Note: The following narrative comes from my logbook that I carried during our Italy trip.  It is a verbatim copy of the notes which I tried to take every day to describe our events and activities.  As such, it will be under development for some time as I make minor corrections and additions and add photos.  I also hope to encourage Teddie to add comments of her own in the left column.  Much of what I've written will be of little interest to most people, but should give a feel for how we spent our vacation this year - at least the part in Italy.

 ITALY 2007
Click on a picture for a larger view

Note: Comments in this column are Teddie's.  She will continue to add to them as time permits.

9/5/07 4:46pm EDT  
Now it begins - we are at the Newark Airport awaiting the 6pm departure of our Alitalia flight.  For some reason it seems they have changed our seat assignments and we may not be sitting together - Teddie is at the counter checking.  This will probably be the most difficult leg of the trip as it is overnight and will then involve a drive to Roccalbegna upon arrival in Roma.  Surprisingly, Teddie seems to be taking it all in stride for a change.

The seating is OK - we are two seats apart, but the seat in-between is empty.  We finally took off after sitting on the taxiway for almost 40 minutes.  Some people continued to get up and go to the restroom during that time.  Now we have an 8-hour ride coming up!

The flight was nice, but the service was not so good.  For about 6 hours, we were not offered any drinks.  They never turned off the fasten seat belt light during the entire flight.  People finally began to ignore the light and leave their seats.  I did as well and made my way to the back where they had a couple of ice cubes and a few cans of warm soda.  We both tried to sleep to no avail.  Amazingly, I did not feel too badly when we landed.  We both must have been on our second wind!!  The apartment is wonderful, and we are very grateful to have such excellent friends in Italy. 9/6/07  8:00am Italy time   Day 1 in Italy
We are on our descent into Roma - it was a smooth flight but we will be glad to get out of the plane and on our way.  Food on Alitalia was better than Continental, although they did

Anna's kitchen was built around the rocks
that support the foundation

 not come by as often to offer drinks.  I will need to buy a large soda once we get our car!  We should be in Roccalbegna in a few hours! (note - took 2 hours of standing in line to get our car at Hertz!  Other rental companies had practically nobody in line, but their rates may have been higher).

Finally arrived in Roccalbegna and promptly found Anna and Giulia standing in their doorway.  Within minutes Andrea showed up and we had a wonderful reunion!  He then showed us the apartment across town where we will stay - it is beautiful!!  We put our bags up and cleaned up and went to Andrea's house for lunch.  On the way back to the apartment we ran across Luciano.  Earlier we saw Vito (he now has an indoor job at City Hall).  Now we are going to catch some sleep (much needed!).

The apartment is a splendid mix
of old and new

Just returned from choir practice - was hoping to hear Andrea and Rosy sing a song, but we may have misunderstood.  Was interesting, but Teddie is very tired and kept nodding off, so we left a little early.  We only caught about 3 hours sleep this afternoon, so tomorrow will be better.

The apartment - very nice!  Most everything is new, 2 floors, full appliances!  We will be very happy here and it is so nice of them to let us use it.

Rosy - A wonderful person!  Enthusiastic, warm, friendly - I can tell already that we will like her a lot!

Saw Vezio and Primina this evening and that was good.  Spoke with Chiara on phone and hope to see her and Moreno during our visit.  Also, saw Eugenia and Mr. Raffaelli at choir practice.

Anna's artwork is evident throughout
the apartment

I am not used to shopping every day, but that seems to be the Italian way.  Milk and bread seem to be the things that I go to the market for at least every two days!

I don't know why I missed that last step down to the cantina.  I have been up and down those stairs many times over the years.  I should have skipped the meal and gone to the apartment to ice and elevate the foot, but I just could not miss out on this event.  My entire right foot swelled and turned black up to the ankle.  The pain is not too bad, though.

9/7/07  12:45pm     Day 2 in Italy
Our first full day in Italy!!  We had the usual first fitful night's sleep, but both feel much better today (although my ears are really ringing!).  We had a light breakfast this morning and then did some grocery shopping.  The milkman and a bicyclist were having a loud argument when we arrived, but it did not develop beyond that.  Saw Pierpaolo and

A classic view of Roccalbegna

 Eduardo Simonelli and met Pierpaolo's girlfriend, Silva.  Also saw Giulia and Vito's mother-in-law (Angela).  After dropping off the food we drove to the crash site and spent some time there reflecting on the incidents that first brought us here.  Road in is quite rough - car bottomed out several times and Teddie yelped whenever it happened.  Now we are back at the apartment and just finished a light lunch.

Went to our "Rancho" and it looked great!  Mario had brought a piece of brush clearing equipment down recently and cleared out 3/4 of the property.  Also, someone had refinished the wood on the bench!  We spent an hour or two there relaxing and enjoying our little piece of the village before returning.  Ran across Andrea and Mario when we got back and went to the Cantina with them for a while.  Teddie missed the bottom step and took a bad fall but, other than a twisted ankle, seems to be fine.  Now we are back at the apartment and will probably stay here until 8pm when we go by to visit Andrea and Rosy before they leave for choir practice at 8pm.  Teddie is doing pretty well with her Italian, but still struggles and we

Rosy, Andrea, and Teddie enjoy
a moment in the Piazza

worry about being misunderstood.  But she often stops to explain to me what was said, so she is certainly doing much better than I!!

Just returned from Andrea's.  Nice visit with Andrea and Rosy, but we didn't want to stay long as I thought they might be getting ready to attend their choir practice.  Teddie's ankle still very painful and bruised, so I hope it doesn't get any worse.  We set up the small bedroom in the lower level and I will sleep there tonight.  Teddie told them I was the one who snored!!

The language class and my study seem to be helping a lot during this trip.  I am able to speak some simple sentences and conjugate some verbs at least in the present tense.  I think they understand me, but wish that I could do better.  I only understand them if they speak slowly and with very simple sentences.  There are so many things I wish to express to them, but I don't have the skills.  It's really helpful to have a translator on occasion to express our feelings.

At least once a day, I try to spend a little time with the foot elevated.  I brought a book to read for entertainment, and I always have the travel books.  Maybe some day I will have them memorized.



9/8/07  10:10am     Day 3 in Italy
A beautiful day outside - blue, clear, calm!  We had a fitful night's sleep (still adjusting) but feel good.  Teddie's ankle is sore but she will be OK - no long walks yet, though.  We spoke with Peppone this morning and hope that we can all meet between Roccalbegna

The bench at the crash site is
still looking pretty good

 and Roma one day - he will call us back and let us know.  Teddie is talking with Stefania as I write this, and I'm not sure what they are cooking up.  Also, we have yet to decide what we want to do today.

We strolled into town for a while and wandered around.  First, I went to the fortress looking for a geocache.  Ran into Don Valentino and he looks good - gave me some dark grapes - - very tasty!!  Teddie and I sat in the piazza and ate a gelato.  After a while we met Massimo and he introduced his sister and her husband.  Had a coffee and then left and picked up a fax at the newspaper store from Stefania - Venice hotel reservation papers.  Teddie went back to the apartment to rest her ankle and I wandered around town for a while.  Ran across the man from Monte Bello (whose name I can never seem to remember) and later met Monica-- a friend of Andrea and Rosy.  I must admit that it felt good to have a conversation in English.  I have all but given up on learning Italian well.  Hopefully Teddie will continue to progress so at least one of us can converse with our friends!  Now we are resting at the apartment and will decide soon what we want to do for the rest of the day.  We are still travel-weary!

Back at apartment!  We went on a drive to Arcidosso and then drove uphill to

The view of the rock as we leave
the apartment.  I never tire of
seeing this

Montelaterone.  Nice castle/fortress at top but it was closed.  Back to Arcidosso where we got out and walked around for a while before returning to Roccalbegna.  Saw Vezio walking up hill at La Grotta and stopped, but we couldn't understand what he was asking, so everyone shrugged and we all said goodbye.  Then saw Eugenia going down the hill and chatted (sort of) with her before continuing on and parking the car.  Just had some cheese and soda and will relax for a while before deciding what to do next.

Just returned from a walk.  Went through town, up the hill, up the rock, down the rock, down the trail, and out by the school.  Teddie was in bed when I left, Teddie was in bed when I returned!

Andrea, Rosy, and Monica came by for a while.  Monica translated for Andrea and told me that there was a cemetery person in Florence who would like to speak with me about the possible inclusion of my father's name on a war memorial plaque.  We will go to Florence

Teddie and Eugenia on the bench
in the south Piazza

 on Monday to discuss this with the man.  After dinner Teddie and I went for a little walk.  Saw Eugenia and walked partway home with her and then saw Primina.  Went to her house and we visited with her and Vezio and chatted with Moreno and Chiara on the phone.  They will be here either Friday or Saturday - it will be very good to see them again, as it has been 5 years!  Tomorrow we will go to Vezio's for lunch with them and Don Valentino at 1:00pm.

  9/9/07 8:00am     Day 4 in Italy
Another perfect day outside!!  Except for the first year I came, when the weather was damp and chilly, the weather has always been extraordinary during my visits and this year is

This house was under construction
during our last visit, but looks very
nice now

proving to be no exception.  It seems I am finally getting settled into the time zone difference and jet-lag as I am out of bed at a more normal hour!  Flies wake me up - no screens on apartment - need to buy a fly swatter!  Teddie's ankle was better last night, so perhaps this won't be much of a setback for her.

We walked up to the fortress and searched for the geocache, but no luck.  Still, it is a beautiful morning and it was enjoyable moving about up there, looking down upon the rooftops of the village and being followed by the friendly black cat that hangs out up there.  We cut through the piazza on the way back and were approached by a man who introduced himself as Alessio's father.   Church bells started ringing just as we passed them - it seems they go off at 10:00 and 10:30.  Now in apartment relaxing.  We will head for lunch at Vezio's at 1:00pm.

The Piazza benches are wonderful
places for people to meet and visit

Went back to the piazza to try to buy a Roccalbegna calendar like the one Andrea has on the wall here in the apartment, but no luck.  Saw Andrea, Rosy, Massimo, Violetta, and another whose name I cannot remember.  Also, met Monica's husband - nice fellow.   Around 1:00 we went to Vezio's for a very nice meal with them and Don Valentino.  While there we spoke with Isotta and Chiara on the phone - Isotta sounds so very grown up now!  Andrea dropped by and invited Vezio to Firenze with us but Vezio declined.  As always, it was enjoyable listening to them converse in Italian, although we could understand only a word or two here and there.  Now back at apartment resting and will go to Andrea's at about 7:30pm.

Got restless, so I took a drive and then walked up Monte Labbro looking for a geocache (found it - GCW2P8).  Was a nice ride - did not have Teddie alongside gasping and complaining about my driving!  When I got back to the apartment she was still in bed, although awake.


Rosy and Teddie arm-wrestle over a map

Just returned from a lovely dinner with Andrea, Rosy, Francesca!  Rosy seems to speak more and more English the longer we are here and that has been very helpful to us.  We had a very good time and could have stayed longer, but decided to go as Rosy has to work tomorrow.  They are a very nice trio and we hope they share many, many more years together.

We had a nice drive to Florence, and the cemetery was very beautiful.  We never knew it existed and were quite happy to learn about it.  The keepers of the cemetery are quite proud of the job they are doing , and their pride certainly show with the way the grounds are maintained. 9/10/07  6:10pm     Day 5 in Italy
A very busy day!  We started by going to the Post Office to mail out some postcards, the hardware store to buy a fly swatter and some stuff to refinish the bench, and then the grocery

Visiting the cemetery in Florence was
a special time.  It is a very moving

 store for food.  At 11am we met Andrea and he drove us all the way up to an American military cemetery just south of Florence.  He had been in contact with them a while back in regard to the possibility of having them add my father's name to their plaques.  After looking the place over, and discussing the matter at length with the Director, it was finally decided that my father does not qualify.  The cemetery has headstones for those buried there, and plaques for those who are listed as MIA.  Although my father was originally MIA, at some time later they must have determined that they had his remains.  I will need to discuss this further with my mother.  After talking with the Director we walked through the cemetery and were led to the grave of Morris Margolis, a crew member who died in the crash!  Then we continued through the cemetery, looking at the rows and rows of white crosses and trying to imagine how many lost lives they represented.  It was a very moving experience.  Before leaving we sat on the curb and ate panini that Andrea had brought, and spoke with the Director a while longer.  Then it was time to leave and start the 2 hour drive back to Roccalbegna.  Thankfully Andrea was awake and alert, as Teddie slept in the back seat and I dozed on and off most of the way back.  Upon arrival Andrea headed for his house (staunchly refusing any money for gasoline) and Teddie and I came back to the apartment.  Although we were not able to have my father's name included on the plaque, the visit to the cemetery was a special experience and Teddie and I are very glad Andrea brought us there.

Refinishing the bench did not take too long.  Mike did most of the hard work--sanding.  I hope the varnish lasts for a couple of years until our return.  I fashioned a small sign in Italian to indicate "wet paint."

I spent quite a bit of time looking for the geocache on Monte Labbro.  I thought the guy in the white pickup truck would never quit watching me.  It was a relief to finally find that cache!

9/11/07  12:45pm     Day 6 in Italy
This morning we drove to the crash site and refinished the wood on the bench.  While we were there, we also cleaned up the monument a bit and moved away stones which had rolled away from it.  Then it was back to the apartment for lunch and laundry.  Came across Andrea while we were looking for a parking spot and he said we will go to the school around noon tomorrow.  Now we are finished lunch, and the "Candy" has just stopped, so we will hang our laundry and then drive to Monte Labbro in a while.  Weather today is cloudy, but no rain.

Teddie finds a geocache at Monte Labbro while a muggle sits nearby in a white pickup.

Back at the apartment again!  Stopped at bar for gelato and saw Vito and his kids, Serena and Sergio.  They are getting bigger and much more grown up.  Serena still has that sparkle in her eye.  Now Teddie is resting and I am thinking of driving down to the Rancho.  It's such a nice day out that I hate to stay indoors.

Our little piece of property looked great,
thanks to Mario's efforts

Spent quite a while at the Rancho - marked off corners with GPS and just enjoyed being there.  It looks so nice, all trimmed and clean - it was very nice of Mario to do that for us!!  Returned home and Teddie fixed a nice meal.  Then I went to Andrea's to ask Rosy if she could get information on Internet cafes in Grosseto, as I have bills that need to be paid and it would be nice to check my email.  We hope to go to Grosseto on Thursday.  Andrea and Rosy asked me to stay for vino, but I know how little time they get together every day and did not want to cut into that, so I declined and returned to the apartment.  They are such nice people!  Received an SMS from Moreno and Chiara and am anxious to see them this weekend.  Also, I sent SMS to Paolo (geocacher from Grosseto) saying we would be in Grosseto on Thursday and perhaps we can meet.  Now am settled in for the night and will go to bed soon.  It has been a fairly busy day.

It was a delightful day today with the children and teachers at the school.  We are so pleased that they have found some wonderful things for all the children at the school.

The luncheon in Andrea's cantina was wonderful as always.  Who could ask for better food or company?

9/12/07  9:50am     Day 7 in Italy
We are relaxing in the apartment now and washing a load of laundry in the Candy.  In another 2 hours we will walk over to the school to visit with the students for a little bit.  Otherwise, there is nothing planned for today, so we will play it by ear.  The weather today is perfect again, unlike yesterday morning that started cloudy and misty.  Teddie continues to study the language and is doing much better than me.  Still, we have great difficulty communicating with those who speak no English at all.  As such, Teddie is being very careful to not misunderstand what is being said to us - that has caused us some embarrassment in the past.  I have offered to leave her here for a few years so she can further study the language.

We walked down the hill, looking for a reconstructed Mill Vito said was there, but were unable to find it.  No doubt we took a wrong turn.  In 45 minutes we leave for the school.

Valentina Faralli - English teacher who came out from Grosseto to translate for us.

Saverio Renzi - Headmaster of the schools in the area.

Spartaco Giannetti - Uncle of Andrea's.

Andrea, Mr. Renzi, and Valentina

Back in the apartment again.  What a wonderful time today!  We went to the school at noon and were met by Andrea, Valentina (translated), Mr. Renzi (Headmaster) and went to the classroom where we met with the 13 year-olds.  Had a little Q&A session and then listened to one of them play the keyboard.  Then we all went to the gym where they showed us the ping-pong table they purchased with the donation I made last year.  Mr. Renzi and I played (he beat me) for a while and then the children played.  Afterwards we went to Andrea's Cantina (not the kids) and visited for a long time.  It was a very special afternoon for us and we enjoyed every minute of it.  Being welcomed in the homes and hearts of the Italians has always meant a lot to us!  Much of the communication concerned the horrors of war, but we all felt that it was important this be discussed and remembered.

As always, the kids were great

While Teddie took a nap I walked down the trail from the village and eventually reached the river.  My intention was to hike down the river bottom to the Rancho, but it became quickly apparent that would not work, so I returned to the village and went to the north Piazza where I found Andrea and Violetta.  They brought me into the bar where Violetta bought us a drink and then we went out front.  I wanted to ask Andrea if he could arrange a visit with Beatrice, but they could not understand, so Violetta disappeared and soon reappeared with Ricardo.  We all chatted for a bit and then Ricardo buzzed back up the hill on his mini-bike and I returned to the apartment.

I always love this little trip we make up to Montalcino and Pienza.  I especially enjoy the sandwich on the sidewalk with a glass of great red wine.  While Mike was surfing the net and paying bills, I visited a couple of shops.  I was looking for linen towels for a friend, but they were just too expensive.  So, he got linen napkins instead.  How many people have real linen napkins?  Not me.

The meal at Mario's was delicious as always.  I guess everyone in Italy is a great cook.  We always enjoy fantastic meals here. 

The concert was quite nice also.  The musicians are very talented.  I have studied piano and clarinet, so I know how much they must have practiced to be so proficient.

9/13/07 5:40pm     Day 8 in Italy
A long day, and more to go!  We left a little before 9am and drove up to Montalcino where we shopped for quite a while and ate lunch (salami sandwich and red wine).  While we

An antique shop in Montalcino

were there I happened upon an Internet spot so I rented a computer for about 20+ minutes ( 2) and paid my credit card bills.  I started downloading my email but there was too much spam, so I stopped the download.  Because we found the Internet spot, we decided we would not need to go to Grosseto at this time, so we turned East and went to Pienza for a while.  My shopping results - - money clip, pocket knife, marble ball, holder for ball.  After we parked back in Roccalbegna, we ran across Mario who invited us to his place for dinner (lamb) tonight at 8pm.  Also, this morning we saw Vito while on the way to the car and he invited us to have lunch with his family tomorrow, a little before 2pm.  I can't imagine how many meals we have enjoyed at our friends' homes!  As always, we wish there was a way we could repay them all, but I don't know what it would be.

Dinner at Mario's was very good (as always!).  In attendance were Julia, Mario, Anna, Andrea, Rosy, and Francesca.  Mario cooked lamb and it was very good!  At about 9:20 we went to the building/room near the arch where a concert was taking place (piano and clarinet) and stood in the doorway listening for quite a while - it was very enjoyable.  Now we are back at the apartment and settled in.  We ran across Primina standing in her doorway waiting for Vezio (he was at the concert) and she said that Chiara and family would be here on Saturday afternoon.  She also indicated that we were invited for dinner at around 7pm on Sunday.

Benedetta's mother, Angela, made a wonderful lasagna for us today.  I think that most of the ingredients were the same as regular Italian lasagna, but instead of noodles, she used crepes!  Very tender and delicious.  She is from Arrezzo, this is apparently how it is made there.  We were happy to meet Vito's mother while we were there also.  Vito served a wonderful after dinner liqueur which we both enjoyed.

Of course the festival was enjoyable as always, and we enjoyed meeting another English speaking lady, Arabella.  She has an agriturismo near Murci, and I wished later that I had asked for its location.

9/14/07  9:00am     Day 9 in Italy
Just finished our tiny cup of coffee and the Candy is quietly doing its thing.  As of right now, we are planless for the day except for a brief shopping trip and lunch at Vito's.  The weather this morning is dry but with high overcast.  We have a map laid out on the table and are trying to decide which route we want to take to Venice next week.  Plenty of time for that.

A quiet morning.  We went to the crash site to visit and check on the bench - the varnish is dry!  On the way back to Roccalbegna we noticed some kind of store back from the road in Santa Caterina, so we went in and looked around.  It is some kind of COOP and they sell all kinds of things.  Certainly it is the closest thing to a department store that we have found around here.  Now back in apartment - we leave for Vito's in about an hour.

Vito's mother-in-law - Angela Borgiani

Lunch (dinner?) at Vito's was excellent!  Lasagna with no pasta, etc.  The lasagna was made

Teddie and Benedetta pose at the festival

 by Vito's MIL who was in attendance for about half the meal and then had to leave to continue making panini for tonight's festival.  Also, Vito's mother dropped by and seemed very nice, although she too spoke no English.  We had a nice time visiting the family - Vito is very pleasant, his wife is friendly and enthusiastic.  Serena is turning into a beautiful young woman, and Sergio is the typical mid-teenage boy.  We spoke of many things - the area around Washington, the demographics of Roccalbegna, English TV, etc.  A very enjoyable afternoon!

The festival was very good this evening.  It began with the procession through town and then moved to the piazza where the band played as they lit two large balloons.  The first disappeared over the mountain, the 2nd descended into the area between the mountains.  Then they handed out panini, wine, soda, and sweets.  During the evening they dedicated 2 songs to my father (Monica translated the dedication) and we enjoyed that a lot!  During the evening we saw many of the people we know, and met a few new ones.

Angela, Rosy, and Teddie watch the
Arcidosso band perform

Arabella Rodrigauez - Speaks English - rents out apartments in Murci.

Spent time chatting with Ricardo.  At about 10:40pm the band shut down so we helped put some chairs away and came back to the apartment.  We love Roccalbegna!

Yes, I discovered that the water was off right after I got wet and soapy in the shower.  So, I wrapped myself in a towel and went downstairs to the kitchen faucet where there was still a little water in the pipe.  I brought back a glass of water to rinse myself off.  I dried off what I could and went to bed a little bit sticky.  It was great to have water back in the morning.

It was wonderful visiting with Moreno and Chiara again.  It seemed like the 5 year time lapse just disappeared.  They both speak very good English.

9/15/07  8:35am     Day 10 in Italy
The water in the apartment went off sometime yesterday evening and we didn't notice it until we were getting ready for bed (Teddie in shower).  I will need to contact Andrea this morning to

Construction continues

 see if we can determine the problem.

The water came back on by itself, so we're not sure what the problem was.  Now we have eaten, finished laundry, and are studying the map and the Italy book.  Need to formulate a plan of attack for the day!

Teddie wanted to stay in the apartment and read her Italy tour book, but it was too nice outside for me to stay indoors, so I walked to the Rancho (20 min) and now am sitting on the bench enjoying the view of the village.  Every time I come here I am reminded of the generosity of Mario for cleaning the property!  There is simply no way we could ever repay the people here for their kindness and generosity.  This has been a very dry year in the region - I see few olives on the trees and no mushrooms in the woods.  The soil appears parched, although most vegetation is green.

As I left the Rancho, I came upon a farmer leaving his property.  He reached into his bag and produced a fig (very good) and we conversed briefly (sort of).  Such nice people!  Teddie just made a very nice meal with chicken and potatoes, cooked in olive oil.  We hope to hear from Chiara soon as we are anxious to see them again.

We went to the piazza and hung around for a long time but did not see Moreno and family.  The Arcidosso band came and we followed them as they walked through the streets of town playing their instruments - they were quite good and it was fun for everyone.  As it was getting late, I decided to walk past Vezio's house again and when I did, Chiara came bounding out the door to greet us!  She looks very good - just as she did 5 years ago!

Teddie, Chiara, Vezio, Jacopo,
and Moreno

  Moreno then came down and he too looks as he did last time we saw him.  Then Jacopo came down and instead of a boy, there was a young man!  It was such fun seeing them again and getting caught up on the past few years.  We all went to the cabin behind the house and enjoyed a very nice meal.  There were so many things to talk about!  We will have to finish our conversation tomorrow.  Eventually it was time to leave so we said our goodnights and started for the apartment.  I decided to check the piazza, so Teddie came back alone and I met Rosy and Andrea and sat and listened to the band with them.  At one song they got up and danced - they were very good!  Finally the band stopped and started putting their instruments away so I returned to the apartment and am now getting ready for bed.  Hopefully the espresso that Primina served will not keep me awake for long!

  9/16/07  10:20am     Day 11 in Italy
Weather today is dry with a high overcast.  We have finished breakfast and are doing laundry in the Candy now - the capacity is small so we have to wash often.  Chiara has said we should drop by around 1:30pm, so we have time to take care of a few things around here.

Lunch at Vezio and Primina's is always
a pleasure


It was a very nice time at Vezio's - soooo good to visit with Moreno and family again after so many years!  And, also as usual, the food was excellent!  We spoke of many things, so there is no way I could summarize in this log.  Vezio's Grappa was good - - very STRONG!  They had cooked meat in the fireplace, so that end of the cabin was quite hot.  Don Valentino was there for dinner and later ?????  dropped by for coffee and desert.  Moreno helped me copy some pictures from my camera to a flash drive (backups) so we showed them some miscellaneous pictures that were on the drive.  I hope it was not too boring for them!  We will go by around 7:30pm this evening and all walk to the piazza for festivities.  At 10pm the fireworks begin and that is usually quite spectacular.  An entire truck of tubes and other launching devices was unloading outside Vezio's when we left.

  9/17/07  9:45pm     Day 12 in Italy
There is machinery and people outside the apartment working on the drain pipe and other utilities!   Last night's festival was, as always, a great deal of fun!  Because it had rained, and there was a possibility of more rain, they began the fireworks around 9:40pm, and many of them exploded in the clouds, lighting the village with an eerie glow.  The show was constant and exciting and VERY loud.  The grand finale lit the sky for the longest time and sent debris raining down on the crowd for several minutes afterwards!  Then the band fired up again and the festivities continued.  Sandwiches (panini) were handed out, women with plates of sweets were everywhere, as were men with large bottles of wine and stacks of plastic cups.  We stood and shouted with Moreno and Chiara for a while and then opted for more quiet conversation at "our" apartment.  It was a very nice visit that lasted until 12:30am.  Moreno is very interested in linguistics and we found his information interesting.  It was nice catching up on the past five years, and seeing our old friends again.  Today they are taking Primina to the eye doctor in Siena, so we will probably see them this evening.  Not sure what is on the schedule for today - will probably take a walk through town for a while to see how it fared from the festival.

We just returned from Scansano.  Decided to drive down there and poke around - had panini and pizza with beer at a local bar.  Looked through some shops, bought some wine, and then returned home.  Friendly brown dog in front of shop walked over to us to be petted.  Now that we're back, Teddie will undoubtedly take a nap and perhaps I will walk to the top of the rock.  Nothing scheduled for a while.

Walked to the rock - saw Andrea and workers cleaning up from the festival in the piazza.  Came down via school path - very pleasant walk.  Peppone called while I was up top - we are going to meet him in Tarquinia at 11am on the 19th.  I sent Stefano a text message asking him to join us and he agreed.  Can't wait to see them both again.  Construction outside the apartment is in full force, with a small backhoe and other equipment!  People next door have two miniature greyhounds and one fuzzy dog.  Now we have to climb over construction tape to get in and out of apartment.  Not too difficult.

Chiara called a while ago to tell us they were back to and invite us to dinner.  Teddie told her we had already eaten, so Chiara asked us to come over at 9:30pm to visit.  Meanwhile, I am catching cabin fever!!  Other than a few hours, we have been in the apartment with little to do and it's staring to play on me.  Tomorrow I will need to find something to keep me occupied!

We had lunch in a nice place in Scansano on one of the back roads.  It was "Il Grottone".  It is in a cave in the side of the hill where Scansano sits.  We sat in the very back where they had constructed a vaulted ceiling.  It was very picturesque, and the pasta and wine were quite good.

The trip to Grosseto was quite fun--especially finding Paolo in his shop in the old city.  It was a very interesting place.  Thanks to Paolo for providing us with new geocaches to find!|

9/18/07  10:30am     Day 13 in Italy
Last night we went to Vezio's and visited with Moreno, Chiara, Jacopo (and later Ricardo) until almost 1am!  What fun it was to visit with such dear friends again.  Ricardo had us all laughing with his many stories!  Construction outside our apartment continues and the area is all torn up.  We can still get in and out, but it means having to hurdle the construction tape.  Now we are trying to formulate a plan for the day - perhaps a trip to Grosseto or some other nearby place.  It's hard to do when we get out of bed late (9am) and business are closed (usually from around 1pm until 4pm).  First I think I will go to Vezio's and pick up the metal detector so we might use it later this week.
 [?Found 114ZG among wind turbines]  Lunch in Scansano - little "cave" in restaurant - people at next table loud, but enjoying themselves.  Spaghetti and red wine for lunch.

Back in apartment - drove to Scansano, Magliano, and then up to Grosseto.  Hunted for some geocaches and generally enjoyed the countryside.  When we got to Grosseto, we tried to use the Internet cafe that Rosy told us about, but the guy at the counter said they were not an Internet Point (despite the 1' high bright yellow letters that said they were).  So we left and followed the GPS to Paolo's (a person I met at and it led us inside the walled

Teddie and Paolo - a very nice
Geocacher from Grosseto

part of the city - a very interesting place we had never seen - - lots of shops, almost no cars, and tons of people!  Eventually the GPS brought us to a small shop with a man at the counter.  Teddie asked him if we was Paolo and he looked a little confused until I held up my GPS, and then he lit up with recognition.  A very nice person.  After that we let the GPS lead us out of Grosseto and back to Roccalbegna.

[GC1597E - had wrong coordinates - led us to the middle of a field.  GCXMAQ - could not find - lots of garbage in the area]

I went by Andrea's to let him know we're going OK - he and his family were finishing dinner.  Via Rosy, he told me we were invited to Cantina at his place at 8pm on Saturday.  Also, they are getting a small group together to go to the Rancho on Thursday at 5pm.  Looks like we will be fairly active up until time to leave on Sunday!  Now I need to get ready for bed - we will leave here around 9am to go and meet Peppone and Stefano.

  9/19/07  7:20pm     Day 14 in Italy
What a busy day!  We left the apartment at 9am and drove down through Scansano (3rd time in 3 days), Magliano, and on to Tarquinia where we found Peppone waiting for us in the parking lot - how good it was to see him again!  Stefano was running late, so the three of us drove into town and went into a restaurant where we waited for Stefano.  Soon he bounded in - he too looks great!!  It was so special seeing both of them again!  After lunch we wandered around town until Stefano said he had to return to Rome.  Then the three of us wandered around for a while longer until it was time for Peppone to go.  The time went by much too quickly.  Then Teddie and I drove to Grosseto where we parked and then went into the walled

Peppone, Mike, and Stefano in

city again.  I found an Internet Point and we paid for 1/2 hour but it was disappointing because the computer did not read my USB drive correctly (would not load U3) and the connection was poor.  I checked some of my email (mostly spam) but finally gave up because of the poor performance.  We then followed the GPS to Paolo's shop where we had another nice visit with him.  He gave us a present - an Italian geocoin!!  What a pleasant surprise!  We wished we could have visited with Paolo longer, but he had a business to run.  We went about 5 blocks north and found one of his micro caches (GCQYRV).  Teddie accidentally signed in the middle of the log, instead of at the end!  Then we followed the GPS back to the car and started on our way.  Weaving around the narrow streets was interesting - cars parking half into the street, others cutting in front, merges without rules, etc.  But soon we were out of Grosseto and on our way to Roccalbegna.  Stopped for gelato on the way.  Teddie is being very quiet - a combination of fatigue and fear (my driving).  Everyone compliments her on her Italian but I'm not sure if it is because her Italian is good, or simply because she is trying.  A little of both, probably.

  9/20/07  11:35am     Day 15 in Italy
GC               - Finally found this one in Roccalbegna!  Looked in cave, on outside trail, etc!  Teddie spotted it as I was declaring it a no-find!   Weather today - Bella!  No water at apartment - ???   Now on our way to the COOP

Trip to the COOP went well - Teddie stocked up on several items and we tried to buy replacements for the things we consumed from the apartment, but I'm not sure we found everything.  They are still working on the pipes outside the apartment, but the water is now back on!  It appears they are now on Version 3 of the sewer pipes, and hopefully this is the final.  We must have run across Luciano three or four times this morning!  I considered going to the crash site with the metal detector today, but we will be going to the Rancho with the gang later this afternoon, so I will wait until tomorrow.  Only two full days left here.  In some ways it seems like the time has gone by very quickly.  In other ways it's almost hard to remember being back in Washington.  And although I am looking forward to being back in our home setting, I know we will miss Italy and our friends.  We hope 2008 or 2009 will see us back here again.

A brief intermission - we went to Andrea's at 5pm and he, me, Teddie, and Francesca drove to

We really enjoy our times beneath the
olive trees with our friends!

 the Rancho.  When we got to the bench, we found that Mario had placed a table there for us to use.  After a bit, Mario came down driving a tractor and we all sat at the bench.  Before long, we heard The Star Spangled Banner on a trumpet in the distance - Luciano!!  What a nice touch!  Soon, he and Mr. Raffaello came by and we all enjoyed the food and drink that Andrea brought.  Sitting there listening to the Italians converse brought back good memories of the past and reinforced my affection for these special friends of ours.  I'm not known to be a particularly emotional or sentimental person, but the treatment we have received from these people make me proud to call them our friends. Now we are resting at the apartment and will go to Andrea's at 8pm to watch him stir the grapes for Saturday's wine!

Teddie stirs the grapes while
Francesca supervises

We went to Andrea's at 8pm and Teddie got to stir the new wine!  Mario scooped some out and poured each of us a little, trying to keep the "debris" to a minimum.  It was quite good, although they were very careful to explain to us that it was not quite wine - another 2-3 days!  The group consisted of Rosy, Andrea, Francesca, Mario, Violetta, Massimo, and, as we were leaving, Francesco came in.  No more long hair and dreadlocks - now he has short hair and he even commented on his receding hairline.  We left after 1/2 hour as we know they all have to go to work in the morning.  Construction outside the apartment was very intense this evening -

jack-hammering that vibrated the entire apartment.  They later knocked on the door and

Teddie with Mario and Luciano

 explained that we needed to take a different route to and from the apartment - one they had cleared and smoothed a bit.  New sewer pipes are installed but junction boxes are still without a cover - phew!  At Rancho - Teddie and I decided that we will purchase a second bench on our next visit - several people in the grass or sitting on rocks! 

It was very inconvenient to lose my glasses.  I noticed they were gone when I wanted them to read my book before bedtime last night.  I was very happy to find another pair at Eugenia's farmacia and they were on sale, too!

Today while I was sitting at the table reading with the new classes, I could hear a clunking noise in the washing machine behind me.  Yes, it was the missing glasses going for a spin.  I did manage to shut off the machine and retrieve them without spilling too much water.  They were no worse for wear and quite clean!  I am happy to have a spare pair.

9/21/07  9:15am     Day 16 in Italy
The jackhammers have been going on for a while outside, but it doesn't matter as I have been up for some time.  Teddie just came down to the kitchen and the coffee is ready.  Weather is very nice, but we have no plan at the moment.  I would like to spend some time at the crash site with the metal detector, so this will be the best time to do that.  Now we

Some days the construction seemed
to be moving backwards

have a load of laundry in the Candy - last day to wash socks and jeans, due to 2-day drying time on air rack.

Teddie lost her reading glasses somewhere yesterday so we went to the Rancho to see if perhaps they had fallen out of her jacket while we were there - no luck.  So, we went to Eugenia's Farmacia and bought another generic pair, and then returned to the apartment.

The hunt for airplane fragments went well despite a rocky beginning.  Drove to the crash site and parked the car and then assembled the metal detector.  Opened the batteries that I bought at the hardware store a few days ago, only to find that they were swollen and corroded!!  Cleaned them up and installed them in the detector, but they were dead.  Argh!!  There was nothing to do then but throw everything back in the car and race to Santa Caterina in hopes of getting there before the COOP closed!  I managed to make it in time and got two more batteries (which I tested in the parking lot) and then it was back to the crash site where I spent a couple of hours scanning the area 50-100M west of the point of impact.  Came up with several twisted fragments (including a few .50 cal rounds - I wonder what TSA will have to say about those!).  Beating through the brush was difficult, but most of the branches were dry and easy to brush aside.  That will probably be all the searching I do this trip.  When I finally broke out of the woods at the crash site, I sat on the bench for the longest time and felt good about being there.

Very quiet around here!  Teddie fixed a nice dinner of ravioli and chicken and we have just been sitting around the table ever since, with her doing some needlepoint and me playing games on my Palm Pilot and cell phone.  With no computer and no TV, it's pretty much back to basics!  We've been having a great time here, but are looking forward to being back to our broadband connection.

  9/22/07  9:00am     Day 17 in Italy
A beautiful morning, and our last full day here!  No plans for the day - Cantina at Andrea's tonight.  We will probably spend some time getting ready for our drive to Venice tomorrow.  Also, we will clean the apartment but may wait until tomorrow morning to do that.

Graziana Bongini - Former teacher - speaks some English.  Came by with Anna and Violetta for a visit.

Sandro Zamperini - Met at Vezio's - Andrea's cousin - his father is brother of Andrea's father.

We walked to Vezio's to return the metal detector and they were just finishing lunch with Sandro (see above) and Vittorio.  It was especially nice to see Vittorio again, and I would have stayed longer but we felt we were interrupting their dinner, despite Primina's insistence we stay and visit.  So, we compromised by staying for coffee and grappa, and then excused ourselves and left.  Teddie warned me they were probably having lunch, but I'm glad we stopped by anyway.  Otherwise we would have missed Vittorio entirely this year.  Then we were off to the bar where I bought a gelato and then walked around the pointy rock at the South end of town.  Now we're back at the apartment where I will probably do some early packing and then catch a nap.

Went to check the oil in the car for tomorrow's trip but could not find the hood release.

Violetta and Mario at Cantina

 Asked Mario if he knew, but he too was unable to find it.  He brought out a friend who has a Ford, but he failed too.  Finally, he flagged down another friend who is a mechanic, but no luck!  The three of them went over the car from end to end, but were unable to locate it!  Then the mechanic telephoned someone and pointed at the Ford emblem in the grill.  Turns out you have to pull it out slightly, rotate it counter-clockwise, and then insert the key and turn in both directions!  After all of that, the oil level was OK!

Just back from Cantina - lots of food, wine, and friendship!  Andrea served a delicious dinner with everyone enjoyed.  Because Graziana was there, we had a translator and tried to express our gratitude for all that they have done for us.  I hope she was able to put it into words that showed the true level of our appreciation.  After dinner they pressed the wine and Teddie and Rosy were at the handle.  Then it was back to the table for a little grappa (Vezio's - industrial strength!) and finally our good-nights.  They gave us a nice book on olives in the area that everyone signed (and even has a picture of Andrea in it) - what a nice souvenir! Also, they gave us a bottle of their wine and a bottle of olive oil from our Rancho.  Carrying it on the airplane is prohibitive, so we will take it to Stefania's and toast Roccalbegna with it while we are there.   Tomorrow - packing, and then arrividerchi!!

  9/23/07  9:10am     Day 18 in Italy
Today we travel!  We plan to pack and then clean up the apartment, and then we will say goodbye to Vezio/Primina, and then to Andrea and all the Zamperinis.

The cleaning continues - almost done now!  Two bags in the car and the remainder should only take one trip.  This is good as the car is parked outside the city wall and several cobblestone blocks away.

We finally got all packed and then went to Vezio's to say our goodbyes to he and Primina.  Then we went to Andrea's (ran across Luciano on the way - also Eugenia) where we found Andrea, Rosy, Massimo, and Violetta.  Returned the apartment key and then all of us walked down to the car and said a sad final goodbye - I always hate leaving our friends.  Hit the highway, planning on stopping around Bologna, but kept on driving and now we are checked into a fancy hotel right next to Marco Polo Airport.  It was a long drive up here (about 5 hours) but there were no difficulties and we never got lost.  I'm getting very accustomed to driving in Italy, and it seems they are driving much tamer than on previous visits.  Now it is not uncommon for me to be passing some of them - both in the country and on the highway.  Teddie is now down in the lobby on the Internet computer while I am here in the room relaxing.  Tomorrow we will return the car and then catch a bus to Venice where we will walk to our hotel (dragging our luggage).

Had a light dinner in the hotel this evening - with a small glass of red wine each, the total was 48!  Zow!  Also, they had ITALIA ball caps for sale in the lobby - 30.  Something tells me our Venice stay is not going to be a cheap one!  Internet Point in lobby - checked our email (I have over 900 now - mostly junk) and logged our geocaches.

  9/24/07  3:25pm     Day 19 in Italy
We checked out of our hotel, drove to Marco Polo (very close), returned the car (about $960US), and eventually caught the big blue bus to Venice!  It was too early to check into our hotel, so we left our bags in the lobby and set off on foot to explore the area and to buy our train tickets to Torino.  Using a map and the GPS we found our way across the Grand Canal and to the station.  The line at the ticket counter was long, so we used a self-service machine.  We were not sure which station to choose for Torino, so we called Stefania in mid-purchase to get the answer.  Venice is an interesting place - some observations:  many people, many shops, lots of narrow long boats, old buildings, bridges, some dogs, more shops, and lots more people.  The very opposite of our beloved Roccalbegna, I'm afraid.  We eventually found our way back to the hotel, checked in, and then carried our luggage to our room on the 3rd floor
Note: Hotels call 2nd floor the 1st floor, etc. This
is why our "2nd floor" room was on the 3rd floor

That called for a quick nap, and a little quiet time to write in my log.  Soon we will venture out again for a while to see what we can see.  We bought a 24 hour pass on the canal boat but will wait until tomorrow to use it.  Also, I think I'm learning about my tolerance boundaries on long vacations.  Perhaps more on that later.  Many shops here sell "opera masks" - some very ornate and elaborate.  Some homeless people begging for money, some blacks (Nigerians?) selling purses on the street. Tourists everywhere!  The place is very photogenic, so everywhere you look there are people taking pictures.  Teddie just came back  to the room with a small bowl of ice -

Venice is quite beautiful

something that is not often asked for here, apparently.

Went walking around town for a while - bought a gelato (my dinner for tonight) and a souvenir t-shirt (guaranteed to shrink?).  Teddie checked on the boat routes - we will take one to get across the canal in two days - to the train station.  Also, we will ride the boats tomorrow as we tour the area with our 24 hour passes ( 30).  But for today, it was a lot of stair climbing and we're both quite tired.  There is an elevator here, but I could not understand the verbal instructions, and Teddie thinks it's just for luggage.  Last night - lights kept going out in hotel room after we checked in.  We would turn them on, and then they would go out again in about a minute.  We finally figured out that you had to leave the room key-card in the interior slot to keep the lights from going off.  We don't get around much.

Have been dozing off in the room.  We didn't feel like going out at night, so Teddie is

Gondolas are everywhere

 reading the tour book and I'm playing around with my camera and PDA (Solitaire, Mine Sweeper).  Will probably turn in soon so I can get up and out early.

Stefania is on the phone giving Teddie information on places we must wee while here.  It's so nice that our Italian friends are keeping an eye on us.

  9/25/07  8:40am     Day 20 in Italy
Weather is high overcast, but dry.  should be a nice day to get out and about, without being too hot.  Just returned from breakfast - light and continental.  Teddie is still in bed, but awake, and will miss breakfast if she doesn't get up soon.  Today's plan is to ride the Vaporetto around, visiting San Marcos and other places.  It will also be a good test run for tomorrow morning when we need to take the boat to the train station which is very close, but on the other side of the Grand Canal.


We enjoyed a leisure meal
next to the canal

Teddie is up and getting dressed.  Look like she will make it to breakfast this morning!  I think she walked a little too much yesterday.

We rode the Vaporetto to San Marcos this morning and spent a few hours wandering around - zillions of people, shops everywhere, lots of gondolas, fairly high prices!  Bought a sandwich at a shop and tried to sit in chairs outside but were run off by restaurant people.  Sat on stairs, but were run off by shop people.  Finally went around to waterfront and found a place to sit.  Vaporetto holds many people - seemed like most were tourists.  Train station is first stop from here, but it will be interesting when we try lugging our bags on and off early tomorrow morning!!  Teddie is now asleep on the bed and I'm thinking about a nap myself.  Later we will go out and ride the boat again and get something to eat.  Venice is very

Note: They rarely check for tickets when
riding the Vaporetto. We suspect "paid"
ridership is well below 100%

 scenic and interesting, but has involved a lot of walking and that has been tough on Teddie.  It will be good to finally be all settled on the train to Torino tomorrow.

I got up a few minutes ago but Teddie is still asleep (snoring loudly).  We talked of going out again, but getting her up and on the way may prove difficult.

We took the Vaporetto #1 counter-clockwise to San Marcos and wandered around some more.  Courtyard still packed with people.  Pigeons everywhere - they sometimes zoom inches overhead or between us and I feel like I could reach out and grab one!  We then got back on the Vaporetto and went to a stop about halfway back to the hotel and ate dinner at one of the canal-side restaurants (Teddie had salad, I had spaghetti).  Then back on the V for the ride back to the hotel.  They are interesting - rather like a water-bound subway or bus, often full of tourists and commuters.  Some drivers are good and the stops are smooth - others are not so good and the ride is jerky and the landings are harsh.  Sometimes they check your ticket when you board, and sometimes they don't.  To board, you enter a little floating station that the boat ties up to and you cross over onto the boat when they open the gate.  Stops are brief - just like with a bus.

  9/26/07  8:15am     Day 21 in Italy
Happy birthday to me!  We left the hotel at 6:30 this morning into a downpour!  We have no raincoats and no umbrellas, so there was nothing to do but slog through the pouring

We encountered pouring rain on
the way to the train station

 rain (complete with thunder and lightening)!  Thankfully we caught the boat right away, but then had to navigate the steps into the train station (ramp led to a locked door) and the water flowing down them.  By the time we got in the station we were SOAKED.  Now we are on the train and underway, but we will be wet for hours.  As I look out the window I see large pools of standing water everywhere, so I assume this is an unusually hard rain for the area.  I am just glad the Venice diversion was not all my idea or Teddie would be difficult to deal with right now.

The train - smooth and quiet.  So far I have seen as high as 98mph on my GPS.  We have been on for over an hour and a half, and have made several stops, but no one has been by to check for any tickets.  Car has several compartments, each with 6 seats - 3 and 3, facing each other.  Seats are assigned, but people generally do not seem to pay attention to that.  Teddie and I were each assigned a middle seat, on opposite sides, but soon shifted over one seat to be by the windows.  At one stop a few women got in the compartment and sat on the opposite side. One told me that if someone claimed the seat she was in (Teddie's) she would have to bump me.  In actuality, if someone bumped Teddie, it would start a chain reaction.  Tracks are banked on turns.  Sky is now lighter outside, but it is still very wet out and chilly here in the compartment.  I am hoping Teddie and I do not catch a cold from being wet for so long.  There is an aisle which is on one side of the train, outside the compartments, and runs the length of the car.  At about every 4' there is a little jumpseat which folds down.  Many people are sitting on these and have their luggage with them, so moving down the aisle is difficult for others.

A passenger told Teddie the train is running an hour late.  I sent Stefania a text message,

It was good to see Stefania again

but no reply yet (turned out she never got it).

We finally arrived at Torino - an hour and a half late!!  Stefano was waiting for us and took us back to the house where Stefania was waiting.  As always, it is nice to see them again and stay in their lovely house.  She immediately fed us some pasta and I ate my share quickly, as I had eaten almost nothing all day!  Later we drove down the hill for a nice dinner at a local restaurant (L'Alpina in Bobbio Pellice - cheese block in melting apparatus).  Then it was back to the house for a glass of sparkling wine and now we are getting ready for bed.  This has been a very long day, so Teddie and I are looking forward to some much-needed sleep tonight.

  9/27/07  10:55am     Day 22 in Italy
Finished breakfast.  Stefania is doing some work now - her sister types while Stef dictates (she had wrist surgery a few days ago and is mending).  We have laundry in the machine and are getting our bags organized.  I have a slight sore throat and fear a cold is developing, but cannot be certain yet.  Teddie seems to have survived yesterday's dousing with no problems, although I did hear her sneeze a few minutes ago.  When we go from the apartment to the main house, the two Rottweilers try to jump on us and we just talk mean and push them away and they are fine.  Quite a difference from our two poodle girls (which we dearly miss)!  Stefania and Stefano's place is really looking good - a very nice gate at the entrance of the "compound", a grassy area off the parking lot, with a nice stone wall below, and nice furnishings throughout.  When we were here three years ago there was a lot of work in progress but that is all done now and the place looks great.

Stefano is still working and Teddie is relaxing with a novel she found on the shelf.  Our laundry is drying on the heat racks in the room and in the bath.  Stefania said Stefano will be a little late arriving home from work and then the plan is to drive down the hill for some shopping.  I may elect to stay here and keep out of the cold and rain, though.

Turning in for the night.  I am now sure that I have caught a cold - must have blown my nose 25-30 times today!  Not sure how I'll feel in the morning, but Stefania has given me a couple of remedies, and I took a fizzy Vitamin C tablet (by plunking it in my mouth, when it should have been put into a glass of water), so there is little more I can do but get a good night's sleep.  Stefano, Stefania, and Teddie went into town today but I stayed at the house, rather than get out in the rain and cold.  Dinner this evening was interesting - a little heated bowl (candle underneath) with ????? inside.  The potatoes, onions, and such on the side that you dip into the bowl - very tasty.  The dogs - very big, very fearsome looking, but just two big babies.  When you go from the apartment to they house, they get excited and try jumping all over you, so you speak harshly and push them away and they are OK.  I think they are both very good dogs, but they are unaware of their large size and power.  One walked past me yesterday wagging his tail and when it hit me on the leg it was like being slapped with a piece of rope!

  9/28/07  2:05pm     Day 23 in Italy
Stefania was gone by the time we got up - she and her sister went to town to have the

Stefano brought us to a great lookout
high atop the mountain

stitches removed from Stef's wrist.  Teddie and I had breakfast and chatted with Stefano for a while and then I used the Internet to check email and do some banking.  After a while Stefania and her sister returned and we talked about ambulance procedures and staffing.  Also, we briefly discussed the Italian health care system and its comparison to the US health care plans.  Italy's seems to be much more liberal then the U.S. and I wondered where all the funding came from.  But the conversation took too many tangents, and quickly got off track, so I decided to let it go for now.  Stefano then drove us into town so he could buy some food and mail a letter, and then he drove us far up the hill to an area with a beautiful view.  This is a lovely area with mountains and valleys and little communities scattered throughout.  Now we are back at the house again and preparing lunch.  My cold lingers on though, and I plan to take a big nap later this afternoon.


Dinner at Stefania and Stefano's is
always a special treat

Stefania and Stefano have dinner customers tonight so they have set up two tables for them and one for Teddie and I.  My cold is getting worse, but I plan to enjoy the meal this evening.  It's interesting to see them in their "work mode" - very efficient!

  9/29/07  6:00pm     Day 24 in Italy
The rest of the dinner last night was excellent!  Several different platters and types of food - I will try to get Teddie to elaborate.  Coffee was served at about 11pm and I then
Stefano and Stefania in their working mode

 immediately excused myself and went to bed - the cold is still very much with me.  This morning we got up late and joined Stefania and Stefano for a light breakfast and then began packing our bags.  Around mid-day they served a pasta lunch (very good!) and then we finished packing and loaded the bags into Stefano's car.  Said out goodbyes to Stefania (made mine very quick - I always hate saying goodbye to friends).  Stefano then drove us all the way to the bus station in Torino and stayed with us to make sure we got our tickets and got on the bus OK.  He is such a nice guy - and a very hard worker.  It took us two hours to get to the airport, after which we called the hotel on the cell phone and they sent the shuttle bus for us.  We are now in our room (Hotel Sempione) and it is nice.  In an hour or so we will go downstairs for dinner and then come back up and get ready for an early departure tomorrow.

Teddie and Stefano. Here we say a final
goodbye before starting our journey

Dinner tonight was in the restaurant in the hotel - Teddie and I split a pizza and each had a beer, and I had my last Italian gelato of this trip.  We will awake at 6am and catch a 7am shuttle to the airport.  Our final few hours in this country that we love so much.

  9/30/07  7:55am     Day 25 in Italy
We are now at the airport.  We had a quick breakfast at the hotel and then gathered our bags and met the shuttle driver in the lobby (originally we thought he was another passenger).  A quick ride to Malpensa Terminal 1, a fairly quick check-in, an effortless pass through security (not necessary to remove our shoes), and now we are in the gate area waiting to board in an hour or so.  My cold is still very much with me, and Teddie is starting to cough, so we're not sure what shape we'll be in when we arrive in New Jersey.

Finally airborne and on our way!  Boarding was strange - we got in line for what we thought was boarding, but when we reached the front of the line they scanned our passports on a computer, scribbled on the front of our ticket, then sent us all back to the general terminal area.  Later they began the actual boarding process.  Once everyone was on board it was a very short time until taxi. 
[meals on Alitalia better than US airlines] [Luciano told of his grandfather being overcome and dying when entering a large wine cask.  Now they use two people - one to pull the other out]  Hotel last night - noisy!  People arguing loudly in the hall until Teddie gave them the evil eye.  Someone hammering (??) in the middle of the night, doors slamming.  It has been a very good trip, although a little long and a little complicated.  I hear people speaking Italian in my dreams now!  My final purchase in Italy - a Milano t-shirt in XL that will still probably shrink to Teddie's size in 2 washings, and a pair of 12 sunglasses.

  10/5/07  9:15pm
The remainder of the flight to Newark went fine.  Rob picked us up at the airport and took us to Mom's where we stayed until 5:45am today.  Rob again brought us to the airport (his 4th trip for us) and we checked in - Teddie to Amarillo, me to Seattle.  Right now I am halfway to Seattle and only a bus, ferry, and taxi ride from home.  Overall, the vacation went very well.  Above all, it was great to see my family and our always-special Italian friends.  It felt good to be back at the crash site, and we enjoyed being in our favorite foreign country.  We both agreed that the trip was a bit on the long side and we started getting homesick for Washington and the poodle girls, so next trip will probably be shorter and simpler.  More like - a couple of days in NJ to adjust, Rome, Roccalbegna for about 8 days, Rome, NJ, and home.  And, we're thinking of May '09.  We'll see how it goes.  Right now all I can think of is getting home, seeing the girls, and unpacking.