Monday, September 24, 2012

Of Wine, Cheese and Italian Sunsets

I've just returned from 10 glorious days in sun-drenched Italy, and thought I'd share a few of the highlights, beginning with this photo I took on the very first night, from the window of my hotel in the heart of Florence. This beautiful old building is the Basilica di Santa Croce, the burial place of some of the most illustrious Italians ever known, including Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.
Standing before the tomb of Michelangelo was a surreal experience, in part because of the exquisite nature of the marble sculptures that decorate his resting place (so very lifelike, and so very sad), and in part because of the Basilica itself, filled with funerary sculptures and monuments, gorgeous frescos and chiseled remembrances, in an atmosphere of awestruck silence and reverential respect nearly impossible to describe. 

For the next few days, we roamed the streets of Florence, down narrow, winding cobblestone lanes into wide, beautiful piazzas filled with more sculpture, more history, sparkling Florentine fountains and numerous colorful little trattorias.  I lost count of the times we stopped to just sit and people-watch, enjoying cheese, olives, and wine while street musicians played played and vendors hawked their wares.

We spent a memorable afternoon at the Uffizi Museum, home to some of the most famous and beautiful artwork in the world, including Botticelli's "Birth of Venus", and gorgeous original works by Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian and Michelangelo.  We strolled across the Ponte Vecchio, one of the colorful and busy bridges spanning the River Arno, and visited the famous Boboli Gardens, once owned by the Medici family, who reigned as undisputed royalty in Florence for hundreds of years.  We mingled with the crowds at the busy "Mercanto Centrale" where I happily haggled over a gorgeous red leather bag (now mine, all mine!), and bought a few other souvenirs.  We discovered the joys of gnocchi al pesto (potato dumplings with fresh pesto, made from basil & olive oil), Pecorino cheese, Italian gelato, and rich Cappucino.

After three days glorious days in Florence, we embarked on a completely new adventure, taking the train from Florence into Pisa, and then on to the seaside village of Camogli, just south of the port of Genoa.


Warm Mediterranean breezes, brightly colored homes and boats, more cheese, more wine, and a completely laid-back attitude.  They don't call this part of the Ligurian coast the "Italian Riviera" for nothing!

Here's one of my favorite shots, taken from the balcony of our room overlooking the sea.  I've NEVER seen colors like this in a sunset, and I live in Florida!  Some of my favorite memories will always include sitting on that balcony, just reading, enjoying the crash of the waves and the cries of the gulls.

Here in Camogli we relaxed for four more days, enjoying strolls through quiet streets, some wonderful seafood, more cheese, more wine, and crusty fresh-baked bread.  One of those days we took the ferry south to the city of Portofino, though we both agreed that - despite Portofino's reputation as a "must-see" destination - the village of Camogli was far prettier, and much less touristy.

Finally, it was time to go home, so we took one last shot on our balcony overlooking the sea, and left Camogli with regret, taking with us some happy memories, some great photos, a new interest in Italian cuisine, and... dare I say it?... some inspiration for a new book!!  (I'll say no more than that for now, because I don't want to jinx it.)  :)

I've posted a lot more pictures on my Facebook page if you're interested, but in the meantime, thanks for letting me share my memories and photos, and as they say in Italy, "Arrivederci!"