Arrivederci, Italia

One astonishing fact about this beautiful region that we visited: I never saw a homeless person. There were Roma, but only a handful; I never felt threatened by them as I do here in Los Angeles. According to the statistics from Feantsa Country Finch, Rome does have a population of homeless people. The last update of these figures was in 2017, listing 7,709 homeless in the city of Rome. Of these people, most are immigrants. Compared to Los Angeles’ homeless population of over 42,000, Rome’s problem is a drop in the bucket.

Pickpockets are more prevalent at the train stations are; loud Public Service Announcements keep tourists on alert. In all the cities that we visited, I felt safe.


Jenny and Mikos, wine cellar reserves
Wine and copper spit bucket

The Florence Redemption

Through our son Mikos’ job we were able to experience the Chianti region in a new light.  After our traumatic train disaster; God knew that we could use a blessing, so on our last day in Florence we were treated to a tour of the Ruffino Winery. Driving through the Chianti countryside would have been enough for me. Seeing all the vineyards, the beautiful homes in the area, and how people live made me wish I was more than 1% Italian.


Our private wine tasting
Personal Charcuterie

Ruffino Winery

What seemed to be a huge castle is now where the Ruffino Winery greets its special guests. Angie, our sommelier, greeted us with a glass of wine. We sat as she told us the history of the winery. The story was so intriguing that I was listening intently to every detail, but Will kept nudging me and telling me to ask for the wifi password. I could not interrupt her story, so I told Will to stop. He was relentless so, in the middle of Angie’s story, I cut her off  and asked, “Can you please give us the wifi?” I think my face turned red at that point, but both Will and Maddie were elated with the wifi information.

After the grand tour we were escorted into a beautiful dining area. Set before us were five wine glasses for tasting, plus a spittoon (spit bucket). Paying close attention to how Angie spit out her wine. I asked her to coach me on how to spit out my wine like a lady. I quickly got this spitting out wine thing down to a science.

Me and Angie

We were served  personal charcuteries to complement the different wines. I could not get enough of this experience: the jellies, honey, soft and hard cheeses, eggplant, the meats…Everything tasted great! By this time I had lost my train of thought. All the wines tasted great, each one better than the other, but I lost track of that too.

Angie’s graciousness made this experience extra special; she truly knows her wines. She explained that in the Chianti region grapes can only be hand picked. They will never change this method because it’s part of the charm of creating these great wines.

As we were leaving the Chianti area , we came across the Fendi corporate offices. They’re in the middle of the Chianti region! I want to work there!

Last Night In Florence

Angie had instructed our driver to take us to the top of  the city to get some great aerial photos overlooking Florence, and then to drop us off at Basilica di Santa Croce.

The Santa Croce Basilica, like all the Catholic churches in this region, has a great history. This grand basilica is Franciscan. It started off as a monastery in 1220, but by 1262 a large lot was purchased to enlarge the original church. The Franciscans were considered urban. Santa Croce is surrounded by markets and business activities; it became a large piazza and the center of community life there. This church is Italian Gothic and different from the other basilicas; it is more simple, with frescoes depicting the life of Jesus, our Blessed Mother Mary and St. Francis.

Pizza and Gelato Class

Mikos made arrangements for us to take a pizza- gelato making class. Both Maddie and Will work for a local pizzeria in Anaheim Hills, California, Maddie takes orders and Will makes the dough (dough boy). This was a wonderful family time together. We drank wine, made pizza and gelato. I loved the pizza but not so much the gelato.


The last time Mike and I were in Venice was over 25 years ago. When we got off the train we had to find a water taxi to take us to our hotel. So many people!  With two suitcases I was a mess! We had tickets to take a larger boat, but it was too crowded! Mikos decided to hire a private taxi to take us. I had totally forgotten that I had to get into a boat! I am not a fan of boats; their rocking motion brought me great fear. “Lord,  please help me onto the boat!” I silently prayed. I made it in to conk my head against the boat’s covering. That happened to me on the way back to the airport as well.

St. Mark’s Basilica
Santa Croce Basilica
Will lighting a candle at Santa Croce Basilica
Will lighting a candle at Santa Croce Basilica

I was so excited because the following day was Palm Sunday and Mike and I would be attending the service at the Basilica di San Marco. We toured the basilica and I was surprised by the design; it looked very similar to the majestic Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

On Palm Sunday we attended the most sacred Mass. The choir, accompanied by organ music that reached my bone marrow, brought me to tears. Never have I felt this type of spiritual joy! I stood for the entire Solemn Mass.

Maddie and me, bell tower view
Jenny, Mikos, Will and Maddie

After Mass we joined our family to tour Campanile (bell) tower of Saint Mark’s Basilica  and Doge’s Palace. We were directly under the bells when they started to gong. The sound was deafening!


Aside from the Mass at Saint Mark’s Basilica , Venice is too touristy for me. The only good meal we had was at our boutique hotel, which offered the best breakfast.

Mike and I were leaving a few hours earlier than Mikos and his family. Our son got up with us at three a.m. to walk us to our boat taxi. I will never forget the special sacrifices he made for Mike and me.

My Prayer

Dear Lord, thank You for allowing us to unite as a family.  I am so grateful for all  the special time together on this trip. I pray for my family to continue to grow closer to You, and to understand that without You in our lives we are lost. Amen.


Related Posts