Choose Your Own Adventure: A. Lovely light-hearted photos; B. It’s been a weird week

Ciao Readers! Happy Thanksgiving Week!

It’s already the end of my trip and I’m still trying to process the past week. In the past I’ve noted that travel blogs are best kept light-hearted with lots of photos, lest you lose your audience. However, this has been a weird week and it deserves some reflection. So, what I’ve decided to do is a two-part blog, starting with the breezy photo anthology; if that’s your interest, by all means, enjoy the scenery and then stop reading. If you’re curious for a little peak into the darker parts of my psyche and the week, read on (or skip down) to the second part….


A trip to an olive oil factory in a lovely little town in Chianti:

The Duomo of Siena (originally intended to best rival Florence’s – an unrealized goal):

Lunch in the piazza:

A stroll around Siena:


Okay, this is the part of the blog where we get down to the nitty gritty. I’m actually starting this on the plane ride back, where I scored an hour free wifi. I have no idea how or why, but this flight from Rome to Atlanta is 11.5 hours long!!!

So, some of you may remember me mentioning (and others know first hand), that when you go to language school in Italy there’s always an interesting and diverse group of students, and you always meet folks to go out to lunch, dinner, museums, etc. with – yes? Honestly, on this trip that was more of a draw than the classes themselves – I really needed to get out and about and out of my own head, where I’ve been spending way too much time.  So….you can imagine my surprise and chagrin when I ended up being the ONLY student at school all week. That’s right, not the only student in my class – IN THE ENTIRE SCHOOL!

For those of you who are more serious students than I, the thought of an entire school and a teacher at your disposal may be a dream come true…for me it was just the opposite. Now, not only was I spending too much time in my own head, but I was literally doing it alone in a foreign country to boot! I have been to many Italian schools and there’s never been less than 4-5 people in my class, even during the off-season; I didn’t even know there being zero was a possibility.  If you read my truffle post carefully, notice that I said “we,” but I didn’t say who “we” were – we were me and the owner of the school.  And the lunch in the piazza photos above was solo…. I think you’ve got the picture.

Okay, now lest I come across as completely unappreciative, the school owner and teachers were molto gentile and we did go on a few excursions together (and a former student joined us on one). But it was just strange – it almost felt like paying for people to play with me. Since the excursions seemed to interest the school folks (the owner Mauro is actually contemplating getting a truffle dog), I eventually got over that feeling, but it was indeed a weird week.  For example, while the ride and the town in Chianti were gorgeous, the olive oil factory was modern stainless steel, the workers were cleaning up for the day and we ended up hanging out in their breakroom and eating food Mauro brought (albeit with some nice freshly pressed oil). All the workers were men and in their break room was a semi-naked bikini calendar, which was not at all quaint and frankly made me uncomfortable (especially in light of how woke we’re all supposed to be getting about sexual harassment and the like).  I resisted the urge to take a photo (I try to keep my blog PG, which is also why I’m not including the photo of the dead thing I would pass on my way to school I took to see if Steve or anyone at school could identify what type of animal it was).  Okay, free wifi time is almost over and the turbulence is making me nauseous, will continue this during my 4-hour layover….

Ack, that flight was long and bumpy!  Okay, where were we…. suffice it to say it was not the week I had in mind. Below are some photos from the beautiful but lonely walk to school, ending with a view from the door to the building (it’s supposed to be poignant, humor me). After school/excursions for the day were over I basically did what I’ve been doing at home too much lately – crawling into bed with my iPad.  Now, this is a travel blog and going any deeper would be a bit too much (though it is appropriate fodder for a book) – I’ll end by quoting the astute observation in the tag-line of another travel blog I follow – “No matter how far you run, you still bring yourself along for the ride.”

Fun Fact: iPads are NOT machine-washable

Ciao Readers!  Happy (not) Daylight Savings!

If you’re thinking it’s been a while since I’ve posted, you are correct.  AND, if you’re thinking I am posting now because I may be headed off somewhere, you are two-for-two! So before (and after) I give the low-down, I have two embarrassing things (embarrassing for very different reasons) to admit.

First, I am running off to Italy for the second time this year (to Siena this time).  I guess I’m embarrassed to admit that because it sounds so privileged (don’t ya think?).  In my defense (if I need one), a trip to Italy is actually less expensive (and more delicious) than a stay at a mental health facility, so I see it as a win-win.  Also, as many of you know from past blog posts, I kinda have the miles/cheap apartments/etc. thing down to a science. Okay, enough justification – I’m going to Italy and purposely timed it to arrive in time for truffle season and specifically La Mostra del Tartufo in San Giovanni D’Asso (i.e. TRUFFLE FESTIVAL – YAY!!!).  I even found a language school that is going to take a trip to the festival (it is not reachable by train) – you can tell how serious my language studies are when I pick the school for the festival trip, not the reviews of the quality of the classes (the top rated school said “sorry” when I asked them if we could go to the festival)…

Which brings me to the second (more) embarrassing admission…  Since I planned this trip not long-ago, there’s TONS to get done/ready in a short amount of time.  The other day I was on a roll – multi-tasking like nobody’s business; I was getting my to-do list organized, charging my iPod, finding my travel documents, setting up my “out of office reply,” finding my Italy plug converters, cleaning, etc., and in the middle of all that scooped up all the laundry off the bed and threw in a load to wash….  Feeling VERY accomplished about an hour later, I decided to put the laundry in the dryer and make myself an ice cream sundae and watch the Good Place.  So, I get all the laundry out of the washing machine, and (you can tell where this is going I am sure)….there – at –  the – bottom – of – the – washer – is – MY iPAD!!!!   And in case the warning in the title of this post does not drive home the message clear enough, here is the visual:

Stay tuned for hopefully more funny, but less embarrassing (and costly) adventures!



Italians Take Long Lunches

Ciao Readers!

When we first arrived, I posted about “ferie,” or the Italian summer vacation.  Since almost everything was closed at that time, I forgot that most things are closed in any case from 1:00 until 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon for lunch.  It is a stark contrast to both the fact that you can shop/run errands whenever you want, as well as the eat-at-your-desk or the grab-and-go lunches we’re used to in the States (or the “leisurely” 1 hour lunch when you can find the time).  Along with ferie, this is another example of how I admire the culture and Italians’ ability to take real breaks (until it interferes with my getting things done, of course!).

So here’s my dilemma:  I started back to Italian school this past week and it goes from 9:00 – 1:00.  Hardly anything is open before 9:00 (I can grab a few things at Sant’ Ambrogio Market on the way, as people are getting set-up, but obviously nothing that needs refrigeration).  At 1:00 Sant’ Ambrogio Market is starting to disband and all the good produce has been picked through.  Everything else in town (except restaurants and the COOP) are closed at just the time I am in the part of town where anything I need would be.  You really can’t accomplish anything during this time.   (Well, I guess you can accomplish some things – I am writing this blog as Steve and I wait for the mattress store to open back up [it’s Saturday]).  And, while I find this rather frustrating at times, it does make for a good excuse to have lunch!  Fortunately, everything from cheap pizza stands to sit down restaurants are open for lunch.

Since Steve is working, that pretty much leaves me to my own devices.  Luckily, when you go to Italian language school, you meet people from all over the world; some of them are just in town for the week, others for a month, and others (like me) are here indefinitely.  Also, luckily, the kind of people you meet at language school are often like-minded and make excellent lunch (and apperativo, and dinner, and passeggiata) companions.  This past week I shared lunches and gelato with a lovely psychologist from California (who speaks excellent Italian to boot).

One of my favorite places to have lunch is Caffe/Pasticceria Serafini.  But since this place is so very special, I have decided not to discuss it here and give it its very own post (coming soon).   Another cool discovery is this very eclectic gift store – Maestri di Fabbrica – they sell all kinds of fine local products (including great smelling bath stuff), but then as if by magic, from Wednesday to Saturday, they put out a great lunch spread (and dinner, though I haven’t been there then).  For 7 euros you get a glass of wine and can help yourself to the buffet (there are many buffets in town, but it is an unwritten rule that you don’t treat them like a Vegas buffet and you eat whatever you take).   We had the most delightful lunch here last week (and my companion found some gifts to bring back).  I can’t imagine sitting down for 2.5 hours and having a glass of wine on any given weekday in the States (in part because everyone back home is way too busy to kill 2+ hours on lunch, and in part because there [unlike here] I’d have to drive home afterwards).  Seeing how I love lunch and chatting away for hours, this is definitely part of the culture I see myself adapting to very quickly.

Only 1 hour left until the mattress store opens back up….

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