Ah – Venice!

Venice Reflection

From the moment we exited the train station, I found Venice overwhelming .  Overwhelming in a good way, like nothing I had ever experienced.  It seemed in no time, we were wisked onto a water taxi and were traveling the Grand Canal in a stream of humanity.  As if this were perfectly normal.

Water Taxi Fran



Commerce on the Canal

Venice is a combination of approximately 118 Islands, separated by canals and linked by bridges. To think of all the goods, supplies, food , etc. that has to come in and out via the waterways from the mainland is amazing.



Grand Canal

Nighttime Turquoise Boat (2)

For the History Buff:

  • It is believed that Venice was founded in 421 A.D. by people trying to escape the barbarian invasions of the Lombards and Huns, among others.  It started as a collection of lagoon communities banding together for mutual defence.  They worked out a rudimentary system of self-government via Tribunals.

  • Around  700 A.D. the first “Doge” of Venice was elected as the senior most elected official. Venice was a Republic and elected doges. 

  • The buildings of Venice are constructed on closely spaced wooden piles from alder trees (a wood noted for its water resistance). Most of these piles are still intact after centuries of submersion. The foundations rest on plates of  limestone placed on top of the piles, and buildings of brick or stones sit above these footings. The piles penetrate a softer layer of sand and mud  until they reach a much harder layer of compressed clay.  Submerged by water, in oxygen-poor conditions, wood does not decay as rapidly as on the surface.  (Wikepedia)

Our Hotel was at the foot of the Rialto Bridge.  Handy, so we couldn’t get lost.  Well, getting lost in Venice is just what you do, but by the time we found the Rialto Bridge we knew where our Hotel was.



Rialto Bridge



The Hotel was named  “Graspo De Ua”.  When I asked the meaning, the answer was “Bunch Of Grapes”. OK then.
It was nothing special , though you have to understand that most hotels in Europe are small, and plain.  It’s location, however, was perfect.


Graspo de ua


It was down a VERY narrow alley.  Not unusual for Venice.



The Doges Palace.
Built in the 14th Century
The Palace connects to the Prison via The famous Bridge of Sighs.

Doges Palace


Doges Palace2
Doges Palace3

The Doge’s Palace

The very first Palace was built in 810 but no trace of the original remains.  It was rebuilt and refurbished many times over the years because of fires.  It was reconstructed in 1172, 1340 and then extended in 1424. An entire new structure was added after a devastating fire in 1483.

The Palace was linked to the Prison by the Bridge Of Sighs in the 16th Century


“I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
A palace and a prison on each hand;” ~ Lord Byron, poet

B8Venice Bridge of Sighs

It was said that as a prisoner walked over this bridge, he paused,
looked out at the beauty of Venice and his last look at freedom, and

as he knew he would spend the rest of his life in this Prison.

Prison Door

Prison Hallway

A view from the Bridge


Everyone wants to know about Food!

As I am not a “Foodie” there are not pictures of our meals.  I almost wished there were, because now I can’t remember what we had.

I had been Gluten Free for two years prior, and I did decide to forgo that.  Who can be gluten free in Italy after all.

Our first night in Venice we had reservations at Trattoria Antiche Carampane in the Sao Polo District.



In our Guidebook notes from Italy4Real It told us that this restaurant  advertises

“No Pizza, No Lasagna, No Tourist Menu”.
It serves  primarily  Fresh Seafood .

And the neighborhood:
It is located next to the Ponte delle Tette (Bridge Of Tits) (yes, that’s right)
“Above this bridge, the prostitutes would expose their breasts to entice passersby”
(in the olden days)
Take a closer look at the drawing above

Our Travel Agent states, “I suggest no matter how much wine you 2 have, this is not a good idea”.

My friend and traveling partner, Fran, tells me that I had the sole.  The food was excellent.

 Then there was the obligatory Gondola ride.


No, it wasn’t like this.




It was a “Group Serenade” Gondola Ride


There were 8 or 9 Gondolas holding 6 or 7 people each.
Luckily, Fran and I were not expecting a romantic serenade, but there were couples with us who were.
Some of them could not even sit together!  It was rather humorous to us – but I suppose not to them.

Gondola ride in Venice – Check!


St Marks Crowd

This will have to be Venice – Part 1

There is so much to post that St. Mark’s Square will have to be a post of its own

And “The Jewish Ghetto” will most likely be  separate post.  The oldest Ghetto in the world.
Fascinating history.  Especially for a gal whose father is Jewish and mother is Italian!


Ciao For Now!


Returning To Italy – 2015 Lake Como


September 22, 2015

My friend Fran and I left from Vancouver, B.C.

First stop – Heathrow, London.  Then on to Milan.
We were met at the Milan airport and driven to Varenna – Lake Como.
We arrived about 11:00pm Italian time.


This was our first view.
Can’t wait to see it in the morning


The Patio below was right outside our front door


Our Hotel was “Eremo Gaudio”

The hotel was once an orphanage and then became a Monastery.  The complex of buildings
were built between 1400 & 1800 and boasts some of the most wonderful views on Lake Como.

The top part of the Hotel is approximately 1150 feet above sea level.


Our room was at the bottom – the reddish building to the right of
the “Funicular” (or elevator)

We didn’t even know that there was an Upper part of the hotel until one of
the guests told us we should go up top to see the view.


Town of Varenna, Lago Como, Italia


Varenna – Lake Como


Lake Como is Europe’s deepest lake


Lake Como is shaped like a human body.  The head is the north end up by the Swiss Alps.
Varenna is the right hip and Menaggio is the left hip.  Bellagio – well, it’s the crotch!
Como & Lecco are the legs.

And to get the question out of the way – NO, we didn’t see George Clooney OR his Villa.  If you’re wondering, it is
in Laglio, over on the left side three towns above Como. (at about the ankle).
We did, however, see someone selling pictures of George’s Villa on the street.
(No, I did not buy it)


We spent 2 Days and 3 Nights at Lake Como.
On our first day we took the Ferry to Bellagio


Those are the Swiss Alps in the background


We walked and walked some more.  We had Prosecco and then had Prosecco some more.
We went to the Park at the Point (crotch) called Punta Spartivento which means
“point that divides the wind”.  Lots and lots of shops.  Too touristy.  But beautiful



Next day we ferried to Menaggio, San Giovanni, Lenno, Tremezzo, Villa Carlotta and Villa del Balbianello

Villa del Balbianello is a gorgeous Villa built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery.  The property has changed hands over the centuries.  The last owner, Guido Monzino bought the Villa in 1974.  He was the leader of the first Italian expedition to  Mount Everest and the top floor is filled with artifacts he acquired on his adventures.  After his death in 1988 he left this beautiful place to the National Trust of Italy.

The Villa has been featured in such films as “A Month By The Lake” (1995); Casino Royale (2006);
and Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Villa del Balbianello



Our visit to Lake Como has come to an end. It was the perfect way to start our journey, rest from a long flight and get acquainted with Italy.  I would highly recommend it.

ALake Como


Coming Next:  Venezia

My New Relatives “Cugini” – 2010

Giovanna, Giovanni, Giovanni, Giovanna, Giovanna

Now that I have come back home with dozens of new cousins, I have names and I have pictures, however, I need a little help putting the pictures and names together.  Especially, since every other Italian male has the same name.  It is custom to name the grandson after the grandfather.  Gets a bit confusing.

We took this picture, not because all of them were realted to us (though they probably are) but because they all had the same name.

L – R:  Giovanna is the wife of Luigi Galgano (who was instrumental in our meeting all our cugini)
Giovanni – Fabianna – is this your padre?
Giovanni – ?
Maria Giovanna – Sister of Canio – madre Elisa Maria DiCecca
Giovanna – is she the sister of the other Giovanni –  (È questo la sorella dell’altro Giovanni)?

It is important to me to remember who I met in Calitri and who each person is.
(È importante me ricordarsi chi mi sono incontrato in Calitri e chi ogni persona è)

Can anyone help me with the women on either end?  I don’t know if they are Fastiggi or DiCecca.  I know the woman in the middle is Rosetta (Abate?) she is the daughter of Angelina Fastiggi and my mother’s 1st cousin/once removed.

Cugina in Calitri

In this picture I believe the man in the white cap is Michaela Del Rey from Venezuela.  He now lives in Spain.  I believe he is a relative on the DiCecca side.  The two women are me 7 Judy.  Can anyone help with the names of the rest?

Does anyone know their names?

This is what Luigi Galgano did for us.  Not only did he show up with our Family Tree…..he brought the people along with him too.  I will always be grateful to Luigi for making our trip so far beyond my expectations!

Meeting Cugini on the Streets of Calitri – Thanks to Luigi!

Arrivederci Roma – 2010

OMG!  (Can I say that when speaking of the Vatican?)  I can’t even comprehend at this point going to Rome and NOT seeing the Vatican (and this from an X-Catholic) (It has nothing to do with religion – but you already know that!)

Saint Peter’s Square

I saw “The Pieta” “with my own eyes”.

The Vatican

The Vatican

The Vatican

Everything in Rome is over-the-top huge, in-your-face huge.  How many times have I seen the Trevi Fountain in movies, pictures, books, TV!  When I turned the corner and saw the Trevi Fountain my jaw dropped.  Do you know how BIG that thing is?

The Trevi Fountain

I only threw in one coin (not 3) what does that mean?

One Quarter in the Fountain

Our Hotel was very nicely located within walking distance (although my feet may not agree with that statement) of the Trevi, The Spanish Steps, The Piazza Navono and the Pantheon.  We missed the Colesseum…but there is always next time.


The Spanish Steps

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona

More Navona

Some guy hanging around the Piazza

Campari @ the Piazza

woops, how did that get in there?

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

The Pantheon

Anything that old deserves a few pictures.

Arrivederci Roma

One thing I must admit.  In Rome I saw more penis(es) (I just don’t know the correct English here!!)
than I have ever seen in my life.

You Know What

 Oh!!! Almost forgot the Shopping!

I think this was the guy…not the purses

The Feast of the Madonna – 2010


This year in Calitri it was the 300th Anniversary of the celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. During all their feast days they walk the statues through the streets of the village but this one was the biggest of all. People from all the towns around the Valley come for the celebration. It was about a 2 1/2 hour procession and we walked the entire thing (with one or two short cuts that Angela knew) I’ve never seen anything like it.

People lined the streets of the entire village as the procession passed.

The Procession

And many others followed behind.


Procession 3

After the Procession there was a concert by a supposed very famous Italian Performer named Irene Grande. There had to be 10,000 people in the streets watching her on this gigantic stage.

At Midnight came the fireworks. The biggest fireworks show I had ever seen. yes, bigger than Sammamish.

Fireworks 2

Fireworks 3

Calitri is truly a village of contradiction.  We saw the riuns of a Norman Castle (Castello Borgo) built in the 500’s, along side the most technologically amazing fireworks display.  We saw the Madonna being carried through the streets with old woman in black following behind to be blessed walking alongside the most beautifully dressed woman in the most beautiful Italian clothing and HIGH HEELS walking those cobblestones.  It was truly a magical place.