It was very cool to see him in his papamobile, and to witness the elaborately organized mass in the park outside the cathedral with over 10,000 people in attendance. Unfortunately we were not able to arrange such a grand reception for our friends and family, but we think they enjoyed their visits nonetheless.
When Vicki and Dana arrived we spent three days with them in Rome where we rented an apartment that was ideally situated in the historical center of the city (well, EVERYTHING is historical in Rome). Dana had the brilliant idea to use David Macaulay’s book Rome Antics as a basis for exploring the city. The book is essentially a showcase for Macaulay’s masterful drawings, and the story he creates follows the path of a pigeon carrying an important message from a woman to the man she loves.
Following the pigeon’s path turned simple sightseeing into an adventure – it was like a scavenger hunt, and it turned out to be a fantastic way to see the city. As we have learned, everything is more meaningful when there is some purpose or goal connected to it.
After our time in Rome we all made our way to Arezzo where we spent the next week introducing Vicki and Dana to our lives here, showing them other nearby towns, and then renting a car for a 3-day tour of Tuscany.
The first highlight was our visit to the small town of Lucignano. Every May the people there celebrate Maggiolata, which is a spring festival that includes a parade of local dancers, musicians, and floats made of thousands of flowers.
We weren’t sure if the parade was going to happen this year because of pending rain. The folks from Lucignano proved to be hardier than you can shake an umbrella at, because they carried on with the parade despite the cold and wet conditions. However, the parade usually circles the town four times (it’s a small town) but because of the rain they only went around twice.
We took refuge under the awning of a restaurant where Vicki had spotted an open outdoor table. This was a great move not only because we had a dry and comfortable perch from which to watch the parade, but also because we ended up sharing wine, stories, and caffé with the people at the adjoining table and the proprietors of the restaurant. All of this made for an uplifting and unforgettable experience.
The next two days we spent in Chianti where Vicki took some time to chill out on a splendidly sunny afternoon, while Dana used his paintbrush to demonstrate his wry assessment of this country: “Italy: even our sheds are beautiful!”
Meanwhile the two of us went into the town of Greve to visit the museo del vino (wine museum) and to sample wine at a large cantina. This place is one of a kind!
When you enter you purchase an electronic card (like a debit card) that you take around to the automatic wine and olive oil tasting stations set up around the cantina. You insert the card into the machine, select the wine you want to taste, and you receive a roughly 2 ounce taste of the wine. The cost of the taste, from .60 to 6.00 euros, is deducted from your card. It was fascinating. We felt like kids in a candy store!! Since there was so much to choose from we focused on the really expensive wines that we would never buy, like a €150 Brunello. We would have tried even more but Henry was the designated driver and the road back to the agriturismo was narrow and windy with many hairpin turns.
After Vicki and Dana’s visit we had the pleasure of spending time with Gabriella’s aunt and our friends Dennis and Lenita. We spent that time here in Arezzo, where we had our final opportunity to show off our beloved adopted home. Now that our guests and the pope have returned to their respective homes, we are beginning to say our farewells in the few remaining weeks we have before we return to Seattle.