Excerpts from 2011 Travels with Best Friends

November 4, 2011

Rome Hotel Cavalieri
The gardens Hotel Cavalieri


On November 4, 2011, we arrived in beautiful Rome, my favorite city (aside from Jerusalem).  Our hotel, Rome Cavalieri, boasted of original art by Giovanni Battista, and French clocks panning the time period from Louis XIV to Napoleon III are placed throughout this beautiful hotel. The 18th Century furniture was gold and all fancy, and was hand carved, the down filled sofas beckoned to the weary traveler.  The halls, are very wide and paved in marble that causes even rubber soles to clanked on its surface.  Stepping out into the grounds was my favorite activity; huge sculptured unicorn statues greeted us, and life-size lions surrounded the secret view of the gardens for the guest.  Topiaries, tall Italian cypress trees, stood guard. Oh to be five years old again, so many places to run and hide.  Everywhere you looked was another sign of tangible art.  This five star hotel belongs to the Hilton group, that allows us to use Mike’s travel points, how blessed we were to experience this.

Vatican City with Larry and Helen
Mike, me, Larry and Helen

We took a taxi to St. Peter’s Basilica. When we arrived the line was wrapped around the building, going through the pillars. Too long the wait to enter the Basilica, besides we have all had the pleasure of a personal tour two years ago with Father Anthony.  I love the Vatican, and God willing, I will return. Later that night we had a wonderful dinner at AB Hoc, a restaurant not far from the Spanish Steps. Why do the bread and the wine taste so wonderful?  I love to drink wine in Italy and the even cappuccinos are better there; the froth is smoother and the overall presentation, wow! Italians know how to make everything taste better.

The Roman women here are decked out in knee-high boots and colorful coats, though the weather is in the 70’s. Almost everything I packed involved the color black. Black is the most wonderful color and it does make you look great. Knee high boots are not all the rage for me; it takes me over five minutes to put on my ankle boots, so attempting anything higher is too much of a bother.  No one seems to be overweight here; the average size of an Italian woman is size three to size nothing.

The cars are all small, and if you have more than one child, the ride to school could pose a problem. Lunches would have to be sent ahead, and you can forget about carpooling, unless you want your child to be strapped to the hood. Public transportation seems to work in this large city; the underground subways are very good, and the buses are packed with people who do not want to bother getting into a mini anything.

Castello del Nero

November 5, 2011

Our next venture was to leave Rome and head to Travenelle vi di Pisa. Although we had a navigation and Helen with her iMap App from her iPhone, we were still lost. Mike was the driver while Larry sat shotgun. I sat in the back seat with Helen, who was calling all the shots. I like being lost over here; you can really appreciate how the Romans live. The residents in the outskirts of Rome live mostly in apartments or condos; there are no long driveways leading to grand homes, not in this neighborhood anyway. We made several attempts to leave Rome but we couldn’t seem to find our way out. Only in restaurants and shops in the big cities do Romans speak English. In the real Roman world, the people speak Italian, and when you ask them for directions it is in metric, so we had to translate double. Three kilometers, then they waved their hands like a snake for the turns we had to make to get on the highway. We were finally on our way, and aside from the Italian flags and few ancient ruins, I felt like we were traveling on the 101 in California heading towards Santa Barbara.

Breakfast, and dinner at Castello del Nero

We were headed to Castello del Nero; this means we were staying in a castle. Castello de Nero is nestled high in the hills of the Chianti region. It boasts of acres and acres of farmland. This castle produces their own olives for olive oil, grapes for the Castello de Nero wine and grows all of their vegetables.  The castle was originally the home to the Nero family; it has been completely renovated and restored to somewhat of an original state. The region is as beautiful as the view that surrounds the entire Castle; the natural beauty overwhelms you as you catch your breath in aw.

After settling in, we began relaxing and drinking screwdrivers with fresh squeezed orange juice. Screwdrivers for the ladies and wine for the gentlemen, hey we are on vacation!


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