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Part 1 (The One with the Crazy Delta Lady)

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Lisa M. Green

Author & Copyeditor at Lisa M. Green
Lisa M. Green is the author of The First, a novel of mythic and paranormal fantasy. She is also a high school English and Special Education teacher. As a life-long writer, she considered a career in screenwriting or journalism before deciding on a career in education. As a teacher, she enjoys educating high school students about writing.
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This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Not Your Mama's Spaghetti and Meatballs

So…

Our honeymoon in Italy was fantastic! Of course, you knew that. How could it not be? Art, culture, food, wine, countryside, ancient ruins, beautiful beaches, picturesque little villages and cafes, and fantastic views.

What’s not to love?

No matter what I say here, it will sound like I’m bragging. And maybe I am a little bit, but I really want to share my experiences with you. The good, the interesting, and the crazy.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

We were running super late for the airport. It couldn’t be helped, really, considering the wedding reception ended a little after 11 p.m. the night before, and we had to be up at 7 a.m. in order to be ready to (separately) drive the two hours back from our destination wedding. Then we had to move toiletries and such from our wedding bags to our honeymoon bags that were waiting on us. This became far more complicated than we anticipated. So we got to the airport later than we planned, but we always aim to be there as close as possible to three hours before the flight is scheduled to leave. We were looking at a little under two hours this time, I believe.

Did we miss our flight? No, but we did have what I would call a very odd experience. As we stood at the check-in desk having our luggage weighed, another check-in employee walked over from her counter and asked to “borrow” one of our passports.

Yeah. That’s what we said.

Apparently, her machine was having issues reading a passport (or something of that nature) during a training session, and she needed someone’s passport to scan at her check-in desk.

Oh, hell no.

You want to take my passport (a federal document that I guard with my life and has the power to identify me in a hundred different ways), walk away, scan it into your computer for purposes completely unrelated to our travel, and I’m supposed to be okay with this vague set of circumstances? Just because you have a name tag?

Now, do I think her intentions were impure? Probably not. But how do you know? You cannot walk up to someone and expect them to turn over their passport for an unauthorized reason! We declined. She insisted. We declined again, stating the above reason. She insisted again. Would NOT move on to another unsuspecting victim down the row.

Seriously.

I’m pretty sure we said “NO” at least six times before she finally walked off. By the end, it was becoming impossible not to snap at her. I mean, what in the world? (We’re pretty sure the employee checking us in was trying not to either laugh or say something to the other lady.)

In a culture where the intricacies and hoops involved with international travel amount to an in-depth (and uncomfortable) physical examination that prepares you for entrance into “general population,” where the TSA is in your face at every possible moment, where the slightest hiccup could get you strip-searched…why, oh why, would anyone think it was okay to ask something like that? And, more importantly, why would anyone agree to it?

Would you? I mean, honestly, doesn’t the very idea of this leave your skin crawling?

I do, however, always enjoy the nice thorough massage they give me every time I opt out of the body scanners. They even grab all my stuff and carry it for me. The valet service rocks.

Part 2 (The One with George Clooney)

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Lisa M. Green

Author & Copyeditor at Lisa M. Green
Lisa M. Green is the author of The First, a novel of mythic and paranormal fantasy. She is also a high school English and Special Education teacher. As a life-long writer, she considered a career in screenwriting or journalism before deciding on a career in education. As a teacher, she enjoys educating high school students about writing.
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This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Not Your Mama's Spaghetti and Meatballs

Yeah, I’m totally lying. We didn’t meet (or even see) Clooney, but he does have a place in the Lake Como area. I’m not sure how close it is to where we stayed, and frankly I don’t care.

Our B&B in Lake Como was one of the best decisions we ever made. The views, the people, the towns… all breathtaking in a way that makes me devastatingly sad that we aren’t there right now.

And the food.

meat and cheese tray

The dinner we had our first night at the B&B was phenomenal! It gave us the truest sense of “being in Italy” without needing any extra ornamentation. The meat and cheese tray, the blood orange juice, the wine, the water (yes, even the water!!!), the entrees… all of it felt right. Felt real. If we had water like that here at home, I’d be drinking a lot more water. All of the food was not just local; it was straight from the farm and kitchen run by the owners of the Bed & Breakfast, who happened to be some of the nicest people we’ve ever met. A romantic candlelit dinner out on the patio overlooking the lake: priceless!

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If you are ever staying in the Como area, you should definitely check out Agriturismo Madonna Dei Ceppi. They are located in the town of Lezzeno, up on top of a hill that looks out over some of the most gorgeous views I’ve ever seen.

And did I mention how wonderful and hospitable the owners are? Our first experiences with Italy were filled with nothing but joy and excitement. Everyone in the area was so kind, so willing to go out of their way to help, and so gracious to us as strangers in a strange—but beautiful—land. I’ve never felt more at home.

Part 3 (The One with the Grande Caffe)

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Lisa M. Green

Author & Copyeditor at Lisa M. Green
Lisa M. Green is the author of The First, a novel of mythic and paranormal fantasy. She is also a high school English and Special Education teacher. As a life-long writer, she considered a career in screenwriting or journalism before deciding on a career in education. As a teacher, she enjoys educating high school students about writing.
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This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Not Your Mama's Spaghetti and Meatballs

Totally lying again. Grande caffè is Italian for “large coffee.” There is no grande caffè.

Was no grande caffè.

Will never be a grande caffè.

And this is the crux of the problem. Hence the title.

Plus I already used “The Hills are Alive” as a blog post title a while back, which would have been just as relevant to this discussion.

What was I talking about again?

Oh, yes. The coffee.

The ever-loving coffee.

Here:

grande caffe

There it is in all its minuscule glory. It was Paris all over again. Only it wasn’t.

We were in the foothills of the Alps, driving through some pretty awe-inspiring terrain, as well as encountering mountain roads straight out of my worst nightmare. I’m not afraid of heights. I’m not. Facing down a 160-foot drop, I did a bungee-swing once. At Six Flags. But I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be bouncing back if this went terribly wrong.

Driving in Italy

Back to the coffee.

“Very large coffee, please. Please. Yes, I know I’m an annoying American with my coffee addiction, but I’m offering to pay you for two (yes DOUBLE!) of your largest coffees just to get the amount I need. Put it all together in the biggest cup you have, and we will shell out 12 euros. Please. Just please.”

No. Apparently the European coffee police have decided that any more coffee than this (see above picture) in one sitting is a crime against humanity. So we must stop at multiple locations along the way just to appease the coffee gods.

What can you do?

But this episode is brought to you by a scene straight out of The Sound of Music, Julie Andrews singing her heart out in the background.

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Words couldn’t do it justice. But I’m trying. I really am.

A picture is worth a thousand words, but even a picture doesn’t put you there to feel the beauty of it. Air so clean you can taste heaven.

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Part 4 (The One with the Assassin and the Accordion)

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Lisa M. Green

Author & Copyeditor at Lisa M. Green
Lisa M. Green is the author of The First, a novel of mythic and paranormal fantasy. She is also a high school English and Special Education teacher. As a life-long writer, she considered a career in screenwriting or journalism before deciding on a career in education. As a teacher, she enjoys educating high school students about writing.
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This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series Not Your Mama's Spaghetti and Meatballs

Venice.

Gondalas.

Canals.

Assassins.

Wee! (If you got it, just smile and nod.)

Once again, our hosts were wonderful at the B&B we stayed at, Chiocciola Venice (translated either “snail” or “@” in English—I’m guessing the latter, but I totally had a defense for the former translation given the laid back atmosphere). They even presented us with this print upon our departure. The second picture is the note they wrote on the back.

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How sweet! The place was quiet, serene, but a bit away from Venice itself. Our hosts were very helpful, but public transportation in that area was so confusing! Find a tobacconist shop is all I will say. Before you get on the bus. They don’t sell the tickets at, on, or even near the bus. We made it there in one piece, and the trip was only about twenty minutes.

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Cruising the Grand Canal in Venice

Gondalas are so synonymous with Venice that  it’s the first word off most people’s lips when they hear you mention Venice. The idea is very sweet and cozy in theory,  hot and expensive in application. Our best times in Venice were traveling the streets on foot, marveling at the buildings and exteriors from so many by-gone periods. Such an eclectic mix of several different eras of architectural style, all together in one somewhat small, but vibrant, city.

Some of the time, I have to admit, we spent comparing the locations to those in one of our favorite video games, Assassin’s Creed 2 (okay, fine… a lot of the time). Amazing how similar so many things were. Not surprisingly, the scale was often off a good bit to account for shrinking the map in order to simply the game experience. But the major landmarks and the important parts of the city were virtually identical. It’s hard to argue the validity of learning history in the strangest of ways. As long as the learning happens, who cares how it was acquired? I can separate the fact from the fiction, but reminiscing over places we had “visited” was quite amusing and often hilarious. It’s okay to laugh. We were laughing at ourselves.

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Piazza San Marco (The Camponile @ St. Mark’s Basilica, near the Doge’s Palace)

I don’t know the name of all the things and places we saw, but I know the emotional weight it held for me. Venice isn’t as old as much of Italy, and it may lack a sense of ancient history, but what the city does have is heart. The inherent beauty is magical.

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We even found an accordion player by the water our first night! We spent two days in Paris a couple of years ago searching for someone playing the accordion, but there was no one to fulfill my cliched fantasies. But that night in Venice twilight was kicking in, and the man was sitting right by the shore, so we stood there awhile just soaking in the atmosphere. We tipped him, and he offered his chair for me to sit in for awhile.

Have I mentioned my feet? I won’t ruin this beautiful post with that sort of talk, but suffice it to say that I could barely walk by that time, and we still had a week and a half and several cities to go. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

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Part 5 (The One that Stole My Heart)

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Lisa M. Green

Author & Copyeditor at Lisa M. Green
Lisa M. Green is the author of The First, a novel of mythic and paranormal fantasy. She is also a high school English and Special Education teacher. As a life-long writer, she considered a career in screenwriting or journalism before deciding on a career in education. As a teacher, she enjoys educating high school students about writing.
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This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Not Your Mama's Spaghetti and Meatballs

I’ve kept you waiting far too long. I’m sorry. But there is more Italy to come, with tons of pictures in this edition of “Not Your Mama’s Spaghetti and Meatballs!” On to part 5….

Venice may be considered the Serenissima (most serene), but Tuscany is where I found my peace.

And Pinocchio. A whole lot of Pinocchio.

photo courtesy Ivana @ rgbstock.com

photo courtesy Ivana @ rgbstock.com

When we first began seeing little knick-knacks, pictures, objects, images—all featuring the dear little wooden boy—we were at the beginning of our journey, back in Lake Como. We assumed it was just the fact that we were in quaint little towns with quaint little shops. I mean, I knew Pinocchio and Geppetto were Italian, but he was EVERYWHERE (The entrance to the area leading up to our b&b contained a giant bust of a boy with a feather in his hat. At first, we thought it was Peter Pan or something. We learned pretty quickly after visiting the nearby towns.)

Then we began to suspect the cheeky little monkey was following us. Every town we visited—practically every shop—contained something with his likeness. When I looked it up, it turned out that they were from an unnamed town in Tuscany. So cue Tuscany.

And even MORE Pinocchio. They don’t play around with their Pinocchio.

Despite their fascination with him, he was not the heart and soul of Tuscany for me. This was the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most. I couldn’t explain why exactly, but I begged Jason to fit it into our trip. It was a place I’d always dreamed of visiting.

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Six days and nights on a mountain overlooking the town of Lucca. We stayed at Casa del Belvedere. a beautiful farm where they produce their own olive oil and figs, among other things. The owner greeted us at the farmhouse we were renting through Airbnb with a bottle of homemade olive oil, homemade fig jam, and a bottle of homemade dessert wine to go with the delicious cake his mother-in-law had baked us as a welcoming gift.

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Talk about wow.

The vineyards were literally everywhere. Rolling hills, quaint little farms, spectacular vistas. Italy is the most amazing country I have ever visited, and Tuscany has sealed itself as my absolute favorite destination ever.

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Of course, you can’t visit Tuscany without seeing the Leaning Tower. We spent a day there, taking a tour up the tower (cue more climbing and more of my foot problems…but it was my decision not to miss out on anything) and visiting the surrounding attractions and museums.

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We even managed to catch another geo-cache there (did I mention the geo-caching yet?). We did at least one in each area we stayed at, but if you don’t know about geo-caching, you should definitely look it up. I thoroughly enjoy it as a side adventure when you are out and about sightseeing.

Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre was our next stop, and let me tell you: the picture may look just like all the others ones you’ve seen online, but it doesn’t do it justice. The colors are so vivid.

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Thankfully we opted out of the cliff-diving and instead did some sightseeing then spent some time on the beach before having dinner by the seaside. When we finally decided to brave the water, it was freezing. Freezing. This is the Mediterranean, people!

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Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance. The very essence of my soul. This was where I wanted to go more than anywhere else. I was so excited, not for any specific thing, but just for what the city represents.

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I had been going on and on about Florence since before we even started planning the trip, so there was no way I was missing out on it. There’s so much art and culture there, so many old buildings that ooze history. The Campanile, or Bell Tower, in Florence, is part of the Duomo complex, which includes the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) and the Baptistery. After the Duomo, the Campanile is one of the most recognizable buildings in Florence. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe climbed the Campanile (my feet were in HELL at this point, but I refused to stop) to check out the view of the top of the Duomo and the scope of the town, which was well worth it. It was incredibly windy, but you could see for miles. As we stood there, I began to cry as a feeling of missing something I’d only just obtained swept over me. I didn’t want to say goodbye.

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The Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”) is a Medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. (Wikipedia)

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Statue of Dante Alighieri

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San Gimignano, admittedly, only came up on our radar because of its connection to Assassin’s Creed. The town is small, but we decided to check it out due to our familiarity with it, as well as the online images and descriptions. San Gimignano, known as the Town of Fine Towers, is a famous walled medieval hill town in Tuscany, in the province of Siena. The streets were cobble-stoned and narrow, and the architecture certainly lived up to the medieval feel. We spent some time at the top of the large tower, and ended our day in the gardens strolling as we listened to the man playing music in the main courtyard. At one point, we got sneaky and went scrumping up a tree for a plum 🙂

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No travel guide will ever do justice to the magnificence of the Tuscan countryside.

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Stay tuned. Next up, Rome…