CategoryTravel Abroad

Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy

Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy #2Tuscany represents a journey of leisure, pleasure, cuisine and of course, discovery: Marvellous scenery in a landscape full of colorful rolling hills, massive mountains and numerous rivers – every valley is a waterway and rich in history, encompassing the ancient as well as modern, urban, and artistic. When travelling, you’ll find perfectly preserved hill towns, fabulous art, the most beautiful countryside imaginable, almost tropical coastal areas, great cities (e.g. Florence, Siena, Pisa, and Lucca), top quality restaurants and food stores, possibly the best cafes in the world as well as friendly and beautiful people.

Now I can tell by personal experience, since we had a big family trip there last week; my wife (DianeCA) and I, our children + SO and even my grandchild met up with Diane’s brothers and wife 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. To give you an idea, let’s start with a photo I took from the plane just before landing at Pisa airport:
Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy #12

From Base Camp Pisa, which was a great adventure in itself, we travelled around to explore and tried to cover at least some of the sights we had read about and picked out in advance. I’ll gladly take you along and have decided to make a more detailed post of each of the highlights – for you to enjoy and for a recommendation to those who plan to visit Tuscany. To give you a clue in this introduction post, let’s start with a collage I have made – to put the scope of work on the map so to speak:
Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy #1
Tuscany’s culture spans centuries of ideologies and rural and city life in a rich tapestry of art and history, as beautiful as it is fascinating. In addition to the fame of Florence, Lucca, Pisa and Siena, Fiesole, Arezzo, Carrara, Volterra and San Gimignano, and countless other corners of the region hold delightful gems to which one can only wish to return.
So in the following posts, I will take you with to these four places: Pisa, Florence, Siena and the famous Cinque Terre (“the five lands” – actually not in Tuscany, but close enough and a must see if you’re staying as close as in Pisa!).

Central Tuscany: Around Florence or Siena:
The most popular areas of Tuscany are around Florence (the capital of the region) or Siena. Florence is a larger town (population of ca. 300,000) and Siena is smaller (around 50,000). Anywhere within a 45 minute drive of Florence or Siena will be a good location for a first time countryside visit.
Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy #7 Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy #8
Left: Florence by Santa Maria Del Fiore Dome – Right: The Medieval Town of Siena
Florence became prominent after the death of Matilde di Canossa, the last of the Marquises of Tuscany, in 1115 and the defeat of the Pisans by the Genoese at the battle of Meloria. Florence’s subsequent rise was inexorable, culminating in the Nineteenth Century, when the State of Lucca was annexed to its territories.

Pisa is more than the Leaning Towre:
Of course best known for the world famous Leaning Tower, if you come only to see that, you’ll miss the rest of the architectural and artistic marvels of this beautiful city. The half hour walk from the Campo dei Miracoli to the train station runs through a pedestrian street with many interesting sights, shops, and restaurants. The best way to explore Pisa is walking the streets – the city center is very small. I’ll give you a taste in these photos, but will give more details in my separate Pisa post later:
Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy #3 Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy #5
Left: Piazza Garibaldi – Right: Arno River

Cinque Terre – The Five Lands:
All the towns slope down to sea-level except for Corniglia, which is perched on top of a tall cliff. Four of the towns possess an old-world charm (from North-to-South: Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore). The northern-most town, Monterosso, is completely different. It is very beachy or resorty, with a fine boardwalk and modern apartment blocks and hotels—nothing like the narrow, crooked streets of the other towns, lined with colorful old houses stacked haphazardly on top of each other:
Family from Norway touring Tuscany in Italy #9
Cinque Terre is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The name means Five Lands and comprises the five small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso located in the Italian region of Liguria. On our one week family trip, this was to me the highlight of sightseeing. Again, I will give you more details in a separate post – so stay tuned! In the meantime, you might think about finding some connection between the name Cinque Terre and the name of my blog: RennyBA’s Terrella !?!

Updates – Later posts from this Family Trip:
1: A Taste of Florence to a family from Norway.
2: Family from Norway touring Medieval Siena in Tuscany.
3: Pisa more than Leaning Tower for Norway Family
4: Family from Norway exploring Cinque Terre in Italy

Blogger tourist in Milan enjoy Italian cuisine from Lombardy region

Al Matarel in Milan #5In Milan at the Lombardy region of Italy the cuisine varies considerably throughout following the contours of the land: Geographically speaking, Lombardy’s northern half is Alpine – including the Swiss border – while its southern half makes up part of the Po River Basin which runs through the Lombardy capital of Milan. When we then add: home to one-sixth of Italy’s total population, the region of Lombardy is truly a study in contrasts on many levels.
Culinary influences are bound to be just as diverse as Lombardy’s population base owing to the wildly varied terrain, internal distinctions in cooking styles and long history of influence by nearby and/or conquering nations .With such a heritage, cooking traditions are ingrained and recipes unlikely to have been changed for centuries in the important handing down of kitchen legacies.

My wife and I had some time for exploring the local attractions while attending the CEPIS Council Meeting in Milan two weeks ago. The top of the cream was when the host’s AICA President in Milan, Roberto Berlini, invited us to a local restaurant with the regions specialties on the menu. It was returning the favor after we did the same when we had him as a guest in Oslo two years ago and I gladly take you along on this culinary adventure:
Al Matarel in Milan #1

A Lombardy gourmet adventure:
When entering the restaurant, Roberto – knowing the owner and staff – told them what we were hoping for: The local specialities and here you are:
Al Matarel in Milan #4 Al Matarel in Milan #6
Left – starter: Salame Melanese & Right – Torta di mele with gelatto
Al Matarel in Milan #5
Main course: Osso Bucco with Risotto Milanese

Trattoria Al Matarel:
Al Matarel in Milan #11Resistance to altering recipes and techniques that have filled the Lombardy tables with good country food for a large span of recorded history can be seen as a sort of “foodie pride” which began its cultivation long before pop culture’s re-embrace of and return to simple cooking, homemade and wholesome.
Our dinner was exactly that kind of experience: It looked, smelled and last but not least tasted Italian – and after talking about Lombardy both with Roberto and the staff, we were certain this cuisine was from the region too! I mean, we’ve tasted both salami and beef before, but never like this – not to mention risotto: the Italian way – in Lombardy – is the best!

This is my last of three posts from our stay in Milan – a cultural, historical as well as culinary adventure. Don’t miss the other two:
-> Blogger tourist in Milan in Lombardian region of Italy
-> Blogger tourist in Italy at Navigli in Milan

Blogger tourist in Milan in Lombardian region of Italy

Milan is the capital of Lombardia and best known as an economic and financial center. It’s the richest and most populous region of Italy and also the second largest in the country. Founded by the population of the Insubri in the 6th century BC, its original name was Medhelan, which means centre of perfection, then changed into Mediolanum and finally Milano. To me it’s a city full of charm, where the ancient and the modern perfectly coexist as you may say it also has a fair share of cultural and architectural attractions like Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Scala, Sforzesco Castle and many more.
I was in Milan last weekend when attending CEPIS Council Meeting and having my wife along, we had some time for exploring some of these attractions too. As always I love to share and suggest – to set the mood – that we start with Duomo di Milano, the magnificent Gothic Cathedral:
Milan Piazza Duomo

The Piazza del Duomo:
In 1859, when the cathedral was close to completion after a construction period of almost 500 years, the city of Milan decided it was time to create a large square at the foot of the cathedral. It launched a competition for the design which attracted 176 participants. The Italian architect Giuseppe Mengoni was selected as the winner.
Milan Piazza Duomo A
He designed a wide open square flanked by grand buildings to offset the dominance of the enormous Duomo. At the same time he also designed a monumental glass-covered arcade (top right pic in the collage) to connect the new square with the just completed Piazza della Scala: the square in front of Milan’s most famous theatre; the Teatro alla Scala.

Castello Sforzesco:
The Sforzesco Castle is one of Milan’s most important monuments. It long served as a symbol of power for local and foreign rulers. At the start of the early 20th century the castle was saved from demolition and now houses a number of civic museums.
Milan Castello Sforzesco A
In 1358 Galeazzo Il Visconti, the first duke of Milan, ordered the construction of a fortress. Completed in 1368, it had a basic layout with four walls, each 180 meters long (591 ft) and a square tower at each corner. His successors Gian Galeazzo and Filippo Maria expanded the fortress and converted it into a palatial residence. After Filippo Maria Visconti died without leaving an heir in 1447; the Milanese people proclaimed the Ambrosian Republic and razed the castle – seen as a symbol of the Visconti – to the ground.

World Wide Exhibition of 2015:
Milan Piazza MercantiDue to its strong international and economic nature, Milan will be hosting the Expo 2015, a very important international event taking place every some years in the most important world capitals.
It’s already visible in the city (see tower in the left pic) and I told you the city is where the ancient and the modern perfectly coexist. A typical example is Piazza Mercanti, a picturesque square, just a stone’s throw away from the Duomo. During the Middle Age, this was the commercial and governmental center of Milan. Today it is not as hectic anymore though the intimate pedestrian square does seem to throw you back to the Middle Ages thanks to its historic architecture. I don’t have a photo of the Piazza, but Via Mercanti might give you an idea:
Milan Via Mercanti

Navigli – Milan’s Venice:
I’ll end this little taste of what Milan has to offer with another Must Visit in Milan. You see, situated in a favorable area in north Italy, in the past Milan has been a city of waters, thanks to its numerous canals called Navigli, the majority of which is now covered. But if you walk along the banks of the few still open, in the area of Porta Ticinese, you will have the feeling of a little Venice. We had a guided tour there, full of impressions and photos – so much so I’ve made a whole post of it – to be seen here: Blogger tourist in Italy at Navigli in Milan.

So this is my second post from our stay in Milan, but stay tuned – there is one more to go as we had a gourmet adventure in a local restaurant with the Lombardian regional specialties!

Blogger tourist in Italy at Navigli in Milan

Navigli in Milan #1Milan in the Lombardian region of Italy was once a city of waters and in the past just as rich of canals as Venice. The majority of these canals are drained or covered today, while a few are left untouched and visible – mainly in the area of Porta Ticinese, where the two great Navigli start: the Great Naviglio and the Naviglio Pavese.
In its heyday, the canals formed a 150km long network that connected the city with the rivers and lakes in the region. The canals were used for irrigation; they provided the city with water and were ideal to transport people and goods to and from remote areas as far as the Alps and even the sea, reached via the river Po. The marble used for the construction of the Duomo was transported via these waterways from the Lago Maggiore near the Alps to the centre of the city.
I was there while attending CEPIS Council Meeting and our host AICA invited us to a walk and boat trip on this historical ground. I gladly take you along and let’s start with a collage to set the mood:
Navigli in Milan #A
Two long streets run along the Navigli and walking along the banks of the Navigli is certainly worth it, the visitor has the feeling of walking down the streets of Venice.

A bit of history:
Construction of the oldest canal – the Ticinello – started in 1179, quickly succeeded by a number of other canals. A series of locks were built to overcome the differences in elevation which at the time posed a serious technical challenge. It is said that Ludovico di Moro, Duke of Milan at the end of the 15th century requested the help of Leonardo da Vinci to design an innovative system of locks.
Thanks to this network of canals, Milan had one of the country’s largest inland ports, despite the absence of a main river. The canals were so much part of the urban fabric that some areas of the city resembled Venetian neighbourhoods. With the growing importance of road transportation, traffic on the canals dwindled quickly and many were filled in during late 19th and early 20th century until the activity came to a complete standstill in 1979.

Naviglio Grande:
The most interesting of the few remaining canals is where we were: the Naviglio Grande. Here you’ll find iron pedestrian bridges, a small church – the Santa Maria delle Grazie al Naviglio – and the picturesque Vicolo dei Lavandai. Here women washed their family’s clothes with water from the canal. Many women also took in laundry as a business while there husband worked mostly as sailors or fisherman and together they supported their families. The mostly pedestrian-friendly streets along the canal were once tow-paths, from which horses and oxen towed the barges. Again a collage to sum up:
Navigli in Milan #B

A boat trip along the canal:
While on the boat trip, I took the chance of filming with my mobile phone and if pictures say more than a thousand words, what do you think of this : -)

My wife and I had a four days stay in Milan when I took the advantage of combining business with pleasure. This town has of course much more to offer and we have more to share. So stay tuned for a historical roundtrip as well as a gourmet adventure in a local restaurant with the Lombardian regional specialties!

RennyBA’s Blog Friends meet up in Mariestad Sweden

Mariestad The Osean City #1My motto is Blogging connecting people and meeting blog friends in person is always special after you’ve gotten to know them through their posts over the years. As many of you know we have our vacation home in Mariestad, the pearl of Lake Vänern, and this year we had the privilege of inviting our good friends TorAa and wife Anna from Norway as well as Mr. & Mrs. Lifecruiser from Sweden to a Scandinavian blog gathering there last weekend. Like other bloggers, these folks love to travel and are always looking for adventures and are eager to go photo hunting in new places – so I was looking forward to showing them around in Mariestad with its slogan: “The Sea City” (goes well with the photo – don’t you think).
Mariestad Harbor in Sweden #1
Mariestad Harbor Summer 2011

Some may think that Mariestad, popular in the summer time with its beaches and islands, might be kind of dull in the winter time. It’s true that there are fewer tourists and fairs, festivals or exhibitions, however there is still a lot to see and experience in this charming town all year round. Let me give a few examples:

The Cathedral and The Old Town:
Mariestad was founded in 1583 by Duke Karl (later become King Karl IX), who named the city after his wife, Duchess Maria av Pfalz. The hidden jewel at the heart of the city is the beautiful wooden buildings of the Old Town, which were erected in the 18th and 19th centuries and are still almost perfectly intact. The city of Mariestad suffered a great fire in 1895 so this old section is the only one not destroyed by the raging flames.
Cultural pearls in medieval surroundings #2 Wandering through time in old Mariestad #8
Mariestad Cathedral is built (1593–1625) upon antagonism between the two brothers Duke Karl and Johan III. Duke Karl copied his brother’s drawings over the church in the capital city, Stockholm (St. Klara Church), drawn by the Dutchman Wilhelm Boy. As you can see, it’s close by the old town and of course with its tower which is a landmark of Mariestad.

Exhibition: MC – Adventure – Freedom:
Mariestad had more to offer then its own charm this weekend – , in the library of all places we found a MC Exhibition. Taurus MC club, founded 20 years ago, held their annual MC show with about 100 enthusiastic members who enjoy displaying some of their treasures. Every spring they do a long weekend trip, one was even to Norway! Their favorite destination is south Europe where riding on the scenic Alps are the top of the cream : -)
The exhibition’s main attraction was this beauty of a bike model 1993, build in India. Royal Enfield MC have been continuously built for more than 100 years – the longest in the world:
Exhibition: MC – Adventure – Freedom #1
Royal Enfield 500 Bullitt
Exhibition: MC – Adventure – Freedom #2 Exhibition: MC – Adventure – Freedom #3
A mini model display and some club photos

The bloggers meet up:
Camp base was our vacation home just outside of the city. Whenever we get together – even if it was two years since we met the Lifecruisers – it always feels like we met just yesterday. I guess it’s because we have so much in common. Traveling and photo shooting are well documented in this post, and of course good food and beverages was part of the fun too, which can be documented this way:
Blog Meet Up #1
Computers, Sangria and champagne on the table : -)
Blog Meet Up #2 Blog Meet Up #3
Left: Spanish Tapas – Right: Lifecruiser’s shrimp cocktail with Champagne onion
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Left: Anna is cooking -> Right: An authentic old fashioned slow cooked meat dinner

We had a lot to talk about at this little Scandinavian blog gathering. Of course there is all we have in common but we also have a secret plan – a common dream – or rather a common goal. We will all meet again a bit south for Scandinavia. Keep watching and maybe you will catch a glimpse of us all together again this summer – in Provence, South of France at our good friend Claudie & Pierre’s home! The days are getting longer and the sun is higher in the sky, and we are looking forward to more exploring with good blog friends real soon.