Tag Archives: pizza

Happy (Just About) Summer!

25 May

Greetings, all! Fancy seeing you here- it’s been a while! Let me start by saying a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has made the move with me over to Treats, Travels And Truths– there’s absolutely no other place I’d rather start the journey than with you guys who have been following our shenanigans for all this time right here.The new site is coming along so nicely- growth is slow, but steady, and I’m learning more every day about the ins and outs of blogging on a larger scale. Most importantly, I’m having a really good time with it and that’s really all that matters, right? Please, please, please continue to help me spread the word and get the site out there- sharing it on Facebook or Instagram, sending the link to friends in emails or just telling them about it. I SO appreciate it. And you. ❤

So I just wanted to share some pictures from our last month or so. We’ve been really busy- and in a really good way for the most part! Y’all know we’ve had some visitors- my mom came for my birthday at the beginning of April and then John’s sister, brother and his family came a few weeks ago when we all headed to Greece (phenomenal vacay, btw). Other than that, we’ve been kinda all over the place- waiting for spring to arrive and taking advantage of days when it teases us (see the snow pictures below that were taken mid-April!), getting Neve registered for Kindergarten, Fruhlingsfest (the largest spring festival in the world!), rock climbing (Neve is in LOVE), celebrating Mother’s Day…Have a look!

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She’s really taken an interest in drawing- and is pretty darn good!

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Anybody else think these are the best kinds of lunch EVER?!

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Bedtime Stories ❤

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Fruhlingsfest

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Chocolate-covered fruit on sticks…

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What better last weekend in Germany than homemade pizza from scratch?!

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Morning waves from school ❤

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Mother’s Day Breakfast at Kindi…

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Found a huge rock climbing gym less than 20 minutes from the house! Neve has really started showing an interest and is really good at it!

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What do you do when you’re out walking the pups on Sunday afternoon, but a storm is rolling in? Find the nearest biergarten and wait it out 🙂

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All doing our best impressions of the ‘Ears Up’ pose 😉

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Waiting out the storm at the biergarten, overlooking Stuttgart…

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Good Lord. He is mine. ❤

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Just finished with Kindergarten Orientation on base. Safe to say that all three of us like the school, the teachers…and the playground! September can’t get here soon enough for this kid!

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We make Countdown Chains for so many things. This one marks when Daddy gets home this Saturday (the link with the stars) and when Uncle Andy arrives (the link with the smiley faces). This is the first chain that Neve made entirely by herself 😦

I told you we’ve been pretty dang busy! Lots of fun, though, and some pretty exciting stuff (how do we have a Kindergartner?!). And I’m happy to report that the weather is *finally* cooperating for the most part- we’re at least reaching 70/75F most days! Ha! I swear summer can’t get here soon enough! Speaking of which, our next adventure begins in just 5 days! We’re headed for the Canary Islands next week to do (hopefully) a whole lotta nothing- sun, sand, waves, drinks with umbrellas…Ha! This family needs some summatime, dammit! My little bit of planning is officially done (see selfie below where I reconfirm that I’m a nerd and must write down everything!), John gets home Saturday (he’s been in the States for work since last weekend), and Uncle Andy gets here Monday (he’s needing some Canary Islands in his life, too!) Life is good, friends. Happy Memorial Day weekend!

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Happy Easter, Y’all!

20 Apr

OK, a few days after the fact, but I hope all of you had a lovely Easter! We sure did! For starters, my mom was in town- she surprised me a few weeks ago with a last minute decision to come for a quick visit that just so happened to include my birthday and Easter. Both weekends were terrific. For Easter, we finally made it Burg Eltz, John’s bucket list castle that Rick Steves had named as ‘Best in the World’ (we attempted to see it last fall, but it ended up closing for the season the week before our trip :/). It was well worth the wait and has most definitely become one of our favorites, too! Birthday Weekend was terrific, too- the first night we celebrated with a Grown-Ups-Only night out with our tribe (woohoo for 2 babysitters + 5 littles!), then spent Sunday doing what we love the most- cooking, baking, and just being together. Meant so much getting to share it with Mom.

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We made pizzas from scratch- the crust, the sauce, the toppings…DELISH!

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This is my absolute FAVORITE cake on the planet and I get it once a year, when my sweet husband- and now sweet daughter- make it for me on my birthday. It’s a take on the classic Tres Leches, but with fresh homemade whipped cream and Oreos. HOLY COW.

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Birthday Flowers (with a Boston Terrier photo bomb!)

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Driving to Burg Eltz

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Burg Eltz

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Driving to Burg Eltz

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Waterfront in Koblenz, Germany, where we stayed to visit Burg Eltz…

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Deutsches Ecke- the merging of the Mosel and Rhein Rivers in Koblenz, Germany…

Mom and I also did a little daytrip over to Burg Lichtenstein, which is another of our favorites. It’s small and quaint, yet so charming and regal the way it’s built right on top of a giant rock overlooking the foothills all around. How is it possible that this is Mom’s first castle?!

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Other than that, we’ve just been doing a whole bunch of normal. And it’s been awesome. It’s crazy how much of a boost the regular, day to day stuff gets just from having your mom around. We dyed Easter eggs, we met up with friends at the biergarten when the weather was pretty, we celebrated the Easter Bunny’s delivery (via a clever scavenger hunt set up while we were gone to Burg Eltz!)…Oh, and BIG NEWS! Neve learned to ride her bike all by herself, no training wheels! BURSTING. That’s the only way I can describe the love and the pride her Daddy and I- and Goddess, and Poppy from afar!- felt. ❤

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Stuttgart Postcard Heart on a random fence…

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Trying to get a picture and I keep saying, ‘Turn around, no the other way, no the other way…’

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The beautiful face of a big girl bike rider!!

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When you take your American- little-bit-European- new bike riding girl for ‘whatever she wants’ and she chooses strawberry ice cream and an espresso with extra milk ❤

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When you get to be there to open the care package you sent before you knew you were coming! Ha!

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Do you ever stand at your grill flipping burgers and get the feeling you’re being watched?

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Taped to the door when we got home from the castle on Easter Sunday…

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We really did have the loveliest of times with Goddess here visiting and saying goodbye to her earlier this week was difficult all around. But at least our hearts are full and our souls are happy. ❤ Funny thing is that Mother Nature must’ve known we were prepared for a crummy few days because she brought back the snow! In April! This is the third time it’s snowed on the day Mom is leaving. Maybe it’s a sign…Ha! As pretty as it was and as unexpected, I’m pleased to report that it seems to have passed again and the forecast is showing slow improvement throughout the weekend. This Southern family is ready for WARM!!!

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And that’s it for now! Lots of fun over these last couple weeks and even more to come as John’s brother, sister-in-law, niece and sister arrive on Wednesday for their annual visit- and this time, we’re headed to Greece! A first for all of us!

But in the meantime, remember that big news I teased you with a couple weeks ago? Well, the time has arrived to share it- finally! Stop back by tomorrow for the big reveal 🙂

Ciao da Roma!

25 Apr

Disclaimer: You’re in for a long, juicy, but oh-so-awesome, pretty picture post with this one! What else could you expect? It’s Rome!

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What a fabulous time we’ve had these last 5 days! Seriously. We rolled up into here (home) last night feeling like we’d used every ounce of oomph- and every muscle in our legs- we had and it hurt so good. We couldn’t have covered any more ground if someone was paying us $1 million to do it! That’s when you know it was a good trip! Ha! Although laying in bed after our second day, John and I both agreed that we’re getting older. We’ve always been ‘power travelers’- we go into most trips with a gameplan, research ahead of time, and make the most of our time in any given place- but I’ve got to admit, we’re feeling more like 28 instead of 22 these days! 😉

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We took a train from our house to the airport, flew direct from Stuttgart to Rome, then took a taxi to our apartment in the city. This is waiting for Uber (taxi).

Several months ago, once Mark and Bethany decided on their travel dates, we started giving thought to where we’d like to visit during their time here. They had their Bucket List, so it was just a matter of where to start on it. With it being their first time in Europe, we wanted to make sure that their first side adventure was one for the books- somewhere recognizable, somewhere that makes an impression, somewhere that we could see alot of in a pretty short amount of time. Well yeah, Rome- and southward- certainly fits the bill, right?! And the fact that we’d spent a good bit of time there in the past- we guestimate that John’s been there for work 25-30 times!- really helped in the decision because it just makes things that much easier for getting around- and knowing what’s worth waiting in line for 😉 The icing on the cake? Going that far south means warmer temperature and sunnier (mostly) skies! WOOHOO!

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Our apartment (Airbnb for the win!) was just off this square, probably the largest in the city.

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Standing 86 feet tall, Trevi Fountain is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome and one of the most famous in the world. (Anyone remember the movie, When In Rome, where Kristen Bell runs out of the church and climbs into a big fountain?) The fountain, originally built in 19BC is actually the junction of three roads that marks the the terminal point of the aqueduct that supplied water to the ancient city. The current fountain was restored and expanded in 1629. It’s made from travertine stone taken from a quarry about 20 miles outside of Rome.

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After dinner gelato at Trevi Fountain. (We sure do make some blue-eyed babies, don’t we?)

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The Pantheon is the best-preserved ancient Roman building and has the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. Dedicated in 126AD, the reason it’s been so well preserved is likely because it’s remained in continuous use for most of its history, having been used as a church since 7AD. The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening to the sky.

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Standing in the middle of the Pantheon looking straight up through the oculus in the ceiling.

An interesting fact about the Pantheon dome…If you were to put hinges where the base meets the walls and flip it upside down like a bowl, it would be less than 1mm from the ground, making a perfect sphere. Yes, they were able to get that precise nearly 2000 years ago. I can’t even.

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Can you believe these marble floors are 2000 years old?

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It’s tough to get a good shot of such a large, round space, but this gives you a feel for inside. Walking in the front door, looking immediately left.

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Walking back to the apartment after a successful first afternoon ❤

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Random Cathedral we happened upon…Jeez.

Vatican City, the world’s smallest country in both area (110 acres) and population (842), is a walled enclave in the heart of Rome. It wasn’t officially declared autonomous until 1929. Its government, all Catholic clergy led by the Pope, has “full ownership, exclusive dominion, and sovereign authority and jurisdiction” over the city-state.

The Vatican City State budget includes the Vatican Museums and post office and is supported financially by the sale of stamps, coins, medals and tourist mementos; by fees for admission to museums; and by publications sales. The incomes and living standards of lay workers are comparable to those of counterparts who work in the city of Rome. Other industries include printing, the production of mosaics, and the manufacture of staff uniforms. The Institute for Works of Religion, also known as the Vatican Bank, is a bank situated in the Vatican that conducts worldwide financial activities. It has an ATM with instructions in Latin, possibly the only such ATM in the world.

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Walking to the Vatican. The Tiber River is on the left, the Vatican is straight ahead. You can see St. Peters Basilica in the distance on the right.

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Vatican City State, which employs nearly 2,000 people (most are Italian citizens who live outside city walls), operates with a $5 million surplus most years (layman’s terms: you’ve never seen such wealth!) Its citizenry consists almost entirely of two groups: clergy, a very few as officials of the state; and the Swiss Guard. As a result, all of the City’s actual citizens are Catholic as are all the places of worship. Unlike citizenship of other states, citizenship of Vatican City is granted on the grounds of appointment to work in a certain capacity in the service of the Holy See. It usually ceases upon cessation of the appointment. Citizenship is extended also to the spouse, parents and descendants of a citizen, provided they are living with the person who is a citizen. Anyone who loses Vatican citizenship and does not possess other citizenship automatically becomes an Italian citizen by law.

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*Stock Picture just to give an idea of Vatican City as a whole.*

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Pope’s Apartment, top straight across level of the brick building…He had his windows open enjoying the nice weather 🙂

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St. Peters Basilica is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and one of the largest churches in the world. It is regarded as ‘the greatest of all churches in Christendom.’ Catholic tradition holds that the Basilica is the burial site of Jesus’ Apostle, St. Peter, as well as , the first Pope. Because St. Peter’s tomb is located directly below the high altar, many Popes have been interred at the Basilica since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the time of Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great. Construction of the present basilica, replacing the Old St. Peter’s Basilica of the 4th century AD, was completed in 1626.

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There Pope had held an outdoor ceremony the day before, so there were hundreds of chairs in St. Peter’s Square. 

St. Peter’s is famous as a place of pilgrimage and for its liturgical functions. The Pope presides at a number of liturgies throughout the year, drawing audiences of 15,000 to over 80,000 people, either within the Basilica or the adjoining St. Peter’s Square. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age and is one of the four churches of Rome that hold the rank of Major Basilica. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not a cathedral because it is not the seat of a bishop.

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Walking in the front doors of St. Peter’s Basilica…

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Each marble inlaid into the floor is representative of another major Catholic church from all around the world, showing their size in relation to St. Peters.

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Looking straight up..

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An interesting tidbit for this picture, and the previous few if you scroll back up. There is NO paint used in the Basilica. It’s ALL tile. Yes, even this mural in the ceiling dome and everything on the walls…It’s all mosaic tilework. WOW. WOW. WOW.

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St. Peter’s Altar. 

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Looking back from the altar.Another interesting note: the letters around the walls are each 6 feet high. That offers some perspective of the grandeur here…

The Vatican Museums are the museums located within the walls of Vatican City that display the collections built up by the Popes throughout the centuries, including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world.  Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century. There are 54 galleries in total, making it one of the largest in the world, with the Sistine Chapel, notably, being the very last gallery within the Museum. Each gallery (they look like beautiful ornate arched halls) showcases everything from sculpture to metalworks to jewelry to tapestries to paintings.  For me personally, you could practically take away the collections and I’d be just as awe-struck by the galleries themselves!

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Neat Factoid: None of the ceilings use any moldings. JUST PAINT and technique. Scroll back up to the last picture with that in mind…WOW. 

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Because everyone needs a little comical relief during a morning of major art inspiration!

The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope. Since 1480, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today, it is the site of the Papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The fame of the Sistine Chapel lies mainly in the frescos that decorate the interior, and most particularly its ceiling and The Last Judgment by Michelangelo. Remember a few months ago when I was describing the feeling I get when I see the Eiffel Tower twinkling at night? Standing in the Sistine Chapel, absorbing all of this immense beauty and artistic creation…I feel so much the same way. It’s moving and inspiring and breathtaking. And there’s this huge sense of disbelief that someone would ever have the ability to do such masterpieces.

The ceiling was commissioned by Pope Julius II and painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. The commission was originally to paint the twelve apostles on the triangular pendentives which support the vault; however, Michelangelo demanded a free hand in the pictorial content of the scheme. He painted a series of nine pictures showing God’s Creation of the World, God’s Relationship with Mankind, and Mankind’s Fall from God’s Grace. On the large pendentives he painted twelve Biblical and Classical men and women who prophesied that God would send Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind, and around the upper parts of the windows, the Ancestors of Christ.

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I purposefully left John’s head in this shot to showcase my mad skill at taking the picture completely blind from my purse! How awesome is this picture?! Photography isn’t allowed, but since that’s only because Japan owns the rights since they did a restoration in the 1980s, I didn’t feel bad about breaking the rules for you guys. Imagine that 😉

The Last Judgement, also painted by Michelangelo, is a fresco on the wall behind the altar. It is a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity. The souls of humans rise and descend to their fates, as judged by Christ surrounded by prominent saints including Saints Catherine of Alexandria, Peter, Lawrence, Bartholomew, Paul, Sebastian, John the Baptist, and others. The work took four years to complete and was done between 1536 and 1541, 25 years after Michelangelo  finished the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

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Again, trying to be sneaky, so pardon the bald head and the dude with candle antlers.

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Quick pit stop for lunch before continuing our day!

The Colosseum is an oval amphitheater in the center of Rome. Built of concrete and sand,it’s the largest amphitheater ever built was was completed in just 8 years in 80AD.  It could hold about 80,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. Its main use during its heyday was weekend gladiator events. Gladiators were typically slaves who offered spectators an example of Rome’s martial ethics and, in fighting or dying well, they could inspire admiration and popular acclaim. They were celebrated in high and low art, and their value as entertainers was commemorated in precious and commonplace objects throughout the Roman world. The best gladiators could sometimes earn their freedom by staying alive long enough to earn their masters huge amounts of money. However, most gladiators lived their lives fighting and would die in battle at some point before freedom was even a thought.

Atypical Saturday would be divided into three events: the morning would have gladiators vs. exotic animals; afternoons would have gladiators vs. gladiators; evenings would have all gladiators and all remaining exotic animals fight to the death until there was only one remaining life in the fighting arena. In the days that followed, the arena would then be filled with water for naval battles as a way to rinse the blood away. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era (around 600 AD), but was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine.

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The Colosseum is my personal favorite site to visit in Rome. There’s just something about its imposing grandness. It’s heavy and solid and so much still in tack. It commands your attention and your curiosity. Once inside, you can FEEL the energy of centuries past, you can HEAR the crowds roar. I had wondered if I’d still feel this way all these years later and it was an immediate yes. To me, the Colosseum is the most beautiful site in all of the city.

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So the way the amphitheater was set up was very similar to many arenas you’d go to today for a concert. Once you enter, you walked the outer circle until you found your numbered section. There was a small section on one side for royalty, then the knights would have the rest of the ground level circling the fighting stage. The lower levels were for noble people. Midlevel was for middle class. Upper levels were for peasants. At the very top was a section for servants made of wooden benches, as opposed to stone like the rest of the building (they are no longer there, of course). The ground at the center of the arena was actually a false floor. Beneath it was an intricate web of hallways and holding cells where the gladiators and animals would wait to be lifted (yes, they had advanced trap doors with pulley systems) into the arena when it was their turn.

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This gives you a good idea of the false floor and what lied beneath…

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Standing at ground level, looking down into the underneath hidden hallways and holding cells.

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If you look straight across the arena in the center, you’ll see a cross. This marks the birth of Christianity and the demise of gladiator games.

Directly across from the Colosseum is the Roman Forum, the center of ancient Roman life. It was essentially their downtown area- it had government buildings, the marketplaces, restaurants and public spaces. It was where elections were held, parades and processions were marched, and Roman citizens addressed in speeches. Today, you can walk along the streets among the ruins, picturing for yourself what life once looked like here. Coincidentally, Julius Caesar is buried here.

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And at this point, she was still considered pretty clean! HA!

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Caesar’s Tomb

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Capitol Hill, bookending the far side of the Roman Forum.

Can you believe how much ground we covered ON FOOT in just a day and a half in this city?! I can’t either. I plugged it into Google Maps and figured out that we walked just shy of 13 miles, including a toddler and a preschooler! We. Are. Rockstars. We rewarded ourselves with bellies full of pasta and pizza (call us cliche, we don’t care! ;)) and gelato with friends before schlepping our way back to our apartment and falling asleep within 3 seconds of our heads hitting the pillows. Which reminds me! Look who we ran into while we were in Rome!

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Recognize that extra toddler making a beeline for gelato?

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It’s our neighbors! They were in town with family for the week and were headed back to Stuttgart the following morning, so glad we got to meet up ahead of time! Love this family ❤

I told you it was a long, juicy post! Thanks for sticking it out with me. Hopefully the pictures of eons past and neat factoids helped hold your attention a bit 😉 Rome is just one of those cities that can’t be condensed into a nice, neat piece I suppose! Afterall, it’s the oldest city in the Western world! And I just find the history and the stories so, so mesmerizing- everywhere you turn is a ruin or a statue or a fountain or something that just grabs your eye. I love sharing it all with you guys and hope that you enjoy it just as much. There’s really no other city where I feel as much like a sponge, just soaking it all up- WANTING to soak it all up, WANTING my brain to expand to hold it all and to remember…It’s definitely one city I would say that everyone should have on his Bucket List- there’s no place in the entire world like it.

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Stop back by tomorrow as our adventure continues southward to Pompeii, the lost city. I promise you won’t want to miss it.

Buon Giorno da Italia!

5 Oct

Greetings from Italy!  Our longest, busiest, MOST FUN ‘side-adventure’ so far- 6 days, 4 people, 3 cities, 2 pups and 2 countries!, I’ve decided to break it down into two separate posts, so here goes Part 1!

As you all know, one of our favorite things about all of our road trips has been the drives themselves…the beautiful scenery…Well, despite all the ‘pretty things’ we’ve seen over the last few months, NOTHING could’ve prepared us for what our eyes would see en route from Stuttgart (Germany) to Venice (Italy) via Switzerland (check out the Maps page).  In the words of the Beav, ‘Golly jee willikers, Wally!’

Switzerland has HUNDREDS of lakes, of all sizes...

Nestled in the Alps...

After driving all morning, we decided to stop an impromptu lakeside picnic.  The weather was clear- sunny and (relatively) warm- the water was calm and the hills were green…We feasted on sliced chorizo, cubed German butter cheeses, whole grain crackers and the juiciest clementines we’ve ever had…Best picnic ever, hands down!

Could there be a better place to eat lunch?!

Refueled, onward to Italy!  The afternoon’s scenery was much like the morning’s…Rolling green hills, calm crystal blue lakes and snow-capped jagged mountains in the distance.  This was the first (of several) day that the phrase, ‘straight out of a magazine,’ was oft repeated.

A quick note about the blue Swiss lakes…Apparently, the rich, turquoise color is due to the reflection of the limestone deposits suspended in the water…

Maybe the 230492th we passed? 🙂

You can see the edge of the pavement in the lower lefthand corner...That's how close the highway runs next to the lake...No rail...Awesome.

Nearing Italy...Not as many lakes, but pretty mountains...

The Swiss-Italian border...

Italy has long been our favorite European country, of the ones we’ve visited, of course.  It’s a combination of things really…The endless vineyards, the brightly colored buildings with terra cotta roofs, the history (I’ll never forget the first time I marveled at Rome), the people (much friendlier than the Germans, I must admit), the fabulous beaches along the Mediterranean…The list goes on and on…It could also help that we’ve spent so much time there as John works in Naples several times every year.  Of course, that’s not to say that there aren’t things that take some getting used to- workdays starting at 10a, unapologetically horrible drivers, dinners served at 10p…Regardless, you can imagine how thrilled we were to get to share all of this with my parents, who were seeing Italy- and Europe!- for the first time!

The drive to Padova continued…Through Milan, through Verona (yep, of Romeo and Juliet fame)…And while the eye candy was different here than it was in Switzerland, it was still so gorgeous.  Thousands of grapevines filling vineyard after vineyard, churches centering tiny hillside villages, the occasional castle dotting the tops of distant mountains…

Maybe the 192326 vineyard we passed? 🙂

Dulcie thoroughly enjoyed her 'bird's eye view' from her perch on the luggage in the back...Ah, yet another perk of having a station wagon!

Padova (or Padua, as it’s called in Italian) is a small, picturesque town in northern Italywith a dense network of arcaded streets opening into large communal piazze, and many bridges crossing the various branches of the River Bacchiglione, which once surrounded the ancient walls like a moat.  Two claims to fame?  Galileo was a lecturer at the Padova University many moons ago and Shakespeare used the city as the setting for his ‘The Taming of the Shrew.’ 🙂

The Prato della Valle, the largest square (uniquely, it's an elliptical!) in Europe...

Basilica di Sant'Antonio, built in 1230...The Saint's bones are buried inside...

After a delicious Italian meal (*think Caprese salad, pastas and pizzas!) and a good night’s sleep (John had found us the coolest, funky, artsy boutique hotel we’d ever seen!), we hit the ground running the next morning to our FAVORITE city on Earth…Venezia!

Venice, also known as “Queen of the Adriatic”, “City of Water”, “City of Masks”, “City of Bridges”, “The Floating City”, and “City of Canals,” stretches across 117 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea in northeast Italy. The saltwater lagoon stretches along the shoreline between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. About 60,000 people live within the city itself.

The Republic of Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades, as well as a very important center of commerce (especially silk, grain and spice trade) and art in the 13th century up to the end of the 17th century, making Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history.

Now as you all know, there are no cars in Venice, which means that you have to park in one of the many lots on the mainland and take a boat into the city.  It’s built around the large Grand Canal with lots of side ‘alley’ canals turning off of it (and off each other).

Coming into Venice on the Grand Canal. We opted for a water taxi (instead of a bus) just to make life a little easier...

The bright, multi-colored buildings can't help but make you happy 🙂

On the water taxi...

Lowcountry Pups, feeling right at home on the boat 🙂

Lots of different kinds of boats share the canals...Private, business, taxis, buses and yes, the famous gondolas 🙂

In Venice for less than an hour and already in love with the city!

Don't let the wide-openess of the Grand Canal fool you- this is what all the other 'roads' look like! (Mad boat driving skills, huh?!) Turning off toward our hotel...

And while the ‘roads’ are all water, there are still lots of wide ‘sidewalks’ in between all the buildings, so once you get to stop, there’s really very little need for a boat again until you’re ready to venture back out of the city- which translates to a whole lotta walking! 🙂

A 'sidewalk,' lined with shops, cafes and peppered with private residences...

I just love this picture of John (and Dulcie) on the Rialto Bridge, the main bridge in Venice. Yes ladies, he's taken 🙂

On the Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal...

So after checking into our hotel, walking around a bit to get our bearings and grabbing a bite to eat at a canal-side bistro, it was off to see the sights!  First stop, Piazza San Marco, the social, religious and political center of Venice.  A remark often attributed to Napoleon calls the Piazza “the drawing room of Europe,” as it’s one of the few great urban spaces in Europe where human voices prevail over the sounds of motorized traffic. SUCH a neat place!

Piazza San Marco, filled with tourists, pigeons...and music...

The Piazza is dominated by the Basilica of San Marco at its eastern end. Three high flagpoles with bronze sculptured bases stand in front of the Basilica. The Venetian flag of St Mark used to fly from them in the time of the republic of Venice and now shares them with the Italian tricolour. To the north, the Clocktower and to the south, the Campanile. At the opposite end is the museum, the Procuratie. And in between all of the above are the most beautiful (and ridiculously expensive!) shops and cafes, including Italy’s oldest restaurant, the Caffè Florian, and the Gran Caffè Quadri, whose orchestras often take it in turns to play.

An interesting factoid…The Piazza has served as inspiration for other public areas around the world, including the 5-acre Austin J. Tobin Plaza that was located at the World Trade Center in New York City until September 11, 2001.

Basilica di San Marco, considered the best example of Byzantine architecture in the world...Originally the Venetian Rulers Cathedral, it wasn't opened to the city's residents until 1807.

Close-up of a gold mosaic...Millions of tiles...For its opulent design, gilded Byzantine mosaics, and its status as a symbol of Venetian wealth and power, since the 11th century, it's been known by the nickname Chiesa d'Oro, Church of Gold.

The altar in the Basilica...

The Clock Tower is my personal favorite building on the Piazza, just because of how neat it is!  Placed where the clock would be visible from the waters of the lagoon and give notice to everyone of the wealth and glory of Venice, both the tower and the clock itself date back the 15th century.  Starting at the top, there are two great bronze figures, hinged at the waist, which strike the hours on a bell. One is old and the other young, to show the passing of time. The bell is a signed original from 1497. Below this level is the winged lion of Venice, followed by a semi-circular gallery with statues of the Virgin and Child seated, in gilt beaten copper. On either side are two large blue panels showing the time: the hour on the left in Roman numerals and the minutes (at 5 minute intervals) on the right in Arabic numerals. Twice a year, at Epiphany and on Ascension Day, the three Magi, led by an angel with a trumpet, emerge from one of the doorways normally taken up by these numbers and pass in procession around the gallery, bowing to the Virgin and child, before disappearing through the other door. Below again is the great clock face in blue enamel and gold inside a fixed circle of marble engraved with the 24 hours of the day in Roman numerals. A golden pointer with an image of the sun moves round this circle and indicates the hour of the day. Within the marble circle beneath the sun pointer are the signs of the zodiac in gold (original, dating from the 1490s), which revolve slightly more slowly than the pointer to show the position of the sun in the zodiac. In the middle of the clockface are the earth and the revolving moon (to show its phases), surrounded by fixed stars.

The Clock Tower on Piazza San Marco, facing the lagoon...

Adjacent to the Piazza is the Doge’s (pronounced ‘doe-jees’) Palace, a unique example of Gothic architecture.  And in case anybody doesn’t know, a Doge is a Venetian king, except by the 1800s, the Doge no longer had any real power and was merely a figurehead of the Republic..  Since John and I have been visiting grand castles for months now, this ‘residence’ was a nice change of scenery in that it just doesn’t look like all the other royal residences or wealthy government buildings…

What do you think? Fit for a king and his Republic?

Our walk continued toward the lagoon (which actually looks just like a big harbor!) where artists and street vendors lined the edge of the sea…(To my Lowcountry peeps, picture the Battery, only WAY older 🙂 )…From this edge of the city, you can see several of the other islands that make up Venice.  A happy side note…While standing on the flood wall, gazing out over the lagoon, John turned to me and said, ‘You know something?  This is my absolute favorite spot in Venice…right here with the docked boats and the fish smell and the wide open ocean…’  ‘Yep, mine, too.  You know what that is, don’t you?’ I continued. ‘Because it’s the closest thing to home we’ve seen in months.’  ‘I miss home,’ he sighed.  ‘Me, too.’

The edge of Venice...

Gondolas docked in the Lagoon...One of my favorite scenic shots of the city...

Local artists and street vendors...The main items for sale? Murano glass (including imitations!), scarves and Venetian masks...

We spent the rest of the afternoon getting lost in the city…Venturing away from the tourist-laden piazzas and thoroughfares to the back ‘alleys’ and residential districts.  FYI, those are always the BEST parts of any city!

How would you like this for a view on a random side 'street?'

Or a random piazza like this?

Taking a gelato break 🙂

Favorite flavors of the trip? Dulce di Leche (caramel), Fiordilatte (sweet cream), Amarena (cherry), Fragola (strawberry) and 'Schlock' (Almond gelato with caramel, chocolate and toffee) 🙂

Meanwhile, back in the room...Surveying our canal down below 🙂

After a very full day of playing tourist, you can rest assured that we needed a top notch dinner to cap it all off!  Unfortunately, Venice isn’t known for its food (John and I even remembered that from our last trip here) :(, so it just meant a little more planning than normal.  No problem!  Being the foodie that I am, I had already made us reservations at Da Mamo, serving the #1 pizza in Venice, as voted by the LOCALS.  (Another rule of traveling- always pay attention to what the locals are saying- they know best!)  And while I can’t say it was the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, I can say that we had a delicious meal in a great little AUTHENTIC eatery off the beaten bath.  Heck, the owner greeted us at the door, gave us a complimentary appetizer tarts and four small after-dinner aperitifs served in dark chocolate edible thimbles!

Always a favorite for John...Caprese Salad...Sliced tomatoes and buffalo mozzarella with fresh basil and balsamic glaze...Mmmm...

Another of John's favorite (dining) aspects of Italy 🙂

A sample pizza (no, I won't bore you with posting pictures of all 4!)...This was actually Dad's 'Taurus' Pizza (they offer pizzas based on the Zodiac- how cool is that?!)

We decided to spend Day 2 in Venice with a hop (on the water bus) over to Murano, the series of small islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon, about a mile (25 minute boat ride) from the historic city.

Murano’s reputation for glassmaking was born when the Venetian Republic, fearing fire and destruction to the city’s mostly wood buildings, ordered glassmakers to move their foundries to Murano in 1291. Murano glass is still interwoven with Venetian glass. Soon, the glassmakers were the city’s most prominent citizens- they were allowed to wear swords, enjoyed immunity from prosecution by the Venetian state and found their daughters married into Venice’s most affluent families. The catch? Glassmakers weren’t allowed to leave the Republic.

Murano’s glassmakers held a monopoly on quality glassmaking for centuries, developing or refining many technologies including crystalline glass, enameled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicolored glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. Today, the artisans of Murano are still employing these centuries-old techniques, crafting everything from contemporary art glass and glass jewelry to Murano glass chandeliers and wine stoppers.

Arriving on Murano...

Unfortunately, the rain arrived, too...But that didn't stop us! 🙂

We loved the buildings...Glass factories and showrooms on the first floors with residences above...

We stopped in a factory to watch a glassmaker in action...SO NEAT!

All types of showrooms...From the largest and widest selection...

...to intimate and very selective...and for the record, it's all as expensive as it looks! Jeez!

Mom and I both loved these Venetian (Murano glass) Balloons! But at 500 euro ($700) each, they had to stay in the showroom 😦

So after another long, TOTALLY FUN, day full of exploring, eating (spaghetti with clams, baked lasagna, calamari and more gelato were on the menu today!) and even a little shopping, we capped off our Venice adventure with a night walk around the city…

Back at the Rialto Bridge...

It took Max and Dulcie a while to get used to the lack of grass in Venice (there is NONE), but even they learned to love it 🙂

And with that, the Venice portion of our adventure drew to a close…The next morning, we were up and at ’em, back on a water taxi and headed for the mainland.  Next destination?  The Swiss Alps!  Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

Arrivederci per ora! (Bye for now!)

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