God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The US Gets Smart

Guess what's in our cul-de-sac right now. It brought a big smile and made me feel the ocean has been bridged. Love it! And the color--perfect!

OK--I posted yesterday and two in a row is not my normal MO--but, this I couldn't resist.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


A friend of mine, Barbara, lives in Italy--most of the time. A couple times a year she and husband Art brave the skies and return to whence they came--Kentucky. It wasn't too long before our final gathering of friends in Italy that they had happily returned from a visit to the states.

At our little party, Barb rhapsodized over the red, ripe, juicy, delicious tomatoes available in a bunch of varieties and sizes everywhere in Italy. It seems she hadn't been able to eat their bland, tasteless cousins here in the US. I sort of nodded and rather listlessly agreed with her, not giving a whole lot of thought to the question.

At Market in Italy

Now, being home ten days, I am in tomato withdrawal. Barbara is right--the difference between here and there is as if we speak of two different fruits. Strangely the best to be had here are from the big box store Costco--which, by the way, has fresh Mozzarella di Bufala from Compagnia, well-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano from Parma and a very good Tuscan Olive Oil--the one in a glass bottle, not the plastic.

As I wrote last year, coming back to the states after our extended stays in Italy, demands adjustment time. The first few trips to the grocery store, I reflexively look for the basket of cellophane gloves. Produce is not to be touched by bare hands--no multiple shoppers squeezing and handling that peach before I buy it--makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? I look for the scale which provides a price sticky to adhere to the bag after I weigh the produce--makes check out a lot faster and easier. Walking up to the store, I reach into my wallet to get the coin needed to unlock the cart and then realize that we don't do that here. Instead, we have traveling carts finding their way to homes, schools and roadsides. The Italian system works because the shopper reclaims the euro by reattaching the cart to the chain.

Of course, we have some transportable ideas, too. For example, people who bag our groceries. This is really appreciated the days I do a big shopping. In Italy it is a quite a challenge to pay and bag before the next customer's purchases begin co-mingling with mine. I'm glad to see more and more fellow shoppers here bring in their own reuseable bags--a common practice in Italy for many years.

Because we are a new country, things like electricity, power, telephone wiring--let alone highspeed--are a taken for granted part of our daily experience. We can have large appliances and even run them simultaneously. Europe is different. Retrofitting centuries old buildings built of thick stone walls is difficult. In many places, power sources are limited, again due to infrastructures that go back hundreds of years. My most favorite place in Italy, Sant' Antonio outside of Montepulciano, does not have ovens or microwaves in its apartments or on-site guest laundry facilities because their power allotment does not allow for these things.

Back to tomatoes--so, I miss the Italian ones, along with snapping fresh green beans, delicate zucchini flowers to quickly fry in 00 flour, fresh pecorino in all its varieties, prosciutto from Falornis macelleria, fish from the morning's catch and fresh pasta from the pasta shop. Even our celebrity stores such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe's don't fill the bill, let alone Ralphs, Von's or Wegmans.

These are things I can't bring home with me so, until next summer, I'll settle into San Diego and enjoy what we have--sandy beaches, corn-on-the-cob and no winter.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tutto Un Sogno?

We've been home three days now and already the past two months have entered into that nether world of dreams and "were we really there?" I know we were. I can summon up views from Fattoria Viticcio, the visual charm of Sant' Antonio, the perfection of Genius Loci, the wild rides of Gardaland and so much more. But......it all seems so improbable. Is there really an Italy that we sometimes call home?

Casey is sick and has been since the last night in Italy where he awoke at midnight with a terrible stomach ache. He has slept almost non-stop since we arrived home Tuesday night. He has canceled play dates with friends he has not seen for two months and karate lessons. He manages about two bites of food before he pushes it away and returns to the couch and pillow. Drinking liquids is about all he accomplishes and not much of that. Yesterday we went to see the doctor who says it's a virus but I'm not too convinced of that as he is missing a primary symptom of a stomach virus. So, we will wait it out a little longer and hope it all goes away. If not, I guess a trip to the hospital is in store for this weekend. It is so hard to have a child hurting and not be able to fix it for him!

Then there is THE table--remember the one we ordered in Florence? The round one to match the rectangular one we treated ourselves to last year? The one we were so excited about? It was waiting for us when we returned and we were happy.

But, when we opened the crate on Wednesday, we stood and stared and cried--our beautiful table or, at least, what was meant to be our beautiful table. As you can see, if it were whole, it would be lovely. But, it isn't.

I e-mailed and sent the picture to Giotti Ceramiche in Florence, the creators of the table. They responded immediately and will be making a new table for us--no hassle, no fuss. They and DHL will figure out which of them is responsible. In this day and age it is so nice to work with a reputable business and people. If you are in the market for a lovely, beautiful piece of usable art, I can recommend someone to you.

It will be several weeks before we have our new table as the production department is on vacation until September 1 and then it will take 6 weeks to make it. Since these are individually designed tables, worked out between the artist and the buyer, there isn't a regular production line or supply on hand.

Lastly, time to share, I think that I may not have a complete mind--a thought I've entertained for a while now. Before we left for two months, it seemed like a very sound decision to have a barbecue/swim party for 40 people 4 days after returning. Now, the idea seems rather dumb; however, I would make the same decision again. We have dear, dear friends who are missionaries and this is their last weekend home on furlough. Typically we host a party for them and our friends and since we were gone all summer, this was the only chance.

And so tomorrow the grill will burn, the jacuzzi will bubble and the watermelon will drip and we will enjoy good conversation and fun. But, I do wish we had a lovely round table for people to admire.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


All good things come to an end—or at least that’s what is said. We are in a Rome airport hotel, alarm set for 7 AM, watching CNN. Tomorrow we return to our other life across the ocean. We are finding it difficult to accept this transition; but, knowing we will return in 320 days, give or take a few, helps. We have 5 weeks scheduled for Italy next summer and are thinking of maybe adding a couple weeks in England as Casey has never been there—what a novelty that will be—an English speaking country—well, sort of.

We ended our time here at a very lovely place with very special people. Friends Mary and Maurizio Tacconi have created an exquisite country inn. Genius Loci, snuggled in little hills above Bevagna in Umbria, is the product of three people, Mary, Maurizio and son Michele, who settle for nothing less than perfection. Every place the eye settles is found an exquisite piece of “old” —furniture, mantel wood from Turkey, pottery, delicate sconces, stone sinks, kettles and cookware, glass, art, books and carpets. Complementing all of this is the lovely art work of Maurizio. Years of collecting old roof tiles for an unknown purpose found their reason on top of this renovated building of the past.

With all of this said, it is not a museum but a wonderful place to enjoy and, maybe, dream of calling home. If you sit quietly, gazing out over the countryside, you eventually sense that you are becoming a part of the picture. The words peace and serenity come to mind.

But, even better than this storybook place was the time we spent with friends of ours who call Italy home. Friends we had not been able to visit this time and so they came to where we were for a “get-together.”

Barb and Art from San Venzano, Umbria, Judith from Città di Castello, Rita and Lino from Chioccio (well, we did see them while we were in Greve) and Mary and Maurizio. We shared a wonderful summer pranzo (lunch) of red, ripe tomatoes, mozzarella, meats, cheese, honeys, salads, some strange egg plant dish by chef Judith, melon and surely more. Barb brought her wonderful brownies and chocolate chip cookies as a gift to Casey who has crowned her the champion cookie maker. What a feast we shared, mixed with laughter and conversation. It was a good day and a good way to cap off the last 8 weeks.

A feature of Genius Loci which I really want to share is the room we had which was beautiful—as far as I am concerned, the best of the best. And…it has the special quality of being fully accessible for people who need extra space for wheelchairs. The bathroom has been designed for such needs as has its location (the best in the house) and the door ways. There is a large king size bed and a separate sitting area with a couch and room for maneuvering a chair. And, I don’t have words to describe the views from this room. I can’t wait to tell my friend Mary (another Mary) about this room and place. I must warn you though,the tariff here comes in at the higher end but it’s worth saving pennies to be here.

Mary has quality pieces of pottery from Deruta displayed throughout the common rooms for guests who are in the market for new pieces but either don’t have the time or the inclination to go shopping. I now have a little more carry-on items than I had anticipated. But the biscotti jar will look so lovely in my kitchen with its matching spoon holder, and then there are the tea light holders and a little something more.

Now it’s time to make sure the alarm is set, turn the lights off and dream of what was and what will be.

Post Script: I did not post this last night and now have a quick update for those who fly from Roma via a US based airlines. Having heard about difficulties using the new T5 process, I can report that it is a breeze and so much better than dealing with the main terminal.

These were the steps:

  1. Shuttle service from the Airport Hilton to T5. (arrange the night before or you may need to push your carts through the long corridors to terminal B and catch the airport shuttle to T5 which would be a real pain. Talk to the bellhops rather than the people at the check-in counter who don't seem to know this service exists.)

  2. Get luggage cart (€ 1) if needed.

  3. Quick confirmation of passport and answering the “did you pack your own luggage?” questions.

  4. Check-in and baggage counter. There are separate lines for business and first classes.

  5. Passport control and security

  6. Shuttle to terminal C
This was so very much nicer than dealing with the congestion, noise and confusion of the main terminals.

Now, 25 minutes until boarding and then wonderful airline food and home.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I am one of those people who travels with computer, a little under 4 lb one—have done so since 2001. I know that doing this is anathema to many people who see travel time as an escape from a normal, hectic life. I completely understand this position but, I find it a convenience.

I started bringing mine because it is an easy way to journal as I hate, totally hate writing with pen or pencil. The other reason is that having a computer along is a convenient, organized way to handle the hundreds, thousands?, of digital pictures we tend to take. My theory of photography is that if I take 1000 pictures there are bound to be a handful of good ones, maybe 2 or 3 exceptional ones. I download, file and label as we go thus avoiding confusion as to where we were and what the picture is several weeks later when sorting them out.

2001 was really before high speed internet access and dial up was the way. Good providers were ones you paid for, such as AOL. Gaining access in countries or cities away from home base was problematic, expensive and required some advance investigation. But, it still was a 21st century way to keep up with things at home and conveniently communicate across time zones.

As the years passed, access became easier and high speed began to be available in more and more places—particularly in the US. This was not true in Italy. Having been here every year since 2001, we have watched access slowly, incrementally get better. Although, many of my friends here live in areas which still depend on dial-up and even that is iffy at times. Frustration is high with them.

This year we have been surprised by the growth in not only high speed access but wireless since a year ago. In Italy, with the exception of Lakes Garda and Como all of our accommodations have had access. In the Lakes areas, it was available at internet points.

In Croatia, 4 out of 5 places where we were had high speed. For some reason I had not expected this; however, once there it made absolute sense as Croatia is a country very much on the move. It is very clear that they are making great advances in putting the lost years since WWII, Tito and the recent Balkan wars behind them.

Now, in 2008, bringing a computer is for more than journaling and downloading photography. We use it for banking, bill payment, monitoring ATM withdrawals and charges and keeping track of balances. This is so much easier than the convoluted way of doing these things in the past—making sure we had people at home taking care of matters, etc. Again, I know that many people are apprehensive about using the net for these purposes, but, we are OK with it. We only use our own computer and have many safe guards on it.

Another bonus with the computer is SKYPE—calling via the computer for pennies. Of course, again, high speed access is a must. But, it is a good way to keep in touch with home. Actually, you don’t even need to travel with computer anymore to use SKYPE. With a VOIP phone you can call anywhere wherever there is high speed access.

As with all things, there are downsides to this electronic age when traveling. Now we have one entire carry-on filled with nothing but electronics —computer, external drive, quality earphones, IPOD, portable speaker, cameras, current inverter for the plane and car, DVD player, Nintendo DS, GPS, battery charger and, of course, all the cords and adapters required by each of these. It drives Ken crazy as he is not the techie in the family but……….he enjoys the benefits of having a person who is.

Hopefully, there will be no more must have electronics. I have read that there is a move afoot to synchronize chargers so that one size fits all. That would be nice.

One last thought in this rather boring entry, it's a good idea to bring a short ethernet cable with you for places that have high speed but not wireless. Occasionally I have found this useful.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Goodbye and Hello

Yesterday we said goodbye to Fattoria Viticcio and hello to Sant’ Antonio. Coming to majestic Montepulciano and lovely, exquisite Sant’ Antonio is, for us, coming home. The property is a restored 13th century monastery perched on a small hill, offering beautiful views any direction the eye wanders. It is quiet, peaceful, serene and perfect. Brilliant Nico—who speaks six languages including swalihi, beautiful Elena and delightful Sophia and Filippo have been special to us for many years now.

Our history at Sant’ Antonio began in September 2001. We were scheduled to arrive here from the United States on September 12—the day after the day that changed the world. Obviously that didn’t happen; however, on September 18 we flew one of the first planes out of the US, landed in Milan and drove here to begin 7 week travels in Italy.

Being in Europe during that time was special and opened our eyes to the feelings the world had for our country. Because of the trauma in the US, most of the reporting in our country focused inward on our tragedy, confusion and emotional turmoil. Americans were never made fully aware of the outpouring of grief, sympathy and concern being expressed around the globe.

As we sat in the stunned silence that became the atmosphere of the world for a while, we watched candle light vigils from Romania, China, Russia, Rome and many, many other places. Store windows everywhere we went, including Rome, were decorated in red, white and blue. Condolences were expressed in every restaurant, every shop, every where. In Assisi, a large book was set on a podium outside the police building. The book was guarded by “at attention” officers. It was there for people to sign and express themselves to the people of the US. The pages were filled with the many languages of the visitors to that city. The world cared and wanted to show that it did. These were moments that touched our souls; the demonstration of humanities goodness served somewhat as a balm to the atrocities of New York.

So this is when we met Nico and began to appreciate him as a person and his dream of what Sant’ Antonio would become. His goal was and still is to create a place of quality and beauty for his guests. Year by year he adds to the dream. Along with the priceless views God has created here, Nico equips the apartments with high quality dishes, glassware, plush towels, inviting bedtime linens, flat screen satellite TV, a gigantic screen in the common room for watching special events such as the Olympics, World Series, Soccer Cup matches, etc., barbecue grills, pool area, wireless connection and a myriad of services. We have recommended Sant’ Antonio to many friends and acquaintances over the years and, without exception, they have loved it and Nico. Most have returned. In spite of the richness of what it offers, it is simple and unpretentious—quite classy.

We have been here every year since 2001 except 2002. In 2003 we brought Casey and he set eyes on his first girlfriend, Sophia. They have been good friends ever since and, as with Camilla, anticipate days spent together. Casey was in tears when he left Camilla yesterday but found laughter and fun again once with Sophia. Men, even at a young age, seem to have a proclivity for fickleness. No? Or maybe it is just that both Camilla and Sophia share a quality that ensnares young men.


We are in a different unit than we have had before and I think I like it the best; although, Nico, I know, does not see it this way. It isn’t as large as some of the other two bedroom apartments but it is roomy enough and, importantly, as it is on the second level, there are beautiful views from every window. If you have read this blog for long, you know that is important to me. I absolutely love opening shutters in the mornings and seeing Lake Trasimeno in the distance from one side and the golden and green rolling hills covered with olive trees, tall cypress, drying wheat and stone houses out the other side. What more could one ask of paradise? Not much.

Last night we stayed home and had a simple pasta dinner, enjoying the ease of being at home together, talking and laughing. Today we took a drive to two small villages I have wanted to visit—not having been to them before. A friend of mine offers week retreats in the village of Montisi and so I wanted to see where that was. And then, right near Montisi is Borgo Trequanda with a restaurant recommended by dear friend, always reliable when it comes to food, Jerry. It was outstanding in all ways—service, food, presentation, location and views. It is one of those places worth seeking out. Casey had ricotta and melon ravioli with red pepper corns—every bit as good as it sounds. I had lamb with a honey preparation and Ken had boar with a chocolate and pine nut sauce. Yum, yum! We had equally good antipasti. My suggestion: add it to your list of must visit restaurants in this area. Il Conte Matto in Trequando not far from Pienza, Montepulciano and this area.

Now, time to enjoy the echoes of silence that fill the air here. The lounge chair calls and the breeze invites and I’m out the door.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

An Italian Boy

I knew that Casey was becoming a young man of two worlds—here and there, old and new. But it seems that maybe he is now more one than the other. And then again, it may depend on where he is which he is.

Monday he was with Camilla, her parents and her grandfather in Castiglione della Pescaia, speaking Italian exclusively. At the gelateria were several Americans having language difficulties. Casey, being somewhat outgoing, offered to help, whereby the Americans were quite amazed and impressed with his language skills. “You speak English very well for an Italian boy.” I think he has crossed the bridge! Maybe we must leave him here. After all, he does have an Italian family.

Alessandro, Nicoletta, Signora Franca and Camilla have become his second family. He loves them and they him. He is as comfortable and at ease with them as with us—well, almost, anyway. Nicoletta’s father, a dignified man from Siena, has pronounced Casey as “quite a young gentleman.” Nicoletta says that was quite an examination to pass.

It seems he is also becoming his own voice and taking charge of his life. For a while now he has stared longingly at Mohawk hairdos---they have held great fascination for him. But…stodgy old gramma and papa have nixed the idea—actually, more papa than gramma.

Before we left for Croatia, I took him to Luca, my hairdresser, for a haircut but the clippers broke. So, while we were gone, Camilla and Casey set off on one of their adventures, walking from home to the piazza where Studio 20 and Luca are located. Now, Casey was in charge and Luca became a willing co-conspirator. As Luca told me yesterday as he cut my hair, “It was a good joke, wasn’t it?” I had to agree and Casey does look rather cool. Even at ten he is a person who likes to be a little different—an individualist. I like that.

Again at lunch today he told us that he wants to stay in Italy. “Why?” we asked. “My friends, the views, the food, everything” he said. In spite of the fact that in the US he loves his Uncle Jeff and dog Sratch, has many friends, likes school, enjoys Little League and other sports, values his church activities and more, the truth is that he does seem happier here. It’s tempting to think of returning for another year but that just isn’t going to happen---for many reasons. However, we have made our reservations for next summer for both here and Sant’ Antonio in Montepulciano, our first Tuscany love. In spite of the August heat, mosquitoes and inundation of tourists, we will be back so that he can have another sweet summer to remember. Maybe someday he will write a book about these summers and his “better than best friend” Camilla.

At this moment the two of them are sequestered in Camilla’s house, doing their summer Italian homework. Children here have language and math workbooks to complete during the summer so that they don’t lose learning over the lazy months of fun. Last year Casey brought his home and they served as good material for his tutors during the year. This year we ordered them for him when we got here and he is doing the work with Camilla. What is not completed will again be done during the year.

So, yes, he is becoming an Italian boy who promises to grow up to be a handsome, well-spoken, fun-loving, brilliant Italian man. Camilla may have competition!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Random Notes

Random Note #1—Dubrovnik, the new Italian City

Our trip to Croatia has now come and gone. We are home in Greve and it is fa caldo—hot! We had hoped to leave the heat behind when we left the Dalmation Coast but no, it followed us here. My hair resembles Phyllis Diller (for those of you old enough to remember who she is) minutes after having coerced it into some semblance of presentableness. I will hide behind the menu when we go out tonight—it is much too hot to cook—always a silver lining!

Yesterday in Dubrovnik was comical. We had been there five days, surrounded by the many languages coexisting in harmony with each other. When needed, English became the common language as most of Europe is bilingual (the US may be the only nation myopically raising monolingual children.)

So yesterday morning, we saunter across the bridge, through the towers, down the marble road and discover that the Italians have arrived in mass—it is August, when Italy shuts down except for unaware tourists who find that the country has closed for holiday.

Dubrovnik became an extension of Italy between when we went to bed at 11:30 and the next morning. There were large tour groups filling the streets, small groups co-opting available seats at the outside cafés, jewelry stores that had been empty were full and clothing boutiques were experiencing a brisk business. All the menus displayed on tables were open to the Italian page. It was as if the rest of the world had ceased to exist—except for the cruise boat folks who generally were easily distinguishable from the Italians.

Random Note #2—Crossing Borders

Thursday we entered the twilight zone of pre-EU when crossing borders was not always easy—or maybe equitable with the 21st century experience of crossing from Mexico into the US.

We took a bus tour to Montenegro as we had turned our car in on arriving in Dubrovnik but wanted to taste that country. My quick observation of the country is that it is much less developed and poorer than Croatia both because it has traditionally been so and because its independence from Serbia is recent. I have a friend who just spent several weeks there and so need to talk with her to learn more.

The twilight zone came when we were returning—supposedly to be in Dubrovnik by 7 pm which didn’t happen. Crossing the two borders became a nightmare which took 4 ½ hours. Traffic was literally stopped; people were picnicking along the side of the road. We finally rolled in at 11:30. For a while I thought perhaps the borders had been closed as the stability of the Balkans is still questionable.

The explanation I was given is that Croatia is diligently trying to control the illegal entry of Albanians which is viewed as a problem through much of the EU and emerging EU countries.

The result for us was that we missed our final night in Croatia and the special dinner we had intended to enjoy. Instead we went to bed hungry but tired enough not to care.

Random Note #3—Eavesdropping

Yesterday we needed to be at the airport by 2:30—which gave us time to enjoy the restaurant we had missed the night before—due to Random Note #2.

Proto Restaurant was not a disappointment--offering excellent food, sophisticated but pleasant service, a nice roof top terrace and upscale touches. It was a nice way to end our time in a lovely country.

This note, though, is about the unintended entertainment provided by 5 Windsong Cruisers—3 heavily made-up matronly women with much costume jewelry and two men and a patient, kind forbearing waiter. It was a comedy, but one that accounts for the bad rap Americans sometimes get. There must have been 15 minutes, minimally—Ken says longer, of questions by the women ascertaining the ingredients, preparation, portion size, presence of garlic, thickness of mussel broth and things I can not even remember regarding everything on the menu. Then there was amazement when they learned that the wines being suggested were Croatian—“Croatian wine? How interesting. Imagine that.”

In the meantime, one of the men spent the time hiding behind the wine list, held up to completely shield his face from view. The other man just stayed out of it all, pretending not to be there but then ordered half a liter of wine for the 5 of them. The waiter never became impatient or rude—he was a perfect gentleman throughout it all, patiently answering every question. Once in a while he would look over at Ken and give a little quirky smile—we had already spent some time talking with him, not about food. It was all Ken and I could do to control our laughter.

When we left, I mentioned to the waiter that he was an amazingly patient person. His response was “There were many questions, weren’t there?”

Random Note #4—Mostar, Bosnia

One day we had our landlord’s son, Teo, take us to Mostar in Bosnia. This is a town that experienced much action during the war with Serbia as it is a strong Muslim area with many minarets and mosques. We knew this but were surprised by the strong resemblance to what we had seen in Turkey. The bazaar and shops were very much like being in Istanbul and other areas of that country both in their atmosphere and wares. I had, ignorantly, expected to find the culture much like that of the Slavic cultures we saw elsewhere in parts of Bosnia we drove through and in Croatia—just with a difference in religion.

It was an interesting day as much in the driving and seeing as in the stopping at places. Much evidence of the destruction of the war is still very evident and eye-opening for those of us who have not experienced the violence of war. There seemed to be greater poverty in the border area than in the places we saw further into the interior. But—as with Montenegro, we were there for just one day and so our observations are quite superficial.

Random Note #5—Fish

If you like fish—as fresh as it comes—then Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is the place to head. Never, ever, have I enjoyed fish and shell fish more than the 15 days we were there. For the most part, it does not matter whether you go to a fancy place or a very plain one, the fish will be about the same where ever. It is so good.

Random Note #6—A Favorite Drive

One of my most favorite Italy drives is the one from Rome to Tuscany, even if it is on the A1 (but not the other direction.) Along the way begins the trail of hilltop towns in Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany, mysteriously perched on towering, steep rock formations. One can only be mystified as to how that was accomplished so many centuries ago. There are green fields, stands of trees, and, if lucky, golden-red sunsets to savor. I always feel like I am coming home when we are welcomed by these sights and the excitement mounts.. I love it!

Random Note #7—Casey

Finally, no entry is complete without Casey. Ken and I were so anxious to see him after two weeks plus, that we broke speed limits all the way from Rome to here. In fact, we forgot to check the rental car for damages and now see that there is an ugly gash on one side for which I suspect we will be held accountable. But, the running into our arms and the huge, crushing hug and shower of kisses make up for that. He was so happy he began giggling just as he had in pre-school days after we had gone away for a while. Then today, assured that we were here and loved him, there was little time for us as he played with friends. As he told us, he is growing up.

Now tonight, he has already left us as he, Camilla and Alessandro have gone overnight to a Tuscan beach town. But, such memories are ones he will carry for a lifetime and we are happy he will have them. Everyone here marvels at the relationship of these children—as Casey told someone “we're closer than best friends.”