Almost Midnight in Paris...

After a pretty full day of travel we are now settled into our very darling Paris apartment.  Our only objective today was to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower and we did. 

The Tower was a "temporary" construction by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Universal Exposition, but the tower was never dismantled and is now an enduring symbol of Paris.  It was a great introduction to the City of Lights.

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Pizza with Friends...
A discussion about pizza ovens led to an invitation for a magical evening in the hilltops of Umbria.  Adolfo and Darcy's Località Il Piano is a truly amazing place to dine!
While Darcy prepped for the dinner, I got to cuddle on sweet, new Filippo.
When asked, "What would you like to call the new baby?"  Benjamin (age 3) proclaimed, "Alfalfa!"  As it turns out, it is the name of a goat in one of his favorite books.  Falfa stuck.
They grow a huge amount of their own food.  The variety is amazing.  Here are figs drying.
Freshly picked strawberries for the homemade ice cream.
Their entire home is like a still life painting.
Including Falfa, napping on the kitchen table.
Aldofo's pizza oven is amazing and he is a skillful chef.  It is always fun to watch a master at work...building the fire, tending the pizzas and then remembering to take them out.
All the toppings were picked fresh from the farm with the cheeses made while we watched.
The star filled night...  A patio of friends...fantastic food and exceptional company.  It doesn't get much better than this!

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An evening of Accordion music...

Teatro Caio Melisso (1667) was the setting for an incredible evening of accordion music.  The Strumenti & Musica Festival is a showcase for some of the most accomplished international musicians as well as many young talents who are looking to emerge on the stage of one of the most important international accordion competitions.  Who knew?

I always said, "I feel truly in Italy when I hear accordion music", I just never heard it in such a venue played by such amazing musicians.  We were thoroughly impressed by the complexity of this unique instrument.

Trying to understand how one works is a struggle for me.   "It is played by compressing or expanding a bellows whilst pressing buttons or keys, causing valves, called pallets, to open, which allow air to flow across strips of brass or steel, called reeds, that vibrate to produce sound inside the body."  All I can really tell you is that the speed at which these accordionists played, with such passion and emotion, made me look at the accordion in an entirely different light.

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A series of "last times"...Assisi

As we count down to our departure from Italy (36 days from today), we find ourselves acknowledging that this is "our last time" doing various things.  Today's final visit was to Assisi with our neighbors, Jerry and Linda.

Of all the towns in Umbria, this was the place we seemed to frequent the most.  How can one not love the patron saint of animals and ecology?   We toured the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli which was constructed between 1569 and 1679 to enclose the 9th century little church, the Porziuncola, the most sacred place for the Franciscans (the photo of graffiti of 1538 is on the outer wall) . It was here that the young Francis understood his vocation and renounced the world in order to live in poverty among the poor and thus started the Franciscan Movement.

We then discovered the Basilica di Santa Chiara, a 13th-century church that houses the relics of St. Clare, friend and protege of St. Francis of Assisi, as well as the miraculous crucifix that spoke to Francis.

Lunch at our favorite restaurant, La Stalla, was the prelude to our final visit to the Basilica of San Francesco, one of Italy's foremost monuments (1228-1253). The short period of its construction, rare for a church of this size, is often explained as a measure of the great love that the people of the time had for St. Francis. By the mid 1400's pilgrims were flocking to Assisi from all parts of Europe and today the walled medieval town and its grand basilica are among the most visited of Christian shrines.

We flocked.  We ate.  We said our goodbyes to this wonderful hilltop mecca.  It was a great way to begin our weekend.

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Ferentillo with friends...

With our British friends, Ian and Eileen, we headed to the little town of Ferentillo for Le Rocche Raccontano (the fortresses tell stories).  "Technically a historical re-enactment, it is made up of fifteen living tableaux all set in the magnificent old town center of Ferentillo. Each episode relives a particular moment in the lengthy history of this ancient Umbrian town, from the pre-Roman Naharki tribes to the arrival of the Longobards and the building of the San Pietro in Valle Abbey, Pope Boniface VIII, the Lateran Chapter, the Cybo family, the Inquisition, the miracle of St. Sebastian, highwaymen and outlaws and, finally, the Great War of 1914-1918.

Our first stop was for dinner at La Taverna dell' Abbadia. It was a delicious meal of the local cuisine, "with its simple ingredients such as olive oil, truffles, vegetables and wild herbs that have been elaborated into tasty dishes through centuries of home cooking tradition and experience."

The only event on the program tonight was "The Blades of Albornoz" a re-enactment of prize archers, flag twirlers, a jester, swordsmen and a whole lot of guys in tights.  While certainly not the most interesting event happening over the course of the ten day festival, it was what fit in our schedules.  We were happy to be together, in the cool night air, feeling like we were in medieval Italy, if only for a few hours.

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A trip to Paris...

One of the profound wonders of Europe is that everything fantastic is in close proximity.  Eleven years ago we lived in Paris for a blissful summer month hence the memory evoking photos here.  Next week we will return to meander through its quaint rue and delight in all things French.

To get in the Parisian spirit, I recommend the new Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris, "a romantic comedy about a family traveling to the French capital for business. The party includes a young engaged couple forced to confront the illusion that a life different from their own is better." 

I feel better prepared after reading the book, Entre Nous:  A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl... "Why French women stay chic, love life, and don't get fat."

It will be an exciting week of remembering previous adventures and creating some wonderful new ones.

Il n'y a que deux endroits au monde où l'on puisse vivre heureux:  chez soi et à Paris.
(There are only two places in the world where we can live happy:  at home and in Paris.)
-Ernest Hemingway

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Our day in Pompeii...

After saying arrivederci to Cuffiano and all our new friends there, the Paternostros and Haerrs went to Pompeii for the day, a perfect way to conclude our Southern Italy sojourn.

The city of Pompeii is a partially buried Roman town-city near modern Naples.  It was destroyed and completely buried during a long catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius spanning two days in the year AD 79. The eruption buried Pompeii under 4 to 6 meters of ash and pumice, and it was lost for nearly 1700 years before its accidental rediscovery in 1749. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2,500,000 visitors every year.

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The foods of Cuffiano...
We were well fed.  A tavola non si invecchia (You don't age while seated for a meal.)
 The most delicious plate of pasta- ever.  What an incredible weekend.

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