Opera at Teatro Alla Scala (Theater of the Stairway..to Heaven?)

I was kind of excited to see my very first opera. Well…as excited as you can get about opera. If you have to see an opera, I guess seeing it in the Teatro alla Scala, the most famous opera house in all the world (or so I am told), is the way to go. Although, I probably wouldn’t have found a production at Bobs Old Time Opera House any more boring.The production was a collection of Giacomo Puccini: Il Tabarro (The Cloak) – Suor Angelica (Nun Angelica) – Gianni Schicchi. I actually knew one of the songs from Gianni Schicchi (Skee-Key). It is quite popular with music box makers throughout the world. I can’t Google the name of the piece at the moment since Google is only giving me results in Italian…go figure.
One thing about Opera…it doesn’t move very fast…since the actors are singing everything, it takes a mind numbing amount of time to say one line of dialogue. I knew this thanks to the state-of-the-art translators built into the back every seat. Without those, I would have thought an awful lot more was going on than what actually was. I still can’t decide if they were a blessing or a curse. I will say that the sets were really cool and quite elaborate. At least I had something entertaining to look at.

Driving in Milano…HOLY @#$%!

All I can say is HOLY @#$%! From now on whenever anyone in the states complains about how people drive, I will laugh in their face!!! I was introduced to Italian driving for the first time last year, I am not a greenhorn here, I was prepared…right? I have never been so wrong in my entire life. As we approached the city of Milano the highway became more and more crowded. Cars were zipping in and out of the thin lanes without warning at 85 Mph…typical behavior… I was calm as a cucumber. Stefano is a very safe and observant driver…I always feel safe when he’s driving…well I used to. When we left the relative safety of the highway and started down the city streets, that’s when the fun REALLY began. Cars the size of gnats were zipping everywhere. In Italy everyone has the right of way simultaneously. Two lane roads spontaneously became three, stop signs were merely a street decoration and parking spaces miraculously appeared and disappeared without warning.

The rules of the road: If no one hits you…you obviously have the right of way…FLOOR IT!!! Never back down, never surrender! He who hesitates does 37 laps in the traffic circle.

There were motorcycles, mopeds and obviously mentally unstable people on bicycles playing chicken in traffic and yelling at you if had the audacity not to see them in your blind spot. I could swear I saw the grim reeper grinning from the back seat several times.

By the time we got to the restaurant my stomach was in knots, my blood pressure was so high my eyeballs were bulging and I don’t think I have ever wanted to guzzle a bottle of vodka so bad in my life. When I complained about the driving conditions to our dinner companions they laughed and shrugged and said “This is nothing…you should drive in Rome.” We are planning a trip to Rome next year and the only mode of public transportation I plan on taking is the train…or perhaps a donkey…but you are NOT getting me in a car!

Well tomorrow we are off to Venice for my big glass adventure! I’m very excited and I can’t wait to blog all about it!

The leaning tower of where?

The world famous, super spectacular leaning tower of Pisa was just a short drive south from 5 Terre so we figured we would drive down to see the tower and have lunch on our way home. The weather was not on our side, it was raining and cold, which I think set the mood for the day. When we arrived in Pisa the GPS was confused and did not have the exact location of the tower…The Leaning Tower of Pisa! So we had to rely on the street signs of Pisa to guide us to our destination. You would think that one of the most famous landmarks on the planet would have some pretty clear signs pointing to it…if you thought that, like I did, you would be wrong. There are huge white signs every two feet pointing you to this hotel or that hotel. Then every 3 blocks there was a tiny brown sign that pointed the way to Piazza del Miracoli (Miracle Square) it didn’t even say Leaning Tower of Pisa. So needless to say we drove around for a little while. While “driving around for a little while” is a nuisance in the states its downright life threatening in Italy. After about 45 minutes of near death experiences we grabbed the first parking space we saw and resigned ourselves to walking. All I can say is that the city planners of Pisa where smoking something! BUT we finally found it! The most famous tower on the planet. I must say, I was not impressed. Besides being cold and wet from walking in the rain for an hour there were Americans everywhere…I felt like I was back home. The beautiful square was lined with shady vendors selling every possible cheesy souvenir you can think of, and everyone and there brother was doing the “Look I’m holding up the tower” pose…

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All joking aside it really was quite cool to see the tower with my own eyes and snap a few pictures. I must say though that when it comes to Italy I prefer the “road less traveled by” I like the small towns and the little shops. I like the “real” Italy, not the cheesy tourist version. Maybe I’m spoiled…yes I’m sure of it.

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Gelato by the sea!

Our afternoon in Cinque Terre was just amazing! We took the train to the farthest town of Riomaggiore and began our hike back!

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The trail started with Lovers Lane, a winding trail right along the edge of the shore cliffs with breathtaking scenery.

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One story says that if you had grown tired of your lover you could simply push he/she off the trail to the rocks below. I made Stefano walk in front just in case;) Well, that’s just one story…mostly we saw lovers names scratched into just about everything that would stand still. Even the Agave and prickly pear cactus bore signs of everlasting love.

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The trail was truly spectacular. After about an hour of hiking and photographing we made it into the town of Manarola. Very cute, quaint little town…we didn’t spend to much time there, we wanted to keep moving and enjoying the rocky coast of the Mediterranean sea.

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Weeeeellll…while the first leg of the hike was easy and relatively flat, the second leg was anything but. The terrain got A LOT steeper and the path was reduced to mere rubble in some places. Good thing we had picked up our souvenir walking sticks at the welcome center. With a little teamwork we managed to keep from tumbling off the cliffs and eventually we made it into Corniglia (Cornelia) well, the back side of Corniglia. When we saw that in order to get into the town you basically had to climb the stairway to heaven, we decided to skip Corniglia and take the train directly to Vernazza!

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Ok so we took the lazy way, but I’m a realist, there was no way my severely out-of-shape bod was going to make it up those stairs and I didn’t want to spend this beautiful afternoon being airlifted off the side of a mountain!

We eventually made it to the last town, Monterosso, where we had Gelato by the sea. We both agreed that it was a most amazing day!

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Good Morning from 5 Terre

Good Morning from Cinque Terre. (Well kind of. Internet access was sketchy at best so I am loading all these from good ol’ Cuggiono) Yesterday we spent the afternoon and evening exploring the town of Levanto [Lay-ven-toe] . It is really a beautiful seaside town. There is a really cool church that is made from white and black marble (its really dark green) there is also an old castle. For dinner we ate at the Osteria Tumelin (very expensive and mostly fish) Stefano was in Heaven and I was still hungry…

Today we are off to explore the five towns of Cinque Terre. There will be lots of walking and hiking…wish me luck and come back tomorrow for some more awesome photos!

Here are some pictures from the town of Levanto

They had REALLY nice public restrooms

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Fascinating Wildlife

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And beautiful fountains (Drinking Fountains that is)

 

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Journey to Cinque Terre

Ok, I think I am caught up now! This morning we left Cuggiono and headed for Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre (Five Lands) is on the northwest coast of Italy and is comprised of five small towns that you can hike between and enjoy some amazing scenery. Below is a picture of the view from our hotel, La Giada del Mesco (The Jade of Mesco) . Tonight we are going to have dinner in the town of Levanto and do some picture taking at sunset off the coast. Tomorrow we are going to head for the southern most town in Cinque Terre and work our way back to the hotel! I should have some great pictures!

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An Evening in Lainate

OK, I’m a little behind on my blogging so I am going to backtrack a little bit. Yesterday afternoon we went to Lainate ([lay-nah-tay] a suburb Milano) to visit with Stefano’s very best friends. They made lasagna, and OMG I will never eat American lasagna again. It was spectacular! The noodles were very thin and layered with a white béchamel sauce and thin meat and tomato mixture. (Sorry I didn’t take a picture) Then we had roasted turkey with potatoes, various cheeses, a Sicilian ice cream cake and chopped strawberries in a sweet sauce. OMG I almost burst! After dinner we went for a waddle to a park near the house. Here are some pictures form the park.

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The castle in Milano park.

Virgin Fountain

The Virgin Fountain – They used to sacrifice virgins here…or so they say, I wasn’t worried.

Cool Cloud

A cool cloud we saw on the way home from Milano. Stefano was convinced it was a funnel cloud and that we were seeing the first ever tornado in northern Italy.

Easter Sunday in Cuggiono!

I have decided to try out this blog thing while I am in Italy. My goal is to post pictures and information about my travels over the next two weeks. Eventually I will probably have some posts related to glass, but for now its about me in Italy! Which really means its about FOOD!

Since we have been here a couple of days and I am just getting this blog off the ground I am going to show several photos in this post.

The first photo is me drinking champagne in first class! First class was AWESOME I never want fly in the back of the bus again. We had real china plates and everything! The seats folded out flat into beds…it was glorious!

Champagne in First Class

This is a picture of the greatest cheese in the universe…Burrata! It looks like a white heart when you take it out of the package, then, when you cut into it, it bleeds sweet white cream and mozzarella cheese curds. It’s so delicious. (Stefano has told everyone that I like it, and I have eaten three so far. Goodbye bathroom, hello heart attack.)

Burrata

This next picture is Easter Dinner, the FIRST course! There is salami, prosciutto, deviled eggs (Italian style), Russian salad, spinach pie (can’t remember the Italian name) lots of fresh bread and herb cream cheese. All this was followed by kid goat (yes baby goat, which I was a little nervous about) it was actually quite tasty! Easter Dinner

There is a small table by the wall at the top of the picture. On it sits a very special cheese cake that you can only get at easter and only from this one lady in town. It’s cheesecake made with Ricotta cheese and puffed wheat. It was amazing trust me!

Well thats about it for Easter Sunday. I did go to my first Italian Catholic Easter mass…that was interesting. Not to slam Italian Easter mass, to its credit its no more or less boring than US Easter mass. But the scenery was much nicer.

Ciao!