Arrivederci Italy


It is over…


But it is not.


It has just started…

As I rode in the car to the airport and we passed the Colosseum, I decided that I would watch as many Roman Gladiator movies as I can find. It is so big…. just larger than life. I want to know more. I want to study. I want to learn. I am told to start with Spartacus.


While looking at the art in Florence, they mentioned a painting being returned and others that were still missing from when they were stolen. There is so much that I really don’t know. Now, I want to know more. This made me think of that movie that was out recently, The Monuments Men. I thought I should watch it. So, I just did, it was available on the plane. I wonder if everything portrayed in the movie was true. Part of me wishes I saw the movie before hearing about it in the tour but I know I would not have appreciated it.

I want to know more about Hitler in Italy, the art that was lost, the unification of Italy, the Roman Empire and more about how to enjoy life as much as I did in Italy. I want to sit and drink cappuccino, I want to watch the sunset, I want to stop and smell the roses, I want to spin and sing around the curves on country roads and I want to do so much more. I do not want to be ordinary. I know, I know, I already have that covered. However, I do want extraordinary! So, that may take some effort. It is a shame that we have to remind ourselves to stop and smell the roses.

Sometimes, it just takes a little perspective to learn to appreciate things.

I have learned that beautiful places make me emotional. Apparently, after a tough decade, I needed that. I feel like my journey is just beginning and I feel like I understand and appreciate myself enough to start it now.

It is not really about Italy. In my case, Italy provided the landscape and environment for me to figure it out. Every stop provided something new. Palmoli was family and bonding, Verona was charming and magical, Venice was romantic and beautiful, Florence was fun and active, Tuscany was peaceful and magnificent, Chianti was delicious and insightful, Sienna was creative and full of life and Rome was a combination of old and new, chaos and calm, war and peace. I loved every minute of it. There were times of chaos and fears but I didn’t allow them to change my mood. It amazed me. Italy amazed me… and me in Italy amazed me….



Rome was so different from everywhere else. I was also being stubborn. It’s so busy and the hustle and bustle of a big city always intimidates me.

We went out to dinner Saturday night and it ended with dancing and singing in this random restaurant with their staff. I couldn’t stop laughing as Karrie took over the dance floor! They loved her and we got to laugh. It was quite an experience.

Sunday night, I had dinner with my cousin’s Uncle and his daughter and her boyfriend. This was a nice surprise. He lives in Rome but I wasn’t planning to meet him. I am glad I did. He gave me a local’s perspective on Rome and took me to places I never would have found on my own.



These were taken above the Spanish embassy. It was a beautiful view from above the chaos.

He made Rome interesting though and his English was great. Over dinner, I learned about the economy and politics in Italy and the challenges they are facing. I learned about them and their family and I tried amazing food. They ordered all the Roman dishes so I could get a taste of culture. We were in Trevestere (I think that is it) and it was a wonderful town that I really enjoyed. It started raining on our way out and his daughter put her umbrella up over both of us. I have felt so accepted by everyone in Italy, especially those who are related.

My last day in Rome, I was all alone again. Karrie and her mom took the early flight Sunday morning and I went to explore. I saw all of the main sights.







I knew the food on my last night was important. I found a hidden Italian gem, open since 1930 I think and run by the most charming Italian gentlemen.



The food was simply magnificent and I savored every bite. The vino was wonderful, they kept me company and insisted on dessert. Tiramisu was homemade, like everything else and I just ate it so slowly hoping it would last longer. They laughed with me, talked about my trip and asked me to return soon. They brought me lemoncello on the house and thanked me for being there. I told them it was the perfect meal to end my trip and I thanked them many times.

Finding Florence

Friday morning, we got up super early to get to Florence for tours. We toured the Uffizi gallery and saw the Ponte Vecchio and I just admired the art. Sometimes it all kind of runs together because there is so much to see and everything is beautiful. Here, I really enjoyed seeing how the art and styles have changed over time.


We had breakfast on the terrace, toured some more and then made our way to a square for lunch. The squares are one of my favorite parts of Italy. Eating outside, the open space, the people watching… It was all great. It was raining but it was alright. I ate wonderful vegetable soup and then we headed to the Duomo. We had tickets to tour the Duomo with the option to climb to the top. Well, that is what I thought anyway. When we got there, I found out that the tour IS climbing the steps, 463 to be exact. The first thing I thought was, where is my inhaler?

When we got there, I walked in with everyone else but immediately felt that the air was stale in there and it was a very small space. I just knew this was going to be a problem but I was going to do it anyway. Karrie just kept saying “you can do it,” in her special encouraging way. As the passages got smaller and the number of people increased, I really knew this was going to be a problem. We stopped at some point and went in to an inside balcony where we could see the paintings inside the dome. We were so high up but I knew we were still going higher. Ah!



At one point, Linda looked at me and asked if I was okay. I replied with yes. She said, “okay, it just looks like panic in your face.” I said, “because I’m panicking.” That got a good laugh after it was all over. We kept climbing though and finally reached the top.

Now, I am scared of heights. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to get over it so I went to the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado, I did a zip lining adventure in PA and I went parasailing in Key West.

You can see how thrilled I was to do it but when I’m determined, I just jump in!

Anyway, those things helped with my fear of heights but here I am on top of this huge dome in Italy and I can’t believe I made it. It was not the best weather but the views were amazing.




I hope that after this trip, fears won’t be as big to me anymore because I sure do feel like I can do anything. That is a good thing at this point because it will prepare me for what came next.

I had made dinner plans with my aunt and uncle and their friends who were on their way to Florence. When I made it back to the bottom of the duomo steps, it was time to go. I asked Karrie where the parking garage was where we parked the car so I could get my bag. We didn’t have any information except the name of a restaurant on the corner nor did we have a ticket for the car. We discussed and debated for a while and I just said I would find it.

Well, I found the train station. How did I end up at the train station? I didn’t have my gps set up but I went ahead and did it now, but my phone battery was already down to 40%. That isn’t good.

So, I just got in the taxi line and got in a cab. When I told the cabdriver that I needed to go to a restaurant, he looked at me and said something like, do you know how many restaurants are here? Okay, so that was pretty stupid. So, I googled and my battery was already down to 20% and going fast. He ended up being very nice and agreed to take me to the parking garage and wait for me, and then take me to my aunt and uncle’s hotel. We found the restaurant, and then found the parking garage, and that’s when it gets funny. Remember, Karrie told me she didn’t have the ticket. So, I walk into the parking garage like they’re just going to give me the key to the car without it. The guy starts yelling at me in Italian and then finally says that I need to at least have a ticket number. I can tell the cabdriver is trying not to laugh and I am just arguing with this parking garage attendant because I am desperate. So, he asks me what kind of car we have. My response is, “I don’t know.”

Naturally, he starts yelling in Italian again. I am just standing there completely defeated not knowing what to do next. Then, I remember that the day before we had taken a picture in front of the rental car. I got so excited and pulled the picture up and showed him so he could see what kind of car it was.

I think he just wanted me gone at this point so he took me into the basement of the parking garage and we looked around every car. It was not there. I started to think that I was in the wrong garage but surely I wasn’t because I found that restaurant. When we came back upstairs, the cabdriver was just leaning against his car with a smirk on his face. I didn’t mind providing him entertainment because he was still waiting for me, so I said, “go ahead, laugh, it’s funny,” and he did. We finally found the car and I grabbed my bag, put a pair of boots on and pulled my phone charger to put in my purse. I only had the chord so I would have to find a plug and converter but anything is possible when you believe, right?

I got to the hotel (which I literally walked right by before I got to the train station and didn’t notice) and had a good laugh with the cab driver, gave him a substantial tip and went on my way. My uncle text me that he was waiting for me in the lobby but I’m in the lobby and he’s not here. I showed the woman at the desk the hotel name and address information to confirm that I was at the right hotel and she said yes. So, I paced and I waited and then I text him. He said he was in the lobby. “But I’m in the lobby,” I said out loud.

Long story short, I went to the wrong hotel and now, figuring that out took me to 6% battery. He told me the name of the right hotel and as I walked out to the Square to find a taxi, my phone died. I just kept saying the name of the hotel over and over and over again so I didn’t forget it. But my mind was fighting it with another thought:
I am lost in Florence, Italy and I don’t have anyone’s phone number and no one knows where I am.
Then came:
Do not freak out, don’t freak out, do not freak out, DO NOT FREAK OUT. OH MY GOSH, I’M FREAKING OUT. DON’T FREAK OUT. Think of the hotel. Don’t forget the hotel. Okay, there’s a taxi.

He was letting people out at the hotel. So I asked him to take me and he said no.

Me: “what?”
Driver: “no local.”
Me: “please take me to hotel”
Driver: “no. No local”
Me: “what?”

Part of me didn’t understand, and the other part did not want to accept it. I still do not understand what he meant by no local, but he was saying that I couldn’t get in his car and had to go to a taxi stand. Finally, I ask where the taxi stand is and he pointed down the street so I run (remember that I put on my boots so I now have heels on). I am running through the streets of Florence with a backpack full of clothes and shoes, and a bottle of wine I got from Chianti for my aunt and uncle. I am still trying to calm myself down when I get to the taxi stand and then I realized that the taxis pick up on the other side of the street. “That is my taxi,” I’m saying as the man gets in it.

“Okay… remember the hotel,” I say to myself… But I forget the hotel. My phone is dead, I don’t know where I am, I just ran and it is so hot and I forget the hotel. The woman driving the cab was so helpful, and after her naming all of the hotels in the area, I finally recognized the one when she said it. She also got a substantial tip.

I was so happy to see everyone when I finally got there. I was a sweaty mess but my aunt assured me that I looked fine. I needed that! They wanted to find a few stores so we walked for a while. My poor feet! My legs felt like jelly from the duomo steps and the cross country run to the taxi stand (it was only about a block in reality) and then we walked so far! I was so glad to sit down for dinner when we made it. I absolutely loved getting to spend time with them in Italy. My uncle and I share about our love for cooking and our love for vino so it was perfect for us to (unintentionally) end up in Italy at the same time.

I do not want to relive the debacle of getting back to the parking garage to meet Karrie and Linda but when we got home, I quickly realized that there were no heels left on my boots. I wore them completely off! It was worth it for that special time with all four of them though!

Saturday morning, we had to get up very early to get back to Florence to catch the train. I was so sad and trying to think of any way to stay in Tuscany. I literally had to say goodbye to my hammock.

The train was a challenge as expected but we made it to Rome, found the hotel and I went to sleep.


The food in Italy has been wonderful. I keep forgetting to take pictures of it but that is what people have asked for the most. Here are some:


I liked the little sandwiches in the cafe in Venice.




The food in this local restaurant in Chianti was phenomenal. We all absolutely loved it.



Lunch in Sienna was perfect.


Dinner from the sweet woman who ran the apartments we were in.


A cafe in Rome.



This local place in Rome made me fall in love with Ricotta.

Trastevere in Rome provided all the Roman traditions. I tried three kinds of cheeses and three kinds of pasta. I can’t move!

Lessons from Casanova


Thursday started on the hammock…

And ended on the hammock…

There was a nap on the hammock in between too!

Just looking out to the countryside is amazing, still. It does not get old, it does not dull, it does not become less appealing, it is just beautiful.

Since we are in Chianti, we are surrounded by farms and vineyards and we decided to go for some tastings. As we left a vineyard, I got behind the wheel. We were debating going home or not (when I say home, of course I mean the apartment in Tuscany which I now want to make my home). I made a right instead to drive through the hills more and noticed a farm called Casanova. I’m in Italy, I’m in love with everything and everyone and it is named Casanova so I turned in (In Italy, Casanova just means “new house,” by the way).

Here, we found a great story…

This farm was beautiful! It was home to many animals, plants and flowers. We sat for a tasting.



The Owner of this place was a big time business man. He had a big job with big responsibilities and big stress for decades.

He decided that he didn’t want that life anymore and bought this land in Tuscany which had not been functioning or cared for in over 100 years. I can’t imagine that because this place was beautiful.

The woman’s name was LaVinia and as she was telling us this story you could tell she was also passionate about it. As she spoke of the Owner, she said, “when you are passionate about what you do, it’s no problem to start work at 5am and work until 12 or 1am.”

We started the tasting with the balsamic and oh my gosh! I bought some of it so everyone at home can enjoy it on a salad with me while I talk about my trip. It was so delicious. They had one that was aged 30 years and so sweet that they used it as a topping for ice cream. I have never tasted balsamic like that before.

The olive oil and vino followed suit. It was probably the best olive oil I’ve had. Then, she brought out creams. They grow lavender here on the farm and offered oils and lotions. The smell of lavender was wonderful. I use lavender when I have trouble sleeping. Interestingly, sleep has not been an issue in Italy, I just haven’t done it enough because I’m moving around so much.

Anyway, as we talked, we mentioned that there are no to-go cups for coffee. So, we can’t have coffee as we walk around. LaVinia’s answer to it was this:
“We just stay there and enjoy at a table or stand at the counter. We stay to make friends.”
It really is amazing how we speed everything up in America and we miss the opportunities and time that they work hard to protect in Italy. She goes on to say, “If I go away, I don’t enjoy it. It’s like wine.” I really enjoy my cappuccino time and now that she mentioned it, that is where I have met and talked with people the most. It is a big difference from getting coffee in America. I go to Dunkin Donuts in the morning, go through the drive through and avoid as many people as possible. Also, I get the largest cup available so I don’t have to go back. The difference is remarkable, especially since I enjoy sitting and having coffee so much more than I realized.

After our tasting, the Owner came out and talked to us. It was clear how passionate he was and I loved it. We talked about how much we love Italy and they brought us the most wonderful Tiramisu.

He talked about life in Italy and jobs and issues. I told him I could learn Italian and work for him. He said, “Sure. You get an Italian man and you will learn it.” I wondered if one of my family members told him to say that but he went on to say that he had to travel for a few months for his job and didn’t know English. His boss told him it was his problem and to figure it out. So, he got a girlfriend there who spoke English and the interaction is what taught him. That does make sense actually because I was learning a lot more Italian when I was with the family here.

The last thing I want to say about this winery is about the Owner. I loved his story so the more he talked, I had to take notes (all I had was a napkin).

20140525-104609.jpgHe said he is hosting dinners and tastings in New York City and I asked if he did any that were open to the public. He said no and explained that the people who visit his winery in Tuscany know of the wine and can buy it and book him to come in for tastings or events. It contains the production to some extent which he preferred. There is no greed or pressure to grow. He was just satisfied with his life and loved it. His response to me was this:

“I don’t need to buy a Ferrari, I am happy with my car.”


Stop and Smell the Roses



I am guilty… I do not stop to smell the roses often enough. It is so easy to be so concerned with the hustle and bustle of life in America. It is just not that way here. I learned to stop, and literally smell the roses. I also took pictures…

















I feel like every plant and flower is extra pretty, just because it’s Italy. The roses are bigger and the colors are brighter!

When I get home, I want to do a better job at appreciating the things around me that, in the past, I didn’t see…

Life’s Ups and Downs


They go on forever, changing the course, rolling from one into another….

You can follow a path that seems to go up expecting that amazing view at the top but end up trekking into a low valley. It does not have the same extravagant view so some may just pass by anticipating the next incline. These hills have shown me that if you do that, if you only look for the top of the hill, you will miss so much life and beauty.

The sounds in the valleys are different. The grass moves next to you with every step because a little reptile has felt your presence. Each and every flower is different and in this place, you quite literally have to stop and smell the roses. Your presence in the valley will challenge you to a climb. You can question your ability, evaluate how steep the hill is, or you can just look around in awe and move forward. When you pay attention to the beauty in your surroundings instead of the challenge of the climb, it becomes a different journey.

My brother wrote to me yesterday. It was the nicest note and in it he said:
“This is just proof that anything is possible and the unknown is where all the best things in life happen.”
He is so right. How many times do we avoid the unknown out of fear or ignorance? I know I have fears that hinder me from things every day. Is it okay to leave it unknown because we don’t know what we’re missing? Aaron goes on to say,
“If you said, I can’t speak or understand Italian so I can’t go to Italy, you would have missed out on all of this.”
I really didn’t think about that, but he is right. In another time in my life, I never would have done this. I have fears of being alone, fears of getting lost, fears of being unsafe, fears of trains, fears of losing key, passports, etc. I have learned that there is so much life to live and I have to push through when I am unreasonable, and be determined instead. Sitting here in Italy shows me that I have figured it out…. and as I sit here and look around at every one of these hills in front of me, I am proud.

We got here Tuesday night, it seemed difficult but I was in the back seat, minding my own business, with my headphones in, just looking out the window while Karrie navigated. As we got closer though, I couldn’t help it, I said, “I’m really sorry, but can we stop right here?” I jumped out of the car with excitement and stood at the end of the drop off on the side of the road. “THIS IS IT,” I thought, this is what I have fantasized about for the last ten years. I can’t believe I am here, looking at this picture. It is so green, and the hills are everywhere, each one different from the next, some have olive trees lining them, few have houses, the trees are beautiful and I can’t believe I am looking at this as the sky is changing colors from the sun setting. Am I in a dream right now? I cannot explain how happy I feel that this picture of the Chianti hills in Tuscany at sunset is no longer an unknown. You can see this in a movie, or on a postcard, but I promise the magic of this moment cannot be translated in any other way. Of course, I will try for you with pictures…





20140522-112005.jpg And a video…

Wednesday morning, I got up early and went out to explore. I left a note that said, “Went for a jog, leave door unlocked in case I find my way back.” I really did not know how I was going to maneuver these hills without getting lost, but I went anyway. I took pictures of the street and entrance to the apartment so I wouldn’t forget. This is where I learned about the sounds in the valleys and the beauty from the peaks. Every step was an adventure, every twist and turn of the path provided new views and sounds. Climbing a gravel path up the hill, I saw a church. I turned and climbed to it, Chiesa di San Pietro. I couldn’t go inside but the outside provided plenty of interesting sights. The steps next to the church were old, with a large tree at the top. I sat on the steps for a minute just admiring everything around me, thinking I wish we could replicate these views, but then thinking, wouldn’t that take away from it’s magic. Maybe it is better that it does not exist, quite like this, anywhere else in the world.


I continued my journey along the paved road. I found the old house that Karrie had pointed out on our way up to the apartment. In the car, she said, “Why can’t we buy this, fix it up and live here.” I wandered around it and noticed an open door. I could see through it and the back wall had these openings through it. It wasn’t a typical window, it was like every other brick was missing for parts of the wall, in a square shape. I thought I shouldn’t go in since I don’t really know for sure if it is abandoned. Although, we went back later all together and did try to go in but inside the open doorway was a two story drop. I don’t know what this place is but it is unique and old and I felt like we got a glimpse into the inside of it.

I walked further along the main road. There is no sidewalk and although there is not much traffic, the people drive very fast. You can imagine me, with music playing through headphones in one ear, twirling and singing up the side of this road while people are driving by in their cars. I waved and smiled at everyone. They smiled and waved back. The nice Italian gentlemen beeped the horn, just like in America. I laughed and twirled around and continued my journey back, stopping for pictures and jumping when I heard a new noise. I don’t know what kind of birds and animals I am hearing but they are all new sounds.

We went for the afternoon in Sienna. Sienna had a similar quaint and charming feel to Verona. We walked to find the square and admired the narrow streets and architecture on the way. There was a street artist, halfway through a picture on the ground, I could tell it would be beautiful. The closer we got to the square, the more people we passed. There were so many cute stores to shop in but (mostly because of my lunchtime nap) we were so hungry since we hadn’t eaten all day. We made it to the square and found a restaurant where we could sit outside and people watch.


While there, a woman came up to ask what I was drinking and we started talking. There was a large group of people there for a wedding from the same area I am from. We laughed and talked about home. We found out that we go to the same restaurant, and the Owner of that restaurant was sitting a few tables away from us. I congratulated the bride and they went on their way. I want to say, it’s a small world, but even after this, I can’t. I don’t think I can ever say that again, but I will say it was fun to be so far from home and meet people with that in common.

On our way back to the car, we stopped to shop some and then passed the street artist again. As we went by, I noticed he was just about finished. It was beautiful. I went back and left some euros in his basket and told him so. He smiled and said, “Grazie.”

When we returned, it was time for the hammock. The sky was turning dark blue, and then black. I laid in a hammock, under the stars, with a view that showed only the outline of the hills and very few lights to end my first day in Tuscany…

Finding Beauty in Different Places

I love benches…


They make me daydream! Did you ever see the Walter Mitty movie where Ben Stiller will go off in a daze to some foreign land or adventurous setting. Well, that happens to me when I see a bench.


I have no clue… But check out the ones I was able to capture before my brain floated off into Laura land.







What do you think, do they make you daydream too?

The other thing I am falling in love with in Italy is cappuccino. You just don’t get cappuccino like this in America. Seriously though, the ones with the hearts in the foam make me want to kiss the person who did it.







So, in summary to that, I love benches… And coffee…. In Italy…. I sound weirder and weirder the more I write. I am perfectly fine with it. The thing is, I’ve realized that the more different I am, the more real I am. I think that happens with age, you stop trying to be someone you’re not, you stop trying to fit in and you stop apologizing for being who you are and wanting what you want. My crazy, unreasonable ideas have created some amazing memories for me and the people who do not support and accept me for me are the people who don’t get to see the bright and happy side that exists. Without a crazy idea, I wouldn’t be in Italy right now, but I said I would do it and I did. I can make anything happen if I really want it to because in reality I am the only one who can make something impossible. I really believe that.

We traveled from Venice to Florence by train yesterday and then got a rental car. I had my first experience trying to order food completely in Italian. The menu was Italian and the servers all spoke Italian. One of whom informed me that I was saying Grazie wrong the whole time. Well, that is disappointing. It is like grat-“c”-“a” apparently.

After, we did one of those hop on – hop off tour busses through Florence. I didn’t see enough to fall in love with it yet but I did find beauty.





The bus took us up in the hills. We had earphones for the information. Honestly, I was super tired. I may have rested my eyes for a few minutes of it. Because of that, I don’t think I was fair to Florence. So I will return to Florence before I leave.

I got to the apartment in Tuscany last night. I am saving the Tuscany information for tomorrow though. Although, I apologize for keeping you in suspense, I think suspense is good.

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Goodnight Venice


Getting to Venice was great, because I was still floating from my experience in Verona. I got to the train station early and jumped on an earlier train. I didn’t know if that would be allowed but I didn’t care. They charged me 8 euros when they saw that I switched. I gladly paid it. When I got off the train, I had a list of instructions about getting on a water taxi. I did not know I would have to get on a boat. Really, I did not know anything about Venice. If I did, I likely would have known it would have required a boat ride. Anyway, my friend and her mom got to Venice a few hours prior so she gave me step by step instructions.

I got on the wrong boat anyway. I am traveling with a large suitcase, a large duffel bag, a back pack, two purses now (I bought another one) and all of my bags from shopping. So, getting around is a challenge and no one is speaking English so I don’t know what I’m doing…. I did know what “this is the last stop” meant when I was still standing on the boat and everyone else had gotten off. I cracked up laughing and so did the guy who was explaining what I needed to do. We had a funny moment of laughter about my mishap and then I lugged all of my bags off the boat, through the building and to floating dock #1. As I boarded, I checked with the man on the next boat that it was going to my stop, he shook his head yes so I knew I was in the right place.

I just don’t even get flustered when I get lost anymore. I just go with it! In this case, I got an extra boat ride, and I love boats, and the beautiful scenery of Venice.


I got to the hotel and met up with my friend, Karrie, and her mom and went out for dinner. The hotel is right in a perfect location for everything so we walked along the water and took in the views.



Oh, did I mention there is a rooftop garden at the hotel. There is. Actually, as I write this, I am sitting in said rooftop garden on these cute little white wicker chairs with my feet up overlooking the water.

20140520-091442.jpgI can hear the boats go by below and the birds chirping behind me. On my playlist, the song Love Is Waiting by Brooke Fraser is on. It is a beautiful song and I had to stop writing for a second because I got lost in it… She sings:

I watch as lovers pass me by, walking stories, who’s an how’s and why’s….

This is the story of Venice. Everything is romance… Whether you are here as part of a couple or not, you feel the romance in the air. Actually, at one point, as I snapped a picture of the square, I accidentally caught a couple stop in their tracks and start kissing right in the middle of it all. Venice is love….

Karrie and I did a tour of Dogi’s Palace yesterday morning and then she went with her mom and I went back to this cafe in San Marco square. On our tour, the woman said this cafe was the oldest one in Italy, I still have to look that up, but I knew I wanted a cappuccino there. So, I went. I sat at the table by myself, I ordered cappuccino and laughed at myself and my awful attempts at Italian. The square is amazing, I looked around forever. The Basilica and the clock tower are behind me and the buildings, which are all around me are made up of layers of hundreds of arches. Everything is so particular and straight and neat looking. I thought about how long it would take to build this and how it required such a careful and caring hand.

Then, it happens… A man grabs his violin, a woman sits at the piano… There’s a cello too…. AND an accordion! They begin making the most wonderful Italian music. I smile so big because music brings such joy for me… But there is a violin… And I can’t explain it, but the violin (which is one of my absolute favorite instruments) gives me the chills. I am in a trance. I must have been staring blankly for 30 minutes before I realize I had this big dopey looking smile on my face staring at the man with the violin. Is this love? I think I just fell in love with the man playing the violin. Yep, it’s real, I love him. I start laughing.


Here I am, alone, sitting at one table in a sea of cafe tables and people, laughing so hard I am getting an ab workout… And then something else happens…. The clock strikes 12 noon and the clock tower bell starts… It literally felt like the earth stopped spinning. The music was stopped, everyone froze, people who were walking by became still, I felt like every person in the square froze and looked up to the top of the tower. It was only a split second but it happened. It was special. For the next while, I felt that the world was spinning around me and I was just floating in the middle, listening to the music, drinking my cappuccino and looking into the clouds. I wished to never leave this moment but knew I had to… I said I would return to that place though because I had to experience it again.

Did you know that Venice is made up of 117 islands, all connected by canals? I didn’t know that but I read it in a Venice book and it made Venice make more sense to me. Everywhere you go, you’re surrounded by water and bridges. It’s not charming like Verona, but it is breathtaking.

Myself, Karrie and Linda walked along to get to the gondola we reserved for 7:30pm. They were behind and it looked like there was some chaos. They were grouping people together on each boat. We wanted our own boat! We talked back and forth about it for a few minutes and then Linda says something like, “whatever happens is meant to happen, we’re in Venice.” She was right. We got on the boat and our Gondolier in his striped shirt and sunglasses immediately starts singing. It was not good singing though. He was completely goofy, and fun. We seemed to draw a lot of attention from the Gondoliers and musicians. There were four of five boats in a row. We laughed and talked and looked around and listened to the music. It was just simple, fun, uninhibited laughter through the whole ride. At the end, the handsome gentleman controlling one of the other boats rowed our way and handed Linda a red rose. There is this Italian charm that does not get old.


We all returned to the cafe to hear more music and have fruit and gelato. We were still giddy from the boat and we made a connection with the man playing the clarinet. He would smile, we would giggle. When it was an upbeat song, we would clap along and dance in our chair and he would be playful from the stage. The music they made was absolutely beautiful and they also made it fun. We stayed for the rest of the night. We were all in the most fantastic and funny moods. We just laughed and laughed.

I decided I love the square. I have been here three times today and seen it in every different light.




At the end of the night, close to midnight, I got up and took a walk through the square with music coming from both sides and people walking by. I have said before that I have been floating while here because I love it so much. In this moment though, with violins playing and lights illuminating the square, I quite literally felt like I was floating.

Verona in Love

I literally felt like a princess in Juliet’s house so I threw out my plans and stayed in the room all morning. I had cappuccino and biscotti in bed, stayed in the robe, kept the balcony door open (my balcony overlooks Juliet’s balcony) and listened to the birds chirp. Yes, I, Laura, did absolutely nothing. It was the perfect start to the day.

I finally got up and left my room around 11:00am. I found a small cafe where I ordered a small gelato, half cafe and half latte and a cappuccino. Not sure if it is normal to have them together but I don’t care.

I wandered some more, took more pictures, did a little shopping and then decided to follow the church bells. I found the church but couldn’t go in yet because I HAD to take pictures of it. The building was old but detailed, like so many others but different. I loved the arches in the entrances. By the time I went in, mass was almost over but I was okay with that, I still got to hear some of it and then the amazing music. Yes, I took pictures and yes, I did it during mass. I’m a tourist so I told myself I would be forgiven. The church was just so beautiful. I was surprised at the beggars inside the church. I guess nothing is off limits but they were all over people as they stood up. I stayed for a good while after mass saying my own prayers.






I did more wandering and stumbled upon the arena. This place was larger than life.



There was some big walk or run today so there were a lot of people on the streets. I started to head back and got distracted by some more shopping.

I went back to the square for my lunch. I sat under the umbrellas again but at a different restaurant. As I sat to eat, I put some music on my headphones, ordered a drink and zoned out. The food was fantastic.

Then I saw the red heart sign across the street. I have seen the sign several times but from far away and I never knew what it said. But now I see it, it says Club di Giulietta. IT DOES EXIST!

20140518-191551.jpg I meant to ask at the hotel but forgot, it’s from the movie (Letters to Juliet) that made me want to come to Verona. I know it is a sappy chick flick but the town looked so pretty, I knew I wanted to see it some day. Months ago, I wrote a letter from home hoping that I would get a response so I knew it was real before my trip. I did not get the response so I just thought it was made up and felt a little stupid that I believed it because I found it on the internet. I found out you can get training to be a volunteer to reply to letters with them and work in the actual Club. Maybe I will do that someday.