Gloria In Sienna
Italian Flags
April 2000

Mike with ancient Roman column


Pasta, Pizza, Gelotto,and Chocolate.  After being home a week, resting and recuperating, in hindsight it wasn't all that bad.  The last few days there I was really on a bummer, but I think it was because we just tried to cram too much stuff into few days.  The weather was not kind to us and that took it's toll as well, never giving us a chance to sit in the plazas and just watch the world go by.   But now that I look back on it, the trip was rewarding, educational, an adventure and an experience. 

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Gloria's niece Marissa lives in Milan and so we were with her and her fiancÚ, Geno.  They met us at the airport.  Gloria and Marissa had not seen each other in about 17 years, so there was a lot of screaming and jumping up and down.  It was a good reunion for them.  (Gloria & Marissa)    Geno is a real nice guy, reserved in his manners, reflective of a gentle spirit. He spoke pretty good English, and it got better before we left. He has a great sense of humor, and we were laughing and carrying on over many different subjects. We even had a few jokes of our own that we didn’t share with Gloria or Marissa. (The 4 of us)

The first weekend we toured Milan and Turin.  They are industrial cities, with not a lot for tourists to see.  The "Shroud of Turin" is only displayed once very 10 years, and the painting of the Last Supper in Milan can only be viewed by reservations and they are running about a month's lead time.   The first picture is in Turin, it is a church on the highest hill where the Royal family is buried, the second is the BIG church in the center of Milan.    We even walked up to the top of it. 

We drove to Florence on Monday.  Along the way we passed Carrara where they dig (or is it mine?  or maybe just unearth?) the huge blocks of Italian marble.  We could see them from the road.  Florence was really a neat place.  We enjoyed the food, the gellatto, the pastry, the shopping, and even the museums.  This is a real fun city.  (The ancient church)  We walked our poor feet off.  We only got lost once, about once a day that is.  ha...  Motorcycles, mopeds, small cars, and people everywhere.  Three days is not enough time there.  We had a real nice hotel overlooking the "New Market", not to be confused with the regular market.  (It was NEW a few hundred years ago.)

We took pictures but didn't really get to go into all the places that we took pictures of.  Like this building with the statue of David in the front (not the original).  The picture is of the bridge where there are jewelry shops.  The shops on the bridge have been there for hundreds of years.  The ancient people of Florence thought it was better to have good paying merchants there instead of the butchers and tanners that were there with the original 12th century bridge.  ha...

We took a day trip to Sienna from Florence, which is a nice medieval town, but because of the weather we were not all that impressed.  BTW, there is a huge American cemetery just on the outskirts of Florence. 

The town of Perugia that we stayed at for a couple of nights was a much better example of a medieval town, in our opinion.  They don't get quite as many tourist there so that is a plus, although they do have a couple of colleges and a foreign exchange university.  But the best part of Perugia is that it is the Chocolate Capital of Italy.  We were told of this little cafe that served the best Hot Chocolate by an American going to the university.  Of course when it is cold enough to snow outside, the wind is blowing and it is overcast what is better than thick dark Hot Chocolate???  We even stopped one evening after a nice dinner and walk thru the tiny streets at a pastry shop and got a scrumptious chocolate cake.  Bought the whole thing and ate half of it there, and took what was left with us to Rome.  Gloria took some good video as we walked the streets of Perugia just to get a flavor of the town.  The picture is of the main street in the center of town just outside the Church.

During our stay in Perugia, we took a side trip to Assissi.  It was interesting.  This picture shows Marissa, with the church where St. Francis is buried.  The other picture shows the medieval feel to the town, as they are doing a lot of restoration from the 1997 earthquake there.

After Perugia we headed for Rome.  The sun was shining during our train ride and the heat was refreshing.  We saw a lot of castles perched on top of the hills.  We met a very nice young lady from San Francisco doing Peace Corps work in Bulgaria.  She only has a few of more weeks left before she gets to come home. 

In Rome our accommodations were not the best, but it is extremely crowded this year with the Pope declaring a Jubilee.  We had dinner at this real good restaurant and sitting next to us was a young Japanese lady with the daring to tour Europe by herself.   She accompanied us to Trevi Fountain and we had a very nice evening sharing gellato. The weather kept us from making it back over there to take pictures.

We were able to get to the Vatican on Sunday morning where the Pope was giving an outdoor high mass and canonizing some people.  From there we walked over to the old ruins and then to the Coliseum.  We were just walking out of the Coliseum and it started raining.  It rained the remainder of our stay in Rome.  The next day we went to the Vatican again to go through the museums and the Sistine Chapel.  Of course there are no picture taking allowed, and Gloria was reminded of this a couple of times, as she attempted to sneak pictures with the video camera.  I was shocked at just how much footage she actually got!!!   We were impressed with all of the Vatican.  We even went up to the very top of St. Peters Church.   Unfortunately we could not see much of the city because of the weather. 

Then we headed off for VeniceAHH VENICE.     There is nothing like it in the world.  Just wished the weather had cooperated.  We had not read up on this town, so didn't know what to expect.  A zillion little islands connected by over 400 bridges, no motorized vehicles of any type, only transportation is foot or boat.  And QUIET because of it.  We took a tour out to the islands where they have the glass blowing factory, and then on to the lace factory island.  BTW, they moved the glass factory to another island hundreds of years ago in case it caught fire it wouldn't destroy Venice.  We toured the palace, and the prison.  The weather was so cold and windy we didn't get an opportunity to sit in the plaza and watch people.  We did a lot of window shopping.  It was just too expensive to do any other type of shopping.   This is the city where we went in for lunch to get a $7.50 pizza and the bill was over $20 because the coke was $5 a glass.  Nothing is inexpensive in Venice.  But we did enjoy our stay there.   We didn't ride on a gondola because I thought a dollar a minute was pushing it.   Although we did learn that the water taxi was even more expensive, if you can believe that.

Our last night in Italy was back in Milan with Marissa and Geno.  They were with us through Perugia and we actually missed their company and companionship.  We had to buy another suitcase to haul all the TREASURES home that Gloria bought.  About half of it was chocolate.  ha...

It was an adventure.  The weather and short amount of time got us down.  We would do it different the next time and not attempt to see everything.  We really enjoyed the food and met some very nice people.

Some of our observations:  We are spoiled by the fact that California does not allow smoking in buildings, and the Italians are heavy smokers.   If you order meat in a restaurant, you have to tell them how to cook it, otherwise it is raw.  And raw sausage on a pizza is terrible.  Cell phones are a way of life in all of Europe.  It is cheaper to have a cell phone than a regular phone.   Italian drivers will put a car where no one else thought a car could go.   Mopeds don't need mufflers.  You only have to be 14 to drive a Moped.   All museums and some churches charge to enter.  If you sit in a cafe, you pay a cover and sitting charge.   If you stand and drink hot chocolate in a Bar, you only pay for the hot chocolate.