This is one small corner of the 17-room 14C villa we rented with 5 other couples. The villa has been in the same family its entire history! It is located on a mountain near Lucca and contains wonderful rooms full of old things to enjoy and has incredible grounds and views from nearly every room. We spent a lot of time in the garden at the left.


The caretakers fixed dinner for us twice. They prepared superb Italian food and we had plenty of wine, naturally. Y was there too - but this is one of the few photos she took!



Monteriggioni is one of the many Tuscan hill towns we visited. Dante mentioned its impressive towers. This is a view of it with grapevines in the foreground. The hill towns are all beautifully situated and rich in history.


Among the highlights of the entire trip were visits to the Abbeys of St. Antimo (Benedictine, 11C, above left) and San Salvatore (Cistercian, dated to 743, right). At St. Antimo, we watched six white-robed monks "sing" Gregorian chants. The whole "performance" was visually so beautiful and musically so stunning that it is difficult to describe. In San Salvatore, we saw a beautiful crypt with 35 columns, each in a different style. These things alone were worth the trip to Italy. In the crypt you see Y and our new Belgian friend Carlo.


Well, there was another reason…the wines. We fell in love with three reds that are hard to find here and, even in Italy, expensive. They are Vino Nobile of Montepulciano, Brunello of Montalcino, and Sagrantino of Montefalco (in Umbria). On the right, we have dinner on our balcony at the hotel in Radicofani (also mentioned by Dante and Boccaccio) with a bottle of Vino Nobile. Quite noble, indeed. This was one of our rare days with less than 50 miles visibility.


We made a quick trip in to the beautiful old center of Bologna. (Otherwise, Bologna is a very unattractive place). This is a view of one of the four sirens on the corners of the famous Neptune fountain. Our Michelin guidebook made this comment about the fountain: "The group has a rather rough vigor in tune with the town."






We revisited Padua and its Capella degli Scrovegni, one of our favorite places in Europe. It contains the Giotto frescoes that are considered to signify the beginning of the Renaissance (1305-10). On the left is J's favorite, the "Noli me tangere" (don't touch me).


We got together with J's high school classmate Mick Mößlang who lives in Bavaria (at left, drinking Prosecco with Y). His second "home" is the area near Venice, where his good friend Olindo Ballarin owns the Trattoria Laguna, considered by many one of the finest seafood restaurants in upper Italy. The picture above shows Olindo bringing fresh (caught 4 hours earlier) croakers to the table and recommending them for the main course (after we had absolutely incredible seafood antipasti). If you ever get to the area, don't miss Olindo's seafood!

We went to Venice by boat from Cavallino. We had heavy rain for the first time during the trip, which was great for our sightseeing. (We'd rather have rain than tourists). We went without lines into the Doge's Palace, up the Campanile, and into St. Mark's Basilica. The square was flooded for most of the day: the gondolas below seem to float onto the square. The sun finally came out and provided a photo opportunity to take St. Mark's reflecting in the flooded Piazza San Marco.