Saints & Ceramics...

One of our favorite day trips is to Assisi.  We love the beauty of this little town and the more we learn about the life of St. Francis, the more we appreciate all tributes to him.  After touring, Connie found a spectacular restaurant recommended in her guide book. 

La Stalla is about as rustic as it gets, sort of like a family picnic. It's a series of former livestock stalls made of stone walls and low-beamed ceilings thoroughly blackened by and still filled with smoke. The smoke rises tantalizingly from the open wood-fire grill and will have your mouth watering long before you secure a seat at one of the wobbly long communal tables... It just may be one of your most memorable and authentic Umbrian meals."

After refueling amongst the pine trees, we ventured to Deruta and its
ceramics which are a milestone in the history of Italian pottery. They gained worldwide fame during the Renaissance thanks to their creative and qualitative excellence.  This pottery was much sought after by noblemen and rich merchants at the time. Now it is the highlight of world renowned Art Museums and our shopping trip to this little medieval town.  To wander its streets and look at all the buildings adorned with the beautiful clay art was like a scavenger hunt.  Even the church housed exceptional local tiles of art.

It was a full day of Umbrian exploring.  Dinner on the terrace, recounting our memories thus far, concluded our fun, albeit exhausting, day.

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Our Memorial Day in Italy...

I know for most of you, a barbecue on Memorial Day isn't anything to blog about, but here in Italy, hot dogs, burgers, deviled eggs and all the accouterments are so rare that I found myself giddy with the prospect of a little bit of home.

Our group delighted in the warm Italian breezes and dramatic sunset as we celebrated this special day of remembrance with family and friends.

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Art in an Ancient Castle...

We have met some amazing people who have exposed us to such a variety of aspects of Spoleto life we never would have discovered on our own.  One of those individuals is Anna Wood- an American and a patron of the arts who owns a castle, high above the Umbria hillside. 

La Fortezza di Pissignano seems the ideal setting for entrancing an audience. Built in the the early 1000s, as protection for a variety of nobles throughout the ages, its stone walls and ancient church's frescoes seemed to enrich the paintings, sculptures and music that filled the medieval spaces.  It was one of those nights in Italy that will be unforgotten.

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Last Port of Call... Split, Croatia!

For our last stop on our cruise, we strolled the streets of Split- armed with the equivalent of $40 in Croatian kuna, a city map and enthusiasm to just get lost in this 1,700 year old seaport on the eastern shore of the Adriatic.

We meandered through the 'green' market- a sea of colors and sounds.  I wanted to buy all the lush fruits and vibrant fresh flowers.  We became reinvigorated while listening to an organ concert in the Church of St. Francis (13th century).  We studied the history of this unknown to us city while rambling about the shoreline.  We ended our visit by people watching at the harbor while having drinks and reminiscing about all the unforgettable memories we made on this ten day intermission.

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An amazing day in Turkey...
Our fifth day of cruising was spent in Turkey with the first stop being a visit to the House of Mary, the place where she is believed to have died.  This place of pilgrimage visited by thousands of tourists every year, maintains its holiness for the Muslims as well as for the Christian world. People believing in the godly qualities of the Virgin Mary come here and drink from the water, believing it to be sacred.
The ruins of Ephesus take on a value and a special significance among the numerous sites of an archaeological interest. This is due to its inestimable artistic patrimony, its titanic heritage of history and culture, and the inexhaustible beauty and charm of its archaeological site.  Ephesus is considered one of the great outdoor museums of Turkey, in fact perhaps of the world.  Its richness surprised us all.  We all loved Turkey.
Ephesus was a popular Gladiator fight location and a large burial ground.  What  a treat to see this reenactment.
A visit to the National School of Turkish Carpet Making  was a very educational experience. We were told how the carpets were made with excellent examples.  We were then taken, as a group, into a room and given delicious snacks and drinks.  Assistants began the show:  they unfurled a carpet with a flourish, tossed it in the air and let it fall to the floor. Another followed, unfurled with a crisp snap. Another, and another, and another. Soon it seemed it was raining carpets. It was quite an impressive show!  The colors and patterns cascaded before us.  Dust filled the air.
If I had a place to put a rug, I probably would have bought one.
We all appreciated the truth in advertising in Turkey.  It was a country of warm people, spectacular history and unexpected beauty.

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