The Cow Parade

Saturday morning started early (4:45 a.m.) because we had a 2 hour drive to Valtournenche and we had to get into town before they closed down the roads for the parade.  Needless to say, the drive through the mountains was great.  After checking into our hotels, we headed out to the local cafe to meet up with everybody and wait for the cows.  There were 9 of us in our group and most likely the ONLY Americans in town. The atmosphere was joyous as everyone waited to hear the cow bells.  The locals, dressed in traditional costumes, entertained us like it was Mardi Gras.  And then we heard the bells coming.  Those cow bells were like a symphony. We loved every second of it.


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Hello, Italy

Ida and I landed in Milan on Friday afternoon.  Ida is catching a ride with my cousins, Jeff and Sue, and heading directly to Valtournenche, which is a little village at the Swiss border near the Matterhorn. I took the train to Milan to meet up with Lindsay and Rachel and rent the car.  We’ll be meeting everyone in Valtournenche on Saturday morning for the annual cow parade, when they bring the cows from the hillside through the town down to the lower pastures for the winter months. Looking forward to Saturday.  More to come…


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One More Week

One more week and we’re off to Italy.  Trying to get a few more words under my belt before it’s wheels up.  I certainly know enough to get a room, get dinner, get directions and GET WINE.  I think we’ll be OK.


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2016 Italia

Just booked my flight for September.  Traveling this year with my co-shenanigator, Ida Zecco, and Lindsay and Rachel.  Also on the hit list are Jeff and Sue Smith.

This one is going to be memorable!

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Some Last Thoughts

Well, another Italian holiday is in the history books.  Jodi and I ate wonderful meals, drank a lot of wine and shared company with some terrific people.  If you have never been to Italy, I suggest you go, because once you do… you’ll go back.  I’m already planning next year’s trip.

And be sure to interact with the people you meet.  It adds so much to the Italian experience, which is already quite overwhelming with scenery and food.

Hope you enjoyed reading the blog.  Until next year…abbracci e baci (you’ll have to look that up)!


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Day 7 – The Last Dinner

It was the last dinner in Roma, and we had reservations at La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, which is on a side street on the way to the Colosseum.  I met the owners last year, thanks to my cousins, Jeff and Sue Smith, who are friends with them, and I knew we would have a good evening.20150902_222830

Claudia had a special table set up for us near the kitchen so she would be able to talk with us during the evening as she worked (and boy… does she work).  We started the evening with Prosecco, and then had a porchetta appetizer, after which we went into a fettuccine seafood misto.  Yum Yum.  We let Claudia order dinner for us, as she knew what was good on the menu (everything).  We had a combination of veal and lamb and ultimately finished off the night with ratafia (an after dinner drink that could probably run the Fiat if I put it in the tank).


During dinner a young fellow sat next to us.  Jingcheng was supposed to be on holiday with another fellow, but he backed out at the last minute, so Jingcheng decided to travel solo.  I really felt for him, so we struck up a conversation and talked about our travel adventures.  He was a very enjoyable guy and helped to make the evening memorable.

20150902_220935Tomorrow we head home.

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Day 7 – The Last Day

Today we have a lot to do.  It’s our last day in Rome and have to see the Colosseum and the Vatican.  And then dinner tonight at La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, which is owned by a friend of my cousins, Jeff and Sue Smith.

We opted to go for a guided tour of the Colosseum rather than wait the 1.5 hours for a ticket. I figured for the extra $20, it was worth it… and did we ever make the right decision.  In about 5 minutes we were on the tour, AND we had an archeologist as our guide.  Yikes!  Federica was so informative about the whys and hows and whens of everthing.  I’ve been through the Colosseum a couple of times.  This was hands down the best tour ever!



Afterwards, we were handed off to Camilla for the tour of Palatine Hill and the Forum.  Camilla was also very learned on the topics at hand, but she also does private shopping tours or general tours of the city. So if anyone is interested, just contact me.  I’ll get you in touch. 

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Day 6 – Rome


The trip from Orvieto to Rome went off without a hitch.  But I have to tell you… I like driving in big cities but Rome is not my city of choice for driving.  I always drop the car off at an office just outside the city proper.  Even at that, it ain’t pretty.  We took a 10 minutes cab ride to Hotel Teatro di Pompeo.  I have been here before and am acquainted with the concierge, Simona.  When I walked in the door, we looked at each other and I hoped she would know me without introduction.  It took about 6 seconds, and then she started screaming.  I mean it almost startled me.  20150903_081930I don’t know exactly what it is about this trip, but the receptions are remarkable.  Maybe they are just happy to see American dollars coming home.  Or hopefully, they have retained great memories as I have.

Anyway, Jodi and I were both hungry, so we went to a great little café across from the Pantheon for lunch.  Jodi had pasta e fagioli and I had lentil soup (with three glasses of wine).  Perfetto!  And then…the Pantheon, my favorite place in Rome.
There is something about being inside the Pantheon  that gets all my senses on high alert.  The perfect building with the perfect energy.  I just love it.



Next (since we needed to work off lunch) we strolled over to the Spanish Steps.  The road leading there (Via Condotti) is where the big spenders shop: Gucci, Hermes, Valentino, Cartier…  you get the picture.  Well, at least we had fun looking.

Tonight we have been invited to the home of my good friend, Cristina DiPalma, and her husband, David Salvatori.  We’re taking the Metro out there.  This should be fun.

We got on the train at Termini station with directions in hand.  What we really needed was directions on how to buy a ticket because there were multiple choices, but a lady saw the map of the U.S. on our faces and kindly helped out. We got to the right track but didn’t know that there were 2 trains traveling that line.  Naturally, we got on the wrong train.  It didn’t take long to see that this one was forking off in a different direction, so we got off and doubled back.  Finally, we arrived a bit late, and David picked us up at the station and drove us home.

Hugs and kisses all around, and then the food started.  It was my first time at Cristina’s home since we usually meet in Roma, so this was an honor for me.  Cristina is a great cook, but there was so much food you’d think she were having the whole neighborhood over.  SO much food!!!  A terrific evening, and Jodi got to see some of David’s great underwater photography.  I love my friends… all of them!!!

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Day 5 – Deruta

Today we decided to take a ride to Deruta to visit the shop of my friend, Michele, who makes some of the best ceramics in Italy.  I emailed him in the morning to tell him we were coming, so we made plans to get there before noon so he could show Jodi the factory and how the ceramics are made.  I think he is one of the best for Deruta ceramics.  Jodi’s credit card let him know how much she enjoyed it.

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We asked Michele where we should have lunch while in Deruta.  He suggested a wonderful place called Siro just a few miles up the road.  I had the cinghiale (wild boar) for lunch, which was spectacular.  It’s just the best pork dish on the planet.  This trip is getting to be one feed trough to the next.   We got back to the farm later in the afternoon and had a drink by the pool. Had to think about where to go for dinner.

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Day 4 – Orvieto

Today we’re off to Orvieto.  We had planned to leave for the 3 hour trip at around 10 a.m.  Last night Cousin Tullio asked me what time we were planning to leave.  (I knew what that was about.)  A little after 9:30 a.m. I started loading the bags into the car.  As I walked outside and rounded the corner, who was sitting their reading his paper?  Yup, you guessed it.  I was not at all surprised, because he always likes to say goodbye, but he told me he had been there since 8 a.m.  I guess he wanted to make sure he didn’t miss us.  What a guy!!!

So we started our goodbyes with Anna, the concierge, who is always so great and takes such good care of us. IMG_2600-1

And then it was time to say goodbye to Cousin Tullio.  This is the most difficult part of the trip.  After hugs and kisses and many thanks, we got into the car to head out. But our last words through the open window are always the same, “L’anno prossimo!” (“Next year!”)  As I drove down the road to make the turn onto Via Roma, I watched him in my rear view mirror and thought, “Next year, Tullio, next year.”

And then we were off.  After a bit we decided to stop at a roadside café for a coffee and a quick bite to hold us for the trip.  We must have the map of the U.S. on our faces, because when I ordered my cappuccino, the guy said in English, “Where are you from?”  Near Boston, I told him.  “Boston, Somerville… I know Boston!”  I told him in Italian that my grandparents were from Alfedena, and we instantly became pals.  Before I knew it he was handing me a gigantic, chocolate croissant to go with my coffee.  “It’s for you,” he said.  Everybody is so nice here.


The trip to Orvieto was scenic and we arrived ready for action. We are staying at an agriturismo, which is a farm that allows B&B service.  This one is difficult to find because it is set way up on top of a hill which looks across to Orvieto.  But thanks to satellite navigation, we had no problems.  After checking in and bringing the bags in, we made arrangements to have dinner at the farm that night.  Then off we went for more adventure.



Orvieto is an old medieval town set high on a mountain with great charm and character.  The Duomo (cathedral) is one of the best in Italy.  We strolled and took in the sights, and of course stopped in a number of stores to check out the goods.  As we were getting a gelato, we heard a woman singing opera through the open windows of a building. Only in Italy!

20150830_160842Tonight we opted to eat in the dining room at the farm, which is situated in the cantina.  A good decision.  Everything they cook is fresh, and the food was fabulous.  And plenty of it.  Main course was lamb, cooked to perfection.  Jodi was in a food coma by the end.  Simonetta, the chef, came out after the meal and remembered me from 4 years ago.  Yikes!  Good memory.  She hasn’t changed a bit; still as pleasant as ever.

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