October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and to help with the cause I will be donating 10% of my Etsy Shop sales for the entire month to Breast Cancer Connections. This is a Bay area organization that provides education, counseling, resources and community to those people diagnosed with cancer and their families. They also provide testing to those who do not have access to insurance to help them get screening. Breast Cancer Connections is very dear to me as they were there for me when I dealt with my own breast cancer ordeal and they really helped in answering my many questions. Please spread the word and help me support this awesome organization.
Yesterday I lost an earring, which is something I hardly ever do. However, when it happens, it can be extremely irritating. It’s these times that have made me establish my “Lost Earring” policy: if a customer loses one earring, I will sell them a single earring instead of making them buy a whole new pair. All they have to do is send me the lonely earring so I can match it. Does this sound good to you? Hint: your answer should be, “YES!!!”. Think about it for a moment. If you buy a pair of earrings at Macy’s, but then you lose one six months later, are they going to let you replace the lost one for half the price of the original pair? I don’t think so. In fact, I have had customers send me earrings they purchased in Italy to see if I can find a match and quite often I can!
I instituted the “Lost Earring” Policy because I’m not Macy’s, and that’s the beauty of handmade. I want to make sure my customers get plenty of enjoyment from their purchases. It’s always a bummer when you can’t wear your favorite earrings anymore because you lost one, and I want to help my customers keep on wearing their stylish Venetian bling for as long as possible.
We had a wonderful Italian meal last night that began with Carpaccio and Burrata. It so reminded me of the walking trip I took in Umbria a couple of years ago. The region is very well known for their cured meats and I remember many beautiful plates of meats, cheeses and crusty breads consumed of course with a nice bottle of red wine.
I don’t know that I have actually had Burrata before but it was so creamy and delicious that I had to find out more. Our waiter said that Burrata is the creamiest part of the mozzarella. But I also found a recipe stating that Burrata is mozzarella with a creamy center. You can find a recipe to make your own Burrata on the Sunday Suppers blog http://sunday-suppers.com/how-to-make-homemade-burrata/
With these wonderful appetizers we hardly needed dinner although we did enjoy salmon smothered in a light creamy tomato sauce and a perfectly cooked filet mignon. If you are looking for a family owned authentic Italian meal in the South Bay, I would highly recommend A Bellagio in downtown Campbell.
I recently had a friend ask me “What’s the big deal with Pinterest?” So I was explaining to her what I like about it which is basically that it is a great way to collect images in one place, which is fabulous for anyone who is a “visual” type. I have a few of the standard boards that they suggest when you sign up and a couple that I have added. But definitely my favorite board is Scenes of Venice. I find these images to be inspirational and at the same time very calming. I love the way that the light and the buildings reflect off of the water. To capture these moments in a photograph is amazing and makes me feel like I am right there. I wanted to share one of my favorite photographs above by Ashleigh Hodges from her Etsy shop.
I have a confession to make and I feel very ashamed. When I first visited Venice, I couldn’t wait to leave it behind. I know, I hear the collective gasping of air. As our train pulled in I loved it because it is an amazing sight – a city built on water. But once we got there I guess it was too much for me. The water was dark and smelly, we were constantly getting lost in the maze of “streets”, our hotel room was crazy tiny and the food was sooo expensive and not even very tasty. This was not meeting my expectation of “the city of Romance”.
Fast forward about 20 years.
The last time I was in Venice, I didn’t want to leave. And I am trying to figure out how this happened. In those 20 years have I gained a new sense of adventure? A greater level of patience? Perhaps a less rigid expectation? Definitely an appreciation of some alone time with my husband! But visiting Venice now that maze of “streets” calls me into its’ mystery. Every bridge and every building connect me to the traditions of the ancient city. The tales of the ebb and flow of the water and their affects on the lives of the Venetians beg me to listen. Now it is a city of Enchantment. A place that beckons me to return again and again.
We have a driver to Spoleto today to catch a train to Rome.
TiP: When you have a driver in a different country, sit in the front seat. This is a great opportunity to learn something from a regular person working in the country you are visiting AND they enjoy the chance to talk to someone – they drive around all the time.
So I sat in the front seat and our driver was pretty good at English he just said “please speak slowly” ” si, per favore parla lentemente.” I totally get this.
He is a geography buff and is excited to hear that Lynn is from Chicago which he knows is on the shores of Lake Michigan. He says he knows many Italians that have moved to the US and stayed there. He would like to visit the US someday.
We find out that May 1st is a National Holiday in Italy to celebrate the worker – like Labor Day in the US. And I said but you are working – he says yes – he works 6 days a week. He gets 1 day off each week but the day changes each week and he never takes a vacation. He does not take the month of August off as we hear they all do in Italy.
We talk a bit about politics – he wants to know how Obama is doing. He tells us that in Italy there are so many parties to choose from for their elections that it makes their political process crazy.
He asks us why we decided to come to Italy for our vacation. That’s an interesting question. I have been out of the US only 4 times and 3 of those I have been to Italy. We tell him it is the food, the people, the language,the architecture, the beauty of the country. Could there be a more perfect place to celebrate life?
He lives in Norcia. His wife’s family is from Norcia. I tell him in America we have a saying “Happy wife, happy life.” He gets it.
On the train to Rome we cannot find a seat so we end up standing with several other people for the 1.5 hour ride in. One thing I observe on the train is that a lot of Italians wear t-shirts with English sayings on them. I find this funny. There is a guy with a shirt that says Nebraska on it. A girl with a shirt that says Love is the Answer. It used to be that you could spot the American tourists by their white tennis shoes. Apparently the Italians have discovered tennis shoes. I see a couple wearing matching Nikes and they don’t tie there laces – they tuck them in. There is also a young guy wearing a bright pink Polo shirt with the giant horse on the chest (I wondered who wears these) he also wears a matching hat. Another young guy has a ponytail, some bobbie pins and a headband on and he’s kind of cute. I guess these young Italian men a very confident in their masculinity.
For some reason we get off the train at the wrong station but luckily we realize our error before the train leaves and jump right back on. At last we arrive in Rome at the right station.
I have to say taking a walking trip of a country is a fabulous way to see things that you would never see on a cruise or a bus tour or whatever. We have had 4 days of walking for a total of 53.5 km – just over 33 miles. I have lost track of the hours but my favorite thing to say on our 3rd day was ” It seems like we’ve been walking for days – oh we have” . I couldn’t say that on the 4th day because I was losing my sense of humor! Anyway this was a fabulous way to see the countryside but we kind of felt like we were missing out on the day to day culture of Italy ( and yes our feet were tired) so staying in Norcia today was a good opportunity to just enjoy the people.
We had a traditional breakfast – a cream filled croissant and a cappuccino.
a peek into someones front garden
Everyone in town was very friendly and it was fun going into all of the shops because most of them don’t speak English so I was forced to practice my Italian. Most stores are tiny specialty shops – there were several specializing in truffle products since they harvest truffles in this area. There was one store where all products were made of honey. When we asked for a grocery store – alimentari -it was hard for us to find because it was basically a butcher shop with a wall of additional food items – not what we are used to. Most of the time we saw the same people at the store first thing in the morning – then they close from 1-3 for lunch and then they are back at their shop again til evening – they definitely work long hours and work hard but they also enjoyed their neighboring shop owners and their customers.
With all of this walking and all of the things that could have happened, there was really only one injury: I cut my head on the very short door to our balcony. Luckily there was no outside medical care required and we were able to make it to another fabulous dinner.
our short balcony
I have to give Lynn credit for capturing the scenes of Norcia – she has a great eye!
This will be our last day of walking – we get a ride to knock of 3.5kmso we have 13.5km ( a bit over 8 miles) to walk today. We start out at the Abbazia di San Eutizio.
We need a break:
This is another town where we don’t see a soul.
This is where our trouble began:
I was so busy looking at the path and dreading the climb uphill that I didn’t notice a vague marker off to my right. So we started heading up this hill. Finally I knew we weren’t on the right path but we did get some nice views.
And then we climbed back down.
Fortunately Lynn & I are good friends because we both agreed that if we were with our significant others we would have been fighting at this point and probably a few others before this!
Campi was a larger town where we saw a few people but it was a hot lazy afternoon for the locals. We did get to see a school bus.
We also picked up another dog – we named this one Guisepe.
This was a day of long beautiful views.
Another small town – this is where I got totally confused about how far we had come and how far we still had to go. I kept trying to calculate how far we had to go but was trying to subtract the miles we cut off by getting a ride. Lynn just played along with me- she knew I would figure it out eventually. In my defense – it is frustrating not really having a concept of the distance of 300 meters or 1km and my brain keeps trying to think of ways to say things in Italian and I’m a bit punchy.
Finally we could see our destination: Norcia.
Look – it’s the suburbs.
The old part of Norcia is surrounded by a wall and people actually live in the wall. I thought Americans were into preservation. In Italy we are constantly seeing where someone is renovating or has renovated theseancient dilapidated structures and converted them to living spaces and they will be right next door to something that has no roof and broken windows and looks downright dangerous. Maybe that’s why we never see kids in these towns !
Many of the towns that we walked through all week had public water fountains where you could fill your water bottles and the water is always running.
As we walk into the town of Norcia, I feel like people are giving us strange looks. Maybe it’s our walking sticks, our hats, our hiking boots our Americanism and our exhaustion.
At last we reached our hotel where they asked us whether we wanted to walk to our destination tomorrow and get a ride back or vice versa. We said – “we aren’t walking tomorrow – we are done.” When we got to our room – I looked in the mirror my face was white and my lips had no color – yes we are done!
So far we have been able to email our friends and family to let them know we haven’t wandered off the path or run off with some Italian man. The keyboards are set up a little differently so the punctuation takes a bit longer. In our remote hotels, our hosts let us use their own computers as is the case in Preci. So we sit down to begin typing an email home and notice that the w key has been completely removed from the computer – there is no w in the Italian alphabet! How do you write an email home when your basic subject includes: we walked and you are a bit loopy because you are tired. Here’s how I managed:
hi everyone i am missing some letters and the keys are in interesting spots on the keyboard so i may abbreviate here. lynn /& i arrived in Preci today. our hike as 14km today it easier than our hike before but more high desert landscape not as pretty for the hike but the sights are tremendous. once us got to Preci I had to climb some major stairs up to the city and the hole city is stairs because it is built on a hillside. I did not run into many locals today just 2 seperate sheep herders con many barking scary dogs but they called them off and then i see one man in the village of Collescille but i think hes disappointed that i dont speak italian. i look future to let you see our pictures. tomorro is about 13 km on to Norcia.
on our trip to the drop off this morning our guide told us that you 2 are the first americans on this trip con Inntravel and us2 are only the second tour this year also us 2 did not get the prize for sloest but close.
Today we get a ride to a small town called Visso and we are walking from here to Preci (14km about 8.5 miles). Our driver is quite entertaining and speaks English well so I don’t bother to practice my Italian. He asks us what time we arrived to the hotel from the walk and when we tell him 6pm – he looks amazed. However, he does tell us that we do not hold the record – he once had to go out at dark to locate some people that had gotten lost on the trail so at least we beat them! We also discover that we are the first Americans that he has had come on the tour and only the second tour of the season so we are feeling kind of good about this.
Our walk today starts out pretty easy until five large dogs suddenly appear above us barking madly. We keep going and eventually see the herd of sheep and the sheep herder stretched out on the grass. Fortunately he wakes up and calls the dogs off.
We climb to some beautiful views.
Our hotel provided us with a picnic which included some nutella and some sticks to eat it directly from the container – love it! This gave us the energy to conquer the mountain.
Now we begin heading down to the small village of Collescille.
It feels like we are sneaking in to town as we enter these small villages. Here we see one man who begins to talk to us in Italian that I do not have the brain power to understand. I tell him we don’t speak much Italian – he seems disappointed and refers to us as “stranghi” which is foreigners. He is friendly about it – I am just guessing that since he is the only man we see in town maybe he would have liked some conversation. These small towns are obviously inhabited but we don’t see many people and never anyone under 50.
There is also quite a bit of renovation… maybe these are weekend houses?
We head on out of town winding downhill enjoying the views…
We end up on a road where we can see a herd of sheep, five dogs laying in the grass along with the sheep herder. Our instructions tell us to turn into the open field. As soon as we step onto the grass the dogs come charging at us barking and snarling and they immediately surround us. We stand still this time and I use my walking stick as a warning to the leader as the sheep herder starts yelling at his dogs to call them off and I am sure that I hear the word “qua” again. Eventually they listen and we are able to proceed but not without turning back frequently to make sure they aren’t following us.
At last we arrive in a town called Borgo which is beneath the town of Preci – our destination.
Preci is a small town that suffered earthquake damage in 1997 but is being restored. Again this was a town where we did not see many inhabitants although Borgo below was pretty busy.