Thursday, July 30, 2009

Italia - day four

Assisi. Who knew what an enchanting place this walled city would be. It's most famous for St. Francis and the Basilica named in honor of him. It's so difficult to put into words the feeling you have when you're there, so I'll let the photos do the talking. I spent lots of time editing these photos, hence the long overdue post.

The wall around Assisi as we approached.

Just outside the city wall.

Another outside the wall.

Inside the city wall.

The beautiful sights of Assisi. I could have stayed there a week, or two, or really never come home as long as Randy would stay and my dogs could come.

Santa Maria degli Angeli. Absolutely breathtaking basilica made of marble. It took over 100 years to build: 1569 - 1679. The arches pictured here were added later to support the structure.

Front view of Santa Maria degli Angeli. 

Detail shot of Santa Maria.

My friend Betsi and me at the fountain in front of Santa Maria. Yes, we look like tourists with our "Whispers" around our necks. :)

Randy snapped this shot of me in front of Santa Maria.

Had to snap a few food pics. Actually there are many more to come, just didn't eat in Assisi. (But I couldn't resist snapping this shot of beautiful confections.)

Charcuterie hanging from the store front doorway. Love it. 

One of the many enchanting stairways along the street. Everything looks so inviting. Wish I could have climbed these stairs, but alas, we were on a schedule.

A staged portrait. (Thanks so much Jan Wilson for your fab photography skills!)

Inside the Basilica di San Francisco (St. Francis). This is actually two bascilicas - the old one down below. We were waiting to get into the downstairs one. The lower bascilica was finished in 1230. The the upper basilica was finished in 1280. (Kicking myself that I didn't get a good shot of the grounds in front, it was quite lovely.)

This gorgeous bride was outside when we walked along the outer walkway. I had to snap a picture of her. She's so beautiful and looks so incredibly happy. I love weddings and brides - I must be a romantic at heart.

Inside the outer walkway. Leaving Assisi for this trip, but I shall return.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Italia - day three

This was our first day to actually wake up in Italy. Randy and I both woke up at 5 a.m. that morning. It's no oddity for Randy to wake up that early, but I don't think I've ever woken up AWAKE at that time before. We both managed to sleep a bit longer, thank goodness.

Our "Campus Director," Ines (pronounced En-nes) was fabulous. Every step of the way, she was there to help us with questions, and her warm hospitality. Ines gave us a lecture about Tuscan history and treated us to all kinds of "tid bits" of information throughout the trip. It was wonderful.

We went on a walking tour of Cortona where our guide, (oops forgot her name) took us to the City Hall and to an Etruscan museum filled with incredible religious art including The Annunciation by Beato Angelico.

All these beautiful little alleys adorned the streets of Cortona.

Inside City Hall. Gorgeous room in there. Lots of people marry here. I wanted to pack 4 of those chairs in my suitcase for my breakfast nook. On the hunt now though and I will find some!

One of the piazzas in Cortona (in front of the gorgeous historic City Hall).

The Robinsons and us by the shrine of St. Marguerite in Cortona.

A little rain in Tuscany never dampened the mood. We had lunch on this beautiful patio and right after dessert (yes you heard me, we ate dessert at every lunch!), it started to rain.

After lunch, we were off on the bus to Montalcino to a wonderful winery called Altisimo. The scenery to and from, at the winery, the wine and the hospitality there did not disappoint.

The beautiful wine barrels. I swear I drank a whole barrel while in Italy.

Randy trying to decide what to buy.

We bought 4 bottles of the fabulous white wine, all of which is gone. But I did find out that we can purchase it right here in Wichita. (A win-win!)

The unbelievably delicious, mouth-watering proscuitto and pecorino cheese. I brought home some cheese, but didn't bring proscuitto. I get my wonderful charcuterie from La Quercia and it tastes exactly the same as it does in Italy (hence the owners lived there for many years).

What a fabulous way to end our day - dinner in the winery at our hotel. The food was magnificent every day. And how cozy is this little winery?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Italia - day two

Still on the plane. Randy's all happy even though he didn't sleep.

We landed in Frankfurt, Germany early morning of day two. We had a several hour layover in the airport, but luckily it wasn't a bad airport to be stuck in. Many shops to walk through and by this time, we'd met all of the KState travelers (except Jan from Salina who flew over by herself).

Had a coffee in Frankfurt and a water (but forgot that I needed to order still water, so it had bubbles). I only like bubbles in my sparkling wine, not water. We spent a couple of hours in the airport, and I didn't buy a thing. I wanted to buy some Korres skin care products, but we had to go through security there so the same 3 oz. rules applied to carry-ons.

After landing in Florence, getting our luggage on the bus and then an hour and a half trip through beautiful Tuscany (which I could hardly hold my eyelids open), we'd arrived in Cortona. Our home away from home for the trip. What an incredibly enchanting sleepy hilltop town that became famous because of the movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. The photo is the view of the Tuscan valley from Hotel San Luca where we stayed. Completely overwhelmingly picturesque and forever sketched in my mind.

We had just a tiny bit of time to wonder around the corner to the main streets of Cortona. This is a little slice of the City Hall steps where lots of people sit and conversate. The couple there was on our trip, how ironic.

Craig and Dena are from Wichita, too. Randy and Craig grew up 30 miles from each other, both in small towns, competed in high school track, went to KSU together and then to Washburn for law school together. Then we figured out that Dena was in my uncle's high school class. What a small, small world.

We met in one of the beautiful terraces that evening for appetizers (including these delectable lightly battered and fried squash flowers). We had a lovely dinner in the wine cellar (pics to come of that) and CRASHED.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Italia - day one

We've been back a bit longer than we were gone to Italy. To say it's beautiful and a trip that EVERYONE should take would be an immense understatement. If you've been there, you know. And if you haven't gone yet, I want to share a slice of Tuscany with you each day, one day of our trip at a time. 

Day One
We left Wichita mid-morning which made this night owl happy. Flew to Chicago, and had a 4-hour layover. But not much can dampen your mood when you're headed to one of the most beautiful scenic places in the world. We almost didn't make our flight (we were supposed to go get our boarding passes at the gate and forgot - ooops). But the travel agent with AHI was there and took care of us. We were bumped up to Business Class and I was lovin' it. Randy wasn't letting himself enjoy it (he felt guilty we were the ones who were upgraded and the other people in our group didn't get upgraded). Silly boy. It was fabulous! 

Gettin' comfy in our seats. (Damn, I could get used to this!)

A glass of bubbly before we take off? Absolutely!

Menu choices - decisions, decisions.

I went with the mixed green salad with a small dollup of a fancy potato salad as first course.

Baked cod over fingerling potatoes and artichoke hearts (they had me at artichoke hearts) with a wonderfully light white wine butter sauce.

Randy had Gnocci as his second course. It was good, but nothing as fabulous as what we were about to experience in Italy.

A nice refreshing third course.

Watching chick flicks like "He's Just Not that Into You" and "Confessions of a Shopaholic" while sitting right next to Randy was pretty much heaven. He watched what he wanted (and ended up watching five movies instead of sleeping on the way over). Naughty boy. I slept about 3.5 hours and was woken up by yet another delicious meal. I knew we were off to a magnificent start on this vacation!