The Best and Worst of Tuscany

I’ll start with the bad first because, well, that’s how it happened chronologically.

After work on Friday, Maggie and I took a train to Pisa. Let me tell you, Pisa is not as I remember it from three years ago. We arrived in the run-down train station, walked through a run-down neighborhood and checked in to our hostel, which some guy had converted from a house by throwing bunks in the two bedrooms. Easily the worst hostel I have ever stayed in. Maggie and I laughed it off and trekked into Pisa town for a little sight-seeing.

Obligatory Pisa Pic

The leaning tower is often very high on a tourist’s check list, but Pisa doesn’t have much else to offer. You go to the piazza with the church, baptistery and tower, take you obligatory holding-up-the-tower-with-your-bare-hands photo and leave Pisa. Unfortunately, we stayed. We grabbed a beer to drink in a public piazza, but were met by unsavory characters, one of which exposed his flaccid penis to us… Thanks, dude. We didn’t get much sleep that night due to flashing nightmares and loud hostel mates. Boo.

Maggie and I at the Leaning Tower

Early the following morning we arrived in Florence, ready for a different taste of Tuscany. That taste was shopping.

We did start the trip out responsibly though. Our first stop (in the rain) was across the river. I have been to Florence five times previously and every time I had plans to see the Brancacci Chapel and it never worked out. I haven’t had time, I forgot, I went and it was closed, I went and there was a service. So, sixth time’s the charm? Isn’t it awesome when you study something for years and then finally see it in person? Maybe that’s only an art historian thing. I can’t think of any parallels off the top of my head. Anyway. Chapel? Beautiful.

Adam & Eve shunned

After the chapel, we hopped over to the Ponte Vecchio before deciding the rain was too much and we needed a break, which came in the form of lunch. We tried to dry off during our meal and enjoy some Tuscan delights. The Italian couple next to us ordered something very interesting. It looked so odd that I suppose Maggie and I were staring. So, of course he asked us to try it… Wait, that doesn’t happen in America, does it? Have you ever sat next to a stranger in a restaurant and have the first thing they say to you be, “Would you like a taste?” Hmm. I don’t think so. It’s happened so many times to me here in Italy. It must be normal to share food with strangers. So, we did as the Florentines do and tried the mystery dish. It was tripe cooked in broth with butter and parmesan, which our good friend put on a piece of hard bread with a huge chunk of mint/parsley spread. I’m pretty sure he was trying to disguise the texture from us, which is a little rubbery I think. So, thanks for looking out for us, friendly tripe-eating man! I was proud of us for being adventurous, but tripe probably won’t become common in my diet.

Tasting Tripe. I'm so gutsy. Heh heh.

After lunch it was on to the market and down with our savings. On my final trip to Florence I was purchasing all the things I’ve wanted for myself all year as well as some goodies for friends with requests. Let me tell you, it adds up. We also went to the wonderful indoor food market next to San Lorenzo right as it was about to close. We made sure we bought some olive oil, balsamic and other treats at the vendor named Lombardi in honor of my Aunt Vicki and Uncle Sil Lombardi. I’ll be bringing the bag home for you!

Maggie and I with our goods from Lombardi's

So, yeah, it really adds up. We bought so much stuff in Florence, we could barely fit everything in our bags. We even canceled our trip to Cortona the following day due to the weight of our backpacks. But it’s okay. We were satisfied with the weekend. We were coming home with leather purses, belts, gloves, sandals, boots, scarves, pretty much everything they sell in Florence.

Unfortunately for our bank accounts, we didn’t get enough and came back the next weekend. Stay tuned for the next post!

We did some sightseeing, too. Had to fit it in around the shopping.

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Daphne in As the World Turns

Poem by Rebecca Hoogs

Before all that hot pursuit,

I lived a pastoral existence:

meadows and mead and suitors swimsuited…

But Apollo?  Blacklisted.

In the end, I died a pastoral existence,

or wish I had, anyway.

Apollo–black tempered, incensed–

turned pirate, barged up my waterways.

What wishes I had were waked away;

he had a fast boat.

I turned on the waterworks,

turned on my heel, and wrote my footnotes,

but he had a faster boast.

I got to shore, got treed.

He’s such a heel.  Footnote:

I’m turned, gone bad.

I’m got, for sure.  I’m tree

in meadow, see? We’re completely unsuited,

But I’d do it again–the turning, the going–

not for what ensued, but for the ensuing.

Bernini's Apollo and Daphne

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Skeers Family Fun

After returning from Barcelona, I had to scramble to clean my studio in time. My friend John would be there in just a few hours to photograph me in the intern apartment. He photographs people in their bedrooms (not creepy) for a series he’s working on. You can check out his work here and my photo below. Isn’t it awesome?! I will cherish it forever. The UWRC will use it to promote the internship! Thanks, John!

At Home in the Intern Apartment

Only a few days later, my apartment became a home for two. Maggie, my former roommate Chad’s sister, visited Italy for 18 days, mostly spent in Rome with a few weekends away in Pisa, Florence and Cinque Terre. More on that later. On her first evening in Rome, I took Maggie on my impress-people walk and we ended up at Castel Sant’Angelo, a frequent motif in my blog posts. The next day Maggie took a solo-trip to the Colosseum and had a run-in with a guido. She escaped by latching on to a tour guide who fed her false information about ancient Rome. Don’t worry, I cleared things up.

Maggie and Me at Castel Sant' Angelo

By the next day it was already time for our trip to Tuscany, but this is just a teaser. Look for the next post about shenanigans in Pisa and Florence. We came back from the trip loaded down with goods and ready to be home in our Roman beds. On Monday we decided to explore a different neighborhood of Rome, Trastevere. This neighborhood across the river ranks as one of the best Roman rione in my opinion. We wandered down the tiny streets stopping in boutiques and bookstores and ending up in Santa Maria in Trastevere.

Below the Pincio in Piazza del Popolo

Later that week we were yearning for some green and made plans to visit Villa Borghese. We began at the Pincio and wandered through the gardens to the gallery. I played tour guide in the museum and Maggie and I started to wonder why many of those mythological stories are so similar. There’s a whole lotta love, lust, rape, murder and suicide. Since we’re in the mood for mythology, my next post will contain a poem by Rebecca Hoogs, Creative Writing professor. It’s a modern spin on an old classic she presented during summer quarter.

Maggie in the Borghese Gardens

The next day brought us to the Spanish Steps. Finally some sun! Why was June so wintery anyway? We basked in the sun on the steps, got a little sweaty and then it was time to head home.

That night we invited our neighbors out to my favorite bar, Birreria Trilussa. You remember the giraffa, no? Me either. After we had finished TWO of those, we descended to the river where booths selling trinkets and grub are set up on the banks all summer for Estate Romana.

Giraffa!

I woke up a little fuzzy, but ready for our trip to Cinque Terre, one of the most beautiful spots in the world. So beautiful it warrants its own post. Check back later!

The day we came back from the Cinque, I spent running around arranging things for the faculty welcome dinner in the penthouse that night. Maggie cut bread and I scrounged up enough plates and glasses for all 16 attendees. Lucky us, the faculty dinner was the same day as Saints Peter and Paul holiday. That night we ran from dinner to Ponte Principe Amedeo di Savoia, which is pretty far, to catch the fireworks set off from Castel Sant’Angelo. We ran directly after eating so many courses that I thought I might puke; I managed to hold it in.

The next day Maggie and I tried to escape the heat with a trip to the beach. Not sure if it really worked. We spent the majority of our time on hot, sweaty public transportation, but we did make it to Lido di Ostia. We laid out on the black sand of the free beach and waded up to our knees in filthy water. It was then that I thought to myself, “Gee, I really need to see a nice Italian beach before I leave.” More on that later.

After we cooled off seaside, we heated back up in Ostia Antica, an ancient Roman port city. We climbed over ruins and through the grass rediscovering the empire of past days. It was a nice excursion, but it was over too soon. The site closed before we made it to the Casa di Diana. We did have fun in the amphitheater and temples though.

Fun in Ostia

The next day brought a walking tour of Rome. We made a checklist of all the things Maggie had left to see so that she wouldn’t miss anything. Our walking tour took us through the Ghetto, up to the Campidoglio, down beside the Forum and heading back towards home along Trajan’s forum. Check, check, check and check. The end of Skeers Family Fun came soon after. Maggie spent her last day buying goodies for the fam.

Us in Piazza Navona

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Buh-Buh-Buh-Buh-Barcelona!

For some reason I had the song “My Sharona” stuck in my head during the entire trip. Except the lyrics were “Buh-buh-buh-buh Barcelona” instead. I feel like I’ve heard this somewhere before, so please enlighten me if you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps it was just the genius of my subconscious. At any rate, it was such a good theme song that it also got stuck in Ryan’s head. We even made jokes that I would come up with a new song for every vacation. My next number one single? Marrakesh sung to the tune of the 80s hit “Maniac”.

On to the actual vacation….

I arrived late on a Thursday night and unfortunately didn’t have time to do anything. The next morning I was up early with a plan in mind; I made a beeline for the Chocolate Museum. As soon as I saw that the ticket was edible (a chocolate bar), I knew I had made the right decision. I learned about the history of Chocolate and saw some pretty amazing chocolate sculptures. The only other patrons in the museum were 4-year-olds on a preschool class field trip. I guess that’s what you get when you go to a chocolate museum at 9:00 am on a Friday.

A scene from Bambi made entirely of chocolate.

The rest of the day I spent wandering around the gothic quarter. I happened upon an antiques fair that only happens once a year. I wish I could have brought some things home, but these vendors really knew what their stuff was worth and that means it was out of my price range. To escape the rain, I ate lunch at a little tavern. I couldn’t understand the waitress at all, so I had no idea what I ordered. It turned out to be some kind of gazpacho soup and mystery meat with fries; I’m thinking lamb.

Tavern Mystery Soup

Tavern Mystery Meat

When the sun came out I headed to the docks and sprawled out on a bench drying my coat and flats. The water was so clear I could see big fish swimming amongst the sailboats. At this point, I was starting to wonder where Ryan was. I was pretty sure his flight arrived in the early afternoon. Back at the hostel, I still had no idea where he could be. Just as I was about to head out for the evening, he showed his face! Turns out he missed his flight out of Amsterdam. Figures. 🙂

So, Ryan and I in the company of two of our hostel-mates took some advice from a couchsurfer and made our way to JazzSi Club. The place was PACKED. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place more packed than this. It was probably double or triple the fire code allowances (if there were any). People sitting on top of people, people standing in between chairs and tables, people sitting on the stairs and the loft. There is no way we could have made it to the bathrooms if we wanted to. But it was well worth it. We saw a live flamenco performance with a guitarist, singer and dancer. The singer embodied the ultimate stereotype. He wore a white linen suit with a red scarf in the pocket and his curly chest hair peaking out. The dancer was supreme. I wish my body would move like that. After seeing this show, I wanted nothing more than to take flamenco lessons.

Flamenco Dancer

Flamenco Singer

The next morning Ryan and I went on a hike to the top of a hill overlooking Barcelona. Although we were sweaty and getting sun burnt, we had some of the best views of the city. We rested there for a bit crawling on the graffiti and messing with our cameras.

The Destination of Hike #1

Then we climbed down the hill and back up the next one to enter Parc Güell, one of Gaudi’s magnificent creations. His art is so whimsical. Wandering around the park makes you feel as though you’re in a fantasy storybook. We listened to some acoustic reggae and watched the St. George festival parade from above. We paid our respects to the famous iguana before heading for the beach.

St. George Festival as seen from Parc Guell

Gaudiguana

Being exhausted from our hill-filled hike earlier in the day, our first stop in Barceloneta was at a restaurant. We ordered two large beers, some paella (a rice dish) and mixed seafood tapas. God, I love Spain. The beers came out first and since Ryan and I are both small people who hadn’t eaten much all day, we felt them. We laughed over how hard it is to eat paella and why “My Sharona” fits with Barcelona so well.

Then we stumbled out to the beach. Having forgotten our bathing suits, we could only admire from a far. In the heat we wandered back to the gothic quarter where the tall buildings provided a bit of shade. After a nap at the hostel, we took a passagiata (or whatever the Catalan equivalent for a leisurely stroll is) over to La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished church. The lights around the building make it shine like a mirage and the architecture is so unusual that you begin to think you’re imagining it. To confirm its reality, we returned the next morning in the daylight. This time La Sagrada Familia reminded me of a huge sandcastle. Inside there is an explanation of Gaudi’s plans for the architecture and everything is based on principles found in nature. Amazing.

La Sagrada Familia

Our next stop was the Picasso Museum, something which Ryan and I had been looking forward to. It did not disappoint. I know Picasso was quite prolific, but I had never seen this much of his work in one place. I guess it would make sense, he did live there and all. One of the coolest things about this museum was its comparison between Velázquez’s Las Meninas and Picasso’s 58 of interpretations of it. Although I’m not a fan of Picasso’s 1950s work, the display was effective and engaging.

Velasquez

Picasso

After Picasso it was time for tapas again. Chorizo! Gazpacho! Manchego! Mussels! Mushrooms! Potatoes! YUM.

Post-Picasso Tapas!

As soon as we were well-fed, we decided it was time to take on La Rambla, but that doesn’t mean we were done eating. We found the pastisserie recommended to me by my co-worker, Laura. Apparently it is the oldest one in Barcelona! Everything was beautiful. Everything was edible. Everything was delicious. I ordered a mix of cookies and Orxata and Ryan had a fruit tart.  Aside from these goodies, La Rambla is famous for its “pet shop” stand and the sales person got me hooked on the bunnies. If only i could have taken one home! Ryan rolled his eyes and reluctantly took photos of the event. Thanks, Ry!

Rambla Rabbit

The last unexplored district of Barcelona was the Parc de Montjuic, another recommendation of Laura’s. We were hoping to get the the Mirò museum, but it closes early on Sundays. So, we settled for exploring the gardens and ordering drinks on the patio of the National Museum of Art. I can’t recall the name, but I drank a kind of lemonade slushy with beer in it. I think of it as the Spanish version of a Radler, but not nearly as good. As the night cooled off, we took the gondola up the hill to the castle overlooking the ocean. We sat next to a canon and enjoyed the view. We were back down the hill in time to see the disappointing fountain show. It was just a few lights and some water. People told us that it gets better, but we didn’t stick around to find out. I had to wake up at 4:00 am to catch my flight the following day.

The Gondola at Parc Montjuic

All in all it was jam-packed, but without a specific itinerary. It felt good to stroll the streets and soak up the city with an orxata in hand. I definitely, definitely want to come back to Spain. It was simply captivating (and delicious).

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Second Chances

By the time I said goodbye to Momma, only a few weeks were left of Spring quarter. So, I took advantage of them by inviting Shannon, an art history student, to Assisi with me. If you recall from an earlier post, my mom and I took a day trip to Assisi, but my camera died within 15 minutes of arriving. It wasn’t going to happen to me this time. I packed the giant digital SLR I borrowed from the UWRC office as well as my hand-held digital. I meant business. Don’t worry, I warned Shannon ahead of time.

Shannon flailing in Assisi

Since Assisi is a rather small town, we followed much of the same track my mom and I did two weeks before. We took the bus to Piazza Matteotti, checked out the ancient Roman amphitheater and then snaked our way through the streets of town ending at San Francesco. For lunch, we actually made it to the restaurant suggested by my good friend Rick Steves, Locanda del Podesta. It was delicious. We partook in some of the region’s specialties, namely sausage. They also had a wonderful Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper spaghetti).

Cacio e Pepe at Locanda del Podesta

Before I move on to the wonderful Giotto chapel, I would just like to say that I did not stalk the bride and groom tying the knot in Assisi that day. I just happened upon the ceremony in San Rufino. They drove past us an hour later in a vintage car with her veil blowing in the wind. So, when I saw them later at the Roman temple, I decided it was fate and that I needed to photograph them. The setting was beyond picturesque and the couple was adorable. I couldn’t resist. So, look away if commitment freaks you out. Here’s the shot:

Awwwwwww

After the shameless couple-I-don’t-even-know photo shoot, it was time for Shannon and I to rediscover the Giotto chapel in San Francesco. It was just as glorious as I remember, except this time I came equipped with a camera. So, now I can share it all with you. While we were there (in our hardhats), one of the restorers was touching up a little corner of fresco. “You are so cool,” I wanted to say. He probably already knows it.

(By the way, he’s waving, not shunning us.)

And for no reason at all other than I love food and I love photos, here is my favorite shot of some goodies we found at a bakery.

Mmmmmm.

Returning to Rome brought a few more second chances. Stacey and Brittany, two of Leisha’s friends who had been in Rome the week previous, returned to give Rome another shot. Unfortunately, nature was against them and they caught colds in Barcelona. After sleeping it off for a few days, I met up with them for a tour of Porta Portese market. I bought the most lovely vintage postcards of Rome and Naples. I have plans to use them in the future, so keep your eyes peeled. After the market we were in need of some serious nourishment, AKA gelato. I tried to take them to Giolitti, Leisha’s favorite gelato place, but when we arrived, there was a line out the door. It was the first seriously hot day of the year and everyone was in need of a little ice cream. We walked just a few blocks away to my favorite gelato place, Gelateria del Teatro. What a wonderful way to cool down.

Dead-on delicious gelato.

A few days later Shannon and Shayna returned to Rome to stay with me before catching their flights back to Seattle. Shayna came back from Rogliano (southern Italy), with all the most wonderful stories of small-town life. She became a part of her host family and everyone shed tears when she left. Back in Rome, her final meal was spaghetti and meatballs. Goodbye Seattle friends! See you soon!

Always with a fanta.

After tying up spring quarter, it was time to pack and head to Barcelona…..

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Re(Wien)sited

Momma and I decided to spend a weekend in Vienna after considering many other European destinations. I would get a chance to revisit one of my favorite spots in the world and show my mom around, trying to get her to understand why I love Vienna so much. My mom and I arrived a little later than expected (only 40 minutes) due to a flight delay and yet our hotel had already given our room away. So at midnight they carted us over to the “nearest” hotel, which was actually a 20-minute cab ride away. We ended up in a part of town that I wasn’t familiar with, but Momma, always looking on the bright side, said what a wonderful opportunity it would be to get to know Vienna better. I am just bummed that I wasn’t able to see Diana, my ex-roommate, on the only day we would both be in town. 😦

Walking the Ring: Momma at Parliament

Needless to say, we didn’t get up to much on our first night in Vienna, but the next day we had big plans. We started out by walking the Ringstrasse, one of the first things I did when I arrived in Vienna over a year ago. Our first stop was the University to see the blank walls where Klimt’s famous paintings would have been. Nothing to report there. Then we continued along the ring to the Opera house stopping at all the famous buildings along the way. We even dropped by IKI for a quick hello. From there, we cut north to Stephansdom and may have done a little shopping along the way… By lunchtime we were hungry for some Wienerschnitzel and ate at the restaraurant near Ruprechtskirche. Best Wienerschnitzel I have ever had! It was so tender and delicious! After lunch I took Momma down to my old neighborhood. We revisited my dorm, grocery store, hang-out spots and my favorite ice cream parlor, Tichy. I’m not sure if I have mentioned this before, but Vienna has these ice cream balls that are to die for. The Eismarillenknödel, a mouthful in more ways than one, is a ball of vanilla ice cream with an apricot mousse center rolled in shortbread cookie crumbs… Yeah, i know. Other varieties include the Himbeereisknödel (replace the apricot with raspberry and the shortbread with chocolate cookie crumbs), the Schneeball (replace cookies with crumbed, hard white marshmallow) and one for which I cannot remember the name, but that’s because it was coffee-flavored. Ick. Here’s a picture of three ice cream balls at Tichy. I wish I could replace the coffee ball with a Schneeball. Oh well!

Ice Cream Balls at Tichy

The next day we made sure to be up early so we could get our museum on. We took my beloved U-bahn to the Museums Quartier. First stop: The Leopold Museum. The Leopold is one of those places that makes you realize why you’re an art history major, or at least that’s what it did for me. I had been looking at countless fragmentary, dusty white corpses in Roman museums for months, which is all well and good. I love me some ancient Roman art, really I do. But the artworks I have been studying are creations of the state with a predetermined message independent of the artist’s agenda. It’s ancient propaganda. It’s fascinating. But I hadn’t seen anything so infused with emotion or so personal for a while. Schiele makes you feel what he felt. And I cried. So maybe this is why I am an art history major, not why you are.

At the Leopold with a Poster of Schiele

Next stop on the museum schedule was the modern art museum across the platz, which looks like a big, black, blocky scar in the MQ. One of the best parts of this museum is its video collection. There were some Nan June Paik, Richard Serra and William Wegman pieces. All lovely, but the pride and joy of the MUMOK is Andy Warhol, who appears as a glittery ghost in a double life-size poster inside the museum. Ick. I have never loved Warhol, but I gave him a fair chance and watched quite a few of his videos. Sad, I still don’t like him.

Mom & Me chilling on a MQ bench with MUMOK in the background

After the museums, we wandered over to the Burggarten and paid Mozart our respects while mowing down on some Käsekrainer. Boy, do I love Austrian food! Lucky us, the Genussfest in Stadtpark happened the same weekend we visited! Recalling old memories of eating topfen on olive bread with Andrea, we strolled the paths through the park tasting, tasting, tasting. What else would you do at a taste fest? The weather was lovely, the food was delicious. 🙂 Since I was feeling a little nostalgic, I drug Momma to Hohermarkt for gelato. Even though I’ve had authentic gelato continuously for almost a year now, the gelateria am Hohermarkt still holds up.

Still running high on nostalgia, we ate dinner at  Centimeter. Momma ate Schnitzel and I ordered Holzfällerknockerl. (No, I’m not just making up words.) Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my Tupperware and I had to leave the left-over goods on my plate destined for the trash can. Never again! That used to last me five meals for goodness sakes!

Radlers at Centimeter

The next morning I finally gave Sissi her due and visited her museum. She has some gorgeous dishes and dresses, but a sad life. If you don’t know who she is, look her up. She is famous in Austria, but very few Americans have ever heard of her. Shame. As a goodbye, Mom and I ate lunch on the Graben. Mmmmmm Würstel.

Mouth watering...

I will miss you Vienna, but rest assured; I’ll be back. Vienna is one of the best cities on the planet.

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Mama in Roma

(and also Assisi)

Shortly after I regained my composure following Rome’s birthday week, it was time to pick Momma up from the airport! She arrived early in the morning and although I was exhausted, it was time to celebrate. My mom planned the timing of her visit carefully so that we could spend Mother’s Day together for the first time in five years. Yes, I know. I’m a horrible daughter. But what am I supposed to do when I live in another state and it’s not the kind of holiday you get days off for?

Anyway, Momma and I spent some quality time together in the city, but also in bed watching the Mentalist, a TV show to which she introduced me. Our first venture into the city took us to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain, you know, my usual impress-people walk around the neighborhood. The next day we stopped for a little gelato (of course) on our way to Castel Sant’Angelo, a favorite monument of mine. It’s a place that I keep returning to, so look for it to pop up in future (and past) posts.

Momma double-fisting gelato at Castel Sant'Angelo

Momma and I decided to spend that weekend in Assisi, a hill-top town in Umbria. However, we nearly missed the train because May 1st is Labor Day in Italy and the busses weren’t running. So, after our short jog to the short tracks to catch our train, my mom and I were panting and quickly realizing just how out of shape we were. Maybe something should be done about this… Jane Fonda? Jazzercise? More on that later. So, we arrived in Assisi a few hours later only and hopped the bus to Piazza Matteotti. Word to the wise: Do NOT take the bus to San Francesco, you’ll have to walk uphill to see the rest of the town. We started at the top, Piazza Matteotti, and walked downhill while sight-seeing since we are so out of shape.

At the top we met a cute, little old man walking his dog who gave us some tips on touring the city. The first stop was the Roman amphitheater where I found out that my camera battery was dead. So, here is one of the only three photos from the day. At least it’s a cute one.

Momma and me at the Roman Amphitheater in Assisi

After the sting of a dead camera battery wore off, my mom and I trotted about the city admiring hues of pink and yellow limestone and spectacular views of the valley. Actually, we did pick up some disposable cameras, which were kind of fun to use. Not immediately knowing how your photo turned out is kind of a novelty. Dad took them in to be developed, so we’ll see how they look soon. We might be pleasantly surprised!

After visiting San Francesco, the church built in St. Francis’ honor, we tried to go to the restaurant recommended by my old friend, Rick Steves, but apparently some other tourists had heard about it, too. So, we ended up at a trattoria down the street dining on a terrace overlooking the entire Umbrian valley. The region of Umbria is known as the “green heart” of Italy and I can certainly understand why.

After lunch we bought tickets to see the chapel painted by Giotto in San Francesco and we were two of only four people on this tour. All the tourists were still eating at Rick Steves’ restaurant. The chapel is in the process of being restored, so there are three flights of scaffolding set up that you can visit with an entrance ticket, a hard hat and a god-awful audio guide. It was so amazing nearly having the chapel all to ourselves and being able to walk right up next to 700-year-old frescos adorning the 1st, 2nd and 3rd “floors”. But again, no camera. I think this calls for another trip to Assisi real soon…

Back in Rome, my mom and I used Sunday to rest before hitting the cobblestone streets again. Later in the week we took a huge trek around the city that took us through the Jewish ghetto. (Ghetto is Italian is a little different than the English version of the word. See here for info.) We checked out the Portico d’Ottavia, the theater of Marcellus where Sophia Loren used to live and ended up at La Bocca della Verità. In case you don’t know what this is, look at the very end of this clip from the movie Roman Holiday.

Legend has it that this sculpture will bite off the hand of anyone who does not tell the truth. Scary! My mom and I made it out unscathed.

Our recreation of Roman Holiday

Can you believe that I have lived in Rome for a year and have never seen this? Situation remedied.

After our encounter with the mouth of truth, Momma and I wandered over to the Forum and the Capitoline Museums. We just did a quick run though because it was getting late and we were exhausted (Remember, out of shape!) from our walk already.

Momma and I at the Forum

The next night we took a walk in the opposite direction out to the Spanish Steps. If you have ever seen a photo of Piazza di Spagna, the stairs probably had pots of beautiful pink flowers on them. I have a feeling that many tourists are disappointed when they find out that those flowers aren’t always there. BUT the azaleas are there for a couple weeks every spring and it happened to coincide with my mom’s visit. So, we took a few glamour shots and then laughed at ourselves. Check the facebook album for those.

Before long, it was time for our weekend trip to Vienna (featured in the next post) and then time to say goodbye. See you in a few months, Momma!

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