Tag Archives: Italy

Random Memories of Germany-Trips to Italy Part 1

1 Aug


Judy Wills

I must start this particular series of stories with a disclaimer:  we absolutely LOVED living in Germany – both times!  Perhaps it’s because we both have Germany in our ancestry, or perhaps we just like living in Europe.  But Germany holds a special place in our hearts.  I know Germany’s history in the World Wars is awful, but I believe that was the fault of the political people in power – not the German people as a whole.  We found them to be gracious and lovely.

And so, on to this series.  In this particular series, I would like to describe the trips we made to Italy.  Living in Germany allowed us to travel to many other spots in Europe without too much difficulty.  I had never been to Italy, but Fred lived with his family in several places in Italy following World War 2.  Please see Fred’s previous posts: (all are titled Fred Remembers…) September 9, 2018, September 16, 2018, September 23, 2018, and October 21, 2018, for Fred’s remembrances of living in Italy.

We were stationed in Wiesbaden, West Germany from June 1967 through June 1970.  Our first trip to Italy was in October 1968.  We had some good friends in our church in Wiesbaden, and were able to leave Karen with them, while we traveled.  We didn’t think we would be able to enjoy our traveling with a new baby – or a new baby would enjoy being carted around every here and there.  So Fred and I set off on our journey.

As I look back on the pictures we took in 1968 and 1970 and then at the ones we took with our girls during Thanksgiving 1982, the differences we saw were amazing!  I don’t remember exactly the order we visited in our 1968 trip, but I know we spent at least one full day at Pompeii.  Fascinating!

But Fred had read up on the Vesuvius eruption, and so wanted to see Ercolano (Herculaneum).  I believe it was actually closer to the eruption itself, and was covered with more lava than ash, as Pompeii was.  The remaining colors on the walls are more brilliant and more well preserved than even that of Pompeii.  Amazing!  We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Ercolano.

Ercolano – Judy standing in a courtyard

We spent a bit of time in Amalfi – a beautiful coastal town in Italy.


Cathedral in Amalfi

We saw the “smallest fishing village in Italy” along our bus tour.  (Don’t ask me where – I have totally forgotten that!)

The smallest fishing village in Ital

We spent several days in Naples, staying at a B&B there.  We were fascinated with the Solfotaro, still bubbling with hot mud, with its connection still to Vesuvius – all those miles away. Fred reminded me that it is similar to Yellowstone National Park, and its volcanic activity (Old Faithful).  As with Yellowstone, there is a fence to keep the spectators away from the bubbling lava.

The Bay of Naples is gorgeous.  

Solfotaro in Naples – it smells of sulfur

The bay of Naples at evening time

All pictures are by Fred Wills

~~~~~~~~~~To Be Continued~~~~~~~~~~

Judy is living in Central Florida with her retired U.S. Air Force husband of 50+ years. Born in Dallas, Texas, she grew up in the Southwestern United States.She met her husband at their church, where he was attending the university in her town. After college and seminary, he entered the Air Force, and their adventures began.They lived in eight of our United States, and spent six years in Europe, where their oldest daughter was born. She was a stay-at-home mom for many years .

  Judy has always been involved with music, both playing the piano and singing. Always interested in exercise, she was an aerobic dancing instructor, as well as a piano teacher for many years, and continues to faithfully exercise at home.

After moving to Central Florida, she served as a church secretary for nearly nine years.Her main hobby at this point in time is scanning pictures and 35mm slides into the computer. She also enjoys scrapbooking.She and her husband have two married daughters and four grandchildren, including grandtwins as well as a great-grandson. She and her husband enjoy the Disney parks as often as possible.

Random Memories of Germany

21 Feb

Wiesbaden-Part 5



Judy Wills

I don’t remember the exact route of our trip…I just remember places where we were along the way.  Remember from last week, I mentioned that the other Americans in our B&B in Oberammergau was the pastor from a Baptist church in Kaiserslautern?

First Baptist Church-Kaiserlautern, Germany

Well, believe it or not, we ran into that same group when we were in Pisa, Italy!!  Small world, indeed.

I was fascinated by Pisa and the Leaning Tower.  I was amazed that it was still standing, especially at the angle it is leaning.  And to think that it is STILL standing in 2021!! 

Judy in front of the Leaning Tower – 1970

I realize a lot has been done to shore it up and keep it upright, but still…..  We made another trip to Italy with our girls in 1982, and our Janet climbed up to the top of the tower!  But she always was the more adventurous of all of us.

1982 – Janet in the pink jacket at the top of the Leaning Tower

I was nearly as amazed by the Baptistry near the cathedral, as I was the Leaning Tower. 

1982 – The Baptistry next to the church – Janet in the foreground

It is an amazing building.  And according to this picture we took, the Baptistry seems to be “leaning” a bit, as well!  I guess the ground in that area is not very stable!

We had been told about a shop in Pisa that had marble pieces, and we found it.  We purchased two marble lamp stands that we still have with us today. 

1982 – The Baptistry next to the church – Janet in the foreground

I found some marble “fruit” that I liked and have today as well – along with an alabaster “egg.” 

Marble fruit – quite realistic looking, I think

 And I found some “tumbling angels (or should I say cherubs)” that are made out of some kind of composition material.

The tumbling angels (cherubs) – from right to left

I have enjoyed having all of these things.  And so our trip to Pisa was a grand success!

Again, I don’t exactly remember where we traveled in Italy.  I just remember that we hit Venice,

St. Mark’s Square
The Bridge of Sighs

and Florence (my favorite!!), and Trieste.  

Michelangelo’s David

Fred and his family lived in Trieste following World War 2, and we were able to find the building where his family lived.  They lived in the “mezzanine” of this building – just under the arches of the arcade.  Here is a picture taken by Fred’s dad in 1950,

and now one we took on our trip

As a “footnote” to this story, our Karen and her husband Brian, on one of their trips to Europe, found the same building in Trieste, and Karen was able to point it out to Brian and tell her Dad’s story.  Amazing how that works, hmmm?

I remember we drove along the Appian Way – all those trees along the way.  

We also stopped see Lake Como. Beautiful.

~~~~~~~~~~To Be Continued~~~~~~~~~~

Judy is living in Central Florida with her retired U.S. Air Force husband of 50+ years. Born in Dallas, Texas, she grew up in the Southwestern United States.She met her husband at their church, where he was attending the university in her town. After college and seminary, he entered the Air Force, and their adventures began.They lived in eight of our United States, and spent six years in Europe, where their oldest daughter was born. She was a stay-at-home mom for many years .

  Judy has always been involved with music, both playing the piano and singing. Always interested in exercise, she was an aerobic dancing instructor, as well as a piano teacher for many years, and continues to faithfully exercise at home.

After moving to Central Florida, she served as a church secretary for nearly nine years.Her main hobby at this point in time is scanning pictures and 35mm slides into the computer. She also enjoys scrapbooking.She and her husband have two married daughters and four grandchildren, including grandtwins as well as a great-grandson. She and her husband enjoy the Disney parks as often as possible.

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


  • 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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



   —–To Be Continued—–

Tumbling Angels and The Leaning Tower

23 Mar


 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:


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

We went to Florence


St. Mary’s Cathedral

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


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. 


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


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.


Johnny Depp


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


—–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.



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.


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!


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.


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.


—–To Be Continued—–

Our Trip to Italy~Part 9

1 May

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites  



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.


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.


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.


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.


—–To Be Continued—–

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