Archives for the year of: 2012

My travel tube of toothpaste is used up, I’m awake and up on a Hawaiian island when the kids are getting ready for bed in Italy, and I’ve put my feet in the Pacific Ocean. It’s time to return to Rebekah’s Studio! A sailboat race in Kane‘ohe Bay this afternoon on Mariah, Veterans Day observed tomorrow, and then I’ll be looking at my appointment calendar like before.

I, Popo, had a lovely first trip to Italy, thanks to Ari and Travis, and likely I’ll visit the country again. Here’s a hat tip to the family. Ci vediamo!

~P.S. The stories on this blog, starting with the one below, are in reverse chronological order. When you reach the bottom of the page, just click on “Load more posts.”

Ayla chases a dove on the steps of the church of San Lorenzo, Firenze.

Ayla, 3, in her winter school uniform, after the warm-weather whites. November 2012

Perrin, 11 months, and Travis on our first night in Italy. Perrin isn’t so sure about Popo. While we were there, she walked on her own for the first time.

Pete’s daughter Ari, with friends Scarlette and Annabelle, in Firenze. Grazie mille for everything!

Popo, Perrin the Good Witch, and Papa at the Spooktacular event for Halloween. (Hylton photo)

See you back at Rebekah’s Studio! Love, Popo


I made this list toward the end of my first visit to Italy, specifically the regions of Campania and Toscana (Tuscany). What I like most is Italy is kind to our kids and grandchildren who live there. Besides that, these are additional things I enjoyed. Naturally, at the top of the list is . . .

Food and beverage — In general, better quality and cheaper to buy.
The bar — a bar serves alcohol, coffee, and pastries.
My favorite is Up and Down Caffé bar in Arco Felice, Campania.
Sfogliatelle, the crisp and delicate shell-shaped pastry.
Antipasti, a delicious way to include veggies in your diet.
Mozzarella bufala, made with milk from a water buffalo.
Pizze in Napoli—the high temperature of a wood-burning oven, olive oil, and fresh organic ingredients combine for a different taste.
Fresh mussels — loved them over spaghetti.
Olive oil.
Any house wine.
Gardens and environment
Residential vegetable gardens abound; fruits and veggies are fresh and tasty.
Italians separate and recycle their trash; they color code the waste receptacles.
Cute small cars that go zip, zip, zip — a better way to negotiate narrow roads; think Fiat, Smart Car, Mini C, Peugeot, Citroen, Opel, Golf.
The smell of sulfur coming from the Solfatara in Pozzuoli, center of the Campi Flegrie (Phlegrean Fields).  (Okay, I’m weird.)
Open-air street markets, the Italian version of the sidewalk sale.
Friendly people
(Granted, the people we met were sales people, but they knew their product and genuinely wanted to tell us about it.)
Aldo, the Campania tour guide.
Sylvia’s daughter who sold her mother’s hand-decorated ceramics in Firenze.
Enzo at Ristorante Sipeda.
Federica at Villa Minghetti.
The Italian language
Musical and easy to learn. I recommend Italian for Dummies text and audio CD by Berlitz.
Firenze  central district.
The scenic Tuscan countryside.
Walking around Pozzuoli.
Italian design.
Italians’ respect for old things. It’s difficult to obtain a demolition permit, which is why you see ancient ruins and modern buildings side by side. The city of Naples is like a woman wearing many different dresses. Nothing is tossed out. New construction is a new layer over the old. I imagine the interior square footage of a room is reduced in this way.
Small dogs on leashes.

Central Firenze (Florence, Italy) is best visited on foot. In fact, most motor vehicles are not allowed on the streets, so we took the train from Empoli, a town near Lamporecchio. When you exit the train station in Firenze, you can buy a map from a seller who speaks many languages. So for us — English! We had only six hours. We picked out a route and things to see. I don’t think I’ll admit what I didn’t see. 😉

On a street in Firenze: Papa Pete, behind 3-year-old Ayla in polka dots, Ari, and Travis pushing Perrin in the stroller

On my list was the Dome of Brunelleschi (at the Duomo — the Cathedral of Florence), the Ponte Vecchio, and paintings in the Uffizi. Pete wanted to see Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore di Firenze, the small museum behind the Duomo.

Right away someone decided it was time for lunch. Ristorante Giannino in San Lorenzo looked inviting, and there was room for our party of 11.

Ristorante Giannino in San Lorenzo served our party outside.

While waiting for our food, Pete studied the map and announced, “If we walk to the end of the block and look left, we’ll see the Duomo.” We saw no need to rush through our fine meal. An accordion player serenaded us with American (!) music before the polizia shooed him away. Sure enough, when we turned the corner, we all gasped at the sight of the Cathedral of Florence. It’s truly awesome with its white, pink, and green marble. It takes your breath away.

Here we are, Popo and Papa in Firenze, in front of the Baptistery and the Cathedral, and Brunelleschi’s egg-shaped dome tiled in brown-red bricks in the background. At the museum gift shop I saw the picture of the dome cover an entire umbrella and had to have it. Must see to appreciate!

These are Ari and Travis’s friends, the Busch family. That’s Bob taking the photo of us. His beautiful girls are, from left, Annabelle, Chloé, Magalie, and Scarlette (by the stroller).

In the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore — there are many museums on the perimeter of many public squares in Firenze, so with little time one has to be selective — we saw the original gold Baptistery doors, the original scale models for the dome by different architects in the competition, the original marble tiles from the outside of the bell tower, and an unfinished sculpture by Michelangelo that he carved when he was 80. The sculptor destroyed parts of Jesus (a leg), and later one of his students tried to finish it, but the student’s work doesn’t match. You can tell those parts were not done by Michelangelo.

La Cantoria 1431-1438 by Luca della Robbia. This is an original sculpted panel from the choir loft.

Michelangelo’s last sculpture

While I was buying my umbrella from the gift shop *sigh* the kids went directly to see Michelangelo’s famous “David” at the Galleria dell’Accademia.  Instead of having purchased tickets in advance, and then having to wait in a long reservations line, they went to a nearby shop that sold them tickets for a little more euro. Magalie’s French passport got her a discount (or maybe it was even a free entry), and the fee was less for the children. They got right in.

Was seeing David worth it? Yes! they said. What is impressive is the large size of the work. As Travis says, the irony is that David is Goliath-sized.

Pete and I wandered around with all the other tourists, and walked through the courtyard of the Uffizi Palace (but not into the Gallery to see the works of the masters). We came out into the open on the other side, and there was the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio. Artists and crafters have their works on the sidewalk, and on the bridge itself jewelry store windows sparkle like nowhere else, I imagine.

Pete and I at sunset in Firenze, along the Arno River, and with the Ponte Vecchio in the background.

It was fun to shop on our way back to the train station, as dusk fell and the people came out to enjoy the festive city of Firenze.

Goofing off with sunglasses during our memorable lunch on a street in Firenze. (Photo by Annabelle Busch)

You can see more official photos and information about the Cathedral of Firenze at the website for Museo dell’ Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore di Firenze, from which I quote this summary:


Formed by two ogive-shaped interconnected domes, the octagonal cupola was built from 1418 to 1434 on the project that Filippo Brunelleschi presented at the 1418 competition and that was only accepted in 1420 after many contrasts. Dedicated to Santa Maria del Fiore, the temple was consecrated on March 25th 1436.

Wonder of the world architecture, it’s still a mystery of execution, because of the technical difficulties and its dimensions. During the visit, you will be able to admire the details of this work, created by the genius of Filippo Brunelleschi, that is still the largest dome built with bricks. The walkways, the corridors and the spiral staircases that take to the top of the panoramic terrace (92 meters), allow visitors to relive the suggestive sensations in a walk that take them back in time, inside a painting of over three thousand square meters of frescoed surface.

The cupola is 45.5 meters of diameter, the same as that of the entire Baptistery. Brunelleschi’s astonishing innovation was that of vaulting the cupola without a skeleton by means of using a double vault separated by an air space, the internal one of which (two meters thick) was made of herring-bone quoins and also had a structural function as it was self-supporting, while the external one was only a covering.

Over the Cupola rise the lantern with its cone-shaped covering on a design by Brunelleschi, realized after the artist’s death (1446), and the gilded copper ball with cross by Verrocchio which contains holy relics and was set in place in 1466

The fresco decoration of Brunelleschi’s cupola was realized between 1572 and 1579 by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari, and bears the same iconographic theme as the Baptistery: the Last Judgment. The frescoes in the cupola were subjected to global restoration between 1978 and 1994.

Please enjoy images from a wine-tasting experience at Tenuto Di Arceno, that uses 1/10th of a 2,500-acre estate to produce three kinds of award-winning Chianti classical wines. Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Syrah are the grapes grown for the blends. In Tuscany near Siena.

Ari found this place online called Villa Minghetti in Tuscany and booked it for three nights. The drive from Campania in southern Italy took most of the day. Just when we thought the ride was over, the way became more challenging, as we went up a mountain and down a mountain in a light rain. Tuscany is hilly with forests and narrow roads that snake back and forth. Finally at dusk we arrived.

The kids’ friends, the Busch family of California, reached the villa ahead of us while there was still daylight, got the lay of the land, and told me where I was — Lamporecchio. Bob and Travis are college fraternity brothers. Bob, his wife Magalie, and their three daughters drove down from France via Switzerland. The youngest was a good playmate for Ayla.

There’s plenty of Italian culture and the arts in the immediate area, and it is a short train ride from the next town of Empoli to Firenze (Florence).

Olives and olive oil come from the land around Villa Minghetti. We watched the owners harvest the olives and put in our order for olive oil. I think a parallel activity in Hawaii might be a bed-and-breakfast on a Kona coffee farm. But we’re in Tuscany, and the villa has been in Federica’s family for 300 years. Six bedrooms each with adjoining baths, big kitchen with hearth and modern appliances to prepare our meals, laundry, WIFI, and a view of the quaint town below. (Magalie welcomed the washing machine; she allowed each member of her family only three outfits for the trip!)

Federica, left, tells about the olive product.

Big nets are spread on the ground beneath the olive trees. Then you shake the branches to get the olives to fall. A ladder is useful for reaching the high branches.

Agostino uses a vibrating power tool that looks like a rake to rapidly shake the olive branches. The woman on the right appears to be picking olives by hand.

Gathering olives from the net and transferring to a crate of manageable size.

After one weekend, Pete and I are thinking of returning to Villa Minghetti. It’s ideal for bicycling (for him) and painting en plein air (for me)! Federica’s husband, who you see shaking the olives off of the tree in the photos above, is the very fine impressionistic painter Agostino Veroni, whose oils I like very much. He invited me to bring my students to the villa, and he would give us lessons! Federica said to come in the summer when the swimming pool would be filled. I’m contemplating the best route to get there.

View of the Villa Minghetti swimming pool (filled in warmer weather) and the town of Lamporecchio beyond

She greets us at the entry gate

Pete looks sad to leave. Perhaps we’ll return when it’s not as cold!

%d bloggers like this: