Category Archives: Travelogues

Tuscany – Day 15

The cloudy start. Photo by Nora.

A cool, breezy, cloudy start turns into a beautiful day. My new workout spot and water bottles do just fine. As I’m finishing up with stretches, BW comes out with his drone to take some aerial shots. Apparently, in one of them a very tiny me is doing a split-leg forward fold.

The villa from above. BW is at top of the stairs, guiding the drone. Nora’s near the bottom of the stairs in split forward fold.

Everyone’s up and about, the daily cleaning crew’s on the job. I place a few more puzzle pieces before heading up to change.

Jason, BW and Kayla are heading out maybe to see a nearby ghost town, and a dome of some sort. I’m going to work awhile, and Kat wants a day at home. When I join her, there’s a bit more puzzling and hanging out time with the best dil in the history thereof and my youngest grandkid.

Then the gang’s back with stories of skinny, bumpy roads, going off road, amazing views and vineyards. They skipped the ghost town this trip. Lots of lots of pictures to show off—and lunch happens. Kayla makes a very pretty cheese board—just the thing!

The gorgeous day. Photo by j a-b.
A dome. Photo by BW.
Snapping the vineyard views. Photo by j a-b.
Photo shoot. Photo by j a-b.
Change of photographer. Photo by j a-b.
Grapes on the vine. Photo by Kayla.
Kayla’s new charcuterie creation. Photo by Kayla.

More game playing, more puzzling. How about a Bellini—don’t mind if I do.

Maybe a little more work since the puzzle’s reached the point of the all white llama and it’s making my eyes cross.

Getting closer… Photo by Kayla.

When I start to shut down, the screen freezes. It won’t let me save the work, won’t let me back up the work, won’t even let me just exit. SHY-OAT! (Griffin’s work for SHIT!)

But who is right here but my personal IT whiz. And Jason saves the work, my nerves and the day. Whew.

Kat and Jason are taking dinner orders, going to the market, getting take-out. Since Griffin has no interest in going with them, he stays back with us. Kat is his person, so it’s a very good thing she can go off without him.

One view in Barberino. Photo by Kat.
Another view in Barberino. Photo by Kat.

At some point he surfaces from his video and asks: Where’s Mommy?

Kayla says: Oh, she’s at the store. She’ll be back.

He accepts, and also accepts her challenge to a race.

We have many races and chases and jumping and hiding. Kayla becomes his person, and when she says she’s going in for water—and because the bugs are devouring her—he just takes her hand and says: Go back.

This doesn’t mean, in Griffin-speak, go inside. It means go back to what we’re doing, sister. Which is racing.

I get water for both my grandbabies.

She does manage to sneak off after a bit, and I become his person. And that person’s grateful he’s tired of racing so we can play other games. Sit on the grass and pick clover, crumble dry leaves. I catch on to the new Breezeway Game where he stands on one side of the glass, positions me on the other, and we put our faces close, laugh and squeal, then switch places. And do it again. And again.

Jason and Kat are back with food. We’re trying a hot dog for Griffin who is very picky about hot dogs. The first hot dog he ever had happened to be organic, and he very much liked. Jason picked up Oscar Meyer thereafter, and the boy was like: What is this? Are you trying to poison me? I don’t believe this dog was organic—and had cheese inside.

He was just fine with it.

We’re all just fine with our choices, and finish up right before the glory of the sunset. The best one yet. A long slow drop of the sun behind the western hills, a long, long spread of rosy light along the horizon, and such a lovely glow in the sky.

Sunset, Jason edition.
Sunset, Nora edition.
Nora capturing the sunset. Photo by j a-b
Post sunset glow, BW edition.

Even after the sky goes dark, that thin line of rose holds and holds.

This morning I grab a sweater before I come down—good thing as it’s another cool start to the day. There’s a blue, cloudless sky, and hammering down where Chain Saw Man is doing whatever he’s doing. A dove calls, insistently.

I don’t know what plans—if any—there are for today. Well, I plan to do a little laundry after I work out. I need Kat—who’s already done some—to show me how to work the washing machine. Other than that, we’ll see what comes.

Nora


Today’s #randomkatness (or the many skills of #katgyver)

Kat’s whetstone. Photo by Nora.

Tuscany – Day 14

The clouds roll in, roll out, then in again while I work out. The temperature’s dropped easily twenty degrees. Those clouds thicken so the sky’s layered with gray clouds. The rain comes.

After my workout, I find most of the gang in the kitchen. Kayla reports seeing a tree fall, so now we know Chain Saw Man’s direction. He was busy yesterday, and I hear clunking down there this morning.

Cloudy expanse. Photo by BW.

There’s some MindCraft with Griffin and his iPad, then some Mario Cart in what we’ve sort of made the game room. Kayla lets Griffin design her race car, so she ends up with an egg cart with rainbow wheels. As Griffin says: It’s so cute! And she’s victorious!

I do a little puzzling as the rain comes and goes.

It’s time for Kayla to make her boyfriend’s family’s Italian Eggs. I elect myself official photographer as she follows the instructions from the video step-by-step. It’s a fun breakfast/brunch/lunch dish. She does a fine job, and shares with BW and Kat.

[Please note, here in the Command Center, I guessed at the captions/steps. Any errors are on me.]

First, the bread. Photo by Nora.
Sous chefs at the ready. Photo by Nora.
Eggs in pan. Photo by Nora.
Add the latte. Photo by Nora.
Soaking up the egs. Photo by Nora.
The delicate flip. Photo by Nora.
Finita! Photo by Nora.
Grandda and Kayla approved. Photo by Nora.

And all approve.

Kat adds a tomato and basil to hers when she comes in after finding a four-leaf clover. Wherever we go, if there’s grass, Kat will find four-leaf clovers.

Kat’s additions. Photo by Nora.

During afternoon puzzle time, Kayla makes a lovely charcuterie.  Also delish.

Kayla’s creation. Photo by Kayla.

There’s puzzling, reading, gaming, lazing through an off and on rainy day—and one where Kayla and I put on hoodies. It’s really cool, Laura, I swear! [Ed note: Laura has her doubts, but will put them aside for now.]

I give Kayla her choice of vegetarian rice dishes I figure I can make here. She stops me at number one. Spanish beans and rice. Okay then.

It’s kind of fun hunting through the spice cabinet to see if I can translate or recognize. Then a list of what else I could use, if available at the local market.

The pool area. Photo by BW.

And back to puzzling. We’re making progress on a puzzle that’s harder than it looked. A little pool time for Kat and Griffin. I’m delighted he’s really enjoying the pool.

Thank goodness, not a cupcake in sight. Photo by Kayla.

Sun’s out, time for the market. Back at the ranch, I gather and begin to prep. Which means opening a bottle of red—for the pot and the cook.

And going out and cutting some flowers for our table. Pretty!

From the garden. Photo by Nora.

Today I try a cleaver I find in the drawer. Surely this will be sharp. But no. Once again, Kat becomes KatGiver and hunts up a sharpening stone from the wild. She will take care of this issue.

Jason serves as sous chef when needed—BW makes a pot of plain rice (here Kat is unschooled as she grew up with rice cookers, and was sincerely shocked years ago when she learned I didn’t have one.) The plain rice is to sustain the rice-eaters as we go.

I chop, mince, sauté. It’s interesting that the beans come in boxes, not cans. Easily biodegradable/recyclable boxes. Nice touch. And they found Tabasco at the market! Score.

A pot full. Photo by Nora.

I have BW taste—the rice in my dish is not yet cooked. My fault for following a new-to-me recipe (Mine’s at home and not in my memory bank) and putting the whole thing on the lowest setting after it’s all together. I figure the lowest setting on this range means it can keep a dish moderately warm for days.

I turn it up.

Table gets set, bread sliced, the pasta from last night in a bowl for me—the non-rice eater.

Beans & rice a la Nana. Photo by Nora.

And a fine meal is had.

No sunset to follow as the clouds are back.

Proof of clouds. Photo by Kayla.

The men are left to clean up as it’s racing time,  and Griffin discovers a new, LONGER route. We chase over the grass, over the terrace, through the open doors of the breezeway, onto grass, around the villa, down the steps. And back.

Many times to his great delight.

We have a jumping game, with turns. He’s getting good at the concept of turns. Kayla’s turn, Griffin’s, Mommy’s, Nana’s.

Somehow he and Kayla become a team, and she teaches him to crouch down by the corner of a wall, then they can jump out and scare me and Kat. Then Griffin yells RUN!! Many times. Hide and Seek, more racing. Many times. Then more times, until Kayla begs for a water break.

The men, who’ve done a fine job cleaning the kitchen, declare tomorrow is take-out day. Fine with me.

This morning is very breezy. Hoodie time on the terrace. I have no idea what Chain Saw Man is building, but no saw today. Just the sounds of clunks and clinks.

Lots of clouds over hill and valley, but some long blue stretches and the light and shadows are just lovely. It may rain so we’re likely to have another day at home—all good. If too breezy and rainy, I may set up and work a bit inside, find a good spot for that.

Right now it’s quiet—I may be the only one up. I have to decide where to get my workout on.

Nora.

Tuscany – Day 13

A full house for awhile with the cleaning crew and the gardener. I got an earliest start experimenting with water bottles as free weights. Not bad—but the big still water bottles are a little wide for smallish hands. Have to modify some lifts because I can’t get a solid grip for things like upright rows.

Early start, early view. Photo by Nora.

Next round, the slimmer sparkling water bottles.

I expect the quiet man who came to water the plants wondered what the strange woman was doing playing with big-ass water bottles on the lawn. But he made no comment.

Kayla and BW take off for the village with the many towers. [Ed. note: San Gimignano] Jason, Kat and Griffin will meet them. I opt to stay home, avoid the very real possibility of car sickness due to snaky, windy roads.

Before too long things get pretty quiet around our Italian homestead, so I set up to work.

While I do, the two groups meet up, explore the medieval village—I can see the towers from where I sit. Jason and Kayla climb the many, many, MANY steps to the bell tower. I’m told you’d think you were at the top, but no. More. Then ladders. But they reached the top and got their reward in the view.

La Torre Grossa. Photo by Kat.
A view from the top of La Torra Grossa. Photo by Kayla.
The wide view of the town. Photo by j a-b.
Mind your head. Photo by j a-b.
A girl and her uncle. Photo by j a-b.
The way down. Photo by j a-b.
J & Kayla are up on the right. Photo by BW.
Piazza della Cisterna. Photo by a stranger with Jason’s phone.
He just can’t help himself. Photo by BW’s phone.

Kayla wore shorts—short ones—so had to don a kind of clear plastic skirt provided at the church for entering. Apparently Griffin was disturbed by this. I might have been, too.

They have lunch. I have chips while I work. If I’d had Cheez-It’s it would’ve been just like home.

Non Cheezit lunch. Photo by j a-b.

It’s hot. I like the heat so it doesn’t really bother me, so I’m surprised to learn it hit 101.

Just as I decide enough work a strong wind comes up. Feels like a change is a’coming.

The gang returns with many pictures and stories about steps, a toy store full of toy weapons (!), crystal staffs, armor, steep hills.

Images from inside the Duomo in San Gimignano:

Photo by Kat.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by BW.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by Kat.
Photo by Kat.
Photo by j a-b.
Photo by Kat.

A brief respite before all but BW and I head to the near village and the grocery store—which was, it seems, packed and confusing. Now we have fresh Italian bread (for the upcoming Italian Egg Breakfast), and plenty of supplies. This includes rice as Kayla, Kat and Griffin yearn for rice. I am not a fan myself, but know how to make many dishes that include it.

Head in a niche. Photo by Kayla.

For tonight, I’m going to make a pretty simple pasta—oil and herbs. We’ll have a salad and garlic bread. It takes no time to discover the knives are pretty dull, the range top complicated, and we have no garlic press.

But we work it all out.

Boil pasta (reserve a good cup of the water before draining), thin slice some garlic and sauté in olive oil—add a pinch or so of crushed red pepper. I have the rosemary bush, and there’s potted basil in the kitchen. Oregano in the spice drawer. Drain the cooked pasta, dump into skillet with the garlic and oil, add herbs, salt, pepper. Let it sauté a minute or two. Add pasta water and simmer and stir till it absorbs.

For the garlic bread I basically mince and squish the garlic because no press.

And the oven, we discover, has no setting for broil. It has one for grill, Jason tells me, so we try that. Does the job.

Table set by many hands, citronella candles the gang picked up at the store lit. Let’s eat.

Despite the strangeness of the kitchen and tools, we have a good meal.

Finished product. Photo by j a-b.

Gelato to follow. I can’t manage it tonight, but I’ll dig in later.

No racing tonight. Griffin takes to the pool instead with his mom.

When I walk down, I can hear him enjoying it before I see them. And when I do, Kat—who’s a smidge or so shorter than me—says she’s standing on her toes as the pool’s a steady five feet. But it’s fun anyway, and breezy.  It’s not heated, so they may be the only ones to take a dip. Even baking all day, the water feels pretty chilly when I stick my hand in.

Chillaxing in the pool Photo by Nora.

I am seriously not a fan of ‘bracing’ pool water, and can have my fun watching others splash around in it.

And here’s the sunset. We enjoy it tonight from the lower terrace just above the pool.

Day is done. Photo by Nora.

A little puzzle time, then bed.

Chain Saw Man’s busy again today. And it’s much, much cooler.

I think I’ll work out on the grass by that lower terrace today—little change of scene.

Nora

Tuscany – Day 12

My first full workout in a week! Toe’s still a bit swollen, but coming right along. Fun to work out on the grass, with the Tuscan hills as a backdrop. My companions are stirring, getting breakfast, morning conversations.

The sun shifts, so I shift the monitor back into the shade.

It seems a fine day to set up at the terrace table and work a bit. At some point Kat—maintaining her crown of best dil in the history of dils—stealthily slides a little bacon sandwich toward my elbow. (Very careful not to make eye contact!)

Opening scene accomplished!

Hydrangea display. Photo by Nora.

Kayla’s hungry, so I demonstrate, step-by-step—how to scramble a couple of eggs. Apparently, I have a special touch with this cuisine basic (or everyone claims I do.) And veggie girl enjoys breakfast for lunch (or any time at all).

Time for lazing around. Kayla’s going down to the pool, Griffin’s playing trucks, Jason’s doing a crossword. And someone has the bright idea of making frozen margaritas. We happen to have what we need, including a blender.

It’s a very strange multi machine, and takes some doing to find the base, figure out how to work it. It’ll also juice the limes!!! This is an amazing contraption, even though Jason has to look up some of the instructions on-line.

The complete set up. Photo by Nora.

This becomes a group project. And we are very self-congratulatory when it all finally works.

Now to blend. Photo by Nora.
A Girl and her Margarita. Photo by Nora.

More pool time for Kayla, and I think I hear her talking to her boyfriend. His family made us a video for their famed Italian Eggs. This will be on the menu later this week.

“How shall I put the elders to work?” thought the young one. Photo by Nora

Kayla and Griffin play an outdoor jumping game, with her subtly teaching him about taking turns.

It’s very hot, tipping at about 100, and the mosquitos are hungry. They seem to enjoy Kayla’s sweet blood in particular.

Griffin and I have a racing game in which he’s changed the rules so it’s more like Tag. I’m game. Kayla and Mommy must join in. Then it’s Hide and Seek. Griffin tends to hide in plain sight, but we play along. Now Daddy must join in. Shortly it’s back to racing—wherein I go in to make myself a drink—and Grandda enters the field.

Nothing like a happy, energetic kid herding a group of adults.

Immersed in conversation. Photo by Nora.

Inside awhile, maybe we’ll start the llama jigsaw puzzle. Daddy and Griffin continue to race. I think the game has many varieties when it’s down to two players.

Puzzle time! Photo by Kayla.

Plans for dinner are:

Jason, Kat and Griffin will go into the village, scout out menus. I’ll make a salad.

Yet another mission accomplished so we sit out at our long table, enjoy the easy meal at home. Plans formulate about visiting sites, taking a day trip to Pisa to see the tower.

We watch another beautiful sunset.

The final rays of the day. Photo by BW.
Post sunset glow by Nora.
In the secret competition held in Laura’s head, Kayla won Sunday’s sunset shot. It’s the small things that entertain, right? Photo by Kayla.

More puzzle time, then off to bed.

This morning while I sit out, catching up on the world with my iPad, I hear a chainsaw running from down in the valley. Sound really travels here. It’s six a.m., so someone got working early.

Since I’ve heard the saw on and off, and the sound of wood thumping together. I can’t spot the busy beaver down there, but somebody’s building something.

I’m going to gear up and work out—maybe use a couple of big water bottles in addition to my bands for resistance work. Could be another work-for-a-couple-hours day (or not). It’s so wonderful just sitting here in this spot, looking out at the dusty green, muted golds, the so distinct rows in vineyards, the silvery green of olive groves. I like the gentle roundness of the hills—they’ve been here a very long time—and the shapes, also distinct—of the cypress topping them.

I will get a pillow for my butt today—this chair is hard!—but it’s not a tough place to work.

Nora

Tuscany – Day 11

We leave the bustle and color of Florence—Kayla and I with the mountain range of luggage, the others to the car rental—and head to the hills and valleys, the vineyards and olive groves of Tuscany.

Salvatore not only helps haul and load the luggage, but keeps the drive smooth across the Arno and into the countryside. We’ll be early, and our villa not ready for us, but we’ve arranged to meet the rental manager, hang around outside until housekeeping’s done.

Here the land changes, going steep and windy, the narrow road snaking and climbing through pretty villages, the vineyards and hills. Deep greens and dusty ones, splashes of color from flowers. Sun-washed houses with their red tile roofs climbing up the hills.

The narrow road narrows more, winds more, climbs more. Salvatore tells us he’s not sure he’s been to this villa before, but just put ourselves in his hands. So we do.

First view. Photo by Kayla.

And here it is, sitting on its hilltop overlooking hills and valleys. What was once a watchtower, became a home, became a larger home. Sturdy old stone, some smothered in purple bougainvillea, covered brick patios with breathless views. We unload onto the long dining table on the front patio, bid goodbye to Salvatore, and AnnaGloria gives us a tour of the house—two buildings joined by a glass breezeway.

Lots of family living spaces to choose from, and Kayla immediately picks a bedroom in the first section with a beautiful view and lovely windows.

View through the window. Photo by Kayla.

Across the breezeway into the old watchtower and we have more hang out spaces, more gorgeous views, a bedroom on the first level, then up, up the stairs—second and third floor masters to choose from.

I leave this to Kat when she arrives, but think the third for her and Jason—the second steps out on a landing, with steps down, and I wonder about Griffin in the night. Plus the third floor has a huge, gorgeous stone tub, and Kat loves a nice, long bath.

Another view. Photo by j a-b.
The third view. Photo by BW.

We get many instructions from AnnaGloria on how things work before she leaves us. The rest of us are on their way—we need two cars for any serious touring as they’ll be smaller cars and there are six of us.

And here they come just in time to help haul the luggage in—and up! God bless Jason.

Peaceful landscape…but then…. Photo by Kat.
Fleeing the master mower. Photo by Kat.
Racing while mowing. Photo by Kat.

We unpack. Griffin loves a new space and explores it with his trusty lawnmower. Inside, outside, around and about. Any worries I had about the pool here are dispelled as it’s gated off. So is the road, so he’ll be safe.

Kayla changes to lounge by the pool, and I explore a bit more. A HUGE rosemary bush, more flowers, small-headed hydrangeas. Griffin and I have our first race in a week!

Rosa glauca. Photo by Kat.
Bougainvillea. Photo by Kat.
Plumbago. Photo by Kat.
Potted plumbago. Photo by Nora.
Linanthus? Sun rose? Big ass poppies? Command center can’t decide. Photo by Kat.

There’s a lovely rear patio, too, just outside glass doors, and that’s the spot to unwind before the welcome dinner prepared by Bianca.

Boys on a terrace. Photo by Nora.

We eat on the covered terrace, enjoy the local wine with Tuscany spread out.

It’s all just lovely.

It’s so quiet, especially after our time in the city. Just quiet and space and lovely air.

The first of many sunsets over the patio. Photo by Nora.

And a sunset! Gorgeous!

A little game time for Jason and Kayla, with Griffin selecting the competition.

Bedtime.

Winding down. Photo by BW.

Somewhere in the night an animal calls. I thought at first it was Griffin—and discussing with BW just now, so did he. I have no idea—maybe a fox—but it was close, and for a brief time insistent.

This morning, the views remain stunning, and birds call. One of them sounded a little pissed off.

I think I’ll work out outside this morning, and maybe set up right here at the long table on the terrace later to start playing with my book-see where that goes.

It’s lovely to be here.

Nora


And Griffin thinks so too. ~L

Happy Boy. Photo by Kat.

Florence – Day 10

Our last day has a little of everything.

Food, Wine, Art, Shopping, Games and Danger. (Plus I got some cardio in!)

Packing happens. Things are pretty well organized there before most of us head out. Kat and Griffin stay back, and food’s first as Kayla skipped breakfast. So did I, so did Jason.

BW did NOT skip breakfast since Kat made him an omelet. Photo by BW.

We head toward the Duomo as that’s the direction to take for our booking at the Academia.

Down the street. Photo by j a-b.

On the way, we pass celebrations. Music and dancing in the street. I don’t think my toe would appreciate me attempting to dance in the street just yet, but it’s fun to watch.

We spy what looks like sort of back in the way back religious garb. Long black cassocks, frilly white collars. They must be boiling.

As must the guys in military dress uniforms.

Regardless, the mood is definitely happy.

Window art. Photo by j a-b.

We opt for a new place and take a tiny four-top outside. We immediately confuse our server as some are getting margarita pizzas, some are getting frozen margaritas. Some get both. But we sort that all out. I’m for a Bellini, and it’s absolutely lovely.

From there we have a nice view of the Duomo and people out and about.

One of the servers from a place we’ve had dinner a few times spots as he passes by, and says hello. It’s endearing.

The food and drink are just right, and there’s enough pizza for Jason to take back to his family.

Lunch! Photo by BW.
Dessert! Photo by Kayla.

But first he walks us to the Academia. It’s a ways, but so far my foot’s holding up well, thank you.

There are helpers posted along the route to check, to give you direction. There’s a VERY long line for tickets, but Jason’s booked on line, so much shorter lines to get those tickets, to join the next line as we say Caio to Jason and BW, Kayla and I shuffle our way in.

Lots of rather glorious pre-Renaissance altar pieces, icons of the BVM most popular. On and around to more paintings, colors brilliant, some mythological interspersed with religious scenes.

Photo by BW.
Photo by BW.
The Annunciation by del Verrocchio and da Vinci. Photo by Kayla.

We walk through the musical instrument display. Just fascinating. Cellos, violas, harpsichords, hurdy-gurdies—they win my best of show—drums, bells. Music spans the ages.

Viola. Photo by Kayla.
Hurdie-gurdies. Photo by BW.

Down and around through a long display of various busts of Michelangelo, then into the open and the David.

Photo by BW.

He’s just as brilliant as I remember. The size, the scope, the detail. Every muscle, sinew, line and plane so amazingly realized. I think he looks cocky (I got this), and why not as he stands there, confident pose in his vibrant youth.

He dominates here, as he should.

Photo by BW.

We hear a little girl ask her mom: Mommy, why is that man naked?

It’s a valid question, but I think she’s too young to understand he’s naked because he goes into battle with nothing but his sling, his confidence and his faith.

Photo by Kayla.

I love looking at the master’s unfinished sculptures in the hall, how you can see what he started to reveal from the stone. The figures and feelings emerging, but still trapped and waiting.

Back we walk, a good hike. BW spots the shop where, on our first visit years ago, he bought a leather vest—custom made for him in one day. He, of course, still has it.

I spot gelato. SMALL cone this time, and perfect.

Back home, and let the games begin.

Playing with torsos. As one does. Photo by Kayla.

Danger Guy is thrilled. Mario and company navigate the rapids and waterfalls, avoid (or don’t) big fish, pop balloons. Soon, watching isn’t enough, and he leaps into danger, jumping from couch to hassock and back. The distance between increases with the jumps. I must request, for the sake of my blood pressure, they nudge closer.

The game. Photo by Nora.

Daddy spots him. Then, naturally tosses him around, flips him over the shoulder.

Danger Guy is in his element.

Games continue, Jason v Kayla. Kat knits more Knitted Knockers and I catch up on a hard news day back home.

Time for our last dinner at one of our favorite spots. More good food, more good wine (TWO splashes for Kat!) Much to enjoy. We talk plans for our departure, our arrival in our next home. Dessert because why not.

Dinner for BW. Photo by BW.
Dessert! Photo by BW.
A Portrait of La Dolce Vita. Photo by BW.

Home again. More packing and prep before bed.

Now I’ll pull the last of that together, pull myself together. Bags are starting to line up in the foyer. It’ll be interesting, to say the least, to load them all up.

Soon, it’s Arrivederci, Firenze, and onto the next.

Nora

Florence – Day 9

Some mat work on the terrace before getting some laundry going then finishing my Spenser novel. All satisfying.

Random headless torso selfie (as one does). Photo by Kayla.

I start condensing my shopping and manage to cut the bags about in half. More satisfaction.

Then out we go for lunch to fuel up before some target specific shopping. For the second half I’m mostly along for the ride, as my Christmas gift list is complete!!

On our way we spot some writing on a wall. It looks like maybe a poem, by Marie. Jason uses his phone to try to translate. Turns out to be a very angry poem—with lines something like: I want to like you, but I’m full of hate.

Marie had issues.

I thought it was a view of the restaurant next door, then realized it was of the plant (and half of Jason). Photo by Nora.

We decide on our usual piazza and enjoy a meal under cloudy skies. Kat orders her first pizza of the trip (she’s had samples), and wonders why she waited so long. Between ordering and eating, she takes Griffin off for his pre-lunch Stroller Adventure.

Look up! Nora edition. Photo by Nora.

Another school field trip marches and sings its way by. They’re so cute!! And this must be a regular thing. Our waiter remembers us from our last visit, even what table we sat at prior. We must be memorable!

Some of those clouds drip a bit, but nothing major.

Lunch. Photo by BW.
Kayla’s lunch. Photo by Kayla.

Kayla has her I Went To Italy And You Didn’t gifts to scout out for her brothers, and we have a handful of things to get at the market. I also want to buy BW a new pair of sunglasses as part of an anniversary gift—it’s coming right up.

He will deny this, but it is a TRUE FACT. Roughly 30 years ago—that’s three decades—I bought him a pair of Armani sunglasses for some occasion. He still has them. Feel free to state in the comments if you’ve also managed to hold onto a pair of sunglasses for three decades.

There is no prize but your own satisfaction and my sincere astonishment.

They’re still in pretty good shape—though one of the nose things is gone (could be fixed).

So the group hangs together for the first bit.

We find a pair he likes at the first stop. Armani again—the man is brand loyal. Now we’ll see if he can keep them for 30 years.

New and old Armani. Photo by Nora.

Wander on, and Kayla spies something she think Colt will enjoy, and we agree. Wander on, and surprisingly (because he’s tougher) she sees something Logan should enjoy, and we agree.

Mission accomplished!

Signage set in stone. Photo by Nora.

BW, Kat and Griffin have left the field, but we happy few keep going. Jason buys a Birth Of Venus puzzle for the second half of our trip. Fun! Kayla spies a shop with many cute little things. And there we find a #1 trophy for Griffin. At 3 Euro it’s no massive Pitti Palace urn but we hope he’ll like it.

Home again, and the trophy does make Griffin grin.

Foot up for awhile. It really does seem better. I won’t be racing with Griffin for awhile yet, but I do think better.

Griffin wants the TV—which means the Switch. Kat and Kayla accommodate, let him choose the games.

Intense gaming to Griffin’s delight. Photo by BW.

This one?

No.

This one?

No.

This one?

This one.

Baseball—he laughs heartily on outs and strikes. Boxing. POW! Tank battles—and this is entertaining to the point he all but busts a gut at every explosion, and can barely get out his: Try Again.

An intense trio. Photo by Nora.

BW calls our contact for our next home to confirm all arrangements. We learn through her—what our housekeeper had told us (in Italian) that tomorrow is a holiday in Florence. A celebration of its patron saint, John The Baptist. And tomorrow night includes fireworks at the river. Expect a huge crowd.

We will skip the crowd and hope to catch some of the fireworks from our terrace.

We play, read, putz around until about seven then head out for dinner. Stroller adventures include Kat pretending to nearly run into parked bikes.

Selfie with splatter paintings. Photo by BW.

I really want the sea bass. Since it’s grilled, I imagine a fillet. I should’ve known, really it’s not the first time, and I should’ve known. It comes proudly on a plate, head and tail included. No, just can’t. The waiter cheerfully takes it away to remove said head and tail.

It’s lovely, and of course, too much. Big fish! But I can share some with BW.

Another most excellent meal. Kayla heads back with Kat and Griffin, and my guys and I wander back with a planned stop of gelato. I want a small cone, but end up with a medium. It’s so much. And so good. I manage about half of it on our walk home, and still don’t know how BW could finish his and the rest of mine.

Jason got a sensible small cup.

Hang out awhile, discuss tomorrow. Two o’clock tickets to the Academia.

I’m going to try a short cardio workout. My foot seems to do better when I move on it now, so we’ll see. Then it’s packing. Kayla and I will travel to our next destination with the luggage while the others head to the airport to pick up the two cars we’ve booked, then drive to meet us.

I expect we’ll head out to lunch before The David, see some of the holiday festivities and crowds on our last day in Florence. It’s been my third trip here, and I hope to come back again.

Nora


In today’s #randomkatness: hook and address editing.

Florence – Day 8

Morning terrace time for me until our happy group’s ready to head out. Before we do, I walk in our Kat and our housekeeper discussing the dishwasher. This discussion is in Italian on the housekeeper’s part. It’s adorable to watch (even join in a little) as they communicate, or try, in two different languages. With some help from Google Translate on Kat’s phone.

Everyone’s cheerful about it, and somehow the gist of the issue gets across.

We part ways with Kat and Griffin as the rest of us aim for the Duomo. Lots of other people have the same idea, but the line’s not as long—plus it’s moving at a good pace.

Look up! Photo by Kayla.

It’s beautiful, the vivid colors in the stained glass windows, the elegance of marble, the towering ceilings. I imagine attending Mass there would be an experience. The smaller chapels on the sides are closed off to the public right now, and that’s a shame because I remember them as really lovely.

Candles lit. Photo by BW.

I love the look of the groupings of flickering candles, and have to hit BW up for a two Euro coin as I’ve forgotten my little change purse—again—so I can light one.

Soaring ceilings. Photo by j a-b
Altar. Photo by BW.

We leave the flickering light and quiet of the Duomo for the bold sun and crowds. Kayla missed breakfast, so why not think about lunch? Maybe a new place, new area. BW thinks of the area with the carousel, and that could be fun. A text to Kat to give her our direction, and I follow along, as I have no idea how to get where we’re going.

And here we are at the big piazza with its happy carousel and several restaurants to choose from. And here, almost as we arrive, are Kat and Griffin. We choose a big, open-air place and settle in. Our choice bustles with the lunch crowd, with family groups like ours. Kayla spies a huge calzone going by on a plate and wants one for her own. Pizza, pasta, wine, Fantas, water both still and sparkling.

Kayla’s calzone—just sauce and cheese for our vegetarian—is the biggest I’ve ever seen, and that lean, lanky girl does it justice. It’s sort of amazing. And oh, to have that metabolism!

Calzone bigger than the plate. Photo by Kayla.
More sedate pasta. Photo by BW.

We top off lunch with a trip on the carousel. We figure fifty-fifty that Griffin will go for it, but he does, and has a very happy ride with Mommy, with his cousin on a horse behind them.

Grandda captures the fun. Video by BW.
She’s thrilled to pose! Photo by Nora.

As we start to wander back—some for a quick market trip—Kayla reminds me of a very specific shop where she has a very specific gift in mind, so we split off. I have complete confidence in her ability to get us to the shop, then get us home.

It’s not misplaced.

It’s fun to watch her shop as she always has a vision for what the recipient likes, will enjoy, and she finds just the thing.

And look here, another shop just next door. Platform Converse! In we go as this gives Nana a very specific gift for Christmas for her girl. I would also love a pair, but my toe will strongly object to the trying on process. Another time for me. So white platform Converse and a pair of pretty Nike’s will be tucked away in the One More Room until Christmas.

Christmas gift goal met. Photo by Nora.

Kayla sweetly buys her Nana a raspberry gelato. And oh, my, my!

Home again where our gang is spread out through the flat. Foot up while I catch up on what’s happening in the world on my tablet. It’s mostly not good, so maybe I’ll crush some candy instead.

And maybe I’ll just stretch out here while Kat and Kayla (with Griffin an enthusiastic audience) go through many Mario games on the Switch. It’s a happy way to pass a couple hours. To add to the gaming adventure, Griffin likes to climb on the arm or back of the sofa then leap down on it. With sound effects.

Danger is his business.

This gives Nana palpitations, so she stops watching.

Griffin requests toast. Then more toast. Danger is also a hungry business.

Before long, it’s after seven and time to go out and find a spot for dinner. Continuing the danger theme Kat swerves and jiggles the stroller to entertain Griffin while we walk a narrow, empty street toward a piazza.

Danger Guy isn’t happy when we all settle down at a table. What kind of adventure is this??? DG must be on the move! So his partner gives Jason her order, and off they go.

Salads and soups—minestrone—pesto pasta, spaghetti bolognese, chicken parm-and some grilled chicken for the adventuring boy.

Dinner time! Photo by BW.

A breeze comes up, becomes a light wind. And that’s lovely for a solid, relaxing meal.

Now a day of Danger and Adventure has tired DG out. Bedtime, he says, hopefully. As someone who raised toddlers I find it amazing he’s not only willing, but hopeful to call it a day.

His parents take him off to make this happen while the rest of us linger a bit longer.

By the time we get back, Daddy’s finished his part of the nighttime ritual, and Kat’s not far behind. Danger Guy is down and out.

Kat sits and knits. She’s making knitted—soft yarn—breast inserts for women who’ve had mastectomies. [Ed note: for more info go to Knitted Knockers.]

Kayla’s using her phone to research and help plan a weekend birthday trip for her younger brother—Lego Land (Lego World?) in NY. Colt will be 12, and as she says, he never asks for anything. She Face Times him to make sure this is something he wants, so we all get to say hi.

Between FT and texts back and forth with their mom—and to Kayla’s boyfriend who’ll join them—the trip’s planned. The girl is good.

And now it’s bedtime even for those of us who try to avoid danger.

Quiet this morning as Griffin hasn’t yet joined me. It may be that he woke somewhere in the middle of the night and tried to talk his parents into a party. It happens.

Since cardio’s still off the table, I may try some mat work, then that morning terrace time.

Don’t know what, if anything, on the agenda for today. We’ll take it as it comes.

Nora


Today’s #randomkatness/Street Art Division.


And #kaylaseesasign (2!)

Florence – Day 7

A hearty breakfast for Griffin as Daddy offers Italian sausage, toast, cherries. He mows through the sausage, and asks for more.

A little morning reading on the terrace since working out is off the table. Ace Atkins’ realization of the late, great Robert Parker’s Spenser. For those who asked I read What We Harvest, Ann Fraistat—a friend of Jason’s—and her debut YA novel.

There’s a bird nearby who whistles like a human. It’s not the pigeon who comes to stand on the wisteria-smothered pergola, but I look up from my book to watch him apparently hunt for insects. He keeps slipping, flapping wings to regain his balance. Then it’s peck furiously in the wisteria, slip, flap, repeat.

He either gets enough or decides it’s not worth the flapping, and flies off.

I think my stupid toe’s up for a little outing before our big Uffuzi outing later, so off we go to wander. It feels good to be out again, soak up a little sun, a little shopping, and lots of Florentine sights and sounds.

Fountain of Neptune by Barolomeo. Photo by j a-b.

The buildings are so beautiful, the heat-soaked colors, the red tiles, as you go from wide, crowded streets to quiet, narrow ones. Bells chime as we go, and they say: Lunch.

Pasta for me today, and a perfect choice. Griffin, with a tummy full of sausage, glazes over and naps while the rest of us eat. And while we eat, what must be a school field trip swarms. They’re so cute!! Chanting and singing and obviously delighted with themselves and the day. The rest of us dig out memories of our own field trips.

Basic lunch. Photo by j a-b.

After lunch we detour to the big building with its bell tower on the edge of the piazza. I can’t remember the full details BW told us from the guide he read, but back in the ago, a monk stirred up the population to displace (temporarily) the Medicis. Then he took over that building, made it his home. Until the population turned on him, and he ended up burned at the stake.

At least he had a lovely home before going crispy.

We part ways with Kat who heads off to a yarn store she spotted. She plans to take Griffin, when and if he wakes, to an interactive DiVinci exhibit while the rest of us tour the Uffuzi. We head home first, and I put my foot up.

Oh, thanks to whoever told me about the Voltaren gel. Found it, used it. It works!*

Thanks to Jason who once again obtains our tickets on line then gets the paper ones, and we’re in, shuffling along, giving my foot a workout with steps. More steps. Hey, an elevator!

Laocoon and His Sons. Photo by j-ab
Body in action. Photo by Nora.

And here we are, that long, long, wide hall lined with Roman sculptures with rooms off it holding paintings. Pre-Renaissance, that fascinating flat style, all gilded. Madonna and Child are the most popular images. I wonder what churches or homes they came from, and isn’t it amazing we can stand and admire them centuries later. Look up, and the curved ceilings offer more art.

Coronation of the Virgin by Anna Maria Lorenzoni. Photo by j a-b.
Ceilin with grotescques by Alessandro Allori, Antoni Tempesta, et al. Photo by j a-b.

We wander, absorb, room-by-room, then the Botticelli’s show the evolution of styles, the light, the movement, the dimension and details. Religious imagery abounds, BVM and Child—who almost always has the face of a middle-aged man (as Jason points out). Odd to me are the works that show an adult John The Baptist with Toddler Jesus, but I suppose they’re allegories, symbolic.

The Fall of the Rebel Angels by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Photo by j a-b
Judith Beheading Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi. Photo by j-ab

And there she is. The Birth Of Venus, just as glorious as I remember from our visit years ago. Everything about that work is magnificent. And what a difference to see it, really see it, rather than a poster, a photo.

(from l-r)The Discovery of the Body of Holofernes by Botticelli. The Return of Judith to Bethulia by Botticelli. Photo by Nora.
Fortitude by Sandro Botticelli. Photo by j a-b.
The birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Photo by BW.

I’m pleased to see my personal favorite, the sad, baffled face of the arrow-struck Saint Sebastian as we wander.

And here’s DiVinci, and oh, here’s genius in every brush stroke. Now Michelangelo, and more genius. The use of color, the brilliance of it, the magic pull of light created with paint and stunning talent. I feel blessed to be able to actually stand so close, and to share that with Kayla.

Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo da Vinci. Photo by j a-b
Doni Tondo by Michelangelo. Photo by BW

There’s more, so much. There’s the head of The Baptist on a platter. He looks resigned. Here’s Venus with Cupid, an odd couple when Cupid’s the little guy. Portraits of serene-faced women, stern-faced men. And lots of the BVM—The Annunciation, the Madonna, the Assumption.

Diptych of Federico da Montefeltro and Battista Sforza by Piero della Francesca. Photo by Nora.

We spend nearly two hours before Kayla, my toe and I call it. We’ll meet the guys back home.

The Uffizi Gallery. Photo by BW.
A view from above. Photo by BW.

They wind you out through the gift shop, of course, so when we get out, both of us are turned around. We head one way, stop, second guess ourselves, double back. Learn as we approach the Arno we should’ve trusted our first instinct. Double back again, and my toe’s not happy with me.

But the girl’s directional skills wind us back, and it’s home. Foot up!

Despite all the walking (and stairs!!) the bruising’s fading fast and the swelling’s actually down some.

Kat got her yarn—gorgeous!—Griffin got his first exposure to DiVinci, and we can hang out awhile. We had some plumbing issue in the morning in Kayla and Griffin’s bathrooms—apparently they share a Y thing. Anyway, the housekeeper called the plumber, and all fixed. But he left a dirty towel and some dirt besides in Kayla’s room.

There’s da Vinci, then there’s Super Mario. Photo by Kat.

Kat, also the best aunt in the world of aunts, cleaned and sanitized.

In her role of best dil, she makes me an ice pack.

Dinner! Close by with my toe in mind. This is the place of the earlier cheesecakes. Our waiter is Gianni, and delightful. Kayla and I both order side salads with our main—pizza for me, fettucini (I think) for her. I don’t know whose sides they came from because HUGE. And fresh as a stolen kiss. How about some Chianti with that?

Don’t mind if I do.

Another lovely meal on another lovely evening, though after the salad, I barely manage half of my lovely pizza—but that leaves room for vanilla gelato with strawberries. Many strawberries, so I share.

Then Gianni offers complimentary meloncino. Not a melon fan, so I pass, but Jason downs his, then mine, like shots.

BW’s dessert and cappuccino. Photo by BW.

A short walk home, a short hang-out time, then bed.

More wiggle in the toe this morning—if not I’d’ve sucked up a visit to the ER, but definitely more wiggle. So we’ll keep doing what we’re doing, and not doing what we’re not doing.

I miss my workouts!!

Griffin and Jason have joined me, and there is hilarity in Cookie Swirl’s visit to Grandpa’s very strange house.

BW’s up, too, and Jason’s making Griffin’s breakfast. I might share the morning video amusement, then take my book onto the terrace.

Nora


Today’s #randomkatness.

#randomkatness – circle division. Photo by Kat
#randomkatness – street art division. Photo by Kat.

* Ed note: that’s Laurie Herman on the JD Robb FB page with a second from me. ~Laura

Florence – Day 6

I remain on the IL, but a day of mostly foot up brings improvement. Nobody seems to mind a primarily easy day. I spend a large part of it reading out on the terrace. Jason, Kat, Kayla and Griffin head to the market for more milk, fruit and whatever. BW straps on his camera for a walk about.

Settled in for the day. Photo by Kat.
Exterior niche Orsanmichele Church. Photo by BW.
South side of Duomo through BW’s eyes (and camera).

Jason and Kat brought their Switch, so they hook it up. Game time! Which entertains the participants and Griffin as on-looker. Hanging out, conversation, cheering on the gamers passes the day.

Cousins. Photo by Kat.

Kat and I discuss titles for the next In Death I’m working on in my head (just my head right now). Our fun favorite, Comeuppance In Death won’t make the cut—nor will He Had It Coming In Death, but we make our own fun. A year or so from now, you’ll be able to see what did make the cut.

Birthday girl and family. Photo by Kat.

We opt for dinner at the nearby place I had my famous steak. It’s the same restaurant where Griffin had a sad followed by a solid sleep. He does exactly the same this time. It actually works out well as Kat can now enjoy her birthday dinner without tending a toddler.

We arrive right after 7–and there’s only one other table occupied. 7-ish is about time for our American stomachs, but early for Florence. Kat actually has a splash of wine!

Birthday dinner table. Photo by BW.

I’d thought pasta for me, but decide on their grilled chicken, which is just marvelous. And we have a fine time being out in the warm evening.

Dessert choice is unanimous, and it’s tiramisu all around—with a candle in Kat’s. We sing Happy Birthday, very quietly, as we have a family pact regarding overt restaurant birthdays. No singing waiters allowed!

Birthday tiramisu. Photo by BW.

The dessert choice proves most excellent, as does the full round of cappuccinos.

Back home, and sleepy Griffin goes right down. More hang out time for us. Kat makes me another ice bag. Best dil ever. Still pretty swollen, but the bruising’s going down, and I can wiggle it just a little—seems better to me.

A lazy day into a lazy evening then bedtime.

Definitely less bruising this morning, and it seems like less swelling. Still very stiff though, so I have to be smart and skip working out for at least one more day. Griffin’s up after a solid night’s sleep. Daddy’s fixes his breakfast, and he’s again sharing his hilarity with his breakfast videos with Nana.

Some of us—not Griffin—are booked for the Uffuzi this afternoon. I really think my toe can take it. Maybe, with luck, a bit more walking around.

Nora


Not a #randomkatness, but a sweet Griffin photo.