Lace – Crochet & Tulle

Today’s highlight was our visits to Tuomo and Panicale to see two very different sorts of lace. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see any of the (mostly elderly) women at work but we did get to meet one crochet lace maker and I was able to buy two small pieces which I intent to frame.

Crochet Lace Table Runner

Crochet Lace Collar

The hand work is simply magnificent – done with extremely fine crochet cotton and very fine steel hook. My maternal grandmother and her sister Rose both did crochet, but their work was not nearly so fine or elaborate. I crochet, too, but I’ve never tried such intricate work. I looked at it for quite a while.

The second type of lace is sewn with needle and fine thread through tulle.

Information On How The Lace Is Made

The Lace With Paper Template Beneath

Tulle Lace Christening Gown

[Note: Wi-Fi here is intermittent so I’ve learned to publish as I go.]

My maternal grandmother and her sister Rose both did beautiful crochet work but with a much heavier thread. I, too, crochet well but usually with wool. I will have to try some fine cotton to see if I can manage something this delicate – I imagine it could take years of practice!

And then the lunch.

Restaurant On The Lake Shore

I’ll promised myself I would eat sensibly today so while the others ordered full course meals, I ate some of the antipasto, and ordered a salad. I tasted the meat and fish meals – a forkful but that was it. The food, again, was delicious. Even with the meagre lunch I ate my evening meal consisted of half a pear. I could face no more food.


Citta Di Castello

Sunday – we visited nearby Citta Di Castello – three attractions. First we spent time at the linen museum and workshop where they display old linen artifacts of the region as well as manufacture goods for sale using the ancient looms. The linen goods are quite fine and beautifully made even if they limit themselves to a few old regional patterns.

Linen Cloths And Lampshade

The private Museum is also the home of one of  the first Montessori Casa dei Bambini – the school was set up to allow the women employed in the workshop to provide safely for their little children while they worked. A few of the early Montessori materials were on display – some geometric sets and alphabet cards.

I need an aside here. I’m sitting on the front patio back at the alpaca farm watching the lawn being mowed by the animals.

The Alpaca Grazing

The alpaca are totally ignoring me. Finally Marissa comes, opens the gate to the path to the road below and shoos them away and they cooperate. They are now grazing below.

Today, also, the wine festival was being held in the main square.

Registration For The Festival

We stayed long enough to take a few photos and people watch – a lot of people leisurely sampling the wines on display. Clearly a popular regional event.

Next we visited the Burri museum. This very large, windowless building houses many art pieces from huge steel sculptures to his black on black minimalist modern wall art to many small graphics in the lower floor galleries.

My favorite piece was “Metamorphosis” a very large single work comprised of nine repeating, yet subtlely changing panels:

Metamorphosis by Alberto Burri

I spent a long time observing the subtle changes from left to right as the work changes from ochre to black.

Many of Burri’s works are constructed of vertical panels – I could see none where the panels were aligned horizontally one above another. I’m assuming the panels were a consequence of the width of the materials he was using although I didn’t find that mentioned anywhere. I was also struck, particularly in the black on black works, by the  complete lack of reflected light of some of the matte black paint.  All very interesting to experience.

And then of course we stopped at an out of the way country restaurant for Sunday lunch.

The Country Restaurant

Antipasto, primo, secondo, and dolci. We ordered so we could share in every dish on the menu today. The food was simple and scrumptious: three different procciuti with cheese and fresh bread, asparagus crepes, lasagna, spinach ravioli in tomato sauce, followed by a grilled pork trio, grilled beef, and  roasted chicken in a lemon sauce with roasted potatoes, cooked spinach and roasted fennel. For dessert we had creme brûlée, a chocolate something, and biscotti with vin sancto. All wonderful.

We finished lunch at a quarter to four. Rolled home and to nap!

More surprises tomorrow – but less eating for me.



We spent today visiting Perugia – the capital city of Umbria. Lots of people but it seems the visitors are predominantly Italian. Saturday, today, was also the antique market so it was very busy particularly in the top level of the city.

But let me backtrack. We arrived, parked at the central bus station, met Marco our guide and began our exploration upward. Perugia is a many layered city – Perugini liken it to a wedding cake, each layer perched atop the previous one.

Rocca Paolina

We began by taking a couple of underground escalators upward and inside the Rocca Paolina – a fortress structure the foundations of which were built by the Etruscans, added to during medieval times, built and rebuilt repeatedly – even today construction is ongoing to convert some of the interior spaces into shops and markets.

Inside Rocca Paolina with Marco

The history of this place is very visible in the construction elements – Etruscan stones large, square without any mortar; medieval building blocks smaller, less regular, Renaissance more brick-like. Originally the main “street” was open above but when the city was taken over by the Papal States in the 12-13 hundreds the Pope decreed previous construction be demolished and the street was enclosed.

Perugia remained under the rule of the Papacy until the formation of the Italian a state in the mid 1800s. At that point symbols of Papal power were torn down and new civic buildings were erected. Each successive city incorporated the construction of earlier ones both as economical but also as a way of showing subjugation of previous rule.

To really see and understand the history of Perugia would take several visits and lots of poking around!

We ended our visit with Marco at the fountain in the upper Piazza which separates the Cathedral and the civic building showing the conflicting forces which shapes the life of Perugia.

The Fountain

It was now time to eat something but on our way for lunch at Da Peppone – a pizzaria – we stopped at the chocolate shop recommended by Marco (not for the tourists – for Perugini).

Inside The Chocolate Shop

Outside The Chocolate Shop

At lunch while eating some very tasty pizza (mine a 4-seasons with artichoke, mushrooms, ham, and cheese – I asked for 2 anchovies) the waitress walked past with what looked like an amazing meringue covered cake:

The Amazing Cake

We actually sampled it, but it wasn’t what we expected. It turned out to be a dry cake iced with meringue – looked much better than it was.

Our last stop of the day was to a museum/workshop dedicated to the preservation of the old weaving patterns. Today there are very few hand loom weavers. The work we saw this afternoon was amazing.

An Example Of Weaving Taken From A Medieval Painting

Marta Brozetti really does wonderful work that preserves the old techniques. She does try passing on what she knows but it’s quite likely her work is a dying art.

I’ll share one last photo

A Near Full Moon Over Maridiana

This was our view as we sat on the front patio enjoying a light evening meal.

The alpaca and sheep were in for the night, the birds had settled, and we were sipping wine and enjoying ourselves.

More adventure tomorrow.

Poppies, Cortona & Antipasti

Right now the countryside of Tuscany and Umbria is ablaze with poppies – not planted but growing wild everywhere. This morning we had a chance to make a brief stop to photograph them.

Hillside Covered With Poppies

They glow in the morning sunlight – whole fields of them. I have no idea how long they last or whether they’re harvested or not but they sure are lovely.

Poppies (Closeup)

We saw the poppies on our way through windy mountain roads to Cortona, nearby in Tuscany. Cortona is situated part way up a steep slope, a tiring city to get around because except for one rather flat street, the streets need serious climbing.

Cortona – A Side Street

Our first stop was Il Pozzo – owned by Ivan (never got his last name) a wonderful Italian charmer. He’s an historian, an archeologist, an art aficionado. The shop has a superb collection of art, photographs, old maps, hand made paper.

Ivan gave us the history of the building – it’s foundation is Etruscan, then medieval building sits on top, followed by more recent construction on top of that. When he bought the building 18 years ago he had no idea what he would uncover as he began clearing away the accumulated debris.

At the center of the main floor is an old Etruscan well!

Looking Into The Well

The well is about 10-12 feet deep – a water depth of 5-6 feet, the surface 5-6 feet below the glass covered opening. The well had been used as a dump for centuries and in excavating the mud Ivan came across artifacts originating from Roman times, as well as bits of medieval pottery. Currently he keeps carp in the water which sits atop many feet of unexcavated debris.

Ivan, Describing the Digging Process

Following the history lesson, Ivan provided us with Antipasti that were out of this world – he’d prepared three hot dishes to spoon on top of some fresh focaccia:


  • Tomato sauce with juniper berries which gave a distinct burst of gin flavour
  • Chicken livers with anchovy, capers, vino sancta, salt and pepper
  • Fungi porcini

all simply delicious!

Following our visit to Il Fozzo, we climbed a street from the Piazza to have lunch in a nearby restaurant. Another delicious meal.

Antipasto For Lunch

I ordered what I thought would be a small antipasto, this is what arrived, all delectable. I managed to eat about a third of the offering. What we’re disovering is just how much Italians eat.

We finished lunch at about 2:30. We then drove uphill to the Sanctuario Di Santa Margherita – a large church on the outskirts of Cortona. The inside of the cathedral was lavish and the views of the surrounding countryside spectacular. On our way home we made a brief stop at a monastery nestled in a corner of a large olive grove – one of the last stopping places of St. Francis of Assisi, the rather large well kept buildings now house just 5 Franciscan monks.

I slept most of the way home – it’s all that food midday that does me in. We’ve just finished a light dinner of sautéed chicken breast with salad. It’s now time to call it a day. Another adventure tomorrow.

A Wonderful Meal

We have had a grand day. We visited the Hemp Museum near Spello. The mission of the Museum is to revive interest in and skills associated with the originally thriving hemp production in Umbria. More about that later.

The outstanding event of our day was lunch. We originally stopped at a restaurant in an old monestery to have lunch but the restaurateur had no food and no chef because of the holiday yesterday. He suggested we go to another place not far from where we were.

The Restaurant As We Were Leaving

It took a bit of hunting to find La Laconda di Valacasana – located on this pond filled with trout. The house specialties: trout and truffles (this being the truffle region of Umbria).

The Setting

The meal began with appetizers provided by the house: first two plates of various prosciuttos and pecorino cheese with truffle, trout, and creamed truffle bruschetta, then two more plates each with three different truffle samplers. Next a bowl of some kind of thick bean soup, then a liver dish with some kind of vegetable, and one more that I can’t now recall!

Then the waiter asks what we want to eat. We ordered: trout with truffle (x2), tortellini with creamed truffle sauce, polenta with truffle (and other ingredients), spaghetti with a truffle sauce, mixed salad and spinach with parmesan and garlic which we shared around.

As We Are Finishing

We ate until we were all stuffed, then slowly pushed away from the table to head on to Assisi to view the Duomo.

The entire meal for six, with many bottles of water and carafes of wine – €100!

Back to the hemp museum.

Setting Up A Weft For Weaving

The museum houses a collection of old linen, cotton, and hemp garment and other artifacts beautifully preserved and housed in drawers with details of age and donors displayed. Beautiful hand work. There are small looms for people to try their hand at weaving, a large loom on display. A lovely young woman, a fashion student, walked us through the collection with explanations in English.

Our last stop for the day was a visit to the Assisi Cathedral

Assisi Cathedral From A Distance

Because lunch had done me in (we didn’t finish till 3:30), I abstained from the steep climb to the church and instead accompanied Linda to do some grocery shopping. The small supermarket wasn’t busy so the staff were happy to provide an informal language lesson – it’s a surprise how vocabulary and phrases are coming back after 50 years.

We’re now sitting on one of the patios with wine and more food (if you can believe it), enjoying the end of the day.

Looking forward to whatever is on the agenda for tomorrow.

Arriving At Maridiana (Umbertide)

The weather here today was simply gorgeous. The further away we got from Florence, the cooler and breezier it became.

We made several stops on our way to Maridiana, the alpaca farm. Our first was the Prada outlet.

The Prada Entrance

This is the best I can do with this – the front door! No photos allowed inside. It would have been fun to have had images to show the flashy goods and the ridiculous prices – I came across a women’s simple leather jacket for €2500 (we saw beautiful leather clothing in the market yesterday for €150-€400!) I didn’t last long – a key fob for €100 was way beyond anything I was prepared to spend for a Prada trinket. I retired to the cafe to wait for the others.

Our next stop was the town of Arezzo – a typical old Italian town with a large Duomo which we stepped into. We wandered about town for a bit before stopping for lunch in the Piazza Grande. The town was mobbed since April 25 is an Italian national holiday of some sort; people everywhere enjoying the day.

Piazza Grande in Arezzo

By the time we’d finished lunch at 3:00 we decided to head straight to Maridiana. The farm is situated in the Umbrian hills. The photo flattens the countryside which in reality consists of well defined slopes.

At Maridiana

Green, green, green! The landscape has turned verdant this past week we were told, with red poppies in bloom along the highways, and lots of other vegetation in flower.

This is one of the two houses on the farm. This one is large – it houses Giani and Marissa the owners as well 3-4 guests in a separate half of the building. Another building close by has space for another 3-4 guests so the place accommodates our party easily. Each building has a kitchen, dining room, living/sitting room on the main floor and two bedrooms on the second each with its own bathrooms. Definitely more than comfortable for our stay.

The Back Side Of The Farmhouse

The star of the establishment is the newborn alpaca. The animals were lingering near the house to welcome us.


Marissa had prepared us a welcome dinner of fresh local cheese, salami, a barley salad and pizza, finished off with fresh fruit tarts, and of course white wine. Here we are eating on the patio under the wisteria which had bloomed in the past two days. Quite lovely.

Dining Under The Wisteria

Tomorrow we venture further south to a hemp museum which houses a largish collection of hemp artifacts gathered from local residents who have had these curtains, tablecloths, garments in their families for multiple generations.

We will have an early-ish start in the morning in order to arrive by ten or so. Should be very interesting.

More Florence

Sheila and I decided to return to the Piazza Del Duomo again, via Bus route 22, but this time we wandered toward the river through the galleria and leather market.

The Galleria

The Leather Market

The leather goods were sumptuous – I couldn’t resist a pair of bright turquoise lined leather gloves. Sheila was drawn to the handbags.

After browsing through the leather stuff we headed toward the Uffizi. It was one in the afternoon and the Piazza was packed with people (and pigeons).

Piazza Near The Uffizi

There was no point in attempting to enter the Uffizi, the lineups snaked the length of the building. Instead we strolled toward the Fiume Arno and the Ponte Vecchio.

Il Ponte Vecchio

It was interesting to see a heavily armed presence guarding the route:

The Military Presence

The two soldiers in an armoured truck on one side, two young soldiers with assault weapons across the road from it. A determined van driver however could have mowed down many pedestrians before being stopped, the moving crowds were so dense.

Lots of interesting shops on the side streets:

A Glass Shop

I loved the array of colours and shapes on display in this one. Don’t know where the glass was made (quite likely in Venice).

After a number of hours strolling in the sunshine we headed back to a bus stop and back home. We ended the afternoon with some gelato from a shop near our B&B Hotel.

At Gelateria Barroccino

This young man (didn’t get his name) makes wonderful gelato – many flavours, different ones each day. I’ve tried straccitella, nutella, and today cioccolatto.

We ended the day by having dinner with the other women in the group, including Linda who has organized the trip. Tomorrow we head out to Umbria and the alpaca farm, a long winding trip planned to take most of the day. Looking forward to whatever comes next.

Shmoozing In Florence Centrale

Sheila and I started the day slowly by meeting two other of the women in our group (Elaine and Marion) for breakfast here at the B&B. Then the two of us took the #22 bus which stops right outside the B&B into Florence Centrale.

The bus was packed; they weren’t all tourists, many would have been locals heading to somewhere through the city center, which is where we got off – across the street from the main train station.

We mosyed through pedestrian filled narrow streets as we headed toward the Duomo.

Typical Narrow Florence Streets

We stopped at a couple of market stalls near the Station, one with leather goods, didn’t buy anything in spite of some haggling on a leather wallet,  but neither of us could resist the rainbow colored shawl/scarves which called out to us (it had nothing to do with the young persuasive women selling them).

Heading down one of the main streets from the station you can see the Duomo in the distance. Crowds lined up everywhere to get in to view the art and architecture. Since we’d not bought tickets in advance we simply walked slowly around the outside of the buildings – something I hadn’t known was the bell tower is a separate building. Plenty to stop and look at on the outside – the main door to the Cathedral building is spectacular! The whole exterior of the buildings is replete with statues and other decorative sculpture. I can only imagine the interior from photos I’ve seen.

Il Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore

Main Doors of the Duomo

The Duomo Bell Tower

We walked past many small shops, clothing, footwear, handbags (all expensive due to their proximity to the Cathedral). we decided to stroll further from the church to find a street cafe serving lunch. We shared a salad and sandwich which was more than enough to eat.

One shop caught my eye – a small hole-in-the-wall filled with beautifully crafted paper/wood objects – and the artisan creating them.

Shop Of Beautiful Hand Made Paper Objects

The Artisan At Work

The latest fashion accessory, to judge by the number of shops with many on display, is a very fancy bejeweled bra (and panties to go with them). They’re meant to be shown off. (I can’t see me wearing one, however).

Window Shopping

The weather was a sunny 27 – compared to just around 10 at home in Halifax. Lovely for walking slowly and taking in the crowds and sights.

Late in the afternoon we picked up the #22 bus where we had got off and took the scenic route back to where we had embarked in the morning – right outside the hotel.

We’re planning on hooking up for dinner with Elaine and Marion shortly and then we’ll call it a day.

Travel Update!

Waiting At Heathrow

I’ve arrived at Heathrow. I was able to get my connections reworked: in a couple of hours I’ll leave for Zurich then on to Florence arriving, I hope, at 6:25 this evening. No overnight stay in Rome with a 17 hour wait time to fly to Florence.

That’s the good news. The bad news is my bag was checked to Rome (but I’m now not going through Rome). When I checked in with Lufthansa they thought there would be enough time to pull the bag off the Brussels flight and send it along with me to Zurich, then Florence.

Fingers crossed! We’re leaving Florence early Wednesday morning for Meridiana, 35 minutes from Perugia. I might just end up with a whole new summer wardrobe but I’ll miss my spare glasses, my newish sandals and pink Sketchers that are also in that bag.

I HATE travelling.


Not A Good Omen!

It’s 9:30 pm and I’m still in Halifax. A problem with the altitude switch on the plane to Montreal (connecting to Munich, then Florence) so after sitting on the runway for over an hour the flight was cancelled.

It ought to be plain how little you gain by getting excited and vexed. You’ll always be late for the previous plane and always in time for the next.” Piet Heine

I spent over an hour on the phone with a patient young Air Canada man who cancelled existing outgoing flights, found me a new set of flights: Halifax – London – Brussels – Rome – and 17 hours later – Florence! Instead of arriving in Florence at noon on April 22, I should arrive about the same time on April 23!

Waiting in the Halifax airport

So now I’m waiting in the departure lounge of the Halifax International Airport for the London flight.

I’ve checked out trains from Rome to Florence. Cost ~ €60 one way, and that may involve a lot of schlepping at both the Rome and Florence ends. The B&B I’m booked at in Florence is a 15 minute cab ride from the Florence airport so I may overnight in Rome at Air Canada’s expense – I’ll see about organizing that when I arrive in London.

I love being places. I HATE the travelling! With a passion!