Tag Archives: Italy

Five Reasons Not to Fear a Power Pressure Cooker

28 Jan

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

I'm a winner

Five Reasons Not to Fear a Power Pressure Cooker

Did you know there is an overwhelming about of articles and blog post on how to generate more traffic, thus more readers to a blog? Many have the same advice- give readers a reason to read your blog. They suggest a blog post have titles like 5 Easy Ways too…… or 3 Simple Hacks….

I suppose it is good advice since, I tend to be tempted into reading how to posts. I decided to attempt to follow this model, but for the life of me, I couldn’t think of anyway to turn my rambling words into bullet points. I cast my eyes over the house, surely there is something here I can write a few bullet points about. Inspiration escaped me until I saw my favorite Christmas gift, a Power Pressure Cooker XL. I love this pot!

I grew up using a pressure cooker and I am completely comfortable with them but most of my friends think they are scary. I currently own three pressure cookers, a large one and a standard sized one at our home in North Carolina  and a standard one we have at our daughter’s house in Florida. ( I cook her meals during the winter to earn my keep.)

So why would I need another pressure cooker? Because this one is cool! No really, it is cool. The steam remains in the cooker. In Florida, keeping the house cool with minimal A/C use is important to one in my “time of life. Meals that usually require using the oven, I can pop into the Power Pressure Cooker, no heat and cooks fast too.

See, it doesn’t look scary at all!

So here we go, my five reasons to not fear a power pressure cooker!

  • No more scary sounds- Have you been traumatized by the hiss and jiggle of traditional pressure cookers? Fear no more. The new electric power pressure cooker is pleasantly silent except for  an occasional bump as the pot builds  pressure.
  • It’s a rice cooker– Yes, it cooks rice.  It has a rice setting with 3 sub settings for White Rice, Brown Rice, and Wild Rice. These individual sub settings are program specify for each rice with time and pressure.
  • It’s a slow cooker– Have you ever wished your slow cooker had a delayed timer? Well this one does! Of course it turns off automatically once the cooking time has ended, then it goes into stay warm mode.
  • Set it and forget it-If you have used a pressure cooker in the past, you know that you have to keep an eye on the cooker until it begins to jiggle, then adjust the heat to make sure it jiggles at the correct frequency. ( Ok, explaining jiggle frequency is just too weird.)
  • Great meals- A power pressure cooker is 70% faster than oven or stove top methods. The literature claims more nutrients are retained in the food, due to the shorter cooking time. I don’t measure nutrition so I can’t back this claim up but I can tell you, everything I have cooked in mine tastes great!

Our daughter Rebekah, loves Italy and after reading  Under The Tuscan Sun-At Home in Italy she bought The Tuscan Sun Cookbook-Recipes from Our Italian Kitchen by Edward and Frances Mayes. Last night I made a recipe from the book and adapted it for the Power Cooker. On a funny note,when I went online in hopes of locating the recipe so I could copy/paste, I found it on the AARP website! I am sharing it and making notes on how I modified the recipe.

Chicken With Artichokes, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Chickpeas

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 chicken breasts, halved, skin on ( I used 4 chicken thighs, skin on. I think chicken breasts are very unforgiving.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup red wine
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas ( I used one can of chickpeas, drained)
  • 2 14-ounce cans water-packed artichoke hearts, drained ( I used quartered ones, canned of course)
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, slivered, or 1 cup sliced oven-roasted tomatoes (I soaked these in the ½ cup of wine for 30 minutes)
  • ¼ cup fresh thyme or fresh marjoram leaves or 2 tablespoons dried
  • ½ cup black or green olives, pitted

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Nope, no heating the oven for me!

Over medium-low heat, in a large, enameled ovenproof pot with a lid, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Sauté the onion, and after about 3 minutes, remove it to a medium bowl.

I  pressed the chicken meat button, added 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sautéd the onions for two minutes.

Season the chicken breasts with the salt and pepper. Add the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil to the pot, raise the heat to medium-high, and brown the chicken for 3 minutes per side. Add the wine, bring it quickly to a boil and then turn the heat off immediately.

I didn’t change the settings, just put the meat in and browned it for about 4 minutes. Since I had soaked the tomatoes in the wine, I strained the tomatoes and put the wine in the pot to bring to a boil. Once it boiled, I lifted the inner pot out of the cooker and set it aside.

Combine the onion with the parsley, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, thyme and olives. Spread the combined vegetables over the chicken, and bake, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces, turning the chicken once. Serve right from the pot or transfer to a platter.

No baking for me! Once all the ingredients were together, I put the inner pot back in the cooker, changed the setting to soup/stew and left it alone.(I chose that setting since the meal seemed liked a stew. Once it pressurized, the cooking time was 6 minutes.

Another nice thing about this pot is that once cooking  completed, it remained in the warm cycle while I put the finishing touches to the rest of the meal

And it was wonderful!! This is the photo as shown in the book.

 

Thank You AARP for posting recipes from the cookbook. Click this  link to view this recipe as well as as others.

My daughter found a great deal on my Power Pressure Cooker XL at Kohl’s. It was on sale plus 30% off and she used Kohl’s Cash. It is also on Amazon and comes in 6, 8 and 10 quart size. Mine is a 6 quart and a good size for a small family.

Now that I have followed blogging advice, I simply need to sit back and watch our reader numbers soar…..right?

I would like to hear your pressure cooker stories. What is your favorite food to cook in one? Or share your fears and scary stories.

 

 

 

You Can’t Outgive God~Part 3

19 Aug

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

Bill Red Spot Plane

 

DiVoran remembers that when it was time for lunch that day, we went upstairs to a fancy Trattoria. After we were seated, Erika discerned a small spot on the white tablecloth. When the waiter came to take our orders, she insisted, in rapid Italian and much hand waving, that the waiter immediately change the tablecloth for her American friends. DiVoran and I really felt sorry for that poor waiter but, the way Erika brow beat him, it was all we could do to keep from laughing out loud.

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On the train back to Venice, we joked and laughed so hard, about all of our experiences of the day that the four hour trip passed like one. We were each given a small package of cookies as a snack and, later, when DiVoran said she wished she had more, a young man who had been listening and enjoying our jokes, tossed his package of cookies onto her small table as he walked past to get off at his stop. That brought on another round of giggles.

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That day’s experiences will give you just a small idea of how many of our wonderful Italian vacation days went for us. Some were better than others, but they were all marvelous and we treasure the memory of each one of them. We really hated to leave when our vacation time was up, but all good things can’t last forever. We also learned that Marcia was instrumental in helping Erika’s father Lorenzo get a job with DCL as translator and Italian coordinator with the shipyard workers. She really had her hand on the pulse of that DCL office.

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So, when construction on the “Wonder” was finished Marcia and Erika, along with Lorenzo and his wife Ornella, were among the Disney team members who worked their way across the Atlantic, on the ship making it ready for its first Disney cruise from Port Canaveral, FL. DCL had made some special arrangements for their two cruise ships to arrive at Port Canaveral at the same time for PR purposes. The “Wonder” was arriving from Italy, and the “Magic” was returning from a regularly scheduled cruise. Our whole family went to the port to see the two ships arrive and it was quite a sight. There were news helicopters everywhere, “Welcome“ signs towed by airplanes, daylight fireworks fired off from the two ships, and “Mickey” hands for all of us to wave at each other with. It was a typical Disney gala event.

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DiVoran and I invited Marcia, Erika, Lorenzo and Ornella to a birthday dinner for my sister Judy, where they were able to meet our entire family. Judy and her husband Fred, our daughter Charlene and her husband Ron, our son Billy and his wife Lisa, and their two children Jacob and Lacey all crowded around the dinner table, getting acquainted while we ate. It was Lorenzo and Ornella’s first trip to America and they were interested in everything they saw and heard.

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We all had a great time and Erika invited DiVoran and me to be her guests on the first training cruise to the Bahamas on the “Wonder.” You can imagine our surprise! Neither of us had ever been on a pleasure cruise of any kind, so this was too wonderful for us to believe. And let me tell you, it was every bit as WONDERFUL as you might imagine!

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As you can see, that original gesture of love and acceptance DiVoran showed Marcia way back in 1987, began a friendship that has lasted many years. And, for us, has been returned many times over and in many different ways over in the years since then. Our God is so good about keeping His promises to us when we listen and follow His instructions and directions.

 

Luke 6:38

 

—–The End—–

 

You Can’t Outgive God~Part 2

12 Aug

A Slice of Life

 Bill Lites

Bill Cross Plane

 One of the people Marcia made friends with during her time in Italy was Erika, a 26-year-old single Italian office worker who had agreed to be Marcia’s Italian teacher. When construction on the “Magic” was finished, Marcia and Erika were among the DCL Team members who worked their way across the Atlantic on the ship making it ready for its first Disney cruise from Port Canaveral, FL. Upon completion of that “Shakedown Cruise,” Erika went back to Italy and Marcia went back to work with WDI here in Florida. DiVoran and Marcia reconnected and it wasn’t long before she asked us to join her, as her guest, for another “Employee Day” at Disney World’s Epcot Center. It was a wonderful day, and we loved every minute of it

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When the DCL crew was assembled in 1998 to support the building of the second DCL ship “Wonder” in Italy, Marcia was part of that group from the start. About six months after she got to Italy and settled in, she invited us to come to Italy for a visit and to stay with her for part of our trip. In February of 1999 DiVoran and I took our “Italian Vacation Trip of a Lifetime.” Most days were hazy (with some heavy fog) and very cold (30F – 40F) but we just bundled up and enjoyed the adventure.

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Marcia introduced us to Erika and many of her other Italian friends, who received us into their circle as if we were family. “Any friend of Marcia is a friend of ours.” We stayed with Marcia in her apartment in the small town of Mogliano Veneto and she and Erika were our very own personal traveling companions, tour guides, and interpreters, which made our visit to Italy the best and most wonderfully memorable trip it could have been. One of the funniest things was the day (early in our stay) when Erika confided in us, out of Marcia’s hearing, that it was her opinion that Marcia really had limited language skills and she would appreciate it if we didn’t tell anyone that she was Marcia’s Italian teacher. We kept her secret. Our special tour guides showed us all the beautiful and interesting sites as we visited places like Venice, Padua, Verona, Bologna, Florence, Murano, Burano and the beautiful little mountain village of Asolo.

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Just to give you an idea of how many of our days went, I remember it was cold and foggy the morning the four of us hurried to Venice to catch the train to Florence. There were so many wonderful things to see, that upon arrival in Florence, Erika and DiVoran took off one way and Marcia and I went another. There is not time enough to tell you about the beauty of that city and the vast historic art treasures housed in their museums and cathedrals.

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But…as the story goes, sometime during their stroll around that beautiful city of Florence and its marvelous museums, DiVoran told Erika she would like a warmer pair of gloves, to wear over the thin leather ones she had. So, Erika took her into a glove shop and asked to see gloves.

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The very proper clerk behind the counter showed them several styles and colors. DiVoran picked a pair she thought she would like, and the clerk propped her elbow on a wooden stand made for that purpose. He carefully smoothed one beautiful bright red glove and then the other on her hands, and buttoned the small round buttons at her wrists. DiVoran liked them so much that she asked Erika to help her use her credit card to pay for them. DiVoran has always loved those gloves, but to this day I don’t think she has ever asked anyone how much they cost.

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   —–To Be Continued—–

Tumbling Angels and The Leaning Tower

23 Mar

SUNDAY MEMORIES

 Judy Wills

                                                     

Judy Wills

 

I essentially grew up in one town.  Okay, I was born in Dallas, Texas, but we moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico when I was nearly four years old, so….  From that standpoint, my Mother was rather surprised that I “adjusted” so well to a military life.  Of course, that wasn’t what Fred and I had planned when we met and married, but God had other plans that were infinitely better than ours.  Fred did promise me that we would “see the world” when he proposed to me.  Little did we know how that would transpire.

But I have to say that I really enjoyed military life.  Except for my brother being in the U.S. Navy for a while, I really wasn’t exposed to military life until I met Fred – or more specifically, his family.

So it came as a bit of a surprise when he joined the Air Force.  They sent us to California, then to Germany – something beyond my wildest dreams.   I really loved being in both of those places.  I still have a fondness for California, but don’t think I would like to live there now.  But Germany………..WOW!  We enjoyed it so much that Fred requested – and was granted – a second tour there.

While we had many adventures in Germany, one of the last things we did was to take in the Oberammergau Passion Play.  Magnificent!  From there, we drove down to Italy.  We went to Venice:

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St. Marks Square (Piazza San Marco) with
St .Mark’s Campanile

We went to Florence

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St. Mary’s Cathedral

We went to Trieste where Fred’s family lived following World War 2.

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Miramare Castle in Trieste

He showed me the building where they had lived.

via Carducci #2 - they lived in the "mezzanine"

via Carducci #2 – they lived in the “mezzanine”

 

We went to Pisa and saw the Leaning Tower and the church and baptistry.  Amazing!

 We had been told about a little shop in Pisa that had some unique alabaster, marble and composition pieces, so we went to shop.  Our informants were correct – the merchandise was wonderful.  We purchased two marble lampstands.  We purchased some alabaster “fruit.”  And we purchased a set of composition tumbling angels.  I just thought they were really cute, and weren’t too expensive.  We have continued to enjoy all these things throughout all those years. 

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I continue to get tickled every time I look at – or dust – those tumbling angels.  They are just cute to see, but they always remind me of that trip we took, and that little shop in Pisa where we purchased them.  It’s a great memory.

Our Trip to Italy~Part 12

22 May

A slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill

After a full day of viewing some of the most famous art treasures in the world, we made our way back to the convent for some much-needed rest. Then it was out again for a wonderful Salmon dinner at the La Vittoria Ristorante. The food was great, but our waiter was a sourpuss, and that wasn’t the kind of an end to our most interesting day in Rome we were looking for.1After a good night’s sleep, we were up and packed at 6:00 am for breakfast with the nuns. Then it was another “wild” taxi ride to the Roma Termini Railway Station for our 30-minute train ride to Rome’s Ciampino–G.B. Pastine International Airport.

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Johnny Depp

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DiVoran Lites with Marco Grimaldi

It was during our tram ride to the airplane that we met Marco Grimaldi, an Italian opera singer with the National Opera of Italy, and his 20-person entourage, who happened to be traveling on the same plane with us to Orlando. I told him that DiVoran thought he looked like the movie star, Johnny Depp, and that she had never had her picture taken with a celebrity, and wondered if he would mind if I took a picture of them together. He was, of course, pleased with the request and that’s when DiVoran struck up a conversation with him, and found out that he and his group were on their way to Tallahassee to start a concert tour in the U.S..

When we got on the plane, I mentioned to the flight attendants that Marco was an opera singer, and that if they asked him very nicely, he might be coaxed into singing for us during the flight. Well, they did, and after they had served our meal, Marco sang “Volare” to all of us over the plane’s PA system. He got a “standing ovation” from the passengers and crew. We were glad we had told the flight attendants about Marco and suggesting they ask him to sing, as it put the finishing touch on our overall trip, and made up for all the cold weather we had endured. That was one of the most unique experiences we had on the whole trip.4

The flight west, to the U.S. took a couple hours longer than it did going east to Italy. We finally made it, and after a short layover in New York, where Marco entertained the flight crew again, it was on to Orlando and finally to our own quiet little Titusville home. It was hard to believe how warm it was in Florida, after the cold in Italy. But, we just cranked up the A/C and boy, it was soooo good to get home and sleep in our own beds after all those different Italian beds. It was the end of a wonderfully exciting vacation trip, which we will remember for the rest of our lives.

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Nice to be home!

—–The End—-

Our Trip to Italy~Part 11

15 May

  A Slice of Life

Bill Lites                                                        

 

We discovered St. Peter’s basilica was designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini.   St. Peter’s is one of the most renowned works of Renaissance architecture in Italy, and remains one of the largest churches in the world.

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In Roman Catholic tradition, the basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, and according to tradition, the first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession.  Tradition and some historical evidence also hold that Saint Peter’s tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. There has been a church on this site since the time when Constantine the Great was the Roman Emperor from 306 to 337 AD. Construction of the present basilica, replacing the Old St. Peter’s Basilica of the 4th century, began in 1506 and was completed in 1626.

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Not long after the crucifixion of Jesus in the second quarter of the 1st century AD, it is recorded in the Biblical book of the “Acts of the Apostles” that one of his twelve disciples, Simon known as Peter, a fisherman from Galilee, took a leadership position among Jesus’ followers and was of great importance in the founding of the Christian Church.  It is believed that Peter, after a ministry of about thirty years, ended up in Rome and met his martyrdom there in 64 AD, during the reign of the Roman Emperor, Nero.

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We were able to see St. Peter’s tomb and many of the fabulous works of art by some of the most famous Renaissance masters.  Michelangelo’s famous Pieta sculpture, depicting Mary holding Jesus after he was removed from the cross, was just inside the entrance to the basilica,  on the right, and was one of the most life-like sculptureI had ever seen.

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Later, after our tour of St. Peter’s basilica, we checked out the Vatican guards, who are actually Swiss Army soldiers, who have served as bodyguards, ceremonial guards, and palace guards at foreign European courts since the late 15th century.   The name Swiss Guard generally refers to the Pontifical Swiss Guard of the Holy See.   The use of Swiss soldiers as Royal guards and as the Pontifical Guard stems from their reputation for discipline and loyalty, and their employment of revolutionary battle tactics.   Apart from household and guard units, regular Swiss mercenary regiments have served as line troops in various armies; notably those of France, Spain and Naples up to the 19th century.

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In 2006, to celebrate 500 years in the line of duty, a group of veteran Swiss Guards marched from Switzerland to Rome, a month-long journey through Italy.   In a public ceremony, at the end of their march, 33 new guards were sworn in on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, instead of the traditional venue in the San Damaso Courtyard. The photo below is the Papal Swiss Guard, at their station, guarding the access to one of the entrances to Vatican City.

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—–To Be Continued—–

Our Trip to Italy~Part 10

8 May

A Slice of Life

Bill LItes

After a wonderful Continental breakfast with the sisters of our convent lodgings, we started our day with a tour of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. 5

The Vatican Museums were founded under the patronage of two 18th century popes – Clement XIV (1769-1774) and Pius VI (1775-1799) – who were among the first to open collections of art to the general public.  The idea was to provide some of the Vatican collections for viewing, therefore promoting culture among the masses. As the decades passed, more popes added to the already impressive collection of diverse artworks owned and displayed by the Vatican.  Today, there are 13 museums in about different Vatican palaces that are now included in what is called the Vatican Museum Complex, and can be toured by the general public.

 

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Our Rick Steves tour book says the tour leads you through almost four miles of galleries and art treasures before you get to the Sistine Chapel.  Well, we believe him now!   They provided a great self-guided audio tour, and we were absolutely amazed at the quantity of Great Masters’ art treasures in the museum.  I can’t begin to imagine the overall worth of all 13 museums.

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In one of the corridors, DiVoran was especially interested in a woman copying paintings in miniature from some of the Master paintings there in the Vatican museum. She wore a fur hat and a heavy coat because it was so cold in there. The lighting was spectacular and all natural. What a way to make a living!

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It was like being saturated with so much art, my brain couldn’t hold any more.  We spent a good 4 hours trying to see as much as we could before we were able to work our way to the Sistine Chapel, and that was by cutting short a number of galleries.  I can now better appreciate the pain and agony Michelangelo had to endure those 4 years (1508-1512) he spent, laying on his back, painting all those magnificent works of art.  Then, at the end of the chapel, is what many call his most crowning achievement in painting, The Final Judgment, which itself, took 4 years (1535-1539) to complete.

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We had a delicious lunch in the Vatican Museum cafeteria.  Then it was on to St. Peter’s Basilica.  The basilica itself is approached via St. Peter’s Piazza (otherwise known as St. Peter’s Square) and is bordered on either side by semi-circular colonnades, which, according to Bernini, symbolize the out-stretched arms of the church embracing the world. The colonnades were built around 1660 and consist of four rows of columns with in total 284 Doric columns and 88 pilasters.  A total of 140 statues were installed on top of the colonnades, all created by Bernini and his students at the time. These statues depict popes, martyrs, evangelists and many other important religious figures.

The facade of the basilica stretches across the end of the square and is approached by steps on which stand two 20 ft high statues of the 1st century apostles to Rome, Saint Peter on the left side and Saint Paul on the right side.  It’s amazing for me to think of news reports, I’ve seen on TV, such as the appearance of the newest, Pope Francis, where as many as 250,000 people have been known to crowd into St. Peter’s Square for the special event.

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—–To Be Continued—–

Our Trip to Italy~Part 9

1 May

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites  

Bill

                                                                 

On Wednesday, DiVoran and I walked into Mogliano Veneto so she could see the small part of the town we were staying in close up, and pick up some fresh fruit for our train trip to Rome the next day.  We had a lovely time visiting the many shops and the open-air town market.  We stayed around the apartment most of the rest of the day, visiting the furniture shop down stairs, packing our suitcases and resting.  After work, Marcia took us to Mestre, which is located on the mainland across the Lagoon from Venice to show us the many sights of that interesting city.

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According to legends, Mestre was founded by Mesthles, a companion of the mythical hero Antenor, a fugitive from Troy who founded Padua. The true origins of the city are uncertain, although it is known that a Roman fortress that existed there was destroyed by Attila the Hun sometime in the 5th century, and rebuilt later around the 10th century.  In 1152, a papal bull by Pope Eugene III recognized the Bishop of Treviso as lord of Mestre, citing the existence of the church of St. Lawrence.

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The city had many lovely stores and shops, but since we were expected to meet  Marcia’s friend Erkia for dinner, we restricted our site-seeing visit the Clock Tower in Piazza Ferretto, and the 17th century Cathedral of St. Lawrence.

3  In a country that is widely known for its vast number of breathtaking and awe-inspiring cathedrals, this is one of the most beautiful in northern Italy.

After all that walking around Mestre, we were ready for some good Italian food, and Marcia took us to the Da Roberta’s Ristorante, which was one of her favorites.  She was right, the food was outstanding, and our last visit with Marcia and Erkia was memorable.

The next morning, after breakfast, Marcia and Erika took us to the train station and it was “arrivederci” to our truly grand friends for a wonderful guided tour to some of northern Italy’s most beautiful cities.  It was hard to believe our visit to Italy was almost over.  Our 1st class train trip to Rome took us 5 hours.  Lunch on the train was nothing special, but a new and different experience.  We had stops at Padua, Bologna and Florence before arriving at the Italian capital.

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After leaving Florence, our route took us through some of the most beautiful countryside with castles, ancient arched bridges and through at least 30 tunnels (the longest being 23km). 5 Here again, the train trip gave us time to study up on the location of our lodgings and some of the points of interest we planned to visit in Rome.

At the train station information booth, it was suggested that we NOT take the inexpensive 30-minute bus ride to the Vatican area, as the buses were always very crowded and a favorite haunt of the local pickpockets.  So, we took a 10-minute “life changing” taxi ride through the city to the doorstep of the German-Italian convent where we had reservations7

The accommodations at the Suore Missionarie Pallottine convent were very clean, sparse and quiet.  After a brief rest, we headed out to see some of the sights within walking distance.   It was UP a steep hill and DOWN a steep street from the convent to get to the main avenue where we enjoyed some window shopping, and roast chicken at the Pinelli Pizzaria-Toyola Calda.  By the time we made it back to the convent, we were ready for a shower and some sack time.

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—–To Be Continued—–

Our Trip to Italy~Part 8

24 Apr

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill

 The train trip back to Mogliano Veneto that afternoon was uneventful, and gave us a chance to read up on all the Renaissance art and history surrounding much of we had seen that day.  A very kind older Italian man insisted on sharing his cookies with the “American Tourists” when he discovered we had just been to visit his beloved Florence.

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During an early breakfast the next morning, Erika was trying to help Marcia with some of her Italian, and we heard Erika say, “Marcia, please don’t tell anyone I am your Italian teacher.” We all laughed, because we had just learned from Erika the translation for poached eggs is, “Eggs with a shirt,” and the translation for raisins is, “After they are grapes.”   It’s funny how some words differ from one language to the next.  Marcia and Erika went to work, while DiVoran and I stayed around the apartment, enjoying a day of rest and planning our next day’s visit to Venice.

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After work, Marcia took us to one of her favorite restaurants, the Ai Portici Ristorante there in Mogliano Veneto, for another wonderful Italian meal.  Marcia had told us the trip to Venice would probably be a long day, because we planned to include visits to the islands of Murano, where much of the famous hand blown Italian glass is made, and colorful Burano, which is famous for its beautiful handmade lace.

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The next morning Marcia dropped us off in Venice on her way to work.  We strolled along the Grand Canal for a while, window-shopping, then decided to revisit the Saint Mark’s Basilica and take in its opulent gilded Byzantine and Gothic design with its spectacular mosaics.  A Museum, which is a part of the Basilica, located between the historic area on the Basilica’s vestibule and the former Doge’s Sala dei Banchetti (Banquet Hall), contains many Persian carpets, liturgical vestments, illuminated manuscripts with some of the texts of St. Mark liturgies.  There are also tapestries in wool, depicting episodes from the Passion of Christ, with others in silk and silver illustrating some of the many stories of St. Mark.

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And there, wouldn’t you know, as we entered upon the piazza, was a couple having their wedding pictures taken in front of St. Mark’s Basilica.  Amazingly, DiVoran and I seem to visit churches, wherever we go, just as a wedding is over and we get to see the new couple emerge for pictures.  It has happened in Mexico, England, Scotland, Orlando Florida, Rome and now Venice, Italy, and it’s always a beautiful sight and a thrill for us!

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During our brief tour around Venice, we came across a group of street vendors at small kiosks selling just about anything you could imagine.  DiVoran bought me a fedora to keep my head warm, and we bought a couple of festive hats for Billy & Renie.  Luckily, we were able to find our way through the maze of small canals, and narrow streets, to the lunch ristorante Marcia had recommended, down a narrow walkway, had some really great pizza, hot lemon tea and a rest.

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After lunch, we took a waterbus to the island of Murano to check out the hand blown glass.  It was amazing to enter these beautiful showrooms of fine glasswork, and then walk through a door into a small shop where people of all ages were creating these fabulous works of art before our very eyes.  Just to get a feel for the cost of some of these items, we asked about the price of one of the smaller items ($400 US) and later during our tour, a larger item ($1500 US).  I could not even imagine what some of the large chandeliers would have cost.  We were told a  person could even request special order items, and if the item was small enough, you could watch them create the item while you waited.

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Then it was on by water bus to the island of Burano to see about the famous handmade lace creations we had heard so much about.  The first thing that gets your attention as you approach Burano is the brightly painted houses.  They stand out and are reflected on the calm water of the adjacent canals.  Even their personal boats, tied up in the canal, are painted bright colors, and many match the color of the houses their owners live in.

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Inside, the women sit with bolsters on their laps, creating some of the most beautiful and delicate lace work we had ever seen.   DiVoran bought a beautiful “thread-drawn” tablecloth and napkin set, which we still have and enjoy to this day.  What a great way to remember some of the fabulous times we had exploring the places and visiting with some of the people of Italy.

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—–To Be Continued—–

Our Trip to Italy Part 7

17 Apr

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill

 

Next, we visited the Uffizi Art Gallery, reportedly the oldest and most famous art Museums in the Western World.  A large part of the art in the Uffizi dates back to the periods between the 12th to 17th centuries, with art by great Italian artists such as Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” (Shown below), Giotto, Cimabue, Michelangelo and  Raffaello to name just a few of the most famous.

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Then it was on to the Accademia Gallery and the bigger than life and magnificent “David” by Michelangelo.   Originally commissioned in 1501 as one of a series of statues of the prophets to be positioned along the roofline on the east end of the Florence Cathedral, but instead was placed in the public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria in 1504.   Because of the nature of the hero that it represented, it soon came to symbolize the defiance of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic, an independent city-state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states at the time.  The original statue was moved inside the Accademia Gallery from the piazza in 1873 and finally replaced with a replica in 1910.

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Among some of the other many extraordinary sculptures and artwork at the Accademia Gallery are contributions by Francesco de Sangallo, Agnolo Bronzino, Benvenuto Cellini, Giorgio Vasari, Bartolomeo Ammannati, Giambologna and Artemisia Gentileschi.       It was taken for granted at the outset that all members of the Accademia would be male, so when the Accademia welcomed the Baroque painter, Artemisia Gentileschi, into its membership in 1620, it was a great honor for the woman painter, and was a great influence for the feminist movement in Italy.

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Then it was on to the Palazzo Pitti, which dates from 1458 AD, and was originally the residence of Luca Pitti, an ambitious Florentine banker at the time.  The palace was bought by the Medici family in 1549 AD, and became the chief residence of the ruling families of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany for many years.

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In the late 18th century, the palazzo was used as a power base by Napoleon, and later served for a brief period as the principal royal palace of the newly united Italy.   Between 1865-1871 it was the residence of King Victor Emmanuel II, when Florence was the capital of Italy.  Today, it houses several minor Italian collections in addition to those of the Medici families.

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From there we strolled over to the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge which is one of many bridges now spanning the Arno River in Florence.  The Medieval bridge first appears in a Roman document of 996 AD, after which it was destroyed twice by floods, and the stone bridge was finally rebuilt in its current form in 1435.   We took time to check out the many shops that are permanently located on the bridge, which was the custom when the bridge was first built.

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After all that Renaissance art by the so many of the great masters, our heads were buzzing, so we stopped for lunch at McDonald’s.  I, for one, was ready for a burger and fries, and besides that, Marcia informed us that McDonald’s is the only eating establishment in Italy where a woman could be sure to find a sit-down toilet.

 

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—–To Be Continued—–

 

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