When in Rome for Easter

Rome DomeROME, ITALY – This is an armchair tour of the Vatican churches, inside and out. Amazing 360 degree photos. More than 360, 360 all directions. Want to look straight down at the paving beneath you, straight up at the dome above, left, right? Anywhere. What I always wonder was where was the camera? How does that work? I’ve seen the effect of course but never such a regal documentation of one subject. And I can’t imagine how they set it up the lighting so well over and over. I know, forget the technology and just enjoy. It is better than being there in person. You just see everything.

And plus, even though Palm Sunday and Easter are almost upon us, no lines! Divertivi molto.



Basilica Papale SAN PIETRO



Kiki finds a couple things to do in Umbria

Every time we go to Italy, and this is a dozen years now, we find things we can’t now imagine that we missed. Its just an embarrassment of riches waiting for us to discover.

Maybe a couple times in our Life After Buying a House in Umbria, people have said “well, gee, if you buy one place then you’ll never be able to go anywhere else. And won’t you get, like, bored?” As if. Every time we go to Italy, and this is a dozen years now, we find things we can’t now imagine that we missed. Its just an embarrassment of riches waiting for us to discover.
That came to mind when we got this fun-filled note from our buddy and co-owner Kiki. We have so much unscheduled merriment there in Panicale that we often teasingly refer to it as Panic Alley. What the heck, same general pronunciation?

If I interject and annotate her note I’ll put my words in Italic and in parens.

See you in Italy!


Hey Styooo, (how Anglo Saxonish name Stewart comes out in Latin-ish Italian. Regardless, music. Well, to my ears)

Pix when we can. (Fine, fine. I’ll do mine!) Too busy having fun. Here’s what we’ve done:

Wednesday arrival, lunch at GMB. (over over the top coffee, pastry extravaganza at bargain prices just outside Cast.d.Lago. fotos here hint of same. enclosed is their idea of civilized morning nosh, above, and box lunch, below. BTW, I think the lunch delights came to under $10 USD. Box and bows included.)

Thursday Morning discovered Salvatore’s, the new take-out in Panicale. Best bread ever, plus wonderful seafood lasagna (recommended by Giovanna) and torta di Napoli.

Thursday Night we hit Cortona to visit Kathleen’s Peaks Island friends. Saw Pia! Air-kissed and said ‘hi.’ (that’s Pia of Nando and Pia fame our old friends at Bar Sport by the intersection of the piazzas in the center of town. Just beside City Hall and across from theater) Kathleen’s friends want to buy here, so we told them about seeyouinitaly! (why, thank you) They’re smart, cute and funny. Yet more nice friends to have here.
Friday, back to Salvatore’s, then Assisi and our first gelato of the season.

Saturday Ikea in Firenze — wait ’til you see my new living room! …

Sunday, back to Salvatore’s, then brunch at Elida’s with Sophia + Anna; Sunday evening dinner at the Peter/Sarah’s with gang of ten others. so good to see.

Monday Siena, so Kathleen could see St. Catherine’s head — and thumb.

Today, Cetona with the Bowers to visit their antiques guy — and have a three hour lunch.

Tomorrow, Rome. Jim is driving us because he wants to see the Coliseum, too. Nice, eh?
(they are back. loved it eternally they said. But, no. They didn’t elaborate. Assumed they were just still having too much fun. Wait, wait “I’ve got mail)

Rome. That’s a riot about the earthquake. We were rather like you, Midge and friends when you were at the Autogrille when the place had been evacuated for a faux bomb scare: innocents abroad. We knew nothing. Jim drove us to Rome to pick up Rob, who slept his whole flight and was plenty rested. We parked near the Circus Maximus, walked to the Colosseum, Forum, Pantheon, Piazza Navona and Trevi Fountain. Had a good lunch — and the most incredible ‘iced’ cappuccino. Lovely. Lots of walking on what seemed like terra firma!
(versus the italian word for earthquake: terremoto)
No time yet to swim in pools, patronize favorite local restaurants or take pix. Definitely will!

What … flood? At the office? (can you hear the roar of the fans? she’s in Italy, we’re here with broken water heater water lapping at our office door. sigh. Almost fixed! YAY.)

Baci, baci.


It’s a bird . . . it’s a plane . . . huh. It IS a plane. Hi, hi, it’s Stew and Midge – winging our way by Ryanair, from Stanstead outside London to Ciampino in Rome. So, how WAS Ryanair you ask?

Midge and Kiki in our Umbrian Garden. Salute.PANICALE, Umbria– . . . It’s a bird . . . it’s a plane . . . huh. It IS a plane. Hi, hi, it’s Stew and Midge – winging our way by Ryanair, from Stanstead outside London to Ciampino in Rome. So, how WAS Ryanair you ask? Well, gosh, everyone just put the total fear in us of Ryanair. Said it would be gritty and more bare bones than we could possibly imagine. We prepared for the el-cheapo worst. But, it was fine. Can I say this? Will anyone believe me if I say our Ryanair flight was much better than the AA flight we took across the pond. Those AA seats were of finest Corinthian Masonite mixed with construction rubble. Our Ryanair flight on the other hand had comfy leather seats, was clean, clean and clean. Ciampino and Stanstead were both fine. Seemed new and with every service I would expect. And for us, Ciampino was fast. Much calmer than the regular Rome airport. Starting from Ciampino clipped an hour off any drive we have ever taken from Fiumincino. Fiumicino is clear out of town over on the Mediterranean for crying out loud. Ciampino is on the East and just way easier to get to A1 from there. Two hours from Ciampino to Panicale vs at least three hours on any other flight landing at Fiumicino. Maybe just luck. No idea as we have only taken that flight this one time. More news as it becomes available.

We kept following the A1 signs north (Firenze/Napoli) and at a certain point it looked like we could keep following the big green signs north that said Firenze but we also could see an A1 sign to Firenze and we took that. It ended up saying Napoli/Orvieto and was three faultless lanes wide and no trucks to speak of until we got to Orvieto. It may be that we took A1 sooner rather than continue on the “annulare” around Rome. They run rather parallel. Around Orevieto we recognized where we were and started getting regular truck traffic. Regardless, at that point we were the horse sensing his dinner back at the barn and we were galloping down the road. Andrea, (Masolino’s restaurant next to our house) put the kettle on, we’re on our way. Let the festivities and the double kisses around town begin. We’re almost home. We will know we really have arrived when we have settled in and are having lunch in the garden with Kiki. And that is just what we did the first day as you can see. Look how tall the rosemary has grown since we’ve been gone. Do you think it missed us? We can hope.

Can’t tell you what a rush it was to see the New York Times article about Panicale taped to the door of Aldo’s Cafe here. Felt like a part of us had arrived before we did. So negligent in writing. Pouting about needing new experiences on the ground? Maybe that was it, also we were moving and having a graduation for our youngest daughter. When did life get so crazy busy? Our family motto requires it: Having Fun as Fast as We Can. Words to live by. Up to a point!

Ok, I love it when we can really say:

See you in Italy!

Stew Vreeland

Our Foreign Correspondent in Italy for the Holidays

UMBRIA, TUSCANY, Italy — Our lucky friend Kiki is in Italy for the holidays. Three weeks this time. (Dec 6-28th) She owns the house there with us and it is a joy to have that in common with her. We like to say that it is her fault we own the house, in the first place. Midge and I were happily renting there in Panicale and Kiki came to visit and after about two days said “Have you seen that house up the street?” Pause, skip a beat, she continues “Lets buy it together”. And we were off to the races and happy ever after. Now she’s deliriously happy with the new wireless broadband in the house and she and her trusty laptop are dropping us a lovely stream of notes, the fun light moments that fill a trip with memories. I feel like we are there when I read her emails and thought I could spread that happy feeling around.

the Kiki Report, live from Italy

Buon giorno styooo

Dear Stew,

I’m sorry about your phone. None of the TIM guy’s ideas made sense. I told him you were here a lot and always charging it with credit. By the way, your telefonini still receives incoming calls; I tested it. Rather like the land line: A telemarketer called the other day (incredible) even though we can’t call out.

The weather has been lovely. Some rain, but mostly unseasonably warm and sunny. We’re trying to hit as many activities as we can. Your Umbria online link (on our Italy Links page, under “Umbria”) has been great.

Let’s see, what’s new in Panicale : Lights on at the Contessa’s … No Gun yet – get some recording that doesn’t sound like her … The bancomat ate my card Friday, perhaps because of that being gone a year and a half thing again. Tried to talk to them today, they said come back tomorrow. Got caught in another Catholic holiday Friday, Feast of the Annunciation. You’d think I’d know. It’s a big one, the official kick off for Christmas, which is really nice (as opposed to pre-Halloween, like us.) Todd and I went to the first ‘Soul Christmas’ event that night. A group from New Orleans rocked the church in Paciano. Very Aretha.

Wednesday we go to Rome for lunch with Massimo and Anna. Then we’re trying to decide about Venice for Christmas. There was a nice write-up in the Sunday Times travel section just before we left with things to see and do. I emailed the two hotels they recommended — and there’s room at the inn! The Chiusi train guy told me there’s a four-hour InterCity from here. Sounds good to me. What do you think? Should we go there before Christmas, and spend the holidays here? Or should we spend the holidays there? I’m concerned that so many places close down starting December 24 at noon — and will be closed the 26th, too.

No motorcycles to rent, thank God. And Todd’s too much of a downeaster for a scooter.

Love to all — and thank you again for giving me the top floor. I love hanging out the window!



The spys who love you

Dear Stew,

I am hooked, hooked, hooked on wireless. Todd is upstairs preparing to grill, yes grill, chicken from the cute butcher’s (Giugliana) over an open fire. Here I am downstairs loving your emails.

We would be thrilled to house spy for you. Will definitely see what we can find out.

Heard from Gun today. She said she’d try emailing you to see if that works.

Oh the Italian words I’ve learned today. Mostly when I walk away from someone and realized all the things I just said, wrong.

More (don’t you just know it?) later.

Ciao ciao,



Major House!

Dear Stew,

We visited today, disposable camera in hand. Gate was locked, but signs of fresh tracks in the wet clay. Todd got in and took pix inside and out. What a spectacular location! On the way out, we met a truck. Hailed the guy and it turns out he’s a worker there. As you instructed, I said we were ‘amici di padrona,’ and told him it was beautiful work (at least that’s what I think I said … I’m so discouraged with my painful Italian.) Asked him if he’s working alone; he said no, there are two or three. Asked him if he’s working on the house, and he said outside — I guess where the new foundation is. Anyway, lots and lots of equipment. The much-envied ‘gru,’ (the construction cranes you see everywhere in Italy) cement mixer and palettes of brick and stone. Something’s clearly happening there.

There are pomegranates drying here in the kitchen. What kind of a report shall I give you?

Definitely feel free to use any words. Did you know that foreign correspondent was my childhood ambition? That and scuba diver, like Lloyd Bridges on ‘Sea Hunt.’

Saluti a tutti,




Oh Stew, I’m so sorry: You could have used my pomegranate update for that gorgeous blog page about pomegranates! It’s beautiful, and I love the writing. I’ll post a comment when I can. Do I really need a password? The pomegranates are burnishing nicely. Mostly golden very firm to the touch. They’re not light as air yet. Does that come later?

Went to Rome yesterday for lunch with Anna and Massimo. How cool is that? It’s been lovely here. The dawns are especially beautiful, soft and misty. Today I have to make reservations. Wish me luck that Masolino’s has room for us Christmas Eve lunch … and Patrizia Christmas Day lunch. The only urgency I have ever heard in Panicale is about booking for Christmas. Very cute. Shows where their priorities are.

Do you know what’s going on with the restauro at the Podesta? Public offices?

Ciao baby,



Hotels, hotels, hotels

Dear Stew,

No room at the Orto(Hotel Orto di Medici, Florence). Panicking, I ran upstairs and snagged your ‘See You In Italy!’ book for hotel picks in Florence. We’re now booked at the Pensione Annalena, which Bon Appetit recommended in May 05 as a ‘best value.’ I’ll give you a true foreign correspondent report on it when I return. 126E, near Boboli Gardens … so a completely new location. I’ve barely been on that side of the river.

Now to see if Antico Noe is aperto dicembre 27.

Chow chow,



Antico Noooooo

Finally got ‘the man’ at Antico Noe. (Called earlier and was told to call back.) He says he may or may not be open on the 27th, our one and only night in Florence and last night in Italy.

In any case, he won’t take a reservation. Artistes. We’ll give it a shot. If that doesn’t work we’ll try one of the restaurants in your fabulous ‘See You In Italy!’ book. Of course, there’s always one of the restaurants in the Cibreo constellation. I ate at the Cibreo trattoria two years ago with Molly and Frank … Steve Siegelman recommended Cibreo recently when I emailed him about his sound system (and oh by the way, Mr. Food Expert, where should we eat in Florence?) … and Massimo did yesterday. Can’t miss, if any of them are open that day …

Chow ancora,


Telefo no

Dear Stew,

I have a new telefonino number. I’m not even going to memorize it. Still heartbroken I lost the old one. Those digits made sense to me.

Know the best thing about going to Rome? Coming back to Panicale. I loved walking through the gate last night after a ‘veloce’ trip on the InterCity. The street lamps were on … soft American jazz sifted
through the loud speakers (Is that a holiday thing? I don’t remember the sound of music here before.) … and endless sparkling darkness off our garden.

Tomorrow night we’re going to Jane Parker’s for drinks, then Boldrino’s. Looks very cute and the couple seem sweet.

They’ve been working in the garden below us. Very structured.

Just had a coffee with Bruno at the ‘club.’ I’m waiting for the farmacia to open. Todd a il rafreddore. Have to get something for sore throat and earache. Jane says the Umbrian cure for earache is warm olive oil and onion … poured into the ear!

Ciao ciao,



Thanks for the heads up on that home cure Kiki. I’m never going to complain of an earache around an Umbrian bearing Onions. Happy Holidays to all!

See you in Italy,



DATELINE: ALL OF ITALY— NEWS FLASH! ITALY WINS! THEY ARE IN THE WORLD CUP SOCCER FINALS. OPPONENT TO BE DECIDED TONIGHT. EITHER FRANCE OR PORTUGAL. Forza Azzuri! Yay Italian Blue. Did you see the match yesterday? Nice of them to have it on the Fourth of July. Wow. What a match. Beating unbeaten Germany in Germany. OMG. There must be much dancing in the streets in “football” crazed Italy today. FINAL MATCH ON FRIDAY, JULY 9TH.

We return you now to our regularily scheduled blog:



PANICALE, Umbria— There is a Roman family who live on the street below us. And some other Romans who live beside us. Now we have another new neighbor from Rome: Amselmo. He’s not new. Just new to us. Like many a Roman in Panicale, they are more often than not actually originally from Panicale, but they live and work in Rome. And come home to Panicale on the weekends. It’s a couple hours and couldn’t be easier for them. He and his wife have a building down the street from us. They live on the top two or three floors and for the last year or so have been renovating the ground floors of his building into a stylish weekend home for his adult kids. We’ve been watching the progress every time we go by and if Amselmo’s there he invites us in. Very much a constant twinkle in the eye kind of guy. He did the place for his kids to lure them to Panicale but no dice, they didn’t come as often as he had hoped, so he’s selling it.


ROME, Italy— They say Rome wasn’t built in a day. But we saw the heck out of it in a day. Did not know you could do that. So, I had to be coaxed and cajoled into spending a day in Rome. Well, I got my just deserts there. What a fine and fun day in the sun that turned out to be. Like all recent converts, I’m all fired up and ready to go again at the drop of a hat. Mood swings? Yike. Here’s the no-stress way we spent the day. Got up at seven. See that wasn’t so hard, now was it Stew? Had a leisurely coffee with Aldo, caught the 8:59 Chiusi to Rome Termini. Trenitalia (trains of italy) by the way, is pretty much bulletproof train schedule site. With brother Roger and his wife Donna in hand we pulled into the Rome station at 10:46. I defy any one to pilot a car to central Rome in an hour and three quarters from Panicale in the middle of Umbria. Usually it takes us three solid hours to get to Romes’s airport. I’m guessing the trip to the center of town would be a comparable driving nightmare.

The train pulled in right on time, ten euros later, by cab (yes, yes we could have walked but we didn’t know that now did we?) we were at Hotel Giuliana on Via Agostino Dpretis. Antonio greeted us happily as Roger’s reservation filled his last room. Hey, Antonio, save us a room. We will be back!


We found the hotel in DK Eyewitness Travel under “Rome” under “Termini”. This book proved bulletproof too. So helpful for scooting around town. Ok, one drawback. The book is not only heavy with detail, it is just plain heavy. Another time I might just read, review and leave at home. But as a security blanket, it was worth its weight in gold. A slightly braver Roman Traveler might find true happiness with just one Dam map. We used our really tough, light, durable Van Dam “Street Smart Rome” folding map a hundred times in the one day. Unlike a lot of embarrassingly large, bed sheet sized maps, this one is discrete and folds out more like a brochure. Colorful, simple, helpful, laminated. Would not go without it.


So, what did those resources help us see in one easy day? Lets start at the Terminal:

Hotel. Got in, chatted up the nice staff, got settled, oriented.
Coliseum. This was no drive by. We did the complete guided tour. See below.
Roman Forum
Hadrian’s Column
Victor Emanuel Monument. Also see below.
Bernini’s Elephant based obelisk
The Pantheon!
Trevi Fountain

All on foot and all casual. This was absolutely not one of those forced marches tourists sometimes inflict on themselves. We’re way to lazy for that. We stopped, we gawked, we took each other’s pictures in front of every piece of carved marble in town, we sat in the sun, we ate paninnis, we licked gelatis. And then, Midge and I caught the 5:14 back to Chiusi after making sure Roger and Donna were all organized, finding them tickets for their next day’s trip to the airport. We showed them the trick to catching that train. (The trick: that train comes in off to the side of the major tracks. To your right as you are looking at the trains going to every corner of Italy. To the side and waaay down the corridor. That’s right, just keep going. Airport train is a bit different as it is sort of inter-city, special deal) The train station in Rome has become very uptown and cool. Like a trendy mall versus the greasy gritty third world dump I remember it being. I was, and remain, impressed. With train, station and Rome.


What a lovely way to spend a sunny Sunday. To think that two days ago my sister in law was wearing my parka! If I had had a wool scarf in Montepulciano even the day before, I would have worn it too. Today Rome was blessed with Tshirt weather and we were reveling in it. And loving the fact that a lot of the city was closed to cars and major streets around the forum were reserved for pedestrians and bicycles. Not sure what the occasion was, but regardless, let us just wave goodbye out our train window and say Viva Roma!

I hope to be writing up some Helpful Italian Train Riding Hints shortly. Fun for all ages.

Until then,

See you in Italy,