Thursday Doors September 21: Summer Wanes…

We headed to the weekly grower’s market again this past weekend, having been really fortunate with great weather during this changing of the seasons. And once again, taking it on foot as opposed to tooling around in my car makes it alllllll a new adventure.

I open with, of all things, a gelateria! Yes, Manja Mexi Movie, it’s here in my (almost) back yard waiting for you! Though I’ve not tried it, I’m told the owner is from Italy and knows his gelato! I’ll keep you posted if it’s legit 🙂

For this week’s doors challenge.

As we ended at the market, I photographed the yummy local fruits and veggies that I bought (but no, not the dogs!)

 

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Thursday Doors September 14: In and Out

Dinner in the city, same doors, coming and going.

And, it was a pretty decent BBQ.

For our lovely filling-in-for-Norm’s Thursday Doors host Manja challenge. Confused? Click on the link, it will make more sense 🙂

 

And one more, next door. The yellow can’t be beat…

 

Gems of Italy: Swoon-worthy Cinque Terre, +1

When I first discovered we wouldn’t be staying in any of the five dreamy villages of the Italian Riveria region the Cinque Terre, I was a little disappointed. Levanto, a town just north of the “fifth” town, Monterosso al-Mare, isn’t technically part of the Cinque Terre. But, as our trip had gone, and how Italy had not disappointed even one iota, Levanto – I quickly discovered – was the place to stay while visiting this ever growing tourist attracting Italian coast.

Between lazily swimming in the Ligurian Sea, hiking the cliffside trail between Vernazza and Corneglia, and gazing upon cliffs of grapevines and olive trees – oh, and eating the out of this world local seafood/food – our two days in the Cinque Terre and Levanto were utterly magnificent.

As a side note, it’s incredibly difficult to discern which photos to post, as I took so many throughout Italy. Cinque Terre was no exception to this dilemna!

Our first stop, the northern-most of the 5 villages, Monterosso al Mare.

Monterosso al Mare

 

Monterosso al Mare


North of Monterosso al Mare was our town of Levanto. We arrived late in the afternoon, and for dinner had one of the best meals there, a delightful Tuscan feast of local seafoods (and rabbit, and pesto that the chef made for us as a demonstration beforehand!)

 

Fresh mussels, anchovies, calamari, crab, bruschetta, pasta with pesto, risotto with porcini mushrooms. Profiteroles and limoncello. A very memorable meal.


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Levanto

 

Morning in Levanto
We were up very early the next morning to get the train to hike the trail from Vernazza to Corniglia. The train here runs thru tunnels to connect the 5 towns, and beyond, and was built in the late 1800’s – fascinating when you see the engineering feet required to do so!

 

A few pretty pictures in Vernazza while walking to the trail head entrance (above).


In about 2.5 miles, and ~60 flights of stairs later, we would be in Corniglia – just in time for breakfast and more beautiful views!

Leaving early gave us the narrow trail mostly to ourselves. We were told it can get quite busy, and my hike mates Paulette and Charlie were early birds like me; we made for pretty decent hiking partners 🙂

 

Looking back at Vernazza as we ascend the beginning of the trail. Stunning!


 

Some highlights from our hike (above).


 

The olive tree nets (sprawled out when harvested) sure looked like hammocks to me!


 

Corniglia in sight! Fortunately it was mostly downhill from here 🙂

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A well deserved breakfast in a little village in Italy. Who could ask for more? And the coffee – every cup, everywhere, was wonderful (my usual, cappuccino). Also, I discovered Spremuta d’arancia – wonderful fresh-squeezed orange juice. That too became a ritual for me in Italy!

Lovely Corniglia
Heading down to the train (about 1/2 way there), which we took back to Levanto. I believe for those coming up, it’s about 33 flights of stairs 🙂  We’d already paid our dues on the other end!
Back in Levanto, enjoying a lovely evening by the Mediterranean Sea.

Exploring the fringe of Rome with new friends

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Emily, Me, Manja and Marco (Shawn behind the camera). Can you tell we loved our gelato? Marco is the only one taking his time 🙂

Who’d have thought we’d get the royal treatment from two people we’d never met in person? And yet, here were Manja and Marco (now our good friends, I should add) spending a delightful day by driving us all around to some off the beaten path, and amazing, sites in Rome.

First up was the Protestant, or Non-Catholic, cemetery (“Cimitero Acattolico”)…

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The “Angel of Grief” is an 1894 sculpture by William Wetmore Story which serves as the grave stone of the artist and his wife.
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John Keats is one of the more well-known people buried here, though his tombstone, paired with this nearby plaque, is a riddle that requires both to identify him.
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Very lush with trees, shrubs, flowers; tiered with eclectic nooks and crannies all around the grave sites.

 

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The cemetery is also a cat sanctuary.

After the cemetery, Marco using his mad Rome driving skills, we headed for Gianicolo Hill, as every day at noon a cannon fires. We didn’t make it in time, so instead went to Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls. The 25 or so churches we saw were phenomenal – there are more than 900 in Rome alone!

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Girls with cameras rock!
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Entering St Paul’s thru a gorgeous, massive marble columned walkway.
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The Basilica, built around the 4th century AD (finished ~1800)
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Small font – most baptismal fonts we saw were large and elaborate.
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Beautiful art and architecture.
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Basilica selfies 😉

I almost forgot – the most important highlight of the day (and every day): FOOD!

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We ate at a yummy Sicilian restaurant (serious dining here, can’t you tell), Marco’s work lunch digs!
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And conveniently, where we ate lunch was a pasticceria too (pastry shop!)
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Macchiato.  I broke the golden rule of having milk in my coffee in the afternoon. It’s all about digestion in Italy (espresso/alcohol after a meal)  Aside from a cappuccino or the like at breakfast, it’s espresso or bust after that! Also, there is a very clear reason why Starbucks doesn’t exist in Italy.  I’ll speak more about Italian coffee in a future post, as it clearly deserves its own accolades!
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Granita for Emily and me – Shawn – fancy iced coffee I think!
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Chillin’ with the best world travelers one could find.
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We ate gelato. Oh, did we eat gelato. But walking 7-10 miles a day warranted it!
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We finished a long and awesome day with pizza. It was delish!

 

Enter Roma, stage left…


After a long overnight flight – friends Shawn and Emily flying in from San Francisco and meeting me at Philadelphia International airport – we arrived at our hotel by lunchtime, and once settled, staved off our jet lag by venturing out into our Rome neighborhood of Vatican City.

Day 1: Fresh air, food, exploring a bit, and making it to bedtime!

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Near our hotel, steps leading up to the Vatican museum / Vatican city.
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Vatican Museum entrance
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View from our hotel roof terrace
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Lunch. After discovering the recommended restaurant was closed, we had a young priest approach us at a traffic crossing asking if we needed any help. He recommended AngryPig (where he was soon headed with his visiting cousin), known for their porcetta. I won’t lie, we all had a tough time with the fattiness of the sandwich, but it was still very delicious.
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First try – tiramisu at a street cafe. It was quite nice. The first of many we tried!
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Restaurant Spaghetti.
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Homemade pasta for dinner – everywhere we ate, it was wonderful.
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Ahhhh – bed! We stayed at the Hotel Museum, the wall of the Vatican just nearby.
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Rooftop terrace, and breakfast! We LOVED our breakfasts – but then, needed every one of them for the many miles we walked (and stairs we climbed) each and every day 🙂