Day 14: Cinque Terre

After an unexpected day at sea (the port of Livorno refused our entry because they had a cargo ship they deemed more important, ended up on the front page of the paper for it’s idiotic circumstances) we ended up in Livorno on Wednesday having to cancel our day in Marseilles. 
While we wanted to give the royal finger to Italy for their dysfunction, mother and I were so excited to get the chance to experience Cinque Terre. We took an hour long drive through the most sensual countryside, passing medieval villages dangling from hills like plump batch of grapes, Pisa from a distance and the mountains of Carrara white with freshly sliced marble.

 That's not snow its the marble quarries!

If you squint you can see the leaning tower!

Cinque Terre are five little towns dotting the hills of the coast of Italy. They were deemed a UNESCO heritage site a while back and are now thriving with tourists poking through like a herd of cattle (me) and those who rent rooms perched on cliffs to write and watch waves crash (me the next time). 

We started in Riomaggiore, walked to Manarola and then took a train to Vernazza and another to Monterrossa-al-Mare. Two of the towns were heavily damaged by massive floods last October but unlike the Italian economy, the townspeople were thriving like bees rebuilding their hives. 

 Crafty knit wit for Jesus!

Mother and I had lunch overlooking the crashing waves as an afternoon rain sprinkled the young soccer team shouting on a nearby field. The proschutto and melon was sublime and the beer was soothing. We sat and recapped the trip so far, our highlights and what we would change. 

We walked back to the Stazione to meet the group and catch the train but with some extra time on my hands I decided to walk down to gaze at the once great Neptune who from 1910 till WWII held up a dancing terrace where a generation of Italian’s danced under the moonlight to long lost bouncy bands. The poor God was destroyed during The War but has been partially rebuilt.

 Creepy skull people.

 Our view at lunch

My favorite!

 Neptune in his glory days

 And today.

That evening the entire crew convened at the steak house on the ship and gorged on too much meat before turning in for an early night where we watched the sunset from the terrace of our suite. How seldom do we spend the time to see such beauty?

Tomorrow is Monaco, however brief a visit. 

Day 12: Rome

Hoorah! A big city. Even I get a little needy of some snap in the air after a week of port towns. I haven't seen Rome for 15 year and was so excited to fill my lungs with the air of history.

Mother and I made our own tour and it was delightful.

First stop was Le Domus Romane under the Palazzo Valentini pictured below. When they were excavating for a parking lot they discovered a wealthy Roman mansion and have done an incredible job presenting it. All the floors are glass so you walk over the entire home and with great video work they recreate the rooms as they might have been. It was rated the number one attraction on Trip Advisor and I can see why.

When we visited we were there for the French tour so we just took it and I translated what I could for mama. Still got it in me! 

Here is the column they describe in depth in the museum which you then see at the end of the tour.
No pics allowed in the museum but check out the site!

Next up was a walk to the Pantheon. My favorite building in Rome. I forgot how OLD it is. How divine is that dome? The light is magical. We wandered about gazing up and down and reading as much as we could on the history.

Look! Italian style....

Then we went to Monti, near the top of the Spanish steps to see some menswear stores that people had recommended. Closed on Monday! Oh Italy.

Then we drove 20 minutes away to a restaurant my friend Rocky recommended. We got there and -closed on Monday! Really Italy?

Our driver took us to a restaurant he likes and it was perfect- overlooking the Coliseum we had carbonara and one big ole beer. Perfecto.

Then we cabbed up to the Villa Borghese. I haven't been there before and we found it totally delightful. Of course we went to see the sculpture museum and it was-you guessed it- closed on Monday. But the grounds are a delight.

After my beer I thought I could do Tree pose on this pilar. It wasn't pretty and mother wasn't happy. But it happened.

The villa!

The gardens!

Bird cage roof?

Some other building of wonder.

And to celebrate a perfect day in Rome- dessert at the Piazza del Popolo. Last time I was there was during the Italian revolt against Brazil when they won the World Cup. It was a scene! I had never seen a taxi driver cry. All over soccer...

Here is the place I picked out for myself if I ever need to spend more time in the Eternal City.

Last picture before back to the ship. Perfect day!

Day Eleven: Sardinia, La Maddalena

Yesterday we had another relaxing day island hopping. When we reached Sardinia we immediately boarded a bus to another port to take us to La Maddalena, an island famous for it's beaches.

We loved swerving through the Sardinian granite mountains and hearing how it became a jet set destination in the 60's thanks to the Aly Khan and his investment in the island.

Then we drove onto a ferry and cruised 30 minutes to Maddalena.

Check out those waters!

I'll take a house right about here.

After spending some time touring about we spent an hour downtown where everything was closed for Sunday but we enjoyed looking about all the same. I adore this building. This color is so rich to me. It's the result of an orgy between a peach, cantaloupe and plump little red cherry. I can't get enough of this color.

And that's it for this post! Quick and easy. Another place I could come back and spend a week.

Today was Rome. Posting soon. 

Day Ten: Sicily

 This was our view when we peeled the curtains back this morning. Sicily! The home of Sofia from The Golden Girls. Ahhh..... And no, I'm not even mentioning The God Father. Sigh, that reference was all too prevalent.

But this island was a TOTAL highlight! I always thought Sicily was the New Jersey of Italy. A little tacky, not as classy. But like New Jersey, it's got a bad rap. This island is epic. Guy de Maupassant wrote: A landscape where you find everything created to seduce the eyes, mind and fantasy.
Couldn't agree more!
 Speaking of fantasy... This welcomed us into the port of Messina.

 This is all we saw of Messina since it was bombed to bits in WWII.

Off to Taormina! About a 45 minute drive from our port this charming town in the hills is where I could spend a summer writing.

 LOOK! Mount Etna! She's fuming about something.

We stopped at this little cafe and it seems that it has been quite the hot spot since the 50s.
This pic is from Life Magazine.

I have always been obsessed with these head vases. I asked our guide the backstory and he said back in the day the locals would kill pirates and put their heads on their roof tops to show they have been busy. These rotten pirate heads inspired artists to start making vases in the same shape. Even more grotesque and incredible!

Now THIS is from a bar that was all about the penis. This is a measuring board you can take out to the clubs with you. I love Sicily!

Some penis art in the window. Sadly the bar was closed at 9:30 am or I would have moved in.

Me and Mount Etna. Notice the moon over the puff of smoke.

Mama and her namesake hotel.

JEWELS! Justin Giunta you need to come and conquer.

Cannoli are from Sicily so we HAD to have one. Mother was in heaven. We had two.

Here is our happy group drinking and relaxing before NOON! God love this crew.

Our view.

This is our view from the table at lunch. We ate at Cisterna del Moro. We smelled the pizza and followed our noses. The view didn't hurt.

Cheese with lemons and pistachios!

I didn't know Carmen Miranda was a pirate.

That's all from this amazing day. I cannot wait to come back and spend a week on this island.
Tomorrow - Sardinia.

Venice Day One

It's been two years since I have been in Europe and six since Italy. I forgot how much this ancient land seeps into my soul every time I arrive. And how different is it each time? Not that I am 36, more experienced (in too many things), on a different path and longing for idyl days, a private water taxi to the Hotel Kette was tailored for my Brideshead Venice Revisited moment. 

Here we are for three glorious days before our cruise to Barcelona.
Here is a recap of day one in all of it's jet lagged glory. 

 Hi Lord Byron! " I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs/ A palace and a prison on each hand."
                                             (And he didn't mention the clap between his thighs!)

 Here is the sweet man hauling our luggage of bricks int the hotel. We already saw one man drop 50 Euro's into the canal so we are hoping our luggage doesn't have the same fate.

 Tight quarters for mother and son but it will do. Oh wait, there is no a/c. Charmant.

 View from the room. Looks lovely until the gondoliers float by screeching love songs to walruses from England during nap time.

 Lunch at Lineadombra, a NYT recommendation and well worth the 30 min stroll. Amazing food and perfect view. 

 Ahhhhhh... the Blackamoors of Venice. Hello, darlings.

Hmmm... this is looking familiar. I wondered where mine flew off to.

There she is! Back again. We remembered our last visit here together when we decided to climb to the top of the bell tower only to realize it was high noon. When the bells started mother said, "You heard - oh shit! - in 20 languages!"

Drinks at the Danieli, the best martini I've had in Europe.

Dusk on the Grand Canal with the moon saying hello.

A shop I simply wanted to curl up in and dream...