PANICALE, Umbria— WE ARE HERE IN ITALY! The first thing you do when you get here is hug your way around town. Kids, women, men of all ages. You are right, We sure do not do that in Iowa. Well, not the real men anyway. OK, quando a Roma! You know that opening scene in the old TV show “Cheers”? Norm walks in and everyone goes N-O-R-M-! They make us feel like that here. Does my heart good to feel missed. Which is only fair because wow we really did some missing of our own. All right. Hugs taken care of. Then, sort of in order:


Balcony dinners by sunset over the lake

Dinner out in the country with friends serving fresh mussels in garlic. Oh my.

Swimming in Lake Trasimeno. In May! Splash down in Italy indeed. Barely landed and we are taking a dip in the biggest and best pool on the peninsula: Lago Trasimeno. Thank you George and Litta for a fab day at the beach. PAR TEE BARGE PAR TEE BARGE.

A concert in a baroque church in Panicale

Finding my brother Roger and his wife Donna at the Rome airport. An all day affair. Ah Roma. All’s well that ends well, they finally got in from Amsterdam.

Boy were they tired. Boy, did the fireworks keep them up.

Saw four properties in Cortona, met friends, had an outrageous good dinner.

THEN we unpacked. Wild times here in Umbria. But don’t get me wrong. No complaining allowed and there has been some fine gardening and some heavy sitting in the piazza digesting the scene and the pastries and the coffeecoffeecoffee.

More news and pictures from Panic Alley shortly.

Midge and Grayson (baby daughter returned from the wilds of Costa Rica) are flying in now. We will have a good full house and a full and rich vacation. Springtime in Umbria is a fine fine thing. Highly recommend it to one and all. Hopefully tonight is PIZZA night.

See you in Italy!


Splashdown in T minus three, two . . .

This is the final week of the our countdown to Italy! Leaving Thursday, so if i can just hold my breath through Tues and Wed . . . we’re goingoingone. In the meantime, here’s our wet ’n wild foreign correspondent Amy of the Arno with an exciting new way to see Florence — by water. Thanks, Amy looks like great fun!


FLORENCE, Tuscany— Messing about with boats — what could possibly be more fun? Sailboats, ski boats, kayaks, rowboats, canoes — I’ve done ’emall. When I got to college in 1981 I was so excited to join Crew — alas, too small to row, too big to cox (despite my impressive vocal amps). 18 years and three kids later I decided my time had come. In 1999 I finally got some lessons and a single shell; in 2005 I found the discipline to train for the recreational race at the Head of the Charles (Boston) in October.

My 14-year-old thought that the race (and maybe even her mom) was pretty cool. She wanted to learn, and wanted to figure out a way to get other high school kids interested. I was happy to help, but there was one significant problem — rowing a single means one person with two oars. Most team rowing means each person has one oar (it’s called rowing ”sweep”) and I’d never done that before.


So, ”Emily”, I said, ”Why don’t you find us a rowing camp to attend during April break where we can learn sweep together?” A few hours and several web sites later, she informed me that she’d found the perfect place: good weather, great coach, sweep rowing, about the same pricetag as her usual ”Y” camp. There was, however, a tiny bit of small print: the camp happened to take place during a non-vacation week, and, oh yeah, it also happened to be in Italy.

What’s a mother (who LOVES rowing and LOVES Italy) to do? We saved our pennies and, on April 1, 2006, met Enzo and Eliza, the owners of the Terralba Rowing Camp in San Miniato.


The experience was truly magical. We stayed in their guest rooms and Enzo’s mother, Aida, treated us to her wonderful country cooking each evening. During the days we explored Tuscany with Eliza until training started at 4pm. We were the
only campers that week, so we trained with the high school club.

For you rowers out there, you’ll be impressed to hear that Emily and I learned to row a pair (one boat, two people, each with one oar) — the most challenging boat around because the rowers have to be perfectly synchronized (identical twins are ideal for a pair).

Emily was a natural, and politely tolerated her mother. Mid-week she got to row with another high school girl and they had a wonderful time.

But how incredible was Wednesday, when we travelled 30 minutes to Florence and got to use the facilities and boats of the Florence rowing club? Rowing along the Arno, cat-calls and curious gazes everywhere, enjoying a vantage point that few get to experience.

Afterward we sipped champagne on the club lawn (right below the Uffizi, by the way) and watched the 9-year-olds taking their first strokes on the learning barge.

We lived and worked in Italy that week. We met wonderful adults and kids, were part of a warm and loving family, and created memories that will last forever. OK if we come back next year?

See you in Italy!


Paris Match: Arsenal 1, Barcelona 2

Well, that game did not work out how we hoped it would. I thought London’s Arsenal had it in the bag. Their goalie hadn’t allowed a single goal in ten games, nearly 1,000 minutes of play, and he got the old red card early and the rest of the squad tuffed it out for a long time and then fell a bit apart under a blinding rain and a blistering Barcelona attack.

Did anyone else catch the match on ESPN? I did not expect so much pagentry and spectacle. Wow. The Wiley Traveler’s boyfriend Daniel promises pictures from right in the stands etc. We’ll see if he comes thru I have hopes! Even with tv coverage I can not imagine being there in person. Arsenal got a charter jet and took the whole staff from London to Paris for the match. Big times I’m sure. And yes, the signature player Thierry Henry was ripping mad the whole second half. Seriously outdone with his coach. The commentators later said the Arsenal coach lost the match and the Barcelona one won it. I totally saw their point. Their 10 man squad (one short because of their goalie being tossed out) had to have been just worn out, what with the rain and they got no replacements. Meanwhile, the 11 man Barcelona squad had replacements that came in and got things going.

Still a great match and still proudly wearing my Arsenal hat when I take off for Italy next week.

Coming up next: In other EUROPEAN SPORTING NEWS – rowing down the Arno through Florence. Friends just back from their adventure have all the details of this fun way to see Italy. Then in ITALIAN COOKING NEWS omg, the slowest of all Slow Foods. The Wiley Traveler herself has sent us the most amazing photos of the start-to-finish six day, long slow process of turning our slow-traveling garden snails into garlic buttered escargot. She promises the story to go with the pictures as soon as she gets back from Switzerland early next week.

See you in Italy (in only 6 days!)



This is a bit dizzying. But there we were, at an awesome San Salvadorean hideaway in Portland, Maine. (Tu Casa is a Wiley Traveler Discovery. Thank you Wiley!) Eating melt-in-your-mouth, IncredoTamales, washing them down with Horchatas and watching Spanish ESPN. Women’s billiards from Albuquerque, NM. You saw that one? At a commercial break, they were showing a promo for the upcoming European Champions League Finals . That would be Soccer. The match between the Arsenal Gunners (UK) and the Barcelona team, in Paris. MAY 17th I believe. I knew it was Arsenal because I recognized the jerseys in the promo. Why? Because I have one! Wiley’s friend gave it to me. As Wiley pointed out in her travelblog, Daniel works for Arsenal He, and everyone that works for Arsenal, will be in Paris all expenses paid. Big times afoot in Pareee.

Which reminds me. This continental stuff must be rubbing off. See that thing about soccer? Yeah. That was me? Talking about Soccer? Still can not bring myself to call IT football. Real football is Boston Patriots and whoever they are playing any given day. Soccer just confuses me. For example: Barcelona got to the finals by, what seems to be, a typical-of-soccer winning score. They played Milano to a barn-burning 0-0 tie. Huh? The part I did understand is that all-expense trip to Paris part.

Daniel gets back from that trip just in time to get on another flight to Switzerland where he and Wiley will be going to her school’s 50th anniversary party. The American School in Switzerland was a big part of making Wiley who she is today. We let the baby Wiley Traveler go off to Lugano when she was 14 and she’s never been the same. In a good way.

By the way, if anyone has ever seen or heard of a more beautiful school or location that this one, please let me know. TASIS (psst: some good photos on the link there) is a hilltop collection of villas overlooking almost tropical Lugano. Its palm-y parks and gardens run the length of the town along sparkling Lake Lugano’s shore. And the background for all of this? Snow covered alps rising straight up out of the other side of the lake. Purple bougainvillea, green grass, blue lake, white snow – all add to the shock value of lovely Lugano’s palette of pure, rich, bright colors. And the best part of this part of Switzerland? This is the Ticino. The Italian speaking province just one town north of the Milan airport. It goes like this: you get your rentacar at Milan’s Malpensa airport, steer it north, through Chiasso, immediately cross the border and you are in Lugano. Absolutely nothing like Milan. Milan inside out is Lugano. BizzaroMilan as Jerry Seinfeld might say. They are close, geographically, but a world apart. If you have to do a high school reunion, this is one great place to hold it! Mine would be in Conrad. Conrad, Iowa. Corn on three sides. Can I come to yours, Wiley?

No? Well, OK, but we will soon . . .

. . . see you in Italy! (12 days and yes, still counting)