Friday, June 29, 2012

In Love With an Object

When the Jazzman told me he was getting me an iPad for my birthday, I was conflicted. I had wanted to get him one for Christmas, but had never thought it was something I really needed.

The purchase occurred three days ago, and I'm already in love with this inanimate object.

My first feeling of love came when I was looking at some photos. The retina display on the new iPad is the most crisp, brilliant display I've ever seen. You thought your HDTV was some fine viewing? Pick up an iPad and look at some of your favorite photos. Just incredible!

The day after getting the iPad, I dropped my iPhone. I'm prone to dropping my iPhone, but this time it hit the pavement at just the right angle to shatter the screen. When I told Tyler I was headed to the Apple store in Cleveland for a new phone, I asked if he needed anything. Of course he replied, "A new MacBook Pro with retina display." After seeing images on the retina display, I could fully understand his wish.

My second realization of my love came this morning. When I wake up in the morning, some two hours after the Jazzman has gotten up and left for work, I reach for my phone. I read my mail and then see what's happening with my friends on Facebook. This morning as I sat flipping from Facebook to knitting and sewing blogs, I was stunned by the clarity of the images. Then I followed a link to read an article in the New Yorker and was thrilled with the size of the print and the page. I didn't have to keep moving the page back and forth on the device screen to be able to read an article. It didn't hurt my eyes!!!

So, after thinking the Jazzman would have done better to just give me a pedicure gift certificate, I'm thrilled and happy to have my new tool.

Thanks to the Jazzman for knowing me better than I know myself!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Notes from Italy

Reviewing my notes from the first full day in Torino, I find lots of very interesting things to share with you. I'm listing them in the order they were presented to us, as our coach and guide took us around Torino. (Photo: Our guide, Mateo. Note the perfectly cinched trench coat and the brilliant blue shoes.)

Porta Susa station

We saw a large construction project, and the guide explained that this was the Porta Susa train station. Here's a photo. As it was explained to us, Turin will be the first city in Europe with no trains above ground. It is currently the largest construction project in Europe. As I understood the guide, Turin will be the hub for all high-speed trains in Europe. Their metro system is installing a line from Porta Susa to the existing Porto Nuova station to access standard trains.

The Wikipedia account says the station was to be finished in 2011, but when we were there mid-May in 2012, it was still under construction. It's really going to be a spectacular building when completed. (Another account says it "will be completed" in 2009 and says it will be served by all levels of trains: high-speed, regional, local and metro.

White Magic/Black Magic

Turin is said to be a magic city, being part of two magic triangles. The black magic triangle consists of Turin, London and San Francisco. The white magic triangle consists of Turin, Prague and Lyon. Walking Tour of Torino. An interesting account from the Washington Post. One more account: "powerful energy center of the Earth". If you're interested in more articles, google 'white black magic turin'.


Turin, along with Milan, was considered the Art Nouveau capital. Most of this work was done between the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century. In Italy, "Art Nouveau" was also called "Stile Libery," a salute to the Liberty & Co. stores in London. (Sewists, you know Liberty cotton. Same source.) Photos of typical Turin architecture. Another fine account of architecture in Turin.


The early colony that would become Torino was laid out in the traditional checkerboard style. Later, diagonal roads were added to give the king a quick way to get out of the city.

From the palace to the banks of the Po River lies the diagonal "Via Po." The buildings on Via Po have porticos along the front. On one side, the porticos cross the side streets, making it difficult today for busses and trucks to navigate the turn. On the other side, the porticos stop at the corner of the building and start again across the side street on the corner of the next building. The side that had the continuous portico? That was for the royal party to use. The side that forced you to get wet when crossing the street? For the regular people like you and me. Mentions the checkerboard layout. You might find interesting this blog post in the Washington Post talking about the porticos. (A note from our guide: the porticos in Torino are in the Baroque style, while the porticos in Bologna are Medieval.)

Pietro Micca

I had written down "Pietro Micca" with no idea why. Googling led me to this interesting account, which demonstrates the important role just one person could play in blocking the enemy.


The first movie shot in Torino was the 1914 Cabiria. For many years it was considered, along with D.W. Griffith's "Judith of Bethulia", to be the first feature films, but that has since been disproved. However, it was notable for the first use of a camera dolly. Cabiria was restored and screen at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006. Martin Scorese introduced the film, and his remarks are available here. The Wikipedia page contains more interesting facts.

Cinecittà is said to be the greatest cinema complex in the world. Because of its early cinema history, Torino is inextricably linked to the cinema industry.


In Italy, the nationalist phrase "Viva Vittorio Emanuele Re d'Italia!" ("Long live Victor Emmanuel king of Italy") was hidden from the Austrian enemy by its acronym Viva VERDI!, that passed for a praise of the music of Giuseppe Verdi.

Relics of Christ

There are religious historians who believe that all three of the major relics of Christ are located in Turin. It is believed that the Holy Grail is buried under Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio. The shroud is located in the Chapel of the Shroud in the back of that same building. Our tour guide also said something about a piece of the original cross also being in that same building, but I could not find any references to this—it's just what I scribbled down as the guide was talking.

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

I had never heard of UNESCO until last year, when the Jazzman and I were planning our vacation in Ireland. (Talk about a sheltered upbringing!) Our guide spoke about the number of sites in Italy that are UNESCO sites. The key here is that war is not allowed in a UNESCO protected site. (Of course, the cynic would ask how you're going to stop someone intent on waging war ….) The residences of the Royal House of Savoy in Torino are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as are Porto Venere and the villages in the Cinque Terre. Also on this list are the Holy Mountains of the Piedmont.

Mole Antonelliana

This building is the largest brick building in the world. It is the primary landmark in Turin—at 548 feet in height, it's visible throughout the area. Originally constructed as a synagogue, it now houses the Museo Nazionale del Cinema. Wikipedia. A lovely photo of Mole Antonelliana on this blog, along with other great pictures.

Villa Scott

Because of the link to the cinema industry and the money that can produce, some fabulous villa were constructed in Torino in the early 20th Century. One of those is Villa Scott. It is a significant example of Stile Liberty. "Deep Red" was filmed here, associated with the aura of black magic in Torino.

Exploring Turin's Black Magic

There are evening tours in Torino that will tell you more about the links to black magic.

Piazza Vittorio Veneto

Everybody's gotta be superlative at something! Piazza Vittorio Veneto is the largest square without a statute in all of Europe.


Torino is known for the coffee drink called Bicerin. Served in a small cup or glass, the bottom is covered with a bitter hot chocolate, then topped with espress, then with hand-whipped cream. Caffè Bicerin is the distinctive cafe in which to try this drink. Caffè Bicerin was founded in 1763. Torino has 13 historical restaurants and caffès that have been opened over 100 years. One restaurant was founded in 1714.

Public Works Art

Torino is know for its public works art—modern art in unusual places throughout the city. The most notable piece we saw in our stroll through the city was "Palazzo con Piercing," the work of architect Corrado Levi, in collaboration with the group of young artists and architects Cliostraat. Gogle "palazzo con piercing" to see more images of this interesting and unique work.

Guide's Joke of the Day

What are the three most read books?
1. The Holy Bible
2. The Ikea Catalogue
3. Da Vinci Code

And that's my tour of Torino.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Added Functionality

For the Jazzman and his cousin, Maggie, who asked, and for anyone else who prefers to read from paper, I've added a Print button. It's at the bottom of each post, near the place where one can post comments. I don't like that it includes ads, so I'll keep looking for a better way to enable this functionality. But for right now, you can PDF or print any of my posts and skip all the sidebar information. You'll get just the text and the photos. Enjoy!

Italy: Days 9 & 10

Verona, Views from Above, and Arrivederci, Italy

Our last full day in Italy started with a walking tour of Verona, led by a local guide. The bus took us up to Santuario della Madonna di Lourdes di Verona (Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes). We stood a long time on the plaza outside the church, admiring and snapping dozens of pictures of the view of Verona. Beautiful!

Back on the bus, we headed down to the banks of the Adige River. Within about 15 minutes, I had imbibed all the history I could handle, so the Jazzman and I set out on our own. The previous night, on our informal walking tour, we had seen some shop windows that we found interesting, so we went exploring. We had a great time walking along ancient streets and admiring beautiful and interesting things in windows and stores. After a while, we wanted to stop for lunch and headed back to the Piazza della Erbe and to the same caffè where we had dined the previous evening.

The day was beautiful, the food was—as with most every meal we had enjoyed in Itay—delicious, and the people-watching was terrific!

We wandered on the piazza for a while, looking at the kitschy little items offered by the vendors, buying a couple of goodies for friends and relatives, and then we headed back toward the hotel. Because of my painful knee, we didn't do a lot of the historical explorations that we might have done, but—really—sometimes there's only so much one can do!

Sara, our tour director, had promised a surprise before our farewell dinner. We all gathered downstairs, then started walking toward the Piazza Bra. We stood there for five or ten minutes, wondering what would happen next. Then Sara told us to turn around, and we saw a caffè with tables set out for us. She told us she was treating us to spritzes. Well, we had seen these picturesque orange drinks at most every caffè we had passed since we arrived in Verona. A few of us had tried them already, but there was much excitement around the tables! Here's more about the spritz, very popular in Italy right now.

After spritzes and bar snacks, it was time to go to the chosen restaurant for our farewell dinner. We headed to Ristorante Greppie. I can't even begin to tell you what we ate; all our meals, equally incredible, are glommed together in my mind now. But I can tell you we ate and drank and laughed. Then headed back to the hotel to finish packing and saying goodbye to the new friends whom we wouldn't see in the morning.

Let me say a word about our tour director, Sara. What a brilliant woman! She is a lifelong learner. She decided at a young age that she wanted to learn everything she could in her life. Sara speaks many languages, is a sommelier, and an academe. In addition to her university position in Torino, she leads tours to several European and Eastern European countries. And she is so fashionable! Each time I looked at her and her personality and style, I could see my granddaughter in a similar position in twenty years. Sara went out of her way at every opportunity to make our tour the best it could be.

But she hates pictures of herself. One of her cardinal rules is "no pictures of the tour director." So here's a picture she would allow: As she was dressing for dinner, the back strap on her dress broke. So she just reached into her bag of stunning jewelry, pulled out this brooch, and used it for a closure. Brilliant and beautiful.

In the morning, we loaded up the bus, drove to the Venice airport, and began the long process of boarding passes, security checks, and waiting for our flight. Then Atlanta, then Pittsburgh, a van to transport us, and Home, Sweet Home.

I've been to Europe many times—probably 25 or more. But this tour, with our dearest friends, seeing beautiful places and eating delicious food, has to be one of the best trips I've ever taken. Thanks to the Jazzman for making it possible.

Some postscript thoughts: While searching for links for these posts, I found a couple that would be very useful for anyone planning a trip on their own. Check these out: Offbeat Travel and Italy Beyond the Obvious: Tips and advice from a former tour guide.

Most of the photos I've used in this [very long] account of our trip were mine. I also had some very nice shots from various locations—those, unfortunately, are on my Nikon CoolPix camera that is still somewhere in Italy. But the Jazzman also had quite a few great shots. So I'm sharing with you now something that caught his eye. When the tobacconist closes for the night, there's still a tobacco vending machine to satisfy your nicotine fit. Cute, huh?

Thanks for reading, and thanks—again—to my friend Jill for nudging me along to get this written.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Italy: Day 8

Wine and Water and a Balcony

Here's a token picture of the Jazzman and me. I think this is one of only two photos I have of us together on this trip. I felt I needed to post it so you wouldn't think I was making up this whole account!

We departed Bologna this morning en route to Verona. Our first stop would be a winery. But this was not just any winery. This winery is owned by descendants of Dante Alighieri! Talk about roots!!

We arrived at the Serego Alighieri winery in the late morning and strolled in some of their fields until the appointed time for our tour. Dante's son purchased the property in 1353, and 21 generations of Alighieris have worked these vineyards. Once inside the estate, we were greeted by our tour guide: an exuberant young woman who spoke flawless English with a beautiful Italian accent. She showed us the room where the vats stood, some in cherry wood, some in oak, and some in stainless steel. The smell of the red wine was so strong I left the room to stand in the hallway and study the old photographs of the estate. (Photo on right: Outside the main gate to the estate, poppies stand by an ancient rock wall. I fell in love with poppies during my summer in France, and whenever I see them, I'm 21 again.)

Leaving the area, we walked through the gift shop, then out into the gardens of the villa. Can you say exquisitely beautiful?! The crisp temperatures, the blue skies—everything fit together to create picture-perfect day.

After enjoying the gardens and taking a tour group photo, we moved into the drying room where the grapes are brought from the harvest.

We saw old hand-crafted drying racks, old farm implements, old buildings—many signs of a business and lifestyle that has been around for ages. And we learned so much about the production of wine. In the right-hand photo below, you can just see a rose bush at the end of each row. The grapes are very temperamental and delicate. But the roses are more delicate. If a rose bush is failing, that means there's trouble in the soil beneath, and immediate care must be taken to protect the vines.

Another feature here that took me back to that long ago summer in France was the hedges of boxwood. The summer I lived and studied in Fontainebleau was my first introduction to boxwood, with its distinctive smell. Each time I smell it, I'm instantly transported back to France.

This estate was truly gorgeous. Despite the back-breaking work, one looks at the environment and thinks how lucky those vine-workers are to be there.

After our tour, we enjoyed lunch and wine tasting. And guess what—Serego Alighieri is also a Bed & Breakfast! Want an elegant, intimate destination wedding? Wow, would this be the place! There is just an air of serenity surrounding this lovely estate.


The visit to Serego Alighieri, for me, would have made the day complete, but we had miles to go and places to see. Although not on the tour's itinerary, a number of our tour companions had expressed to the tour director an interest in seeing Lake Garda, located in the lakes district of northern Italy. We would be passing not too far away from the lake, and our schedule had enough flexibility that day that we could fit in a side trip. While we were enjoying our lunch at Serego Alighieri, the tour director made some phone calls and arranged a visit to the town of Sirmione—"The first traces of human presence in the area of Sirmione dates from the 6th-5th millennia BCE"! Those in our group who wanted to take a boat ride out on the lake could do so for an extra fee of only 5€!

Sirmione is slightly touristy, but entirely charming. The Jazzman and I opted for the boat ride, and I loved every moment. The boat, a large wooden inboard that seated about eight passengers, reminded me of the boat we had when I was growing up on Lake Maitland in Florida. The views from the boat were charming. It was such a nice way to spend half an hour.

Back on land, we walked the small lanes of the town, window-shopping and then stopping for beer and gelato. All too soon it was time to reboard the bus to continue on to Verona.

In Verona, we stayed at Hotel Mastino, on Corso Porta Nuova, not far from the Teatro Romano. Where the previous hotels had been both adequate and nice (while the hotel in Santa Margherita was somewhat cramped), I would say that almost to a person the group didn't like this hotel. It was on a main street in the center of the tourist area of the city, and the Jazzman's and my window was directly over the local McDonald's. Can you say NOISE!? And "somewhat cramped" would have been luxurious compared to this! In the shower, one had to back out into the bathroom to turn around! While we would gladly have sacrificed convenience for a more spacious, quieter hotel, some disputes are just not worth the aggravation. So we vowed to spend as much time out of the hotel as possible. (Hey, maybe that was the tour company's or the hotel's objective when signing this contract!)

Once we had our bags and were settled into our rooms, our tour director took us on a short walking tour of the old town area to orient us and give us the knowledge to take off on our own walking tours. After an hour or so of walking and gawking, our group of fifteen ended up in one of the caffès with outdoor tables along the Piazza delle Erbe, where we ate and drank and ushered in our first evening in Verona in preparation for our last full day in Italy.

Oh, the balcony in today's title? Sorry, I lied. I never saw Juliet's balcony. But then, it's not the real balcony and has just been touristed up to bring in the Euros, so I guess I didn't miss anything. One of our friends took a picture of me leaning out our hotel room balcony as the Jazzman called up to me from the patio outside McDonald's. "Romeo, Romeo …"

Tomorrow: Verona, Views from Above and Arrivederci, Italy

Italy: Day 7

An Adventure and a Sticky Door

Regular readers of this blog know that I am a devoted member of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus (COC). One of the reasons this trip was so special to me was the timing: two weeks after I returned from Italy, the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus would perform the Verdi Requiem in Severance Hall. Guiseppe Verdi was born and spent much of his life living and working in the part of Italy in which we would be traveling. When I asked the Cleveland Orchestra Director of Choruses, Bob Porco, if I could miss two rehearsals for a trip to Italy, he generously agreed and said that, since I would be in the area, I really should try to visit Villa Verdi in Busseto. When I realized that the Sunday we were scheduled to be in Bologna would be a free day, with no tour activities planned, I asked our tour director how to get to Villa Verdi.

With her help, and that of the hotel desk clerk and my iPhone, the Jazzman and I left the hotel before 8:00 on Sunday morning, walked two blocks to the train station, and bought round trip tickets to Busseto, with a change of trains in Fidenza. The estate is only open from 9:30-11:30am and 2:30-6:30pm. We needed to be back in Bologna by 5:00 because of dinner plans. So time was of the essence.

The Jazzman has spent his life as a conductor on freight trains (no, it's not Amtrak, and he doesn't punch tickets). I always enjoy riding on trains with him, as his career experience gives him a different perspective than the everyday passenger train rider.

The train arrived into the Bologna station right on time, we got on and found seats, and settled in for the hour-long ride to Fidenza. In Fidenza we had about ten minutes to wait for our train to Busseto. When it arrived, it was an older train. Again we found seats and watched the scenery pass, listening carefully as each station was announced in Italian. Suddenly, the voice on the speaker announced our destination station and we quickly grabbed our belongings and moved to the front of the car. When we opened the door from the car to the between-cars spot (um, I don't know the technical term) where the door should have been, there was a restroom, not a door. So we rushed forward to the end of that car to reach the door. I grabbed the door handle and pulled, and nothing happened. I tried again, then moved aside so the Jazzman could grab with his superior strength and get the door open. Alas, no door opening. And then we watched as the Busseto train station began moving away from us, out of view. Can you even imagine the sinking feeling as we realized what had happened?!

We walked into the next car and sat down, stunned at first, then trying to come up with alternate plans. Could we get off at the next station and walk back? Take a train back? Take a taxi back? The questions we needed to ask were definitely not in Rick Steves' Italian Phrase Book that was conveniently stashed in the the Jazzman's pocket. In a minute a lovely Italian woman who spoke flawless English walked up to us. She had witnessed the entire event and wondered how she could help. She went to the conductor and explained the situation to him, then came back and told us his assessment of the situation. The next station was too far away from Busseto for us to either walk or cab back. The most logical solution was for us to go on to the next big town, Cremona, where our options would be greater.

As we stopped at the next station, another passenger tried to exit from the same door we had tried, and he was also unsuccessful. As the train pulled away from the station, he was frantically signaling and then calling his friend, who was at the station to meet him, to go ahead to the next station. We no longer felt quite so incompetent!

When we got into Cremona, we immediately went to the ticket window. We determined that the next train back to Busseto would go about 2:00pm, but that would be the last train of the day. If we took that train back to explore Villa Verdi, we wouldn't be able to get back to Bologna at all that night, much less by 5:00pm for our dinner plans! The alternate was to take a bus from the Cremona station around 11:30am. We could stop in Busseto and take the train from Busseto, but because the villa was closed for lunch at that time, it would be pointless. We would take the bus back to Fidenza, then get the train back to Bologna. (Photo: Cremona train station)

Disappointment doesn't begin to describe how I felt. I wanted to launch into a chorus of "if only," but was able to just try to find something to enjoy about Cremona. The day was rainy and probably the coldest temperatures we'd felt all week. We decided to walk and try to find a caffè to pass some time. The only caffè open on a Sunday mid-morning near the train station was packed and offered only a few tables. As we exited an English-speaking young man pointed us to the main street into the city and said we'd find more places to eat there.

But remember my knee problems? In addition to being the coldest and rainiest day, it was the day when I experienced the worst knee pain of the entire trip. My shoulders were hunched to my earlobes, and I was walking very slowly. As we walked down the street, we noticed violinmakers' studios. Who knew Cremona was a Big Deal in the world of music? I obviously did not!! From Wikipedia: "The city of Cremona is especially noted for its musical history and traditions, including some of the earliest and most renowned luthiers, such as Guarneri and Stradivari and several members of the Amati family." The things one stumbles across when traveling! (Photo: Statue of Guiseppi Garibaldi in park outside the train station.)

We finally found a delightful coffee shop where we passed 45 minutes or so, then slowly made our way back to the train station to wait for the bus. Once aboard, I watched that towns and signs we passed. As this bus was run by the train company, would it stop at all the train stations on the way to Fidenza? Yep! I watched closely as we neared Busseto and saw the sign to turn off into Villa Verdi. There, less than 100 yards away, was the home we had gone to so much effort to see.(Photo: Peonies in full bloom outside train station.)

In Fidenza, we sat in the train station coffee shop, reading and sipping while we waited for the train to take us back to Bologna. Once back in the hotel, we grabbed a short nap to get ready for our evening dinner plans: cooking school!

La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese was our dinner and education site for the evening. Our tour group was divided into two groups; one group ate while the other cooked. We learned to make the dough for pasta, then to form it into tortellini and bowties and other shapes. We laughed constantly and enjoyed ourselves, and I imagine some of our friends will be inviting us to dinner and serving their homemade pasta. Honestly—I found it interesting, but not something I'm going to pursue.

I definitely have a greater appreciation now for the effort required to make pasta!

And regarding that first photo up there—If the Jazzman would tell me he's taking a picture of me, I'd stand up straighter. Oops.

Tomorrow: Wine and Water and a Balcony

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Italy: Day 6

Around Bologna

As I write this post, we are one month out from the day we arrived Bologna. Quite honestly, where I could tell you lots about the history of Torino, the first city we visited, there's very little I remember about the history of Bologna. I do remember that the buildings and architecture were exquisite, as describes. The day we were there, Saturday, May 12, had been declared a Day of Mourning due to the suicide five days earlier of beloved local politician Maurizio Cevenini. Many of the streets around the city center were closed to vehicular traffic for the day. And the day was unseasonably hot. Add the heat to the number of people milling around downtown to participate in the festivities or catch sight of the local celebrities and VIPs, then mix it in with the fact that I had been having knee problems almost every day of the trip, and you get a little explanation for why I didn't remember much. But let me describe what I do remember.

The Basilica di San Petronio faces the Piazza Maggiore. There was a church on the site around 1000, but it was destroyed by fire in 1141. It was rebuilt by order of Pope Lucius III and dedicated in 1184. The most amazing feature of this church, to me, was the perpetual calendar on the floor. In this sun calendar, a hole in the ceiling of the cathedral projects a shaft of sunlight onto this bronze strip on the pavement below, which is engraved with the days of the year and signs of the zodiac. (Click the previous sentence, then scroll down about six paragraphs on the target page to see a photo on the right.) I was astonished to think of the level of knowledge that the designers and engineers possessed in the 17th century to create this clock! More information on Bologna, including San Petronio.

The oldest medical school in Europe is in Bologna. And my mind was blown seeing Teatro Anatomico, the classroom where the science of anatomy was taught and the art of dissections began. "Cedar-wood tiered seats surround a central marble-topped table while a sculptured Apollo looks down from the ceiling. The canopy above the lecturer’s chair is supported by two skinless figures carved into the wood." Reference: "It was common practice for the professor of anatomy to sit in a large, ornate chair elevated above the dissection proceedings, reading from an anatomical text and providing commentary, while a demonstrator, or surgeon, physically performed the dissection. Additionally, an ostensor was present to point out the specific parts of the body that were being examined." Reference - See "Teaching Practices." Another reference indicates these dissections and anatomy lessons only occurred annually during Carnival. As I sat there, thinking about the students in the mid-1600s sitting where I was sitting, I couldn't help but think of my daddy, who went to medical school in the early 1940s and spent his career as a general practitioner and general surgeon. He was able to do what he loved to do because this marble table and this very classroom existed three hundred years earlier. It was a very moving experience for me.

After visiting San Petronio, our guide took us on a stroll through the Saturday street markets in Bologna, in the area east of Piazza Maggiore, towards the university. Well, "stroll" isn't exactly the right word. The area was packed! We had trouble staying together in the crush of people.

The official tour was complete for the day, and it was almost lunchtime. Couples and groups split off to find places for lunch, and the Jazzman and I decided to get a little shopping done before lunch. (Truthfully, I decided and the Jazzman was very kind to humor me!) As we stopped earlier on the corner of Via Clavature and Via Massimo D'Azeglio on the Piazza Maggiore a few steps west of San Petronio, I was surprised and thrilled to see an upscale fabric shop, all'Orologio. So the first place I wanted to head after the group broke up was back there to see what they had. A delightful salesman knew enough English that I was able to get a great piece of rayon jersey for a t-shirt to remind me of the trip. Then we walked back across the piazza to a store with a window-full of fabulous bold chunky costume jewelry. I bought a fabulous silk and turquoise pendant necklace for my daughter-in-law, then quickly decided to get a fun necklace for myself.

When we left the fabric store after the previous purchase, the salesman gave us a card for a restaurant, saying it was one of his favorites and suggesting we have lunch there. He had shown us the location on the tourist map, and it appeared to be only about eight blocks away, so we set off in that direction. (I have mentioned that I was having trouble walking because of a bum knee, right?) We kept comparing street signs to the marks on the map, and kept walking, and walking, and …. When we reached a street corner and were absolutely certain we had gone too far, we turned around. A shoplady was standing in her door, so we tried to ask where the street or restaurant was. She looked at the map and pointed us straight ahead for two blocks, then left for three blocks. More walking. No restaurant. I had been religiously guarding my data usage on my iPhone to keep the bill low, but finally turned it on and searched for the address. After more turning around and walking, we found the restaurant. (Did I mention the day was unseasonably hot?) Had we walked half a block past the lady we asked, and turned right, the restaurant was two doors down that street!

By this time we're hot and sweaty and hungry. The restaurant did not have an outside patio, so we went in. It was about 1:15, and only one table was occupied. We selected a table and sat down in this lovely white-linen-tablecloth establishment. With no air conditioning. And no fan. And a lot of heat!

The Jazzman ordered a beer and I ordered a sparking water, and we practically guzzled them to cool off. The waitress brought menus and delivered the perfunctory ceramic cylinder of breadsticks, then retired to the bar to let us study the menu. The longer we sat there in the heat, the more sure we were that we were not eating lunch in this restaurant! When the waitress came back over and asked what we would like, we said that was all we were going to have. "Oh, no," she countered, "you can't do that!" We explained that it was too hot and we just couldn't stay there. After finishing our drinks and using the restrooms, we approached the bar to pay for our refreshment. She kindly explained that when a diner enters a restaurant and sits at a table (rather than on a patio), one must pay the table charge, which includes the bread and—I guess—the cost of their having to rent more linens and wash the utensils. "Next time," she said, "go to a restaurant with a patio." We told her we understood and thanked her for her kindness. We explained that we had fully intended to eat there but couldn't take the heat. (Truly, with only one table occupied, why wouldn't they have welcomed us to stay and kept plying us with more iced beverages?!)

At least now our knees and feet were rested, so we started out walking again. I had found cute little bracelets for my granddaughter's birthday present, and I wanted to explore one more store, Casa della Lana. I had googled Bologna yarn stores, and found a blog post describing this store, which was not far from our hotel.

We started in that direction, recalculating directions, and suddenly found a delightful small gallery, Crete, where I bought a piece of lampwork bead earrings from the island of Murano, and a fabulous inexpensive necklace made of a black polyester mesh with faux pearls floating inside. #happyJan We continued on towards the yarn store, and stopped at a lovely restaurant with a covered patio where we filled up and cooled down. After this rest, we walked another block to the yarn store.

I realized I had seen the yarn store on our introductory walk the evening before, but didn't recognize it as a yarn store because the window was filled mostly with clothing. When we walked in, I saw shelves filled with beautiful yarns, all organized by color. (If you're not a yarn person, you wouldn't know that in the States yarns are usually sorted by manufacturer. That way if you find a yarn texture or weight you like, you can then choose the color you want to knit with.) But I also saw racks of fabulous reasonably-priced easily-wearable jersey dresses, tops and slacks. Oh, to have had an unlimited budget in this store! The two ladies out front called another clerk from the back, who spoke enough English to help me. She was darling—helped me find Italian yarns I wouldn't see in the States, and even showed me how to cast on this unique yarn. Then she pulled it off the needle and urged me to cast on while she watched. "Bella!," she said, encouragingly. What a perfect shopgirl!!

Now almost back to the hotel, we spied some sort of public demonstration with young people painting on banners, and the Jazzman, with his love of politics and unions, just had to stop and see what was going on. (See, all our interests were satisfied on this trip!)

Back to the hotel, a few minutes to clean up, then gather in the lobby while waiting for the others to return from their afternoon wine tasting so we could go to that night's dinner.

The tour-included dinner that night was at Trattoria Anna Maria. We were told her lasagna was, simply, the best. And it was! Honestly, if I could find (or make) lasagna noodles that thin and tender, I'd make lasagna every other day.

The restaurant itself was classic, with walls filled with photos of every famous person who had ever eaten there. The waitstaff was delightful. And we were all elated and laughing, yet one more fabulous Italian meal.

At the end of the meal, Anna Maria herself came out of the kitchen to greet us, and even did a little dance for us, after our tour director told us what a fabulous dancer she is.

Reluctantly, we left Anna Maria and walked back to the hotel through streets jam-packed with locals, enjoying the warm evening and good friends. (The picture on the left was snapped as we walked down one of the streets near the university at about 10:00 on a Friday night.)


Tomorrow: An Adventure and a Sticky Door