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.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Greve in Chianti--Going Upscale?

Greve in Chianti holds a special place in my life. How could it not after having lived there for a year, making friends, knowing its nooks and crannies, calling it home? It has a forever corner of my heart--there will always be a longing, even when I am happy somewhere else.

Greve, like so many small Italian towns, remained changeless for many years. The same merchants, the same celebrations, the same habits and the same ways of doing things. But, this year, we saw many changes since we left last summer. Some had been in the works since we lived there--things move slowly--but were completed this winter--well almost.

A new piazza has been born with a different type of store and ambiance than the historical Piazza Matteotti which is the heart and soul of Greve, drawing visitors from around the world for years.

This new piazza, which is anchored by the Albergo Casa al Sole and lies across the street from one of our favorite places to eat, Enoteca FuoriPiazza, still has many empty shops but what is there now signals that changes are on the way for this sleepy town.

A Modern Art Gallery

Beer? In Chianti Territory?

And even a
In back of this piazza and in back of the Coop is another new little place to eat. It has a small and attractive interior and outdoor tables on the patio that extends from the back of the Coop.

Along Via Vitttorio Veneto (SR 222/the Chiantigiana), there are new additions keeping company with the gelateria, shoe repair and other oldies.

This is a toy store with cool ecological friendly merchandise.

A take away prepared food shop.

The new Wine Museum. Its entrance is actually behind the Via Vittorio Veneto.

The little wine museum in the Cantina below the Coop is no longer there. It has been moved to this new venue. The museum has a €5 entry fee.

Along Via Roma--the street that leads out of Piazza Matteotti--there are new shops along with the always there barbershop, laundry, small vegetable stores etc.

There have been a couple of changes in the established restaurants. Nerbone which is on Piazza Matteotti now has tables on the second floor veranda; however, it is not an extension of the restaurant below. Instead it is a place to sip a glass of wine and have some light refreshment. It's nice on a warm evening to sit there and watch whatever is happening in the piazza below.

Gallo Nero, which is on the corner leading into the Piazza, had been known for its pizza and its typical Tuscan menu. Over the winter, it completely revamped itself and now is rather upscale with rich red walls, white table clothes and fancy table settings. It specializes in grill meats. It no longer has pizza.

But, the biggest, most welcome change is this...........

In the winter months, how I would have liked to have had this available. Inside drying racks and clothes draping over the radiators became really old after a while.

So, this was Greve summer 2009. By 2010 there will be more changes--maybe even the new multi-level garage will be completed so that the piazza can go back to offering charm rather than serving as a parking lot. The new library will be completed which will be nice for the residents. If the economy improves there will be new stores in the new piazza and surely there will be more.

Greve-in-Chianti is on the move.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Well, we are back and just about, almost, maybe recovered from the flight which was a bear. I have decided that Lufthansa employees are too often unpleasant, unhelpful and not overly competent. We were flying United but needed to use Lufthansa to get from Florence to Frankfurt. The woman there managed to create problems that carried with us throughout all three legs. This was the third negative Lufthansa woman we met on this trip. But....that was then and this is now and we are enjoying our home and yard which really are quite lovely. It's good to be here.

Now the amazing part. Last entry I mentioned that I bought some ceramiche in Florence a week ago--last Wednesday--just 6 days ago. It arrived today before I was even thinking about when it might get here. What a surprise when two large boxes were delivered early in the morning.

So, for those of you who wanted to see what caught my eye, here it is.

This is an old roof tile which has been painted. We have two already on the fence in the back yard and needed a third.

Bowl and oil Cruet

Another view of the bowl.

I am even more pleased with these pieces than I was when I saw them in the store in Florence. I know they are going to provide enjoyment over the years. Maybe I'll get more....

Friday, August 14, 2009

Time for Goodbyes

Our time this year in Bella Italia is finito. Suitcases are packed and most are in the car—a laborious affair when places must be found for wine, olive oil, ceramiche, 00 flour, Italian books and dvd’s and gifts. No wonder we have one more duffel than arrived in France with us six long weeks ago.

Note though—the absence of clothes, shoes and purses in the list. Impressive? Not really.

I found a wonderful little ceramiche shop (warning site plays music) Galleria Machiavelli in Firenze. So, I used whatever I might have spent on clothes for an exquisite bowl and a couple of other little things that are being shipped home, hopefully not to follow in the footsteps of last year’s table disaster.


Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures of these delicious new things before leaving the store so will provide them later for those who care.

We leave our Italian home at 7:30 tomorrow morning to arrive at our California home at 10 pm tomorrow night--which will be 7 am here. Our flight doesn't leave until 10 o'clock but there is all that stuff that needs doing before boarding.

We fly from Florence to Frankfurt with a two hour layover there. Then on to San Francisco--11 hours and then a 3.5 hour layover before heading to San Diego. To say I envy people who live on the East Coast is an understatement! Now there is even a direct flight from Pisa to New York a couple times a week--paint me green!

Tonight our landlord is having a barbecue for the families--ours and theirs. There will be hamburgers for Casey who believes Alessandro makes the best hamburgers in the entire world; pork for Nicoletta and me and who knows what else--maybe salmon as Camilla and Alessandro like that.

I just returned from the gelateria with 1.5 kg of stracciatella, fragola, limone and cocco which will be the dulce. And, of course, since we live on a vineyard, there will be excellent Chianti or maybe a Super Tuscan. So we will end our stay as we began, but this time it is a farewell dinner poolside rather than the welcome home meal which greeted us when we arrived.

Marcella the owner and chef of our favorite restaurant in the piazza, Il Portico, knows that Casey loves lasagna and had promised him that she would make it for him this year. Yesterday she sent word that today at lunch was the day.

It is so hot here now that this was a really specially nice thing to do for Casey. Of course, it was then on the menu for other diners. And..I must say, Marcella's lasagna is by far the best I have ever had. So, when you are in Greve, check and see what's on the menu.

Meet Marcella

This is Bruno whom you have met before. He has the gastronomia next to the forno on the piazza. He is Marcella's husband.

And, this is Sylvia who always waits on us and makes sure we get "our" table outside--except today was too hot so we ate in under the fan.

So tomorrow we leave until the next time. The surprising thing this year is that as much as we don't want to leave here, we are all looking forward to being home. This has not happened before. It must be that by now, we do really have two worlds and both welcome and delight us.

As far as next year, we just aren't sure what that will bring. We may skip a year here and show Casey some of his own country for a change. This is a difficult decision, for sure.

Right now, I'm going to go down and watch the children in the pool one last time. It is sheer pleasure.

Here They Are


Friday, August 07, 2009

Whose Eye on the Road?

I have often thought of writing this post but usually the thought comes as we round road curves, barrel down the autostrada /freeway or ride parallel to a cliff that drops 500 meters to the chasm below. The question that comes to mind is “what is the relationship between the driver and the passenger in your car."

Long ago I read a comment from a woman whose husband periodically expressed frustration about comments she made while he drove. Her response was that she viewed her responsibility in the partnership as being to keep them alive. That resonated totally with me.

I wonder if Ken and I are the norm or unusual. Is his behind the wheel behavior male typical? It definitely is not behavior shared with female drivers--for sure.

In our car, Ken is the sightseer as his neck swivels 180 degrees to get a better view of whatever is on the hill (a cow, windmill, snow-capped mountains, who knows?)—all the while he is driving. Clearly the division of responsibility calls for me to keep eyes on the road--the car in front, the bend, the oblivious to traffic pedestrian or bicyclist, red lights, the car next to us which decides to change lanes as we are side-by-side and anything else that comes into the line of vision.

If you are thinking that this is paranoid exaggeration, I should tell you that Casey often sits petrified in the back seat, telling papa to keep his eyes on the road. Of course, he also tells papa when he is surpassing the speed limit, when he needs to shift or if he hasn’t slowed enough for speed bumps. At eleven he’s ready for his license—without ever having sat behind the wheel. But, I suspect when the time comes, he may emulate his papa--his role model.

Who keeps eyes on the road in your car? The person with foot on the pedal and hands on the wheel or the hapless person next to him?