That’s a Wrap!

As Tony Curtis said, “Arrividerci, Baby!” It’s a fitting way to say good by to this amazing city and wrap up our trip. Besides which Tony Curtis and I have so much in common, although I can’t remember right now exactly how (except that his daughter and I both like yogurt with fiber.) Tomorrow early in the morning we board AirAmbien to take us back to California. I’ve upgraded our seats to the Valium Class section and I look forward to a comfortable, though not memorable ride home. I won’t spend this section of the blog recapping all we’ve done, from landing in Paris, and then traveling with Molly through Venice, Florence, and Umbria, nor will I recap the last two weeks we spent back in Tuscany. It’s all here in the previous blogs. But we head back with our suitcases a little fuller, now containing leather gloves, olive oil, cheeses, frankincense, and myrrh, along with a new rug/coat handpicked by the Fabulous Miss K.

I can’t say I’m anxious to return but I’m afraid the signs are clear that it is time to head back. The weather has turned really, really cold, unlike every tourist poster you’ve ever seen of Italy. Trust me, no one is wearing a bikini or heading to the isle of Lido or Capri. I also know that I’m ready to return because:

  • Yesterday I ordered a pizza with fungi, provolone, and paparazzi.
  • We went to the Borghese gallery yesterday and I thought this was a statue of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee.
  • 20131128-101528.jpg
    It turns out it was one of the Borghese Cardinals. By the way, the Borghese Galleria (or as we neo-Romans call it, the Borgy) has the worlds best collection of Carravagios, Caramelos, and Nougatis outside of the Holy See’s.

  • I decided to skip the opera and instead I bought tickets to a “Burlusconi Party.”
  • Actually yesterday thousands in Rome showed up at a rally for him before he goes off to jail. Many of the people in attendance were over 17.

  • At the Borghese Gallery yesterday the Fabulous Miss K spotted this picture:
  • 20131128-101936.jpg
    Two hours later I came back to get her and told her it was time to go.

  • Meanwhile I saw this picture and all I could think about is “Why the hat?”
  • I later learned this painting was the inspiration for the song “You Can Leave Your Hat On”


  • Two days ago I told the waitress to skip the Buccatini, Tagliatele, Linguine, and Capellini, and the Orzo. “Just bring me a bowl of Spaghetti-Os and a side of Rice-A-Roni.
  • At the art galleries, surrounded by paintings of naked ladies, I kept making up nicknames for Titian or Tiziano as they call him here. Then I’d start giggling and they finally asked me to just leave.
  • When I dropped in a local “Retirement Support Group” I finally met Benedict. It turns out he’s now spending most of his time flying toy helicopters on the Vatican grounds and brushing up his resumé
  • OK, so the signs are on the wall, it’s time to say good by. It’s Thanksgiving and Chanukah and I hope you’re all enjoying your day. I’m not sure yet what else we’ll do. Among other things I’m thankful for all of you that have been taking the time to read these epistles and encouraged me to go on. I’m not sure what form the blog will take when I return, but please do check back. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.


    So Long Siena—EuroHygiene Conquered

    We left Siena after a brief three days. The weather turned colder and the Fabulous Miss K came down with some sort of EuroBug that laid her up. It wasn’t pretty. On the other hand Siena itself was quite beautiful. It’s a city with a lot of character that goes with its beauty. Here’s the view from hotel window.

    20131125-175505.jpg We had a chance to visit their church and yes, we were wowed once again. This clearly rivals the Duomo in Florence and gets my vote for the coveted Best Ceiling-Floor-Door-Stone People and Animals Jumping Off the Wall-Combo Award because the entire floor is a never ending mosaic.




    I was also really thrilled when I found out that they’d put a really nice puppet theater right in the middle of the church to attract children into the flock.

    20131125-181646.jpg Karen says its a Confessional where you tell the priest how you sin (she knows because she was a Catholic). If that’s true I want to congratulate all the people who live in Siena because they must be really, really good. There was no line at all.

    Before I discuss Rome I wanted to answer a couple of questions that have arisen. First off, NO—there’re will be no photos of the Fabulous Miss K in her new coat. We have learned a custom from our friends in Milan and we’ll be postponing any viewings of the new coat until Fashion Week arrives in Santa Rosa next month. You can expect to see it on the runway then, and no sooner. Besides we have to wait until certain parts of the coat are really dead and US customs will have to approve it as a non-agricultural item.
    Second, I was disappointed to learn that there actually was no part of Siena that got burnt. This is one of those urban myths that rational people should put to rest. Personally I was almost as disappointed as when I visited Victoria in British Columbia and found out there were no secrets there.

    So we jumped the next outbound train and sped on down to Rome. Our last stop. We got in late in the afternoon, chilled out in our new hotel and went out to dinner. There’s a great little restaurant down the block and I was famished. I won’t bore you with what I ordered but just know that I am a happy man and I dreamt well. Today we toured around and visited the Colosseum, the Forum, Palatine Hill, etc. They have a really old history that goes back before 1776 which is when I thought history started. Hats off to them for being so damned old!

    Something, however has come up that I need to weigh in on. When I was growing up it was inferred that somehow Europeans didn’t adhere to the same hygiene standards as we Americans. I don’t know if this is true. I actually doubt it. But even it were true I want to report that they have clearly leapt years ahead of us now in terms of hygiene. To begin with, in addition to the sink and toilet they have the bidet. I’m not even going to mention whatever that’s about. Instead, take a look at this Euroshower in our hotel room. It is remarkable.

    20131125-182725.jpg This unit has more ways to get you clean than a carwash. If you look carefully you’ll notice the following:

  • A “regular” American style shower head up top
  • A detachable hand-held spritzer for “individualizing” the water flow
  • Eight (count em–four on each side) tiny little jet nozzles on the side for targeting that important mid-body section
  • A mysterious down spout under the seat that I can’t figure out what its for unless you just want to wash your feet or get down on all-fours and get washed like a poodle
  • All of this is controlled by a joy-stick in the middle (the only one that actually ever lived up to its name.) If you spin this around while you’re standing there the water can come at you from any direction. It’s like shower version of wheel of Fortune.
  • There are two places to put soap, razors, shampoo and other undefined European products on
  • There’s a chair built in case the whole shower thing becomes too tiring and you need a rest, but don’t want to dry off yet
  • This thing is like a rocket ship. There’s only one problem with it. There’s no space to stand. Once you get in, it is so cramped that you can’t turn around. The rounded doors close in front of you and all you can do is look out. Forget about raising your arms. I feel like I’m a Ken Doll sitting in my box on the toy store shelf waiting for someone to buy me and a bunch of clothes. I haven’t asked the Fabulous Miss K if she feels like Barbie. Anyway, these Europeans should be proud of themselves for creating this little unit.
    We only have three more days left (I figure about 15 meals).


    Is He Losing His Grappa?

    We have just left the Tuscan farm where we were staying for a week, participating in a food and wine extravaganza. Sure, at first it seemed like harmless good fun, but after a few days that included four wine tastings (each consisting of 5-9 wines) and approximately 18 seven-course meals, it now seems clear that something else was going on. I believe that it is the Italian’s plan to take over the world by having visitors eat until they die. Other nations, weakened by their loss of citizens will just give in and Italy will take over the world using biscotti, not guns. Even I must admit that I developed a case of the Stockholm syndrome, a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending them. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims. My empathy reached the point where the evil chef Alessandro had me making my own raviolis (filled with pecorino and then covered in a truffle and butter sauce). I pretended to enjoy it, hoping that when his guard was down I could sneak out, but he caught me and sent me to the dungeon with a plate of panna cotta with caramel sauce. The bastardo.


    On a separate but related note I was disappointed to learn that the significant weight loss I had experienced (in spite of all this eating) was because the scale was giving numbers in kilograms (whatever those are), not pounds. Another side effect of our eat-o-rama was that Karen got drunk after “tasting” some kind of wine and went out and bought a coat that is remarkably similar to the one worn by yogi bear. Every morning since, she has woken up, looked at it and said, “Where the hell am I going to wear this thing? The Flintstones no longer live in our neighborhood.”

    Anyway, we did manage to get out for a while and stopped by Abbazia di Sant’Antimo near Montalcino between wine tastings to hear them sing Gregorian chants in this 13th century church.


    20131122-134822.jpg Their prayers were unearthly and the acoustics in this stone building amplified their voices and their message. You can imagine my disappointment when I found out they wouldn’t take requests after they were done. I think they could have done an amazing job on a capella versions of “Up On The Roof” or “Hotel California.”
    Finally, I was pleased to find another great local site in the hillltop town of Montepulciano. A new Museum of Torture. Some of you may recall from my newsletters of our trip to Spain that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the Torture Museum of Toledo. I give you here proof of my current visit and the March 2011 visits to these great museums:

    March 2011

    I was hoping to also include an upload of me entering a Dean’s Meeting at work to make a perfect hat trick of torture visits but alas I have none in my current photo library.

    In any case we have left that part of the world behind and we hopped an outbound train over to Siena, the only city in the world named after a Crayola Crayon color. />
    20131122-140823.jpgI hope soon to leave my hotel room and spend the next two days looking for the part of the city that was scorched in the Big Fire of 1683.

    That’s about it for today.


    Is Tuscany Really that Great?

    Ummm….. yeah. It really is. I keep saying this but it reminds me a lot of Sonoma in that you’ve got rolling green hills covered in fields of green, olive groves, or vineyards, only the scale here seems much bigger. The roads are longer and have more turns, the hills are higher and the valleys are larger. Also the buildings date back frequently to the 1300s. As far as I know only two houses on our block in Santa Rosa LOOK like they’re that old, and those owners keep promising to repaint once they get their pickup trucks running.
    We’re staying in a farmhouse that has been renovated over the last 6 or 7 years into an agroturismo stop. It is stunningly true to the Tuscan spirit without being cloying. They have a garden and about 75 acres that is half planted with vineyards and the other half with olive trees. Our view looking out of our room is gorgeous


    Let me say what I’ve said over and over to Karen since our trip started. This is definitely the best time of year to be here. There are almost no tourists around, whereas in summer places like Florence, Umbria, and Tuscany are absolutely overrun by them. When we have gone into restaurants on our own or with groups there are very few other customers. In the high season every restaurant requires a reservation. Lines are short at museums and except for the Sistine Chapel and the Pope’s Playhouse the crowds are not at all overwhelming.
    We have decided to take this week and we’ve joined with a small group of six others and our focus here in Tuscany will be strictly on the wine and food… ok, others are less strict about this than I, but they shall be punished when their credit card bills arrive. The day before we went up to a small town to devote our selves to understanding the cult of the truffle. This is one of the two prime truffle areas in the world (the other being Piedmont in the north) and they treat the truffle as the gastronomic equivalent of Panama Red. The truffles are only available at certain times and there are two types: black and white. The blacks are great but they are more common and the real prizes are the white ones. They are rare, have a better more subtle taste and require a large line of credit to buy. Recently a large white truffle was auctioned off to a Chinese real estate investor for $160,000. It weighed 3.3 lbs. and yes it is perishable. The thing about the truffles is its not just how they taste, its also about their aroma. I can’t and wont try to describe it but you’ll have to trust me, it is extraordinary. Because of the cost it is only shaved onto dishes, yet these tiny portions change your food entirely and help you to see angels, saints, Sophia Loren and the occasional Alfa Romeo dancing before your head. Anyway, we headed up across the valley to a town that was in the last of a two weekend Truffle Fair. I didn’t know exactly what to think about this kind of fair. Would there be truffle clowns? A truffle merry-go-round for the children with giant tuber/mushrooms for them to ride around in circles on? Well we started by going to the newly opened Truffle Museum. Here’s my advice, this maybe the world’s least useful museum. I thought it would be like other natural history museums with dioramas with exhibits like “When Truffles Ruled the World” and showing them battling with dinosaurs. They had a couple of posters, a smell-a-thon machine and then it was time to leave. Actually, may be this is the best tuber museum going. The Truffle fair did feature some medieval cross-bow hunters giving demonstrations.

    20131119-081241.jpgThis was great because I was able to hone my cross-bow skills (watch out Napoleon Dynamite) and will go well with the pouring-hot-oil-out-the-castle-wall-slits that I had perfected when we stayed in the castle. If I keep this up (and wait about 250 years) I’ll soon become a renaissance man. In any case if there’s one thing you can say about crossbows it is that kids love to watch them. Here they are all lined up on a wall watching the crossbow dudes.

    At the truffle fair the main thing you do is eat. Our lunch started with plates of truffle infused local salamis, pecorino cheese with truffles and honey, and toast with olive oil and white truffle shavings. Then on to a simple pasta of butter, olive oil, and white truffles. Then a dessert of riccotta cheese followed by what is known as cafe correcto. This is espresso with truffle infused grappa. The only word I could use to describe this drink is “startling.” Briefly after sipping this I saw Jimi Hendrix playing Ave Maria while Nureyev danced in the background. The Fabulous Miss K needed Ventolin.
    The next morning we began with a wine-tasting. We headed out to the winery that makes the four wines from the grapes grown by our hosts here at the farmhouse. This included four other wines by another winery, with an extra white wine thrown in. Yes, it’s true we had tried 9 different wine between 10:30 and noon. We received the pitch as to why their wines were the best in the world, which may be true. We discovered they had a low opinion of California wines. But overall it was fascinating. We all decided to skip lunch and just go straight into rehab. After our 20 minutes in rehab we decided it was time to have lunch again. So we drove up another mountainside to a well known resturant. Before I describe the lunch I just want to give a tip to future travelers. If you’re going drink nine wines in the morning, you should probably avoid extremely windy mountain roads for the next day, instead of packing a van with 8 others and pretending you’re riding the tea cups at Disneyland. We finally arrived at the next restaurant again high on a hilltop.

    With this spectacular view:

    20131119-083657.jpg We were offered two more wines (which really helped to smooth out the windy roads we’d just ridden) along with cured beef and cheese, barley risotto (which I didn’t even know existed until that very moment), and a choice of stewed hare or beef cheeks. I was hoping for some hare cheeks but they weren’t available that day. Of course it was followed by an aperitif.
    We headed back to the farmhouse totally satiated, although after 12 minutes half the group started to get the shakes. After an hours rest we headed out to an organic farm where they raised sheep and goats and made raw pecorino cheese. It was an interesting collective founded and run by a swiss gentleman and his family. While we were there a new goat was born. Then we went inside for pizza and some select wines from their farm. I believe it all must have tasted excellent. I wonder what I’ll be drinking next?



    Fix It Again Henry

    The last couple of days have been extremely busy, beautiful and sometimes frustrating. We have been using our rented car to make wonderful little day trips to the smaller villages and cities outside of Perugia in Umbria. Each of these has its own feel or character and is different from the others but they all share in common a medieval foundation and a history that seems integrated into the modern matter-of-fact lives lived by the Italians in these cities. Additionally, all the cities we’re visiting are located on hillsides or hilltops. Usually you park outside and then walk up to the hill on cobblestones to begin your visit. Each of the cities is visible from miles away with peaks of fortress towers, domes, stone walls and red tiles set against the green hills. You’re always looking up at these places. Then when you get there all the buildings, whether churches or historical government buildings, are designed to make you look up again as you stand at their foot. The Italians are clearly a vertically oriented people. As you know I’m not a church-going guy but I do wonder what would it be like to have the choice of dropping in daily on these settings that invariably include amazing frescoes and paintings by Giotto, Donatello, Michelangelo or any of the other ultra-artists of this period.
    For some strange reason, I found the visit to Assisi touched me in ways that I hadn’t expected. Assisi is of course known as the home grounds of Saint Francis, the monk who, although never ordained as a priest, is considered one of the holiest of the big rollers. He eschewed the pomp and riches of the church and after hearing a revelation from a talking cross (and idea more fully realized by all the talking objects like Chairy that lived in PeeWee’s Playhouse) decided to give it all up and live in simple robes and be kind to all people and animals. Later in life he went on to become the founder of PETA. The church built to honor St. Francis is one of the most beautiful we’ve seen. I wouldn’t call it simple by any means, but it does lack a lot of the overkill gold and gilt of many others. The inner walls are covered with 26 (I think) amazing frescoes telling the life of St. Francis done by Giotto. Frescoes are naturally muted in color so maybe that’s why it can be both elaborate and calming. Strolling through the streets of Assisi you encounter many monks all dressed simply in robes and jackets.
    On the other hand I felt compelled to stop in my tracks and give an on-the-spot “What part of St. Francis Don’t You Get Award to the guy who runs the St. Francis of Assisi jewelry store, where you can buy all the St. Francis bling you want.

    Anyway, Assisi and St. Francis touch me in a way that other Christian stories dont. I’m not sure if I feel the connection because I worked in St. Francis Lutheran church in San Francisco for five years and I cut my professional teeth at Friends of Saint Francis Children’s Center in the Castro/Duboce Triangle part of that city. That experience working with those families profoundly shaped my whole career.
    Also notable in Assisi is the church dedicated to another homie, Santa Chiara (Claire). Besides the usual mix of miracles Sta. Chiara was declared in 1959 (I didn’t make this up) the patron saint of television. She was selected for this honor because one day while lying ill in her bed, wearing her favorite hair shirt (true) and unable to see the mass being celebrated in another church she was able to see the whole service on the wall of her room. This was before they had wall-mount TV sets. St. Claire lived on bread and water and wore hair shirts until St. Francis, her contemporary, talked her out of that. I’m not really clear whether or not St. Claire ever saw anything else on her wall. But Assisi is that kind of town, the crosses talk to people and the walls show premium visions

    20131115-185014.jpg I kind of imagine her up in heaven sitting on a cloud watching TV (tuned to some televangelist) surrounded by hovering angels all with the face of Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance (Ethel).
    That said, Assisi is a beautiful town where it seems we can all participate in miracles if just show up and be grateful.

    So, what’s up with the title of today’s opus? When Karen and I first started living together she bought a great little Fiat sedan. At that time Fiat’s had a questionable rating regarding their reliability and the common joke was that FIAT stood for Fix It Again Tony. Nowadays Fiat owns Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Maserati, Ferrari, and the Chrysler brands. Anyway it was a great little car for us and worked well until the day we traded it in (and pulled up to the car dealer with smoke billowing out from under the hood.) Anyway, we rented a car here for our time in Umbria so we could easily get to the various hill towns. Given the all the options of cars we could have rented they gave us a Ford Focus. To put it mildly Karen struggled with the Italian traffic, or as we call it the Not-So-Dolce-Vita. Let’ say she was tense. My favorite part was the way the giant trucks drive on the two lane roads which they by their fiat (couldn’t resist) they have turned into one lane roads. Any they’re coming at you. Anyway, on our way back to our castle the Focus died on the freeway. It lost all power. We managed to get the car off the road and standing in front of us was a Fiat dealer with a mechanic. So we kinda-coasted in. Fortunately for us there was an employee there who had lived in the US and spokevery good English. He couldn’t have been more helpful. It turned out that he had done research at the University of Texas in Austin. He’d also received a PhD. in chemistry from the University of Bathe in England. He spoke four languages. He’d moved his family back to the Perugia area to be near his family. I think it is a sign of Italy’s financial times that someone with his background worked at Fiat dealership. Anyway we’ll always be grateful to him for helping us get the rental agency to come and pickup the dead Ford and get us to the rental agency for a new car.

    We took the taxi into the rental agency and they issued us a new car that worked without pedaling it or using the Flintstone’s technique. We all piled in and Karen backed it up a few feet into a crosswalk and a traffic sign. Oh well. In the dark there was no apparent damage. We did finally get back to the castle and said a grateful prayer to Saint Johnny Walker.
    The next morning we said good by to Molly. Our trip with her was wonderful. She had energy, curiosity, and general wonderfulness. She tolerated us pretty well. It had been our intention to drive her into the Rome airport and then turn around and drive through the rain to the farm in Tuscany where we’re now ensconced for the week. Instead we opted to give her the world’s most expensive taxi ride into Rome and we packed up and headed uneventfully to Chiusi in Tuscany to drop off the car at the rental agency. When we got there no was in the office (of course) so we left the keys in a drop box. OK, all that aside here are a couple of pics along the way.


    20131116-105406.jpg Sunset in Montefalco


    In Umbria with Umbrellas

    We arrived here the day before yesterday after a bit of a harrowing ride through the first real rain-storm we’ve experienced. Checking out of our Florence digs was a bit problematic as the hotel elevator really only had room for one person and a cup of espresso. It took a few trips to get all of us and our luggage out to the curb for the taxi ride to the car rental. And then we took off. We had downloaded the Italian maps onto our Tom Tom and while the visuals worked it was too bizarre to have this woman in the machine speaking Italian with a robot accent. Besides which none of the roads were marked with street signs so matching robo-voice to street signs was impossible anyway.
    We stopped in Cortona along the way for a sandwich and walk-around. We parked on the edge of town and hiked in. It is beautiful and its hard to tell where the medieval ends and the renaissance begins. I have to admit that we’ve reached the point in our sojourn where we’re pretty much done with museums. That of course is subject to change but overall the tenor of our trip has changed slightly.
    We’ve checked into an amazing hotel that is really a converted medieval castle that historians speculate was built by the Knights Templar. A few years ago it was renovated into a hotel with only 14 rooms. It’s on a hillside about 5 or 6 miles east of Perugia with nothing much around except beauty. Our room has only slits on one wall facing the exterior so if I get a hankering to pour boiling oil on anyone I’m pretty much set up. That’s not a feeling I got when I stayed at the San Francisco Hilton recently. On the other hand our view out the other window is this:



    Very nice. The nice thing about staying in a hotel that is actually a castle is that in your room in addition to the very fluffy white terry bathrobe, you also get a crown to wear. You aren’t allowed to wear the crown outside of the room but that’s OK. As a result of all of this the Fabulous Miss K and I have decided to change our retirement plans. We’ll be liquidating everything and staying here in our castle room looking at the views and laying in bed wearing our white bathrobes. We can get used to this very quickly.
    By the way, we’ve received several inquiries as to why we’re not visiting Milan on our trip. The reasons are purely medical. Because the entire city of Milan was recently breaded we decided to steer clear because we’ve learned we are gluten intolerant.
    In any case we’re now in the heart of Umbria which geographically is the heart of Italy. The weather has been gusty, showery, and cold, or as the Fabulous Miss K calls it “leather glove buying weather.”
    Today, undaunted by the darkening skies we ventured out to Perugia. I had feared it would be a semi-large modern city in a rural and historic area. Instead I learned that it was a beautiful, historic city. Like all the cities in this area it is high on a hilltop with sweeping views. It is also the epicenter of chocolate. They have a chocolate festival here and a chocolate themed hotel for those inclined to stay in a brown room. For about 5 Euros you can tour the Perugina factory which closes with an all-you-eat choco-fest. It is rumored that few actually return to a “normal life” after this experience. We also went on to visit Spello, another hilltop city overlooking Assisi. Again, stunning views, narrow walkways, and a transport as much in time as in place.


    Finally, as Molly noted when looking at this house, and channeling Mel Brooks, “What big jugs and knockers.”



    We’ve been having a fabulous time in Florence this last week and we’ll be sorry to leave it. We may come back at the end of the month instead of going back to Rome, or we may just make an extended stay in Siena (the only city that has a crayon named after it). There are of course, many highlights in this city. The statuary from the renaissance is everywhere and is both beautiful and frequently violent. As a former history student I am familiar with much of what occurred in the renaissance, but to see it all again is really inspirational and makes one wonder if humanity will ever again have such a shift of consciousness, knowledge, technology, and art, all simultaneously. However, although many things came together during the renaissance I wasn’t aware (until I saw all these statues) that the late fifteen hundreds were known as the time of the Great Clothing Shortage. All of these statues are naked! Further in the art they’re all looking at heaven, not in their closets, so apparently they may not have been smart as they are cracked up to be.

    20131110-065928.jpg It is also apparent that when the Italians finally addressed their clothing shortage they focused (for some reasons unknown to the historians) on leather gloves, handbags, and shoes. This appears to have been codified in later Italian zoning laws that require a shoe store every hundred paces. It also now seems de rigeur for everyone to wear a scarf no matter what the weather. Perhaps they have a new-found shame of their necks. That’s OK, the last time the Italians were ashamed of a body part everybody ended up wearing fig leaves. Trust me, scarves are an improvement.
    That said, I was really blown away by seeing Michaelangelo’s David. There are not many things I’ve seen in this world where the only word I could use to describe it was “Perfect.” But that statue truly takes your breath away. On top of that it was humbling. It explains why when you think back through human history you’re more likely to remember artists, writers, scientists, and other creators and explorers than you are likely to remember politicians. Additionally, I am convinced that when Michaelangelo was chiseling away on this marble he was under his breath humming Elvis’s “hunk-a-hunk of burnin’ love.”
    It is also apparent from viewing all these statues that the Venetians did not practice circumcision (with the possible exception of David). When we saw this bas-relief we understood better why they preferred not to do this to their young men

    Two other things of beauty the Italians create well, and seem to compliment each other, are babies and gelato. Put them together and you see this:

    We also had a chance to visit the Pitti Palace, home to the de Medicis, and we spent a considerable time in their gardens. Seeing as how the de Medici’s owned everything not taken by the Borgia’s you could say they lived well. Here are the fabulous Miss K. and Molly checking out the south lawn:


    We were also able to capture a very rare moment when the statue of Neptune came to life and tried to spear a heron that was attempting to shit on him. I side with Neptune on this. Churchill had much the same feelings and insisted that there be an electric current running through the statue of him in Westminster to keep the birds off his dome.

    20131110-073542.jpg As you know the de Medici’s fell on hard times. Although they were able to keep the palace, the china, and a few Donatellos they had to let go of most of the staff. One of the sad things on this trip was that we had a chance to meet the last of the de Medicis, Larry on his way out to move some rocks in the garden. He’s a nice guy but I thought he looked overwhelmed.


    One final complaint about of all things the Italian gustatory experience. Can someone explain what’s up with those tiny, tiny cups of coffee? They’re served up like prescription medicine and you get so many teaspoons before they cut you off. Is anybody looking into this?

    A couple of final shots because I couldn’t resist: