Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tuesday at the Borghese Museum

I was going to tell you all about my morning at the Borghese Museum, but I think I will let Rick Steve's do that for me. Let's just say that if you have an extra day in Rome that it is worth the visit. The sculptures are amazing! Don't forget to book a reservation! After going to the Museum, I went over to my friend Yvette's house and had lunch. Yummy! She had a huge bowl of fruit on her table and we ate figs as we talked. Her daughters are so cute. It was a joy to hear to hear them sing tinkle tinkle little star in Italian. Afterwards, my friend took me to one of the best bakeries in Rome called G. Antonini. Yummy doesn't even describe how fantastic the pastries are at this shop, and so many choices to choose from. Next time, I would like to go there for lunch.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rome in Black and White

Piazza Navona

Circus Maximus
Bocca della Verita
Bridge of Angels

My fantastic husband!

The Coliseum at Night

On Monday, my husband had to work, so I took the hotel shuttle into the city and spent some time seeing those few spots that I hadn't been able to see on other days. My first stop was Piazza Navona. I love this square. Though if you want to take good photos don't visit it in the morning. The light is not very good. The place comes alive in the evening with street performers, artist, and all the cafes are buzzing with activity. It is something only to be found in a Hollywood movie. Then I hopped on the bus and headed toward the Circus Maximus while not much of the original site remains it is amazing to see how large of a track it is, and today th!e site is used by the city residents to run or walk their dogs. Can you imagine? If you have seen the movie Roman Holiday then you will want to visit the Mouth of Truth or Bocca della Verita located at the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. Legend has it that if you stick your hand in the mouth and tell a lie that it will be bitten off. Give it a try! By then it was lunch time, so I picked up a pannini and headed back to the hotel to change my clothes for the evenings activities. My husbands company had planned an evening at the Victor Emmanuel Monument for a dinner and orchestra performance. The performance was lovely and what made the evening perfect was the elevator that takes you to the top of the building where you have an amazing view of Rome.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Corner View "Humour and Mustaches"

Fall is slowly making it's way to the south. The last three days have been wonderful with the rain and cooler temperatures. I hit my kitchen and whipped up some homemade bread and soup for dinner on Monday. I am actually excited for fall this summer after having an amazing summer. I can't wait to bring out the sweaters and get cozy under the blankets. The other day, I found these two videos and couldn't stop laughing. One reflects my true life. I I know you all think I have an amazing life filled with endless travel, but as I told is just a perception not the reality. I am just lucky that I have a mother who can watch my children when I go away and that my husband has a job where he gets to travel. Sometimes I get to go with him. The other video is about ageing. I am not sure how I feel about it. I just turned 39. Hopefully, it is just a number. I hope you laugh as much as I did!

too see more corner views around the world vist Jane at Spain Daily.

Monday, September 27, 2010

All Roads Lead to Rome

Saint Peters Basilica from the banks of the Tiber

Castle of Angels

Frank in front of the Coliseum

Victor Emmanuel Monument

inside the Coliseum

Arch of Constantine

Looking down on the Forum from Palatine Hill

me at the Roman Forum

All Roads really do lead to Rome or so thought the people in Ancient Rome. Located in the Roman Forum which was the Roman market place between the Palatine Hill and Capitoline Hill is a column call The Phocas that stands still today. It was erected in honor of the Eastern Roman Emperor Phocas because of his generous donation of the Pantheon to the Pope. It is from this column where all distances are measured from. We hadn't planned on going into Rome together, but due to the windy conditions that day we were not able to go out on the sea on our friends boat. We headed into Rome starting off at the Castel Sant'Angelo which if you haven't been to Rome might know from the movie Angels and Demons. From this structure there are tunnels that lead to the Vatican and was used at some point to protect the Popes. On our agenda for the day was to see the Coliseum and surrounding area; however, Frank really wanted to take a general tour of the city with one of the 5 different Hop on Hop of bus companies. These tours average any where in price from 17 Euros to 24 Euros. They about all go to the same places, so I wouldn't worry to much which one you take. The only difference being in the Archeo Bus which only hits the archaeological sites. These tours are good in that you decide where you are going to get off, you get a tour via headphones given in many languages, and if you can't walk very far; especially in the heat. We got off at the Coliseum. I would highly recommend taking one of the tours offered outside of the gates. They are around 20 Euros. While a gate admission will only coat you 12 Euros you will not have a guide to explain everything to you and the lines can be very long. Going with a guide you will by pass the lines. The tours last around 45 minutes. The Coliseum is so amazing. It is hard to believe that it was built 2000 years ago. It seated about 50,000 people who would come all day for the show and food. What is also pretty cool is that when it was built it was reinforced to with stand earth quakes; however, the invading Germans stole the medal supports out of the columns to be used for weapons. The tour we took continued over to Palatine Hill. Did you know that Rome was built on 7 hills though by being in the city you hardly notice the hills today. The legend is that Rome was established by the one of the two brother Romulus and Remus who were suckled by a She Wolf. Our guide said that most likely they were raised by a prostitute, but that does not sound so glamorous, so the story was changed. Anyway, each brother had a different idea where the city should be built. Romulus won and in the end he killed his brother Remus. We saw all throughout the city statues and paintings depicting this legend. We were hot and tired, so we ended our day there and hopped back on our bus and then back to the hotel. I would recommend buying one of the little books that are sold throughout the city that show Rome before and after. My kids had a blast reading it. You wouldn't believe how beautiful some of the structures really were.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Food, Food, Food

At Gallura with Michelle and Olga
I love Food! I guess that can explain why I am not a size 0, and I don't want to be because I just love food. It came across to me that Julia Child's was no skinny mini either, but you know what she enjoyed food. Generally, when we are in Europe we get food that would be classified fast food here in the states because you walk in and you order what you want and walk away with the food. While you can find fast food like McDonald's or even Burger King in Italy, we try to stay away from these restaurants because we could have them any time of the year. In Italy our favorite is the panini. Americans think of these as grilled sandwiches, but in Italy they are just a reference to a sandwich usually filled with prosciutto, ham, tomatoes, grilled vegetables, mortadella, and some kind of cheese either a Swiss or mozzarella there a ton of varities, but they are all made up in advance. I think they taste better Caldo which is the Italian word for hot. I even tell the guy behind the counter that I want it very hot because sometimes when you ask for it hot it is just luke warm. Panini's can be found in Bar/Cafes or even in lunch trucks that are usually adjacent to many of the tourist attractions. They are a bargain at 3 to 4 euros a piece. Our next favorite is the take-away pizza where they cut off a slice and weigh it by grams., and by purchasing our pizza this way you save money by not paying the coverage charge to sit down which is usually around 2-3 euros a person. Yes, it cost you just to sit down in a restaurant; however, you are not expected to give an additional tip though much appreciated if you do. This trip we were blessed to be treated to some really wonderful dinners thanks to some friends of ours who live in Italy and because of my husbands work. I would highly recommend saving up for at least one really nice dinner if you are going to visit Italy. You will not regret it. My favorite was Gallura a restaurant located in Rome in an area called Parioli up by the Borghese Museum (Via G. Antonelli 2 Rome, 00197 Italy #39 6 807 2971). The food was amazing along with the dining area. We sat outside in the garden underneath the twinkling lights. The foods is based off a region of Sardinia called Gallura, and if you love fish you will not be disappointed. While I did not do the oyster shooters like my husband, I had a sampler of 4 different dishes for a appetizer. Oh, you should be aware in Italy that all food comes as a Ala carte item, so if you order a meat and want vegetables you will have to order that separately. Anyway, on my sampler plate I ate an octopus salad with red peppers, celery, served over a sliced boiled potato with a light vinaigrette dressing, calamari, a small fried fish served on top of a potato chip, and a fish salad made of muscadine fish and tomato vinaigrette. Our next course was a seafood lasagna made with a light cream sauce, small baby clams and broccoli. To die for! I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Our host wanted us to have a fish course, but we were approaching the very full stage and passed. We did not pass on the dessert which once again was a sampler of 4 desserts of vanilla gelato, apple cristata, blood orange semifreddo and a then a coffee semifreddo with a crunchy toffee like candy inside. Since we do not drink the owner gave us a small plate of cookies as a thank you for coming to his restaurant. My favorite was a cookie called Gueffus made of marzipan; usually, they like to give you a shot of some kind of hard liquor.
Another fantastic and a little price friendlier restaurant is C. Osteria Pizzeria located on (Via Dei Genovesi 37 00153 Rome, Italy). That evening we went to dinner with my husband's friend Ha. The food did not disappoint. We started off with the steamed muscles, clams, and shrimp. This was the best I had ever had! The dish is served in a butter broth or olive oil I am not 100 % sure, but what pushes the dish to over the top is the toasted slices of crusty bread on the side. I followed this with Saltimbocca, which is thin sliced veal wrapped with prosciutto and sage and a very light gravy. We walked off some of our dinner before getting gelato for dessert. I think I had just about every flavor in the two weeks I was there. The atmosphere is cozy and very friendly.
The last restaurant was one we ate at while in Milan called Ditirambocafe (Via Garigliano 12 Milano #026 9006955). Located not to far from the Garibadi metro station. It does not have a huge selection of food, but what they do offer was fantastic. I stated off with the tagliatelle filled with ricotta and cheese with a light sauce of pine nuts followed by the Beef Angus drizzled with a reduction of balsamic vinegar. Yes, I had dessert too! A semifreddo with crocante. The atmosphere is very modern. However, if you want to stick to eating something closer to the Duomo then you should try Primafila on (Via Ugo Foscolo n 1Milan) this is right behind the Burger King by the Galleria. While I had the Pesto Noodles, the pizza looked fantastic.
Just so you know, I still haven't dare look at the scale. I am too afraid. I am sure that I gained a few pounds, but you know what? Who cares? Life is too short, and I gave myself permission to eat. I can spend the next couple of months working it off at the gym.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


You get creative when you are traveling by yourself. I don't know about you, but I am always a little scared to ask people to take pictures of me when I am traveling. Truth be told too is that I am a little scared they might run off with my camera. Anyway, a colleague of my husbands suggested that I go to Torino for the day. I didn't realize that Torino was only an hour away from Milan by fast speed train. Torino is the place where they held the winter Olympics in 2006 also known as Turin. She told me I could find great chocolate in Torino. I kind of remember this to being true from a NBC broadcast that I had seen during the Olympics. I decided why not go since I had pretty much seen everything else in Milan. What a shame it would be to spend the day watching television in my hotel room. I dropped my husband off at work and caught the 10:15 am train to Torino. Buying the ticket was pretty simple by using the automatic ticket machines. Thankfully, they had an English option or I might have had to go to the ticket line which was about a block long. I am not sure why more people were not using these machines given how simple they are to use. Besides chocolate, I was on a mission to see the shroud of Turin. You know the shroud Jesus wore. It is probably a big hoax and not really Jesus shroud, but I wanted to see it. Since I hadn't planned on going to Torino I didn't know the name of the church where it was located, so I stopped at the Tourist office and asked for directions to the shroud. The agent told me with her Italian accent that it was impossible to see and only in April she said. My heart sunk. I asked for the name of the church anyway. I hadn't spent 31 euros to not see anything. She told me where it was located and I hopped on the bus outside the train station after purchasing a ticket in the newspaper shop. Within 10 minutes I was there. The shroud is located in the Royal Chapel of Saint John the Baptist.

Streets of Torino

The Royal Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist

It is true that you can't actually see the shroud; however, you can see the inside of the church where it is located. They have a small screen that displays a video about the shroud and at the back of the church you can see where it is contained. The church was worth the trip. Though much smaller than the Duomo of Milan it was beautiful inside and contained some beautiful art pieces. Afterwards, I walked around the city where I discovered the Farmers market just outside the old city gates. The produce looked amazing. I purchased a banana for a snack; actually, the girl gave it to me. Then I slowly made my way back via the art gallery Palazza Madama located across from the Royal Palace Palzzo Reale. This Museum house a beautiful collection of art work that is well worth the visit. I found this collection much more interesting than the Brera. On the second level you will find some lace work that is amazing and so delicate. Eventually, I found my chocolate. Caffarel chocolate is smooth and silky. It is made from a combination of chocolate and hazelnuts. Their signature piece the Gianduia 1865 is boat-like in shape, but it looks more like a mini mountain to me. It is worth shelling out some euro's to bring home. I even had the best gelato made by a company called GROM . OMG! Amazing! Can't make it to Italy. Check out for their location in New York City. Every day has to end and I had to make it back to Milan. I picked up my husband who had finished working and we finished out the day by seeing the Duomo at night. A must. The air cools and the atmosphere completely changes.

The Torino Palatine, Farmers Market, and Caesar

Inside the Royal Chapel and the Art Gallery
Goodnight Milan!
Continue following our journey through Italy.
Next Stop Rome!

Friday, September 24, 2010

From up on Top!

Around 4pm, I headed back to the hotel to pick up my husband who had been working all day. His request was to go on top of the Duomo. He loves climbing to the top of every high building in the cities we visit. He had actually been on the Duomo before, but that time I wouldn't go with him because I was too afraid of falling off. I conquered my fear this time and went with him. It was a beautiful view from the top of the Duomo. Miles of red tiled roofs, an Italian flag,busy traffic passing by, and people going places for all the eye to see. We were up in the clouds. You can even see them in the middle photo I took. The Duomo was completed in the year 1813 after close to 500 years of work . Our tour guide told us don't be disappointed if there is scaffolding on the building because she has heard some of the oldest residents of the city, who are almost a hundred years old, say there has never been a time when there hasn't been scaffolding on the the cathedral. It is the 4th largest in Europe, and the Madonna who sits on the top of the Cathedral was a gift from the Queen of Austria. She weigh (the Madonna) 9 tons and is about 4 feet tall. Do you have one particular thing that you like to do when visiting a new city ? I like to find the best restaurants. We didn't succeed that night. Out of convenience, we choose one of the cafes that line the street leading away from the Duomo. It took forever for the waitress to come over to us. She kept dropping glasses every where and our food was just mediocre.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sometimes a tour is needed.

I am not a big fan of tours especially when you see these large groups of 60 or more people being herded like cattle from one place to another. I went on a tour like this with my mother when I was 17 through in what was then East Germany, Poland, and the USSR; however, back then it was almost necessary if you wanted to see these countries. You couldn't get visa's otherwise. While we met a ton of nice people, what I didn't like was the lack of freedom. However, I am a fan of small tours; especially, in places where it might be a little dangerous to travel on ones own, or in the case of seeing the Last Supper. In 1989, when my mother and I went to Italy the Last Supper was closed for renovations. Then in 2001 my husband and I went to Milan, but were not able to get tickets. This trip I also tried to get tickets, but the website said they were booked out until November. I was disappointed. I mean how many more opportunities would I have to go see the Last Supper if any. Then by chance as I was researching what to do in Milan, I came across a tour that listed the Last Supper as one of its attractions. I immediately contacted the company to verify an opening slot and lucky for me there was availabilty. Yahoo! The tour also included a visit to the Galleria, the Duomo (though we not on top), the Scala Opera House, and Scforza Castle. It was worth the 55 euros. The trip was three hours long which would give me the free time I need in order to continue exploring things on my own terms. The Last Supper was amazing. What you don't see in the photo is the amount of depth and motion in his work. Jesus hand looked so real. It looked like you could almost touch it. One reason it is so difficult to get tickets to see the Last Supper is that they only let 25 people in every 15 minutes and are only open for limited hours each day. Afterwards, I went back to explore the art galleries of the Sforza Castle which was a total bargain for 3 euros. Unlike the Last Supper they allowed me to take photos as long as I didn't use a flash. When we went inside the Duomo they were holding a special ceremony for a new cardinal which was pretty cool!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sacred Art!

On Tuesday, I made my way to the art museum while Frank worked. Wandering the street of Brera you will find cute cafes, bakeries, art studios, and a collective mix of boutique's. The Brera art museum is a little tricky to find because if you don't know to go upstairs you might just think that the building a little run down. Statues covered in tarps line the hallway, and art studios can be seen as you walk past the open doors. It turns out that they do a lot of art restoration in this museum, and you can even watch the process up in the art gallery. As I said, you need to go upstairs where as you walk through the gift shop you will located the ticket counter. No credit cards are accepted, so make sure you have cash. I would say a good 2/3 of the art is Renaissance themed painting from the 1400's. There are a few earlier pieces and a few from the 1800's, so come prepared to see Madonna and Child and The Crucifixion of Christ themed art works. Currently, the are hosting a modern day artist which was a great way to break up the ever so many paintings from this time period. Afterwards, I took the train to the Garibaldi Metro station and walked the 4 or 5 long blocks to the National Monument Cemetery. This place is amazing. I have never seen graves decorated in such a glorious way. I know it sound kind of nuts to visit a cemetery while on vacation, but this should not be missed. I had fun making up stories in my mind in regards to the peoples lives. So sweet and loving tributes were given. It started to rain, so I headed back to the hotel to enjoy a hot warm shower, cozy bed, a hot warm prosciutto panini with a Coke Zero while watching German TV on the hotel's cable.

Address for the art museum.
Via Brera 28
Area Milan
Transport Metro Lanza or Montenapoleone/bus 61, 67/tram 1, 2, 8, 12, 14.

Piazzale Cimitero Monumentale, 2
20100 MILANO
Phone: +39 02 88465600
Fax: +39 02 653607
Opening hours
Tuesday – Sunday 8.30 – 17.30
Monday Closed

Office hours
Monday – Saturday 8.30 – 12.30
and 13.30 – 16.30

Transport from the centre
Bus: 41 – 51 – 70 – 94
Tram: 30 – 29 – 33 – 11 –
12 – 14 – 3 – 4
Subway: M2
Railway Station: F.S. Garibaldi

City Scapes Milan

The Duomo

The Gallery

Hello Leonardo!
On Monday, I spent the day in Milan getting to know the layout of the city. Of course, I had a Gelato and I did a little shopping in the Galleria even though most of the stuff was out of my price range. I had fun window shopping. The Galleria was built under the power of Vittorio Emanuele who was the King of Italy of the time. Designed in 1861, but construction did not begin until 1865 and was completed in 1877. It was the precursor to the inside shopping mall. Another reason to love Italy. Afterwards, I met Frank and his colleagues (Maximo and Christine) for an amazing dinner , but that is for another post.