Week 111 May 14, 2016

Last month my brother emailed for my birthday and included:
     “I know you are enjoying life and seeing our world for yourself
     so I know you are happy.”
Yes! This week, as his older daughter graduated with a master’s degree, he wrote again,
     “What an amazing journey you guys are taking.”
Yes!! We have such gratitude for our adventure, and for this opportunity to fulfill our 25 year dream to travel the world. I am also grateful for the technology that allowed me to watch my niece walk across the stage and to capture this photo of the event. Thank you to all our family and friends who follow along and support us!
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With new friends from the Netherlands who were staying at our same agriturismo in Sardegna – Sardinia, we drove to Teulada for their la prima volta – the first time, annual community hike. The commune – municipality, was expecting somewhere between 100-400 people to show up. But… the weather was uncooperative. The rocky path would have been slippery, so the hike was canceled for the 50 or so people who showed up. Before we all left, we heard brief speeches from the mayor and a community leader in the church that was our meeting place.
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Loren and I drove through the interior of southern Sardinia on our way toward Barisardo on the eastern coast. Sardinia’s extreme winding roads traverse tall rugged mountains. This island seems sparsely populated compared to Sicily or the continent.I still regret not stopping to photo the contrasting rows of lush spring green vineyards growing in rich dark soil in the foreground, with, a square orchard of dark green trees equally spaced, standing above and behind them in a sandy brown uphill terrain. I did stop to photograph some of the fragrant lilac, hibiscus and rose, as well as poppies, mustard, oleander, scotch pine… among so much more beautiful blossoming vegetation.
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In one mountain town, we visited Stazione dell’Arte – Station of the Art, a small museum showing some of the artist Maria Lai’s work. I appreciated this quite of hers:
     L’uomo ha bisogno di mettere insieme il visibile e l’invisibile,
     percio inventa fiabe, leggende, canti, arte. 
     Man needs to put together the visible and the invisible,
     therefore he invents fairy tales, legends, songs, art.
We had the museum and guide all to ourselves, so spent more time here than we imagined. It was worth it – her multimedia art and her life story are intriguing!
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Sardinia is known for its beaches and red rocks. Therefore we visited a few beaches and found they have lots of red rocks, some in still water, some in surf. The weather has been overcast making it feel dreary, but despite that we still had a pleasant time.
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Probably our most memorable event here was the one evening when we had our first ever taste of tripe. Our agriturismo host claimed it is her favorite dish, and, said that she understands how if we did not grow up eating it, that one taste would be enough. On the topic of eating, every night since we have returned to Italy, at the end of the day we feel overstuffed on those days when we are not cooking for ourselves. Yet we somehow forget that and again eat too much the next day. The courses – vegetable, meat and cheese items for antipasto; pasta course, meat course, cheese, wine, fruit, desert, after dinner cordials – they are all delicious, and demand a few hours at the dinner table. I am trying to learn to pace myself, to take smaller portions… As one food establishment makes clear with its name, we are in Eatily!
Loren and I left Sardegna on a midweek flight. Back on the mainland we picked up a rental car, and spent one night in Bologna. Our mother and daughter AirBnB hosts graciously took us on a two hour walking tour to view notable sights in the city center – from 10pm-midnight!
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The next morning Loren and I drove to Tordandrea for two nights, in the vibrant valley just below Assisi. We had two long visits to that historic spiritual hillside town, famed home of the medieval Saints, Francesco – Francis and Chiara – Clare. There is so much preserved ancient and medieval history to be found here, for example, the Roman Temple of Minerva, Chiesa di San Damiano, Catedrale di San Rufino, Basilica di Santa Chiara, and so much more. By far, the most captivating were the many tributes to San Francesco all around Assisi, as well as in the valley town called Santa Maria Degli Angeli – Saint Mary of the Angels. Here, an impressive Basilica surrounds the original very simple chapel where Francis lived during the final years of his life.
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We spent the most time in Assisi visiting Basilica di San Francesco. I was moved on several occasions while learning more about him. To honor his life, the Basilica is like a magnificent museum, with “No fotos” allowed inside. Both a lower, older Basilica with a simple subterranean crypt for his remains, and, another partial even lower floor displays precious relics from his lifetime. Then there is an upper, more elaborate and newer Basilica built on top of the older one, that contains powerful and enormous wall frescoes to portray major events from the lives of both Jesus and Saint Francis. The pax – peace, that Francis stood for was palpable. It was even punctuated with a fabulous rainbow at the end of our day!
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We have had fairly continual overcast, rainy weather, even a thunder and lightning storm at the end of our next visit, which was to stunning Sienna. Here we saw the dazzling Duomo, cozy Piazza del Campo, and several of the walled city gates.
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As we were leaving Sienna, I just had to pull over to take a photo of the name of the church that I found just outside one of the gates:
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     “Our Lady of Good Travel, Accompany Me.”
And so she has thus far. We are now in a small town partway towards Florence, before our return to Bologna tomorrow to meet up with friends.

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