CIAO, ITALIA

TRAVEL MEMORIES LIVE IN MY HEART…

October 23rd is Michelle’s birthday so we decided to plant ourselves in her most favorite place for her special day…ORVIETO, ITALY! We arrived the day before her COMPLEANNO and stayed at the HOTEL PALAZZO PICCOLOMINI (that offered us the most wonderful views of Orvieto rooftops…sunset to sunrise)

Happily walking through the town we know so well, many friends, upon seeing her, wished her BUON COMPLEANNO. She was delighted. We celebrated that evening at her friend’s new restaurant, RISTORANTE IL GIARDINO da GIOVANNI, where we feasted like royalty! Grazie mille, Giovanni!

We spent several wonderful days reacquainting ourselves with the town and visiting with the people we’ve loved for so many years (after missing it and them for almost 2…due to Covid and closed borders.) Orvieto sits majestically high above the valley floor atop a huge chunk of tufo volcanic stone, overlooking cypress-dotted Umbrian plains…a true medieval hill town with a rich underground of Etruscan caves. Here are some highlights of our town at the top of the rock…one of the most outstanding hill towns in Umbria…

LA CORTE DEI MIRACOLI DI ALBERTO BELLINI…THAT’S ALBERTO CREATING HIS MAGIC
…AND CHEF LORENZO CREATING HIS!
MARKET DAY HAPPENS TWICE EACH WEEK
TRUFFLE HUNTING WITH DOGS WHO SPECIALIZE IN FINDING THESE GEMS
WE DO LOVE OUR ITALIAN GELATO
OUR MOST FAVORITE MEAL, NIDI…LARGE STRIPS OF PASTA WRAPPED AROUND PECORINO CHEESE AND HONEY…YUMMMMMMM
ANTHONY at THE BLUE BAR MAKES THE BEST DRINKS…AND SINGS, TOO…DEAR FRIEND
LONGTIME FRIEND, CHEF LORENZO
COOKING CLASS WITH CHEF LORENZO
THE BADIA FAMILY…FEDERICO and HANNAH CREATE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LEATHER GOODS, SPECIALIZING IN CUSTOM SHOES AND HANDBAGS AS WELL AS ACCESSORIES…SEBASTIAN IS THEIR APPRENTICE
ORVIETO ON TOP OF THE TUFO VOLCANIC ROCK
ORVIETO’S SPECTACULAR DUOMO
ACTOR, STANLEY TUCCI, IN ORVIETO FOR HIS CNN SERIES, “SEARCHING FOR ITALY”

Our next stop was Siena…We were driven there by our friend, Jude.

Siena is famous for its cuisine, art, museums, medieval cityscape and the Palio… a horserace held twice a year (not when we were there, unfortunately.) Our hotel (HOTEL MINERVA) was located at the bottom of a big hill that we had to climb each day to be in the “happening” part of the city. That was okay though, as we had the most wonderful room with our own PATIO overlooking the city, when we wanted to rest.

Siena is larger than Orvieto and full of activity. It didn’t look as though there were too many shut-downs because of Covid. We were required to wear our masks in every shop (as we were in Orvieto,) and had to show our vaccination cards if we chose to eat inside a restaurant. We felt quite comfortable in Siena and marveled at the wonderful sites, narrow, cobbled streets, shrines throughout the city ensconced in its outside walls and were in awe of the city’s Duomo, its Crypt and its Baptistry…that strong church influence that we always find throughout Italy. Here are some of our outstanding memories in photos…

OUTSIDE AND INSIDE THE DUOMO

THE CRYPT AND THE BAPTISTRY (built in the 1300’s) are feasts for the eyes with ancient frescoed walls, figures, illuminated books…

If the Duomo complex is the soul of Siena, Il Campo is its heart. Piazza del Campo is the focal point of public life in the historic center of the city. Starting as a marketplace and meeting spot for area villages in the 1300’s, it’s considered one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. Surrounded by shops, restaurants, hotels and living spaces, the Torre del Mangia and the Palazzo Pubblico (Town Hall) stand at the head of the shell-shaped piazza. The Torre and the highest point of the Siena Cathedral are equally tall as a sign that the church and state had equal power.

The Fonte Gaia is a monumental fountain…a focal point…of the Piazza del Campo…believed to be dedicated to the bride of God and patron of Siena, the Virgin Mary. It has a central relief of the Madonna and Child and is framed by stories of Genesis.

We had such a good time in Siena…leisurely, relaxing and fascinating walking all those narrow, serpentine, cobbled streets with our eyes wide open to take in all the eye candy. Here are some glimpses of Siena…

SHRINES are common to see throughout Italy and Siena is no exception. There were some lovely shrines ensconced in outside walls throughout the city…like these

…and door knockers…

We took a day to spend with our friend, Lucianna, in Cortona…just a short car ride away.

CORTONA is an ancient hill town dating back to the time of the Etruscans. It’s a hilly, walled town and boasts age old masterpieces of art by beato Angelico, Lorenzetti, Bartolomeo della Gatta and Luca Signorelli. Unfortunately, the Diocesan Museum was closed so Michelle wasn’t able to see them. I have seen them before on previous visits. Here are some of the sights we did see…

We left Siena and Italy in general, with a heavy heart, not knowing when Covid restrictions would permit us to return. Lucianna’s friend, Lello, drove us from Siena to Fiumicino Aeroporto in Rome where we spent the night before our early morning flight home. We saw some lovely landscapes along the way…

After our Covid test at the airport, we returned to our hotel and happily, had dinner with longtime friend and Italian teacher, Bianca and her roommate, Giulia. It was wonderful hugging Bianca once again…and meeting Giulia. Bianca’s husband, Max (who’s an opera singer) was on his way to Switzerland to perform and couldn’t join us. We missed him!

Ciao, Italia… spero di tornare presto.

ARTFUL READERS CLUB

THE STOLEN LADY

by LAURA MORELLI

My art for a different book cover…

Books have the power to transport us, to allow us to escape to another time and place just through the written word. That’s the closest thing to magic I know! THE STOLEN LADY by Laura Morelli is a historical fiction novel that has as many layers as a beautiful Renaissance painting. From 16th century Florence, (Italy) to World War II France, this is an exceptionally well researched story about a handful of courageous, resourceful employees struggling to keep the masterpieces of the Louvre out of the hands of the Nazis. The fast pace, intriguing characters (several based on actual historical persons,) and clever plot connecting them all, makes for a most enjoyable novel.

If you’re a lover of art history and have an interest in how Leonardo DaVinci’s created his Mona Lisa… if you want to be pulled into the spell of the painting’s creation, meet the enigmatic woman who became Leonardo’s most famous subject and learn of the dangers that nearly destroyed her portrait…in addition to a view of DaVinci himself…his lifestyle and how he utilized his engineering and scientific genius in other areas, this book is for you.

I especially appreciated that there are some supplemental materials at the end of the book that told about Morellli’s extensive research. The section entitled “In Lucie’s Words”, memoir excerpts from Lucie Mazauric, Louvre archivist, is worth a read. This novel’s intertwining of narratives and perspectives gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding of the life, times and survival of Mona Lisa. THE STOLEN LADY offers some impressive storytelling backed by solid research. Highly recommended!!

ARTFUL READING CLUB

“THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS”

by Kristin Harmel

Kidnapped from her German parents and raised in the forest, Yona was trained to survive in the most difficult of environments. Destined to become a hero as she moved from childhood to adulthood, survival training proved valuable in her saving many innocent lives…lives of those she met deep in Poland’s forests (where she was raised,)…Jews forced to escape and hide to evade Nazi capture during WWII Europe.

A unique take on WWII historical fiction, THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS‘ author, Kristin Harmel, offers an extraordinary story of survival, resilience, identity, strength, secrets, family life and…always…hope. Harmel brings the reader into the hearts and minds of these desperate people, mixing reality with spirituality and even a bit of magic.

Loosely based on true stories of survival against overwhelming odds, this is a meticulously researched, heart-racing, heart-wrenching tale with a unique twist that sets it apart from other historical fiction WWII novels. It’s UNPUTDOWNABLE and highly recommended!

DIGITAL CHALLENGES

MY LIFE IN 6 WORDS: This year’s garden is best EVER!

This has been a perfect week to jump back into digital challenges issued by my favorite online groups! It’s been a while since I’ve done so many at once. Sunday Postcard Art (https://sundaypostcardart.wordpress.com) asked for art depicting old age…I used an ancient fresco as my base and added an old lady to the mix. This is a wall from an age old cathedral in Orvieto, Italy…and another.

THE THREE MUSES (https://thethreemuseschallenge.blogspot.com) was thinking ahead to SCHOOL DAYS…

The Paris Collage Collective (https://pariscollagecollective.com) challenged participating artists to use a given image of a man in a vintage swimsuit in a piece of art…

…and finally, Flicker’s DIGITALMANIA (https://www.flickr.com/groups/digitalmania/) introduced us to the artistry of Anne Bagby. Our task was to create a piece inspired by her work. Here are my attempts…

Thank you for stopping by. Keep safe and keep well.

Until soon,

abbyj

BREAKING NEWS…

LEMONADE and POPCORN STAND…the first EVER on our street!!!

Has a new, annual tradition been born?

Lemonade and Popcorn Stand workers relaxing after the big rush of customers…

Many thanks to the grandparents…Stephanie and Brian De Joseph, Gretchen and Dean Burns…to all 6 grands and to all the lovely people who stopped by to offer support. Perhaps this will be an annual event as such a good time was had by all! We love our neighborhood! XOX

JULY REVIEW

MY LIFE IN 6 WORDS: Life’s all about hummingbirds these days…

Blown in with the wind

Dancing in a ray of light

A hummingbird feeds…

A quiet month, July. Lot’s of rain, verdant green everywhere, flowers blooming larger and more glorious… a charm of hummingbirds right outside my office window at my feeder…

….and a great deal of inspiration from the beauty surrounding me…inspiration to create pieces of digital art as a way of expressing my endless and bountiful gratefulness. Here are some examples…

Hope you had a productive month and will carry a happy, grateful heart with you for the months ahead. Stay safe!

abby j

Big Hugs…

ARTFUL READERS CLUB

WEST WITH GIRAFFES

by LYNDA RUTLEDGE

MY cover for this book…

…and so, the journey continues, in the Fall of 1938, for Wild Boy and Wild Girl, two East African giraffes who miraculously survived a killer hurricane on their sea voyage to New York. They traveled aboard a freighter from (present day) Kenya, arriving in New York harbor in a sorry state!! WEST WITH GIRAFFES is based on a true story, with some fiction filling in the blanks.

This is the freighter on which Wild Boy and Wild Girl journeyed… the S.S. Robin Goodfellow… sailing from Mombasa, Kenya to New York, with 52 days at sea

After spending some time in quarantine, Boy’s and Girl’s cross-country road trip to the San Diego Zoo commenced, as evidenced by all the press coverage along the way.

This is one of those books that’s different and a bit quirky…but one that touches your heart with it’s wit and charm. Woodrow Wilson Nickel (Woody,) age 105, feels his life ebbing away when he hears a television report about the possible extinction of giraffes. He has a story that he feels MUST be told! He offers…”I could’ve lived my entire life in the shadow of Dust Bowl miseries and Hitler horrors. Instead, such times hold less pain because of two animals I once knew.” “Few true friends have I known and two were giraffes…” And so began his story…

The animal lover in me delighted in this story about Old Man , Woody Nickel, and Red, as they struggled across the U.S.A. to deliver two of nature’s most beautiful, fragile, and at that time…rare creatures 3200 miles in a flimsy rig, to their ultimate destination…the San Diego Zoo. (It’s hard to imagine a time when most people had never seen a giraffe other than in pictures.) Woody, a 17 year old orphaned teenager who’d had a tough life thus far, convinced Old Man (Riley Jones) to let him drive the rig transporting the two tall guests across the multiple thousand miles. Red, a dreamy-eyed girl and would-be photographer/reporter, became part of the group as she followed, uninvited, to get the story for LIFE Magazine …her ambitious goal. They struggled over the mountains, across Dust Bowl territory, overcoming daunting obstacles like hairpin turns, single lane unpaved pothole-ridden roads, underpasses, tunnels, dust storms, floods and encounters with scoundrels.

This was a lovely, emotion-filled story combining history, fiction and love for animals. Inspired by true events, WEST WITH GIRAFFES explores what it means to be changed by the grace of animals, respect for all life, the kindness of strangers, the passing of time and a story told before it’s too late. It’s a true testament to the beauty of animals and human nature…and the bonds between man and animal.

Highly recommended…especially if you’re an animal lover!

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE

MY LIFE IN 6 WORDS: Indigenous people of the world decreasing…

In view of the historically, unspeakably tragic depopulation of our First Nation men, women and children that unfolded after 1492, the survival of Indigenous people is truly extraordinary and speaks loudly to their strengths and innate knowledge of the land and meaning of community. However, even today the legacy of invasion, conquest, inhumanity and colonialism continues to exact a terrible human toll. This is what’s recently been discovered in Canada…

Sadly, this abuse and inhumane genocide continues to happen throughout the world…as well as in these United States. It’s very difficult to imagine, as these people, some dear friends of mine, are hanging on to their traditions and cultural ways for dear life, lest they lose who they are…who they’re meant to be and all they can teach the rest of the world of their proven, effective pathways. They’re soldiers…each and every one of them. But it would be wonderful if we all could just live our lives, side by side with one another…in community, welcoming one another with open arms and hearts, ready to share and exchange knowledge that will help our 7th generation grow and prosper. I pray this will come to pass…as the alternative is too terrifying to contemplate!

BE OUTRAGED!!!

ARTFUL READERS CLUB

THE MAGDALENE DECEPTION

by Gary McAvoy

MY Book Cover

A mythical legend, the resurrection of Jesus, Holocaust Jewish gold, the French Resistance, Nazis, Croatian fascists/terrorists (the Ustasha,) Vatican intrigue, high tech, action…and possible romance…what more could you ask for in a novel? THE MAGDALENE DECEPTION has it all in a masterful blend of real history and ‘what if’ present day!

Gary McAvoy, a superb historical researcher, has skillfully woven a tale that began thousands of years ago and continues into this millennium. There were two plots in this novel, merged into one outstanding story. The first plot explores the Magdalene and Rennes le Chateau in France…the second explores the Vatican involvement in the escape of Nazi war criminals and the long kept gold and money that the Vatican stored for the Nazi government. Much of the story is based on true events, but the author has also used his imagination to reveal what conspiracy theorists suspect is the truth about the Magdalene…a truth that, if revealed (and proven,) would devastate the Catholic Church and Christianity as we know it.

The story concerns a young priest who’s working at the Vatican as a digital archivist. His discovery of a hidden ancient document sends him journeying to research the document further. Concurrently, a young female journalist is working on tracing gold that the Nazis stole from the Jews (and others) as well as the banks that helped them…and the possible Vatican connections. Happily, the two truth-seekers end up working together.

McAvoy includes the right amount of history throughout the story to make the mystery plausible. He also includes descriptions of the inner workings of the Vatican, its political intrigue and behind-the-scenes manipulations. Too, there’s a hint of romance showing the temptations and inner struggles that priests face to maintain their vows.

THE MAGDALENE DECEPTION is a well-researched thrill ride that I highly recommend.

My 10 MOST Exciting Travel Moments

Sunset and the plane

Sandwiched between cloud layers…

Orange, up and down

Traveling is one of the best ways to enhance personal growth and broaden your horizons. It enables you to do things different from your routine activities. When you travel, you step out of your comfort zone to a different environment that urges you become more responsible and gives you a sense of independence. You become a more compassionate person. You view different lifestyles, customs, food, scenery…develop an appreciation for the recent and ancient past… and meet people like you as well as those very different from you, all with a like heart. We all want the same things in life, no matter where our journeys may take us and who we happen to meet along the way.

I’ve documented (with my photos) some of my most thrilling moments encountered in my travels…for me to remember and cherish as well as to inspire you…

ROLL IT…

First encounter with a lowland gorilla in the Central African Republic…mesmerizing to be almost close enough to touch!
Coming upon a herd of female elephants with babies in Botswana, Africa, as they charged us with stomping and trumpeting to keep us away…
Sichuan Province, Peoples’ Republic of China… first one on one encounter with a giant panda…so sweet and friendly. This was in Wolong, where they have a breeding center, so the pandas were used to human contact.
Hunting with the Bushmen (San people) in Namibia, Africa…smoking out giant porcupines for food. Porcupine skin tastes like crispy bacon…delicious!!! The Bushmen hunt with bows and arrows.
Visiting with Antarctica’s Gentoo penguins as we walk the icy continent of the frozen South Pole. They’re such entertaining creatures…
Spotting a magnificent Bengal tiger in the wild in Bandhavgarh… India. This is my most favorite animal (along with the elephant…) and seeing them in the wild was a most electrifying gift!
Impressive views of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) near the Arctic Circle took my breath away…literally and figuratively!
One of my MOST THRILLING travel moments EVER…ANYWHERE… was when, on a mammoth stretch of barren field, I suddenly spotted some dust in the air then a man galloping on his horse, holding his golden eagle high up in the air…my first sighting of one of the famous eagle hunters of Mongolia. He was on his way to the Golden Eagle Festival.
A trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to see a small population of our closest genetic cousins, the BONOBOS, in the wild and on a reserve…another thrilling moment, and one of very few who have seen these apes in their natural environment… they’re isolated and can only be seen in this part of Africa. These endangered great apes closely resemble chimpanzees. but are more peaceful and friendly towards each other. It was compelling and rather remarkable to see so many of our own characteristics reflected in their actions and expressions.
Visiting with the Suri people in Ethiopia…wildly artistic people who were very friendly and generous. Thrilling…because they appeared to be so different from me, but in talking with them, (through an interpreter,) finding that there are more similarities than differences…one heart!!

Real contentment is

Getting lost around the world

Then finding YOURSELF.