Vinegar Questions

As Guido and I continue our time here in Italy (has been two months already) we have been so fortunate to live in the communities where life goes on as normal! Because of this privilege, we have noticed several things that just makes us wonder! We have a saying in our house “well, that will be a vinegar question” when we get to Heaven! We say that because we happened to notice many moons ago that when you look at the ingredients in the back of a vinegar bottle it says, and i quote, “vinegar”! Nothing more! So we still dont ever know what vinegar really is! So we know that one day when we sit at the banquet table in Heaven, we will hopefully get that question answered. But for now, we have gathered up more vinegar questions from Italy.

1. Why do eggs have to be refrigerated in USA but here they are just stacked on a shelf in the grocery store! Not refrigerated at all! Do the chickens here have built in fridges?

2. How do the dogs and cats here seem to live long and very happy lives eating dog and cat food from the grocery store and not have a Pets Mart anywhere around? How do they live without doggie day cares and salons?

3. Do the Chinese folks here not know about chop sticks? We have been in 3 Chinese restaurants and have never seen one chop stick yet!

4. Apparently, Italians do not understand that bread and butter go together! Have never seen a bit of butter in any restaurant yet. Just lots of olive oil! We have also never seen any bottle of salad dressing other than olive oil in stores or restaurants! Do they really live w/o blue cheese dressing on a wedge salad?

5. There are no donut shops in Italy. What do policemen eat while on stakeouts?

6. There are no Starbucks! How do they go through the winter with no pumpkin spice lattes or Chi Tea extra hot, no whip, no water, sugar free?

7. We have never seen one fire truck yet! Or any fire stations! Do they not have fires and if not, where do all the little first graders go for field trips?

8. No matter the age or size of person, we have noticed that everytime (which is all the time) we see a huge pizza pie ordered, the person eats the entire pie! ALWAYS! Is it bad luck if you dont? So maybe thats why we have so much trouble finding buses and bus stations. I simply cannot eat the whole thing!

9. No one has screens on doors or windows yet we have never seen a bug fly in. Maybe flies and mosquitoes are not allowed to cross the ocean from America. Guess their little wings cant fly that far!

10. How do ladies in Italy cook casseroles without Campbells soups of Jello pudding? What would u take to family reunions or church dinners with these two items?

11. We have not seen any church here that has a disco ball, music director that plays guitar or praise team! How do they sing?

These are our vinegar questions we have ready! Since we have 4 more weeks left, we hope some of our questions might be answered but if not, we sure hope that we can come back next year to see if we can find out some of the answers!

Roaming Around Rome

It has been swirling around in my head for several days of how to write and describe what I am thinking! As our time here in Rome continues, there is so much that I want to write about but so much of it is feelings rather than experiences!

Maybe if I begin with a few comparisons it will help! Rome is not Florence! When we arrived in Florence, my heart was just so full of seeing all the beauty of the bridges, the art, the hills over looking the city itself! The small winding allys they call streets were magical to me! It felt like we were in a place separated from the real world that nothing could penetrate! Beautiful views from every restaurant we stopped. Gelateria after Gelateria where beautiful mounds of colored gelato called our names! We would ride buses around just in awe of gorgeous duomos and museums of the most amazing art and sculptures! The countryside where we ventured just brought into focus more of the magical country of Italy! Hilltop towns where we walked through, feeling like we were in a fantasy world! Yes that was Florence!

Then the train brought us to Rome! We felt excited to be in the Eternal City! All Roads lead to Rome….but as i looked around, all i wanted was to be on a road back to Florence! We began to get out with the crowds of people to see all the places that people come to Rome to see….the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, the Alter of the Fatherland, the Colosseum, Vatican and of course the Sistene Chapel! As we had been in Rome some years back, none of these places were new to us but was so nice to see again. As the days went by we began to get comfortable with the buses and metro! Now we were beginning to venture out to new neighborhoods that we had read about!

As one week turned into two, we were becoming more and more familiar with the grand city of Rome! We spent an afternoon on bus number #916, riding it full circle! It took almost 3 hours. We became concerned as the bus left our familiar area and headed out to a part of town that was way out of our part of town. When the bus came to a station and just stopped, i walked to the front of the bus and showed him on our map the station that we hoped the bus would return to. He nodded that it would. After about 15 min he turns the bus key on and off we go. 31 stops later, the bus driver , opens his door to the drivers seat, steps out in the aisle and motions to Randy and I that in one more stop we will be home! All the bus passengers just look at us and wonder why he did that. Of all the buses we have been in the last 7 weeks, that was the sweetest gesture! It was then that i began to think about Rome and the wonderful feelings that have been so difficult to write about! A few nights ago, as we walked to a restaurant a few blocks away, I had told Randy that I wished I could just turn the video on as we walked to capture the things i have come to love about Rome! Because every neighborhood has everything that they need, it seems that some of the folks just stay in their neighborhood and never venture out to far. As we walk down the street we see some of the same ones every evening. There is a man who sits downstairs with a precious beagle and talks to everyone who walks by. The doorman or our apartment bldg stands and greets us, using the little amount of English he knows. He had helped direct us to different metro stations and told us about different buses.

The grocery store (there are two within a block) now know us and smile and greet us as they carry on conversations with the others in line. Everyone knows the others that are in the stores. Ladies tie up their precious dogs outside the store while they shop and no one takes them. The store has bowls of water out for the pets. We sit outside across the street to have a afternoon coffee (well i have tea) and a pastry. People walk by and stop and talk to the people they know. We noticed that when we were there a couple days ago, that 6 or 7 tables outside just enjoying the afternoon, there was not one person on their phones. They were talking to each other.

As ladies hang out their weekly laundry, they converse with each other from their respective balconies! It has been such an eye opener to me of how precious people truly are. I just hung out laundry listening to the church bells ringing. Each day of walking to stores/restaurants has given us interaction with people that maybe dont speak our language nor do we speak theirs, but it is so easy to see their hears because of their actions! No matter the place, it is the people who make our journeys worthwhile!

Yes, we have loved the art, the beauty of the ruins, the churches and of course the food! But the hardest thing we leave behind is the way of life here! So simple, yet so sincere! We have fallen in love with Rome, but the reasons are so varied, it will just need to be written in my heart because it is not possible to put into words!

Blessings From Above (and Sometimes in Bags)

Today began with great expectations of finding our way back to Rome Bapt Church. We had moved to a different part of Rome last weekend and had not yet learned how to get to church via bus/metro. But this week, we were ready and had our bus route all written out with a map of how to walk to church once we got off the bus! So off we went feeling so sure of our day. We would go to church, walk back to Spanish Steps, have lunch someplace new and head home where we would rest a while then head out to go to mass at 5 at St Peters Basilica. After all we are in Rome and we have to at least try to see the Pope!

Well, bus #881 was just a few min late in getting to our bus stop but we were proud as peacocks because we have learned that happens so we had given ourselves plenty of time for late buses. No problem…we get bus #92 and hop off after 9 stops and proceed to walk over to bus stop #2 where our little bus app tells us to jump on bus #881 We look at the bus stop name and its not what is on our little bus map. Randy says he bets that the bus stop that is on the street across the way must be the bus stop we need, so off we go walking across two streets to hopefully catch bus #881! We made it across and open our app to see when it is scheduled to come. It says one hour! We dont have an hour! We only have 30 min before church starts. So we look at each other and say “lets walk back over to the other bus stop and see if any of those schedules say they will get us close to any of the bus stations we are familiar with”! So we go walking across the street back to where the bus let us off! After looking at all 4 bus routes at this stop we decide that if we take bus #916 it will get us close. So we wait and wait and wait. Apparently if had just been there when we had walked across the street. So 30 min later we take our “tired of standing feet” onto bus 916. We ride to a bus stop we are familiar with and get off thinking we are close to the church. We get off and “refresh” our location on our Italian google phone only to find out we are still 2 miles from church. It is now 11 and we have missed church so we start walking. We now are hot, tired and hungry. We walk by a church when Randy says “lets at least go inside, and can sit and cool off all the while get to experience an Italian mass! So we proceed to walk in. Words cannot describe the beauty of this neighborhood church. We were both just in awe of what we saw. For Some reason i thought of Susie Hawkins and the class she had taught us of women in centuries past that was used of God for His purpose. The paintings in this church were just truly beautiful, Some of women, others of Jesus and saints! Maybe women that were significant in the Catholic church but the gold was breathtaking.

As we sat there for a few minutes before the Priest closed the service i could not help but notice the reverence of the congregation. The wonderful pipe organ music was so elegant and melodious! Had not heard music like that in so long! Also how everyone was dressed. There were no bare shoulders, no shorts, no short dresses! The men and young boys were dressed in suits. Out of maybe 300-400 people i was the only one in capris. Ladies wore dresses or pant suits. Some wore hats and gloves but everyone was dressed so lovely and smart that it made me once again stop and think about America and how lax we have become in teaching our kids honor and respect for God and His church. Yes i know that our religions do not agree in so many ways theologically, but i loved the reverence that was in that church today. Many children were there but not one ran around the church. The families hugged other families. They stood around and visited with others and the feeling of closeness was felt!

We walked out talking about how good it was to just sit in quiet reverence and pray and realized that God was honored there today. Maybe not in the same way we were expecting but we knew we had been in the house of God. We left with a sense of wondering if maybe, we tend to forget sometimes in our modern churches that we have focused so much on grace and forgiveness, that we have forgotten to also practice reverence for God and worship Him in Holiness and respect.

The pictures you see here are of this beautiful neighborhood church which is not even listed in churches you should see when in Rome. So you can imagine if this one is not listed what the ones listed will look like!

Apparently The Lord felt like we needed a little pick me up after getting so frustrated today at the bus schedules that we just could not make work today so he gave us this:

We found Old El Paso chips, flour tortillas, old El Paso salsa and refried beans. God is good all the time! All the time God is Good!

Catholic churches and chips! We thank God for the big and the small blessings!

Princess at the Piazza

We did it!!! We broke away from pasta tonight and found a little Chinese restaurant around the corner which we walked to for sweet & sour chicken! I had told Randy this morning that I just could not look another pizza or pasta noodle in the face!

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we sat in the apartment in Orlando saying “what? us get tired of pizza and spaghetti? Never! We could eat it everyday for a year, we love it so much!” We lasted 6 weeks before gaging at the site of fettuccini or parmesan cheese pizza! We would give half our retirement right now for chips and salsa from our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant in Dallas!

You might be thinking, well well, the honeymoon is over! And in some aspects you are right! The glamour and excitement wears a little thin as we step into yet another pizza joint (they arent pizzerias at the piazzas to us anymore but pizza joints…you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all!)

And because we actually dont know one more word of Italian than we did when we stepped off the plane, we just order the same old margarita pizza or spaghetti Bolognese because they are the only words on the menu we know!

My whole life i have been told that i talk fast but i dont hold a candle to the folks here! I talk like Gomer Pile compared to them.

Just this morning we were out on the balcony bringing in the clothes we had left out on the dryer racks from yesterday. It had rained, so they were still damp. All of a sudden I hear a lady talking very loudly and look over the railing to see what was going on down on the street when i happen to glance over across the street and see an older Italian lady leaning out her window waving and smiling at me! I tried to use hand motions to try to tell her i didnt speak Italian when she finally just laughs and backs away from the window. This will keep me up all night. Was she trying to tell me that laundry is only suppose to be hung out on certain days? Or was she trying to tell me she liked some of my clothes that i had hanging out there? Maybe i shouldnt waste my time hanging clothes out this week because it is suppose to rain everyday! Guess I will never know as she talked so fast I didnt even have time to try to grab my phone with my “translate Italian to english app”

Some hints from us to anyone that is thinking of coming over here for an extended time. To prepare yourself for some of the distinct differences of living in the USA, practice taking a shower in a phone booth all the while trying to shave your legs!

Go to your neighborhood bar and sit in the middle of a group of men that smoke. Get your lungs use to the smoke before coming to Italy! Guido has already told me that the Doctor is going to be so excited to see my cholesterol down (surely it is down after eating no meat or chocolate cake or Hershey bars for 6 weeks) significantly only to tell me i now have the lungs of someone who has smoked for 25 years.

Leave most of the cutsie clothes at home you were thinking of bringing! Instead pack bags of ice, cartons of Dr Pepper, peanut butter crackers, bags of chips and jars of salsa! Trust me on this!

Dont get me wrong, we are having such a great time seeing so many wonderful buildings, churches and statues! But right now they would look so much better while walking along the piazzas with a taco or burrito in my hand, rather than a gelato!

Tomorrow, when we go to Piazza Novana for dinner, we will be once again, order more pasta! Or maybe we will throw caution to the wind and just point to a menu item, hoping it doesnt have anchovies or tripe in it! After all, we are in Rome and want to do what the Romans do! Just wish they liked enchiladas and Dr Peppers!

Italian Inventions

We have now been in Italy for almost 6 weeks. And it has been glorious! Ok…Maybe a few days were just ok more than glorious because it rained more days than we anticipated. But because we have rainy days to fill with reading, playing cards and watching Netflix, we are so thankful that we dont feel that we have to go someplace everyday. It is in those rainy days that we do laundry and get caught up on emails and of course, the blog! Today is one of those days.

The other day i began to compile a list of so many things i love about Italy but also a list of the things i miss about The good ole USA!

There is of course, family and friends we miss alot! But two things i miss so so much is just “ice” and a garbage disposal! We had brought some ice trays from home with us to use because i remembered how hard they are to find here. But i forgot them in Florence! So we are back to hunting down an ice cube tray. Today it dawned on me that the inventor of the clothes dryer might very well have been an Italian lady. I put up the drying rack this morning out on the balcony to hang laundry to dry, and it dawned on me that now, Randy was not going to be the only one who knew what size my panties were! By 10 am, the entire apartment neighborhood that looks directly at us would know how truly big my Sears big girl panties were! As i tried to hang them between his shirts and tidy whites (hoping it would make mine look smaller) a lady from next door came out on her balcony. I smiled and said caio, and she smiled back as she watched me continue to hang up our “personals”. It was then and there that i decided to go find the Rome mall and run into Victorias Secrets and buy the laciest and smallest panties i could find to hang outside. I will start hanging my real size ones inside over the backs of breakfast chairs to dry from now on! I do not want people that dont even know my name to know more about the size of my undergarments than my husband! We had a dryer in Florence so all i used the clothes line for was our shirts, blouses and pants! I felt like Cinderella in those days out hanging clothes, singing loudly on the beautiful sunny days and never gave it a thought as to what i would do if I didnt have a dryer! Well, we now know! Trust me. If I was single in Italy and didnt have a dryer, you would never see my unmentionables hanging outside. Mr Right might be living right across the road and be able to see what he was in for and decide that maybe Matcho Dot. Como didnt get it right!

After my incident last weekend on the bus, I have decided to pack away my white capris until we are back in cars and not using the bus system. It was the first sunny day we had had in a few days so i decided to get out of my black and gray uniform. It was a day of sunshine and gelato and i was going to celebrate by wearing some new white capris i had bought in Orlando before heading to Italy. It was also a day that I was feeling chipper about loosing a few pounds from all the walking we had been doing! I opted for a new blouse that didnt cover up my entire rear end. After all, it had been a couple weeks since i had worn anything spring like and it felt good to wear a brightly covered top that matched how i felt that day. So off we go to catch the bus. We were excited to be trying a new bus route and knew that we would be seeing all new streets. We board the bus and i insert my ticket in the machine. I look back to see that the bus is almost full and know i will be standing until a seat becomes available when i hear Randy say,”TGirl” i turn around with my back to the rest of the bus and see that Randy has dropped his ticket on the floor before validating it. Well he has to hold on with one hand and had his cane in the other so i know that he needs me to get the ticket off the floor. As i bend over to retrieve it, the bus takes off and I loose my balance and end up with my rear in the air. And i have on my white capris that make me look even bigger. If I had been wearing my black ones maybe there might not have been so much snickering coming from the passengers! All i know is that for 30 min i had to stand up with everyone looking at me and probably thinking “whoa, maybe she needs to stay away from the pasta dishes”! Randy felt so badly that he said “lets get off and go into McDonalds and have a frappachino”. So off the bus we went in search of a coffee to take my mind off my embarrassing moment. When we walked in he went to order as I went off to find the ladies room. Walking in I found that the lady before me had not flushed the toilet so I decided to do that before I pottied. If you have traveled here to this country you know that the flush buttons are usually on the wall behind the toilets. As I pushed it, the entire cover fell into the toilet. Since there were others still waiting to use the bathroom i couldnt just leave it so i closed my eyes (why did i feel like that would not make it as germy) and pulled the cover out so it wouldn’t stop it up. I laid it on the floor and came out trying to explain to the line of Italian ladies waiting that it was now broken. But they didnt understand. So now i had ladies in McDonalds walking by me staring at me wondering why after i went in the bathroom, it had to be closed down!

This was all the humiliation i could handle for one day. I told randy i just wanted to go home (by taxi) and wash my hands in pure bleach water and bring in my undies from the balcony and pull the curtains and watch High Seas on Netflix!

Maybe after today an Italian lady might invent a lever to flush commodes that wont fall off the wall!

The Wonderful Italian Diet

We had been to the doctor in Orlando before flying off to Italy! Yes…we had heard what the dr said! If it is animal based…stay away! If it is plant based….eat with great taste!

It was hard to think like that knowing we were headed to the land of pancetta, parmesan, and gelato! Did the Doctor realize that he was causing me possible high blood pressure trying to resist all the great Italian delicacies? Yes, if I followed his advice my cholesterol would probably go down, but now I was so high strung trying to stay away from all the foods we were coming to Italy for!

Well…we showed him! Ok maybe we arent showing him but we certainly have figured out how to have our cake and gelato too!

The last several days we have noticed that we dont even have to unzip our pants to pull them off. They slide down on their own! WHAT? We are in Italy for Heavens sake! How can this be? Do people really come here and loose weight? Well Guido and I are living proof that it happens! Here is our story!

It all began April 18th when we landed in Florence for a month. We had just arrived from Rome where we had stayed for two days trying to adjust to the 8 hr time change!

Our taxi delivered us to the door of the apartment that we would call home for the next month! The host greeted us and unlocked the front door to the building! We saw a group of stairs leading to another door that was in front of us…..no problem, there were just 5 stairs. We are old but no problem, 5 little stairs are nothing. Even with our 5 bags. Then the second door is opened snd there before us are more stairs! Randy looks at me and says, “did you check with the listing page to be sure there is an elevator?” Oopsie! No didnt do that! Laura, our host says, ” no worries, it is just on 4 th floor!” What….we have to climb up to 4th floor every time we come home! And carry groceries up 4 flights of stairs! But we need one hand to hold on to the hand railing so we dont fall and break a hip or ankle! This is crazy!

We began the ascent! Im proud to tell you that we made that first trip up in less than 10 min. We kept having to stop and catch our breath at each landing. Laura had felt sorry for us and told us to leave the bags and she would have her brother bring them up. If she had not done that i was ready to admit defeat and tell her to just shoot me. There was no way neither of us would be able to carry the bags up! As Laura was showing us the apartment and everything we needed to know I ask her if there was a hospital near by in case we had a heart attack climbing up! She laughed and said,”oh you are funny, you will get use to them by the second day!” Apparently she didnt realize what she was saying to Ms Butter Queen who has butter running through her veins

After she left us to get settled, Guido just looked at me and shook his head! He said, “lets sit down right now and, after our breathing returns to normal, check our other places we have reserved for the next two months and be sure that if they are higher than the ground floor that there is an elevator! Should we actually not die from a heart attack this month and be able to continue on i dont want to push our luck by moving to another place without an elevator!” After all, we both had read somewhere that hearts only have so many beats before they give out. And right now, ours was using up alot of those allotted beats!

Well Laura was right. By the end of two weeks, we didnt collapse by the time we got up to the second floor. By 3 weeks we didnt have to stop after 3 floors and have a nap before going on up to the 4 th! And my oh my, by the 4 th week, we were able to climb all the way up to the 4 th before our hearts beat out of our chest! Then we left for Rome! Just when we were getting this stair climbing down!

We looked back over the 4 weeks in Florence and realized why we had lost weight. Not only had we exercised but we had eaten less than we even dreamed. By the time we would come home from sigh seeing and exploring, we would just look at each other and one of us would say, “lets just eat soup or toast tonight, i just dont have the energy to make one more trip up the stairs today!”

And that my sweet traveling friends who are dreaming of coming to Italy but afraid that you will come here only to go back home a size larger is a fool proof way to loose weight when here! Oh…one (or two) more secrets to loosing weight! When out exploring a favorite town here, just order off the menu with pride! Try to make the food servers think you know Italian! I got cocky and ordered a pizza thinking that the word acciughe was a cheese! It wasnt. There before me sat a pizza filled with all the cutest little anchovies you have seem! I tried to pick them off and eat the pizza but i just could not. Ended up having breadsticks for dinner.

And last tip is this! When you know that you are allergic to milk, do not buy the statement “oh everything in Italy is different. Not as much processing and you probably wont have problems with the milk there!” So i went on a gelato spree! Guess i went a little over board having gelato 3 times in 3 days. I wont bore you with the details but lets just say that i probably lost a couple pounds that week alone!

So there you have it! The medical advice you must have to loose weight in Italy!

The walking alone burns so many calories that you can have a plate of pasta without guilt. Taking the subway in Rome is hard on your knees snd Lots of stairs going down and up but the calories burned allowed us to enjoy a dish of cacio peppe, my new favorite dish! And yes, i know what it is now ( pasta with cheese, pepper and pasta water) and can actually pronounce it….with a Southern draw!

You might not recognize us when we get back to Texas! We are almost skin and bones now! But we are going to really try hard the next two months to put some of our weight back on . We are only staying in bldgs with “lifts” and riding the buses! We dont want to scare our friends and family into thinking we have lost too much weight. So we are eating as much as possible….because we are just that type of people….caring, giving and thoughtful of others! Arrivederci

Seeing Italy In A Round About Way

This week should prove to all our adult children that we are still of sound mind and able to take care of ourselves! We survived the over 1,378 round abouts in Florence, Bologna and the AutoStrada! Actually i think the 1,378 turned into 2,756 by the time we turned in the rental car on Friday! Since our GPS was in the beautiful Italian language with street names that none of us could begin to pronounce much less see fast enough as we went around the “round abouts” we did our fair shares of playing ring around the Rosie, by car!

Just as we were starting to get the hang of following our sweet Italian speaking GPS lady we named “Lucia” we came to the toll booths! All I can say is that the man yelling at us from the speaker to “just go on” 15 times, needs to go to anger management class! We were doing our best to count out $8 worth of Euros from our purses! We had no idea it would cost that much. We thought we had plenty of change out before driving up to the arm that would not lift even though we had thrown in 8 Euros. Our 8 euros apparently didnt add up to $8 so the man in the window began shouting for us to go on so all the cars behind us would stop honking!

Bonnie and I were about to die laughing when, after a few more miles, excuse me Kilometers, down the road, we had to repeat the process! This time, Arnie drove past the machine that takes the ticket to see how much we owe and had to back up! Cars began honking once again as we began to dig for change as we quickly noticed we were in the credit card lane only!

We drove off finally realizing that we felt good about learning some new Italian words coming from the drivers behind us!

Exploring Italy for 3 days by car was not only an adventure but it proved once and for all that our minds are still working pretty well! As we drove up to our airbnb in Bologna for the night, we were a little irritable that the host was not there to meet us and let us in! When we began to text him, we let him know that we had been at the front door for 30 min and were tired and hungry and was ready to get out of the car we had been in all day! He quickly responded that he was standing outside the door to the apartment we had rented but we werent there! We were at the wrong address. Apparently there were two exact same address! one was in Bologna the other was in a little neighborhood 5 miles away. We put our bags back in the trunk and 35 min later, drove up to the correct place. By now we were starving. We were too tired to get back in the car and try to go find a place to eat so we asked our Airbnb host if there was a neighborhood restaurant that we could walk to. He graciously told us about a place about two blocks down! We sat down at the table to which we were led and opened our menus. Of course it was all in Italian and the waiter spoke no English. When Arnie ask about several menu items it became apparent that the restaurant specialized in fish! None of us actually received the food we thought we had ordered! But the laughter and the experience was certainly worth our first dinner with fish that was looking at us from our plates!

As we left Bologna the following morning, we smiled at the first “round about” which allowed us to drive yet around and around trying to find the exact exit that would once again take us to the AutoStrada! We had learned our lesson….we had the change ready and waiting in the cup holder! Plus, after having a whole fish, eyes and tail included, we had learned a few new Italian words ourselves!

Falling In Love

We truly have fallen in love with Italy. We came here with so many intentions of seeing as many of the tourist attractions as possible, never thinking about what would actually capture our hearts.

Waking up each morning here in Florence has opened our eyes to so many new things!

We are able to look out and see beautiful hills and cypress trees as we listen to the church bells ringing, seeing the church in the distance! We watch housewives hanging clothes out on the lines as some of them look up and wave to us, as we stand on the balcony wishing we had learned some Italian and could carry on a conversation with them.

Yesterday was such a precious experience for me. Our landlord invited me to come over and watch her mom make tiramisu! As I sat in their kitchen, Paulo, Laura’s sweet mom began whipping cream, slowly stirring egg whiles in the mascarpone mixture and then allowing me to dip the biscotti biscuits in the prepared coffee before placing them over the smooth rich creamy mixture! What a treat. But then as i rose to leave, they handed me the beautiful bowl of tiramisu and told me it was mine to take home so we would have a great dessert for our friends flying in today!

It is experiences like this that have made us stop and give thanks to God allowing us to be here! Yes, the beautiful old buildings are amazing to see! The art that lines the museums is so beautiful it brings tears to your eyes! But once again it is the people who touch our hearts that gives us our most amazing memories. Will we remember going thru the Vatican? Of course! Will we look back and brag about learning the bus system, navigating the trains and being able to actually order in a restaurant where no one speaks English? Absolutely! But my most favorite memories will be the days that Randy and I walked to the grocery store almost daily! The afternoons when we stopped in to our favorite coffee/pastry shop down the street and got so excited when the owner began to kid with us because he now recognized us from being in there so much! The mornings when we hung out clothes on the line as pigeons flew over, landing on the roof next to us, just daring us to leave the door open so she could fly in or nest under the sink on the balcony. Randy and I have had afternoons when folks stopped us, asking directions and we could actually answer them. If they knew English or we could point to a map for them!

The month is going so quickly, but the memories are becoming already so dear and special to is both! Today the sun is shining, the doors and windows are open as we await our sweet friends! We are excited to not only to show them some tourist attractions but the heart and soul of Florence….the people!

Florence Fiascos

Well, to say yesterday was an adventure is saying that the Pope is Catholic (sorry but since we are in Italy i had to use that saying)!

We arrive at the train station in Venice and took the 4:30 train back to Florence. We had already decided that when we arrived back here, we would just take a bus back to the apartment. After all the more money we save not taking a taxi we get to buy gelato!

We sometimes (sometimes?) get cocky and think we have mastered things, when in reality we just “think” we have mastered it. Yesterday was one of those days. We had just talked on the train about how proud we are that we have learned how to navigate the trains here, learned the euro, how to call a taxi and give them our address in Italian and two of the bus routes; we thought!

We walked out of the Florence train station and headed for the bus terminal. Randy says so confidently “ok we know we have got on bus #13 and #6 by our place so surely if we catch either of those we should make it home”! So we hold our heads as high as we can carrying bags and backpacks (plus his cane and big umbrella) and cross a major street heading for the buses! Oh forgot a very important detail. We leave the train station with me needing to go potty but too tired to walk upstairs to go so i just told randy i will hold it until we get home. After all, should not take more than 30-45 min. We walk to the sign that tells us the buses (remember its all in Italian) numbers and how long before each bus will be before they arrive. Hot Dog, there is #6 bus coming in 8 min. Bus 13 never was listed so we knew it did not service this stop. But we r good. We, along with 15 others hop on. No seats are left and we find out what canned clams must feel like. Randy grabs a bar to hold on to still holding his cane and a bag. I cant get close enough to even think about holding on to anything but it was so crowded that actually i didnt worry about falling. A few folks get off as the bus stops so i make my way closer to randy so i can hand him our tickets to validate so we are riding legally. As i try to hand him the tickets, the bus takes off and i fall over head first to the floor! I feel an arm of someone helping me back up to a standing position and am able to give Randy the tickets. After another 15-20 min Randy ask me if anything looks familiar! I told him the only thing that looks familiar is the floorboard of which i have almost fallen completely face first not being able to sit or hold onto anything. People have continually crowded on to the bus at each stop. They just kept coming. After about 45 min we come to a stop and everyone gets off except the two of us! Yea…we can sit down now! The bus driver turns to us and tells us to get off, we are at the end of the line and he gets off the bus and goes and smokes a cigarette! When i tell him “No. we cant be at the end of the line because we havent come to our stop yet! he ask me (I guess that’s what he has me I don’t know , he could only speak Italian but I pulled out my little picture of my bus stops on my phone and pointed to the one where we get on and off, “he said no”and motioned for us to get off the bus and take the next 6 bus it will get us there! So we (i still have not gone to the potty) wait about 10 min and i get on bus and show him the stop we need and he shakes his head yes! Ok we are good to go. This bus is crazy. So crowded that now even randy has nothing to hold on to and when the bus comes to a stop, he fell into a mans lap. The man yells because it scared him, but i started to laugh just watching randy try to get up holding his cane and backpack. After 30 min we see our stop and get off! This is when we remember that the next day is a holiday in Italy and we have absolutely no food at the house. Many of the stores and cafes close soRandy tells me he thinks we should walk to the little restaurant by one of our grocery stores and eat and go to the grocery store and get a couple things for the next day. I remind him I’m still needing to go the bathroom but I’m afraid that if we don’t go to the store then we will be stuck here at the house with no food and the cafés will be closed when we wake up in the morning. So we walk over to the cafe and they are closing and the grocery store has already closed. We notice that a little outdoor hamburger stand is still open so we decide that even if my dr has said that im not to eat beef or animal products we are going to get a hamburger. If i die, at least i died full and not from hunger! (This little stand only makes hamburgers and has a table and 4 chairs and is about a block from the apartment in the middle of the park ) We ordered and proceeded to eat when Randy says, “do u have the keys?” Do i have the keys”? Of course i have the keys. This is italy and you have a key to get inside the building then the key to unlock the apartment door! So i begin to look thru my bag and my backpack. I start to panic and start unloading both onto the table. No keys! There in the middle of the park (it is now 8:30 pm) i am throwing everything out of both bags onto the table. The guys cooking hamburgers am now looking at us like we are homeless. I began to think about our order. We had ordered one hamburger and ask them to cut it in half and one coke for us to share. After all i figured that if my dr in 3 months wasnt pleased with my cholesterol numbers going down i could at least tell him that we now shared a hamburger instead of eating a whole one by myself!

Because im needing to potty so badly, (remember we got out of train station at 6:30) my next phone call will be to our financial advisor to buy stock in Depends!

I gathered all my stuff and began to just stuff it in the bags. Was so embarrassed thinking about what the guys cooking must be thinking. But we didnt want to have to unload the bags on the sidewalk in front of our outside door to look for the keys! Plus now it was dark. We decided to just walk home and try to call our landlord to see if she could come let us in. By this time im thinking of ways to pee in my pants and not stink when Laura comes to let us in. We finally find Laura’s number on our new Italian phone, which is so much less user friendly than an Iphone and ask her to come please let us in. She just lives around the corner. In 5 min here she comes. She brought the keys and we ascend up the stairs. As she leaves, I race to the bathroom. Then as i come out, here is Randy holding the keys saying, “look what i found in MY backpack!”

I think i remember seeing some mafia guys in the park by the hamburger joint! Wonder if they speak English?

Think i know some new vows that need to be added to wedding ceremonies!

Italian Wannabes

We, along with thousands of people who have passed thru here, dream of living here or at least want to look Italian! With my milk of magnesia lilly white skin I dont stand a chance. Dressing all in black or gray trying to fit in as we walk along the streets of Florence, we still stand out like the typical tourist. Maybe its that I stop every 10 min trying to snap pictures of someone leaning out a window singing and waving to all of us standing waiting for bus #13 to show up! Maybe its that we have to stop at every little market to just look at all the beautiful fresh produce or that I’m yelling Caio when everyone else is yelling Bonna sera! Or maybe its the fact that we continually pull out the map while pointing to the walls of the buildings trying to figure out where in the world we might be and how did we get there when we intended to be on the other side of the river!

Whatever the reason that we look like tourist, i really dont care. We are just thankful to be here. Today i thought it would be fun to list some of the reasons we love Italy! So hang on and if you have some reasons that you would love to share, please do so!

The scenery is gorgeous

The gelato is just, well, how do you describe it? Im sure it will be on the banquet table in Heaven

The people are so precious

Love that you never see anyone wearing jeans that are so low you see more of their underwear than you want to see

The food is incredible

Makes me use my mind trying to read a Italian labels and if im washing our clothes in dish detergent or clothes detergent

Did i mention that the food is incredible

I feel healthy even eating everything with olive oil

Even love the bread without butter (and for those of you who know me, that is saying alot)

Have loved walking ( and for those of you who know me, that is saying alot)

No screens on windows plus able to hear church bells ringing so the sunshine as it pours in the windows

It has been fun to use clotheslines off our back patio to hang up clothes to dry. If i did that at home, they would think I’ve lost my mind or had spent all our retirement money on chocolate and butter and couldnt afford a dryer…but here its fun!

Since we dont speak Italian we dont watch much tv so have begun to read more and get out and walk more to just explore. Why dont we do that back in Texas??? Maybe because we think it might be dangerous walking on the Tollway? And there is no gelato shop on every corner!

We love traveling by train which allows Randy to rest while i snap pictures of the gorgeous countryside

I will end todays post with just one more reason we love Florence…..

The food! It is just incredible!

We are taking the train on Sunday after church (yes we are going to try to get there again) and go to Venice for 3 days, then back to Florence to await some dear friends who are coming to visit us from California! We feel that we have learned a few out of the tourist busy places to show them! Am so excited to have them here! Ciao or Benne Sera or Arrivederci….or toodles (for those of you who dont speak Italian like us)!