ITALY Part 3: The Cinque Terre

One of the five towns of The Cinque Terre

Other than my first day in Rome, The Cinque Terre was the first place I was actually able to move about and experience.  It is located along the Ligurian coastline and consists of five colorful villages, laid out like candy necklaces, hanging off the cliffs.  The towns don’t even seem real.  From a distance they look like little fairytale villages.  I halfway expected deformed creatures in robes to come out and greet us. 

Eddie, Amy and Linda on our boat ride.
Wish I had a pictue of the cliff jumpers…
The two things I REALLY wanted to do while there was walk the paths connecting the five towns and cliff dive into the water.  Unfortunately my knee kept me from that fun plan (Stupido!).  It was probably for the best though that I messed up my knee in Rome because if I hurt myself climbing up a 3 ½ foot pillar I can only imagine what damage I would have done jumping off a cliff.

Our Agriturismo

Our lodging arrangements were a little piece of heaven.  We stayed at an Agriturismo, which is kind of like a working farm B&B.  I highly recommend going this route.  Basically we stayed at a working winery.  How fun!!  The funniest part was that they all closed up shop and headed home in the early evening and left us free reign of the place.  But we behaved ourselves.  Except for the night Eddie taught the crowd a bunch of swear words and phrases in Italian.

It was quite an adventure finding our lodging.  But after fixing a flat tire and driving up, up, up and down, down, way down the winding, winding road two or three times, we finally found it.  It was definitely worth the effort.  Once there, I didn’t actually have to put out as much effort as Eddie, Amy and Linda because I, being on crutches and all ya know, was driven up and down the hilly path into the winery and on into village of Monterosso while the others got their cardio workouts in daily.
Our lovely veranda
We had pizza and wine in the evenings on the veranda overlooking their winery and the town of Monterosso below.  I could have stayed their all week, but alas we only had three days. 
So, in addition to Tuscany, thankfully the trails and cliffs of The Cinque Terra will also still be there in a few years.
Question:  What would you do if you found yourself unsupervised in a winery?

ITALY Part 2: The American Paziente

Italy was so “Italy” that I am planning another trip back.  One of the main reasons I want to return is because I missed quite a bit of it this time around.  You see, I am a bit of a klutz.
Amy and Linda on the
 sight-seeing bus
We had a whirlwind first day busing around Rome and visiting The Vatican.  Dinner that night was lasagna and ravioli, caprese salad (my new favorite thing in the world) and chocolate soufflé at a restaurant in the Piazza Navona.  We also had wine that cost 35 Euros which we later found in a market for only 6.90 Euros.  Can you say markup?  We chose that particular restaurant because Amy liked the red checkered tablecloths.  Afterwards we strolled through the streets and got lost in the ambiance of Rome.  I was looking forward to many more “getting lost” moments on this trip.
The Colosseum
So I began our second morning with great anticipation.  We arrived at The Colosseum and I was so excited to see where the Gladiators did their thang (Love me that Russell Crowe, I do!).  As we were walking around the exterior to get to the entrance, we came across some 3 ½ foot statue-less pillars.  Several people were standing on them being mock statues.  Wanting in on the fun, I ran over to hop on top of a pillar in back.
Well, being a chubby 50 year-old broad, just “hopping up” wasn’t exactly going to happen.  Not wanting to scratch my knees I thought I would just stretch my foot up and then hoist myself the rest of the way; which I did very successfully.  So successfully that I kept going once I reached the top.
As I was headed over the side my first thought was, “Oh, this is going to be so embarrassing!”  As I saw my backpack go flying and realized I was going down head first my next thought was, “Oh my, this is going to hurt.”  Then when my right leg came down to take it’s next step my last thought was, “Oh crap, I’ve just ruined the trip.”
The Colosseum people
wouldn’t let me move
As I laid there on the ground, clutching my knee to my chest, caring English speaking (thankfully) strangers gathered around me and asked if I needed anything.  “I need my friends,” I said.  Eddie appeared on my left and I reached up and grabbed his hand; possibly breaking one or two of his fingers.  Being a former emergency room supervisor he questioned me, “Dana, I see that you are holding your right knee.  Is that where it hurts?”  How professional.  “It bent backwards when I fell,” I whimpered.  “Ooooo,” went the crowd.
As I struggled to stand up a woman from inside the Colosseum motioned with her hands and hollered something in Italian which we assumed meant, “No, stay down.  I work here and am sending someone out to help you.”  Okey-doke.  A few minutes later a nice man came out and helped me stand up.  As I sort of stood, a strange sensation came over me.  I wouldn’t exactly call it pain, even though it was painful.  I would have to label it an unpleasant, un-natural, uncomfortable, never want to feel again feeling.  Normally knees move from a bent knee to a straight leg position.  I now know what it feels like for your knee to move completely side to side.  Not pleasant, natural or comfortable.
Waiting for the ambulance
A little screech from me caused them to call an ambulance.  My brain went straight from, “But I don’t have my Kaiser card,” to, “But I have Linda.”  Senior Vice President, Chief Operating Officer, Linda.  “Not to worry,” were her comforting words.


Linda trying to communicate with
the ambulance drivers.
One looks like he is flipping
her off.

The ambulance arrived and out jumped three very cute Italian heroes.  Whee!!  They assessed my knee and concurred I needed to go to the hospital.  So far none of the Colosseum workers or the ambulance drivers spoke English.  Amy was busy looking up words being thrown at us in our Rick Steve’s Italian travel guide book.  When I heard, “Uno, Due, Tre,” I realized they were counting to three to switch me from the pillar to the gurney.  Unfortunately, I reacted to it too early and went up on due and came down on tre only to hear three really cute ambulance drivers go, “Umph,” and drop me back down on the pillar.  My first thought confirmed; it was going to be so embarrassing.  Well, the biggest ambulance driver laughed and pushed his partners aside and picked me up himself and plopped me safely on the gurney.  That ride alone was worth the price of the ticket.


Since Linda was going to ride with me in the ambulance, I told Eddie and Amy to go ahead and see the Colosseum.  Being good friends they of course hopped in a taxi with the words San Giovanni Hospital given to them by the Colosseum representative.  Sadly, it got lost in translation and the taxi driver took them to an Opera House.  “Ospedale, Ospedale,” Amy kept saying.  They eventually made it to me.

Eddie and his Alpha Romeo

It was very surreal seeing the Colosseum out the ambulance windows as we drove away.  I just kept laughing, thinking this isn’t happening.  But indeed it was.  Five-ish hours later I was crammed in the backseat of a little Alpha Romeo sports car (Eddie was so cool driving that ride) to travel to Cortona, leg sprawled across Linda the entire way.  Turns out I did something to my ACL when I hyper-extended my knee.  At the time I wasn’t sure what that meant.  Now I do.  It means lots of physical therapy and then in a year or so I should be good as new.

Poor Linda
Many other crazy things ensued during those five or so hours, but suffice it to say, “I LOVE MY FRIENDS.”  I don’t know what I would have done without them.  Maybe I’ll cover those stories in another blog post someday.  It will make you laugh and appreciate your friends as well.

My perch for the week
in Tuscany

I spent the next 7 days in our Cortona home not able to get out because I couldn’t maneuver the stairs or hills of the town.  So, Assisi, Florence and the rest of Tuscany is being saved for me on another trip.  But I had a beautiful place to recoup: a lovely balcony with a gorgeous view.  And I lived vicariously through Linda, Amy and Eddie.  As well as bringing stories home every evening they also brought me food, wine and gelato.  Oh, and a beautiful wooden cross from Assisi.

So, even though I am a klutz, God worked everything out.  I was spared hitting my head on the corner of the pillar or landing head first and being paralyzed.  When I think of those alternatives, a hurt knee isn’t so bad.  So all in all, God is good and I will be fine.  Tuscany will still be there in a few years.
During this frightening, confusing and painful experience this single gal had three other single pals to rely on.  We all need that in life.  Thanks Guys!
More highlights on Thursday…
Question:  Ever been badly hurt on a vacation and had to alter your plans a bit?

ITALY Part 1: Worship in Spirit and Truth

Vatican City

I learned many things in Rome, but nothing I gleaned compares to what Eddie realized: Roma Tomatoes come from Rome.  It was like his whole world opened up when he figured that one out.  But now I’m afraid to tell him they really don’t come from Rome.  They are grown in the United States, Mexico, Australia and Great Britain.  Well, at least it was fun to say, “We’re eating Rom-ah tomatoes in Rom-ah.”  (Eddie has this theory that if you put an “ah” or “mundo” or “mento” at the end of a word you are actually speaking Italian.)

More on this next Monday…

One of the most practical things I learned in Rome was never take a header off a 3 ½ foot pedestal and break your fall with your knee going in the opposite direction God intended.  By I’m getting ahead of myself.  That is for next Monday’s post…

My favorite memory of Rome was sitting next to a nun when we attended mass at The Vatican.  She was so moved during the whole service.  It touched me.  Nuns have always been my heroes.   All the people around us were reverently taking part: heads bowed, eyes closed, whispers echoing the liturgy. When the Eucharist was presented the nun dropped to her knees with audible sighs and groans for the Holy Spirit to interpret.

St. Peter’s Basilica

Worship the Lord in spirit and truth.  Who am I to judge what that looks like on the outside.  I grew up with an opening song, prayer, 3 more songs (verses 1, 2 and 4), sermon, invitation song, communion, announcements, closing song, prayer.  Sounds mundane but I can guarantee you I learned a lot about worship as a young girl watching my mother during those services.  I choose a more spontaneous form now, but that doesn’t make it better; just different.
I regularly find myself in conversations about worship.  Being a musician I enjoy all forms of worship music.  And since God created music I’m sure He does, too.  My prayer is that we stop trying to judge other people’s worship by how it is demonstrated outwardly; in style or posture.  It’s just not our place.

View from our balcony at sunset

The four of us had our own church services while we were there.  The first Sunday was in Tuscany.  As we sat in our big Italian kitchen, windows opened to the small, narrow, cobblestone streets of Cortona below, we wondered if the people listening around us questioned our style of worship and how, outwardly, it was so different from their own.  I hoped they enjoyed our hymns.  We did.  We had amazing 4-part harmony going!

We spent our second Sunday in the Cinque Terre.  As we sat on our back porch, this time singing more “contemporary” worship songs, the housekeeper made a trek right through our communion time to get the vacuum from the closet off of our room.  We didn’t skip a beat but laughed through the next verse or two.  I hope she was blessed.
Westminster Abbey
We had a stopover in Lodon
coming and going
So whether you’re on your knees in a solemn silence at The Vatican mass or singing “Jesus Love is a Bubblin’ Over” laughing around a campfire, I hope your thirst will be quenched, your soul satisfied and that God is honored.
Enjoy the pictures of these houses of worship. 
Question:  What does “worship in spirit and truth” mean to you?

It was the Best of Times; it was the Worst of Times: Four Single Friends Take on Italy

I just got back from travelling around Italy with 3 great friends:  Linda Voelsch, Amy Hubbard and Eddie Keener.  We laughed, we cried.  We ate, we prayed, we loved.  And then we ate some more. 
This trip was a year in the making but over in just 17 short days.  It was full of planes, trains and automobiles as well as pasta, gelato and wine.  Oh and laughter; uncontrollable, from the gut laughter.  I was full on with my “Man Laugh” as friends refer to my throw my head back and laugh from my toes laugh.
And then there was the lone testosterone amongst 3 estrogen filled beauties.  Poor Eddie.  He finally had to have a “Boy Day” in Venice.  A man can only stroll through so many Murano Glass stores before his head starts to spin. 
And when I say it was the Best and Worst of times, I am being very serious.  Not worst when you think of the grand scheme of things, but worst when you think of a dream vacation.  But missed plane connections, flat tires, getting lost and even a hospital visit couldn’t tarnish the final outcome: The blessing of being able to spend 2 ½ glorious weeks with friends in Italy!
Stay tuned over the next few weeks and I’ll give you the highlights…
Question:  What is/was your dream vacation?

Rhyme Time

I’m actually in Italy right now hopefully enjoying some gelato while gazing at a lovely Italian man.  I’ve had these blogs scheduled to post while I was away.  This is the last one before I return home late tomorrow night.
To prepare for the trip I spent lots of time practicing my Italian; and by practicing Italian I mean eating pasta and speaking with an Italian accent.  While in the shower a few days before we left I came up with a great string of words that somehow need to be hooked together in a story or song.  Here they are:
Stanley Tucci
Susan Lucci
Wearin’ Gucci
Bella Lucci
Hoochie Coochie
Scoobie Doochie
Tootie Frutchie
Have a brewsky
The movie Tootsie
Stay tuned next week for Italy pictures and highlights!!
Questions:  Can you think of any other words to add to the list?