Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Hello Everyone!

My apologies for getting a measly one blog post done in the past six weeks. It has been impossible to find the time to write posts. However, posting to Facebook once a day has proved much easier. Thus, I am suspending this blog and moving to (almost) daily, brief posts on Facebook when we are in Italy. If you are a FB friend or have a FB account you should be able to see our activities there.

If you have questions about this blog you can send me a message at sportellils@gmail.com

I have enjoyed creating this blog and love the record it forms of our time in Italy. All good things must come to an end!


Sunday, April 17, 2016

 Hello from Italy! We are back and having a wonderful time.

It's been so long since I did a blog post that I forgot how to upload the photos so they display in the correct order. Thus, you get the last week in reverse.

Yesterday afternoon I met our friend Mary C. for a marcia podistica in the Ponte a Moriano area. It was a lovely 6 kilometer walk through the area of the classic villas. We got all caught up on current doings (email or phone calls are just not the same) and saw a few new sights.

One of the snack stops was inside the courtyard of a gorgeous villa. This small chapel was nearby and the mother was watching her two girls run in circles on the grass. What I wouldn't give for that kind of energy.

 This is a view of the walkers having their snacks.

 Opposite the ristoro table was this lovely fountain, unfortunately dry.

 The sun came and went while we walked. It was really hot and muggy, much to our surprise.

 This is the front of the villa where we had the ristoro.

Earlier yesterday Dom and I went to a mostra scambio in Pescia. These automotive swap meets are always interesting especially when Dom has a "commission" from one of his classic car owning friends.

 Of everything there yesterday this fascinated me the most. How did this American style RV get to Italy? The show took place inside the Pescia fresh flower market.

 Restored or replica US Army vehicles are almost always present at a mostra scambio.

 As always, I find some of the "add-ons" the most fascinating part of the classic cars. Here is an early sun roof!

 This was quite the vehicle! However, there was not identifying marque on it. Anyone know what it is?

 This is a 1929 Austin Seven. The sign says "rara"!

 Lots of Alfas, of course!

 I believe this is a Fiat. It's about 50% of the size of a VW van.

On Friday we had some errands to run. Afterwards we walked into central Lucca and visited my favorite gelateria - Il Pinguino.

 Il Pinguino!

The weather has been really good--like July in Seattle! This is a view to the south from our bedroom. Unfortunately the camera focuses on the closest thing which happens to be the window screen.

On Thursday we had been to Viareggio.

There weren't as many large yachts being worked on but it might be early in the season for that. This one caught Dom's eye.

 We returned to a restaurant we discovered last spring. Big Bamboo has fabulous food! We sat on the upper floor deck that you can see to the right of the sign.

 It was market day in Viareggio so we strolled the stalls but also perused the shop windows.

 Italians do shop windows very well. This picture doesn't do the display justice. It is glass "plates" screwed to the backing like drawer pulls. The purses are then hung from the knobs. I loved all the red.

 Earlier in the week we had made a foray to Leroy Merlin (like Home Depot) to look at toilet parts. We took a few pictures of the back of the toilet tank box for reference.

Upon our arrival last Sunday evening we made our way to our local pizzeria for dinner. We are returning again tonight but I think we will enjoy it more minus the jet lag!

 My current favorite is salame piccante (aka pepperoni in the US) with arugula on top. Yum!

This was the lovely weather that greeted us last Sunday evening when we arrived. A week later it is just clearing off and will look just the same in 30-60 minutes!

Not sure what we will be doing this coming week. I need to keep up with work but we will take a few excursions as well.

A presto!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Quick Visit to Milano

On Friday morning we went from Monza to Milano Storico for a quick visit. 

Not having a GPS made for an adventurous drive. We meandered our way into the center of the city using a REALLY old map, vague memories, and a few street signs. Eventually, we thought we were close enough so we parked and made our way on foot the rest of the way. 

Our route took us through some of the prime Milano shopping areas. The Italian window displays are always great but in Milan it is a high art. Sometimes the simplicity of the products makes the window but other times the clothes, etc. are upstaged by the setting.

This is a Dolce & Gabbana window. I was fascinated by the way they did the tile. They actually spaced it quite far apart and filled everything with grout.

I am not sure how practical it would be but I thought it looked great.
Our route took us through the Galleria, one of the modern era's first shopping malls. It is filled with pricy stores, cafes, and people.

We meandered our way to the Duomo along with all the other tourists. You now have to pay to go in (Euro 2).

It had been so long since we had visited the Duomo that we could not remember what the inside looks like. At first blush it is rather plane but the sculpture is delightful.

It also has beautiful stained glass windows. For some reason it was impossible to get a good photo of the pictures on the windows. However, they add rainbow light to the interior. The floor is also beautiful tile work. We were glad we paid our money to see the inside.

I fell in love with these shoes and handbag! The photo doesn't show that they seem to be brushed with gold fairy dust.
As I've said before, I need to go back with more money! :-)

We found a spot for a quick lunch on our way to the car. By 1:50 we were heading back to Capannori. Surprisingly, it only took us 2 hours and 40 minutes to get back. That was after a forty minute drive to find the Tangenziale (the Milano ring road). Again, with no GPS it probably took us twice the time it should have.

It was fun to see Milan again. Now I am ready to plan another visit!

Expo 2015

Thursday, from our night near Pavia, we drove north to Expo 2015 on the outskirts of Milan.

The first thing of note we say was these really interesting power poles. Everywhere you look in the Milan area there is interesting architecture and design. 

We prepurchased tickets and parking online and arrived right at the opening at 10 am. It was rather quiet at first. This is a view from the top of the US pavilion. However, I soon figured out this is just a fraction of the site.

The USA pavilion was supposed to be one of the most popular. However, we found it rather boring. I did like these aerial gardens.

Here is another shot of the "hanging" gardens. It's possible more was going on later in the day.

Everywhere you looked there were interesting shaped and decorated pavilions. The one in back is Germany and the one to the left is Ecuador.

This is the center promenade. It was practically deserted when we first arrived. In spite of the day's heat it always seemed cool underneath these panels. I think they were pumping in cool air but Dom thinks they were shaped to increase the breeze.

This might be the Peruvian pavilion. Dom says they used the box it came in. Those external supports are all wood!

This is Israel's pavilion with plants growing on the exterior walls. There was a lot of this. The theme of the Expo is food and feeding the planet. However, there were no free tastings.

This is the Holy See (Vatican) pavilion. It had a very moving multimedia show inside about Catholic relief services all over the world.

Banca Intesa San Paolo had a great pavilion showcasing all sorts of public works projects, theater, arts, and other projects they support throughout Italy. There were a number of "creatures" depicted in spotlights from the ceiling. To make the videos play you put your hand into the beam and raised it. When you did it it looked like you were holding the creature.

We did not go into very many pavilions but we did wait in line for the Kazakhstan one. It proved to be the best we saw. Extremely well done and everything worked. This sand painting video at the beginning told the history of Kazakhstan.

Upstairs in the pavilion they highlighted their wheat and apple production. They are among the largest producers of each in the world. It was like being transported suddenly to Eastern Washington! They also had a great moving 3-D exploration of the country. It's beautiful! They are hosting the next Expo in 2017.

There are all sorts of interesting sculptures around the site.

And interesting buildings!

And the Tree of Life where there is some sort of show (but we didn't hang around for it).

We ate at the Algerian pavilion where they had a great buffet plus cous cous. We had one of each and shared. Just the leftover shown here.

Not a great picture but this was the Algerian restaurant.

Then we went by the New Holland farm equipment exhibit. 

They had a grape harvester, grain harvester, and giant tractor on display.

You could of course climb into the cab. It seems to be a popular activity with boys and men. Dom waited his turn to explore the cab of the giant tractor.

Then we went to the France exhibit where you zigzagged through gardens of all types of grain, fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

It was a very good looking pavilion. Inside they had all sorts of food available. I bought six yummy macarons!

By the time we finished France we were getting pretty tuckered out and it was about 3 pm. We decided to finish walking the length of the site and then take the shuttle back to our car. Along the way we saw more interesting pavilions.

I think this is South Korea.

This is Vietnam.

This pavilion was entered by walking on cargo nets strung between the two sides of the building. I would have loved to see what that felt like but the line was quite long.

Angola's pavilion.

Finally we reached the end and a classic car...

...a Ferrari Formula 1 car, o course.
That was it for the day. We took our exhausted selves back to the car and then drove to Monza. All we did there was find a hotel and spend the night.

We really enjoyed our visit to Expo 2015 and think it's well worth a day, maybe even two if you really want to see a lot of the pavilions. It is very well done. There were plenty of restrooms, cash machines, and other services. Our favorite stop for food was the Lavazza bar--great coffee and pastry. There is LOTS of food but none of it is free. Buy tickets and parking online beforehand. Wear comfy shoes and have fun!