Thursday, March 20, 2014

Back in Desio

A couple photos taken one day as we were getting ready to go outside.
 Make your silly faces!

Susannah's hair has been growing like a weed!!

The ride home: Orvieto

On the recommendation of Chiara's uncle Marco, we decided to stop in the town of Orvieto on the drive home from Naples. Orvieto is a beautiful little town in Umbria built guessed it...a hill!  Orvieto is also the home of our favorite white wine:  Orvieto Classico. The cathedral in Orvieto was what we were sent there to see. Unfortunately, it was pouring rain when we got there, AND they had the cathedral closed to the public until late afternoon (we got there at lunchtime). We couldn't wait around all day to see the inside, but we got a few pictures of the outside. The really cool thing is that the back and sides are all striped in black and white marble. The front facade is absolutely gorgeous with gold mosaics and beautiful carvings. The photos don't do it justice; it was breathtaking. We made up our minds that we would definitely have to come back sometime in the future to see the inside.
 Orvieto cathedral in the rain

 A closer view...too bad it was rainy

Famly band in front of the cathedral. You can see the striped sides here.

Orvieto, we will be back!!!

Sicily: Palermo

Our last day in Sicily was spent in Palermo as we waited until our evening car ferry would depart. Palermo was a crazy town with crazy driving, lots of crowds, and a bit of chaos.  We didn't take many pictures because we were trying not to get separated the whole time. Plus we were all in sort of a bad mood that day. Maybe it's because we knew we had to leave Sicily...what a beautiful place with great food and wonderful people!  The city driving leaves a lot to be desired, but the rest of the island is magical. We definitely want to return sometime and see the Eastern part of the island.
Here are a couple photos from Palermo.
 Norah taking in the sights and sounds and smells of the Ballaro' street market in Palermo

 Basilica in Palermo...very complex stonework on the outside

Susannah is reminding Luca to be quiet on the inside of the Basilica!

That's all we have for Sicily, folks!  That night, we got onto a car ferry to ride to Napoli. We thought the ferry would be dingy and dirty, so we even brought some toilet paper in case we had communal bathrooms. In fact, we had our own family cabin with its own bathroom!  Clean, comfortable, and really pleasant.  I immediately got sea sick on the boat, and was reduced to having to sit on the floor and crawl around after a while. James miraculously held it together and helped get the kids settled into their bunks while I tried not to lose my supper. We all slept all night and when we woke up early the next morning, we were in Napoli.  Now, to drive home!!!

Sicily: San Vito lo Capo and more

The next day, we planned to drive to the East of Trapani to visit the beach at San Vito lo Capo. There were maybe 8 other people on the whole beach; it was amazing!  The water was blue, the sand was white, and the kids had a great time. I can imagine that in the summer, this place would be packed; it seemed like the perfect place to go swimming...shallow clear water and soft sand.
 Susannah's not so sure about the sand...

 No people on the beach means Luke was free to throw sand into the water!

 Some toys went into the water, so Norah took one for the team and went in and saved them!  Then, she took a run along the beach. 

 Luke + Sand = Happiness

 After hanging out in the beach for a while, we decided to go to a town called Castellammare del Golfo, to see a castle near the sea which is supposed to be impressive and also to have lunch. Well, the lunch was pretty good, but the castle was nothing to write home about. After lunch, we drove South to a place where we could go swimming in a pool heated by a hot spring. The place was a little dingy, but the water was really warm, and the kids had a lot of fun swimming!!

 Norah checking out the view

 Susy blue eyes

This dog was pretty friendly and wouldn't let the kids out of its sight. This of course prompted Norah to start asking for a dog of our own!

Sicily: Salt Pans and Erice

The next day, we decided to check out the salt museum just south of Trapani in a town called Nubio. Unfortunately, the website failed to inform us that it was closed for the season. How hard would that be to put on a website?  This area south of Trapani is known for salt production. There are great big shallow areas near the shore where the locals let sea water come in and then evaporate.And then there are old windmills around that were used to grind the salt into different sizes.  Since the museum was closed (grrr....), we drove a little further and took a boat to the island of Mozia which houses a museum collection of Phoenician artifacts and the ruins of an ancient Phoenician city. We walked around the island for a bit, and then headed back toward Trapani in order to ride a cable car up to the nearby hill town of Erice.  Erice sits on top of a 750m tall mountain next to the sea. It just pops out of the landscape, and someone thought, as with almost every other hill in Italy, "Let's build a castle up there!"
 At the salt museum

 Windmills everywhere...feels like we are in Holland!

 Piles of sea salt, each with their own roof of clay tiles

 A windmill in the sun

 Norah and Luke in Erice, high above the town of Trapani

 Laundry and the view from the top of Erice...this is looking East along the northern coast of Sicily

 Family photo...well Susannah was sleeping on my back in the carrier...

 "Mad faces" in Erice

Well, what d'ya know? Another castle in Italy!

The view of Trapani (on the right) and the salt pans from up in Erice

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Sicily: Selinunte

We kicked off 2014 with a trip down to the southern coast of Sicily to an archaeological site called Selinunte, an ancient Greek town.  When we got there, we decided to let the kids have some beach time before we had some culture time.
 The beach was full of seashells

 This way to America!

 The boys climbing on the rocks. Luke was in a pointing phase during this trip.

 Mamma and Susannah checking Facebook

Now onto Selinunte. This Greek town was settled and inhabited from about 600 to 300 B.C. The city had a city and then an outlying temple complex. Only one temple, Temple E, still stands. The city held about 15,000 inhabitants at it's peak in the 400's B.C. It was pretty impressive to walk around the ruins. They were HUGE and the sheer power and engineering it must have taken to build them was impressive.

Three kids as we got ready to tour the temples and the town of Selinunte

 Mommy and kids in Temple E. You can see that we barely make it up the first "rung" of the columns. Later you will see how tall the columns are!

 View of the other ruined temples from Temple E

 Temple E...see how tall it is, it is about 6-7 rungs high, each rung is about 5-6 feet.

 Daddy and kids by ruined temple G, once the largest temple. This is one section from one of the temple columns on its side. Notice the square notch that a square peg from another section would fit into for stability.

 In the city of Selinunte, the partially standing theater.

 Luke pointing

Kiddos in the sun

On the way back home, we stopped briefly at another famous Greek settlement Segesta. This temple is more intact, but they were closing as we pulled we just got some pics from afar. This town used to fight with Selinunte when they were both inhabited.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Year's Eve

After Matera, we drove to Tropea, which is supposed to be a beautiful little town by the sea. Well, when we got there, it was pouring rain and dark and stormy.  The next day, we drove a short distance to the toe of the boot and caught a car ferry to Messina, Sicily.  We immediately noticed a difference when we crossed into Messina...the driving in Sicily is INSANE!!!  The rules are:  break all the rules and then make new strange rules that foreigners don't know about.  Roundabouts had no order...people were triple-parked on the roads, making them barely passable, and traffic lights were more like suggestions... We decided to high-tail it out of there and make our way across the top of Sicily to our next stop:  Trapani. 

It was a long day of driving, but finally we settled into our new apartment for the next 4 days.  We had a reservation at the restaurant next door for the New Year's Eve "cenone" (big dinner).  It was a big dinner; the kids were superstars (we got lots of compliments on their manners!). The food was great, and about half-way through the meal, some people at the table next to us pulled out their guitars and started singing Italian folk songs. Really cool. Some were funny songs, some were romantic songs.  It really added a great atmosphere to the dinner.

Here are Chiara and Susannah before the dinner.
 Happy New Year!

 Making our "mad faces" at each other!


Before we went on this trip, Chiara's aunt Raffaella told us that since we were going to be near them, we couldn't miss the "Sassi di Matera" which is a settlement in one of the earth's oldest cities.  It was built long long ago into caves in the limestone cliffs, and slowly the caves were added onto, with houses built around them.  There were people living in open caves as late as the 1950's; in post-war Italy, there was a lot of poverty and disease here.  It was eventually cleaned up, and now people live in houses.  When we first got there, we arrived in the new city, which is up on top of a canyon. We couldn't even see the "Sassi" (stones, or caves).  We walked around a little, and then found what we thought was the main attraction.  See the first photo. To me, it just looked like an old city on a hill.  We decided to keep going to see what the fuss was about...

Some of the Sassi di Matera. Behind many of these doors, the houses go back into caves in the canyon wall.'s what all the fuss is about. This is a massive canyon with lot's more cave homes built into it.

 James and the kids overlooking the Sassi di Matera

 Looking at the other side of the canyon. Do you see the old caves back there? There were people trekking around over on the other side (can you see them?) but we didn't have time to go check it out...

 Chiara and Susannah in Matera

A model of Matera

After Matera, we had a long day of driving (down to the toe of the boot) planned.  As if on cue, the weather was cloudy and rainy!  On the way to our next overnite spot, Tropea, we saw this scene.  I liked how this mountain range just popped out of the plains.

James pulled off the highway so I could get a photo of the mountains. 

Next stop, SICILY!!!