On Doors

Door – Old English duru, dor, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch deur ‘door’ and German Tür ‘door,’ Tor ‘gate’; from an Indo-European root shared by Latin foris ‘gate’ and Greek thura ‘door’

Door – the entrance to a room or building

Door – a hinged, sliding, or revolving barrier at the entrance to a building, room, or vehicle, or in the framework of a cupboard

Door – a reference to the distance from one building in a row to another

Door – A structure that opens, closes, swings, slides, shuts, hides, protects, and symbolizes

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” (Milton Berle, comedian)

The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” (Confucius, philosopher)

I truly believe that everything that we do and everyone that we meet is put in our path for a purpose. There are no accidents; we’re all teachers – if we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons we learn, trust our positive instincts and not be afraid to take risks or wait for some miracle to come knocking at our door.” (Marla Gibbs, actor)

Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” (George Washington Carver, scientist)

Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.” (Coco Chanel, designer)

Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.” (John Barrymore, actor)

Not knowing when the dawn will come I open every door.” (Emily Dickinson, poet)

Listen; there’s a hell of a good universe next door: let’s go. (e. e. Cummings, poet)

 

No matter if it’s old or new, elegant or simple, metal or wood, ornate or plain – a door is a door while being a wonderful symbol and metaphor. Any favorite doors above or below?

All images taken by me  (a nonphotographer in Italy.

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On an Oh-My Meal

For a family gathering near the end of our trip to Italy this past October, my aunt wanted to take the entire family out to dinner. Well, actually a Sunday afternoon meal. Little did we know what to expect.

We drove about 45 minutes. Once we arrived I told my oldest cousin (in gist) that we passed 342 restaurants along the way, but they were closed – so this was the first one we could find that was open.

With the final part of the road being many twist and turns up a mountain, I knew that those who travel this road on this day must be going to the restaurant. In the image of the map, those familiar with Lucca (region of Tuscany) will see it toward the bottom. The restaurant is marked by the location icon.

The town is Fiano di Pescaglia, a small village with a population of less than 1,000 but a history that goes back to 847. On this day, the action centered on Ristorante da Valentino.

Note: I didn’t take any pictures of the meal, so you will have to rely on my descriptions. However, I want you to think about two important questions: How much did the meal cost (per person)? How long were we there?

RistoranteValentino

When entering the restaurant, the first thing I noticed was the number of people throughout the numerous sections of this casual place. We entered one of the small rooms that had 3 other groups already seated. There was our table – actually several tables arranged end-to-end with 9 settings and a large bottle of red wine located at each end.

Each of us first received a small plate of appetizers: a slice of lunchmeat (Mortadella), fried polenta, 5-6 olives, and cheese.

Later, the server came by with a large bowl of mushroom risotto, and served a comfortable portion to each of us … returning after a reasonable time with a question: Would you like more? It was good, so both my wife and I accepted the offer.

Next, the server returned with a large bowl of tagliatelli in a wild boar sauce. Oh my, that was outstanding … and I can’t believe my wife ate it as she’s typically not accepting of dietary oddities. Surprisingly, I said no to the “Would you like more” question.

Later, the server returned with rolled lasagna that contained a filling of cheese and spinach with a different red sauce – yes, followed with “Would you like more” on which I passed.

Up next from the server with the big bowl was ravioli with a meat filling and a different red sauce that went into the same bowl that I’ve been using since the risotto. Of course, “Would you like more?” would follow later … I couldn’t pass on a second helping of this delight.

Attendants removed the well-used bowl, so the plate was now ready for the arrival of the next course: a platter of meat for each end of the table – small pieces of chicken, ribs, beef, lamb, and rabbit. The meats were especially tasty.

Before finishing the meat, the server made space at each end of the table for a platter of french fries and a platter with fried mushrooms and fried cauliflower.

Once it was obvious we were finished with this course, a small plate of salad appeared – an odd place as we Americans are used to eating salads early to prepare the way for the meal. But in this case, the salad was readying us for dessert!

The server delivered a platter of of variety of desserts for each end of the table. Pies, tarts, and cakes provided a delightful end to the meal.

Before describing the meal, I asked two questions: How long were we there? How much did it cost?

Sometime during this culinary extravaganza, I walked around the restaurant wondering about the number of people being served – and it was 165-190! Regarding the meal, my wife and I both agree that we were not stuffed until the desserts (we must have suddenly ran out of inner digestive space).

Finishing the 22 Euro ($24) meal 4 hours after starting, then we walked further uphill to the church … and the beautiful view of the valley.

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If you ever in this area of northwestern Tuscany near Lucca on a Sunday, I suggest you make a reservation at Ristorante da Valentino, then find your way to Fiano di Pescaglia.

On Look Up!

Do you know the place? I so-much what to visit the small town on the two, adjacent hilltops in the distance. Oh well … next time.

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If you don’t know, let’s move the camera to the left for some familiar places you may recognize.

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These panoramic views are from Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, Italy. Everybody loves Florence! Then again, loving Florence is very easy to do because there is so much to enjoy. I’ve visited twice in the past three years, and I noticed something each time. Most people look left and right to make sure they catch the store fronts. Besides a lot of shopping, one doesn’t want to miss gelato!

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But for me, the window shoppers are missing some of the best things to see in Florence because their heads are swiveling on their spine to catch the shopping windows … therefore they are not looking up. So enjoy this view of Florence … the Look Up Tour!

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“Italy will never be a normal country. Because Italy is Italy. If we were a normal country, we wouldn’t have Rome. We wouldn’t have Florence. We wouldn’t have the marvel that is Venice.” (Matteo Renzi, Italian politician)

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“In Florence, classical buildings sit against medieval buildings. It’s that contrast we like.” (Richard Rogers British architect)

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“Florence and art is something that is part of my life and is part of myself.” (Roberto Cavalli
Italian designer)

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Any favorites?

On Knowledge and a Place

I’m guessing you don’t know this Tuscan town and it’s 13th Century church … but I know you know something important about it.
Vinci Church

Here’s a hint. Does this look familiar?

Vitruvian Man is a great hint.

Vitruvian Man is a great hint.

Leonardo di ser Piero (aka Leonardo da Vinci) was from Vinci, a small town located on top of a rolling hill surrounded by olive trees and grapevines not too far from Florence.

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Visiting Vinci wasn’t on our radar, but not only did my cousins suggest visiting (only about 40 minutes away) – so they took us on a Saturday. Interestingly (in August) my wife and I visited the da Vinci travelling exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center. (Fabulous) … and now to get additional reinforcement of his brilliance in his hometown. (Something we never imagined.)

The museum ticket (9 Euros) includes three different locations: two very close within the town and his birthplace (a short drive outside of town). The 22-minute hologram story at his birthplace grabbed and held my attention. Simply fabulous. In short, the man was off-the-charts brilliant … and much more than I ever realized!

Enjoy images of Vinci, which are surrounded by quotes from one of the great intellectuals ever to live.

“The knowledge of all things is possible.”
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“All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions – yet, the greatest deception men suffer is from their own perceptions. Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws that she never breaks, and she has no effect without causes nor invention without necessity.”
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“The acquisition of knowledge is always of use to the intellect, because it may thus drive out useless things and retain the good.”
Vinci Old and Citrus

“Experience is the mother of all Knowledge. Wisdom is the daughter of experience.”
Vinci Street

“Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.”
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“Knowing is not enough; we must apply.”
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“Although nature commences with reason and ends in experience it is necessary for us to do the opposite, that is to commence with experience and from this to proceed to investigate the reason.”
VinciHome

“Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses – especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”
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“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
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“The processes of science are sure,~but there are regions where we cannot follow them. Our body is subject to heaven, and heaven is subject to the spirit. I speak not against the sacred books, for they are supreme truth.”
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Leonardo da Vinci … an artist, inventor, painter, sculptor, architect, mathematician, writer, explainer, philosopher engineer, scientists, and one who studied to explain botany, human anatomy, aerodynamics, optics, hydraulics, and more … yet, near the end of his life said, “I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.”

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On a Few Bits Upon Return

Greetings readers!

My wife and I returned a week ago from vacation, so I thought it was time to say hello to fellow bloggers. Below are a few tidbits that are on my mind.

I know … some of you are eager to know where we went, so here’s the scoop. We spent 2 ½ weeks in Tuscany on a trip that combined vacation time for the two of us and time with my family (an aunt and 4 first cousins). More on that trip over time.

Life in the rolling hills of Tuscany with the olives and grapes is a difficult task, but we were willing to accept the challenge.

tuscany

On this trip I almost made a connection with Debra, the Australian blogger who vacations in Bagni di Lucca. (One of my favorite places) Maybe next time! … but at least we talked on the phone.

We definitely don’t enjoy journeys involving three flights, but given our destination, we had no choice … Cincinnati to Toronto to Munich to Pisa … .and the reverse on return.

I’m looking forward to returning to my volunteer efforts with English Second Language students (adults). Before leaving I only had one class with them, so I’m anxious to help and get to know more good people from around the world.

I’m still at the golf course, but hours are less (and that’s OK). Because of work, I haven’t been volunteering at ballroom dancing with Down Syndrome adults. Hopefully, that trend won’t continue.

Thanks to DVR, we used last week to get up-to-date with Dancing With the Stars.

The handbell choir played last Sunday. Because my wife and I haven’t practiced in three weeks, we had a chance to listen. Nice piece … hopefully I can find a video in time.

This may have been the case three years ago when I visited, but I didn’t notice – but Italians now have a recycling program. Whew … is it ever different than what we do. At least they are trying something.

Being away from the election madness was more than wonderful. No news – no talking heads – no political gibberish – pure silence. In one location we only had Italian television, so we didn’t watch anything. Two of my cousins had satellite television that offered English stations (and I assuming CNN International) – but we resisted the urge. The day after the debate I looked at the headlines in Politico, but didn’t read any article because the headlines told me everything I wanted to know.

The first Republican debate was many months ago. I didn’t watch any of them … I didn’t watch any of the Democratic debates … and I have continued my pattern during the general election by not viewing any of the 3 to date.

Italians were very interested in our thoughts. I frequently answered this way: Non mi fido di lei, ma lui è un matto pigliacchioI don’t trust her but he is a mad clown. They also seem very confused about how Donald Trump can even have a chance.

Meanwhile, cheers to the Dutch team that came up with this one.

On Mom’s Town

The key reason I went to Italy this year as to visit my mother’s last surviving sister who I hadn’t seen in 48+ years. The idea for this post came to me the day before Mother’s Day.

Mom in the main square (1964)

Mom in the main square for Saturday’s market (1964)

Besides sharing my emotional walk down the street where the family lived, I’ve included pictures of her hometown within themes as corridors, arches, and others – so the focus of this post is to spotlight on her town – the small, Tuscan city of Pescia – but with unused pictures (well, except one).

Pescia, population around 20,000, is located between Florence and Lucca, but much closer to Lucca.

A picturesque location in a flat basin where the mountains end

The rain was leaving on this day

The rain was leaving on this day

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A stream rushing out of the mountains divides the city

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The cathedral dominates the skyline
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Walking the narrow streets of the old city provided many intriguing photo ops
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Benito Mussolini stood on this balcony on his visit during the sixth year of his reign (See the inscription above the balcony)
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Villages dot the hillsides, such as the birthplace of my grandmother
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The main square remains quite active, but it rained on market day.
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Which is your favorite image?

On the Villages

Italy has countless small villages filled with charm. Although we drive through many, my favorites are the ones nestled on the hillsides or serving as a crown on a hill. Enjoy your trip to a few of these picturesque gems. Any favorite?

Pinocchio on the Square in Collodi

Collodi is the village of Pinocchio

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My maternal grandmother was born up there in Uzzano

Uzzano

Uzzano

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Palleggio is on the way to my paternal grandparents hometown

Palleggio

Palleggio

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San Cassiano’s church built in the 8th Century

San Casciano

San Cassiano

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Dotting the countryside, and imagine more on the opposite slopes

Hillside Spots

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The towers in San Gimignano, which is more than a village

San Gimignano

San Gimignano

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Look closely – The villages of the Cinque Terra

Cinque Terra

Cinque Terra

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Vernozza, one of the Cinque Terra villages

Vernozza

Vernozza

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Lucchio is a treasure where chicken eggs are cube shaped

Up to Lucchio

Up to Lucchio

Across to Lucchio

Across to Lucchio

Lucchio at the Top

Lucchio at the Top

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Debra at Bagni di Lucca and Beyond has wonderful posts. Not only does she capture the essence of Italy, she features here own collections of photographs when she visits Tuscan villages. See for yourself in the sample below.