The Surprise in Sorrento

I want you to know that, regardless of my pre-trip jitters, it was never my intention to wear stilettos in Italy.  Let’s take a quick peek at the cobblestone calliope to refresh ourselves as to why:

Hubby was busy packing the kitchen sink into his carry-on, when he pulled out my pair of blush pink, open-toe, ankle-strap heels and added them to the melee.

“What are you doing?” I asked, rolling my eyes for the fifty-third time in one day.

“You need these,” he insisted, “and that dress, too. Hand it to me.”

“Stop messing around,” I said, making a swipe at the shoes and missing, “this is not what you wear to hike Vesuvius in.”

But Hubby had an anniversary Secret and the Secret required stilettos. Two days before the trip, he finally admitted that much. Intrigued, I let him pack my extras in his case and wondered, “What is so important that he is willing to carry more shoes around the planet for?”

It’s not like going to Actual Italy wasn’t already fabulous enough.

It was a long day, touring Pompeii, but we returned to Sorrento and changed into our fancies. Then Hubby took my hand and he led me – ever so carefully – along the street towards the city center. The sun settled gently on the cliffs, tinting the sky…blush pink.

The Correale Museum of Terranova overlooks the Gulf of Naples. This three-story eighteenth century villa has art collections, artifacts, and period furnishings inside, and opulent gardens surround it. But most importantly of all…it hosts the Opera e Lyrica concert season in Sorrento.

We walked through an impressive entryway and signed in. Then, we joined others in the gardens for a glass of champagne. Night descended and strategic lighting showcased flowers and arches, trees and balustrades.

At the proper time, we all moved into a wide staircase, climbed up a level, and were escorted to pre-arranged seating in one of the galleries containing a grand piano. I was proper and gracious and dainty right up until I sat down and nonchalantly scanned the program.

The Three Tenors! What? All of my favorite opera music! At that very moment, Hubby won all of the romance points. He got a medal for excellent taste. Extra credit for hauling my shoes around for one single night of bliss. Is it so wrong to have a little PDA in a museum?

The pianist appeared just as it occurred to me that Pavarotti himself could not possibly be performing. A cellist walked onto the stage and arranged herself to one side, as I considered the options. When a violinist came front and center and began a glorious rendition of Cavalleria Rusticana, I realized it would be an instrumental rendition of my music.

The violinist was amazing. He played with passionate emotion and the freedom of a gypsy.

But he was not a tenor.

I had only formed the tiniest breath of a frown when I heard it. The opening strains of Granada, in a deep, rich tenor. The owner of this voice sauntered on stage to a welcoming applause and the party got started. After that, it was just one heart-bursting song after another, as Stefano Sorrentino, Francesco Fortes, and Alessandro Fortunato gave a performance worthy of the original Three Tenors in this small venue.

It was over entirely too soon.

Descending into the gardens once more, we had the opportunity to thank the artists and I stole a photo or two. “You were brilliant,” I gushed, “You made me cry.”

Hubby had also arranged to stay for a tasting of the local drinks and a handful of candies after the performance. The barkeep was happy to show us his wares and we tried the familiar limoncello and the obscure liquore di mirth (myrtle liquor). We tasted creme di melone, nurchetto (apple), and finocchietto de san costanzo which is infused with fennel. It tastes like licorice (or anise if you call it that) with no particular reference to absinthe, which is French anyway, right?

Not that I know anything about it.

There is a place, if you leave the Correale Museum of Terranova and go towards the bay and along a narrow one-way street. Park benches perch on a cliff, overlooking dark water, distant twinkling city lights, and cruise ships set like floating chandeliers in the harbor. It’s a quiet place. The air is warm. It feels good to unstrap those stilettos.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” asked Hubby after a kiss or two.

“You know it,” I said.

Hand in hand, barefoot over the cobblestones and swinging my heels by the straps, we went in search of our gelato shop.

It was a perfect night.

Do you love opera as much as I do?  Music and goosebumps? Here is their program, but with a good variety of links (I even snuck a soprano in, whoopsie and one in bass, bahaha). Pour yourself a glass of anything bubbly, sit back, and enjoy.

VERDI: Rigoletto; La donna e mobile
PUCCINI: Tosca; E lucevan le stelle
MASSENET: Thais; Meditation  (violin…swoon)
DONIZETTI: L’Elisir d’amore; Una furtiva lagrima
LEONCAVALLO: Pagliacci; Recitar…vesti la giubba  (sob)
PUCINI: Turandot; Nessun Dorma
VERDI: La Traviata; Libiam nei lieti calici  (salute!)
CAROSONE: Medley canzoni napoletane
D’ANNIBALE: O paese d o sole
CAPUA: Maria mari
CANNIO: O surdato nnamurato
CAPUA: O sole mio
MODUGNO: Nel blu dipinto di blu   (Ed Sullivan Show no less)
BOCELLI: Con te partiro  (I will listen to this forever)
DALLA: Caruso  (His voice, his style…rock n roll?)
CURTIS: Torna a Surriento
DENZA: Funiculi Funicula   (This was performed in the COLOSSEUM! Clap along!)

It’s Time for a Give-Away!

This September is overflowing with happy things and I’m about to pass it on to you!

It was not enough that I spent my big bad birthday lounging in a spa oasis, sipping lemon water and covered in red mud. Nor was it adequate that kid number five finally got his driving permit and can use his mended ankle enough to get himself to school – as a senior. Woot! Pumpkin Spice Everything is finally here. My nails are painted a fabulous combination of orchid and metallic glitter that we dubbed “Unicorn Farts”.

Life is good.

But wait. There’s more.

Yep, we are about to depart for our 30th Anniversary Trip to Italy. Meaning, of course, that I’ve got my five items packed and Hubby is still wondering whether four suitcases will be adequate for himself. It’s fun to watch.

But here’s the best news: you, my Blog Tribe, are coming along for the ride. You know who you are. Those of you who invite me into your email-box and sit for a chat and a cuppa. You won’t fit into my little suitcase, so we are going to switch up our blog game for the next couple of months.

Everyone listening?

Here’s how it works: If you follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook, you will see some photos coming through while we are tramping around the thigh-high stiletto boot of the Mediterranean, complete with witty hashtags (unless the jet lag wins, in which case you get what you get and don’t throw a fit). #italyplayshackysackwithsicily

Meanwhile, if you are one of the Tribe members who actually Subscribe to my blog (I love you so much), you are going to get the good stuff. After I return from galavanting, I shall sit myself down and blog all the adventures for you…and I am NOT going to post them onto Facebook, per usual. The photos are only a tease. #boohoo

Nope, only those of you with the secret insider club VIP super special Tribe status are going to Italy!

Yes, lovely friends, I am requesting that you stop everything right now and click in the little box up here with your email and Subscribe to the blog. You will love it. We have a secret handshake and everything. Only Subscribers will be getting the travel blogs and the posts will continue through October and November. Facebook will be hearing crickets. Nada. Zilch. #zippo

You important Tribe Members will also receive additional photos, recipes, and insider tips that no travel book will ever tell you! Where to go, what to see, which app on your phone most let you down….what Hubby might do if there’s no backseat driving available on the trains….

I will be tossing euros into the air and making it rain on the ruins of ancient civilization and you are coming with me.

They say Italian food in America is nothing compared to actual Italian food. Only one way to find out…

Your new Subscription goes into a drawing for a Prize From Actual Italy!

I will be scouring the duomos, canals, vineyards and metros for just the right thing. Don’t get crazy. I can’t fit a gondola in my carry-on. Or can I? There’s only one way to find out: Subscribe with an email address and start singing “O Sole` Mio” in the shower.

Don’t miss this limited time opportunity! Subscribe now! Even if you already Subscribe! Many of you have updated your email addresses without updating them in our blog Subscription list. Put another email into the box. Surprise your mom and sign her up. She always wanted to be in a Tribe. One she didn’t have to wash dishes in.

Now that’s a good Tribe.

If you are already in our Tribe, post a Comment below about the one thing you would love to see in Italy and I will add your name to the Drawing as well. Prize awarded in next blog (around October 6th)

Planning a Roman Holiday

So I’ve been doing some homework on Italy. Rome, to be exact. It’s the first stop on our itinerary for next months big “We managed to stay married for HOW long?” anniversary trip to actual Europe.

Because after thirty years of dues, you should get to cash out. In euros.

We’re sampling the country’s smorgasbord, squeezing in a little of everything: Rome for savory big city vibe, Sorrento for a sting of menacing volcanic ghost town flavor, Florence for piquant vineyard and villa countryside, Cinque Terre of the salty Mediterranean cliff dwellers, and Venice for a tangy dessert. Venice may be more like stinky cheese than tiramisu, but let’s not judge before taking a bite first.

I have learned a little Italian in the meantime, my phone app turning it into a game which makes me compete for the next level but insists that I learn grammar instead of vocabulary, so I can tell you in very clear Italian that “the boy eats an apple” but cannot ask you for an apple myself.

I don’t want to starve in Italy.

So I memorized torta (cake), gelato (ice cream), , and te` al latte (milk) e zucccero (sugar), which is at the top of my list. Surprisingly, my Spanglish has been pretty helpful, and some words translate directly: festa, pizza, si, no.

“Pasta” covers all manner of delights but should not be confused with “basta” which means “enough already!”

I’m set. But this is not enough information to navigate a big city.

I haven’t been able to plan beyond day two in Rome, and I’ve been staring at it for a month.

Rome is older than your mother. Rome drives like your mother. You will never see all of Rome in  two days. Like Disneyland, there is above-ground Rome, underground Rome, take a picture with a gladiator Rome, and a hop-on-hop-off ride that goes in circles just to relieve your cobblestone tromping soles. I’m hoping they have a little pineapple gelato stand next to the gate.

We must stop in and see the Pope. I’m pretty sure he’ll have some thoughts for this blog. Wise words like, “Be sure to buy a little Papal snow globe in the gift shop!” I always wondered what he keeps in that hat of his.

Although you can purchase bottles of holy water, I was warned not to drink it. Which is silly, because only a fool would get pregnant at my age. I will focus instead on the myriad of sparkling fountains around the city. I’m guessing one of them could be the Fountain of Youth and I’m happy to sample them all and let you know.

Speaking of which, some women got into a fight over a selfie-spot near the Trevi Fountain the other day and got Rome all worked up over whether they should close access to it. They should take a page from the Book of Rollercoaster and mount a camera there. When tourists have a spat, they can purchase their photos at the booth.

Imagine the possibilities!

I myself hate being stared at and from what I can tell, Rome is nothing but statues. Cherubs and saints and frolicking water nymphs and Italian men on street corners. It’s like Greece sent Medusa over and the Italians said, “Do your worst” and now whoever’s left is just holding up lampposts and smirking over the fact that they can take my money to show it all to me.

“Hey lady!” they’ll call out like circus carnis, “You wanna see a really old thing?”

And they will laugh all the way to the bank. Right behind Mickey Mouse.

It really is legit, though, the ruins have the scorch marks to prove it. Everyone appears confused as to why Nero would just light the place up like that, but it’s obvious to me what happened: they had ants. Rome was built – quite unknowingly until it was too late, and much like my own palazzo – on seven ginormous ant hills.

At some point, they make you crazy and there is only one option left. Basta.

Hand me my fiddle.

Anniversary Antics

This weekend, Hubby and I will celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary.

Photos clearly show that we were twelve years old at the time. Arranged marriages are always a good idea.

Hubby had recently had his braces removed.

Mine went on the following year.

Enough water has gone under the bridge in our relationship to establish a moat around our castle, a lazy river, and maintain several substantial waterfall features.

We recently added a couple of swans on top.

Here and there it has carved slot canyons in the landscape of our lives and you can hike around in them so long as you keep in mind that, at any random moment and no matter how brightly the sun is shining overhead, you could be dashed to your death in a flash flood.

Truth.

Other than taking a moment of silence to commemorate the rash deeds of our youth, we are casting about for some form of team congratulatory activity. A high-five, but with a huge price tag attached to prove our sincerity.

After thirty years of hanging out with someone, it’s hard to come up with an original idea.

Hot air balloons, world travel, dedicating my firstborn….is all so yesterday.

What are we supposed to come up with for our 30th?

Walk on the moon?

My girlfriends did some creative things, just last month.

We watched one couple as they renewed vows in a backyard sunset ceremony and video-taped their guests via drone, as we lit sparklers to create a huge glittering heart on fire. Wearing stilettos was worth eating wedding cake surrounded by millions of twinkle lights.

Another girlfriend texted me with tears of joy: her Hubby had gotten her a new transmission for their 20th.

Some romantics just like to show off.

And we still have two Golden Anniversaries to attend. What to do?

The Traditional Anniversary Gift List – which assuredly was made up by a woman because they are in charge of making lists – is lengthy and laughable.

It was invented before Pinterest and bless her heart, she tried to cover the bases.

Here I present to you my research, along with some much better thoughts.

Traditional Gift   |    Modern Gift   |    My Suggestion

  1. Paper  |   Clock   |   Chocolate
  2. Cotton   |   China   |   His-n-Hers Remotes
  3. Leather   |   Crystal/Glass   |   Tums
  4. Fruit/Flowers   |   Electrical Appliances   |   Wine
  5. Wood   |    Silverware   |    Nanny for a Year
  6. Candy/Iron   |   Wood Objects   |   A Good Dental Plan
  7. Wool/Copper   |   Desk Sets/Pens, Pencils   |   Housekeeper
  8. Pottery/Bronze   |   Linens/Lace   |   Wine-in-a-Box
  9. Willow/Pottery   |   Leather Goods   |   Lottery Tickets
  10. Tin/Aluminum   |   Diamond Jewelry   |   Tequila
  11. Steel   |   Fashion Jewelry/Accessories   |   Get Out of Jail Free Card
  12. Silk/Linen   |   Pearls/Colored Gems   |   A Reliable Car
  13. Lace   |   Textiles/Furs   |   Cat
  14. Animals (Ivory)   |   Gold Jewelry   |   401K
  15. Crystal   |   watches   |   Kicky Reading Glasses

20. China   |   Platinum   |   Roadtrip to Yuma, AZ

25. Silver   |   Silver   |   Hair Plugs

30. Pearl   |   Diamond   |   Neck Wattle Reduction

35. Coral   |   Jade   |   Hearing Aids

40. Ruby   |   Ruby   |   Fruit-of-the-Month Club

45. Sapphire   |   Sapphire   |   Tandem Skydiving

50. Gold   |   Gold   |   Form Card from the President

60.  Diamond   |   Diamond   |   Faces on a Smuckers Jar

75.  Diamond/Gold   |   Platinum   |   Wheelchair Racing Stripes

85.  Moonstone   |   Wine   |   Oxygen Tank Racing Stripes

90.  Granite   |   Marble   |   Faces on a Milk Carton

Because if you made it to your 90th Wedding Anniversary, the granite is obviously a tombstone.

A nice tombstone.

Did you see what the modern lady did here?

She was starting to wonder if living past the 35th anniversary was even a modern probability, so she hedged her bets and stuck diamonds and gold between the 10th and 15th dates.

Smart list lady.

I don’t want to wait until I’m old as dirt to get good loot, either

After that apparently, you only need to bother every few years and if you go past your 60th, you were married at birth or your spouse and you are suspended in frozen test tubes somewhere.

That’s cheating.

The List is full of creative ideas and if I try just a little, I’m sure I can find a token of my lengthy love to my main squeeze.

But it’s not like we ladies need a legit excuse to go out and buy the sparklies and forge Hubby’s name on the card. When he sees the price tag we can just say, “But Honey, the List is a real thing, it’s right here on the internet. It’s tradition.”

And he will say, “Oh, so it is, and it’s as important as all the stuff we needed in our actual wedding ceremony, too, like flowers that matched the napkins and ten bridesmaids in tulle. I see there’s a category for electrical appliances. You’re gonna love the motorcycle you got me.”

Maybe we’ll play a romantic game of Rock/Paper/Scissors.

Otherwise known as Diamond/Cruise Ticket/Spa Date.