Framed by entrance to scarf and Internet Phone Center in Tuscany, Italy
Internet connections can be tricky while traveling.
I have just spent 12 days at sea on a Mediterranean cruise (Norwegian Spirit) and have had a difficult time completing blog posts.
First of all, Internet connection time from a ship is expensive and SLOW. At $.55 a minute for the bargain rate and with the slow speed, publishing a new post was just not feasible. Believe me, I tried, but the minutes ticked away too fast.
Logging on to Internet on my Microsoft Surface 2 tablet ate up minutes and connecting to my blog took even more time. I blame this on the Internet access and not my tablet. I did manage to post one picture, but after that, I kept having problems loading the images. I resorted to using the ship’s computer because it was faster, and I could complete basic tasks (Gmail and Facebook checks) much more easily. Blogging was just too frustrating.
Now I am in a hotel in Barcelona with FREE Internet, and already I can see that working on the a blog post is much faster than at sea. I have already easily posted a photo to Facebook and to this draft post.
Second, I am using a new tablet, and I haven’t learned all the intricacies of it yet. The blogging process works the same as on my desktop computer, but it is definitely slower. Add the sensitivity of the touch screen (sometimes too touchy, sometimes not touchy enough), and I had added problems.
I tried to preview this post three times, but no luck. I can’t figure the reason for that.
Let’s hope I can publish what I have written. If you can read this post, I have been successful.
1. Singing with Julie Andrews,”These are a few of my favorite things: Whiskers on kittens…” All kittens as a matter of fact. And all cats, too. Here is a picture of me as a little girl with Thomasoulo, my father’s cat. My Mom told me once when I was a little tyke that I was terribly upset because my little brother, Bobby, was teasing Thomasoula and making him nervous! No. Not sweet little Bobby! Never. He was Mom’s little angel.
2. Checking the flowers that bloom in the spring. It doesn’t matter what kind of flowers, I love them. I think I take after Mom on this one. She had a green thumb and could raise almost any flower. I didn’t inherit her green thumb, but I still love flowers.
3. Singing with the choir at Margate Community Church, Margate, NJ. My husband, Ken, (My-Heck-of-A-Guy) has been singing with this choir for over 35 years. I wandered in with him one day about nine years ago, and they let me stay. We have made some very good friends here.
4. Singing old hymns at church. So many hymns remind me of my growing-up years, sitting next to Mom or Daddy, singing away in the ole Sunday evening hymn sing at Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Mom used to love, “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses.” (“He Walks with Me”) I think of her every time we sing this song in our Margate church. You can listen to it here.
5. Eating out with My-Heck-of-A-Guy and having Cassie and Mandy join us when they can. Cassandra Heck and Amanda Heck are a barrel of fun with their unlimited imaginations and their playful spirits. This is my favorite picture of the two of them together. Don’t you just want to laugh looking at the picture?
6. Seeing new pictures of my grandchildren posted on Facebook. I just don’t see these grandchildren enough because they live in California, Arizona, and Tennesee.
7. Walking on the beach and getting sand between my toes, and then later walking on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ
8. Watching thunder and lightning storms in the summer. These storms remind me of all the times we sat as kids on our old front porch watching the lightning in the distance and waiting for the heavy rain to start. Something about a lightning storm is magical.
9. Traveling to new places with friends. It doesn’t matter where or when, anytime a friend says, “Let’s go,” I am ready. Sometimes we have to wait a bit until our money coffers refill, but that’s okay, we still do it.
10. Looking through old family pictures. I have recently come across a new source for pictures (Ancestry.com, where my cousin, Bill Swartz, posted family pictures from ages ago). I have been posting some of these old pictures on Facebook and playing guessing games with my siblings and their children. Who remembers? This has been a lot of fun.
“These are a few of my favorite things…”
The Last Meow.
Finding good pizza on the Ocean City, NJ, Boardwalk is easy because the competition is fierce.
But many of us have our favorite place: Manco & Manco.
My niece, Lori, who now lives in Sedona, Arizona, managing the Alma de Sedona Inn, asked me to post a picture of Manco & Manco on Facebook. I guess she was a little nostalgic for the ocean breeze, the surf and sand, and the pizzzzzaaaaahhhhh!
Next, Lori asked me to post a picture of an M & M pizza that she could put on her refrigerator at work.
All this talk of pizza reminded me of the wonderful pizza I had in Rome.
Walking near Campo de’ Fiori on a beautiful, sunny, May day, we came to a pizza shop…actually a doorway entrance to a bakery with two standing-only tables outside.
Come on. We’re getting close. I can smell something delicious. Ah, it must be coming from this doorway…
Antico Forno Marco Roscioli, 34 Via dei Chiavari, Rome, Italy. (Forno means oven.)
You buy pizza by the inch (al tagio, by the slice) at forno Roscioli. I ordered “this much,” and the attendant cut off four inches of the margherita pizza, cut it in half, folded it over to make it sandwich-like, placed it in on brown waxed paper, and handed it to me. Delicious. Crispy. Flavorful. Hint of basil. Stringy cheese. Outstanding.
Tutto molto buono!
Wait, here comes another pizza hot out of the oven: pizza with tomatoes, ricotta, and fresh basil. Unfortunately, my four inches of margherita pizza had filled me up, and I couldn’t eat any more.
Here comes another: zucchini and cheese pizza. I think we’d better leave this pizza place! It is all too tempting.
Pizza. Now I’m hungry. Maybe I can sweet talk my dear, darling husband into running out for some now while I plan my next trip to Italy.
Small cities have big imaginations, and Ocean City, NJ (OCNJ) is no exception.
To launch its summer season, OCNJ holds its Annual Doo Dah Parade the first Saturday after Tax Day in April. It’s a
ridiculous fun event not to be missed. We celebrate because taxes have been paid, and summer is just around the corner. “Hallelujah” from us beach lovers.
Doo Dah Parades have a history in other areas of our country (Pasadena, Columbus), but they don’t quite measure up to the Ocean City parade.
The Ocean City
spectacle parade always has several lowpoints highlights. The first is the appearance of a nationally known celebrity as Grand Parade Marshall. In past years, Carol Channing, Mickey Rooney, Larry Storch, Captain Kangaroo, and Soupy Sales have been our esteemed parade leaders. This year, Chuck McCann, TV and stage actor and vocal artist, did the honors.
The second, but most important feature, basset hounds, garbed in their tax season finery, strut their stuff. Well over 400 of these floppy-eared, waddling doggies entertain the crowds as they
meander huff and puff wobble down Asbury Avenue and the Boardwalk. Some bassets sport humiliating outrageous costumes that make them want to run and hide their owners think are cute. Others, rigged up in more sartorial splendor, reign with an air of pomp and cirumstance, all the while looking down their snouts at those lesser-dressed, riff-raff, tag-a-longs. Take a look.
Of course, any parade with 400 to 500 dogs is bound to be a bit chaotic at points, and this
fiasco procession does not disappoint.
And, don’t forget. There are awards: “The Golden Hot Dog” award for local tri-state (NJ/PA/NY) participants and The “Double Doggy Doo Dah Glutton-for-Punishment Award.” How do you get the 4DGPA? Participate in another Doo Dah Day Parade somewhere in the country, and the honor is all yours
besides, no one else wants it.
And there’s more.
People Furry fellows and felines of all shapes and disguises flounce in this parade, too. Every year Sir Rapid T. Rabbit sponsors the annual furry (and a few feathers) critter consortium in the parade. Marching bands and vocalists Riding bands and musical groups roll up the Boardwalk throwing out sounds and love to the crowd. Sometimes they throw Schriver’s, Fralinger’s, and Steele’s Ocean City Salt Water Taffy to the sticky-fingers eager hands of candy-eaters freeloaders parade guests.
If you can’t afford wheels, you just have to do it the old-fashioned way and walk.
And when the parade’s all over, you get to have pizza at Manco & Manco. Okay, so there’s a line. What did you expect? It’s a warm, sunny Saturday in April. There’s been a parade on the Boardwalk. And people are out on the beach sticking their toes in the water. Of course, there’s a crowd…and a line. The wait is worth it.
Oh, I forgot to mention one thing. Dogs are not allowed on the Boardwalk.
What’s your favorite kind of parade?
Michelle Post of the Press of Atlantic City picked up my earlier blog post about my brother, Adam Kroelinger, 78, of Vineland, NJ, and wrote an article about him which can be found here: http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/press/cumberland/vinelander-and-blind-an-adventurer/article_185bc54e-c87c-11e1-9b72-001a4bcf887a.html
Last week while cleaning out a closet, Adam found a box of pictures and asked me to go through them with him. In the box we found pictures from his ski trip to Alaska in 2003. Here’s how it all started.
On occasion, my siblings (nine of us) and our spouses gather from various parts of the country (New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, California, Oregon) for a family reunion cruise. On our cruise in 2002, Adam walked the promenade deck early every morning for about an hour. On the first few days of the cruise, another family member walked with him, but soon he became oriented to the ship and felt confident enough to walk by himself. He always used his cane, so people were aware of his vision problem and were always willing to assist him if he needed it.
One fellow passenger struck up a conversation with Adam and told him about Ski for Light, an organization that sponsors cross-country ski events and camping/hiking trips for (VIPs) visually impaired and (MIPs) mobility impaired persons. That was all Adam needed to hear. “I can do that!”
When Adam finished fighting with the pirates on board ship (he outsmarted them), he started planning his first ski trip.
Six months later, Adam flew by himself from Philadelphia to Anchorage, Alaska, (thanks to the airlines for their excellent assistance!) and met members of the Ski for Light organization at the Alyeska Ski Resort. They paired him up with a sighted cross-country ski guide, and off he went.
Ski for Light also arranges ski trips for MIPS (Mobility Impaired Persons) using specially-designed ski-chairs.
A poster hanging on the wall of the ski resort said it all: “If I can do this, I can do anything.”
“Yep,” says Adam, “that’s exactly right.”
Since that trip, Adam did a second ski trip in Wisconsin and later a hiking trip in Colorado. And tonight as we talked about the trip he said, “That hiking trip was really fun. I think I’ll do that again.”
Now that’s positive thinking. How many 78-year-old men do you know that want to tackle the hiking trail?
I think the Atlantic City Press is going to hear more about this intrepid adventurer.
Look for more Ski for Light stories on their Facebook page.
Twelve kilometers away from Poggibonsi, the medieval fortress town of San Gimignano stands regally on a hill, preserved through the centuries. Its historic towers, dating from the 1200s, can be seen from a distance. Walk through its gates and walk into another world, another time.
Originally a small Etruscan village (200-300 BC) named Castel di Salva, San Gimignano was renamed after Bishop Geminianus sometime after the 6th century. One story reports that the bishop, outfitted in shining golden armor, came riding into town out of the thick and swirling valley mists, terrifying the Goth invaders who took off without a fight. For saving their town from these evil ruffians, the people adopted his name and his patronage. They were to call on him in prayer and penance years later during many more bad times.
Medieval times were hard times. Not only did the people have to worry about those Goth and Lombard invaders from the North, their own internal struggles kept them in disarray. Warring factions, the Guelphs (who supported the Pope in Rome), and the Ghibellines (who supported the Holy Roman Emperor), competed for power. This serious religious/political rivalry started in 1215 and took centuries to resolve.
Powerful families in San Gimignano, the Adringhelli (Guelph loyalists), and the Salyucci Family (Ghibelline devotees) built towers, not only for defense against outside invaders, but also from each other. The towers also served as repositories of their great wealth and as symbols of their political power.
A great wall surrounds the entire town, and tall gates at the Porta San Giovanni guard the entrance.
San Gimignano was conveniently located on the ancient Via Francigena, the route faithful pilgrims followed when traveling from France to Rome to pay homage to the Pope. San Gimignano became an important respite for the travelers from thieves and other troublemakers who roamed the countryside. Exhausted pilgrims and traveling merchant-traders spent the night inside the safety of the town’s walls before continuing their journeys the next morning.
The city was prosperous until a series of plagues in 1348, 1464, and 1631 repeatedly decimated its population. San Gimignano fell into further economic decline when the route to Rome bypassed the city, a result of neighboring Florence’s punishing powerplay.
Travel mate, Christine (right), checks a cistern which collects rainwater drained from the rooftops. We can imagine the daily gathering of people at the cistern, gossiping and trading news about the latest events. They probably talked about the ongoing rivalry between the Pope and the Emperor and wondered when it would all end.
The steps of the church in the Piazza Del Duomo invite people to sit and rest for a while and people-watch. The Cappela di Santa Fina is located inside the Duomo, dedicated to a fifteen-year-old girl.
For the religious faithful, San Gimignano had its patron saints. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, author of Italian Days (1989), tells of Fina del Ciardi (1238-1253), a girl born of noble parents who became a patron saint and was venerated in this walled fortress city.
One story goes that Fina, at the tender age of ten, accepted an orange from a young man, and guilt-ridden, she fell ill and didn’t move for five years, praying continuously. Another report says that she was stricken with a serious illness, possibly tuberculosis/osteomyelitis, that paralyzed her.
At her death at age 15, yellow pansies suddenly bloomed profusely and angels rang the church bells. Reports of miraculous healing attributed to Fina occurred, ensuring that she would be remembered and venerated for a long time. To this day, an annual celebration occurs on March 12, the anniversary of her death, and the day yellow pansies bloom.
Two frescoed panels by Florentine Renaissance master Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1475, in the Cappella di Santa Fina depict her story
From these same church steps, The Palazzo del Popolo, the town hall (1238-1323), can be seen on the right.
Dante Alighieri (1261-1321) poet, author of the Divine Comedy, and a Guelph, visited here and encouraged the people to support the the Pope in his struggle against the Roman Emperor. Alighieri was trapped on the wrong side of a Guelph internal power struggle and was exiled from Florence in 1302. He wrote Comedia (later named the Divine Comedy) describing afterlife in hell, purgatory, and paradise. Are you surprised to hear that Dante depicted his enemies suffering excruciating pain in hell?
At the highest point in San Gimignano, we find the Rocca, the remains of the city’s medieval fortress and its one surviving tower. Cosimo De’ Medici, the well-known politician (bully) of Florence, had other towers dismantled in the 16th century. Now the Rocco is a lovely public park with fig and olive trees, cobbled walks, quiet places to sit, and spectaular views.
Today, San Gimignano is a bustling town with locals selling wine (Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a white wine), olive oil, colorful ceramics, souvenirs, and ubiquitous postcards. Tourists fill the streets, crowding the alleys and craning their necks to view the remaining towers.
Inger-Anne (below) ponders whether her stash of Norwegian chocolate will really last for the whole week. Maybe we should get a little Italian chocolate to tide us over?
Tourists pack the street during the day but depart for their buses in the early evening, leaving our foursome to wander the alleys in relative quiet.
Restaurants can be found in every piazza or alley and even along the outside city walls.
And don’t forget the gelato. You can find a gelateria in every piazza.
San Gimignano has served as the setting for both novels and movies. E. M. Forster wrote Where Angels Fear to Tread set in the village Monteriano, loosely based on San Gimignano. John Grisham used San Gimignano as the setting for The Broker. In 1999, the film, Tea with Mussolini, in which a group of women saved valuable San Gimignanian frescoes from destruction by the German has scenes from this area. Ann Cornelisen also describes Tuscany hill scenes in her hilarious novel, Any Four Women Could Rob the Bank of Italy.
And now, it’s been a long day. So let’s have some gelato ourselves.
Stop by and visit San Gimignano with Rick Steves.
Ann Cornelison, author of Any Four Women Could Rob the Bank of Italy (1983), details how it could be done while writing a screenplay. But soon the plan becomes a challenge. Will these four women do it? Of course they will.
Will they get caught? Not telling!
This book has been called a “caper-romp” with serious feminist underpinning.
It seems that females are so highly regarded in Italy that they could not possibly be a part of that male dominated group infamously known as “Italian macho mail train robbers.” But really, is that fair? Why can’t women have the same rights as men? As these expat women consider this issue, a daring (and hilarious) plan develops.
When the police search for the male thugs who carried out this highly organized mail train robbery, heisting a huge government payroll in the process, four seemingly innocent expat women stand by and watch. The befuddled Italian carabinieri blunder through irrelevant clues, coming up with frustration and outrageous speculation. Terrorists? Really?
But how can these four women prove their point if the crime is not revealed? Hmmmm. Read the book!
Ann Cornelison moved to Tuscany in 1954. Originally intending to be an archaeologist, she instead became involved in setting up nurseries in impoverished villages in Southern Italy with the Save the Children Fund. Later she moved to Tuscany where she bought a thirteenth-century house, the setting of the women’s crime-planning sessions.
This book is an oldie (1983) but a goodie. You can find it on Internet or in your local library.
Our home away from home: Il Borghetto, a restored villa located between Poggibonsi and San Gimignano in Central Italy.
Il Borghetto, once a part of Villa Pietrafitta, sits atop a hill at the end of a long, winding gravel road.
From the moment we enter through its gates, we seem to be in another world, yet we are close enough to make day trips out to visit Siena, Lucca, Pisa, Volterra, and Florence.
The Bimbi family owns the villa, and they are most gracious, courteous, and friendly to all of the guests. Mamma Silvanna and her assistant chefs prepare outstanding Tuscan specialities for our special candlelight dinner outside under the pergola. On cold and rainy nights, dinner is served in the elegant La Stanza del Duca (the Duke’s Room). For one of the dining evenings, the menu featured a variety of bruschetta, a delicate green lasagna with delicious pink cream sauce, pork loin and sauteed fresh vegetables, and tiramisu and coffee. Patrizia, one of the chefs, offers cooking classes for anyone interested in learning to cook Tuscan recipes.
Il Borghetto staff photo by Il Borghetto.
The scenery around Il Borghetto is incredible. The views from our windows are spectacular, especially in the early morning mists.
Morning mists photo by Christine Kolstad, fellow traveler.
Hiking paths through the olive groves beg to be explored.
One path leads to an excellent view of the medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano, only a forty minute walk down a country lane. (“Tea with Mussolini” was filmed there.)
At the end of our hike, the villa pool invites us to cool off with a late afternoon swim.
All this and we have been in Italy only one day!
Next post: The Il Borghetto Story: Before and After Restoration
Tuscany: a region of Central Italy, formerly a grand duchy (a territory ruled by a duke or duchess); an exquisitely beautiful setting, aloof and apart from the outside world; quiet, serene.
Sounds and sights and scents of a perfect setting command our full attention. My companions (sister-in-law, Carol; niece, Christine; and friend Inger-Anne) want to miss nothing. We gape wide-eyed at everything in sight. We listen. We smell. We touch. We taste.
Variegated patchworks of spring greens cover rolling hills and valleys as far as the eye can see, holding us captive to the beauty of Tuscany.
Yellow, orange, tan, and apricot-colored villas with clay tile roofs crown many hilltops, standing majestically in time.
Symmetrical rows of carefully pruned grapevines line the hills in orderly array, soaking up the warm afternoon sun.
Dusty green olive trees show their new spring-green leaves amidst the dark green of last season, getting ready to produce new fruit.
Climbing white wisteria and light blue flowers of rosemary bushes scent the air, teasing our senses.
Wild cherries beg to be picked and eaten.
Red poppies stand royally among the roadside weeds.
A dusty toad, caught in freeze-action on the gravel road at night, waits for our car to pass to reclaim his territory. (I entertain my friends by slipping into a roadside ditch trying to take this little hopper’s picture!)
Two ring-tailed pheasants run through tall grass in an olive grove, evading our curious eyes and ready cameras.
Our car’s tires (A Mercedes!) crunch and bounce on the rutted gravel road, leaving a trail of flying dust.
We hum as we try to match the sound of our car’s tires on a short piece of pavement oddly interspersed on the long twisting gravel road that climbs to our hill-top villa: Il Borghetto.
Welcome to Tuscany and an adventure in history, culture, and beauty.
Next: A Villa in Tuscany