Saturday, December 20, 2014


The view from our apartment

On  October 17, we sailed out of Civitavecchia, Italy aboard the Celebrity Reflection.  It is a beautiful, new ship and we enjoyed ideal weather and very smooth seas.   After arriving in the United States on November 1, we spent a month and a half in Florida.   On December 15, we flew to Los Angeles, picked up a rental car and drove to Palm Desert.  

During the past several winters, we spent a little time in Palm Desert and liked it very much. So this year we rented a unit at Shadow Mountain Resort for 2 and 1/2 months.  This is the longest we have ever spent anywhere since becoming nomads.  Fortunately, there is plenty to do in the area and we have some friends here.  

Palm Desert is 122 miles east of Los Angeles and about 15 miles from Palm Springs. Surrounded by mountains, the area enjoys cool nights and crystal clear, sunny days.  Our apartment is within a golf and tennis complex and overlooks the pool with mountains in the background.  El Paseo is just a few minutes walk away.  It rivals Rodeo Drive and Worth Avenue with its beautiful shops and restaurants.  

Wishing everyone a very 
Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Our leased Citroen took us 4,200 miles
We had to return our leased car at the airport in Rome since the limit on the lease is 5 and 1/2 months. While there, we picked up a rental car as we had 10 more days to go. During the transition, we stayed at a beautiful old villa above the town of Frascati.
Park Hotel Villa Grazioli 

Our hotel in Marina di Grosseto
From there we drove north. We had never been along the stretch of coastline that runs north of Civitavecchia and is known as the Maremma Region.  It is an extensive area bordering the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Sea and covering parts of northern Lazio and southwest Tuscany. 

Our apartment in Castiglione della Pescaia
Maremma is a very popular summer destination with the Italians.  Europeans have begun to discover it but it is largely unknown to Americans.  We stayed in two very nice beach towns. Being October, the tourists had gone home and the first, Marina di Grosseto, was like a ghost town.  But the hotel we stayed in was modern and had a beautiful pool and spa area.  The next stop, Castiglione della Pescaia, was originally a medieval fortress but today it is an attractive modern city with a large marina and long stretch of sandy beaches. The big attraction for us though was a charming apartment with a washer and dryer.  Ron finally had a reprieve from washing all our clothes by hand.

One of Tarquinia's city gates
Tarquinia's ancient city walls
Tarquinia is churches & towers
We had another nice apartment in Tarquinia, a city a few miles inland from the coast.   The main street through the town divides the old city and the new -- the old being medieval and the new one from the Renaissance period. Both are encircled by walls that are 8 kilometers long and date from the 4th century. 
Santa Maria In Castello 1435

Tarquinia is one of the most ancient of Etruscan centers and has a myriad of streets and alleys to wander. There are 20 towers within the gates and many churches. Paintings adorned the walls and ceilings of the early Roman church as most people were illiterate and the illustrations told the story of Christianity.  Some of the art work has been restored.  

Just outside the city gates is a necropolis where the tombs of people from the Etruscan period were first discovered during the Renaissance. Only the aristocracy could afford to have tombs built and painted, and some of the wall paintings have survived to this day.  Cement containers from as early as the 11th century BC can also be seen at this site.  Cremated remains were placed in urns and then put inside the containers.  

We returned our rental car in Civitavecchia and will board the Celebrity Reflection here on October 17.  At that point, we will have spent 6 months and 6 days in Europe and another month at sea sailing over and sailing back.  We covered a total of 4,500 miles between Italy, Croatia and Austria and stayed in 50 different places.  

Saturday, October 4, 2014


The harbor in Marina di Camerota
From Puglia, we drove across the lower part of Italy and over several mountain ranges to reach the west coast of Italy.  First stop was the little town of Marina di Camerota situated on the Tyrrhenian Sea.  Our hotel overlooked the harbor from whence many Italians 
Church in heart of Marina di Camerota
emigrated to South America in the 19th century.  It was a very typical Italian town where older men gather in front of a little bar or along the waterfront playing cards or just talking.  They are obviously retired and I imagine the wife sends them out in the morning with orders not to return before mealtime. 
Agropoli's feudal castle
Continuing north along the coast, we visited two different areas about 60 miles south of Naples that were settled by the Greeks in the 7th century B.C.  The first town was Agropoli, the name is a version of the word acropolis meaning high town.  It is situated on a promontory that curves around a bay.  It was a good trading point for the Greeks so they settled here and built a temple dedicated to Artemis, the goddess of hunting. Later, the Byzantines took over and built a castle on top of the promontory overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Burial walls
A much larger Greek settlement developed slightly north of Agropoli in 625 B.C.  The Greek name was Poseidonia in honor of the god of the sea; the Italians later changed the name to Paestum.  Control of the city changed hands several times over the centuries, but the Romans eventually won possession and added a forum, amphitheater and housing.  
Temple of Athena 500BC

Temple of Hera 550BC
The ruins at Paestum are magnificent. There are three Greek temples in all. Surrounding them are the foundations of homes where people lived during the Roman era.

Although it is a UNESCO World Heritage site, Paestum is not as well known as other ancient ruins in the general area. Consequently, the area is not overrun with tourists.  There were hardly any on the late September day we visited.  The adjacent museum houses countless artifacts including many of the walls of burial sites.  The custom was to paint the interior of the walls surrounding the tomb with pictures that depicted the dead man's life -- or the life he wished he had lived. Women were not granted the same honor.

Then (2nd Temple of Hera)
The original Greek buildings were decorated and very colorful. Over the years, the colors have faded and disappeared from the exterior buildings. Paintings that were protected (as in the enclosed burial chambers) have been remarkably well preserved.
Foundations of Roman buildings

Our hotel in Meta
While visiting Paestum we stayed at a lovely hotel with a private beach.  Then it was on to Meta, a little town just a few miles from Sorrento.  As is often the case, finding our hotel was an adventure that took us up and down and around very narrow, one way, curving streets.  Finally, a kind young man scouted out Laqua for us on his motor scooter, came back and led us there.  I am afraid we would still be turning in circles if it weren't for him. 
Historic center of Sorrento
Our balcony at Laqua

Sunsets in Meta

Lacqua is a miniature hotel and spa; only 6 rooms.  But each has a private balcony with a little pool overlooking the sea. We took the bus to Sorrento one day even though we have been there several times.  The streets were crowded with tourists and we were glad to get back to our idyllic lodging where the sunsets were magnificent.  

Monday, September 22, 2014


Polignano a Mare
Main square old town
Italy is shaped like a high heeled boot and Polignano a Mare is at the top of the heel. It is a quaint town perched on a cliff dotted with sea caves.  A bridge spans a deep ravine that cuts through the city.  A small, pristine beach is at the mouth of the ravine.  It is believed that Polignano a Mare was part of ancient Greece, and the old town indicates Greek influences as well as Spanish and Byzantine.

Polignano's narrow streets
Domenico Modugno
Poignana Mare ravine & beach
With its narrow cobblestone streets, charming old town and sea caves, Polignano a Mare has become a popular tourist destination, and its economy depends heavily on it.  Polignano a Mare also proudly claims Domenico Modugno -- singer-songwriter most famous for "Volare" -- as its native son. 
Santa Croce

Typical ornate interior of Lecce's churches

Our next stop, Lecce, has been called The Florence of the South thanks to an abundance of Baroque palaces and churches. 

Baroque architecture began in the late 16th century and was as far removed from the simple churches we recently saw as possible.  The style is very ornate and theatrical and was meant to signify the triumph and power of the Catholic Church.  Some thought Lecce the most beautiful city in Italy while Marchese Grimaldi said the facade of Santa Croce made him think a lunatic was having a nightmare. Though Lecce was once a very important city in Italy, it doesn't seem possible that they ever had enough people to fill the 40 churches that are often just around the corner from one another.  
Fountain outside Charles V Palace

Duomo, Bishop's Palace & seminary
Bell tower
2nd century amphitheater
Lecce's cathedral was built in the 12th century. Several hundred years later, the Bishop's Palace, a seminary and a tower over 200 feet high were added.  It was in this square that the townspeople would gather during an attack because there was only one narrow entrance, easy to defend.  

In 1901, construction workers discovered a 2nd century amphitheater underneath the main piazza.

Enticed by the pictures, we moved on to a resort in Otranto.  While the grounds and sea were gorgeous, the rooms were the worst we have ever been in.  Small, dark and dingy. Fortunately, we were able to cut our stay from 5 days to 2 and extended our stay in the next town, Castellaneta Marina on the Ionian Sea.  It was like going from hell to heaven.  One of the perks of traveling in the shoulder or off season is that you often receive an upgrade. 
Kalidria pool
Kalidria Hotel and grounds

At Kalidria Thalasso Spa Resort, we were upgraded to a suite with a large living room and balcony. 

This is our last stop in the province of Puglia.  Now we drive across the country -- what would be the arch of the boot -- to the west coast of Italy.  


Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Gate to old town Termoli
Tower of original castle
Fishing cabin and nets Termoli
View from our balcony - beach & old town

Termoli Basilica
Termoli is a small city on the Adriatic coast that is known for its old town as well as nice beaches and clear, blue water.  It is a popular summer destination for Italians.  Few outsiders know of Termoli or come here so we were a rarity.  When Ron went for a haircut, they were anxious to know how we got there. 

Our hotel was nestled between the old town and the beach; our balcony overlooked both.  The old town is mostly residential with a very simple but beautiful cathedral in the middle.  Built in the 12 – 13th centuries, it was restored to its original appearance.  A wall surrounds the old town and rising from a corner right next to our hotel is the tower of a castle that was originally part of a wide fortification.
Rainy days in Vieste
Sea caves Vieste on a rare sunny afternoon

Jutting out from the spur of the boot of Italy is the Gargano promontory.  It has about 110 miles of coastline with sandy beaches, limestone cliffs and sea caves. At one time this piece of land was connected to Croatia.  Today much of it is part of a 30,000 acre national park.  We stayed at a beach resort just outside the small city of Vieste. Unfortunately, the rain caught up with us.  We arrived in pouring rain and had several days of it.  This has been an unusually wet summer for much of Europe.

We had three lovely days in the beautiful town of Trani. At one time, Trani was a primary trading point for wine, fruit and grain and its port was the most important one on the Adriatic Sea. 
Trani's Cathedral
Interior of the cathedral: simplicity & double columns 
The old town winds around the large, protected harbor. Countless narrow, cobblestone streets veer away from the water.  Many of the buildings have been restored and the local stone has a pearl-like glitter in the sun - no doubt giving rise to Trani's nickname "Pearl of the Adriatic." 

As was the case in Termoli, the cathedral reflects its original design which is very simple and pristine -- no statues or stations of the cross.  Across from the cathedral is a massive castle built by Frederick II.  The city 
The cathedral is perched between the sea and the port

Local fishermen at the port Trani
reached its peak of wealth and prosperity under his rule in the 13th century.  He was one of the most powerful Roman emperors of the Middle Ages reigning from 1194-1250.  A man of great intelligence, culture and ability, historians consider him the first modern ruler.

Puglia is the name of this province in the southeast section of Italy, and the strip of land that is known as the heel runs between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas.  The area has an interesting mix of Greek and Turkish flavors aside from Italian as it was invaded by those countries and more over the ages.   

The interior of Puglia is mostly farmland with endless olive groves that produce 80% of Italy’s olive oil.  80% of Europe’s pasta is produced here.  The towns are quaint with white washed buildings.  The coast line is jagged with powder blue water and sandy beaches.   

Ron beside the entrance to Trani's harbor