Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, Google+ and of course “Blogging Connecting People”, is one of my sayings. I mean it opens up new ways to learn about other cultures, traditions and habits and then breaks down barriers the same way. Even more; it creates opportunities to make friends around the world and as a network evangelist, of course I love that. After almost 7 years of blogging, I have plenty of examples: Hosting the Oslo Blog Gathering in 2010 with about 30 participants from all over the world was of course an experience of a life time (photo on top is from the grand opening at the town hall) and after that traveling to Lisbon to visit Helena at Lelé Batita and Luis , the Portugal’s representatives.
For me Connecting People and Meet Up adventures actually started even before that; in France when Claudie and Pierre invited not only my wife and I, but another blog couple from Norway and a couple from Sweden as well. We had a jolly good time and photos tell more than a thousand words; so here is a collage from that week:
The hosts gave us a taste of France cuisine every day – we was at a jazz concert in their local town and we visited the beach at Bandol, in Marseilles and Toulouse.
Her are my posts from this wonderful week in France 2009:
1: Building friendships at Blog Gathering in South France
2: Blog Gathering at Ollioules in Provence France
3: Blog Gathering in Provence France visits Le Castelle
4: Norwegians visiting Montreux by Lake Geneva in Switzerland
You might have guessed why I put up this post right now? Yea; Blogging is still Connecting and gives the opportunities to meet up: We are meeting up with Claudie and Pierre again this week and are so much looking forward to seeing them again. So stay tuned, I will of course post about it when I get home and in the mean time you can follow us daily on Facebook!
Cinque Terre (means five lands) consists of 5 tiny villages connected by footpaths and linked by boat, rail, and trail. At the Northwest coast of Italy, they date as far back as the 13th century and sit on the hillsides of that plunge into the Mediterranean Sea. Colorful houses seem to hang on the cliffs. Local churches sound their daily chimes. And the land is terrace farmed for food. Surrounding these five villages is an infinite mosaic of vineyards, olive and lemon groves, and fruited trees. These agricultural plots seem to hang onto the sheer cliffs above the sea. And from these marvelous fields, we receive tangy local wines such as Sciacchetra, purely extracted olive oils, and delightful herbed pesto.
These five communities discourage auto traffic to preserve the tradition and ecological impact of the area – so they are best reached by train. It has now become a World Heritage Site and a UNESCO National Park. In fact, certain parts of the nearby sea are part of the National Park system as well. And it is the preservation of this area that makes for some clear water scuba diving and snorkeling.
The agriculture is of main concern here in Cinque Terre. All of the 5 towns and other rural villages are tied to each other in their quest to keep local farming alive. The towns people, like their forefathers, preserve the terraced farms as a means of income and property stability. While some of the farmland has been abandoned and is scrub, most have been passed on from generation-to-generation. They farm mostly wine grapes, olives, pears, and herbs. Each family plot is divided by old, dry-rock, stonewalls, built hundreds of years ago.
Monterosso al Mare is the most western of the 5 towns and the closest to being a classic beach town of the Italian Riviera. Vernazza, and Corniglia are just a few kilometers down the coastline.
The latter is different from the others because it is situated on a plateau, over 300 feet above sea level, while the others lie next to the Sea. Manarola and Riomaggiore lie on the eastern end. All of the villages are linked by charming cobblestone pathways that make home to local musicians.
Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea. Part of its charm is the lack of visible corporate development. The villages are not influenced by modern development, and that simple, original look, combined with pretty colorful houses, arranged one upon another like stairs gives this piece of Ligurian coast a unique charm:
This is the fifth post from our big family trip; my wife (DianeCA) and I, our children + SO and even my grandchild met up with Diane’s brothers and spouse from the USA. 14 people in all gathering in Pisa at the Park Hotel California, and having the time of our lives enjoying each other’s company, getting better acquainted and exploring this wonderful part of Italy. From my first post: Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy, you’ll get an introduction and then you’ll find information and links to my other posts from Pisa, Florence and Sierra.
Born as an Etruscan port on the banks of the Arno River around the middle of the 6th century B.C., Pisa is much more than the famous Leaning Tower. Known as Pisae, a Roman colony, the settlement displayed some Ligurian and Etruscan influence. After the end of the Roman Empire, this was a port town of great importance for the Goths’, the Longobards and the Carolingians too. In the 11th century, a further development transformed Pisa into one of the most powerful Italian Maritime Republics, together with Genoa, Venice and Amalfi. In this period the buildings that made Pisa famous were begun: the Duomo, the cathedral’s bell tower and the well-known Leaning Tower.
Because of their peripatetic nature, Pisans brought long-forgotten ideas of science, architecture and philosophy back to Europe from their trade travels. Pisa’s great variety of architectural styles in its monuments is testament to their exposure to different people, cultures and artistic concepts and to their willingness to blend and harmonize external influences into new and original forms of expression.
It was here that the refined Pisan-Romanesque style was born – Pisa’s permanent legacy to the world’s art, and where Galileo, one of the world’s greatest physicists and astronomers, and Leonardo Fibonacci, the great mathematician, were born, studied and taught. It can also add its renowned University established in 1343 to its hall of fame, as it remains today one of Italy’s top schools.
This square is very popular. It is in the exact centre of the city, and in fact the bridge opposite the square is called Ponte di Mezzo, the “middle bridge”. The statue in the square is of Garibaldi. The square is always very crowded and it is one of the gathering points in Pisa:
From April to July the square is packed with students going to the bars that open onto the square and sitting on the Lungarno walls. Moreover, in this square you can find the best ice-cream shop, La Bottega del Gelato: don’t miss it!
The Square of Miracles:
The Piazza dei Miracoli was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO 25 years ago. The square is not located in the center of the city as you might imagine but to the north-west of the fortified wall, almost out of the town; there probably wasn’t enough space to use at the time the project got underway so this is the site decided upon. Since the times of the Etruscans, the three structures found in the piazza have been considered central to religious life, symbolizing the main stages of a human’s life: the Baptistery represents birth, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore life and the graveyard of course alludes to death.
The square is surrounded by a beautiful green lawn where tourists and university students can lie down and relax in this amazing setting.
The Leaning Tower:
What about the Tower of Pisa? Well, we haven’t forgotten it but the famous and so called Leaning Tower of Pisa is actually considered a part of the cathedral since it is really its bell tower.
The construction of this imposing mass was started in the year 1174 by Bonanno Pisano. When the tower had reached its third stores, the works ceased because it had started sinking into the ground. The tower remained thus for 90 years and was completed by Giovanni di Simone, Tommano Simone (son of Andreo Pisano), crowned the tower with the belfry in the mid-14th century. The top of the Leaning Tower can be reached by mounting the 294 steps which rise in the form of a spiral on the inner side of the tower walls.
The Tower is the monument that, among the others of the “Piazza dei Miracoli”, stirs the imagination of everybody. Typically tourists take some kind of photo of them holding up the tower for fun! And our extended family is no exception as you can see – after all it is quite heavy!
This is the fourth post from our big family trip; my wife (DianeCA) and I, our children + SO and even my grandchild met up with Diane’s brothers and spouse from the USA. 14 people in all gathering in Pisa at the Park Hotel California, and having the time of our lives enjoying each other’s company, getting better acquainted and exploring this wonderful part of Italy. From my first post: Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy, you’ll get an introduction and then you will know that I’ll do more posts from this trip, so stay tuned – Cinque Terre is next – I’ve saved the best post for last!
Siena is a classic walled city and one of Italy’s prettiest medieval hill towns located in the heart of Tuscany with ca. 55 thousand inhabitants. It’s also the best preserved medieval city in Italy and I’ve read that the people of Siena speak the purest Italian in Italy – actually Italian language students often go there to learn the correct pronunciation. Its peak was about 1260-1348 when it was one of Europe’s wealthiest cities and many of its buildings and art works originate from that time.
While on a family trip to Italy recently, it was on the top of our list to explore of course. So if you like to join us, I’ll gladly give you taste of this magical, beautiful and culturally rich Tuscan town. It is world famous for its renaissance architecture, a stunning view of the landscape, famously fantastic cuisine, wine and the big event: Palio di Siena – a horse race festival – taking place at the large fan-shaped Piazza Del Campo in the heart of the city:
Twice a year, this famed Palio delle Contrade takes place on the jam-packed piazza. The city’s three districts, di Citta, di Camollia and di San Martino, were once divided into 59 sub-districts (or contrades) of which 17 still exist and make the competing teams. It’s a horse race like nowhere else (only ten can compete at any time for safety reasons) and runs on July 2 and August 16. All Sienese are affiliated with one of the contrade, to which a typical Sienese feels loyal with a strength perhaps surpassed only by their loyalty to their family.
Since the 11th century, the Sienese have conducted festivals every year where the contrade compete for renown (and in times gone by, actual political power) through contests such as flag throwing, horse racing and even fist fights. The race itself is in late evening but the whole day of the race is taken up with processions through the streets of the various contrade competing in the particular race.
The Duomo in Siena:
A magnificent black and white Italian Romanesque cathedral including the Libreria Piccolomini, Baptistery, and an attached Museo dell’Opera del Duomo. The construction of the cathedral began in the 12th century, but it was not finished until the 14th.
Its bands of dark and light marble make it an unusually beautiful cathedral, and its western façade is richly decorated with statues. Inside, the floor of the cathedral is covered with 56 marble panels with figures from mythology and the Old Testament.
Walking in the Medieval Renaissance City:
The center of Siena is accessible only on foot. Cars (other than taxis, police, etc.) are strictly prohibited, but motorcycles and scooters are OK – and there were plenty of them : -). Of course it’s like a fairytale to walk in this best preserved medieval city and maybe it is the warm colour of its buildings that also made it very special. After all, it is clay from surrounding district – terra di Siena – that gives us the colour in our crayon boxes; “Burnt Sienna”
Talking about the horse race and that all Sienese feels loyal with strength: Each contrade has a public fountain bearing its emblem, such as a panther, a fish or an eagle. While strolling through the city, we saw them on the corners of the houses too (top left in this photo):
This is the third post from our big family trip; my wife (DianeCA) and I, our children + SO and even my grandchild met up with Diane’s brothers and spouse from the USA. 14 people in all gathering in Pisa at the Park Hotel California, and having the time of our lives enjoying each other’s company, getting better acquainted and exploring this wonderful part of Italy. From my first post: Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy, you’ll get an introduction and then you will know that I’ll do more posts from this trip, so stay tuned – Pisa and the leaning tower is next!
Nestled in the valley of the Arno River, Florence “The Cradle of Renaissance” is squeezed between the hills that made it famous. Its center is full of works of art and buildings of great historical and architectural value, covering a period of time ranging from the early Middle Ages to the late twentieth century and the surrounding area is no different. The beauty of the landscape is characterized by villas, churches, monasteries and picturesque small towns and of course the food! There’s something about the fact that you can picture many of their dishes being cooked in medieval-style terracotta pots; indeed, many still are.
Part of the Tuscany region, it’s cuisine is appreciated around the world for its fine natural and flavorful ingredients; a typical expression of the Mediterranean diet, considered among others, the most wholesome and tasty, olive oil, pasta, fish and first choice meats. With these few basic ingredients the Tuscan local chefs can create exceptional dishes. Among the most important produce is white truffles, a much appreciated variety. Other ingredients such as wild asparagus and herbs also contribute to the rediscovery of simple flavorful dishes (pappa al pancotto, ribollita, hearty vegetable soups), where olive oil is the star ingredient, strictly bought from the local olive press.
While on a family trip to Italy last week we all fell in love with its history, landscapes, art and architecture, but as important part of the culture, we also wanted to explore its FOOD! I mean even those who have never been there know Italian food in some shape, taste and form – who has never eaten pizza or spaghetti? However we had an idea of that the easygoing Italian way of life most visitors find so alluring and desirable – La Dolce Vita – is indisputably linked to the Italians’ instinctive knowledge of how to eat and drink well.
A taste of Florence:
A challenge however, was that we had only one day to spend in Florence and how do you get it all in? The answer is “A taste of Florence“: a five hours tour that created a lifetime of memories, complete with hands on cooking, tasting, sipping, and sightseeing! With our host Cristina Cappulletti, we really learned that Tuscany and Florence drinks and food is by all means historical. Cristina, a local, experienced and knowledgeable guide enthusiastically gave life to all the stories there was to tell about how Tuscan cuisine reflects the age of the region and city’s traditions. It’s almost impossible express all we experienced and learned in a post, but since pictures tells more than a thousand word, I will try to cover the most – or give you A Taste – by presenting a few from my photo hunt during the trip:
Starting with a delicacy, we had a taste of e.g. Bollito di Manzo (Boiled Beef Biscket) with salsa verde and salsa picante – delicious!
Bakeries and Café:
An introduction to the art of Italian Coffee while tasting Sfogliatella, Budine di Riso and Sfoglia
At the Market:
A journey in fresh Tuscan servings: Balsamics: Condiments & Traditional Certified – Tuscany Olive Oil – Crostini Toppings – Cheeses: Pecorino & Parm Reggiano – Salumi: Prosciutto & Finocchiona.
At the Enoteca – wine cellar:
The very best taste of Tuscan winery : -)
At the Gelateria or Cioccolateria:
We wanted to explore the food delights of Tuscany and Cristina from A Taste of Florence literary gave us it all! We had the cheeses, olive oils, and salamis right where they are made! She gave a wonderful lecture and taste of the origins of Tuscan and Italian wines and we really enjoyed a hands-on cooking class, and lunch with wine tasting in the best of wine cellars. I have never been as sure in my recommendation: Next time you visit Florence – whether the first time or a return visit – don’t miss this adventurous guided tour. Go visit their web site and start planning right now!
This is the second post from the big family trip we had last week; my wife (DianeCA) and I, our children + SO and even my grandchild met up with Diane’s brothers and spouse from the USA. 14 people in all gathering in Pisa at the Park Hotel California, and having the time of our lives enjoying each other’s company, getting better acquainted and exploring this wonderful part of Italy. From my first post: Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy, you’ll get an introduction and then you will know that I’ll do more posts from this trip, so stay tuned!