Italy – Day 10, Saturday

It’s our last morning and it was time to pack up and say goodbye to our darling Vittorio. Breathing in the last few moments in our little Toscano town, taking some photos so we’d never forget, we loaded up our tiny car and hopped on the road to Orvieto. We drove through all the beautiful scenic roads, passing vineyard after vineyard. It doesn’t take too much to make two girls wearing new straw hats happy.

We arrived in Orvieto and luckily our rental car return was right across the street from the train station. We dropped off the car, crossed the street with our luggage toting behind us (balancing this, grasping that) and found ourselves completely confused as we entered the train station. It was hard to find any information in English and we just stood there for a while, trying to figure things out. With trains going in both directions, and us having no clue which way was which, we didn’t even know which side of the tracks to stand on. Finally we figured it out so we found a spot to sit and wait for our train to arrive.  We hopped on and entered a car with a lady who was traveling with her dog. Of course we both loved her up, in spite of it being a terribly stinky little thing!

We finally arrived in Rome in the early evening. We only had one night here (I had been before), so we were going to make the most of it. We checked into our hotel and quickly headed to the Trevi Fountain. We made our wishes, tossed our coins in amongst the crowds, determined to come back by here when it was dark to see it all lit up. We strolled the streets checking out the architecture, shops, various sights and finally ended up sitting down to a fabulous pizza dinner in a beautiful square near one of the famous sights. It was all lit up and provided a stunning view by which to have our dinner. This is where we finally asked our waiter what “rocket salad” was, as we had seen it on menus all over. He says, “Oh, that’s what we call Arugula, but we put it on the menu that way for you Americans.”  I say, “Umm, we called it Arugula too.”  Then he kindly corrects himself and says, “Well, maybe it’s for the Britt’s then.”  “Ahh yes, that makes sense, ha.”

Anyway, we make it back to the Trevi Fountain and it is as beautiful as always, a great last memory before heading back to our hotel with plans for a good nights sleep before our early morning flight.


Italy – Day 9, Sunday

Our last day in Tuscany was spent in the small town we were staying in, buying souvenirs, eating amazing food and drinking wine. I didn’t blog much today so I will let the pictures and video do the talking…

Italy – Day 8, Saturday

Today we woke up to a pretty windy day. The winds were howling through the old building making lots of noise. The trees and lavender bushes outside were blowing all around. We were expecting to take our cooking class but after showering and getting all ready for it, we found out (through Debbie’s ever growing Italian), and after many phone calls back and forth with Vittorio (the owner of the farm) and Franco (our tour guide) that the cook (Vittorio’s sister) wasn’t in town, she was off having fun somewhere else. Okaaaaaaaaaay, now what? Well, as anyone who has spent an hour getting their hair and make up all on, we head off to the Roman baths to ruin it all. Oh well, when inRome….or close by. So we ate a quick breakfast of ricotta cheese, sun dried tomatoes, olives, crackers, olive oil, and cappuccino. Isn’t that what everyone has? Well it was almost11amso it was sorta like lunch too. That meant we got to have vino! Only one glass because we then loaded up our stuff and got in Blue Bella, along with my laptop with directions on a word doc and we managed to find our way through the windy roads and hills of Toscana to the old Roman baths in Saturina. This was no small feat either as it was about an hour and a half drive. But with Ms. Andretti at the wheel there was no stopping us. We got to the baths to find lots and lots of people but managed to find parking at this off the beaten track location. It wasn’t too bad though, the baths were huge and there was room for everyone. We walked down the dirt road to find this beautiful waterfall pouring warm into these terraced pools of water, like lots of large Jacuzzis. We put our bags, towels and flip flops down to the side in a little spot amongst the dirt and rocks and proceeded to strip down to our swim suits. Debbie was not happy about this part. I pointed out lots of lots of people who looked way worse than us and assured her she looked darling in her new bikini. What the heck, off goes the sundresses and we run for the water. Okay, not so much running, lots of stone and gravel on that few feet to the water. So we tip toe as lady like and sexy as we can manage and we make it into the shallow pool of water. We climb a little higher to get into a deeper pool and settle in, hoping not to ruin our hairstyle. We didn’t have too much luck as the water was flowing down over the pools and there was a bit of spray all around. Oh well, not like we had any big night on the town planned….after all, we were here for a rest. We stayed for awhile, just trying to let the tired muscles unwind. We finally decided to get out and head back home, but not until we took a few pictures of each other. Debbie got out to brave the chill while she took some of me, then she got back in so I could get out and take some of her. In no time we were back on the road to our farm house. It was a lot easier getting back since we knew the way this time. We got home and shared a bottle of wine with Vittorio, the owner of the farmhouse. He was such a great host! He wanted to try to help us with our cooking class arrangements since we missed out today so he offered to have his chef at his restaurant teach us the next day. We made arrangements to do this the next day at10am. Since it was around dinner time, I cooked us a Chicken Pesto Pasta dinner with a salad and what else………more vino! We kicked back after dinner and watched a little Italian television. Debbie really enjoyed the old movies in Italiano and seemed to be able to figure out what was going on even without understanding a thing that was said. We’d flip to CNN now and then to see what was happening in the world. Seems like more of the same…”Obama is like a God”….uh huh. Europeans really seem to thinks he’s pretty wonderful :/ We eventually turned in for the night looking forward to another great day in Toscana.

Italy – Day 7, Friday

We woke up to find out that our tour guide would be here in an hour! Well too bad, we only just found out so we took the normal amount of time to get ready and let him wait. After all, we talked to him on Facebook last night and asked him what time he would be here and he said “hang-on” (he had a phone call) and finally at 11pm we gave up on him and went to bed. We were finally on our way, rushing all the way through twists and turns and Debbie, being in the back seat wasn’t taking it so well. However, our tour guide was concerned about making his scheduled first stop so he raced on disregarding the green in Debbie’s face. Our first stop was outside on Sienna (can’t recall the town) at a winery called Die Vole which means God Wants. It was stunning, it had amazing views. We started with a tasting at the counter paired with bread and their own olive oil. Then we walked into an old cave all lit up by candles with a big giant table in the middle, old ancient wine barrels all around. We continued our tasting and tour given by Elena who was a real sweetheart. She knows her history and wines very well. The second tasting paired it with prosciutto. It was one of the best we have ever had! Following that, in another room we had two tastings in the room with all of the big giant oak vats and the lab. There were rows and rows of barrels of wine where they complete the aging process. One of these wines was paired with the best aged pecorino cheese ever! Elena was extremely knowledgeable of the wine and it’s fermenting process that the words just flowed out of her mouth. We are so happy that our guide set this up for us. We then moved on to a small chapel were we had another tasting, but no food … we weren’t allowed to eat in church I guess drinking is okay :/ I made sure to say a prayer for a safe drive home, after all it wasn’t a fun drive getting this far unfortunately. We then moved on to our final tasting where all of the wines were displayed along with displays of the various soils that each type of grape is grown in. The wine was paired with the most wonderful chocolate that was set before us in this huge bowl. Oh…what a temptation! We only pocketed about 6 for future and I will be hiding them from Debbie. It was interesting to see how food really changes the taste of the wine. One of them I didn’t even like until we ate it with food and then it was fabuuuuloso! We first really noticed it when we had the tasting with the cheese. We also got to taste their grappa….yuk! After the final tasting and placing our order of cases to take home with us (and made arrangements to have extra empty luggage bags delivered to our room) we had lunch in the private garden room. At least there were only us three seated at the tables, so it appeared private. We ordered one of their bottles of wine and were also given some bread and didn’t even have to ask for the olive oil and salt and pepper that came with it. Finally, some Italiano’s that know how to eat bread! We started with a caprice salad with the best syrupy balsamic vinegar and the freshest mozzarella – it was really soft and moist, and the tomatoes were divine. I ordered some big fat wormy pasta noodles with wild boar meat and Debbie had big fat flat noodles with pesto sauce. Debbie’s was the best. We both ate every single bite of course. For dessert we were brought a traditional Tuscan cake, which was kind of a mix of cake and crème brulee. We were also brought a dish of vanilla ice cream with hot espresso poured over it. That was wonderful!!

Soon we were back on the road, stopping at a ceramic shop for a bit. Too expensive, off we go! Then we went to see a castle but it was closed. Debbie was extremely disappointed. (Me…I have seen enough castles inGermany to last me a life time.) We then went on to another winery and did a bit more tasting. We got a whiff of the grappa as we walked in and almost turned around to leave. Grappa, nasty! We bought one wine that we particularly liked and brought it home to drink later. We drove around the countryside some more, stopping to take pictures along the way. After that, we went to visit the town ofSienna and it was very interesting. We walked along the streets admiring all the wonderful old buildings and shops. Our tour guide explained some of the history of the village as we walked and stopped for a gelato. Finally we were back on our way home. We got home around10pm, exhausted and worn out from such a long day.

Italy – Day 6, Thursday

Awoke…at4am…to the sound of Debbie clinking dishes and silverware, obviously rummaging through our “closet” kitchen. ACTUALLY, its more of a kitchen in an armoire. I tried to ignore the racket for as long as I could, desperately in need of more sleep. But when she finally started opening squeaky shutters and singing out the window I reluctantly got outta bed to find that she had set the breakfast table and even had our bottle of wine placed center spot on the table. Ummm, okay it’s a little too early for vino! Next thing I know Debbie is going back to bed and I’m like – “heck NO you’re not going back to bed after waking me up!” I made her come sit out and listen to the birdies with me. There were so many birds chirping there was no way we were gonna get back to sleep. She tried to say that my snoring woke her up, but everyone knows that I never snore unless I’ve been drinking :/ We decided we wouldn’t do our hair or makeup today so that means pictures will be minimal, lol. We needed one day of “real” vacation. We quickly dressed and hopped in Blue Bella and Ms. Andretti burned rubber out onto the country roads. We found our way to the small town to look for a market. Instead, we found ourselves on an old dirt road that surrounds the hill town, a very narrow road way up high on the hill. Ms. Andretti (as she now insists on being called) had no hesitation to drive along the edge of the cliff because after all, it wasn’t on her side. I on the other hand gripped on for dear life. When we finally found the market in town, I proceeded to get out and barf. Okay, well you know I never really barf, but I wanted to. She insisted this is what Blue Bella was made for. Maybe if it wasn’t a stick shift, and she wasn’t grinding the gears all the way, I wouldn’t have minded so much. Not really, she’s an excellent driver (she insisted I add that too). We should all be grateful she never drinks and drives. Unfortunately that means we’re gonna be walking a lot. We walked into the market and grabbed a plastic glove. Apparently you cannot touch the produce here without them on and we had every intention of touching lots of stuff. We bought lots of goodies so we could make snacks and even a few dinners back at our house. We were loaded down with enough to last a couple of weeks regardless of the fact we will only be here about five days. I’m sure Debbie will wrap every little tiny morsel that is left and attempt to smuggle it on the plane and through customs. We then bring our goodies home and after putting them away, Debbie made us some lunch that we enjoyed out on our veranda. Again, the birds were not only singing, but this time they were diving in and around the sky, at times appearing to dive bomb us. Debbie was sure they were flirting with her and showing off for her. (This trip has done wonders for her ego.) We finally took a walk over to the pool where we lounged in the sun for awhile. We both fell asleep! It was sunny but there was a nice breeze. It was awesome though, a much needed rest since we had been up since4am. We came back to our house and I cleaned up and did the dishes while Debbie again fell asleep, she wasn’t feeling too well. Eventually I started dinner around9pm, cooking up some spaghetti with Italian sausage and a salad. I woke Debbie up and she went over to the restaurant and bought us a bottle of vino. We ate our nice cheap meal and then typed this. Ta da!! We are watching American movies dubbed in Italiano and contemplating playing Go Fish. Maybe not.

BTW, I finally figured out how to include pics and video in one video so there’s only now 🙂

Italy – Day 5, Wednesday

We woke up early, got showered and packed up before breakfast. We went out to the dining area and chatted with some of our new guests. Ricarrrrrdo doted on all of us, keeping a good eye on Debbie the whole time, personally serving her coffee while the rest of us peasants got up to get our own. I went in to finish drying my hair while Ricarrrrdo took Debbie to his private residence to show Debbie his “etchings.” She later told me that Casanova #3 again asked for a kiss goodbye and she politely declined. While agreeing to a hug goodbye he made the swift move to take his kiss and attempted to slip her the tongue. She stuck to me like glue until we got outta there. But seriously he was a really nice guy and gracious host and can anyone really blame him with her hotness. He truly was taken with her. He carried our luggage down the four flights of stairs and we were on our way saying goodbye to Venezia.

Found our car rental agency and Blue Bella rolled up (think Herbie). We navigated our way out of Venezia and onto the autostraude. We arrived in Bologna and stopped for snacks. We bought what else – Bologna! We ate our big giant Bologna and crostini’s while on the road. Debbie was getting real comfortable with the Italiano driving and at times reached speeds of 140. I kept telling her that those weren’t MPH yet she insisted I call her Debbie Andretti (eyes rolling). All this speed gave me heartburn. Okay, maybe it was the Bologna. But I was in desperate need for some antiacids. Debbie finally agreed to stop, but only because we needed gas. We stopped at a market that was on the overpass of the freeway. It was like a store on a bridge, kinda weird. We bellied up to the espresso bar and we were poured a glass of water with fizzy powder and we downed it fast. They promised it would help our heartburn. What the heck it was 50 cents and it worked. Debbie Andretti had us back on the road in no time. We eventually got off the autostrade and we started on some back roads deep into the heart of Toscana. Hills and valleys of vineyards and crops were all around us. I forced Ms. Andretti to slow down and enjoy the scenery. She felt the need for speed but finally the greenery lulled her into a comfortable drive.

We finally arrived safe to our farmhouse. The scent of jasmine wafted in as we got outta Blue Bella. Even Blue Bella was relieved that she arrived in one piece with her passenger seat unsoiled. Immediately we were greeted by a cute little dog named Tito and showered him with hugs and kisses. (We’re missing our doggies.) He led us up to the office where Giovanni gave us the keys to our house. We admired the grounds as we walked towards our house, flowers and trees were all around this rustic old building. The pool lit up in the distance surrounded by more trees. The location is amazing. After climbing two flights of stairs we were thrilled see the stunning views from outside our windows and settled in for the night. We walked across the grounds to the restaurant on sight and ate dinner. More wine and food…more wine than food. We shared a salad and some polenta with mushrooms on top. The mushrooms had a strange soft texture to them. We each ordered the strange soft textured risotto with truffles on top. We began to get a little punchy from the wine and proceeded to crack ourselves up to the point where we couldn’t stop laughing. I couldn’t breath and almost pee’d my pants. A gentleman at a nearby table who heard us laughing wondered what was up with us. Afterall, it was only him and us in the place. It was incredibly quiet here compared to Venezia – what a contrast. He had the waiter send us a bottle of wine and he then came up to introduce himself. He was a travel agent scout from Sweden and was interested in how we found this place since it wasn’t on the beaten path. Since we had already had two half-liters of wine we took his bottle back to our house for another time. It was a long day on the road and Debbie’s driving escapade really wore her out and with all the crazy driving Ms. Andretti did, she was exhausted and fell asleep immediately. Went to sleep looking forward to our time here in Toscana.

Italy – Day 4, Tuesday

So last night we went to bed to the sound of mosquito’s but this morning we woke to the sound of one of our neighbors making magic. I guess she found her Casanova…plenty here. We woke up early and were dressed and ready for breakfast by 9am. I left to get a few things from the room and left Debbie with Ricarrrrrdo. She later told me the he kept telling her how pretty she was and that he really liked her and asked if he could give her a kiss. She said no. He started to walk away, but he turned back and gave her a kiss on the cheek anyway. That’s her story and she’s sticking to it (no picture, no proof). Soon after, we went out to do some shopping, yeah, more. Debbie made her purchases and we then walked to Piazza San Marco where I bought a souvenir for my travel curio. As we approached the square, we saw that there was some kind of ceremony going on. Apparently it is a pretty big holiday here inVenice. There were a number of police officers gathered around for crowd control. Boy oh boy, were they some cute men! Debbie brazenly went up and asked if she could take a picture with them and a couple gathered around her. I started motioning to others to join her, hand picking out all the cute ones. They got quite a kick out of us, but willingly posed with her. (Lacy, you will love these pics, I picked out some hotties specifically for you!) We eventually got our first scoops of gelato…coconut, chocolate, milk??, and pistachio. It was a particularly hot day today so we found some shade to sit and eat our gelato until the “sitting cop” came over and rudely told us we had to move. After dropping off our packages in our room, we decided to stop and get a light bite to eat. Again we ordered the half carafe of vino and Debbie had onion soup and I had mushroom soup. We then headed off to explore the city on foot. Debbie wanted to see the Jewish Ghetto area so we walked and we walked and we walked! Our feet were throbbing, our calves were throbbing, and our backs were throbbing but we marched on and on. We’re still not sure if we ever found the Ghetto, it was all pretty old. Bummer, Debbie had really wanted to find a gift for Denise. Finally we stopped to get a frosty lemony drink while on our way back to our room again. Interestingly there was no “sitting cop” this time and there were lots and lot of people sitting where we had been earlier. We rested for about 30 minutes in our room, watching out for mosquito’s flying around us. Debbie tried to get them with her shoe but wasn’t too lucky. It might have been something about the dog crap on the bottom of her shoe. We soon left to visit Doge’s Palace after I insisted she scrub her hands clean for more walking and walking, and looking and looking. There was no dog crap in Doge’s Palace. It was very beautiful “ACTUALLY”, but Debbie particularly liked it a lot. She was really excited about seeing the prison and torture areas in the palace and took many pictures of the cells. (I think she might have some secret fetish I don’t know about.) If anyone knows anything about me, they know I don’t do museums and art galleries when I travel. I’d much rather be doing something adventurous like people watching while sitting in a café sipping on wine or riding along the water in a boat. But I endured for Debbie (now she owes me). Finally the tour came to an end and it was all we could do to manage all the stairs and bridges on our way back up the four flights of stairs to our room. Serious pain running through our bodies!! We got back to our room around 7:30pm where Debbie proceeded to fall asleep while I uploaded photos. I woke Debbie up so we could go on our gondola ride. We walked out to the canal and spotted a cutie gondolier. Debbie pulled a Denise and haggled with him over the fee, wanting to insure we got a fair amount of time for a fair rate. She kept close eye on the time on her cell phone. because we didn’t want to be scammed on our ride. We walked away a couple of times until he realized he wasn’t messin’ with no newbies. He eventually met our price and we agreed to go with him, after all, he was pretty cute. We boarded the gondola disappointed that we didn’t have a bottle of wine with us, we were unprepared. However, our nice gondolier, Alessssssssandro, asked if we wanted to “pull over” near a market so we could get some. Certainly! So we run in and get a nice bottle along with three glasses so Alesssssssandro can share the bottle with us. We continue on our ride, and “Alesssss” decides to be silly and spook us (aka scaring the shit out of us) and Debbie jumps and spills her red wine all over her hot pink pants….yes, they were hot pink. A tiny drop got on her white top, sucks. Anyway, we continue on, and “Alesss” offers to sing for us. “I loooove spaghetti……and macaroni…..I love salami…..and Rrrrrrrrrrravioli”. It was lovely, very romantical, but he won’t be joining my band any time soon. He showed us where Casanova lived and we were sure it was Alesssss home personally until he mentioned his 2 year old son. Oh well, a couple of middle aged moms can dream, right? Debbie got up and rowed the boat for us for awhile, she was quite the gondolieria. Okay, maybe more like delirious. Eventually our ride came to an end and as “Alessss” stepped out to talk business with a friend, so another gentleman stepped onto our boat and chatted with us a bit. He also shared our bottle of wine. It was plentiful, so we didn’t mind sharing…but we did make sure the glasses were even, lol. We were given the recommendation of a particular restaurant called Santa Marina so off went on a trek to find it. It was supposed to be one of the best. Well after twists and turn we still couldn’t find it. We kept running into the same policia and they kept trying to give us directions. We gave it a good attempt but we were still lost. They told us if we couldn’t find it in five minutes to come back. Well we did, about three times. While on our scouting for the restaurant, we did happen upon a nice maitre’d who offered us a free glass of proseco so we sat and chatted with him for a few minutes. He only had five minutes so it was an easy free drink. Finally the policia offered to walk us to Santa Marina restaurant. We felt like criminals having a policia escort. Well as luck has it, the restaurant was closed!! Luckily, on our way back to our room, we came upon a place that was still open at 10:30pmthat was still offering pizza and vino! Woo Hoo, happy girls. After our late dinner, we proceeded back to our room, singing all the way. “Ass hol a mia, oh sa da meee”. Just as we were on the decline for a huge set of stairs a lone Italiano heard us singing and abruptly turned to walk toward us, no doubt looking to take advantage of a couple of Americaaaaaaaaaano women. He introduced himself as Carrrrrrrrlo and asked if we wanted him to take a picture of us. Being that we didn’t have too many together we were grateful for the offer. After he took our picture he wanted a picture of himself with Debbie. Okay, another Casanova. He took her into his arms to pose for the shot and was kissing on her cheeks hoping for more no doubt. He was quite cute, but very young. After escaping that encounter we decided to put some distance between us and the admirer so as soon as we turned the corner we hauled ass running all the way home not daring to make eye contact with another Italiano on the prowl. It was a long hard day, but a good day.

Italy – Day 3, Monday

Today we slept in and missed breakfast. We didn’t mind too much, we were out until4amthe night before. We really just wanted coffee so we walked a short alley or two to the McDonalds. You would think you would get a nice normal size cup of coffee but you don’t. They use the standard sized cups but they barely fill them halfway! So we bought another and poured them into one cup, showing these crazy Italiano’s how we Americans like our big coffee’s. We went back to our room and showered and eventually headed out to one of the museums that we missed yesterday. Debbie was hungry so we decided to stop for lunch since it was aboutnoon. We walked and walked to find the perfect place. We did, and it had the BEST pizza ever! We ordered a salad, a nice normal salad, a “half” carafe of vino and a small pizza to share. We sat and watched the school kids play and chase the pigeons in the piazza while we ate our lunch. We then walked to one of the museums and had a look around. There were tons and tons of paintings, sculptures, weapons, and other historical artifacts. It was interesting but we were feeling very thirsty and our feet were aching so we left and went to find something to drink. I had a diet coke and Debbie got a bottle of water. We then were debating on gelato or another half carafe of vino….we went with the vino. After a lot of walking around and some more shopping, (Debbie bought her daughter a little surprise), we wandered down various alleyways and peeking into secret gardens. We finally found a place to sit down and rest our tired feeties. Good thing because it was in the dog park and there were lots of adorable doggies to pet and give kisses to. We went on over to another museum but the gentleman at the door spoke very little English so we had the hardest time trying get information out of him. After a much needed rest and people watching, we again began to wonder the alleyways looking for a spot to sit and have a glass of vino again. We settled on a little café with alleyway seating and oh my gosh, did it feel good to sit down again! We ordered….what else… a half carafe of vino along with a selection of cheeses and bread. Debbie really loved the bread. We lingered for quite a while, chatting with another nice couple forAustria. They were eating a delicious looking ravioli and cannelloni so we finally decided to just stay and have our dinner there. We ordered another half carafe of vino…yes another one…and began talking to the couple on the other side of us. They were from theUK. It was quite an interesting conversation of politics and even with my conservative views, it went quite well. They had lived in Philly for two years so they had a better understanding of where we were coming from and had a really good view ofAmerica. We also chatted on about our various travels. They were a lovely couple, the kind you wish lived near you at home. We come home early tonight, about10pm, because we want to get an early start tomorrow. We went to sleep with the buzzing of mosquito’s in the room.

Italy – Day 2, Sunday

Today we woke up easily. We quickly dressed and went out to greet Ricarrrrrdo with a welcoming Bojourno! We chatted a bit over coffee, orange juice, yogurt, and croissants with jam and jelly and Nutella. After he assisted Debbie with a language lesson, he pointed out that he is a “full service B&B” to his single travelers (wink, wink), he helped us plan our day. He recommended the Doge’s Palace, the Friar… church…museum…we don’t know, and one other place I also forgot. We again prettied up, (since we had dressed quickly for breakfast….can we say “WE NEED COFFEE!!”), and then we headed off with our map to visit these wonderful cultural icons, starting with the Doge’s Palace. Finding our way thru the maze of street, we arrive to find LINES!! We don’t like lines. Also, it was cold and breezy and we were without jackets. So we slip into some boutiques, lots and lots of boutiques. We start wondering if the cultural icons hold a candle to all this shopping.

To eliminate Debbie’s “travel problem” we stop into a wonderfully smelling Italian cafeteria because she spotted some apricots and cherries…if you know what I mean. This should prove promising. We Ooooo’d and Ahhh’d over all the wonderful food on display and decided we might come back here for lunch. However, B10 was rude at the counter. He got a double Bingo but we made deductions for his rudeness. They couldn’t give us a bag to take the promises to go and were forced to seat ourselves at a table with no napkins. One of the workers walked by, a mere B5, and Debbie tried to get a napkin. He hastily brought napkins to some people in the garden. Trying again to get a napkin, B5 who was now reduced to a B3, still would not bring her a napkin and instead pointed her to the garden. Finally a B4 brought her a napkin.

INSERT EXPLAINATION: Rather than be obvious every time we see a handsome Italian man, we decided on our own private system of ranking the men by calling out Bingo numbers and if we agreed the other one yells out Bingo! So there you have it, the tacky American tourist hottie rating system.

We shopped for a couple of hours and came upon a little shop selling cookies. Debbie bought a bag of cookies and decided another cup of cappuccino was in order. We found our way to “our spot” and had our cookies and cappuccino.

We decide to find the Friar’s….church….museum…whatever it is. On our way towards the Rialto Bridge….we shop. Shop, shop, shop, what else are two women gonna do? As we approach the Rialto Bridge we see a canoe event going on. Lots of different teams of boaters going by on the Grand Canal. We spot a little restaurant right at the Rialto Bridge along the water’s edge. The waiter quickly seated us in premium viewing spots. We decide to grab a light bite to eat for lunch. Debbie ordered the Mussles and Clam chowder, I ordered the Fish soup, both coming with tasty wheat rolls, and this time we only ordered the half-carafe of vino. PERFECT LUNCH!

MUSSLES AND CLAM CHOWDER – was more like a bowl of steam mussels and clams in a tasty broth for dipping the bread in. It was awesome!

FISH SOUP – a mixture of muscles, clams, prawns, fish in a vegetable broth including some carrots and celery with little toasts on top. Yummmo!

We were seated “accanto” (next to) a lovely couple from Austria, whom we chatted with a bit. The wife pointed out the hotel that George Clooney stays at. We all drooled on about Georgie baby for awhile….and then Antonio and Matthew too. Seems our Hollywood hotties are the universal language.

We walked back to our room thinking the apricots might be working on Debbie. I laid down for a quick 20 minute cat-nap and when Debbie came out with an exciting report and she laid down for awhile also. Ummm yeah…..we woke up five hour later!! I guess the jet-lag was still with us. We never did make it to any of the museums….but we were okay with that because we had an amazing day in Venice. We then decided to go have a late dinner at 10:30pm and discovered it had not only rained, but most of the restaurants were closed or only offering drinks. We hit the jackpot when we happened upon “Al Mondo Novo”. Not only were they welcoming us in, the waiter Dennis, a mere B2, got upgraded to a B3 because he was such an awesome waiter, even at this late hour. We started with a Bellini aperitif…a peach champagne spritzer of sorts. We then ordered a lovely green salad that included not only lettuce, but some fresh herbs, shredded carrots, extremely tasty tomatoes and the most delicioso olive oil dressing.

SIDE NOTE: Debbie is NOT helping me write this post because she is standing on the antique desk trying to see what is on top of the enormous antique armoire. She’s discovered a spackle tool and she’s trying to convince me that there is a secret passage way behind the armoire.

BACK TO OUR DINNER: Dennis, aka Dennisioso to us, brought us 3 bottles of vino to choose from. We decided on the one with the governmental guarantee, a perfect Chianti. We both ordered a seafood risotto and it was awesome. Dennisioso poured our wine, being sure to keep the glasses even, (we want our fair share ya know?). This is something Debbie and I have been doing for years (keeping our glasses even) so it was particularly charming to see him do it as well. We are easily amused. We ended our meal with a very light berry topped crème brule.

We strolled back to our room to re-charge the camera battery. We went down many twists and turns, many of them no wider than Debbie’s arm span. Me….I couldn’t touch both walls because my arms are so much shorter. Did you know that her arm span is over a foot longer than mine! It was so quiet at night without all the annoying tourists (we aren’t tourists, we are world travelers ya know), so we went back out to Piazza San Marco at 1pm just to see it in the moonlight with all the peace and quiet. It was very romantic. We strolled arm in arm soaking it all in. Okay, so we weren’t arm in arm, but it sounded sweet, right?

We saw this pretty young girl tap dancing in the middle of the square, on cobbled stone pavement, wearing 3 inch high heels. We realized she is extremely intoxicated when she twisted her ankle and fell down. There were about 10-15 other people around, mostly men. Luckily we come to realize they were police men keeping their eye on her because apparently she was Russian with no identification on her, and she spoke no English or Italian. I guess she couldn’t remember where her hotel was. They finally took her to the hospital to sleep it off. It was sad actually, a pretty young girl all alone. Where the heck were her friends??

Anyway, a handsome Italian man, a B7, was sitting in a chair and he chatted with us a bit. He was very charming and told us some history of the area. Debbie wanted some coffee and he said he would walk us to a place that might still be open. It wasn’t, but we did have some good laughs at Debbie’s attempts at speaking Italiano. His name was Giuseppe and he seemed to have a crush on Debbie. She was enjoying the attention tremendously though guarded, not wanting to be taken advantage of by a Casanova. He assured us he wasn’t, lol, uh huh. But he was very pleasant with a good sense of humor and provided us some good laughs. He made many attempts to hold her hand and take her aside for a “special moment” but she would divert him by asking how to say “crazy Italiano” in Italian. In the end, we finally ended up back at our room and he was left disappointed to go home alone.

Italy – Day 1, Saturday

We arrived in Milan at 8am Saturday morning, walked out and got on a shuttle to the train station. That was an hour and a half ride. Debbie sat next to a handsome older Italian gentleman and practiced her Italiano. He got quite a kick out of her attempts. She’s making great progress. Unfortunately everywhere we go, she greets them in Italiano and therefore they assume we speak Italian and they start rambling stuff off to us and we both stand there with our mouths hanging open, like “huh?”….like a Molly look (for those of you who don’t know Molly is the Mexican grand-doggie). We arrive at the train station to stand in a long line to get our tickets to Venice. We have to wait 2 hours for the train but the train station is lovely, nice old wooden benches like you would see in the old movies.

Debbie is taken by all the sandwiches being eaten by the Italians. But since I know everything 😉 I point out that it is the Italian fast food….no burger stands on every corner here. But some of them were huge! We picked up some yummy little bag of crunchy baguettes and some salami. Debbie got a bottle of apricot juice hoping to keep herself regular…you know how she is when she travels. Finally our train arrives and we get on and find some seats. Ooops, we are in the wrong seats so we move. Oooops, we are in the wrong seats again and we move again. Oooops, now I am in someone’s seat so I leave Debbie there with her stranger friends to chat in Italian with while I go scout things out. Finally I find us a couple of seats next to some young “crew member”, guys on their way to meet the cruise ship that they worked on. B6….no Bingo here (I’ll explain later). Again we caught a few zzzz’s, me with my mouth agape catching flies, Debbie frowns when she’s sleeping. (she didn’t know). She “says” it’s because she’s sad she left Michelle and Jazzie at home…uh huh. Two and a half hours later, (24 hours since we left LA!!!), we FINALLY arrive in Venice like walking zombies!! Now we just walk out of the train station and there it is… vaporetti, gondolas, water taxis, and people….lots and lots of people.

We buy our ticket for the vaporetti and take our very scenic ride to Piazza San Marco. We haul our luggage up over bridges and cobbled stone walkways, going under the arch, turning down this alleyway and that, passing interesting shops and vendors until we finally reach our Bed and Breakfast Campana. We are greeted by Ricarrrrrrrdo, who is sooooo pleased to see us. He carries our luggage up four flights of stairs to our beautiful room.

Debbie is very impressed with the gentle-manliness of the men here. They are very kind to the elderly and specifically “single” middle aged moms. With tremendous energy, Ricarrrrrrdo directs us to the best place to eat, very close by, knowing we are walking zombies. After 30 hours in the same clothes, stringy yucky hair, we finally get in a shower and Oh MY GOSH, it felt so good!! We quickly prettied ourselves up and went off to dinner. Amazingly we found the restaurant that Ricarrrrrdo suggested. We both ordered the same thing, go figure. Starting with an aperitif of white wine, soda water and some bitter fruity liqueur, we wondered where the bread and olive oil were….nothing was coming. Our waiter indulged Debbie in her attempts to speak Italiano and we finally settled on some Gnocchi with tomato and basil, veal scaloppini, a GREEN salad, and a liter of the house vino. The gnocchi was great, the veal was “cosi cosi” (so-so), and the GREEN salad was…. green. The bread finally came with our meal, heavy day old stuff and some dried bread sticks that were pretty good. The green salad was a plate of iceberg lettuce, that’s it! Odd. The vino was great and plenty. Note to self, order only half-liter next time. We ate it ALL. We drank it ALL. But now we were re-energized so we walked around Piazza San Marco for awhile, stopping at the tourist kiosks, trying on this or that.

I finally bought a small tote bag to carry my “reading” glasses, camera, and Euros. It was a little windy and chilly in our strappy sundresses and our jackets were pretty thin so we decided against the gelato and instead went for some cappuccino. Debbie wanted a cookie. We searched and searched for the perfect cookie. I guess they don’t do oatmeal/raisin over here. She finally settled for a shortbread cookie with a big chocolate dollop in the middle. She bought two. We found a coffee shop/bar that had cushy seats so after walking away from the cookie store (with their plate), we sat down and had a wonderful cup of decaf-cappuccino.

We finally ended our day by climbing up our four flights of stairs to our room where we crawled into our comfy beds aroundmidnight. Debbie was out before I even figured out how to turn the TV off (the one she had just turned on).

Italy – Travel Day, Friday…off we go!

We started our day taking a cab to the LAX airport. Everything went smoothly, we did the self check-in, ran our bags (along with multiple zip locks for all our toiletries) through security and then we sat and had a quick breakfast before boarding our flight. Our first leg was to New York where we watched two lame movies…”Yes Man” and “Mall Cop”. We had decided to carry on our luggage because our connection in New York was only 45 minutes but even that went smoothly. We arrived at gate 31 and just walked over to gate 38 to board our flight to Milan. We were able to get a tad bit of sleep on that flight but not too much.  More later…