Ciao Bella Italia Part Due


I found my 2018 Easter outfit in Rome

OMG – how did three weeks fly by?

It’s been hoppin’ here in AGMA central since I landed back in Wonderland.

I’ve been working wayyy too much, visited the grands in Chicago and on top of that, I was in charge of Hubs retirement celebration 2 weeks ago.


More about the retirement later.  Probably a lot more…  AGMA just wanted to give a excuse (albeit lame) as to why she’s been so quiet. Again.

But now, it’s time to go back to Italy!  Picking up where I left off in my post of 4/19 (which seems eons ago)…

We left Rome the day after the marathon. AGMA was walking kind of slow.  Especially when I had to pick up and schlep my suitcase.  AGMA packs light for overseas adventures  – my bag was slightly larger than a carry-on.   But it felt like it weighed about 300 lbs.

It made my legs wobble.

We headed east to a small hilltop walled village circa 1000 AD where K’s old high school friend lives. Mr. D has lived in Italy for 40+ years so he knows a thing or two about lamb entrails…

He arranged for a private tour of the local sites – an excavation of a Roman villa and a church built into the side of a mountain that St. Francis hung out in for a couple of nights.  I’m a history geek so I loved it. K, not so much – I saw her eye’s roll, ever so slightly, back in her head.

We spent the night in Mr. D’s 700+ year old home up in the walled village.


My guess is that the cooler is probably not 700+ years old…

And were treated to a cold shower the next morning. But it’s 700+ years old right? AGMA had a 30 year old house once that had plumbing issues too…

The next day Mr. D took us to the charming town of Orvieto that has a fabulous cathedral. Shelley at Destination NOW visited Orvieto in 2012 and has some great posts about her visit. We were there for 3 hours. Read Shelley’s first post here if you want to know more about this fabulous little town.


After our visit, Mr. D loaded us on the train; we were off to Siena. Beautiful Siena. Hilly Siena. Very hilly Siena.

My legs were still wobbling.

I absolutely LOVED our hotel, the Albergo Bernini, primarily because of the view from the hotel terrace.


We were right next to St. Catherine’s house (sort of) and just a stones throw (maybe a couple of stones.) from the Basilica of San Domenico where Catherine’s head and thumb are in residence.


You weren’t allowed to take a picture of her head, but it was open season on her thumb.


Her thumb is on the left in that little coffee press looking glass thing.

We enjoyed aperetivo on Siena’s huge “square” (it’s not really a square), Piazza del Campo, but it was kind of chilly.  The drinks warmed us up.  It’s hard to imagine, but the Sienese having a horse race on this square twice a year called Il Palio that sounds akin to a jalopy demolition derby.

This might have to be an addition to my bucket list!

After 2 nights in Siena, we hopped on another train.  Destination – Pisa. In AGMA’s 5 past visits to Italy, I had never been to Pisa to see “it”.  I’d heard some uncomplimentary things about Pisa and her famous tower.   “The town’s dirty, full of cheap restaurants and tacky souvenir stands selling cheap, cheesy little Leaning Towers to sucker tourists, yada, yada, yada…”

Maybe that’s why it took me 6 visits to get there.

But our 4 hours in Pisa were delightful! We walked the mile from the train station to the Field of Miracles through the town, which is full of college students.  We strolled around the tower and cathedral.  Took the obligatory “Look I’m holding the Leaning Tower of Pisa up!” photos. Ate lunch.  Walked back to the train station and hit the road…eh, tracks again.  It was a great afternoon.


Yeah, it’s got a tower that leans, but there’s a lot more to Pisa than that!

Destination – the big tamale – the Cinque Terre

And it was just as breathtaking as I’d heard.  But hilly.  Very hilly.  Mountainous actually.

At this point in the trip, my legs had stopped wobbling.  Sadly, this was a temporary condition.

We stayed at an Agriturismo farm waaaaayyyy up on a hill in Monterosso de Mare, the most northern of the 5 towns.  We didn’t have a car so the only way into town and back again was to walk.

And that’s when the wobbling started again.

But it was worth it for the view, our congenial hosts, the delicious meals, and the wine made from the grapes grown in their vineyard.


Early morning view of all five Cinque Terra towns from our room

OMG – the wine.

One night, after consuming two bottles, K and AGMA videoed ourselves – in our jammies – dancing to “Dancing Queen” by ABBA  and Bruno Mars “Uptown Funk”.  Then sent the video to our families.

There was much remorse and gnashing of teeth in the morning.  And a slight headache.

We hiked, ‘cuz that’s what your supposed to do when you’re in the Cinque Terre.  We hiked between Monterosso and Vernazza one day, then between Corniglia and Vernazza the next day.

There were steps.  Lot of steps.  Lots and lots of steps.


I had nightmares about these steps!

The wobbling continued.

We used the local train to visit Manarola and Riomaggiore.  But I think we did more hiking up and down and around these towns than on the hikes between the other towns.

AGMA felt like a mountain goat.  Or a bighorn sheep.  Without the horns.

We were blessed with incredible weather which helped take some of the sting out of all the walking and climbing.  The scenery was freakin’ spectacular!


Riomaggiore looked stunning!

After four wonderful days exploring these beautiful 5 CT towns, we sadly said goodbye to our hosts, left our goat leggings behind, and headed back to Rome for one more night before flying home.

Overall, the trip was amazing.

But please tell me how, after running a marathon, walking all around Siena, Orvieto, Pisa, and climbing up and down the cliffs & towns of the Cinque Terre, AGMA managed to gain 6 pounds?  Sure, we ate well and drank wine, but we didn’t go absolutely nuts.  As a matter of fact, I felt like we exercised great restraint at times.

And K didn’t gain an ounce.

How is that fair?

Back to rabbit food if I want to fit into my new Easter outfit next year.

Now all I need is a bonnet…


Ciao Bella Italy Part Uno



AGMA’s baaaacccckkk!

Actually, I’ve been home for over a week.

Jet lag’s a bitch.

Italy was lovely. That’s what I’ve been telling everybody…. Italy was lovely. Not that I had a fabulous time, or that it was great or wonderful or fantastic.

It was just lovely.

I think AGMA needs to stay home a while. I think I’m starting to get blasé about traveling. I’ll have to ponder that…

It could be that I traveled with a friend I’ve never traveled with before. CB’s a lovely, delightful person who’s been a friend for 30 years.  She’s also much loved by scores and scores of people.


And for a very long time, AGMA wanted to be CB. I wanted to live her life. I envied her rock solid marriage, her family – 4 sons who cherish her and get along with each other, her career (one of those $150/hr consulting things) and her gracious hostessing skills.

But most of all, I envied her scores of friends and relatives who absolutely adore her. A-D-O-R-E. I mean, if she would meet an untimely end tomorrow, there would literally be 1000’s at her funeral, all wailing and weeping and gnashing their teeth.  Me included.

So I pretty much thought CB was everything that I wanted to be. I always wanted lots of adoring friends, but it’s just never happened. And probably never will. AGMA’s a bit too crusty to be adored.

CB IS a lovely person and a good friend, but….

You never truly, really know somebody until you travel with them.

We are very different people. That became pretty obvious on our trip. There weren’t any major issues or confrontations, thank God. That would’ve been miserable. But we definitely have different “styles” and ways of approaching things.

AGMA’s not going to get into specifics. But while the feeling that I wanted to be her, to live her life, has faded over the years, I came home from our trip convinced that I did not want to be her, to live her life.

As imperfect as it is, AGMA kinda likes her own skin.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

So Italy was lovely.

We were in Rome for the first 5 days. Some of CB’s adoring fans are former business associates who live near Rome, so we had dinner with them (O & V) several evenings. It was awesome to have their translation skills and culinary advice.

One evening, O advised me to order the lamb entrails for dinner. She said it was a very typical Roman dish and was served for breakfast on Easter morning in many Roman households. “Hey”, I thought, “When in Rome…eat like a local. I like lamb. Why not?”

AGMA’s face was quite expressive when the server put my order on the table.

Nothing. Like. Lamb chops.

A heaping plate of brownish gray cooked lamb guts. I mean heaping. And I swear they were staring at me.

Watching my every move…

Golly, I can’t think of anything better to serve on Easter morning!

I made a brave effort to eat some of it, but thankfully there was plenty of other more than palatable food on the table that wasn’t staring at me. I think O was disappointed I didn’t chow down on it. She took the leftovers home to her dog who I’m sure did chow down on it.

But AGMA was somewhat subdued during our time in Rome.

I was running the Rome Marathon on our last full day in Roma and was worried about passing the medical exam that I needed to actually be able to run.

It’s a long story, but Italy has some weird medical requirements for people who want to run marathons. Marathons in the US will pretty much let anybody run. They really don’t care if you keel over with a stroke or heart attack. As long as you pay your entry fee and check the little box that you won’t hold anybody liable for anything, you’re good to go.

Evidently Italy doesn’t want you stroking out.

There was one test they required that would have been very expensive to get in the US, so I opted to get my exam in Rome two days before the marathon.

On March 31, I was whisked away from the Rome Marathon expo to parts unknown in a Smartcar by an Italian gentleman who didn’t speak English. CB anxiously waited for me at the expo, ready to call the police if I didn’t return.

This was going to be an adventure.

After a twenty minute drive, I met Guido, the Sports Medicine Man.

Guido was quite good looking. And much younger than me. And he asked me to take of my shirt.

Things were getting interesting…

AGMA felt like she was in a Fellini movie….“The Cougar and the Sports Medicine Man”

But alas, it was to attach the wires for the EKG to my chest. I wished I’d worn a nicer bra.

He also took my blood pressure. When I told him it might be a little high (I was nervous about failing the exam and not running in the marathon), he said in a husky whisper, “Maybe it’s because I am so close to you.”

Seriously. Sort of. He actually used a normal voice. The husky whisper part was in the dream that AGMA had later that night.

I passed my tests (but my BP was indeed high – probably multiple reasons…) and was able to run in the marathon on April 2nd.

And I finished! And didn’t stroke out. That’s always a good thing.

Just an FYI, it was not mandatory to run naked as the picture of the medal suggests.  That’s also a good thing.

Total self acceptance, lamb guts, Guido and a clothed marathon finish in the shadow of the Coliseum….

Okay, so maybe AGMA’s trip to Italy really was fantastic.

Stay tuned for Ciao Bella Italy Part Due (pronounced doo-eh)!