A night on Ellis Island. Photo blog.

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The ride to the island:
This view made me smile as we were boarding the boat. Rocking back and forth, I thought the rough ride may scare me but I never noticed once I saw my surroundings.

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Look around:
The view of the new tower from the water makes us proud to be American!
The Statue of Liberty is breathtaking as she towers over the boat as we pass.

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Dinner in the Great Room:
I was able to find out, from my family in Italy, that my great grandfather came through here! I also found him in the online directory. I was disappointed that there wasn’t a book you could page through like in the movie Hitch! I really though that if Will Smith does it, it has to be real! I was wrong, it is an online directory, but it was still amazing!

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Do some exploring:
I asked for permission and went upstairs and walked through any open door. I was in awe seeing the old objects, the writing on the wall and the view of the great room from above. Thinking about how many people came here to start a life in America amazed me! I don’t think I thought about it enough until I was there.

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Taking it all in:
The view of NYC from Ellis Island.
The entrance on the island.

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A new view:
She looks different, and amazingly beautiful with the contrast of the black night sky behind her!

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Ending the night:
In awe of the Freedom Tower. It is larger than life and a strong and sentimental reminder of the buildings that stood before it.

I recommend Ellis Island, whether you have family history with it or not. To stand in the place and know that you are standing in a place with that kind of history is amazing.

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Cooking Italian

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Have you ever missed something so much, you could almost taste it???

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This week, I called in reinforcements to bring me back to the place that I love. He is a dear friend and was born in Italy and he showed me how to make an authentic, homemade Italian pasta dish.

One thing I realized when I was in Italy is that I have been cooking Americanized Italian food. It was quite devastating actually. I bought several cookbooks while I was there but nothing beats being taught in person.

That morning, I was in the grocery store with my list that he provided. All of the ingredients for this meal were different from what I would have used in the past. I found all of the ingredients I needed and then thought to get some extras to have a nice little tasting of some of the things I brought back.

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He started off making the sauce. He used his hands with the tomatoes. The Italian cook is not afraid to get their hands dirty, that is for sure. He told me I should buy a food mill… I have never heard of a food mill before but I will be sure to purchase one. As he combined the ingredients in the sauce, and it started to boil, I smelled it immediately. This kind of Italian cooking smells different from the Americanized versions.

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Then came the pasta…. The flour is made into a ring on the countertop an the eggs go inside the ring. So, as it mixes (again, with your hands), the flour is added very slowly and you can keep track of the texture.

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When the dough was finished, we wrapped it and let it sit, stirred the sauce and then sat at the table for tasting!

First, I made a Caprese salad with tomato, mozzarella and basil. We split it into two on our plates to try two different versions of balsamic, one an 8 year and one a 30 year. This brought me right back to the vineyard in Italy where I first tasted both of these. I know that I’m here in my home , in my dining room, in Pennsylvania… But my mind is back in Tuscany with every bite. I remember waking up the morning that we found that vineyard and looking out the window thinking that it looked like a painting on the wall, like that view could not be real but something created only in someone’s beautiful mind and translated with a brushstroke. I remember that view creating a calm in me that I’ve never before felt. The fact that I had the opportunity to see that view with my own eyes is still amazing to me. A struggling, lost, poor, 21 year old girl with a dream of what life would be like at 30 created this opportunity. Today, I thank that young girl… I think my 21 year old self knew that at 30, Italy would be the beginning of my future beyond the challenge and hurt of my 20’s.

Next, I got the rosemary focaccia and two kinds of olive oil from two different vineyards we visited. I poured two bowls and we dipped. I remember the smooth taste of the bottle from the Casanova winery. This olive oil is wonderful and what we are using for the pasta and sauce too. The next one brought back the familiar, unique spicy accent in the oil. I really enjoyed this one but I remember Karrie didn’t care for it. I went back for more.

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So, now it’s time to make the pasta. These tools belonged to my grandmother. I clearly remember rolling pasta in these tools when I was a little kid. My mom’s kitchen was full of women including my mother, grandmother and great aunts. The island had a removable countertop and it became a huge wooden block to be used for pasta making on those days. It was loud and full of personalities. Today, there are just two of us and I am so excited as the pasta comes out. You have to bunch it but spread it out so it doesn’t stick. Each piece of dough is a process. Then, it goes in the boiling water. Pasta made from scratch does not take long at all to cook, which is nice because at this point, your mouth is watering.

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The pasta gets tossed with the sauce, you grate fresh Parmesan over it and get ready to enjoy!!!!

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What a great reminder of my trip, I could smell and taste it in my kitchen and I went right back to that special place!

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Arrivederci Italy

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It is over…

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But it is not.

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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.

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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.

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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….

Roma

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

DELIZIOSO #2

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:

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I liked the little sandwiches in the cafe in Venice.

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

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Lunch in Sienna was perfect.

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

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A cafe in Rome.

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

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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

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Thursday started on the hammock…

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And ended on the hammock…

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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.

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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).

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Here, we found a great story…

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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Stop and Smell the Roses

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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…

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

Why?

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.

Why?

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

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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.

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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.

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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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