Canada, Germany, Italy · 22 Days · 37 Moments · June 2017

Our Italian Adventure


17 July 2017

An Adventure ends Day 4 in Venice was the last day of the Italian adventure. We arose before 4 the next morning to begin our travels home. It was to be a frustrating day with long lines before us wherever we went. Oh well. Travel was safe and on time. And our bags made it. A great trip with great people.
Venice - day 4 And, our Italian adventure is winding down. We visited the original Jewish ghetto today. The word ghetto is actually derived from an Italian word related to furnaces. The glass blowers of Murano were located here until they burned the city down a couple times. They were moved off to a separate island and the Jews were given permission to live in this part of Venice. They had a curfew each day and were very limited in the occupations they could undertake. And, of course, the Nazi's found them here so quite a few went off to concentration camps and gas chambers as part of the horrors of WW II. Some written tourism brochures paint the treatment of Jews relatively positively while others are much less kind. One suspects it was more of the latter - heavily restricted and barely tolerated.
Burano - the island of lace and colour We went to Burano on our last day - day 4 in Venice. Burano is known for traditional lace making as well as the colourful buildings. I didn't spend much time in the lace stores but I did enjoy walking around the town with my camera. I saw a couple pictures in a shop that showed a sunset from there. Should I ever return to Venice, I think I will choose to stay on Burano and use the ferry to go to/from the main city. It would be a much more relaxing trip although it would add a 40 minute water commute to your day.

16 July 2017

Peggy Guggenheim Museum We visited this gallery/museum on our last day. It is located in her former home and continues the pieces she collected. Quite the collection of modern art. It was truly special to see these art works in the home I which they were previously displayed. One of my images is my abstraction of an abstract sculpture. So, if it is hard to interpret, it is by intent. Such a pleasant couple hours. Highly recommend this one to future visitors.

15 July 2017

Festa del Redentore We happened to be in Venice for a big event - the celebration of the end of the plague in Venice. We were cautioned not to judge people. It was tradition to start the day with wine and to carry on throughout the day. I personally witnessed very little inebriation but certainly people were ready to party. The picture with all the people's heads leading to a church is a picture on a bridge that exists for two days a year to get people over to and back from the place where the party really happens. We walked over to explore and see the sites but most of us came back across the bridge before the fireworks started. We returned to St. Marks square to view the fireworks with maybe one hundred thousand of our closest friends. You can't be claustrophobic. And, you sincerely hope the people around you are reasonable and no one does anything stupid. Plenty of heavily armed police and military also in attendance.
Venice Day 2 A few images from day 2 in Venice including much of the group heading on the gondola ride. Gondoliers must make a pretty good living. During the day, it is 80 euro for 30 minutes. 120 or 30 minutes n the evening/night. That doesn't necessarily include any singing! Seems a good gig! The views are from the top of a building our guide told us about - a free one vs. Joining all the tourists to pay to climb the tower in St. marks square. The view is just at a corner of the grand canal so you get a great view up two pieces of the canal. St. marks is the big tourist attraction here - a huge cathedral, the former palace of government etc. Etc. And, the body of the apostle Mark was stolen from Egypt and is buried here. Cathedrals and churches are a big thing in Italy. A few will survive as places of worship. Some will survive as tourist attractions. Some are being repurposed as concert halls. What will become of the rest? The Catholic Church has a huge property portfoli
Murano - The Island of Glass We accepted a free high speed boat trip to Murano - a bit apprehensively. The deal was to tour their glass factory but it was to be all without commitment to buy and we could leave when we wanted. Sounded too good to be true .... but it all worked out. We had the private high speed boat both ways. An artisan built the little horse in just a matter of minutes. Fascinating to see how quickly he could do it.

14 July 2017

Venice - Day 1 Our plan is to spend most of four days in Venice - the first two with our travelling companions and the rest on our own. It was nice to arrive in Venice on a cool day. A bit of a cold front went through in the morning and combined with the proximity to water, it was by far the coolest day we had - maybe just 25 for a high. A few images of Venice. If you are of an age and played an early text based computer game, you will remember the phrase "a maze of tiny twisty passages all alike." A very apt description of Venice. We had a great tour in the late afternoon. Rather than a tour of the typical tourist attractions, Frederick introduced us to some history and some alternate attractions - things off the beaten track.

13 July 2017

Bassano del Grappa Think Canmore but centuries older - founded in the second century BC. Bassano del Grappa sits well up in the foothills of the Dolomites. It has a few claims to fame. One is the production of the liqueur grappa. The wooden bridge in the picture was first built in the 1500's. it has been destroyed a number of times including during WWII. This town has been on the front line in a few wars. In WWII, the Germans captured and then hung more than two dozen young resistance fighters. The creator and President of the brand Diesel comes from and still resides here. Does Bassano Alberta get its name from here?

12 July 2017

Noma Bar We visited a gallery - the same one as with the Russian icons - and saw an excellent show of the graphics of Noma Bar. I took a couple images. The one of his Spock graphic is a good representation of his creativity.

12 July 2017

Russian Icon show in Vicenzo I have never really seen Russian icons before and there was a great show at a gallery in Vincenzo. Quite interesting. They really displayed the pieces well. We were both taken by the incredible detail presented in some of them. I didn't try to take a picture of one with many small figures. One of the images shown is one where the gold leaf practically covers the full piece - only small pieces of the drawing are visible.

10 July 2017

As we tag along with others on this trip, we are having some unique experiences. Tonight, we were invited to view some of the art of the late Enzo Alberton at his home in rural Veneto province. Enzo worked as a painter, did iconography, in ceramic and in clay. It was his work in clay that was most interesting to me. The images are from my phone and taking in a basement. So, the quality is not exceptional. But the sculpture really was.
A Special Italian Lunch. Part of travelling in a family group means you sometimes get invited to join in family celebrations. We joined about 35 people for an Italian lunch - a lunch as part of a family reunion for some members in our group. Quite the lunch. We started with appetizers. Meat. Cheese. Bread. Pickled onions. Prosecco. Red wine. The prosecco and red wine were non-stop for the 2.5 hour lunch. Appetizers were followed by a mushroom risotto then a pasta dish then a roast beef with roast potatoes and salad. Followed by some cake accompanied by plates of fruit. Espresso and then a digestive drink. The words don't do justice to the quality or the quantity of the food, the drink or the hospitality of the people. We felt very honoured to be included in this family gathering. Our deep thanks to our Italian connections for including us in this.
A Couple Relaxing days at Villa Serena In the country an hour from Venice, we spent a couple days at this lovely villa. We went to a lunch being held as part of a family reunion. A lovely and interesting time - although my lack of Italian certainly inhibited conversation!! This lunch was held at a former family farm home - in the hills with trenches from World War I on/near the property. A local restaurant provided a very interesting dining experience. Very much a local, organic kind of restaurant with a strong selection of vegan options. We had a Buddha bowl one night that was excellent.

7 July 2017

Our last night in San Ginese Our Tuscan farm house visit comes to an end with a final dinner on the patio by the pool. A full moon tonight but there are no fire flies out. Pictures hand held so don't look too closely at the quality!! A great place for a group of people with five bedrooms, five bathrooms, two kitchens, etc.
Fattoria il Poggio After Monte Carlo, we stopped for a little wine tasting. Not sure I would name my restaurant Fattoria ... but in Italian this simply means farmhouse. The place had a bus tour so was very busy. A different approach to at home. Rather than a little sip of wine, we were seated at a table and six full bottles of wine were placed in front of us along with bread, oil, vinegar, olives etc. We were given an introduction to the wines and then left to enjoy the wine and the nibblies. 75 euro for the six bottles and all else included. Pretty good deal. The real winner here was the balsamic vinegar they provided. Not your garden variety balsamic. This was almost syrupy in consistency with an excellent flavour. I think we need to buy better balsamic when we get home. This was like a different vinegar altogether.
A Visit to Monte Carlo Not that Monte Carlo but rather a little hill town in Tuscany near Lucca. A very small town with the highlight being the small fort sitting on the very top of the hill. It is privately owned and the husband provided us an excellent tour. In part of the fort, he and his wife reside in a modern apartment. Otherwise, they appear to make some money by conducting tours. He was very good - he knew so much about the history of the fort and the area and was really willing to respond to each question.

5 July 2017

Dinner at San Ginese Our hostess, Carla, prepared us a traditional Italian home cooked meal. Appetizers, pasta with a ragu sauce, salad, veal, tiramisu. All the things you expect. A great meal. The view of the sunset was pretty spectacular. We look away from the actual sunset and the sky turns these lovely shades of violet, pink etc. The photo shown is exactly the perspective from our dinner table.
A stroll through the village We are staying in the village of San Ginese di Compito - between Pisa and Florence. It is a hill town with the main roads running along the ridge lines roughly and homes and side streets spilling down. There is life in this town but there are also a number of fixer uppers - homes that have no windows and appear abandoned. Some have a for sale sign. It could be your "Under the Tuscan Sun" experience if you buy one!
A Visit to Pisa Most of the pictures are from the buildings in the vicinity of the Tower although we walked into town and down to the river. The place was crazy busy near the tower but much quieter in town. We found and briefly visited the birthplace of Galileo. We stopped for a cappuccino just down from his house. Three euros for two cappuccino in Pisa seems a good deal - better priced than Starbucks at home. The frescoes come from a building called The Cemetery. It is still used today with crypts in the building noted into the 2000's.

3 July 2017

Views of San Gimiginano One of the Tuscan hill towns and a Unesco world heritage site. A history of conquest, disease and poverty left this town relatively unchanged through the centuries. A very popular tourist site today. The Main Street feels much like Banff - a street full of people and lined with shops. At least the shops are mostly local - no chain stores among them. More adventures in GPS driving. Twice yesterday, it told me to go straight when the road actually divided in two roads that ran parallel to each other for a bit. Both would qualify as straight .... It seems the car GPS is not entirely consistent with the level of detail. It will very carefully tell me to get to the right hand side of the road a km or two before a turn off but then fail to deliver directions when you reach an intersection or traffic circle - you have to took at the map on the screen to figure it out.
Lucca We spent a day walking around Lucca. A hot day. +30 is really hot when walking on the narrow streets. Lucca has a wall around it. You can walk the whole circumference in less than an hour. Or, you can rent bikes and do it much more quickly. We walked about half the wall as you get good views of the city. Lucca was a city in the Roman Empire so the origins go back over 2000 years. The part of Lucca inside the walls is all old; outside the walls, the city is a mix of old and new. Surprisingly, quite a few people have dogs with them as they tour the city. You could see they would all rather be on the bed than walking such a hot city. Lunch today at Eataly - not sure if it is related to the one in New York.

2 July 2017

Canada Day in San Ginese Part of the relaxing day was celebrating Canada Day.
A quiet day for walking in our little town and enjoying the pool on a summers afternoon. Other than a run for provisions, a very relaxing day. Our place sits below the town. We climb a couple flights of stairs to get to the first street of homes and then climb even more to get up to the church. I understand these towns grew on the hill tops as a method of defence when they were established. Unlike Greece, these towns are still occupied and relatively vibrant. I haven't seen many children in town but there are young people living here.
Castle of Torrechiara A nice castle to visit. Small enough to see in an hour or so. The frescoes in the castle were the best attraction to this castle. I think the oldest were either the 14th or maybe12th century. The images as presented show the colours more intense than on the walls but they were quite good on their own.

1 July 2017

The Hall of Hams We took a tour of a a ham "factory" - one of the local producers of the famous Parma ham. A simple process as they still follow the old systems for preserving these hams. The production is highly regulated and an inspector comes and tests each and every ham before they are given the stamp of approval. It is essentially a year from slaughter to being ready for sale. The most special ham is one that is placed within the bladder of the pig and then cured in a cave. Roughly three times the price of the regular Parma ham.
The Parma Country House I posted a few images before of the exterior - taken during a thunderstorm. These were taken under better conditions. Some interior and some exterior. Quite the house. A twenty year restoration project so far as I expect it is limited by both time and money. Three families live in the house now. Grandma and grandpa, their daughter with her family and their son. Each with their own living area as well as common areas. It looks to me like there are likely to be two more suites to be finished that could be rented through airbnb. A lovely place and great hosts.

30 June 2017

Market in Quadrilaterol A few scenes from the old market in downtown Bologna. Established in the Middle Ages, the market today is a real mix of the old and the new. Traditional stores containing butchers, fishmongers etc. Sit side by side with some of the most expensive stores you know. Of course, cafes line many streets and you walk down the street essentially walking among the tables of the cafe as the streets are very narrow. It is still an area for locals to shop. You will suddenly come along to a store selling very simple housewares mostly made in China and you wonder how they pay the rent in this area.
Library of Archiginnasio Quite the collection of old, rare etc. Books and manuscripts here. We could only go in the Stabat Mater hall through which this view of the stacks was available. The building these items are in was constructed in the mid 1500's. it was the seat of the University for a period - a university first established around 1100.
Teatro Anatomico What an interesting find in Bologna. With construction starting in 1636, this theatre was used for anatomy lectures and displays. The room is completely built of wood - with a couple rows of seating all around the room. In the centre, a marble slab. The slab was for the person being displayed as professors instructed new surgeons on the anatomy of the human body. At the end, the professors grand chair is held by two wooden statues. Of skinless men. All the muscles etc. normally under the skin are demonstrated. Quite amazing to look at. The one image is of the carving directly above the marble slab. I guess it would give a live person on the slab something to look at as the professor poked, prodded and explained. I humbly suggested Lynn test out the marble slab so the pictures would have more realism. She reminded me of the police and military on the street in front of the building. Tight security around. We likely didn't want to attract such attention!!

29 June 2017

Adventures in Driving Today, we went into the city of Parma. We used the gps to find parking where we could have a bite of lunch before heading off to explore. All good. We had a nice lunch and a nice visit. Time to leave. We used the gps to take us to a grocery store on the way home. I had bought the Italy map before leaving home so all should be current. Well, it took us on a wild goose chase to a dead end in search of the Coop. And, it then missed the location of the Carrefour by about a kilometre. I think maybe the map has a problem with the registration of locations. Oh, and I missed the exit from a round about. Took one too early. I may have driven into the so called congestion zone. I guess I may be receiving an invoice in the mail from the car rental company.
Teatro Regio As our guide said: in Parma, Verdi is not simply a composer. He is a religion. He grew up just outside Parma; this is his home city. This theatre is the house of worship for Verdi with its annual Verdi festival. The theatre was built by Napoleon's divorced second wife. To raise building money, she had the theatre designed so the boxes each had a separate private room where the person holding the box seats could entertain guests. Her innovation - the people had to buy the tickets to the theatre in perpetuity to keep their box and private room. So, she not only gained capital to build the theatre ... she assured the theatre of subscriptions for ongoing operating costs. Apparently, most of these families still hold these seats from the early 1800's. The top level of the theatre was reserved for the poor. Today, a group of local citizen critics sit up there with their back to the performers - turning around only to hurl criticism!
Piazza Duomo Parma The plaza is dominated by the cathedral and the baptistery. We didn't go in the baptistery which was built around 1200. An octagonal building designed and built for the baptism of infants. I don't know how big Parma was at that time ... but quite an investment for such an activity. The interior pictures are from within the cathedral. It was being set up for some weekend recording and I wasn't actually to be taking pictures so the quality is what it is. The ceiling was quite incredible. The building was started in 1074 with various artistic additions made over time. You can readily sense that Parma isn't on the typical tourist track. A beautiful cathedral like this you share with only a handful of other visitors. Had they not been setting up for a recording, we could easily have waited a bit and had it to ourselves.
Our airbnb hosts are so inviting. Last evening, Lynn and I had been up for 30 odd hours but were invited to the terrace of this old home for espresso. Very nice to sit out under cover while a great thunderstorm raged around us. Grandpa is the designer and visionary for this home. Grandpa Lucho led us to a restaurant owned by friends of the family. I guess this one doesn't get listed in any guidebooks! But, within 15 minutes of opening, it was full of all the locals. Lynn and I shared a prosciutto crudo with buffala mozzarella appetizer and a pizza. The sun came out as the thunderstorms passed. Three dogs came along to dinner with their owners - Lynn got a picture of the one.
The Parma country house. Our first place here is a country house about 15 km out of Parma. Better pictures another day. Originally built in the late 1800's, the place has been a twenty year restoration project so far. A traditional Italian home with a large main home with an attached barn/stable and a passageway between them. The passageway is the image with the table and chairs. Our suite is above the passageway. Our hosts are an extended family that live her. Grandpa and grandma are the ones who have lead the restoration. A son works as a translator and is responsible for the airbnb component. A daughter, her husband and child also live here - both working outside the home. One image is of their wood fired bread oven. Used regularly. Quite the place.

28 June 2017

A long travel day where everything went right! Starting at 4 am Tuesday from Edmonton and ending at 4 pm Wednesday near Parma, Italy, it was a very long day. Security was heightened in Frankfurt. Even Canadians had to show Customs a return air reservation to demonstrate they were not planning to stay. I then set off the body scanner at security and had a very close encounter with a security agent. No tentative skimming over the body for him .... I had been told driving in Italy was like playing a video game with only one quarter. Not that bad so far. Take Canada's roads. Narrow them quite a bit. Add a bunch more trucks and increase speeds by30% or so. There you have it. All the same rules just in tighter, faster quarters.i had no one honk a horn ... but had a number of light flashes and bumper riding to tell me to move it along.

26 June 2017

And, so it starts ... our Italian adventure. Lynn and I have three weeks of fun, family, food, friends...... We started by staying at the new hotel at Edmonton International. Nice place. Lynn and I land in Venice and have a few days on our own in a village near Parma. It is not too far from Bologna so we will try to visit a couple places here. Following that, we have a week in a villa in Tuscany. There will be ten of us there. Our son Scott and his wife Juliette, her sister and husband, her parents and the parents of her sisters husband. We aren't too far from Pisa, Florence and some of the hill towns of central Italy. After Tuscany, we move north of Venice - pretty close to the foothills of the Alps. We are a smaller group for some of this ... but Lynn and I are included in a family weekend. Juliette's mom is Italian so we will be part of a family reunion. Should be fun! We will close with a few days in Venice and head for home again.