April/May, 2001

April/May 2001

Once again I am in Partina, near Arezzo in Italy. It is the occasion of Claire and Roberto’s younger son’s Baptism, in the 16th century church in the small village where Roberto grew up.

Roberto, Claire, Marco (age 3 1/2) and Lorenzo (age 1 1/2) arrived to the joy of Roberto’s 9family. Burt, 10(Lorenzo’s USA grandfather) and Donna also made the trip. As is customary, we gathered at the restaurant, Il Casentino on the grounds of the 12th century Poppi Castle, for a lovely dinner. This included Roberto, Claire, Marco and Lorenzo; Claire’s father, Burt, and wife, Donna; Roberto’s sister, Roberta and husband Paolo and children Matteo and Martina; Roberto’s father, Vivaldo; and me.8






All preparations were made for Lorenzo’s Baptism, which had actually been scheduled for the previous summer, when he was six months old, but Claire had been suddenly laid off in the proverbial ‘down-sizing’ so the trip to Italy had to wait until she was gainfully employed once again.

There was a new priest in Partina, as their much-loved former priest had died suddenly, leaving the congregation in mourning. Another priest had been assigned, but due to the shortage of priests, this poor man had to serve three congregations, miles apart! Because of his many commitments he suggested having the Baptism on a Saturday, but that wouldn’t have been ideal, as Lorenzo’s grandpa Burt and Donna were due to arrive on Saturday afternoon and would have missed the ceremony. The word about this got around town, and the ladies who were cleaning the church (with Roberta present) were suggesting that the new priest was not meeting their needs. As one of the women was especially critical (right there in church!) she turned to the statue of the Virgin Mary, put her hands together in a prayerful pose and said, “Perdona, Madonna!” The Baptism was rescheduled to happen during Mass on Sunday so all could be present.

lorenzo-baptism-2001In the meantime, the little boys were the toast of the town, hanging out in the local coffee bar, with Roberto, Claire and Ducio, Roberto’s friend.



67They enjoyed interacting with their cousins, Matteo and Martina, and older cousin Giampaolo; also with much-older-cousin, Lucia.3





Sunday, Baptism Day came. Roberta and Paolo were the

sponsors; parents and godparents with Lorenzo were asked to come forward during the Mass, and, while it was a bit awkward for an 18-month old ‘baby’ to recline as the 13Baptismal water was being poured on him, all went smoothly! Lorenzo seemed to enjoy the whole ceremony.




The family gathered for a lovely dinner, again at Il Casentino Restaurant, and this time also included were Roberto’s sister, 4Luigina and her husband 19
Giovanni; their children, Lucia and Giampaolo, and Roberta’s parents-in-law, Renata and Bruno.

More happy times were spent by Roberto, visiting childhood 16chums that he grew up with, and showing his boys Partina, his hometown.


The following Sunday we all celebrated Giampaolo’s First Communion at his 14church. His paternal grandparents,


Bruna and Natale live right across the street from the church, and were happy to pose for pictures with two very active little boys and their 20mother, Claire. We all were treated to a wonderful many-course dinner afterwards, eating outside in the lovely Tuscan sunshine.

Alas, immediately after dinner, I had to be driven by Roberto to Arezzo to catch a train to Rome, as my ‘High School Friends’ were arriving a day later and I needed to be on hand in Rome to greet them. What a lovely family set of events, with all present to celebrate Lorenzo’s Baptism and Giampaolo’s First Communion!

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#4 (Final) Italy, Sept. 13, 2016

Dear Everybody,

Wednesday, we did some shopping at a couple of special stores for things (like olive oil and wine) to take home. Dinner that evening was a wonderful swordfish steak that Burt grilled. The fresh seafood that one can get here is amazing!

dsc07812dsc07831Thursday we went back to Arezzo to again see the dsc07855film presentation called “The Ages of Gold.” This was a study in Piero della Francesca’s jewelry items that were in his murals and paintings. The artist had constructed jewelry pieces that were on display, along with the film dsc07854presentation showing the relationships between the paintings and the pieces of jewelry. We had already seen this before we had seen any of the Piero paintings, but it was even more meaningful after we had seen them.

Guido Monaco-do re miWe made a quick walk around to see the statue of Guido Monaco (invented do re mi etc. in the 12th C), EtruscanEtrucan Chimera-copy Chimera (copy), and what’s left of the Roman Amphitheater.

Burt managed to buy another cookbook (Tuscan) to add to his 1200 at home.Roman Amphitheatre

That evening we had abbacchio (baby lamb with its kidney), beans and salad. For dessert we Baby Lamb, Beans, Saladhad Nocino, the walnut liquor that we bought at LaVerna, made by the monks. We managed to find another bottle in Arezzo to bring home.

Friday we made a walk around Partina, looking Partina Castle, Rear Viewat the castle and the old part of town;




then walking along the main street and over to the new memorial to the eight local partisans that Partina Main Streetwere shot by the Nazis toward the end of New Aprile 13th MemorialWorld War II.





People here are not expecting tourists, so we got many curious looks while we sauntered with our cameras.

Saturday was a ‘clean-up and organize’ day. We did look in on the 
antique sidewalk sale in Soci, and I will confess to buying six pretty
 martini glasses. Luckily we found some bubble wrap by the dumpster (I think somebody got a new mattress!) so we could wrap up our wine bottles and olive oil bottles, along with my new glasses to take home. We also brought over a few groceries to Roberta’s that were left over and said ‘arrivederci’ to the family.

Saturday night we again went to Soci to get a pizza, and found that our usual parking lot Soci 'Racetrack' for Kidshad been made into a ‘racetrack’ for kids on their motorscooters. They were just finishing up their week long ‘fest.’

Sunday morning we finished our ‘house closing’ duties, had a cappuccino and corneto in the local coffee bar and took off for Rome.
We had a dickens of a time getting to the Airport Hilton where we were going to stay overnight; we could see it, but couldn’t find the driveway! After driving around and around we finally managed. Turning in the car went more smoothly.

Then there was a big rigamarole for getting on the plane: A shuttle bus to Terminal Five; a line for checking in; a line for passport control; a line for checking bags; a line for security; a shuttle bus to go to the gate; another line for passport control (again); and another shuttle bus to get on the plane! The long (10-hour) direct flight home was fine, and Claire picked us up at the airport.

Burt and CarolThe whole trip was great! We had almost perfect weather; the food was wonderful, especially the many meals that Burt cooked; the wine was fine and we’re looking forward to going again next year!

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#3 Italy, Sept. 7, 2016

Dear Everybody,

Friday we bought some more supplies at the Soci Farmer’s Market, then had a lovely lunch at La Buca in Soci. Burt had pepposa, which he had cooked for us a few nights earlier, anddsc07509 I had cingiale, which is wild boar. Both were good, as well as a half bottle of Plan di Remole wine. When I asked for olive oil for the bread, the waitress brought Laudemio, which Burt says Surdyks carries at home for $40 a bottle.

A waiter was cutting up two huge Florentine steaks forCarving a Steak at Buca
five people at the next table. He had also been shaving off prosciutto for other guests.

Prusciutto in Buca RestaurantMost evenings we have dinner on the terrace at the house. Friday night Burt grilled two Dinner in Backyardveal porterhouse steaks for us and made another puntadella salad.

Saturday we drove a very long ways to finish off the ‘Piero Art Trail.’ It was through the mountains with hairpin turns; then an autostrada with no shoulders on either side, cars doing 100 miles per hour, with two single lane pieces for repair and one poorly lit tunnel; then more mountains again, until we arrived in 2 3/4 hours.

The FlagellationStill the town of Urbino was worth it. What a beauty! The gorgeous Ducal Palace made a wonderful museum, in which two paintings Sanigallia Madonnaby Piero della Francesca were displayed. The first was “The Flagellation,” the second was “Senigallia Madonna.”

La Muta-RaphaelThere was room after room of paintings, including one by Rafael called “La Muta.”

Burt overheard two people discussing visiting the CathedralCathedral—-they said no visitors were permitted that day, as they were checking for damage from the recent earthquake, centered in Amatrice.

We had a lovely lunch in a garden setting—-Burt had turkey with truffles! He also learned a new wine that he loves—-Bianchello from Urbino. We stopped at a grocery store near Urbino on the way home to buy two bottles—-one of which we enjoyed for dinner. It doesn’t seem to be for sale except near Urbino.

St. Francis' Cloak-1226Sunday we drove over the same mountains (not so far) to LaVerna, a monastery where St. Francis of Assisi lived in the 1200s. There is a cloak displayed which they say was worn by St. Francis in 1226 when he received the stigmata. The setting is magnificent—-beautiful woods with the dsc07598monastery set high on a hill. We bought a bottle of LaVerna Nocino, a liquor made by the monks out of walnuts. When we got home we discovered it was delicious; I wish we had bought another bottle to take home, but I think I will NOT drive over those mountains again, no matter how good it is!
Sunday night Burt made fresh scallops (in their shells) as an appetizer, followed by roast duck arancia, which we ate on the terrace just at dusk.

Burt and Carol at Castle-StiaMonday we went to Stia, a little town nearby that has two castles. We visited the Castle di Palagio, then stopped in a couple of Medieval Columnschurches, one of which had really old medieval columns.

Ancient FountainLunch in Stia was at the Trattoria Filetto on the main piazza next to the very old fountain, their main source of water in centuries past! We had some pasta and stewed goat.

Yesterday we went on an adventurous outing, first driving to Arezzo and parking the car near the train station; then taking a Train from Arezzo to Orvietotrain for 1 1/2 hours to Orvieto. I had always wanted to see the cathedral there—-it is supposed to be one of the outstanding ones in all of Italy. It’s quite near Rome, and I had thought to stop in sometime, either going or coming to Partina, but I never had.
Orvieto is built on a high hill (like many towns in Italy). When we arrived at the train station, there was a funicular to take us up, Funicular in Orvietoup to the town, with a shuttle bus to take us to the main piazza.

The Cathedral, which was begun in 1290 and took three centuries to finish, is stunning! Orvieto Cathedral-Started 1290The exterior has many mosaic scenes and marble carvings that tell many stories.
The interior has two marvelous chapels, one of which is the San Brizio, describing the End of "The End of the World"-Signorellithe World, by Signorelli in 1499.dsc07721

We saw many lovely things at the Museo del Mary Magdalene-Signorelli-1504Opera del Duomo.

There was lots more to see and experience, but for us, that was all we had time and energy for. We walked back to the Funicular, being treated to a view of Orvieto’s walls on the way; descended to the train 
Walls of Orvietostation; took the train back to Arezzo. While on the train it started to rain and blow, so when we got off and hoofed the three blocks to our car, we got pretty cold and wet. Since we’ve had perfect weather for over two weeks, we couldn’t complain. We did have to figure out the paying system for the car parking, though, which involved driving up to the gate, not having paid the ticket elsewhere, asking the driver behind me to back up (along with two other cars) so I could back up and turn around, then pay at a machine. Of course I didn’t have the right bills so had to return once to get some from Burt, then managed to get us out of there. I only describe all this, so you know that even though I have traveled a lot, there are still many conundrums to deal with!

We got home about 7:00 PM, and were quite worn out so we are having a ‘slow’ day today! That’s nice, too!

Oh, and by the way, the lampredotto that Burt cooked from the cow’s 4th stomach lining (which took parts of a couple of days) turned out great! We had it on sandwiches for lunch—-it was odd, but delicious!

I hope you are all fine—-we are, and really enjoying our trip!

Posted in 2016, Italy | 2 Comments

#2 Italy, Sept. 2, 2016

Dear Everybody,

Our dinner on Saturday (12:30 Pranso) for Roberto’s family went swimmingly. Roberto’s sisters, Roberta and Luigina, and their husbands, Paolo and Giovanni were here, along with Roberta and Paolo’s two children, Matteo (22) and Martina (19). We served Proseco in the living room while everyone gathered (Matteo came on his motorcycle) and then to table for bruschette, which was Burt’s liver pate on slightly toasted bread. The liver was from rabbits (coniglio).

The main course was roasted duck, sautéed fresh porcini mushrooms with onion, and friedPorcini Mushrooms potatoes, served with a nice Tuscan red 
wine. Following was Burt’s puntadella salad, with chicory, dressed with anchovies, garlic, lemon and olive oil. For dessert, Luigina had brought Vin Santo and biscotti; Roberta had brought a beautiful tray of sweets and this was followed by coffee.

I can speak a few words of Italian and Matteo can speak some English, but the rest was in sign language! Still, we were able to communicate reasonably well. We had so much fun that, in spite of us reminding ourselves ahead of time to take lots of pictures, we completely forgot to take even one!

Piero della Francisca-Madonna del PartoThe next day we continued on our Art Trail to see Piero della Francesca’s paintings. He was painting in the mid-1400s, so many of his paintings have disappeared. We drove to Monterchi to see his ‘Madonna del Parto’ which is exquisite.

We had planned to go on to Sansepolcro, Piero’s home town, but having gotten a late start and spending some time in Monterchi seeing a documentary film about Piero’s life, we decidedLunch-Rosemary with Silverware to eat lunch and call it quits. In the outdoor trattoria they served us on lace placemats with the silverware threaded Amatrecianawith a sprig of rosemary. They had a sign up saying that for every plate of Amatreciana ordered, they would give two euro to the victims of the earthquake. Amatreciana is the famous pasta from Amatrice; Burt enjoyed it for lunch.

The following day we made a loooong trip south to ‘take dsc07375the waters.’ There are many hot springs in Tuscany—-we went to Bagno Vignoni, getting slightly lost a couple of times on the way. The drive was magical as all of Tuscany is. We got there in time for lunch, which we had on a terrace overlooking a 16th century ‘tank’ dsc07370where Italians took the waters so long ago. After a pasta lunch with a wonderful Montepulciano red wine, we first bathed out Carol Soaking Feetfeet in the running waters; then went to a hotel to swim in Carol Taking the Waterstheir pool.

Feeling fully cured of what ailed us (especially since nothing ailed us) we set out for home. When we got to the traffic circles of Arezzo, Burt readied my camera to try to photograph a weird thing that we have seen twice, which is a billboard on a truck of Donald Trump! We thought perhaps Trump was looking for the Black vote in Tuscany! Looking for Donald TrumpWe saw the truck, but the billboard had changed. From now on we’ll have the camera ready in case we see it again.

Before getting to Arezzo, we got caught in a freeway traffic jam because of an accident. We were at a stop and go crawl for about 20 minutes, and we were running low on gas! Let that be a lesson to us——keep the tank half full!

dsc07398We have found some marvelous shops from which to buy cheese, pork sausage with fennel, and wine. The local wine is for sale in big vats that have hoses and displays of the cost just like a gas station! I guess you just bring in some large container and ‘fill ‘er up!’  We bought a 3 liter box of some wine made from a vineyard (Il Mausoleo) a half-km from Partina. Wine-Vats-Pumping Station







Wednesday Burt was cooking Lampredotto made from the stomach lining of the cow’s fourth stomach! It looks sort of like tripe.

St. RamouldLater we went to the Camaldoli Monastery, which is rightChurch at Camaldoli near Partina, up in the 
mountains. It was started by St. Remould in the 11th century. There are now two 16th century churches on the site. We were told that currently there are nine monks living there. The guide said things had changed a lot in 1971—-they no longer have to stay within the monastery and also can eat as a group! I’m Monks at Camaldolinot sure if these are the Camaldoli monks or not—-maybe they were just visiting.


Yesterday we made a 1 1/4 hour trip to Sansepolcro to continue on our Art Trail of Piero della Francesca’s paintings. We saw Polytriptych-Madonna della Misericordia
the wonderful ‘Madonna della Misericordia,’ and partially saw ‘The Resurrection,’ which Resurrection, Under Restorationwas being restored. What a lot of effort it takes to keep these old things vital!

We keep busy cooking and eating—-we had some wonderful battered and fried zucchini squash blossoms and sage leaves.

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#1 Italy, August 27, 2016

Dear Everybody,

Once again I am in my beloved Partina, the town in which my son-in-law grew up and where he has a house. This time I brought along my new partner, Burt. We met at a St. Paul Chamber Orchestra concert last September and discovered that we had many things in common, including traveling. He is also a demon cook, so Tuscany is the right place to bring him!

We arrived on the new direct flight that Delta has from Minneapolis to Rome, rented a car and drove to Partina. Getting settled in the house seems so familiar to me now.

Cheese SellerThe next day we discovered it was the Farmer’s market day in Soci, the town that is 2 km from Partina. The big problem is not to buy everything that looks good! We did buy three wonderful cheeses,
from which we were offered a taste before deciding. We also Buying Punterellabought fresh squash blossoms, and some dsc07198chicory for puntadella salad.

As usual, we also go to Soci each morning to have a cappuccino, a 
corneto, and to use the wifi at the coffee bar.

Morning Cappuccino-Big Ben BarThen we had to hurry back to Partina to buy their wonderful prosciutto, Tuscan salami, and some staples. They close from 1:00 until 5:00 every day, as they always have! When it was time to make dinner that night we discovered (senior moment) we were missing a number of items. We swung back downtown to the store, (luckily they 
had opened again) and there they were. Burt had collected
 things on a table and we had forgotten to bring them to the
cashier. They knew we’d be back!

Then a run to the Coop supermarket in Bibbiena to get rabbit, chicken and lamb. Burt (also a wine expert) carefully chose some wine and also bought some Campari. We had Orvieto wine with our lamb chop dinner, a town that we hope to visit later in our trip.
Saturday we visited with Roberto’s family for a bit and invited them to dinner for next Our Plums and FigsSaturday. Another thing we bought at the market in Soci was a clump of sage to plant in the back yard. My grandsons, who visited Partina for three weeks just before we got here had planted rosemary (at my request) so I have been watering those. There are also fresh figs in the back yard, and beautiful plums.

Our first trip for sightseeing was to Arezzo, a small city about 45 minutes away by car. Yes, things change. We wanted to see the very famous Piero della Francesca murals, but they now only allow 25 people in to see them per half hour, and the next ticket we could get was much later. So we made a reservation for 10:00 AM for another day and visited another church and museum instead. Arezzo-Under Vasari PortalesWe had lunch under the portales designed by Georgio Vasari in the 16th century. We each had gnocchi——mine with meat sauce and Burt’s with squash blossoms.

The following day we explored Bibbiena, a dsc07243small town but with lovely things to see. We also visited their Farmer’s market on Sunday. Of course I have seen the special things in churches, etc. many times, but it is always fun to show them to someone that hasn’t seen them before. Years ago the 12th century statue of the Madonna and Child in San Ippolito church had been robbed of the child. I see it has been replaced or maybe it was Bibbiena-San Hippolito Churchrecovered. Anyway, it’s beautiful. There was a group of students getting a talk by the priest in the church.

That evening dinner (by Burt) was SaltimBocosaltimbocca (fatty veal with prosciutto and sage on top), along with a Caprese salad
Caprese Salad(tomato, bufalo mozzarella, basil and olive oil) and a good bottle of wine.

Adoration of the WoodOur day came to see the Arezzo murals, which was a fun experience and worth going back for. Claire and Roberto’s first date in 1993 was to go to see these murals; I bought some
prints of them and framed them for over the davenport in this house.

This time, for lunch, Burt had tripe and I had Foi Gras under the portales. On the way home we saw a billboard truck (a truck for just that purpose) displaying a huge picture of Donald Trump. We went past it too quickly to see what they were saying—-how odd!

Early Thursday morning, as you all know by now, Italy suffered a horrible earthquake about 100 miles from here in Amatrice. All of the medieval part of the town was leveled, including two churches from the 12th and 13th centuries. So far the death toll is at about 250 but they think it will be higher. How awful! Interestingly Burt knew about a famous pasta from that town called Amatriciana, made with hog jowls and bucatini.

Yesterday we visited the nearby convent of Santa Maria del Sasso. Really only the cemeterydsc07328 was open, but that is quite interesting. We finished the day with dinner at Il Casentino, a restaurant on the grounds of 12th century Poppi Castle.

In the meantime, we’re doing all our little domestic things like washing clothes and drying them on a rack in the backyard, making ice cubes in little plastic trays (Italians don’t use ice cubes!) etc. It is soooooo good to be here again!

Posted in 2016, Italy | 4 Comments

#4 Italy, May 29, 2001

#4 Italy, May 29, 2001

Our last day together in Tuscany was spent going to Lucca. Lucca’s piazza is circular, and29-1 the old town is surrounded by 38-foot high 16th and 17th century walls. We looked at several of their lovely 11th and 12th century churches, 30-2with the classical Romanesque Cathedrale di San Martino being outstanding with many beautiful artworks. We had lunch on the piazza at an outdoor cafe. On the way back to our car we walked around the four-km path on top of the walls, guarded by 126 cannon.

Our dinner that night was a finale at Il Casentino restaurant. We all dressed up and 55ordered quite a banquet!





It was a lovely capstone to our times 55-1there.






In the morning we drove to the Rome airport where Susan and I dropped off Jean45 and Marilyn, who had a noon flight, and Ruth, who was hoping to change her ticket to this flight, also, as she had a scheduled flight on Tuesday. Susan and I returned to Partina and later that day Vince and Norma arrived to tell us about their many adventures. We had a lovely evening together. This morning we all drove to Rome and set off for home, where I am now! What a wonderful trip!



Trip to Tuscany.jpg

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#3 Italy, May 26, 2001

#3 Italy, May 26, 2001

Siena was our next destination, a lovely town that was a powerhouse a few centuries back, 49competing with Florence. We cappuccino-ed on the way, parked, then walked to the 13th century church with its 10 frescos by Pinturicchio from 1509. The painter had included himself in each fresco, which we had fun ferreting out. We continued to the Piazza del Campo, where they have the Palio (a horserace) twice a year, that has been going on since the 1200s. Some shopping and some museum-ing rounded out Siena.



We proceeded up the mountains to Castelini del Chianti to find the Olive Garden Restaurant/Cooking School that Ruth’s friend’s son had attended. We arrived to find them closed, but they made an exception
50for us and served us a lunch during a thundershower.

A rest from some driving—-exploring Partina. While it is a tiny village, there are many things to see and do here. One thing we did was hang some framed pictures of Piero della Francesca’s wonderful Arezzo murals over our davenport. This was a special thing as42 when Roberto and Claire first met in Florence in 1993, their first date was to view these murals in Arezzo in the Church of San Francisco.


Of course we had cappuccinos at the Bar Sport, often with 15Vivaldo treating us.

We also bought biscotti from the local 51bakery (the Best!) to have with our Vin Santo, a dessert wine. Here they call them cantucci.

17Exploring the tiny castle—-the outside anyway—-it is owned by a family from Rome; visiting Roberto’s mother’s grave in 33the Partina cemetery and walking across the 34-1tiny river that runs through Partina while viewing the back of the 16th century 43-1church were some of the things to do in Partina.

We went to L’Orchello at Talla for lunch and stopped at Socana to see a 44-2.jpg600 BCE Etruscan altar.

We all got acquainted with Roberto’s sister and family, Roberta, Paolo, Mateo and Martina and invited them, 31along with Roberto’s father, Vivaldo, to an ‘American Brunch’ one Saturday morning. We served freshly squeezed orange 19-1juice, fruit, scrambled eggs, sausages, popovers, and coffee, with Marilyn’s banana bread for dessert, which was the biggest hit. The Italians do not eat breakfast like this, so I’m sure they thought it was pretty weird! Since none of them spoke 20-2any English and Susan and I only spoke a few words of Italian, communication was difficult but not impossible!





That afternoon we drove the short distance to Camoldoli, an 11th century monastery started by St. Ramould.  56.jpg



When we weren’t site-seeing, we breakfasted on the 52-1terrace, did our laundry and other sundry domestic activities that filled our days.53

Posted in 2001, (Spring) Italy | Leave a comment