Day 273—Betty Boop

This morning as I left for the gym, my first visit back after eating and drinking my way through Italy for three weeks, I noticed the light shining through my Betty Boop rose was quite lovely so I stopped to take a few photos to put off the inevitable torture for a few more minutes.

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f/5.6
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Day 272- Shoefiti

On our morning walk this morning in Redding where Bobo has been staying while I was away, I saw this pair of sneakers hanging over a power line. Sue said she’d heard that this sometimes means a drug dealer is nearby but I read there are lots of meanings, some drug-related but many, very benign. Regardless of the meaning,I think the term “Shoefiti” is priceless.

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ISO 100
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WB mistakenly set to tungsten
SOOC

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Day 271— It’s Not The Stuff In The Green Can

I discovered the joy of cooking late in life and until I got my Microplane grater ten years ago or so, I had never grated my own parmesan cheese; I knew only of the packaged variety from Kraft that claims not to have any fillers, then proceeds to list fillers on its label…go figure. In Parma, we noticed that menus all listed Formaggio (cheese) as a course and whenever anyone ordered it, a huge chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano was wheeled to the table and pieces were chipped off using a coltellino, or small knife. When we visited the cooperative that produces Parmigiano Reggiano I wanted to bring home an entire wheel of this delectable cheese: it is high in calcium and other nutrients and lower in fat and sodium than other hard aged cheeses. Instead, I purchased two large slices, each over a kilo, and a couple of coltellini. One piece is a gift for my brother who also loves to cook and who has been caring for my parrot, Bobo, while I have been away. The other is mine, all mine, and I am already making a dent in it.

I thought I had better photograph it while some remains. It is laying on a special waxed paper that I was given at the cooperative for storing the cheese after I opened the plastic shrink wrap. And the coltellino works perfectly to shave off bits of cheese that I have been enjoying with a glass of wine in the evening since my return.

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Day 270—Hip, Hip, Hooray!

I’m still not back in my groove yet; my trip to Redding to pick up Bobo was postponed to Wednesday so I did a repeat of yesterday morning: on my way to take a shower this morning, I instead went back to bed at 8:30AM and slept until past noon. I hope my malaise disappears soon and that my enthusiasm for seeking out interesting photos will return. I did make a wine run to Costco this afternoon and when I returned late this afternoon, I had to put away the garbage cans that I forgot about putting away yesterday. On the wall near the garbage cans is a white climbing rose whose name escapes me at the moment and the rose hips are starting to appear. They were the only interesting thing I saw today that I wanted to photograph so, here they are. They look like cherry tomatoes.

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Day 269—Bevilacqua

One afternoon in Venice, we stumbled across a tiny shop called Bevilacqua next to a small canal; we had walked by it several times at night when the iron doors were down and there was no indication that anything was behind them. The shop is filled with gorgeous brocades and damasks and tassels and I was drawn in because of my love of fabrics. It was only after I got home that I read in Fodor’s that Bevilacqua has kept the weaving tradition alive in Venice since 1875, using 18th-century hand looms for its creations. Fabrics made by this firm have been used to decorate the Vatican, the Royal Palace of Stockholm, and the White House. I purchased a few tassels to give as gifts so now they will decorate the homes of a few commoners, but I decided to photograph them before I relinquished their beauty to someone else.

It was nice to be able to spend time with my camera this morning to think about the shot and what effect I was looking for. I used my 35mm prime lens, my tripod, my black backdrop, and long shutter speeds to achieve the look I wanted.

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ISO 100
f/9
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SOOC

Dat 268— Was It All a Dream?

When I looked at my passport this morning, the only visas stamped in it were from Switzerland, the country through which we entered and left Europe. In my foggy, jet lagged brain, I wondered for a second if we’d ever actually entered Italy, but then I found the one wine cork I saved from a favorite bottle from Alba. That’s visa enough. Yes, indeed, we were there! And, thanks, fellow photoblogger Melinda for suggesting the subject for today’s photo. I don’t think I could have come up with an idea on my own today.

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ISO 200
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WB, cloudy
SOOC

Day 267– Two Broads in Italy Day 23– Zurich to SFO

Zurich is an expensive city. Our dinner last night was excellent but pricey. And while we awaited our plane’s departure today, SwissAir flight 38 to SFO, we discovered that the airport also is expensive. We stopped at a bar next to the gate and ordered glasses of wine and some water to use up the 7 Swiss Francs I had left. We were shocked that the bill was $34 USD plus the 7 Swiss Francs. Well, we’re on vacation and as Linda pointed out, we saved more than $600 each on our plane tickets because we bought them in late 2010. I guess I shouldn’t bitch too much but I found the bar tab a bit over the top.

We’re now three hours into our flight and we each have had 3 glasses of wine. The a$$hole in front of me has reclined his seat so I have no room and am claustrophobic and sweating. The reclined seat makes the LCD screen dark, so I can’t watch the in-flight videos so I decided to work on my blog.

Hours have passed since I started writing. It’s now more than ten hours into the flight and we’ll be landing in less than an hour. The flight has been miserable for me because of the cramped seats. I took the window seat on this trip because I had the aisle on the trip over. I was hot and claustrophobic so after a few hours I walked to the back of the plane to the galley and just stood there and stretched my legs for most of an hour. A few others wandered in, as well. They have water, coffee, juice, snacks, and are very friendly and helpful. I suspect they don’t want a riot on their hands so they treat us well. Every couple of hours the flight attendants give us water and snacks but have stopped offering wine :-(. When I finally cooled off a bit and got more comfortable, i spent a couple hours listening to piano jazz on my iPhone which helped my disposition.

This was our last day in Europe. It’s been a wonderful adventure. Italy was all that I was hoping for and more. We loved the countryside, the people, the food, the wine, the excitement and anticipation of the next stop. I hope those of you who are following “Two Broads in Italy” have enjoyed the saga. Tomorrow I’m returning to “In Focus Daily” and getting back to improving my photography skills.
Here are a few photos from today’s return to the United States and, as hokey travelogues often end with a sunset, I,too, am ending “Two Broads in Italy” with the beautiful sunset that welcomed us back to the Sacramento Valley this evening.

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Day 266– Two Broads in Italy Day 22– Heading Home

We are headed home. While waiting at the Milan train station, we refueled with copious amounts of wine and bought pannini for the trip. We had dinner in Zurich at the same place we ate when we arrived and met Hans again and Jan, our new waiter. We had a delicious dinner and lots more wine but we are ready to go home and we retired early. Tomorrow, the flight home.

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Day 265– Two Broads in Italy Day 21 — Cheese, Ham, Vinegar, Parma Style

Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, and Balsamico Tradizionale to be exact. Our guide, Giulia and our driver, Pietro, picked us up at the hotel this morning at 8:30 and by 9:00 we were suited up and enveloped in the heady aromas of Parmegiano Reggiano. The facility is a cooperative owned by several farmers who provide milk twice daily to the cheese maker. Nothing goes to waste and the leftover liquid which is too acidic for use in cheese or dumping somewhere, is fed to those notorious gluttons, the pigs who will become Parma hams. We toured the factory and watched the cheese making process for a couple of hours before heading to a prosciutto factory to learn that only real Parma ham has a metal button impressed in it and other identifying factors. They even massage the exposed part of the ham with more pork fat to soften it and Linda and I are considering starting a skin care business based on it. Is the name, “Parma Fat, Sassy, and Smooth”, catchy enough?

Then off to lunch at a lambrusco winery which is produced here to cut through the fatty foods; lunch was local prosciutto, salami, a kind of cured ham not sold in the US, Parmigiana Reggiano, and ricotta stuffed ravioli with butter. That lambrusco, and a lightly sparkling white helped cut the fat but we would have devoured it all without the wine.

We ended the day at a facility that makes traditional balsamic vinegar which we learned is made from only grape juice and must be aged at least 12 years and in order to be sold as Balsamico Tradizionale, it must be bottled in a special bottle designed by a guy who designs Ferraris. In the past 30 or so years, the Italians have become very particular about the foods that represent them and they have done well.

A we drove back into Parma, Pietro pointed out the Barilla factory, but sadly, since the big Barilla push in the US a few years ago, our Barilla is made in the US and is owned by Kraft Foods.

This is our last full day in Italy. We leave by train for Zurich tomorrow and then fly to SFO Saturday.

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Day 264– Two Broads in Italy Day 20 — Getting to Parma

We left Venice this morning taking one last ride on the vaporetto back to the train station. As I thought might happen, last night’s caffè doble kept me awake, the super concentrated caffeine made my heart pound long into the night. I won’t be doing that again any time soon.

Venice has no motorized land vehicles so the streets are quiet and there is a calm about it despite the hordes of tourists. We will miss Venice. We boarded a train to Bologna which was packed with tourists on their way to Florence. We were happy to exit the crowded train, even with its complimentary white wine and peanuts, to board the much emptier train to Parma.

Our guide books describe Parma as quite lovely but did not alert us to the complete remodeling of the train station which made exiting the train treacherous. We followed a very elderly man to the exit; he took so long to get down the aisle that by the time he reached the exit and opened the door, the train started to depart for Milano. The door was heavy and closed automatically and started to close on the old man halfway down the steps. I tried to keep the door open but was overpowered by the automatic system. I kept opening it and it kept snapping shut as I kept fighting it shouting that we needed help. An Italian woman on the train started shouting to someone outside who finally came to our aid, stopped the train and got the old man, and us, off at the Parma stop. Just a little excitement in an otherwise nondescript day of travel.

When we finally got to our hotel, we were unhappy that we couldn’t get the A/C to come on plus the room was small and overlooked an ugly flat asphalt roof. We complained and were moved to another room overlooking the main street. Parma seems large but the traffic is not as frenzied as other places we have visited and many people ride bicycles instead of scooters so it’s much quieter. We hadn’t eaten anything yet today so while we awaited our new room, we walked downtown to Salumeria Garibaldi, an Italan deli, where Nìcola, the cute young deli man, served us meatballs, lasagna, gnocchi and vegetable flan with red wine to ease the hunger pangs. He was thrilled when I told him my name was Carlotta because that is his girl friend’s name. He recommended several places for dinner but now that we have already eaten and drunk so much, I’m not sure when we’ll go to dinner.

Today was an uninspiring day for photos but here are a few of the deli.

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Day 263– Two Broads in Italy Day 19 — It’s All About The Food

We took the morning vaporetto, the local water taxi, to the island of Murano where glassblowing is the tourist attraction. It was way too commercialized for us and each shop was tackier than the last. But I loved the quiet streets and waterways, and took lots of post card type photos there.

After returning to Venice and devouring delicious pizza and wine for lunch, we went in search of Harry’s Bar. We stumbled across it on the Grand Canal and went in for an overpriced Bellini, which was created at Harry’s and consists of Prosecco and peach juice. The bar wasn’t crowded and only some older English speaking tourists were enjoying the quiet ambiance from the 1940’s, until a young American couple brought in their two young children, about 18 months and 3 years, placed them on bar stools and ordered non alcoholic Bellinis for them, exclaiming “you’re having a Bellini at Harry’s Bar!” They were loud and obnoxious acted as if everyone in the bar should find them and their children irresistably cute. No wonder Europeans hate Americans. WE hated those Americans. Why they would bring small children into a bar, I’ll never know. They drove us from Harry’s and probably had never heard of Ernest Hemingway, who made Harry’s famous, let alone read any of his writings.

So we continued on our way, now in search of cannoli because my friend Irene commented on this blog and wondered if we’d tried it and how it was, telling me she grew up on it but thought it was a, Sicilian delicacy. We asked in a little shop where we made some purchases and were directed to a pasticceria that sold it. I thought it was delicious but I’m no judge since I’d never tried it before today but I’ll try it again if I can find it.

Late in the day, our quest changed to find porcini risotto for dinner. We lucked upon a ristorante that included it on their menu so we sat down for dinner. It was so delicious that we were uttering orgasmic sounds as we ate this incredible dish, covered with thin slices of black truffles. It was by far the best risotto I have ever eaten and I practically swooned when the waiter served the remainder of the pan of risotto, cooked to order for us, and topped the last scoops with more black truffle slices. Because of my atheistic tendencies, Linda wouldn’t let me say that I’d died and gone to heaven so I let my orgasmic groans (think “When Harry Met Sally”) speak for me.

We finished the evening, our last in Venice, on the Piazza San Marco, Linda with wine, me with a double espresso that will likely keep me up the rest of the night, and enjoying the live music that we’ve listened to each evening. When we arrived back at our room, we hesitated entering because it opens directly onto the tiny piazza and three Nigerian vendors of fake Gucci and Louis Vuitton bags were walking by. Out of nowhere, an Italian policeman appeared in a dead run straight toward these guys. They scattered and managed to elude the police but not before dropping most if their fake wares. It was an interesting way to end the day.

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Day 262, cont.– Two Broads in Italy Day 18, cont. Night Life in Venice

The rain returned in the evening along with a spectacular thunder and lightning show. We decided to brave the storm to go to dinner at a trattoria whose menu we’d seen and liked. We borrowed an umbrella from the hotel, I donned my rain coat which prompted Linda to call me “Little Red Riding Hood” and we were off on another adventure.

Somehow, despite then rain and the dark, we easily found our way down narrow streets and across a couple of bridges without slipping on the wet cobblestones or being struck by lightening, to Ristorante Marciana. The street was bustling and vibrant and we joined other diners outside under the protection of the awning instead of going inside. We enjoyed a delectable antipasto of shrimp and pickled onions and a main course of spaghetti di mare, copious amounts of wine and after dinner, I ordered limoncello AND grappa. We struck up a conversation with the couple at the next table and had a lively discussion with lots of laughter which drew in another couple from another restaurant who heard the commotion and joined in.

It was well into the evening’s conversation that we learned that our delightful table mates were New York State Senate Majority Leader and President Pro Tem Dean Skelos and his lovely wife Gail. I gave my grappa to Dean as I quickly realized that limoncello and grappa together was not a wise choice. The couple who joined us were also from NY so the conversation got livelier and they had met our adorable waiter the evening before on his day off so he bought them a bottle of wine when they joined us.

When we parted company, Linda and I decided to return to Piazza San Marco to listen to more live music. The rain had stopped by now and we once again managed to successfully maneuver the narrow passageways. We ordered more wine and then to our horror realized Linda had left her purse at the trattoria. We went back through the narrow streets retracing our steps and luckily found the place again AND Linda’s purse. When we returned to the piazza, a waiter appeared immediately with the wine we’d ordered earlier. We probably didn’t need it but the shock of almost losing her purse with her cameras and iPad had sobered us up a bit.

The rain kept the crowds at the piazza light but didn’t dampen our spirits one bit. Yes, these two broads are having the time of their lives in Italy!

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Day 262– Two Broads in Italy Day 18- A Day in the Life of Venice

We’ve heard you either love Venice or hate it. We definitely fall into the former category. We spent the day wandering around and getting lost, weaving back and forth across bridges that spanned small canals and large ones. At one point we found we had crossed the Grand Canal without realizing it. We discovered the Rialto Mercado quite by accident and found ourselves away from the hordes of tourists gawking at the basilicas and taking over priced gondola rides. We were suddenly in residential neighborhoods and the streets were blissfully empty.

The morning rain gave way to afternoon sunshine. Venice is a photographer’s dream.

Here are just a few of my shots from today.

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261– Two Broads in Italy Day 17- Get Thee To A Nunnery

We are in Venice at last. We spent the day traveling, taking three separate trains to get here from Sorrento. It’s been raining off and on today, a nice change from the hot temperatures we’ve had everywhere else in Italy.

Our hotel is a former 16th Century convent on a narrow side street just down from St. Mark’s Square and the entrance to our room is an ornate wrought iron and stained glass door that opens onto the street next to the main hotel entrance. A line from either Hamlet or Romeo & Juliet, I don’t remember which, “Get thee to a nunnery” was a Shakespearean double entendre; a “nunnery” in Shakespeare’s time could mean a convent or a brothel. If our room really was part of the convent, its direct access to the street made it easy for those 16th century nuns to get it on without Mother Superior knowing about it!

When we arrived in Venice this afternoon, I switched to my 35 mm prime lens so I could take advantage of the fast lens because the skies were dark and cloudy. At the train station we boarded a crowded vaporetto, a water taxi, that ferried us down the Grand Canal to St Mark’s Square. I snapped away as we went. By the time we checked into our hotel and found a recommended ristorante, it was past 6 and we hadn’t eaten since leaving Sorrento at 8 AM. Unfortunately, our dinner was only mediocre but we walked back through St. Mark’s Square and enjoyed wine and music from several musical groups that played on small stages throughout the piazza. Not even a few raindrops dampened the evening for us.

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Day 260– Two Broads in Italy Day 16- Risotto del Mare

Sixteen days of travel have caught up with us a little and we took another day to kick back and enjoy the pace of Sorrento. There are more locals here than tourists and they enjoy strolling, shopping, riding their scooters, sipping cappuccino and wine at the local trattorias so we spent another day people watching from our balcony or from our sidewalk cafe table. Linda encouraged me to rent a Vespa for a few hours but I didn’t think my years riding my VeloSolex moped qualified me to ride a scooter and since we we have yet another week to experience the sights, foods and wines of Italy, I decided it would be better if I didn’t chance a Vespa accident.

We had looked forward to having risotto del mare at Ristorante Delfino on the Marina Grande since we met a young couple in Florence who recommended it. We ate there yesterday and enjoyed the delicious lobster ravioli with mussels and clams and were anticipating a delectable meal tonight, but we were disappointed. The bruschetta was excellent but the fried calamari was tough and the risotto del mare was a huge disappointment. The rice was undercooked and the seafood was overcooked and there was no flavor of the sea. For comparison, yesterday we ate the seafood risotto at La Basilica that was so fresh, tender and delicious that we we’re expecting wonderful things from Delfinos. Poor food but an interesting walk to get there and nice views of the Bay so it wasn’t all bad. And walking home at 10PM, we encountered the local nightlife where the main street, Corso Italia, that runs by our balcony, is closed to motor traffic and the street is filled with people, young and old, enjoying the evening and local entertainment. What a vibrant city this is.

Some views from today:

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Day 259– Two Broads in Italy Day 15- Sorrento

Today we had planned to take a ferry to the Isle of Capri (with the accent in the cap) but when we woke up we realized that we were already in a lovely, unique place so we decided to enjoy Sorrento. Our small balcony overlooks the main Sorrento thoroughfare and we felt right at home with our caffè americano and our cappuccino from the little pastry shop next door watching the street come to life along with the locals who peered down from their nearby balconies. The shops opened one by one and the street began to bustle.

When we decided to join the crowds below we discovered a tiny kitchen shop two doors down from our hotel and we browsed there talking with the charming proprietor who lamented the loss of Italian factories to China. We each bought Italian-made pasta and espresso gadgets from him and continued on our way to the Marina Grande to find the recommended ristorante where we have reservations for dinner tomorrow night. We were hungry when we found it and spent a couple of hours dining overlooking the Bay of Naples and watching the fish swarming around bits of bread tossed into the water. We each had the most delectable lobster ravioli with clams and mussles along withe carafes of wine.

We had an unhurried delightful day enjoying the local sights and people and dining on once- in- a -lifetime seafood delicacies. Sorrento is small and very beautiful. It is late afternoon here as I write and the pace has slowed; the shops have closed for the Italian version of siesta but the pace will pick up again in a couple of hours.

Here are some pix from today, including a mate for the sunbather I photographed in Vernazza, our delectable seafood lunch and some views of the bay.

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Day 258– Two Broads in Italy Day 14- Amalfi

Today we spent about 7 hours driving down (and back up) the Amalfi Coast. Haze caused by the unrelenting heat and a fire on one of the steep hillsides kept some of the beauty of this coastline obscured but it was still breath taking and we were glad someone else was driving us around the hairpin turns.

We we happy to discover that Massimo, our guide, was a careful driver who didn’t take chances and was polite, knowledgeable, neat, and friendly. At one point, the narrow road was blocked when a German tour bus, unfamiliar with the narrow roads and tunnels, got stuck in a tunnel and the cars backed up for about a half hour. After that finally cleared, we witnessed a Vespa accident when one Vespa driver failed to yield the right of way and another, a young woman, plowed into him on one of the hairpin turns, inches from our car. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries and they, and we, continued on our way. I don’t think I want to drive in Italy again.

We saw lots of roadside vegetable stands with lemons unique to the region from which limoncello is made and lots of chile peppers that are available to add zest to Italian dishes. We visited Positano which clings to the side of a cliff, Amalfi, and Ravello. Massimo was adorable and has only recently started this tour business with his brother-in-law to support his young family. He loves to cook seafood and makes his own limoncello so we picked his brain for insights into Sorrentine cooking.

We ended the day back in Sorrento and returned to La Basilica Ristorante for Risotto del Mare. This dish, with its perfectly cooked rice, was filled with succulent mussels, razor clams, calamari, Manila clams, and crab claws, and it was delicioso!! After dinner, we staggered onto the Sorrento City Train, a funky local tour ride, with other drunken revelers and drove around Sorrento laughing and singing with the mostly Italian tourists. Couldn’t see much in the dark but enjoyed the ride.

Here are a few of today’s shots and the link to Massimo’s website. Drive Through Paradise

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Day 257– Two Broads in Italy Day 13-0n The Road Again

We left Florence and took a high speed train to Naples. Our Eurail pass is for first class seats but so far the trains have been mediocre at best, more Amtrak-ish or worse until today. We had plush seats that reclined, were offered newspapers (all in Italiano but it was a nice gesture and after all, Italians do ride these trains!). We also had free soda and Prosecco but the Prosecco is limited to one glass per trip. The countryside was beautiful but the windows were dirty so decent photographs were impossible. We arrived in Naples after three hours. The Florence and Naples stations were the first stations we have found with platforms easily accessible and clearly marked train arrivals and departures.

We took our first taxicab ride in Italy from the Naples to the harbor to catch the Hydrofoil. It was a harrowing 15 minutes of careening and swerving through traffic as we held on for dear life and held our collective breaths as we squeaked mere millimeters past Smart Car after Vespa after city bus.

The Hydrofoil skimmed us over the Bay of Naples to Sorrento which perches high atop a cliff. We were relieved to see a line of buses and taxis waiting to carry the arriving swarm if tourists to the top. Our taxi driver, Antonio, was a typical, fast talking young Italian with, as luck would have it, a sight seeing tour business with his brother- in-law, Massimo. So tomorrow it’s an all day trip with Massimo to the Amalfi Coast.

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Day 256– Two Broads in Italy Day 12-Vespa

Today is our last full day in Florence. We’ve enjoyed staying in one place for four nights but tomorrow morning we board a train for Naples, then on to Sorrento by hydrofoil. We had planned to visit some nearby attractions since we didn’t get reservations to the Uffizi or the Accademia to see David but everywhere we went there were huge crowds and long lines, even more so than on Sunday. Since Linda and I both abhor crowds and lines we decided just to walk around and soak up the ambiance.

And I think “Vespa” pretty much describes the local ambiance. There are Vespas everywhere. They zip in and out of traffic and scoot through the narrowest if passages. Men and women, young, middle aged, and older all ride Vespas. There were quite a few in Milano, but nothing compares to the Vespas in Firenze.

And, one more thing. Linda insists that I update my blog. The other day I posted that my gold earrings would likely be my only purchase. Not so. Yesterday I couldn’t resist local olive oil and Super Tuscan wine and today, despite 90 degree temps, I now own a black lambskin jacket.

Now a little Vespa ambiance:

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Day 255– Two Broads in Italy Day 11-Machiavelli Slept Here

Today we took a tour of the Chianti wine region near Florence. Chianti Classico has come a long way from the ’60’s when everybody had a raffia covered Chianti bottle on their table with a candle stuck in it. Chianti Classico is now strictly regulated by the Italian government and must contain a certain percentage of Sangiovese grapes. One of the wineries we visited today produces small quantities of artisanal wine in a villa once occupied by Machiavelli himself. He wrote “The Prince” elsewhere but they claim he did live here for a time.

Some of the photos from today.

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