanish flags (I think Madrid won).

Around the corner, the Duomo soared above the city like a huge wedding cake with hundreds of spires and statues piercing the sky. It was truly the most magnificent sight on the entire trip. And the inside was every bit as impressive, like walking through a forest of marbled columns as large as redwoods.

My main goal in Milan was to see the Santa Maria della Grazie and Il Cenacolo or the Last Supper by Leonardo DaVinci. I knew that you had to order tickets in advance, but just felt I had to try. Miracle of miracles, as we were catching our breath from the walk to the tiny church, someone came up and said (in English, no less) that she had extra tickets for the next showing since her tour group had last minute cancelations. WOW!

We didn't even know if we had time to see it, and the tickets were $20 each for a 15 minute viewing! I offered to buy Sandra's ticket, since I felt she was more dubious than I. So 20 minutes later, we walked through the vacuum-sealed foyer into the darkened room and listened to the guide (an extra from being with the tour group) and watched as the lights came on. It was amazing to see something alive that you had seen in photographs, books, and framed posters your entire life. And that a poorly-done fresco (not even properly prepped) in a tiny monastery refectory has received so much attention all these years. All I can say was it was pretty cool to be there.

While we were waiting to go in, I asked about buses or metro to get back the stazione, so we made it easily to the Metro but how to buy tickets? The information desk was extremely helpful and so was the nice Armani-suited businessman who told us which stop to get off. Took us about 8 minutes to return from our 3 hour walk. Next time, I won't listen to those people who said the metro is dangerous. It was so worth it to get somewhere quickly. I didn't feel any less safe than in the Paris metro.

Ted and I had our own cenacolo at the hotel with a glass of champagne followed by a stroll about town. And at 6:30 am, my driver arrived to deposit me at the airport. Such a relaxing end to a hectic (and self-imposed) schedule!

Giornali Milano Part Quattro

April 17
Bone tired this morning. Looking forward to sitting in the car for awhile. Drove straight to Pisa, where all straight driving ended. We could see the tower, see the signs, but couldn't get to it. Finally found tourist parking and walked onto the Field of Miracles, Campo dei Miracoli.

It was absolutely phenomenal. The leaning tower, the cathedral, and the baptistry. And unlike every other tourist attraction, there was plenty of space so you could see these structures from all views, not crowded around by the city. And the leaning tower leans even more than I thought it would!

The cathedral was very tall inside and out, making it airier and roomier than most, but the baptistry was inexplicable. At first I thought everyone was being SO irreverant, talking so loudly in a place of worship. How rude! When I realized it was the acoustics, I told Ted "Wow, I bet a choir would sound amazing in here". After trudging up more narrow stairs, we looked down over the balcony just in time to see someone sneak under the ropes and stand beside the pulpit, and everyone got quiet. She sang the most simple and melodius tune, almost like a monk's chant. And when she finished, she walked away. As she walked, for 5 whole seconds her voice reverberated around the room.

We shopped a little and got the kids some T-shirts. It was 2:30 or so and we were both tired of pizza and sandwiches, which is mostly what they had within walking distance. Ted wouldn't let me stop and McDonalds outside of town. So instead we ate at the AutoGrill on the AutoStrada near La Spezia. Hamburgers on hard rolls and a salade misto (with anchovies!). I bought some interesting cookies and chocolate for a snack later.

Ted refused to stop as we drove past all the picturesque beaches of the Cinque Terra. Finally, we saw the exit for Portofino and he agreed to get off and drive through (he didn't want to get back to the hotel after dark). We drove up, down and around the twisty roads past the beaches and multi-million dollar estates. There was no place to stop, park, or even turn around. Finally there was a turnoff to go down toward Portofino (which we had driven around so far). So we stopped and snapped some photos, since you can't drive into the town anyway, no cars allowed). Then we continued toward Genoa and then north to Salice Terme.