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Me and my girls!

Are we excited? The girls and I had a weekend away this month and we had a visit full of laughter, great conversation, pure joy! I loved it, we were happy to go and every moment was perfect. Now it is time to pack for a trip across the big pond! I will miss them.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Everyone asks, are you excited about your trip? Are you ready? I will be ready by Wednesday when we are dropped off at the airport. When we arrive at our first destination I will look forward to our adventures. My mind spins in a million directions before anything, anticipating all and every outcome, the end result though has been “I am thankful to have done this” then I move forward.

I loved tonight because we gathered. The last supper before we take off to Puglia, my children and their families and of course Peter, our nephew who is like my own, included Double stuffed baked potatoes, Caesar Salad, Crudités, and Wings, is that Irish, sure it is. In the pleasant chaos of grandkids running around, Wilco in the room, conversation heading in every direction, I was happy. Wings were takeout, I prepared the other in advance and kids cleaned up, it was simple and I appreciated the ease of it all. It was an early night, March break is over and school starts again in the morning. Wyatt will spend the day with me.

I have never been one who yearns to travel. I love being in my own home. Tony loves to roam and I go along willingly, and when I look back on every adventure I am thankful that I got to embrace and appreciate new places, great people and live in a house "away from home". I just wish I could pack up my loved ones each time and take them with me. Time flys by and I am definitely a person who has a fear of missing something, everyday is so special with them all. But, time away is good for everybody, right?

2018 ended well for me with two major surgeries under my belt, I am fortunate to be healthy. My thoughts are with others who are struggling. This year 2019 came in like a lion, record snowfalls, freezing rain, wind, thunder and lightening, crazy. North Bay also had sunshine and crisp, clean air filled perfect days. I did not mind January to March, but now it is time for spring to settle in. I wish that for all who remain behind, \240as we head to spring days in Italy.

You are hearing from me a little early as I have changed Blog Sites. I realize that my “free” blog means limited in length of time, creativity and the inability to continue to share so I am figuring this new one out.

Again come along if you wish, I enjoy your company! It is my way of keeping in touch.

Our "wall" and skating ice! Wyatt sketched below, he knows more than I do....

North Bay


Tony and I are getting good at this packing thing. One bag each and nothing to carry on. Small back packs will hold our iPads and documents, my purse fits inside, small and compact. Of course I have room for treats, a necessity while I read the night away as others are sleeping soundly on the plane. This is good.

We have a busy travelling day tomorrow with our departure from North Bay mid- afternoon to Toronto. Early evening we fly from Toronto to Zurich, then to Milan and then to Bari, Puglia where we pick up our car and head to our home, a couple of hours drive. Yes, for those who know my navigating skills from previous blogs, we have a GPS. This is very good!

Today I pryed the frozen Christmas balls, red ribbon and berries out of my planter and shoved in some forsythia, hung a bright green wreath and with a wish for spring I waved to my neighbor who thinks I am a little crazy. They are new to the hood and will get to know me. I was in my slippers, Capri sweats and bright red shirt, the usual. Also good.

Tony ran errands and attended his last, for awhile, "old man yoga" class. That activity will help with all our walking in the airport. After a clean the fridge dinner, Tony's favourite, and a fun visit from our girls, we tucked in early for our big day, and that is very, very good.

Looks better!


Happy Spring!

We left North Bay on a beautiful first day of Spring! Our flight was uneventful and our Pilot “Captain Kate Foster” had us in Toronto a bit ahead of schedule, the ice was still in my water. Speaking of ice and water when we left the house, drips of water were coming through our livingroom ceiling, towels and pails are the new decor. Oh joy!

With time to spare we checked in to the lounge to chill before our flight. The television news is filled with Liberal woes and the conversation around us is of nothing else. While we are away Tony reads his Globe on line, something I do not like doing. I prefer to hold a newspaper, therefore he will keep me in the loop each morning. The hum in the room is getting louder, last comment I heard “ Mr. Dressup’s closet is in need of a redo”. Time for a cocktail...

Cheers, here’s to spring cleaning.

Our flight to Zurich was uneventful but the early morning sunrise was spectacular. We flew over farms, the fields just beginning to show their green but flying over the snow covered Alps, was stupendous. I loved it. We were flying low enough to see the villages in the slivers of the valley, it was truly incredible.

Photos never do justice to scenes such as this.

The flight to Milan, after a quick connection, was only 35 minutes. Tony was happy to be in a new Bombardier \240C Series 300, sleek, bright, spacious and so modern. The wait time was brutal for our flight to Bari, (bar-ree), five hours and we were so tired. With no sleep for 26 hours we were anxious to get settled but we knew we still had a two hour drive when we got there. We paced a little trying to put in time in a rather poor airport.

Bombardier C Series 300

It was dark on our arrival so we will discover our little cottage tomorrow in the daylight but right now the bed is very inviting. We will sleep for a long time, hopefully. We just wanted you to know we arrived all is well. Good night!

Where we will tuck in tonight!

Bedroom Ceiling

Bari, Puglia, Itaky

Our First Full Day

Needless to say,we slept well, up at day break, 5:40, little off but trying. Breakfast was at 8:30, left by our Landlord, lunch at 2:30 and dinner at 10:30. A little wacky for sure, but we are on vacation.

It is beautiful here, our cottage in Puglia is cozy, quaint, historical, quiet and comforting. Yes again we are situated away from the crowds, actually here there is no one one! We are at the end of a road, a very narrow one lined with stone walls, hand piled that separates landowner “acreage”. Over a hundred olive trees, a hundred years old fill the land around us, along with orange, lemon, cherry, almond and fig trees. There is probably something else but I have not finished walking about. Wildflowers and hyacinths, those obviously planted, are filling the air with an aroma, that takes me home to North Bay and the River.

(Typical “fences”, that completely indicate property lines, surrounding acres and acres)

I spent the morning, rearranging and making the place ours for the time we are here. Since we are on our own, Tony has his bathroom, I have mine, so good. The kitchen is set up for me, excess stuff out of the way and we both have our cozy places to read etc. Tony suggested we try today to make our way out of here and into town in the daylight and get our bearings. (We always seem to arrive in the dark of night, but full moon last night, magnificent) With grocery list in hand off we went in search of the Marcato! We did well...a considerable amount of tight turn arounds, back ups, and let’s go around the round about again, we made it. Note that our road/location is so far removed and new, it does not exist on GPS! We did well. The Familia Supermarcato was great!

I love grocery shopping in new places, anywhere, anytime. We brought home ingredients for dinner, all from Italy, wines from Puglia and strawberries that are in season as well as Zucchini flowers, local. I was in heaven. I looked forward to cooking.

We will have Pepperonata, Stuffed Zucchini Flowers and Veal Cutlets.

The ride back from downtown went a little smoother. We both had a lack of sleep “catch up” on our return. If Tony hadn’t woken up, we would have slept until morning I am sure. It was almost seven o,clock, time for a cocktail and time to cook! Hence dinner was at 10:30, apparently not out of the ordinary in these here parts

I will catch you up in more detail, when it comes to this region of Italy, soon. My schedule and inner time clock is rebelling somewhat.

The flowers were huge!

Fried was good!

Happy Tony...he loves new adventures!

Ostuni, Italy


Well I am another year older, not sure about wiser. More importantly Tony and I have been married 45 years today and I am very proud of that. All roads aren’t easy, there are curves, hills and valleys, and certainly what appears to be dead ends, but we just turn around and go in the right direction. Just like travelling in Europe! We both know how fortunate we are, bottom line. Today is another happy day, and we are in Puglia, how fun is that!

Puglia is the heel of Italy’s boot, and a mighty stylish one at that. Whitewashed towns dot the hills, centuries old farmlands and hundreds of kilometres of Mediterranean coastline is where the beating heart of every community is set firmly in the past. This Region of Italy is large and has not yet experienced the explosion of tourism, but apparently in summer that is beginning to change with younger Italian tourists, mostly. We must do what the locals do; if you want to shop do so early in the morning and in the late afternoon, not in between. Long siestas after the main meal of the day are the norm, there is no point being in a rush, it makes no difference to those who live here. Sounds good to me.

We are heading in to town for a late lunch today. Thank you for our greetings tucked into our bags, we are so blessed. I laughed out loud and cried grateful tears. Ruby and Nia your notes, and Foster your drawing of you and I mean the world to me. Wyatt, I was impressed with yours too!

Enjoy your day everyone and I will let you know what the locals do!

Thank you!


Osteria del Tempo Perso

We are embracing all outside activities in daylight, something we feel is wiser at this point, unless you hire a driver. We have also found that to experience the “meal of the day” it is best taken at lunch.

Today Tony chose Osteria Del Tempo Perso, described as a culinary gem tucked away in the narrow streets and alleys of Ostuni. We saw many of those narrow streets, alleys and stairs. We talked to many for directions, all helpful, and we managed to make it just in time for our two o’clock reservation!

The thirty year old restaurant is located in a cavernous former bakery that is 500 years old, fabulous! People used to come from all over town to bake their bread there on a daily basis. \240With only fourteen linen covered tables tucked into every nook and cranny, it did not disappoint. Azaleas and roses, pink against the white stone, were gorgeous as was the candlelight reflecting on the cave walls.

(Old tools resting in the now, not used baking oven)

Prosecco was perfect along with the “amuse Bouche” of tiny crispy meatball type fritters, \240ingredients - eggplant, pork and cheese, herbs.

Tony enjoyed Eggplant Parmesan exclaiming it was “ the best he has ever had”, and I had Ravioli stuffed with Burrata with a wild boar ragu sauce. There are no words for these marshmallow pillows of goodness. That was all we needed but of course we did each have another taste of pasta and meatballs, too much. We learned a lesson, or I did.


We waddled out near four, the stores were starting to open but knowing we would be back to spend a day in Ostuni we made our way home, for a very quiet evening. To be honest I think I have picked up a bug and felt the need to lay low.

I loved Tony’s choice. When we travel he picks our dining places and I pick the meals at home. I enjoyed the food very much but I also appreciated the historical setting, the table layout, the dishes were all hand painted and different, and the time we were allowed to relax and embrace the experience.

So pretty!

Ostuni, Italy


It was a day for hanging about. I did manage to pick up a 24 hour bug, or maybe I brought it with me, it does not matter, it is gone! Our bodies tell us to chill, we chill!

I threw open the windows, aired out our Italian Cottage, and headed outside to lie in the sun. I had to bring a pillow and blanket, Tony on the other hand was in his shorts. The sun is warm during the day, but the nights are still very cool. It is spring like here with temperatures around 16-20 degrees, but at high noon, it feels warmer. The breeze is light but cool in the shade.

The property is covered in yellow daisies and Italian dandelions “Denote di Leone”, that flutter in the breeze underneath the olive trees. Some of those dandelions will turn into wine, and salad greens. Soon the trees will be trimmed and the burnt red dirt in which they rest will be churned up allowing the “weeds” to provide some of the necessary nutrients. The dirt is dry but a light rain is expected this week.

No grass, just the “weeds”.

The pool is open, the water temperature....well after putting a foot in the top step, Tony compared it to an opening day weekend at the cottage. Not sure swimming is on his agenda during our stay here. The roof of our cottage from which I took the following photo, houses a patio that in summer provides an upper canopy-covered \240huge dining table. I can envision the meals, huge platters of food, the conversation, wine drinking, hands going in every direction, music playing, what fun! We will have to eat up here at least once, sans canopy.

Hammocks under the Olive trees are awesome, beyond that are gardens to tend in summer.

I will take you on a photo tour before we leave. Our evening proved interesting. Tony was pleased to have leftovers for dinner, good thing as my appetite was non existent. As the day wore on, we found ourselves in a blackout, total black. No streetlights, the stars were all we had and one flashlight. Tony brought that. We gathered wood, lit the fireplace where Tony warmed his dinner, and read on our IPads until our batteries ran out. We will be more prepared and ready for the next time. Needless to say a good long sleep was had by all. Today, we are off to the ancient part of the city of Ostuni, I will be wearing my running shoes.

Ostuni, Italy

Ostuni Walk About

Short sleeves were the order of the day as the temperature rose to 19 degrees. It felt good while we walked around the Ancient Village of Ostuni. This old town and surrounding area has been inhabited since the Stone Age. Fortified by massive three foot plus thick walls we could easily have got lost many times in the spaghetti like maze of narrow streets, very steep oversized stairwells and archways. The houses are white, fresh coats of paint were being applied and buckets of geraniums (red) were being hung, not quite ready to bloom. In one of the Piazza’s, the fifteenth century Romensque-Gothic Cathedral sits with \240it’s beautiful, rare 24 rays rose window portal.

Rose Window

One of the larger archways

We also went to the Museum, housed in the former Carmelite Monastery. It is the home of artifacts found during an on going dig in the outlying caves of Santa Maria di Agnano. The exhibit included the cast of Delia, a pregnant woman who lived in the cave, 25,000 years ago. She is the worlds oldest woman. Hard to wrap your head around that number.

We stumbled into a lovely restaurant for lunch that occupied many small stone outside decks, with three or four tables. We could have dined inside which was very beautiful and again carved out of the stone in a cave like setting. Fried bread was on our table, dotted with garlic, salt and herbs. There was also a paper bag, warm with ingredients fresh from the oven. I looked inside and could not believe what I saw.

Not so appealing!

Of course Tony was the first to taste and his eyes rolled into the back of his head. He described it as a “soft fennel pretzel”. I took a bit and just about coughed my cookies! It was like charcoal and that was all I could get. It in fact was a “burnt wheat fennel knotted hard bread”, a speciality of the house. They should work more on the knots!

Lunch did not disappoint at Taverna Della Giosia. Just the right amount and perfectly cooked we enjoyed the setting, the wine and the food, we lingered over a very reasonable meal. Food is not expensive here.

Tony had an Octopus Salad, fresh and cool, served with tender Octopus, melon, croutons, shaved roasted onions and frisé lettuce, greens, edible flowers and herbs. The cold soup dressing was potato based.

Photo truly does not do this dish justice, it was so pretty

I had a roasted chicken thigh, with crispy salted skin on a bed of pickled roasted green beans, puffed potato beads and herbs.

Petite and perfect!

I was not going to order anything else but Tony had another small dish and he was very happy he did. Roasted eggplant drizzled in olive oil, topped with roasted cherry tomatoes on a bed of creamy pesto with fresh greens and fried sage. It was delicious.

First bite gone!

We had to have dessert and we shared a caramel chocolate tart covered in silver-leaf on a strawberry puré and cream sauce with crumbled roasted pistachios. The biscuit was almond. Incredible.

Interesting presentation.

We made our way home through the maze, Tony with his bag of burnt knots in his hot little hands. Italy sure has a lot to do with the “food”.

Our evening included a quick visit with our British landlord Will and a Game of \240Phase 10. That competition will be on going!

Ostuni. Puglia, Italy

An Italian Cottage

We arrived a week ago tonight and it did not take us long to get comfortable in this lovely home that to me feels like a country cottage. Owned and built on an existing ruin by “Will”, \240a young (60) retired Brit, it’s charming.

The main house that consists of two baths, kitchen, two bedrooms, (or one bedroom, one sitting room with fireplace), and outside living. You can see the upper deck, stairs to the left, where the large patio is and where the summer canopy hangs. The other little house has one bedroom, bath and sitting room with kitchenette.

The walls are two feet thick so very quiet in each room.

I am enjoying this kitchen.

The kitchen has all you need, a fabulous gas stove, higher counters and cupboards than normal, Will’s family is tall!

I am enjoying cooking in here but did make some adjustments in the location of things to lower levels so that I wasn’t always dragging a chair over or calling for Tony to reach things for me. We are outside as much as possible and the doors are always open until the cool of the night creeps in. Tony is looking forward to barbequing soon.

The “Guest House”

Bright and cheerful

Sun pours in to this sitting room and it’s double front doors open to the outside.

We spend our time in the main house but come out here for laundry. There is a washing machine at the main house but it is located in an outside closet.

This is where we spend most of our time when we are at the house. We also treat the second bedroom in the main house like a den. Tony reads his Globe every morning in a chair by the window, the early morning sun pouring in. (I think he sees the sunrise) The bed is covered in maps, booklets and other useful information Tony loves to devour for his research on where we will go and what we will see next.

We ventured out this morning to the Archeological “dig” location I mentioned yesterday. It was interesting to see where the bones of the “oldest woman, Delia” was found in the surrounding cave, and where other bodies were unearthed then moved to the museum. Replicas lie in their “found” place to illustrate the wonder of it all. Plots of land are still being painstakingly scraped away, in search of more treasures.

After a drive towards the Adriatic, a Cappuccino and a stop for dinner groceries we enjoyed an afternoon reading outside. I picked some oranges, made some fresh juice for a Sangria like drink tomorrow and thought about dinner. Tonight it is fresh pasta, the bbq will wait another day. There are a few clouds rolling in and laundry to be taken off the line.


Italian Ceramics,

I love dishes in all shapes, sizes, colours and for their different purposes. We drove to the well known “ceramic quarter” an area in Grottaglie where generation after generation has produced Italian pottery. The old patterns will continue but new more modern pieces are popping up, the clay the canvas for a young artists work. I love strolling through the shops. No photos were allowed, I guess there is a fear someone might steal an idea or two. I just wanted to show you! It was a beautiful morning but rain is expected this afternoon.

There are a lot of old bikes around

The dining dishes are bright and cheerful, some with sun flowers, pommegranates, hydrangea. Others plain until you spot the tiniest bit of detail around the rim. This one was hand notched like tree bark. Simple but stunning. A view only seen at a certain angle. When you spot a piece of Italian ceramics in Canada, (at Homesense for example) appreciate it. Older styles get moved out from the factories by buyers to make way for more newer designs here. You are buying a piece that is probably over five years old, but still a treasure, still current and yours for a lifetime. “Made in Italy” with an inlaid stamp is the real thing.

The bottom charger is ceramic also.

I loved the under edge of this plate and the not so perfect shapes. If you stacked one bowl on top of the other it was not quite the same.

The Quarter shut down for lunch, remember that is a three maybe four hour affair that includes a nap, so we too walked off the main road in search of a place to grab a bite. We found “Alfredo’s”.

Over a glass of Rosé we decided to order the Antipasti per Dué, a light appetizer to share, after all we were cooking dinner at home tonight. The following photos will illustrate why we threw away that plan and instead skipped dinner all together, watched a movie and slept early. I have said this before and I know I am going to say it again, in anything Italians choose to do, it is always done with passion.

Left to right, squid ink, cheese, focaccia, whole grain and white. There was nothing ordinary about this platter. The Squid Ink roll, only coloured black from the ink, was moist, salty and chewy. The Cheese roll was a surprise. Flavoured with a strong cheese and minced salami it melted in your mouth. The focaccia, one fresh tomato, the other herbed, salted and deep fried were light not dense and the remaining not unlike what you would find in a good bread basket.

This should be two courses but we started eating before I took the pic. Artisan capicola, Lardo, which is paper thin slices of sweet fat, pecorino and cacciatore cavallo cheeses, stratchietelle (buratta) cheese with pomegranate seeds and drizzled olive oil, and house made onion jam.

There is no 100 mile diet here, it is 0 mile. Everything comes from next door, in house, is in season or has been lovingly made and stored for future use. The tastes are extremely fresh.

Crispy, lightly battered fried zucchini blossoms and meatballs with a little Sunday sauce. Every Italian family has their own meatball and tomato sauce recipes. They do not disappoint and they are all slightly different.

Beef carpaccio, or tartare. Insanely delicious with the best beef, minced to melt in your mouth texture. Perfectly seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic and topped with wild baby asparagus shaved and chopped, green onion and on the side the curl of greens is from the woods, almost like wild dill. The sweet thick balsamic vinegar and the lightly perfumed olive oil, the icing on the cake!

Vegetable couscous in peppered sauce. The last, a layered terrine of colour, zucchini, carrot, eggplant and just a bit of couscous to help hold the shape, all covered in a buttery pepper sauce. Yes, that was the light appetizer for two. To finish the homemade lemon gelato with fresh fruit, and for a Tony, an espresso.

Alfredo’s-The dinnerware, candle holders, wall sconces, lights, all ceramics from the Quarter.

It began to drizzle on the way home, good thing we found Alfredo’s and \240decided not to bbq!

Ostuni, Puglia, Italy

A Day at Home

Timing could not have been better for the rain to fall today. Tony and I both had no problem spending the day reading, cooking and yes, playing cards. Even on vacation bills have to be paid, and with the months end near, banking had to be done.

Tony has read five books and counting to my one. I have enjoyed cooking here and our meals at home have been fun as well. Tonight Tony will fire up the outside grill and our steak will be delicious.

Not your regular bbq, lots of olive wood to burn.

We had visits to our home from other residents of Ostuni. Farm life goes on as sheep and goats are driven to eat the grass in the neighboring property before returning to their own fields. The sheepdogs were keeping them in check, except for one little puppy, still in training.

The curiosity of this little cat was obvious with his or her non stop meowing at our door. I believe she would like a treat from the new residents.

Card playing has not gone well for Tony to date. I have been fortunate in the Phase 10 competition and continue in the lead. We are heading out tomorrow to nearby villages, the sun will shine and the fruit blossoms on the trees should start to appear, after this gentle rain today. Now it is time to read.

Alberobello, Puglia, Italy ,


Trullo’s are dry stone huts with a cone shaped roof, built without mortar or other connecting materials. They are small, pretty, white, and numerous in Puglia. Today we decided to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site (1996) in Alberobello, the “Capital of Trulli”. Here there are over 1,600 surviving and original buildings, extraordinary examples of Italian folk architecture.

They were built in the 1700’s when the construction of stable dwellings was highly taxed; the inhabitants of the region quickly adapted and cleverly came up with the idea of the Trulli, temporary houses built with local stone. Their interiors are very practical.

Kitchen hearth,

The exteriors are very well kept.

I took so many photos today of this beautiful town. This certainly is the time to be here, ahead of any crowds, bus tours and the chaos that follows. Walking around the narrow alleyways, inlaid rough stone streets and city squares was pleasant and peaceful. Against the white of the Trullo’s, flowers were stunning.

Little monkey faces

Red is the colour

Another bike.

We planned on a late lunch and Tony did it again. A perfect spot was found at La Cantina. A small seven table establishment (1996) where the Chef prepares in front of house everyone’s meal.

This place made me feel at home. I felt like a guest in the house of this beautiful family. First and foremost on the menu are the names of all who work for this man, his name is not there. If you want to know who he is, you ask. We did, his name is Francesco. Our waiter Gianni proudly said, “he is my brother”. This group was a loyal team working constantly together to keep things simple, calm, organized and without a hiccup smoothly serving each and everyone our best meal yet. All the while clearing, loading a dishwasher, drying cutlery and polishing glasses without a peep.

My photos are all taken after a bite or two, I am sorry but we just dove in, caught up in the moment. When you are in someone’s home, you eat when served!

Francesco preparing our shared Pasta primo. Frizzette pasta, (tight hand rolled like a curled leaf) with fresh baby tomatoes, herbs, garlic oil and wild asparagus that sung of spring.

Our secondi was for Tony, “Bombette” little parcels of pork skewered and rubbed with herbs and spices, melt in your mouth goodness with fresh lemon and a perfect amount of salt.

Mine was spectacular and reminded me of home. Veal simmered in sauce, so tender and tasty. The best part of sauce making, those sweet pieces of meat added for flavour that everyone wants and per usual, there never is enough. Truly it brought tears to me eyes, I missed home.

Yep, we had dessert to share. Sfogliatella, warm, multi layered buttery flaky squares, lighter than the best French croissant, not overly filled inside with a subtle lemon cream that just peeked out the corners when touched gently with the fork.

Would you not immediately take a bite when these were put in front of you? The food here has been amazing and each chef proudly cooks and creates their food their way and rightly so. There are no two dishes the same, they may be called the same, but they will taste different. We said goodbye to our new family hosts and headed home, mostly in silence reflecting on another wonderful meal. No dinner tonight, sleep well Francesco and brother Gianni.

Thank you.


On the Road

Some mini road trips arise out of necessity. Our rental car was an upgrade given to us on arrival, because what we had purchased was not available. No problem a nice Volvo, automatic transmission, spacious, great navigation system, brand new, we were the first to add mileage. Ten days in we were asked to return it to the nearest airport as our car was ready for us, just as we were getting used to it. No problem, off to Brindisi we went. Now in our little BMW, not what Tony had asked for, standard transmission, a little smaller we easily scooted out of the airport and headed south along the coast. Now we are just like everyone else, small is good for getting around and bonus, there is also that great navigation system!

The silver leafed olive groves quickly gave way to palm trees at Brindisi. This town was the end of the Roman Road, Via Apia, where weary pilgrims, crusaders and traders trudged heading to Greece and the Near East. Heading to the Port of Lecce then the Port of Frigole, we drove along the Sea where the water is stunningly beautiful, the colour a translucent emerald green one minute then powdery blue around the next point. We look forward to our trip up the coast in a couple of weeks after seeing a wee bit of it today. Farmers fields turned into fields of sand, tall hardy grasses and tons of red poppies turning their backs to the wind. Villagers were out and about for more markets, walks or Sunday morning visits after church.

We reached Lecce, a beautiful baroque town. With more than forty churches and palaces, all sculpted from soft local sandstone, the architecture is glorious. From one square to another your view changes in an instant. Designer shops one moment, then suddenly churches spring up, some of which are designed with asparagus, dodo birds, gremlins. Some have said the most beautiful, others thought “a lunatic was having a nightmare”. Either way, it is a graceful, relaxing university town with upmarket boutiques, antique shops, restaurants and bars.

We are again thrilled at our timing. There are no crowds.

Entering the gates of the old city in Lecce it was so still. We wondered around quietly taking in the sights. Tony knew of a place he wanted to go to for lunch, many turns and a drive from a kind local couple we arrived at Cucina Casareccia. Tony wanted to taste the true cucina povera, (peasant cooking) a style of cooking Puglia is known for. Described as uncorrupted, legendary and brawny it literally means “cooking of the poor” think of pasta made without eggs and dishes prepared with wild greens from the fields. Olive oil, \240tomatoes, eggplant, artichokes, peppers, salami, mushrooms, olives strain the table to be followed by broccoli, chicory, fennel, figs, melons, cherries and grapes, all plentiful when in season and when just picked, I know they would taste better than anywhere else. Almonds are plentiful, bread and pasta are at every meal and wine....the wine is high quality, each region known for their grape.

Mini bites of sweet dough, think “round churro”, check!

Nothing wrong here with fresh grilled eggplant, roasted peppers, cold marinated fava beans and a baked vegetable/cheese bite

Tony’s artichoke and potato “stew” topped with bread crumbs and grated “ricotta forté, a pungent local cheese.

My roasted lamb and potatoes in a herbaceous gravy again topped with the same crumb as Tony’s. That little red tomato was so sweet. Tony finished with Stuffed squid, I was done.

My meal was simple, delicious but the picking around the bones was a bit of a put off. You would need to be very careful. We both appreciated the basic home cooking. Tony felt it took him back to his childhood and what his parents cooked when they first came to Canada, wishing he had embraced it more often then.

We had a great experience in Lecce and after 4.7 km. of walking in one area, we were tired and headed home. The weather today hovered around 20 degrees, it felt good.


To the Market

We were up bright and early to head to the market after a stop for Cappuccino and a sweet at a local bar/café. This is itself a conversation but will save for another day.

Sliding in to a parking spot we were fortunate enough to get close by, bags in hand we were off. People were milling about busy with their purpose. It is obvious there are favourites stalls and one stop shoppers. We strolled to check everything out, obviously to all that we were “new” to this place.

The first street level was food stalls covering blocks of the city, shut down from traffic every Saturday morning. There were fresh fruit and vegetables, dried goods, olives, salami and cheese producers, a fish stall and a butcher. There were bouquets of spring flowers galore to place in a vase or to plant and young seedlings of herbs and vegetables to place in prepared gardens. Everything was displayed with care, vendors encouraging you to “taste”. You have to come ready, prepared and willing to taste many varieties of olives, pickled veg, cheese and salami early in the morning!

There were some spicy olives here!

So sweet and so juicy and full of flavour.

The aroma from these herbs was magnificent. Men with booming voices, and yes some women with booming voices heard a block away, beckoned you to visit. “Fregole Fresca due Euros, fregole Fresca” “Carciofe, carciofe (artichoke),”. Wild asparagus was plentiful in buckets and probably just picked along the roadways.

These are so, so good!

The early morning was cool and a bit windy but considering everyone here had been setting up before dawn, the sun was a welcome sight. In this early morning crowd were more seniors than not. Nono’s in their dress pants and jackets, sweater vest and Nona’s in their kerchiefs, dark dresses and sensible shoes, scurried along to get their week supply. You could tell they were the regulars, chatting about and of course offering their opinion along the way. It was a fun place to be. By the time we left others were in line for our parking spot, families were arriving and we “seniors” were heading home to prepare lunch!

Before leaving we did visit the lower street levels where hundreds of vendors were selling everything from dollar store items to suitcases in this open air department store. They set up by 7:30 a.m. and shut down around 2:00 to move on to another town and start all over again tomorrow.

Our goods in hand we were home for the afternoon. We went for a walk, picked wild dill and rosemary and I made a special concoction from our oranges to enjoy tableside by the pool before lunch.Our sweaters are still on but we find the hot spot.

Dinner and lunch! I cleaned out the fridge for lunch and dinner today, tomorrow we are heading to Brindisi and area. I am disappointed with the map application in this blog as we have travelled quite a bit around Puglia. I will take our old fashioned map and keep it with this journal when I print it. There is so much to do here, to me the prettiest area so far.

Bruschetta, salami, cheese and olives from the market, for lunch... dinner, sausages, roast potatoes and salad

Oh and that drink,

Just picked, bitter oranges, blood oranges and clementines

Juiced, muddled with strawberries

And topped with Prosecco



Car Ride

We were just getting use to our car rental, an upgrade when we heard from the agency to please return it to the closest airport. I guess they did not want this brand new full size automatic Volvo, with the great navigation system to go to Milan, our drop off point. No problem, we will go to Brindisi and get the car we originally booked.

Without any inconvenience we drove away from Brindisi and headed southeast in a BMW, standard shift, smaller car reminiscent of all our European journeys BUT with a great navigation system! It did not take Tony long to get reacquainted with the gears and manoeuvre the tight curves.

The silver leafed olive groves gave way to palms, the flat farmers fields to limestone precipices and long sandy beaches. The fields of wildflowers became hardy blades of grass with brilliant red poppies, their heads turned away from the wind. The water was a mix of translucent emerald green then a powdery blue. We look forward to our trip with this amazing view in a couple of weeks.

We drove through the Port of Lecce and the Port of Fragole before heading in to Lecce itself. \240People were milling about after church, at the market, strolling by the sea arm in arm, or just hanging out catching up on the news of the day.

Our entry into the old city of Lecce was calm. We cannot get over how good the timing is for this holiday. We walked around the many squares filled with high end designer boutiques,

antique shops, restaurants and bars and so many churches. It is a beautiful baroque town with a confection of architecture some say the most beautiful and others say they think “a lunatic was having a nightmare”. It could be because of the asparagus column tops, decorative dodos and cavorting gremlins on the facade of the Santa Croce church.

Tony wanted to have lunch at a cucina povera - peasant cooking, so after a lot of walking and a short drive from a very nice local couple we arrived at cucina Casareccia. It was like being in the home of an old Aunt, wallpaper, old photos, few tables lovingly built set with her best kitchen dishes.

This sweet bite was served immediately. It was similar to a churro doughnut which translates to heavenly.

Fresh grilled eggplant, marinated beans, roasted peppers and a baked cheese and vegetable square quickly followed. Tony ordered an artichoke dish that was more like a stew with potatoes and bread crumbs sprinkled with ricotta forte, a pungent local cheese.

My choice was roasted lamb with potatoes. It also had the bread topping. The tiny tomato so, so sweet.

We appreciated the flavours. Tony said it reminded him of food his parents cooked when they came to Canada and he wished he had embraced it more then. Mine was delicious but looking for bones was a problem. I was more than happy to finish but Tony had the squid, not his favourite but he ate it all.

Puglia’s food has been described as uncorrupted and brawny. It has evolved from pasta without eggs and wild greens from the field. Olive oil, olives in every shape and size, tomatoes, eggplant, artichoke, peppers, mushrooms, chicory, fennel strain the table. \240Figs, strawberries, cherries, melons, peaches, apricot and grape the list goes on. \240The citrus, avocados, imagine when freshly picked how wonderful it would be. The beef, lamb, goat, fish equally as good. Horsemeat has “trotted” in but I can not go there. The wine, well that is whole other conversation.

We enjoyed this relaxed University town. It is lively and graceful but after 4.7 kilometres of walking through the squares alone we are ready to return to Ostuni. We thoroughly are pleased with our days excursions.


Making Plans

We stayed home today enjoying our lovely place. We are not moving too far away on Saturday but our little jaunts will take us in other directions. It was time to plan a little more for the rest of the week.

The day was warm, not a cloud in the sky, the smell of late spring is in the air. The gardens are growing, new flowers are showing and the fig trees have popped their new growth. We walked, talked, read and cooked.

We know some of you are heading home from winter holidays, and some of you are heading out. Whatever direction you take and for however long you are gone, enjoy and safe journeys.

According to Tony we have a big day tomorrow and an early start. I can’t wait.


Matera has successfully rethought the meaning of cultural citizenship and brought it to life by demonstrating that art, economy and environment are part of a whole that is necessary for every community to move forward. That to do, instead of talking leads to success, and pride. As a responsible citizen you recognize that Culture is a primary and inalienable good. Matera reminded me of this today.

I will not forget this hauntingly beautiful place that made me feel like I was an extra in \240a scene from a biblical movie.

Considered one of the oldest towns in the world, from the Neolithic age until today (around 7,000 years) human activity has taken place without interruption. In the old quarter, known as the "Sassi" there is a mixture of caves and manmade dwellings piled on top of each other, your ceiling the road to your neighbour or the communal oven or church.

The simple natural grottoes were adapted to become homes, an ingenious system of canals regulated the flow of water and sewage. In the 1950's more than half the population of Matera lived in these caves that sheltered families with an average of six children.

Church and below the ceiling, the base to the road above.

I appreciated that all linens, clothing were hand woven on looms built by citizens and then shared within the community, everyone took turns.

This bed with its corn leaf stuffed mattress sits high off the floor to allow storage space, warmth from the damp floor and room for a mother hen and her chicks. Animals slept in the caves with the families. Children slept in dresser drawers, if they weren't young enough to be with their parents, and on corn mattresses pulled out at night and placed on or under any available space. The family toilet, a single chamber pot. At meal time the family gathered around a small table and ate out of a single large dish. The kitchen was bricked with copper cauldrons for cooking heated by wood or "coal" burners. Carved out of the rock were niches and shelves for crockery, pots. Through a hole in the ground you can see the water channeling system which brought rain water down into the cistern. In the Sassi, there were no water springs since the dwellings lie over this massive limestone strata.

Just an example but the cave dwellers or peasants, housed pigs, chickens, sheep and goats as well.

The residents of this cave were "relocated" in 1956, seven of the family are still living, when the reconstruction of the modern city of Matera began. This relocation occurred between 1952 and 1968. By giving \240homes in the new quarters, the Sassi (70%) are owned by the State and managed by Town Hall.

Declared a Unesco World Heritage Sight in 1993, the Sassi continues to undergo complex renovations, and restoration that shows the impressive, historic, artistic and commemorative rescources found here. Gone is the poverty that originally brought shame to this city. Instead the city embraced all of its past and future culture through its people and their stories told through art, music and by talking, talking to each other. They embraced not only the arts in all its form but the science, education, and commerce of the whole community area and were awarded the European Capital of Culture in 2019.

I loved this place.

There is more to tell, so I will continue later. This is new, on top of old...

You can see there are more caves to "discover" and more stories to be told.


Matera to Ostuni

Matera’s unique geography has been the backdrop for many movies, many Italian. In 2004 Mel Gibson came to town to make The Passion of Christ which follows in gruelling detail the last twelve hours of Christ’s life, arrest to crucifixion. For three month’s he was welcomed by the locals, many of whom were cast as extras in the film. Apparently he had a love for fettuccine.

Speaking of pasta, we enjoyed lunch at Trattoria Caveoso again serving typical dishes from the area. “Strascinate con Cime di Rape”, was Tony’s choice.

Pasta with turnip tops, typical crunchy peppers, garlic, anchovies and fried bread crumbs. He felt the pasta was a little too “al dente”, turnip tops interesting with their bit of bitterness but all put together quite good. I chose “Orecchiette alla Materana”, pasta with tomatoes, pork sausage, cardoncelli mushrooms.

These little ears of pasta were perfect holding tiny bits of fresh, light sauce and tasty sausage that held a hint of fennel. The mushrooms were firm, earthy and reminded me of a large chanterelle. I will look for them in the grocery store and cook them here. We did share a “Crostada” for dessert.

This chocolate pistachio wafer tart layered with chocolate mousse, cherry marmalade and dark chocolate curls, lightened by cream, melted in your mouth. Another fun place to people watch. The big meal of the day is at lunch. We were light weights compared to those around us who included an appetizer, a pasta, a meat course with extra vegetables and salads before enjoying their dessert. We enjoyed this simple place inside a cave, and were the last to leave.

Time to head home, we were tired. Our drive home and like the drive here, took us through many small towns all unique in their own way. We ventured a bit of a distance as we did not want to miss Matera, out of Puglia and into Basilicata, another province where Orange groves took over from Olive trees and fields after fields of wheat replaced artichokes.

We were early to bed and tomorrow we will stay at home. Awake at 7:30 a.m. and tucked in by 9:00 p.m., not bad!


Winds are High

We bundled up this morning in our jackets as the wind blew up overnight and some clouds rolled in. It is supposed to rain tomorrow so off we go to Locorotondo, but first a stop at our local “Tim’s”, Bar Transit.

Being a tea drinker, in Italy the treat for me is a Capucinno. No where else do I drink coffee. Here drinking coffee at a bar is just a moment to pause, but rarely linger. We linger and watch everyone stand, sniff, swirl and gulp with a quick exchange to the Barista, then quickly head out the door. The speed in which it is consumed does not diminish its importance. Coffee is king and part of Italy’s cultural identity.

We are off! Reaching Locorotondo was a piece of cake, finding the heart of the Centro Storico was a skit. Pedestrianized, it is without a doubt extraordinary and beautiful and the quietest place I have ever been. We walked in circles confident we had found another route to return to the centre. We covered every inch duplicating many times our steps yet noticing something new each round. We saw it all, our expressions of amazement and a chuckle or two, the only sound bouncing around the pure white walls of each building.

The red cyclamen were stunning in what is rated as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. The streets are paved with smooth ivory coloured stones, which are washed each morning by the proud property owners. In this small historical centre are three churches, my favourite the smallest.

Built in the 17th century the artistry of its interior was stunning and obviously of importance historically.

The light coming in from above brought the outside in. No need for electricity.

Among the angels along the walls! I would love to have heard music in this very spiritual place. Little cafès line the streets, flowers to brighten this cloudy day, hidden shops selling local ware and a tiny tourist stop run by volunteers completed the very tip of this impressive hilltop town.

Bicycle Art Installation

So happy

Colourful and fun. No two the same. Locorotondo is also in deep Trulli country but it is also the liquid heart of the Puglia wine region. We set out to visit a winery, alas it eluded us until another day.

On route home we stopped at Martina Franca another picturesque town with winding alleys, blinding white houses, airy piazzas and curlicue iron work balconies. This town is at the highest peak in the region, the wind blew us around but we did not let it deter us from a walk about.

We are alone except for a few “dolls” hanging since Lent began (March 6) where they will stay until Lent ends (April 16). This period of fasting, moderation and self denial ends with Easter, the dolls will come down and the music will begin.

Handmade and hanging from under their arms, some are a bit unsettling

We carried on through Cisternino another appealing hilltop town, whitewashed and slow paced. Known for its grand tradition for ready to go or grilled meat, in numerous butcher shops, we will return to experience this no frills dining experience.

All of these towns hold true their historical centres with their kasbahlike knots of streets. The heart of these towns are a must to visit after the bland modern outskirts of every community.

The rain was pouring down. Wood fired pizza was on our minds for tonight and we weren’t disappointed. Just down the road with all the bumps, across the road you hoped no one else was on because of the inability to pass and across the road where bushes were trimmed with each passing we made it there and back in the dark. We will return, it is in our neighbourhood?

Pizza for one, 7 euros!


Fire’s Burning

Today we prepared for our move to our next stop. We have enjoyed this place and certainly our neighbor Will. Will, from outside of London built our Trulli and is in the process of completing his four bedroom home next door. It is a huge undertaking, but one he loves. He has had these properties for ten years.

You can see the original structure in this photo, by law it must be kept and be part of the footprint. We bundled up and went for a walk, the rain has stopped but the winds were still high. You could hear it howl through the trees. Apple blossoms, lots of Irises and oregano, the scent in the air like perfume one minute and savoury the next. The almond trees and avocado are just forming their fruit. Pomegranate trees are done until they start again in the fall.

A sure sign of spring. Irises are everywhere.

Living off this land would be wonderful at harvest time. That is when I would like to return.

Loaded with Avocados that will grow rapidly in the warm sun.

The oregano looked so healthy and thick, this patch along the side of the road. We came across abandoned Trulli, the property owned but not yet developed. The land is used for olive trees.

Speaking of olive trees, they are taken such good care of and are protected by law, each property owner must follow strict guidelines and follow regular scheduled procedures.

Obviously this tree is still alive because of its support, otherwise it would have split in two. The ground has been tilled and prepped to prevent insect invasion. Back home to pack, load the car and after a drink at our/his house with Will we had a late supper.

We would come back here in a minute and we look forward to hearing about and seeing the completion of the Trulli next door. The Trulli experience in early spring was ideal, quiet and cozy at this stage of our trip.With its thick walls the welcomed warmth stayed inside wrapping us in comfort. The fireplace a bonus.

We wonder what tomorrow will bring! Armed with more books, a new card competition and plans to head out in new directions, we are ready for whatever that may be.


Trulli Cottage to Italian Villa, Truly

With approximately five miles separating Ostuni and Carovigno we find ourselves in a completely different environment. We have left the cottage Trulli in the country and come into town to stay in a beautul private Villa overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Perched above landscaped gardens filled with flowers, herbs, birds and bees, acres of olive and fruit trees, we will never tire of the view.

Carovigno is a town in the province of Brindisi, the countryside in the Upper Salento is renowned worldwide for the production of high quality olive oil.

From the driveway, little chameleon like lizards were darting in and out of the rocks, taking on bright neon leaf green to brownish grey rock colours in the heat of the day.

The view from our upper deck. This was a great place to lounge today and read the afternoon away, which we did. We had a dinner reservation at Trattoria la Cantina at 7:30, as soon as it opens. We are “early birds”.

Recommended to us by Will, we were told “have the Antipasti de Casa, finish it and then if you have room for more, order then”. We spoke with Vincenzo, who is the owner and only employee besides his wife in this quaint 24 seat establishment, and he agreed. We would share the Antipasti for one, he would steer me clear of the shellfish and we could share our next course as well. Here we go...

Little bits of fried dough speckled with cheese and olives

Bottom, left to right, beef carpaccio paper thin with fresh herbs, shaved parm, crushed pistachios drizzled with olive oil, fresh ricotta simply topped with a very sweet strawberry, prosciutto (speck) rolled around burrata and rocket greens. Top left, top down tuna carpaccio perfectly seasoned, melt in your mouth poached salmon and last marinated artichoke on a bed of Sepia (cuttlefish) rings and Italian parsley. Tony found a cuttlefish he liked! On the right polpettine con carne, awesome little pork meatballs.

This veal with pine nuts, braised in broth with a hint of lemon was served in a small covered mini ceramic dish and was to die for. Tony’s special seafood servings came next, everyone as good as the last and all different.

Mussels in garlic and olive oil

Octopus grilled and topped with fig jam and burrata

Mussels done “Rockefeller” style

Warm scampi with fried rice noodle

Shrimp ceviche with lemon. Yes it was all good and yes we then shared a fresh mixed salad and a perfectly grilled ribeye.

Topped with a fried artichoke, perfectly seasoned with a hint of rosemary, a drizzle of the best olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, we were over the moon. It was leisurely and luscious. (Two and a half hours)

We made our way home, thanks to Will for the suggestion, today was a food day. Tomorrow will be too as we head to a Masseria, a typical working farm for lunch.

Yes our holidays take in the sites but equally important is the food.

Love these little welcoming places owned and operated by families.


Change of Plans

We were supposed to go to a Masseria for lunch today but after spending a tense hour trying to get out of the villages all roads were closed because of a bicycle race. You could not pass en route anywhere. The young police woman apologized and told us to wait until it was over. Alas we telephoned and explained the situation to our hosts. Our apologies were accepted and yes she agreed we could not arrive there today. I guess this is common, we will try again next week.

We returned to Carovigno and managed to get a reservation at “Dissapore”, ranked number 1 of 115 restaurants in this town known as a “foodie haven”. Tucked in a narrow alley and sitting above the street we found a gem.

Only 16 seats, very cozy and tastefully furnished we were seated at a table for two under the only window which viewed rooftops and the historic centre of the town below.

My eyes could not leave the table, creatively set with pottery designed by the owner Franca, each dish a piece of art, sparkling with purpose. The two lidded jars hold housemade creamy butter and house olive oil, paired perfectly for the crusty bread and the crispy crackers, and the little roll with a hint of nutmeg.

We were warmly greeted, and in a pleasant mix of Italian and English our lunch/dinner began, a Tasting Menu by Franco’s husband Chef Andrea Catalano. Prosecco and wine, Rosé (rosatto) and red were served throughout.

The “amuse bouche”, bottom to top, poached baby tomato with basil pesto foam, mussels on shell, a lovely dark salty like the sea hand formed cracker, a ricotta and spring pea phyllo roll. Our eyes began to roll into the back of our heads and we were just starting!

Cream new potato soup with pickled red onion, croutons and herbs. Velvety, silky, a kick of tartness and texture, a bowl of spring.

Beef tartare, again seasoned to a T, and fresh spinach and thyme, bit of fried rice kernel, the liquid is red onion water, a bit tart and a bit sweet like a pickle. Unreal! Franca very quietly tells the story of each dish when she presents it.

Risotto, never have we had risotto this good. Not made with wine, onions or any cheese. Made lovingly in the water slowly, cream soured with lemon, fresh crunchy peas, pod and lemon zest, oregano sprig. There are no words. Loved this dish and the dish it is in!

Cacio e Pepe, the hand made pasta, al dente, the sauce made with no cheese, but tapioca, along with the shavings on top. Incredible. Andrea obviously is a young experimental cook, who creates his recipes with pride. Simple parsley leaf on top. We get Italian parsley at home but here, it has more depth and flavour.

Roasted pork tenderloin with Madeira jus, fork tender and paired sensationally with the sauce and the side accompaniment of strawberry, balsamic vinegar gelled cubes of goodness, crispy sage on a purée of old cheese! Sweet and savoury, a match made in heaven.

This “palate cleanser” was fantastic! A sphere of mousse that on your palate tricked you, caramel, salt, whipped cream, sweet but covered on the outside by a mild buttery aged Parmesan curl. We want this again, and again.

The finale! An olive oil cake light as an angel cake with crisp edges of a Yorkshire pudding, chantilly drops, dried fruit and berry gel, and yes that is parsley and perfect. We were not full, we were content, very pleased and we both agreed we had the best tasting meal ever, served with pride at the perfect pace. After chocolate covered almonds again housemade, grappa and a digestif for me, we said our huge “thank you, until next time” they took wonderful care of us for three hours.

Andrea and Franca, we wish them well. This is Michelin star worthy.

Personal Notes

With technology and social media the world and keeping in touch with family and friends has become easier, when travelling. I still feel the pull, though enjoying my time with my adventurous husband, for home. I do miss my family, the touch and voices I love to hear.

I am so pleased to have heard good news, beautiful baby boy Beau Elliott Charter was born April 6 to Jane and Jordan, we are so thrilled for everyone. Our family has grown by many young wonderful little men the last few years! Laurie and Pete, your Tegan and Dave starting the run with three, our Kate and Chris with two and now Jane and Jordan with their new son. What a strong group of little ones, their fierce leaders my two granddaughters, and the Rooney granddaughters  will teach them the ropes and protect them with all their might! Maggie and Dylan will change it up with their daughter due in July.

I know this news is “out” I am proud and ecstatic to say Barbara and Steve will add to this group in the fall, probably a little girl to stir the pot, even it up and bring order to our shared spaces. Just saying’! I am so excited, and bursting at the seams with happiness. Just guessing a girl, going against the odds and putting it out there!?

We have losses and as I reflect and think of those we miss, I know they are here with us every step of the way, keeping an eye and if you are open to it, they send us reminders when we most need them. Yesterday I heard very familiar words, “get over here you!”

Love to all and hold each other close. 


Capo Santa Maria di Leuca

Around the Heel

The coastline of the Salento region is rugged, rock filled with rolling winding roads along miles of shoreline that lead to white sandy beaches, secret coves and steep cliffs. Stunning at every turn in the road, this borderline is embraced by two seas the Adriatic, and the Ionian.

One side the sea, on the other many homes are built into the cliffs. We did visit the Grotto Zinzulusa, one of the 10 most important caves in the world. It’s name derives from the natural concentrations of stalagtites and stalagmites, called “zinzuli” in local dialect, hanging from the interior vaulted space.

Looking out to the sea.

Walking into this cave entrance was astounding. Temperature never changes 22 degrees Celsius, humidity 90%, one \240zinzuli meeting the other, and growing at a rate of 1 cm. every hundred years! The white is the new formation.Discovered in 1793 the Grotto dates back an estimated 30 million years. Fossils of penguins and elephants dating back to the last ice age have been found here as well as excavated objects indicating “water cult” rituals were practiced here.

It is well protected, the guide will tell you not to touch, the cave is “living”. One species living in the water, a prehistoric blind white prawn, resembling our crayfish.

Along the way, under and around you encounter many forms, the interpretation in the eye of the beholder.

Open to the public in 1957, this cave was believed to be at sea level at one point.

Layers of rags formed by the drip, drip, drip the only sound you hear.

The pure white of the “cathedral” at the end stands over 25 metres. At one time this area was completely filled with bat waste. Workers who had the unenviable task of shovelling it all out back in the early 1900’s left “graffiti to celebrate” their efforts, by signing their names using that waste. (Bottom right of my photo.)

Heading back into the sunshine we carried on.

Gorgeous turquoise waters of the Adriatic

Bright blues on many of the boats

We arrived at the Cape where the two seas meet, leaving calm, colourful waters behind in the Adriatic to darker rougher waters in the Ionian.

The harbour at the heel of Italy, we brought a sandwhich with us and had a “car picnic”, the winds were high and dark clouds were on the horizon. It was chilly.

We rounded the corner and headed home, we left this morning at 8:00 and were back around 4:00. There were more vineyards, some struggling olive groves due to an infestation but more livestock, sheep, goats and cattle. Cacti across the flats leading to the sea were abundant, their paddles of dusty green just showing new prickly, fuzzy growth and the old withers of time were grey and wrinkled, snapped off probably with the wind, nature’s gardener.

Nothing like a map in your hands!

We were tired and decided a pizza would be perfect for dinner. “Pizza Express”, there are many English descriptives here, was recommended by our landlord who is in their summer place close by. We had driven by it on one of our previous outings and thought “why would anyone go to a pizza express here” well just going out for a pizza was quite the experience.

Warmly greeted by Mimo we were escorted into this garish environment with rock and roll stars on the wall, Marilyn Monroe in red, the favourite colour obviously of the owners. A huge bar, pizza oven, gas ranges, grills, prep stations, there was a karaoke machine, a juke box! This place must be hopping in the high season and on weekends. It was seven thirty, we were first to arrive but then it started to fill.

Our little corner right near the Rock Stars

It was suggested to Tony that we might like to try their appetizer course before ordering our pizza by the Chef Mimo. Tony had struck up a conversation with him on our arrival, he asked us where we were from, Mimo appreciated Canada but when he heard Tony was Sicilian, from a part of Italy Mimo adored because of the food, especially the fish well he took a real shine to Tony. Tony felt he could not turn down the request to try the appetizer. Oh, oh.........

After a small herbed pizza and basket of bread were put on the table it all started to come,

Burrata and warm ricotta stuffed with a pistachio pesto

Rolled grilled eggplant and anchovie

Cuttlefish salad with balsamic

Grilled octopus salad

Swordfish, (Tony said to die for) with lemon, olive oil and wild greens


Braised Octopus in tomato sauce, another Tony favourite. I was just snapping pics as these dishes kept coming. I stopped......but more arrived, Tripe, oven baked, mini sausages (4) and beans oven baked and Braciole a rolled beef, oven baked. A citrusy lemon couscous and of course those tiny meatballs that were the best so far. Because of my shell fish allergy and a lack of understanding due to language Tony had this Appetizer for Two!

My Margarita Pizza was yummy!

Guess what Tony is having for lunch tomorrow?

On our way out we were invited to stand at the bar and have a digestif, in a frozen glass, a herbaceous Amaro. Wonderful! Good night now.


Do You Smell Smoke?

The sun was shining today and the air was warm. Italy apparently had a long, hard winter weather wise, and spring is arriving a little late, obviously only to the locals. In our eyes spring is certainly here.

These are almonds, the gardens are full of flowers and the pots on the deck look like summer. We spent most of the day outside reading and watching the sky which was ever changing.

Andreas has 38 olive trees which produce 300-500 litres of oil each year depending on the harvest. He takes his oil back to Germany where he receives 14 euros a litre. He could get more but he is content. He has maintained a home there but here in Carovigno they have “retired” back to his wife’s roots. Our Villa was built in 2010.

Today Tony did have leftover pizza for lunch. He discovered the purpose of the stainless rack that rises above the toaster!

It worked perfectly! The galley kitchen is quite modern and practical, outfitted with everything we need and enough dishes to feed a hundred! The view is awesome out the window.

We are going to bbq tonight and while the grill is hot we will roast vegetables and along with the ribs, sausages for another day.

Fun place to prep while Tony starts the bbq.

Love the Romanesco and the long mild red onions, the peppers are sweet, the herbs all from the garden, strong.

When you peel or cut into any citrus the aroma fills a room and lingers, I comment on it every time. All from the garden, the meat only from a very friendly butcher who knew English. I head out to check on Tony, with his requested Compari and Soda, slice of blood orange. As I round the corner, my comment was, “is that a smoker?”

The reply, “just give me a minute Jane, I am trying here” and try he did. Opening up his other bag of charcoal

Much to his surprise

Corn. We laughed our asses off, I went back inside, made him another drink, opened a bottle of wine, it may be a long night! The sky was changing.

And changing

The smoke died down, dinner came together

Good job Tony, just in time!

Now, if I could just get that smoke smell out of our clothes! Tomorrow...


Within the Arch

Osteria Già Sotto L’Arco, loosely translated means “tavern within the arch”. Established in 1982 by Teodosio and Teresa Buongiorno it is hardly a tavern as we know them. Enchanting mix of art studio, culture, solid roots and a passion driven by love, this dining establishment received its first Michelin star twenty years ago which remains today.

Overlooking the central square in Carovigno , the traditional setting exudes history, one family’s story.

Wine making roots run deeper. Another family story. Teodosio grew up with his father in their well known Osteria wine cellar. His desire to become a professional sommelier comes from his experience with his father. Leading to a brilliant career, he being a passionate perfectionist, travelling the world at the request of wine cellars because of his “nose”, his expertise and his natural inclination to know what is good and beautiful. The bottles of ”I Buongiorno” are outstanding right down to the art work on the labels, something he also feels strongly about. Little collage pieces.....

We had some time one evening to sit with him over a couple of glasses of his wine when we arrived. He is charming, caring and professional, and dapper to boot. Through our conversation we learned of his wife and daughter and the restaurant where this passion continues. When we got home, Tony made a reservation.

Pretty and so yummy, salty with a touch of sweetness.

Each one different, the cheesy ring known as Tarelli, the earthy sphere of roasted wheat, a citrusy knot of orange and lemon and a sunflower, sesame oval, all small and fresh and warm. Buongiorno olive oil to dip, green and crisp.

Roasted artichoke cream, Jerusalem chokes as well as the ever present Italian ones we see in the fields, now in season. Not fond of chokes, I loved it!

A fois gras scallop, brioche toast with drops of honey, quince preserve and poached apple with cinnamon. The toasted almonds added perfect texture. This dish rocked. There are no words.

Fusilli, house made and holding wondrous bits of brocollini ragu, with burrata and roasted grape leaf. Botarga grated on top (fish roe), the combinations perfect in every bite.

Roasted veal cheek on creamy mashed potato in sauce with beet purée, fork tender and insanely rich. A perfect bite.

Tender crisp cannoli on a zabaglione base, raspberry, strawberries and filled with cream and ricotta, the texture of a cloud.

Dark chocolate truffles and almond meringues completed our meal today. Perfect sweet. Teresa is an amazing Chef and well worthy of her Michelin Star. \240The ambiance is immediately welcoming and we were blessed to have met Teodosio and his family.

The entrance above the Arch. Our evening was quiet, very quiet.

Castel del Monte

Up the Coast

We left early armed with another picnic, some rosatto and our map. We also have our coats, umbrella and are wearing our walking shoes. The walking experience hopefully is balancing out the eating ones.

Our first stop was Monopoli, followed by Polignano a Mare, coastal cities reached after travelling low lying lands, white pebble beaches then sitting on soaring cliffs, the city appears.

Local economy mostly depends on tourism, agriculture and fishing.

Bari, Molfetta, Giovinazzo, Bisceglie, and Trani are next. All beautiful Port towns, fisherman dot the coast in small boats along the shore, some dingy like while others line the cliffs and cast out for their catch. Bisceglie was awarded Blue Flag Beach certification for high environmental and quality standards. In this area wine, olive oil and furniture are made and shipped all over the world. Trani is an historic fishing port. Reminiscent of 1950’s films set in an old fashioned sea side town, we sat on the boardwalk for our picnic and watched sailboats leave the harbour. Historic buildings surround us, faded with the sun, the waterfront is deserted except for one elderly couple taking a stroll, a father with his young son chasing pigeons and lazy dogs lying on the warm stone.

Statues or fountains are in every square and each town leans to a certain colour of shutter on buildings of importance.

Barletta was next. Noticing huge blocks of marble, rough and untouched but colourful we learn that we are close to the Marble District. The Marble quarries nearby, deliver huge “chunks” to manufacturers where they are cut and polished according to the needs of the purchasers. Marble walls and columns are gorgeous and in abundance at our next stop. Castel del Monte.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site (1996), it is described as a “unique masterpiece of medieval military architecture”.

Built during the 1240’s by Emporer Frederick II, who inherited the land from his mother Constance of Sicily, some believe it had never been intended as a fortress but as a hunting lodge. This “fortress” is an octagonal prism with octagonal towers on each corner. Both floors have eight rooms and an eight sided courtyard occupies the castles centre.

Marble columns

Fireplace remains

Coral Rock arches

Interior marble walls were looted by vandals pre 1876. Purchased by the Italian State, restoration began in 1928 and continues today. During the Allied occupation of WWII, the 15th Army Air Force headquartered a secret navigational aid station called Big Fence at the Castel. An impressive site, even in the rain, we were glad we made the effort

We head towards home and stopped for a drink at a local bar in Cisternino

Busier than a one armed paper hanger, this bartender in his very eclectic establishment served a group of Aussie girls, two German ladies, ourselves and a continuous stream of gentlemen dropping in for a coffee or a shot before heading home to dinner. Our bill for two Campari and Soda and two glasses of white wine, served with complimentary bites (olives, chips, pistachios) 8 euros. Now off to Rosticceria L’Antico Borgo for dinner.

Located in the heart of Cisternino this restaurant has a meat counter where locals come in to buy fresh meat. This meat counter is also the source of all meat cooked for the diners. Filled with locals and tourists the place buzzes with activity, charm and a bit of a party atmosphere. After choosing your meat you sit down, sip wine and people watch. It was great fun, the food was fabulous and everyone very happy and friendly.

Bombettes are popular, beef or pork rolled with different interior flavours. Tony’s choice, mine was a steak, no surprise. Grilled perfectly, seasoned well and delicious, topped with fresh rocket lettuce and shaved parm, splash of olive oil, it hit the spot after a long day of travelling. Tony, along with a salad and fries, said all of his were good, could not pick just one. He chose one with eggplant and tomato, pancetta and cheese, spicy sausage, speck and mushrooms and a traditional one rolled in crumbs with cheese. Yep there were five but small! We also had red and white wine. Total 34 euros!

People continued to arrive at the butchers counter, some making more than one trip.

The staff were friendly and would take time to make sure everyone was as happy as they were. They were loving what they were doing!

Speaking of happy, this little girl Olympia (7) and her brother Alexandro from London, took a shine to us and I received a page from her colouring book, along with a hug.

It was a nice night.

Wait, is that a ticket on our car?


Tidying Up

Yep, that was a ticket! We knew better as we had parked at 6:30, prime walk about time in the heart of Cisternino, so our dinner deal became average with an additional 42 \240euros. We will head back there on Monday to pay the ticket which will save 15. There is a great bakery there, worth the 20 minute trip!

It rained all day, we sat by the fire and I cleaned out the fridge. We felt like we were at the cottage. Tony assisted with the leftover cleaning up when he made his lunch of roast veggies, just bringing them to room temperature and slightly melting the end of some provolone piquant cheese, by warming it on the marble tops of the fireplace. It could have been done in the oven but I was in the kitchen and he did not want to get in my way.I was cooking!

Tongs make a great trivet.

He said it was delicious, so was my crisp, tart apple, peeled and sliced by Tony.

Vegetables that are left I am turning into soup, our leftover ribs and some sausage will flavour my sauce, and leftover pancetta, cream, cheese and bread will be made into Alfredo tonight. It is cold and dreary but so green outside. The thunder rolls around the hills and the lightening brightens the sky for miles. We were glad we took our road trip yesterday.

We leave next Saturday so we planned our excursions. Driving here because of past experiences is relatively easy, certainly more so in the smaller towns than the bigger cities, you just have to remember one thing....all road rules are “just a suggestion”.

Yes there are two lanes of traffic, but if you want to pass on a solid line, go, someone will move over, 90 km. is the speed limit, hell go 160 if you want, it’s just a suggestion! Stop signs, well if you want to get honked at, stop at one after all, it is just a suggestion. Speaking of honking in Italy your horn is to be used for emergencies only, I have never been involved in so many of them. There is a crisis every time you turn around. As for the side of the road where the dirt and bushes are, well that is the inside lane for some, staying on the road to get where you are going is after all, just a suggestion. Round abouts are great, if you are first in, you have the right of way well, you get it, it is just a suggestion. If you have your indicator lights flashing you are definitely not from here, everybody here apparently knows exactly where everyone is going! Yep, it is interesting. Narrow streets, no problem, pull in those mirrors and everybody in the car breathe in and close your eyes.

Quite the exciting day for Tony, he even whittled. Remember corks? Well when you pop one here it is almost impossible to put them back in the bottle (yes, he has wine left on a regular basis) so he redesigned a few.

Dinner was good, Pasta Alfredo with garlic crumb, exhausted from all of his whittling, unwinding from our driving experiences, reading and yes surfing the net, cooking and eating Tony was first to sleep.

I had wine to finish, after all I told you I was cleaning out the fridge.


Here Comes the Sun

After a couple of cool days the sun returned, not sure for how long, so out we went! A drive around the back roads near the house and a return visit for lunch at La Trattoria Cantina, a favourite.

Unusual to see such a large grassy area in the “hood”, without a flower a couple of days ago, the rain has brought a new coat of green with red poppies and a yellow multi coned flower I am not sure of. Over the next week I think it will be a “coat of many colours”. I will walk back to check.

The road allows approximately a foot of space on either side of the car at its widest points. What made this a bit more difficult was the placement of rocks “pointing out” on the fence tops. It looked like jagged teeth one after the other, mouthing, “turn around”.

Yep, this road was a perfect place for runners, or a donkey and cart. Looks like someone “blew a shoe”. We reached a dead end and with difficulty and a bit of time we turned around.

We passed this house. It drew me in and I can imagine it quite alive in the holiday season with families scurrying about. The gardens were lush, bushes were loaded with buds and rose vines were climbing up the walls on the front of the house. It looked like everything was planted to be in bloom when owners arrive. I loved this house and the property it sits on. Trees were groomed, obviously someone is taking good care of it.

Vincenzo was glad to see Tony, he recognized me and we sat at our table.

Obviously I have to include one food photo, Tony’s lunch. Octopus, swordfish, scampi, cuttlefish and shrimp. All grilled he enjoyed it but wished they served the crustaceans out of the shell, only a preference, all very tasty.

The warm sun was also necessary to dry our laundry from this morning. There are no dryers here, clothesline’s come in many forms, and we returned home to get ours off the line. It was getting cloudy and colder.

Our landlord left a fresh box of wood and kindling, a gift that has appeared without notice on a regular basis. Andreas is very attentive while non intrusive. He anticipates rather than reacts. Tony built a fire, just in case.

We were thankful, the fire was very nice.


Ticket, Paid

Cisternino, where we received our parking ticket was about a half hour away, but where the “police station” was to be found, another story. Navigation devices are wonderful but tricky and being language specific, as in like to like translations, there was no help. We were on our own. We just drove around, and around, and around and eventually we saw the sign! \240“Carabinieri” hurrah! Ticket paid!

En route though we encountered this beautiful view. Here in Puglia I felt the draw between land and sea. Without mountains or rivers, the light illuminates the wide open spaces and the immense stretches of sky. The extraordinary amount of stones not only builds the farmhouses, thousands of kilometres of fence, but also cathedrals and castles which rise up from the villages, the summit of which lies the “Centro”, the heart of each city.

You can see Ostuni, the White City, rising up on the right. We decided to drive down to the sea. Villa Nova is a beach town, almost deserted right now but come summer it will be crawling with residents and tourists. A fishing harbour, with many restaurants and cafés, a bakery and grocery store but most are closed for the season. We did stop at a Café for gelato, and it was yummy but too cold to eat outside on the picnic benches.

The water is crystal clear blue and surrounds vast areas of sand and rocks, with lighthouses and ports, little villages and boats, coastal watch towers and great views. We have driven many areas of shoreline, each scene brings new adventures. We have enjoyed being near water.

Home we go, with a fresh loaf of bread from the bakery, to go with our clean up the fridge leftovers. We are on the countdown towards the next leg of our journey and I have fun using everything up.

Ribs and sausage from Tony’s “corny bbq session”, some tomatoes, herbs from the garden, fresh spring red onion and garlic to kill for, all turned out pretty good

I will be honest Tony and I have been talking about a juicy hamburger, on a grilled brioche bun.......hmmmmmm.....

Ceglie Messapica

Early Birds

We were quiet on Tuesday and decided to get an early start today. We were going to be just like the locals and follow their schedules. On a mission, the first stop was Chõcolate Cafè, that sounded good to me. By eight we were sitting down and enjoying the company of others over our treats. But what to have....cakes


Or seriously, “Tits of the Monica” (Nun’s Tits)

We settled for a Cornetti. Puff pastry with jam and a Cappuccino, Tony enjoyed his Brioche with Cream and Espresso. Just a regular coffee stop to chat, or

pick up a little something for Easter.

These housemade chocolate eggs are loaded with handmade chocolates. Before you get on with the business of the day you wash your hands, after all, those pastries are a little messy, and see the best faucet ever. How cool is this hanging from the ceiling?! Hands under, water perfect temperature.

We are out the door and about a half hour later we are in Céglie Messápica, another beguiling historic town. One of the oldest towns in Puglia (15th century BC), it has one of the largest historic centres that is amazingly well preserved. A bit Moorish like in appearance and noticeably very clean. We explored the palazzos and rambled through intriguing narrow lanes. We were smart to park our car outside and walk in.

The sun was shining and warm after a couple of dreary days so laundry is hung,

Friends “catch up” in the Palazzo before going home for lunch and Nonna rushes home to cook that lunch.

But first she will stop and pick up a few things from her farmer friend who had the beans, and garlic the size of oranges, that she needs.

We carry on down the pathways. All a little different.

Wrought iron is prevalent, old

and new

Shop windows are decorated for Easter, this one full of the popular white ceramic wares that are decorative and purposeful.

People are beginning to gather for lunch

We decide to sit and observe for a little bit in the main square. It is so quiet and peaceful and warm.

Tony returned to the car to drop off a package and I had the opportunity to sit in silence and watch. I felt like a kitten on a windowsill, turning my body to the heat, stretching out my legs and feeling the need to stay put all day, right in that spot. I get lost in thought, when suddenly I hear. Cheers!

All is good! We chit chat before moving on to lunch in a lovely place but you have seen enough food pics for now. My veal was delicious, Tony’s pasta a little heavy and his mixed grill a little over cooked and, the best baked potato we have ever had!

“Cibus” is second generation. Yellow and red vine tomatoes hang just inside the main door on the wall along with curing salami and capocollo, great decoration for a restaurant close to the origin of its products. In the dining room, there appear to be two identical, it is clean, white and softly lit. There are no windows.

At the tables, familiar flowers to us all, they are not called “kalanchoe” here and of course olive oil from the property.

One of the founders of km 0, the zero mile food and wine system, this town is where you do not invent a restaurant from scratch, they are inherited and live through generations.

I read that “in Céglie Messapica the products have a name and a surname, you know where they come from, how they are produced and who makes them, thus insuring the quality of what you are going to eat” - Antonella Millard, food and wine journalist. I believe this can be said by every place we have dined. We have embraced km 0 with success.

We head back to the car

Passing lovely door stoops on our way, some residents like flowers

Others prefer Cactus

I loved them both!



No matter where you travel, there are always reminders of home. We did some shopping today and I noticed a couple of signs.

This was a hardware store, reminded me of how cold I was the day we left Canada, seems so long ago and this next one is obvious,

I also appreciated the order we have for parking our cars in Canada. Here if there are no spaces, just stop in the middle of the street,

Or if you do not want to parallel park, just drive into that little space you suddenly saw and then there is the guy who cuts in front of you from the opposite side of the road to park facing the wrong way.(Note: we got a $35.00 ticket for parking the wrong way in front of our house in North Bay),

People park like this everywhere, even if the front of the car is too big for the spot, if there is a gap, I guess it is meant to be filled.

In an empty lot we watched this lady park, yep that is an “absolutely no parking” sign.

There are so many more situations. You also do not have to be aligned with the curve

Oh my, that’s Tony! You would think he was born here, oh wait he was! It’s all coming back to him now!

It was a crazy day! More later!


Masseria il Frantoio

A Masseria is very old, built between the 1500-1600's when Spain ruled the South. They are large farm complexes that house not only the landowners but also those who tend the crops and care for farm animals. Special buildings for making olive oil, wine, cheese, to store crops and house animals are usually in the complex as well. There are some in Puglia that resemble small villages surrounded and protected by high walls, always with a central courtyard. Many have been renovated for tourists to provide an experience of nature, local culture and home cooking (slow food), but with the comfort of a fine hotel.

Today we went to Masseria il Frantoio for lunch (dinner). A family run business where people went out of their way to make us comfortable, have the feeling of being at home and the desire to make our experience a memorable one. This was a totally organic masseria that uses no chemicals in their fields and gardens. That is why here this simple food tasted so damned wonderful.

After an olive oil tasting, from the trees at the Masseria some of which are over 2000 years old, we had \240(2) fried pasta bread with tomato sauce, think “pita pocket” but lighter, warm and seasoned. Because of a "glitch" in Internet my photos are presented differently.

This was a (3)Cauliflower dressed with Black Chick Pea, rolled with a light cream sauce. Holding it together was a lovely chick pea flour crepe.

I was shocked I liked this (4) Wild Swiss Chard with Red Lentil Cream, the texture and taste were brilliant and so rich in flavour, seasoned with a touch of red pepper. All of the above were paired with a local white wine, Bianca d’Alessano.

This is a (5) grilled soft goat cheese slice with saffron, poached pears and pear compote, which was served with a “shot” of Le Ricordanze, Semillon and Reisling, again local. The combination of salty and sweet was outstanding, creamy and the warm toast, warm pear, and cold splash of the compote was just right. The wine, lighter than our ice wine, but similar as the grapes are left on the vine to dry a wither just a bit.

You must remember all of these courses are small plates meant to taste and share. (6)The pasta, homemade whole-wheat ribbons with fava bean cream and wild asparagus, was very good, a little heavy and in my opinion needed black pepper. With a switch to a red wine, Vigne Vecchie, Primotivo again from the area, it tasted better! I could have eaten a bowl of the wild asparagus.

No meat on Good Friday, (7) this sea Bass filet on paper thin garden potatoes, with rosemary and grilled Savoy Cabbage, excellent, bloody excellent. The (8) Insalata Mista, a work of art on the plate. Everything from the Masseria, raw almonds, flowers from the garden, again sticking to the belief of Km 0. Dessert was almond gelato, all gelato is good in Italy.

Tony had a “digestif”, made from the leaves of the olive trees at the Masseria that provided “quite a kick” according to him. It was a lovely day and we were so glad we finely made it to this place, our third try. I could have walked and walked exploring and taking in all the scents from the “ Arab” citrus garden, so called because it is surrounded by protective block walls, holding in the heat. It was very humid, trenches of water gathering the rain for the roots and soil. The trees are ancient, numerous and provide citrus all year depending on the variety of lemon, lime, orange, etc. etc. etc. There is nothing missing here.

The “Italian” garden is open, no walls, and cooler to allow the winds to blow gently through the leaves of plants, better for the bees and other necessary pollinators. Here are all of the vegetables again, something for each season and tomatoes all year round. Tiny sugar tomatoes are strung around the property drying from last falls crop. 

The herb garden is right behind the kitchen. The cooks, not chefs, are all women who know and follow the traditional methods of the ancestors, using every bit of every plant in their cooking. What does not get used goes back to the soil.

We had to leave, we have a travel day tomorrow and must pack up our Villa.

These jugs were in all of the gardens, shiny and clean, I loved them.









On the Road

A few photos of an eight hour day that seemed like half that time, and over 600 kilometres by taking the long route around the “spur” of Italy. We thoroughly enjoyed going in and out of villages and around the sea; a very pleasant road trip with a picnic in the middle and numerous stops for photos, each sight a WOW!

Before we left our goodbyes were quick but we were very thankful to our hosts, Andreas and his family, his son was visiting from Germany for the Easter weekend, Mamma was very happy, even at 7:00 a.m.

Before we reached the “Spur” (Promontório del Gargano) the land was flat as far as the eye could see. Fields and fields of commercial gardens already harvesting onion and garlic and replanting the next crop, salt beds with evaporating pans lined up like squares of a quilt, the water seeping away in the sun, mountains of this grey salt pouring out of  troughs and masses of wildflowers our view; then we started to climb. And climb we did, round and round, up and down.

Our first view was great as we entered one of Italy’s beautiful corners that juts out into the sea. Encompassing white limestone cliffs, grottoes, ancient forests, some areas dark as dirt when entered, and tangled vegetation overlooking the sparkling sea this is a magnificent National Park. It was once connected to what is now Dalmatia ( in Croatia). Apparently it has more in common with the land mass there than with the rest of Italy.

We were told to be careful but arrived safely at our Hotel in Giulianova early evening. We will stay here until Monday morning, Sunday we will share a “typical” Easter Sunday lunch in a small town up the coast ( about 15 minutes away). We wonder what “typical” is in this region.

A lovely little 16 room “Hotel 900” is in a sleepy beachside community on what will be a very busy strip in the season. We are still feeling like the only ones travelling, but it is getting warmer....20 degrees yesterday.

Our wonderful hosts.

Just one of many,

Many lovely

Views! We were careful,

And slept well at Hotel 900!

Our route today,

Time to rest!


Easter Dinner April 21

Our hotel made reservations at a beautiful restaurant that literally hung over the hills with a view of the Gran Sasso, the highest mountain of the Apennines, contained entirely in the Abruzzi region. We stayed in the beach community of Guilianova, then 15 minutes north and straight up via many twists and turns we were transported almost to what looked like another country to Tortoreto, it was fantastic.

It was a hazy day but you can just make out the snow capped mountains on the horizon. Our experience at lunch/dinner was lovely, typical menu for Easter, lamb roasted, potatoes and veg., but of course we are in Italy so it also included, appetizers, two pastas, and dessert. We loved being among families of varying combinations and the noise that ensued. Our meal was “good”. A couple of experiences did not go so well. For Tony, a vine leaf baked around lamb kidney and for me what Tony said was a breaded fried olive, turned out to be just that... but it was stuffed with liver. I just about hit Tony between the eyes when I spit it out! We had a lot of laughs.

Parma, April 22

We have arrived at our destination for today but en route we had two great stops, San Marino, San Marino, an enclave micro state surrounded by Italy. Only 24 square miles it is one of only three countries in the world to be surrounded by a single country, it is the third smallest country in Europe with only Vatican City and Monaco being smaller and the fifth smallest country in the world.

The town square, the view

Everywhere you looked it was stunning to see for miles

We literally did a quick walk about then were on our way and the timing was perfect. With a holiday weekend the busses were coming in and families quickly were filling the car parks with everyone in tow, including the family pets. I have never seen so many dogs anywhere.

Our next stop was Cesenatico, a Port town on the Adriatic coast, birthplace of Gian Carlo, Tony’s cousin Carm’s husband. What a charming village, we walked the canal

Took in a Cultural event

And Tony had his shrimp and calamari.

We were very happy we took the time to come here.

En route we passed fields of peach trees, vines and crazy amounts of lettuce. Roof tops became terra cotta and the sidewalks, rolled rocks. We watched our step.

Watching the map (Granata’s and Evans) I noticed we could have left the sea and gone to Tuscany to say hello to Lilianna, but realized I should call first, she was probably busy with the neighbor. (Inside joke).

The scenery changes, the “typical” food changes, the people of course say their town is the best. This whole trip we have appreciated the friendliness, kindness and the willingness everyone has taken to show us the right direction to go, some walking with us and yes one driving us.

Traffic was heavy at times today, we are tired and will rest before our day in Parma tomorrow.


Before Moving On

As we leave Puglia I can not express enough how beautiful it was. I have to leave it behind as I am comparing everything I have seen and am now seeing, to it, and that is unjust in this wonderful country. I know I talked a lot about the food but I must summarize our four weeks before I head into the next two.

Puglia is a treasure trove of art, history and nature. It is a land of sun, kindness and hospitality, charming landscapes, two incredible crystal clear seas, steep cliffs and golden beaches. The great valleys and gentle hills are covered with olive trees, vineyards and luxuriant forests and oh yes, there are some amazing ravines.

Puglia is OLD. From the Ancient Greeks to the Romans, from the Byzantines to the Normans, and I am sure I am missing a few,  but many civilizations have followed one another in ruling Puglia. We learned that extensive numerous archeological excavations brought back to light priceless artifacts and works of art and architecture testifying to the history and wide-ranging cultures of the different societies that were once here.  There are cave churches, medieval castles, Baroque and Romanesque churches, noble palaces and historical residences, enchanted hamlets and art cities, charming masserie (manor farms) and rural homes.

In Puglia we visited two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Castel del Monte, the mysterious fortress of Emperor Frederick II; the Trulli in Alberobello, unique dry-stone dwellings. We travelled the narrowest roads; were amazed at dry stone fences; toured Gargano National Park; stood in the wind where two seas meet. We travelled to the Province of Matera, in the Basilicata region to see the Sassi, another UNESCO site, thank you Holly for your suggestion.

Magic is in the air everywhere. The past embraces the present, and ancient customs and popular traditions are honoured to their very core. This was evident in craftsmanship, celebrations and of course, back to the food. Puglia's food and wine are an explosion of exceptional flavours. Chefs are taking the traditional classics and turning the wonderful, all genuine locally grown ingredients (Km 0) into dishes that are contemporary and inventive. Puglia is a “foodie haven”. The cost, very reasonable. Magic continues. I give kudos too, to the superb extra virgin olive oil; over 3,000 years ago the first graft between the wild olive tree and the more productive domestic olive was undertaken in order to produce olives but more importantly the precious oil. Today we taste an oil that first the ancient Roman’s tasted, that anointed kings, perfumed pharaohs, lit lamps, the aroma soaked in history, nature and the agricultural beauty that obviously has woven an harmonious path for centuries.

I can not forget the exquisite wines, Bianca, Rosso and Rosato that were once snubbed but now well praised. If Italy is the largest wine producer in the world they have to thank Puglia which produces more than any other region. Until 20 or so years ago a large proportion of Puglias grapes were added for “substance” to wines produced in Italy and France. This is no longer the case and now Puglia may boast about their 25 different DOC regions and excellent vintages of its own. The most widely known grape is the Negroamaro, the most famous Primotivo. White wines and Rosés were also spectacular and are gaining importance. We are hoping to find some at home, but thinking the cost will more than triple.

We met some wonderful people, and yes the strangers who approached us and asked “where are you from” were a joy recognizing Tony “must be Italian”, I was the give away, even before I opened my mouth! We so appreciated and enjoyed their, sometimes lengthy, conversations. They were all very thankful we would come to their village, shop or restaurant or want to live in their town.We were two of very few tourists here right now, it was an incredible experience.

Keep living!


Parma is a city in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. It is famous for its architecture, music, art, prosciutto (ham), cheese and its surrounding countryside. It is also home to one of the oldest universities in the world.

The lamp shades hanging in this street were very pretty and quite fun as were the little shops, all unique in their own way. Window dressings are exciting here and a joy to see, they have moved from Easter to spring.

Flowers were in abundance inside shops or to be delivered.

Lots of arches led to the Theatre, Opera House, municipal Buildings

The university, many churches

There are lots of churches, with large courtyards covered with the round stone and grass kept short probably from the foot traffic and the odd car that darts across. The sign saying no automobiles is after all, just a suggestion.

Many homes are quite colourful, shades of pink, gold, orange and green. I thought the penthouse was interesting on this building. Shops were laden of course with, ham, cheese, focaccia, the aromas are heavy and reminded me of Nonna’s kitchen when she was making pizza.

It wasn’t very busy here for a downtown core that is quite modern and laced with familiar stores, H&M, Intissimo, Champion, Nespresso, on the main drag. We ducked into side streets and loved the local shops. Clothing, jewelry, flowers, giftware, art, shoes and bags. Hat shops, antique stamps, maps and book stores are numerous, along with the bread maker, butcher, salumiere, cheese, coffee shops loaded with pastries and candy shops full of artful treats at every corner. We commented on how clean the city was.

Hundreds of photos of different doors could be taken,

along with buildings being refurbished. There is a lot of that going on here but honestly we never see anyone working on them. A very slow process I guess, very slow.

Wander and wander we did for almost four hours then the rains came down. Everyone scurried home or to lunch, it was time. We enjoyed and shared a leisurely meal in a covered market square in a “typical” restaurant again suggested to us. They did not steer us wrong. We tried the pasta that Parma is known for, tortellini stuffed with herbs and cheese or of course the ham. It was lovely.

And the pork cheeks and polenta. Yummy.

The “local” wine is Lambrusco which we tried. Served in cups I thought it tasted like Welches grape juice and Soda water, Tony thought it was more Sangria like. I switched to white immediately, Tony later had a nice red with his pork cheeks.

We sat for three hours dining at a leisurely pace, no one is in a hurry. Seated at a corner table we people watched, deals were being made in the market square, a successful one that involved two guitars and some not successful that left a beautiful mirror and two lovely Queen Anne chairs behind. They will be back. The rain eased and we returned to our hotel, it was nice to be on foot. Tomorrow we leave for Faggetto Lario on Lake Como.

Faggeto Lario

Lake Como Part 1

In less than three hours we went from the flattest land, famous for raising pigs for the best “Parma ham” to the highest hills at Italy’s shared border of Switzerland. I will tell you we never saw any pigs but if they are eating from the green fields we saw, no wonder the flavour is amazing. My apologies to any vegetarians.

Turning every corner into Faggetto Lario there were amazing sights. Our trip from Milan went smoothly. We \240encountered rain on our arrival but it was expected, the weather forecasts have been very accurate on this trip.

We went from the flattest land to the highest hills, we drove through a cloud! I am not kidding, we drove through a cloud. Phew, we arrived, the house is awesome, known as “The Doctor’s House”, we are anxious to hear about its history.

Higher and higher we drove, this is a bit of the interior.

Formal dining, the Art is awesome


Kitchen table

Kitchen, this is the view outside our kitchen door....

We are excited as Jim and Donna arrive from Canada tomorrow, we are so looking forward to our shared time and the adventures we will have. We have shared Italy and other trips many times over the years. \240

Before going to bed we had a power outage, siren sounds but Tony found the “light”, we managed well. Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day!

Como, Part 2

Faggetto Lario is a small community in the Province of Como, in the Italian Region of Lombardy. We are located between Como, the administrative capital and Bellagio, another village known as Lake Como’s pearl.

We look out over the beautiful Lake Como surrounded by dramatic scenery in the foothills of the Alps. The lake is our front yard.

We drove to Milan’s Linate airport this morning to pick up Jim and Donna. We were up bright and early and arrived without incident within 20 minutes of their arrival. Waiting in the arrival area was quite calm, a few others there to greet but it was very quiet. Tony was disappointed we didn’t make a sign, after all we had not seen each other since New Years!

The doors opened and with big smiles, hugs and lots of excitement, we greeted each other and got on our way. I handed over my navigation role to Jim, got in the back seat with Donna and we drove “Italian style” back to the house, taking in the sights along the way, and chatting non stop, all of us picking up right where we left off.

A little lunch, a little nap, a little dinner, a little wine, the day flew by and everyone tucked in for a good nights sleep. Our travellers were troupers and I am sure very tired with their internal clocks on Canadian time.

Cheers everybody!



Rain poured down through the night and water gathered to form little waterfalls coming from the hills. By morning the mist hung over the lake and as time worn on patches of blue started to appear. We decided to head into “town” and get our bearings.

This is the front door garden before we head up the stairs to our gate. Great way to start the day, the perfume that fills the air, especially after a rain, should be bottled.

Como is a tourist destination no doubt, but we are ahead of the busy times. The city contains numerous works of art, gardens, parks and of course churches, museums, theatres and palaces. It was so enjoyable to walk along the shore of the lake which by the way, for North Bay folk, contained a small splash pad. Water taxis scoot across the lake taking residents home from work and tourists on a tour.

We meandered around the streets, window shopping, strolling through the squares, into the Duomo and stopped for a bite and beverage to wait out a sudden downpour. Our time was quite pleasant and we even found a great little grocery store to pick up supplies.

A very well kept clean environment. Each square held its own beauty

The Duomo built in 1642 was stunning

We return to the house to find the storm threw the electricity off, we are pros at fixing this now so it did not take us long to get things running.

We are expecting guests for the weekend and we are all looking forward to Eryn and her boyfriend Mike’s arrival. Eryn is Jim and Donna’s granddaughter. They are both finishing up their studies \240in Lucerne and Zurich at the moment. Tony and Jim returned to the train station to await their arrival.

We all walked up the hill for dinner at a local restaurant, had a fun meal, lots of conversation, the night flew by. Tomorrow the sun will shine, the temperature will rise and we will head out on another adventure.


The Pearl

We hopped in the car, an accomplishment in itself! Trying to fit like puzzle pieces we managed with a few adjustments and headed the short but very curvy distance to Bellagio. With some laughs, gasps and wows along the narrow road we arrived, along with everybody else! It was very busy! When a “parking” spot was found, we released ourselves from the car like coiled fuzzy snakes from a can. The view was beautiful.

The arms of Lake Como form an inverted “Y”; the triangular land mass at the base of the lake form a “Pearl” overlooking all banks of the lake.

Taking in all of the beauty of this small town of 3,000, we explored the narrow alleyways and covered passages between the buildings. Known as a heaven for art lovers, shoppers, lovers of classic Italian architecture, excellent food, beauty and style, it did not disappoint.

The village, built on a hill, is filled with stairs that take you up, down and across, the lake is always in sight.

After exploring the village we walked along the promenade to I Giardino Di Villa Melli. The “gardens” are magnificent. The Villa, built as a summer residence (1810), it is set in an enchanting garden with statues

Giant rhododendrons and azaleas adorn the grassy slopes, the Japanese maple leaves light as feathers dance in the breeze

Photos do not do this gorgeous place justice.

Narrow paths guide you through

Switch backed like the roads, you did not miss anything from the greenhouses

The craggy bits

Every flower and tree

Bamboo gardens

We encircled the garden from its shore and transversing it’s hills we did not miss a bit of this gorgeous, peaceful place, now privately owned. We were not able to get in the “house”.

One could only imagine the activity and probably very special events that take place here inside and out.

Off we went, back to the car pleased we had been able to experience this beauty, but not so pleased when we received another parking ticket! We were not in the “blue line”, alas it was worth it! Tonight we head out to dinner but right now we fold ourselves back into the car with some better adjustments and head home for a drink on the deck. It was a great day.

Faggeto Lario


Sitting on the shores of Lake Como is a lovely restaurant named Vapore, which translates to “Steam”. This name refers to an ancient steamboat that would pass by on the lake. It is a pretty little place in a tiny harbour at the end of a narrow switchback road. We all hopped in the car and held on!

Dinner did not disappoint. Local produce, fresh fish from the lake, one of which we have not seen on a menu ever. Tony had Slice of Sturgeon lacquered with Balsamic Vinegar. He loved it, comparing the texture to Tuna, “very mild, it was unbelievable!”

Mike and Eryn shared Missultin with Grilled Polenta which they enjoyed, a sardine type fish also from the lake, before

Tortelloni with Whitefish Datterini, olive type tapenade and Mullet Lake fish.

The tender pillows of Potato and Spinach Gnocchi with Cheese Fondue and Saffron was a hit for Jim and Donna

And the Trofie with Rabbit Ragu and Citrus was so yummy and delicious for Tony and I.

Jim’s Whitefish with spinach and olive on a cream sauce base was very good.

All of our dishes got shared, including Donnas Beef Fillet with Two Pepi and my Lamb Chops, with Balsamic Glaze. Our plates were cleaned up and polished before heading back to the kitchen. We had a fun dinner, the darkness settled in and the lights on the far shore sparkled in the calm of the lake. Mike and Eryn enjoyed a pleasant walk home, we “seniors” jumped in the car, the hill was very steep.

Our next day Sunday, started off in a relaxed manor (the kids walked to a nearby village) Torno, then bussed back, happy to have adventured out, take in the sights and grab an espresso.

Located in Nesso, a picturesque village down the road, is a deep gorge. The ravine is formed by two streams that come together forming a thundering waterfall.

Tony, Mike and Eryn climbed down and back over 340 uneven steps to the lake to take in the sight. I was at home, Jim and Donna took in the sights from the top.

From the Ponte Roma bridge you can see the waterfall on one side and the lake from the other.

It was a good excursion!

We played cards, Phase 10, dined late at home Italian style, creating from the fridge. Eryn was the winner tonight.

It was a beautiful day, the weather was perfect, we were outside most of the day before the cool of the night arrived. Turning out the lights we checked to see if George had arrived, Clooney that is! Did I mention he is across the Lake from us? More on that later.

Just Sharing,

After our descent from Brunate we walked the promenade at Lake Como en route to the car, just want to share a few photos!

The girls and the boys

Walked and walked, dipped into “downtown” before taking...

Eryn and Mike to the train station. Dr. John Follis we thought you would enjoy the expanded “Loon’sNest” build we saw in the Marina

and understand how exhausted we were after a 12,062 step day

We were not alone!

As I mentioned we are on our last “road trip” tomorrow, stay tuned!


Up, up, up

We were not on foot, but in a Funicular ascending to the village of Brunate, which overlooks Como. This train originally built in 1894 climbs approximately 700 metres above sea level.

I was a little nervous but relaxed somewhat when I saw the modern day version of the train arrive at the gate.

As you can imagine the views are spectacular

The Alps stood strong and snow covered in the background, the city of Como below, and little villages of Switzerland, its border just over the hill. Brunate has a small population of about 1800, that swells in the summer when tourists arrive for vacation.

Many of the Villas built here are Art Nouveau style, bright and adourned it was interesting to see everyone’s style. Loved this bright yellow that made quite an impression against the blue sky, but this one intrigued me.

The gate was interesting.

We enjoyed our walk about, our lunch overlooking the mountain at Trattoria Dei Bracconieri, a lovely family operation known for its Risotto and Polenta, and Wild Boar.

This truffle risotto with porcini mushrooms, again Km0, \240made with barley and rice was the hit, creamy, rich and oh so delicious.

After our visit it was time to descend, not so relaxing for me. I was facing the wrong way for one, my fault, but I did take a photo of my view.

More of the day later, it is Tuesday as I write this and we are off for a day trip!

Continued, the boys

And the girls

Had a great time and continued our walk along the waterfront and “downtown” before dropping Eryn and Mike at the train station. We were tired

We were not alone

For John Follis, these duck “nests” in the harbour of Lake Como. I think you would like this design.

The walk was lovely.

We look forward to tomorrow!


Art and Wine

As I write this I cannot believe it is May 1st, time is flying by! Yesterday we wound up April in grand style, leaving the house at 7:20 a.m. and headed for the territory of Franciacorta, a section of the Province of Brescia in the Lombardy Region. Our hills and mountains were left behind when rolling vine filled fields began to appear, the jewels of the crown in this region. We arrived at Majolini Family Winery, \240thank you Larissa for arranging this incredible experience.

Art and the art of making wine are the perfect book ends in this very eclectic family operation. This “whale” plunging in to Majolini’s Square is Moby Dick a sculpture commissioned by Simon, one of the owner’s. It is a symbol of the unreachable dream: a perfect wine and a reminder to keep all eyes on the goal; a message in the bottle from the Artist, Mattie Trotta, remains unopened at its’ base. There are many sculptures.

When you enter the winery you realize the coexistence of art, wine and fashion! With inspiration from the Franciacorta Majolini wines, Artists express themselves in very unique ways. Photography: after the hand harvesting is complete, varieties of grapes kept separate, the must is kept in stainless steel tanks. On one side of this \240fermentation room, photos of young, immature faces; the other side, aged and experienced, all of whom are smiling.

Fashion: The Luxury Wine Collection, which has been ongoing for the past ten years, took selected objects that belonged to the “sparkling” world of fashion and design: the purpose is to show the sensuality and sensory properties of wine, and is a means to continue to give back part of auction proceeds to charity. One year, a set of 55 Franciacorta Majolini Brut Electo bottles (2003) was commissioned to an artist to produce a label and bottle holder. The Local artisan chose ostrich leather which was then handcrafted. Another year,

These two blue and red very smart silk dresses were worn by

2009 Mathusalem’s of Majolini Brut, other’s wore cashmere coats

The art continues,

This is 199 varieties of wood coming from all continents and assembled in a mosaic to recreate the logo of the Winery. Underneath, shavings of each wood in jars that when opened release the “nose” of the wood, like a wine.

The naked male and female standing in the sun, the shadow of what is to come. Like a grape there is beauty and strength. These stand in the “aging” cellar, where Majolini Franciacorta undergo a slow fermentation in the bottle for a minimum of thirty months for the Bruts to a 120 months for the reserve.

There is some fun packaging an example “putting fires out”. There are also many remembrances of past generations,

The rock wall that the winery backs on to and an indication of the soil, the Vespa a reminder of the grandfather that started it all, traveling to the fields and to town. There are original paintings, maps, bowls of the dirt, very light to very dark, its’ changing textures, from where the vines grow,

Promotion of this wine is unique and ever changing. We enjoyed the company, the conversation and the tasting of the beautiful wines, each one unique and so pleasurable. We sat around a table where we were told to be at home, we felt that way for three hours. It was so enjoyable. Simon even let the boys taste his beer, “ just a hobby” he said. Apparently he is good at that too! We were invited to his office where he told us he could not be happier in his choice ( leaving a life as a lawyer) to restart the family winery with his cousin, after his grandfather and uncle. They are successful and still young with lots of room to grow. His office is surrounded by art, his favourites.

Side note: He bought his wife for her 49th birthday handmade silk kimonos that he had made into purses for her; she apparently prefers them in display cases. I think this gift looked good alongside the other interesting pieces in the winery.

Overlooking the small village below, the Majolini Family feels they can and must contribute to improve quality of life. They are firmly convinced of the social function of the winery and plan projects of social solidarity and cultural activities to support environmental sustainability on a regular basis. Holding regular events that bring people together from near and far is part of their passion. We are truly thankful for the experience, the wine is superb but also was the reminder of the value of our small world, its’ people and its’ blessings.

Speaking of family, we then travelled to


Armed with a photo of Jim’s great grandparents on his Mother’s side, we arrived in Tassullo in search of the Odorizzi’s. According to Jim’s research the local Cycle shop was the place to start. Stefano was working outside. Jim and Tony conversed with him and Donna and I watched the excitement grow in the background. Hands were shook, Stefano ran for his Dad, his Mom appeared shortly thereafter. A booklet of family history was produced and a phone call was made to a local historian.

Stefano, Walter and Carmena may be family! Apparently Walter looks like a cousin of Jim’s.

An appointment was made for Jim to meet the “historian” at 4:00, we would return in an hour and left to get a sandwich at the local bar. Between English, Italian and a little French that snuck in, progress was being made.

The inhabited Tassullo is made up of four scattered villages, Campo, Rallo, Pavillo and Sanzenone located in the terraces overlooking the right side of the Nocce River. Thousands of apple trees line the valleys and every other available space giving it the name, Italy’s apple basket. We just missed the blossoming, the festival held annually on April 25th. This trip was spectacular, the views were quite different, the hills more bare on top, the valleys green with growth mostly vines and apple trees.

It was four....time to return, introductions and an invite to “Tullio’s” house to go over his records ensued. There is an obvious connection that is established and the “link” will be made. With charts dating back to the early 1300’s, exchange of emails and documents this story will continue. Tullio and Jim will communicate. We are thankful for the invitation of Jim’s new family members to invite we strangers into their homes and assist with this project. Donna and I took great pleasure in watching it all unfold in front of us. Tony and I were very proud to be part of this adventure.

Alas we had to say good bye!

We arrived home a little late due to traffic, a little hungry and a little tired. Cereal, cheese and crackers work when the village restaurant is closed. With a night cap over a rehashing of the day we said our good nights and all nodded off just before midnight! It was a WOW family day.

So much to see!


Dining Al Fresco

Today we enjoyed the house after our big day. \240We read talked and walked about, embracing the sun and warmth in various sitting decks around this house that hangs on the cliff. The boys went to breakfast at the local bar.

Dinner nearby in Blevio was the plan for this evening and we were looking forward to dining outside along the lake.

Our table was perfect, the sun still out was low and hanging on the horizon, the ferry’s were still traversing the lake. Some of the locals arrived by boat, the swans swam out from under the bridge.

“Momi” is the name of the restaurant but also the name of the Chef, a very flamboyant man who flits about from table to table, chatting everyone up, in what seems like every language, picking up babies, sitting people at their tables while clearing others. He had a lot of energy especially with the younger folk! We, the older folk,were well taken care of by a very fine looking young man, Roberto!

The beauty and the magic of the lake did steal us for a few hours while we enjoyed simple, creative cuisine.

This was Osso (Veal) Bucco with Lemon Sauce, enjoyed by Jim and Tony, Donna had the best onion soup she has ever had and I had Beef Carpaccio with olives. Our mains were

Roast Rabbit in Silky Gravy And Veal Meatballs with Mushrooms and Spinach

Both were delicious but the Rabbit was declared the winner. The potatoes that are served alongside dishes here were crispy on the outside and the creamiest on the inside. Our shared desserts were rich in chocolate and fresh with the raspberries and ice cream, lemon and mango. We had a wonderful evening.

A last look down the lake before saying goodbye! We had a difficult ride home with many three and four point turns managing the hairpins leading up to the main road. Tony you were great getting us home safe! It was not easy. We talked over our dinner and planned for tomorrow, it is Market Day!


Packing, Part One

Donna and Jim leave tomorrow so the packing up had to begin but, before we call it a day we had some walking and eating to do. We went to the Como market, always an experience. Piles of “stuff”, no food, just product, blocks and blocks of it, trucks lining the street. We did not come away any poorer, but the people watching was rich.

Our lunch/dinner reservation today was at Osteria l’Angolo del Silenzio, loosely translated, Tavern - Angle of Silence. Situated on the edge of the old town of Como this well established dining room I felt, was filled with locals. We were graciously welcomed and sat at a very nice table.

After perusing the menu our orders were placed. Carpaccio di Polipo con Basilico

Octopus carpaccio with basil dressing and vegetable and olive salsa, it was a beautiful sight and brought back memories of those prism telescopes we used to have as kids. Apparently “fantastic”, served warm, the basil and olives an interesting twist.

Terrina di Fegato d’Oca e Panbrioche, Goose Liver Paté with Wild Berry Jelly and Carmelized Onion Jam, to die for! The crisp greens added to the perfect bite. Not so pretty but light, flaky and very tasty the Branzino alla Griglia.

Grilled Sea Bass, crisp veggies and those creamy potatoes. I think the head should be removed, my opinion only!

This dish was cooked perfectly, a new taste for me and I was so pleased I had it. The grilled vegetables including radicchio all drizzled in olive oil and seasoned perfectly were the right addition to the plate. The “ice cream scoop” polenta was not a favourite. \240The sauce, silky, tangy and holding its own natural sweetness, paired beautifully with the meat. Filetti di Cervo al Mandarino, Red Deer in Tangerine Sauce, I want it again, fork tender, mild and delightful.

I recommend going off the main roads and finding establishments like this that are not so tourist driven and not as high priced as those located in the busy squares.

Returning home we played cards, Donna was the winner! \240Packing was organized for morning departure and nightfall was well underway. Believe it or not we felt we should walk up to the local bar and celebrate our last night in Como. The staff was happy to see familiar faces. We were the only ones there and with our wine, and negronis, we saluted to our great week together. A bowl of soup, an omelette and a little sandwich later, home we went! Sometimes that is all you need and it could not have tasted better!

Our card winner!


The Other Side

The train station was our first stop this morning! Donna and Jim were on their way to Lucerne, Lichtenstein, and a stop in Zurich, Switzerland before they head home next week. We had a great time and were sad to part, but it was nice to know we were all getting “back to normal” at home soon. What is normal?

Tony wanted to take a drive up the other side of the lake. I had my own plans, but more on that later.

Tony’s Dad was stationed in Como with the Italian Army during the end of World War II. We couldn’t find the army barracks \240but we happened to find this.

And this

Here on this date at 4:10 p.m. Italian Partisans ended the fascist regime, executing Benito Mussolini and his lover Claretta Petacci. In front of the gate at Villa Belmont, with a burst of submachine gun and a few gunshots they were killed.

The gates at Villa Belmonte. His planned escape across the border (in sight from these gates) into Switzerland was so close, alas so far away.

This side of the Lake seemed busier, more touristy and the main road is closer to the shore, easily travelled, not so curvy with lots of room to manage.

Compared to our main road at its widest point.

It was also more suburban with shopping centres, larger hotels like Sheraton etc. \240Como is very clean, the lake at the foot of the Alps is clear but unfortunately polluted. The view from this side is also incredible.

Looking across at Nesso on our side.

We stopped at a Cafe and enjoyed a Spritz in the sun, and that’s when I told Tony I appreciated time with “George”. Tomorrow I will tell you about that. Alas rain is forecasted.

The sky opened and huge drops fell as we entered our gate. Thunder rolled and lightening lit the sky. We began to pack, it was our turn to think of our journey home.


Just Lunch!

After our visit with Mussolini Tony and I headed to Laglio, a small community on Lake Como of 930 inhabitants.

We sat outside at a little bar, sipped Spritz and gazed across the lake at our house hanging on the hill. It was a beautiful site. Each morning I always looked over here, actually I looked over here on a regular basis why? I am sitting outside a little bar, sipping Spritz and George Clooney’s house is next door! I stood on the dock and zoomed in....

This 18th century Villa Oleandra was purchased in 2002 by George from previous owners, the Heinz family. Let’s drive by.....

The gardens are being worked on, Amal will be happy.

There must be a doorbell somewhere.....I will ask the neighbours

Apparently George is not home right now, oh wait here he comes

I was glad to see him too! After a bit of catching up I found out he had coffee with Donna in Lucerne

And he was surprised to see us at Momi the other evening

He was teasing the waiter, he is a big tease that’s for sure. Sorry to hear we were leaving tomorrow we bid each other adios and promised to meet over a shot of his new tequila.

We left along the harbour and through the pretty streets

With one final turn in George’s direction, we waved.

Yes it is true, we are going to have to pack. Sigh......


Packed and Heading for Home

Bags were zipped up, the house was locked and with a loud clunk the keys were dropped in the mailbox. We are heading home and we are ready. As the gate slid slowly closed behind us the clock read 6:30 a.m.

Tony took control of the road, winding around each narrow corner into Como, we were the only ones up! Through the still sleeping city we encountered very few cars. We were at the Airport in 40 minutes. Great start. On the plane after our last Cappuccino, Espresso and pastry we were en route to Munich, arrival 10:30.

The Munich airport has two terminals connected by a large courtyard. It was quite pretty outside as the sun reflected through the windows of the two buildings.

Our flight was delayed, we had five hours to put in. After a walkabout we decided we would have our lunch here and avoid the airplane food. Time in Germany, noon.

Cheers to German food, beer, Prosecco and Rosé! Sausages for Tony and I had Schnitzel, it was good, a nice change and more importantly we whiled away time, lots of it in the corner of the Kâtfé restaurant.

Time in Germany 4:30 p.m. Our flight was long, eight and a half hours. People slept, watched movies and I felt caged. I was so thankful for our arrival in Toronto, Canadian time was 6:00 p.m., it was midnight for us. I was getting excited to be almost home, then even more so when I saw our flight was leaving an hour earlier. I thought 9:30 would never come! We ran into some people we knew so that helped pass the time. I could have pushed that plane through the air into North Bay I was so pumped. Arrival 10:30, it was 4:30 a.m to us.

First off the plane! To see Jes and Kate peeking around the corner with big smiles was the best. My heart swelled, my tiredness and sore body forgotten, my eyes brimmed with tears, the hugs the best ever. We are home!

North Bay

Thank you!

I have settled in to my “normal” at home, unpacked, am a little jet lagged and stiff but thankful. It is nice to travel and yes it is nice to be home, we were ready. I appreciate that you came along on this journey with me and that you looked forward to receiving my news as part of your routine. I write things down so I can revisit, remember and share with my family.

Italy is beautiful. I do not know how many times I used the word “stupendous”. When we left, the country was really coming in to bloom, the wildflowers spilling into the roads, Queens Ann lace the size of saucers, fruit blossoms blowing like snowflakes across the freshly planted fields that held perfect rows, reminding me of corduroy. Birds were singing and tourists were arriving. The season was starting and we were so happy to be there in the calm before the storm.

Tony and I met some wonderful people, had some amazing meals and we stayed in some lovely places. We had discussions, we laughed, cried, toured and talked. We took wrong turns on the road that provided some interesting experiences. We sat in silence, lost in thought, a book or a guide in front of a fire or under the sun. We shared some of our time with our friends. It was all so good.

There is no doubt Puglia is our favourite trip to date. This area of Italy is, well what can I say but “stupendous” in oh so many ways. We started in the country, moved into a village, travelled up the coast and had overnights in small hotels. We reached Como and stayed in a villa overlooking the lake. We lived “local”. With a home away from home, it was relaxing, welcoming and easy. We embraced it all and recommend our journey to those who like to travel. Try it!

This blog is done, but as some of you know, I pop up once in awhile, until then, take care and thank you,


Crazy beauty....