Thoughts from my husband on this Memorial Day

“In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row…”

John McCrae

In elementary school, I remember having to memorize that poem, along with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and other historic pieces. “In Flanders Fields” was written in 1915 by a Canadian physician, John McCrae. He was emotionally moved after attending the funeral at a military cemetery in Belgium of a fellow soldier killed early in World War I. His thoughtful poem thus became famous and part of Memorial Day honors for the past 100+ years. Poppies also became associated with recognizing military war deaths. We mostly have gold-colored wild poppies in the U.S., but in Europe they are red. We get a regular reminder of the red poppies when members of the American Legion pin the small paper ones on us each year just before Memorial Day.

I remember Memorial Day being called “Decoration Day” and assisting my father at the cemetery in cleaning up graves of our family members and placing fresh flowers. The holiday has had a broader meaning to remember all our loved ones who have passed. Memorial Day was started after the Civil War but was finally clarified under Federal Law as a national holiday to “honor all military that had fought and died while serving.”

As I think of Memorial Day’s intent, I focus on my own generation and many friends from high school and fellow Marines that died in Viet Nam. But two generations earlier is the only occurrence in memory of a war death in my family. Great uncle, Joseph Maziarz, immigrated as a young man around 1912 to the U.S. from Poland, was granted U.S. citizenship and received a 320-acre homestead in North Central Montana. Joseph’s younger sister, Helen (my grandmother), travelled to the U.S. in 1914 from Poland at age 14 to join him on the Montana homestead. Joseph was working hard to scratch out a farming existence on a very dry, desolate prairie. Helen later married my grandfather, left the homestead, and moved to Great Falls. Joseph was either drafted or enlisted in the Army in 1917, locked up his farmhouse, and went off to fight in France. I had several of his letters to his sister during the war translated from Polish, and he said (which is typical) nothing about the war but only his worries about his farm and things in Montana. World War I ended on November 11, 1918, but unfortunately Joseph was killed on October 8, 1918, in the horrendous battle of Meuse-Argonne, Eastern France.  When Meuse-Argonne ended after 40 days, the WW-I armistice was signed and the “war to end all wars” was over. Yet 27,000 Americans were killed in that battle, including Uncle Joseph. Yes, one battle and it is second only in U.S. history to the losses during the D-Day offensive in World War II.

I never knew my great uncle but I am both honored and sorry that he sacrificed everything for his newly adopted country. He never had the opportunity to see his sister again and make his farm in Montana a success. But the same can be said for my recent friends that died in Vietnam and never got to finish college and become husbands, fathers, and grandfathers.

I want to honor my more immediate family members that served in the military during World War II including my father, Ed Sr. (cargo loadmaster, U.S. Naval Air Transport Service, who served on Guam and Shanghai, China); his brother, Joe Mares (radar specialist, Navy ship, USS Cogswell, operating in the South Pacific); and, my mother’s younger brother, Loren Kujawa (U.S. Army, serving in the post-WWII war crime trials in Nuremberg, Germany). I also must recognize my dear younger brother, John, a veteran U.S. Coast Guard radioman who served on Coast Guard ice breakers in Antarctica and the Arctic Ocean in the 1970’s.

If my grandchildren choose to serve in the military, I will support that choice and be proud.  I just pray that if they do serve, they stay safe!

Enjoy your Memorial Day!



We just returned from 32 days in Europe. We spent most of that time on the Italian Riviera and then traveled to Paris for 3 nights before coming home.

As always, it was an amazing experience! However, having COVID at the front end did change my travels a bit.  In addition to isolating myself, I didn’t have the stamina I have enjoyed in past years. Afternoon naps were a necessity and bedtime was around 9 PM.  We didn’t take the side trips we have in the past and spent most of our days just enjoying Sestri Levante and savoring all that the small town has to offer.

Paris was a bit of a whirlwind. We went to the hot and crowded Louvre for the first time to see the Mona Lisa. We also took a boat trip on the Seine River which we thoroughly enjoyed even though it was a very chilly morning. Our plane home had some electrical issues and we sat on the tarmac for 3+ hours before taking off for a 9-hour flight back to Seattle☹.

Both Northern Italy and Paris were unseasonably cool and rainy. So, I don’t have that much to say about spring fashion because everyone was still wearing coats and scarves😊. 

I always seem to have a few female fashion notes/observations and some store window pictures.

Note that the Italian Riviera is very casual and I didn’t have a chance to observe any Italian city looks.


Sneakers rule the day and they are usually a lighter color. New Balance is a popular brand and I even saw a number of women in Sketchers (!). The summer shoes in the stores were often Birkenstocks, other clunky sandals or espadrilles.


Jeans of all styles were ubiquitous on women of all ages. Regular pants were either fitted ankle pants, wide leg crop pants or wide leg pants that came close to touching the floor. I also saw more brightly colored pants.


Scarves were quite a common ‘third piece’. I often saw solid colored cotton scarves that matched the wearer’s top.  I’m not sure if scarves are still common when it gets warm.


I didn’t see anything remotely resembling athleisure on women. It is more common on younger girls.


Everyone was using a cross body bag, probably because they are so functional. Here is a post on ‘Why everyone is carrying cross body bags’. I also saw a fair number of sling bags. They were more commonly used by younger girls, but I saw some older travelers using them too.


Women still prefer neutrals although I saw a lot of colors in the store windows for summer.  Navy seemed to be the most common spring neutral.


Short, quilted jackets are still popular, along with quilted vests.  I also saw a lot of jean jackets.


Just a bit about Paris. It was cold, so most women were wearing trench coats and scarves. I did see women in long sharply pleated skirts – between midi length and ankle. One woman even had one in a long culotte style (pictured in today’s collage). Black was the most common color.

Finally, I saw way too many young women smoking in Paris ☹. They sit outside at the cafes so they can smoke.

Overall, it was a great trip. But it is always good to be back home, jetlag and all😊



My meilleur ami and I took a trip to Paris in 2006 to celebrate 40+ years of friendship.  It was our first trip to the City of Light.  We stayed at a hotel on the Left Bank.  After we checked in, we ventured out to explore the neighborhood.  We found a bar/café and sat outside.  We were wondering aloud if we needed to go to the bar and order or if a server would come our way? A woman at the next table helped us out.  As it turns out, she no longer lived in Paris full-time but has continued to rent a room in the city.  The bar we were at was one that she always frequents, a.k.a, her HANGOUT when she is in Paris.

I’ve long been a person who likes a hangout.  When I was growing up, we all hung out at Boyd’s Burgermaster (the Burg) after school and on weekends.  The Burg had a ramp, which was the death knell for novice drivers like me. That being said, who didn’t like a flying Ramp burger?! When I got old enough to hit the bars, my hangouts shifted to the Merry-Go-Round and the City Bar.  My dad’s hangout was Borries Super Club in Black Eagle, MT.  I am like a homing pigeon when I hit my hometown – dinner at Borries is always on the agenda!

Note: Borries has been around since 1938 and is now owned by the 4th generation of the Grasseschi family. I always order their small ½ spaghetti, ½ ravioli dinner.  The small is HUGE😊

My fondness for hangouts hasn’t dimmed as I have gotten older.  I have 2 Starbucks in the neighborhood that I frequent.  The staff know us and quickly fix up my favorites.  My first friend and I meet at the same restaurant every month, sit at the same table, and order the exact same lunch each time. My husband and I also tend to frequent the same restaurants.  We like their service, food and quality, but mostly we like the people who work there.

While in Italy, we find hangouts to be particularly appealing.  In our little town, we frequent 2 coffee shops, 2 places for lunch, and one place for aperitivi.  The bartender makes a mean martini and I am hooked on his no alcohol mint mojito!

We know there are other great places in town, but there is something about getting to know a few places and people well that makes magic for us. 

We are into slow travel and our hangout model fits the bill. 

Slow travel is an approach to travel that emphasizes connection: to local people, cultures, food and music. It relies on the idea that a trip is meant to educate and have an emotional impact, in the present moment and for the future, while remaining sustainable for local communities and the environment.

This is not just a way to travel, it’s a mindset. It’s the outlook that the quality of your experience is more important than the quantity of your experiences when you travel.

Remote Year

Once we return to one of our Italian hangouts for the 2nd or 3rd time, we get shown to the same table and our favorite drinks magically appear.  The staff is warm and their smiles and jokes make our day….and our trip!

Here’s to slow travel and finding a hangout or two.




Mio marito is back with a follow-up post on practical tips for renting apartments in Italy.

You wake up in the dark bedroom of your Italian apartment or hotel, throw open the shutters, get a burst of sunlight and fresh air, and you realize , with delight, that you are in Europe. Yes! And another routine you never experience at home after getting dressed and ready to roll is stopping for a cappuccino and pastry at a nearby bar. If you note the pic in the collage of the delectable treat known as a “girella,” use care in how you pronounce it. Otherwise, you may get a puzzling response when you order. The Italian version of a cinnamon roll is not a “GERRELLA,” but a “JEERRALAY.” Accents are such a challenge! But when in doubt, just smile and point…

The Internet has made apartment rentals in Italy and all over the World so much easier, compared to 25 years ago. There are “do’s and don’ts” books on this topic. We would like, however, to offer a few suggestions, based on our stumbling through much of this over the years.  First, we have dealt with several firms but successfully used a Swiss-based firm, Interhome USA, for the past 10 years. They have an extremely helpful rep based in Florida that has contacts based in each country. Interhome is a smooth and well managed operation that has grown to 40K rental properties across the World, including the U.S.

Here are a few things to consider:

Size & Cost: If you are travelling with a partner or group of friends, be sure and select a property with separate bedroom(s). Rental postings often say “4-person, one bedroom” which means two people will be sleeping on a “sofa bed” in the living room. That’s not much privacy, especially when people have erratic sleeping hours when arriving in Europe. We recommend a separate bedroom for 2 and 2 bedrooms for 4 people. Costs vary widely depending on property size and time of year.  Don’t be afraid to splurge a little to get the right place that meets your needs. About 60-80 square meters is spacious enough for 2-4 people, and preferably with 2 bathrooms. An apartment in Italy will almost always be cheaper than a hotel on a per-night basis. Holiday houses/apartments normally rent for 7 nights, from Saturday to Saturday and prepaid with the agency.

Time of Year: Our definition of the most ideal “shoulder season” is mid-April to mid-June and mid-Sept through Oct. Earlier in the spring will be colder and rainy, as well as in November. June thru September can be very warm in Italy and you won’t normally see A/C. Don’t forget power and gas in Europe are expensive, so there are few small appliances such as microwaves, toasters, hair dryers and fans. The cost of heating a home or apartment may be an additional cost. We recommend renting in April/May when the weather is mild and there is more daylight. Picture yourself eating an 8pm dinner in October, then driving a dark, narrow, windy road back to your house/apartment in the country. Not ideal!

Location: Rental cars are essential if you are renting a place in the country, but not required if you choose a place in a larger city or smaller community with access to a train station. The Tuscan Hills in all directions from Florence have hundreds of country rentals, but that again can mean a lot of driving to get to grocery stores or restaurants. Our experience has us recommending what we consider an ideal location that is on the outskirts of a small or medium-sized town within walking distance of bars, restaurants, grocery stores and train station. The property description should show the distance to those places of not more than1-2 kilometers. That provides a quieter property with parking. Just be wary of descriptions such as “1.8km long, very bumpy, narrow motor access to house.”

Amenities: WIFI is widely available in Italy, so no worry. A different view of Italy requires a TV as part of your rental. You usually can get BBC or CNN in English but fun to watch the crazy nightly Italian game shows. A washing machine being available on site is vital, but there are few clothes driers, meaning you are hanging your clothes to dry, inside or out. A/C and other small appliances are a nice bonus. We substitute a bowl of Special K with bananas for our usual morning toast. We bring our own tea and coffee pour-over setup for our first morning caffeine. In all, after a busy day of field trips to discover Italy, it’s so nice to come back to your home-away-from-home and relax, have a light dinner, and get to bed at your normal time.

No question, your travel experience will be greatly enhanced if you rent a place to call home for a week or two. A rental will assist in forcing you to relax a little more, as compared to a hotel room. You will return home with nothing but positive, fun memories.



Mio marito is back with a post on one of our favorite cities in Liguria…

The Northwestern coastal province of Liguria is our favorite in all of Italy. It hugs the Mediterranean’s steep coastline on the eastside down to Cinque Terre, the over-touristed five villages, scenically built on cliffs. Liguria stretches on the far westside down the coast to the French border and Monaco. The beating heart of Liguria and the Italian Riviera is Genova (Genoa), it’s capitol.

Genova is a bustling, cosmopolitan city of 600K and is the busiest port city in Italy. It’s been known for centuries of maritime trade and is the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. Thankfully, it’s off the beaten path of tourists, yet has many beautiful and fun places to experience.

Allene and I have found driving in Genova to be almost heart stopping. It’s built on steep hills going right down to the sea and honey-combed with numerous tunnels. You drive through a bunch of tunnels and end up having no clue where you are. Genova airport had to be built on the water and it’s funny to be sitting on the plane and having boats bobbing around right beside your plane.

Unless you are staying in Genova or attempting to drive there, it quickly becomes a perfect place to visit by train. We’ve enjoyed day tripping to Genova and have made the hour-long train trip from Sestri Levante many times.  We get off the train at the largest of the four or more Genova train stations, Brignole.

Brignole puts you right in the heart of Genova’s downtown area, and easy walking to most of the sites. We always leave the station and beeline for a favorite “pastiscceria” to get a fresh brioche filled with apricot jam and a cappuccino. Nearby is a large, indoor produce and fish central market, the Oriental Market, with many vendors that is a fun walk through. I have taken many photos of the colorful produce stands with many new and different varieties of fruit and vegetables.

 We are now fortified for a walk up the main shopping street of Genova, Via XX Settembre. Via XX Settembre is a busy avenue with a variety of specialty shops, department stores and boutiques. It is unique in having wide, covered mosaic sidewalks that are old, beautiful, and keep shoppers out of the weather. We rarely buy anything but enjoy browsing. Within 2 or so blocks are both the small home of Christopher Columbus, (and worth a look) and the Galleria Mazzini, one of those earliest ever grand shopping malls, enclosed with a glass ceiling. At the end of Via XX Settembre is the giant Piazza de Ferrari, with huge fountains and photo ops.

At that point in your walking tour, you come to old town Genova, and the maze of “caruggi,” the narrow, cobblestone streets, that are filled with restaurants and small shops. A favorite thing to sample in “old town,” is the farinata, the iconic Genova street food (besides focaccia). “Farinata” is a giant pancake made with chickpea flour that they say was invented by Roman soldiers that baked them on their shields. You eat farinata by the slice.  it’s gluten free, and usually has various vegetables seasoned with spices and herbs.  Mmm!

After winding through old town Genova, you get dumped out at the harbor. One of Genova’s greatest visitor draws is its prestigious harbor aquarium. It is the largest in Europe and possibly the World. Over 500 species & 11,000 animals, divided by global regions such as the Indian Ocean, the Amazon, the Arctic marine species and the “Bay of Sharks.” Very impressive!

The maritime trade and resulting wealth acquired over hundreds of years has resulted in incredible Genova architecture and beauty. Very clean, friendly, and attractive. A visit to Genova and you will get a true glimpse of “old Italy.”

Viva Genova!


Mio marito is back with a post on Italian lifestyle.

You may have the opportunity to plan an extended visit to Italy or make a return trip to see more sites and just kick back a bit. If that’s possible, your appreciation may be enhanced by nuances that you, personally, have experienced. It may best be described as a lot of little things that you’ve noticed about Italians and their culture. Absolutely, Italians enjoy life!

Our observation is that Italians relax and enjoy life while embracing a “get there fast then take it slow” manner to their day to day lives. They simply have a different mindset than what many of us are used to. Their outlook and social and cultural values are different. You see it in how they dress, eat, drive, socialize, and communicate. Their appearance is very important. It is a very high-quality way of living. What we notice are all the niceties, customs and positive mannerisms that Italian society has woven into its cultural fabric for centuries. We see it and we enjoy it! Here is an excellent link, “8  Ways the Italian Lifestyle Teaches You to Appreciate Life.”

A good example I have played out so many times, but haven’t stopped trying, relates to telling a waiter at a bar or café what we would like. I always use my usual 2 or 3 sentences in ‘perfect Italian’ until I get a nice smile and hear, “basta!” (just stop). Then it’s their quick and perfect English response and we both erupt in laughter. It always is a funny exchange and I believe the waiters sincerely appreciate even our feeble attempt at communicating. No question, Italians relish communication and conversation, even boisterous, but while still being courteous. They always say they only speak “piccolo” (a little) English, but are usually much more fluent.

Besides the Italian passion for communication, there are noteworthy niceties that we have grown to appreciate. No paper cups and no plastic utensils. You always get nice ceramic dishes, cups, glasses, and saucers, inside or out. The service is always fast, the food always presented beautifully and you can sit as long as you want. Nothing happens until you ask for the check (il conto grazie). And tipping is not customary in Italy.

The Italian & European rental cars are faster, quieter, and efficient. The Fiats, Alpha Romeos, Peugeots and other makes must be geared lower in Europe, as, before you know it, you are driving 90mph on the Autostrada! Speaking of the Autostrada freeway system, you do pay tolls but you have the wonderful benefit of the frequent “AutoGrill.” The AutoGrill is an amazing emporium of all things to eat, drink and purchase, while stopping for gas or the restroom.

Italian love for conversation is very evident in the daily rituals of lunch which is part of 1-3pm siesta time and dinner, which doesn’t happen until 8pm. During the early evening, around 5pm is the traditional passeggiata and appertivi” time. Passeggiata is the afternoon stroll along a community’s main walkway to visit with friends and neighbors. In Sestri Levante it happens on a beautiful waterfront promenade that runs for almost a mile. The evening passeggiata often includes a stop at one of the bars or cafés for an appertivo beverage. Especially in the province of Liguria, the appertivo means an extensive antipasto array called, “cicchetti” that are served at no charge with your glass of wine or drink. Much fun and the people watching of the passeggiata is priceless. Children are pampered in Italy and seeing parents in action while out for a stroll will have you chuckling endlessly.

“Green” sustainability is a priority in Italy. A definite focus on reduced waste, less paper, recycling and conservation of water and energy. We have counted 5 different recycling bins, plus special ones for glass. Kitchens feature smaller refrigerators, and few microwaves and toasters.  Organic food products, “Bio,” are prominent in the supermarkets. They heavily regulate environmental concerns and we appreciate it.

So, you may have to weigh your own produce at the supermarket and bag your own groceries, but you get a tremendous selection of cheeses, meats, wines, and pasta. There’s no butter for bread in a restaurant, but the excellent cuisine can’t be exceeded. There are always things that may be missing from our usual comfort zone, but our lives are so much more broadened by experiencing niceties, such as what you witness in Italy.

“Travel is deadly to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness.”

Mark Twain



Mio marito is back with an installment on his Italian favorite – SEAFOOD!

La migliore cucina,” the best cuisine, is certainly the seafood found in Italia. That is an extremely biased opinion coming from two pescatarian wanna be’s. And, yes, the term “pescatarian” is derived from none other than the Italian word for fish, “pesce.” Most of our lives have been spent in the Pacific Northwest and a major reason for it is the proximity to the variety of fresh fish and seafood in general. The word “fresh” is crucial to denote our fussiness with fish being fresh and never frozen. If it’s “the season” for that kind of seafood, you grab it and eat it while it’s fresh, If it’s “not the season,” you pass. Well, thankfully for us, many of our favorite kinds of fish and shellfish are always “in season.” We place our faith and trust in reliable fish mongers that are almost like family.

Italy is surrounded by the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas so you would expect to see lots of seafood on restaurant and cafe menus, but that’s not always the case. The northern and central provinces of Italy that have limited borders with the seashore, have an abundant amount of meat, and entrees we all are very familiar with. The best pork chop I’ve eaten in my life was tomahawk-cut and grilled in butter, olive oil, and lots of sage. That was from Northern Italy, in Verona, east of Milan. The best “Bolognese sauce,” of course was from Bologna. Florence, and Tuscany’s claim to fame is “Bistecca alla Fiorentina” (beef steak, Florence style) which is a giant, 3-inch-thick cut of rare Tuscan beef that is sliced at the table. The “primi piatti” or pasta course incudes lots of pasta sauces and risottos in Northern and Central Italy, but not much in the way of seafood.

Seafood is predominant on the menu along all of Italy’s lengthy coastline, both east and west. The bounty of the Mediterranean is an interesting mix of seafood species, including some that are strange and different. I’ve been able to ‘cuttle-up’ to cuttlefish but those long, skinny, writing pen-shaped clams still perplex me. They are a kind of razor clam, for which I have foraged their larger cousins for years on the Washington coast. The menu often varies and depends on the availability of the fisherman’s (il pescatore) catch. You need to glance at the chalk board for the fresh catch.

Our beloved coastal province of Liguria features the full array of Italian seafood sourced from local Mediterranean waters. One of the two or three restaurants we love in the seaside town of Sestri Levante features a daily menu of about 9 antipasti choices, 9 pasta choices and 10-12 “secondo” entrees. All of them are fish dishes. Sorry, no meat sauces. The “ragu’s” are seafood ragus.

Italian seafood can basically be divided into three main categories: the cephalopods, shellfish, and fin fish. The most prominent of the cephalopods is calamari or squid. Most of us adore deep-fried calamari and it’s mild, flavorful crunchiness. I have jigged for squid for years, using a fishing pole in the Fall/Winter months on Puget Sound. This is from a pier, 5 minutes from my house. I pan fry my calamari using panko crumbs and olive oil. The only slight wrinkle in ordering calamari in Italy is the fact that you won’t see tarter, cocktail or aioli sauces for dipping. Just a slice of lemon, that’s it. Other Italian cephalopods include seppia, which are “cuttlefish,” a large squid species, that is twice the normal size. In Liguria, they stuff the seppia and serve it in a marinara sauce. My favorite cephalopod is octopus (polpo) and served in the dish “polpo e patate”, really tender sliced octopus with potatoes in a well-seasoned sauce and olive oil. It is a top signature dish of Spain.

The shellfish of Italy are primarily small clams (vongole) and mussels (cozze). Italy is the top European producer of clams and you see spaghetti and clams on most menus across Italy. Spaghetti e cozze (spaghetti and mussels) is also a popular dish. The scampi (shrimp) is excellent except it is always served fully in shells (making it very messy to eat).

The “fin fish” of coastal Italy, especially Liguria, are represented by anchovies, meaning “fresh” anchovies. Nothing salty or canned. You see these small fish marinated, breaded, deep fried and in pasta sauces. Amazingly mild in taste and the fresh anchovy picks up the flavor of whatever the seasoning happens to be. The other popular fin fish of coastal Italy is “branzino” which is a whole roasted variety of sea bass. Excellent!

There you have it! Any kind of seafood is what we love, but especially in Italia. “Tipico della cucina Mediterranea…” Buon Appetito!


Another Italian installment by mio marito.….

You can enhance your travel adventure in Italy, at home, or anywhere in the world by temporarily renting an apartment, home, villa, or other properties. Most of us have had some fun travel results using an Airbnb, VRBO or condo rental agency. You get a home-away-from-home feel that hotel stays just don’t provide, with more privacy, space to spread out, comfortable furniture, and a “real kitchen.” I remember using friend’s condos and time shares in Hawaii and Mexico back in the ‘80s, way before vacation property rentals were marketed in any organized manner. Now, the Internet is inundated with short- and long-term property rentals in locales throughout the world.

Italy and other European countries have long been involved in offering all types of temporary rental housing. Europeans love to travel too and they prefer places besides noisy hotels, with cramped rooms and lifts and few in-room amenities.

If your traveler’s view evolves to the point that you want to return to Europe and concentrate your travel to the sites in one region, then an apartment rental is your answer. It allows a variety of side trips at your pace, while providing a comfortable base.

Our property rental exposure has only been in Italy and it was quite accidental how it first happened. We had a marvelous vacation in Northern Italy with friends using a rental car and hotel stays. That was in the early ‘90s and it totally stoked our interest in returning. We were living and working on the Central California Coast and I happened to note a small ad in the Sunday Travel section of the San Francisco Chronicle for an apartment rental in Rome. This was the mid ‘90s and everything was still phone, fax and snail mail, nada Internet. I called a nice man living in the Bay Area and he described his apartment/condo in suburban Rome being sporadically available on a weekly basis. His daughter had studied at a U.S. University in Rome and met/married an Italian and moved to Italy. So, the father ended up buying a condo close to his daughter and visited her and his grandchildren frequently. It was located within walking distance of a train station that had a direct connection to the airport. Thus, no rental car was necessary and plenty of public transportation availability allowed daily visits into Rome. We stayed 2 weeks and explored the Roman sites.

As I think in retrospect of what motivated us to fully embrace the vacation rental thing in Italy for the next 25 years, was a lot to do with needing plain old “rest and relaxation.” We had stressful jobs and the need to kick back was significant, combined with a broad interest in regional Italian travel. The alternative to this approach may have been tour packages to other European countries or more conventional vacation travel, but the result would have left us returning home exhausted with completed check lists of famous European sites.

Today, we believe we have made the right decisions over the years on our repeat travels to Italy to rent a vacation spot, with no regrets.

So, what has that entailed?

Whew! It totals 20 different stays in 12 different apartments in 7 regions of Italy. We have learned a lot, met many friends, driven a lot of European rental cars, and loved the local cultural flavor of Italia we witnessed daily. “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” thinking never took hold of this couple.

It is, however, difficult to say at this point that our age and energy may not allow this kind of travel in the future. Maybe, two weeks in a Paris VRBO apartment and no rental car, or a Rick Steve’s tour to Switzerland, are beginning to sound appealing. We will see…



Mio marito and I have been quite successful at dodging COVID over the past 3 years.  We are vaxxed and boosted and are one of the few people who still mask up indoors and while traveling.

Our luck finally ran out!  And, wouldn’t you know it, in Italy☹

We think mio marito was exposed while transiting through Amsterdam.  The airport is huge and people are coming in from all over.  And no one is masked up these days.

He started to feel under the weather (fatigue and cold symptoms) shortly after we arrived in Italy.  We suspected COVID, but he had THREE negative antigen tests.  So maybe it was another bug?

I got sick a bit later and, to be safe, took an antigen test.  POSITIVE!

Oh boy!  My doctor advised me to get on Paxlovid right away if I tested positive.  So, our quest began to get a prescription and confirm mio marito’s COVID status. 

There is a hospital near by but it didn’t have any urgent care/walk in services.  The staff sent us up the road to another town that did have urgent care.  We found it without too much difficulty and the fun began.

Some of the staff spoke English, which helped us a lot.  We were ushered into an exam room for testing (both of us were positive), an EKG, and lab work.  Five hours later, I left with Paxlovid although mio marito did not because he had been sick too long. Despite the language barrier, we think we got excellent care!

Thank heavens for the ability to communicate with our usual providers electronically!  We got in touch with our primary care docs and shared our lab results.  Our docs were reassuring and my doc was glad that I started Paxlovid.

Note: Just a bit about Paxlovid.  I do think it is a miracle that a medication like that is available.  That being said, I’m one of the fairly small percent with side effects.  I have metallic mouth and stomach discomfort.  I am gritting my teeth to get through the next handful of doses ☹.

Mio marito is slowly recovering and able to get out and about a bit.  I hope that I will be joining him soon!

We still have some time left in our Italian vacation.  We are anxious to put this setback in our rear-view mirror!

Ciao and Salute,



One of the challenges of packing light for a long trip is the ability to do laundry along the way.  In Italy, that is often a challenge☹

One apartment we rented actually had both a washing machine and dryer IN the apartment.  That, in my experience, is unique.

The apartment we are staying at has a communal washer (no dryer) in a storeroom.  It isn’t easy to access and we haven’t even tried it out.

Over the past years, we have found a self service lavanderia/laundry. The whole process of washing and drying clothes takes a while and isn’t cheap!  But we have made it work.

This year it seems like there aren’t any more self-service lavanderia to be found in our village. So, we were left dropping our clothes off at a lavanderia to be washed and dried.  It took most of the day, but 20 Euros later we had clean clothes.  It isn’t ideal, but it is better than washing things out by hand or leaving them to dry all over the apartment.  We decided it was worth the cost!

Italy relies on fossil gas for 50% of its electricity.  Since that is a volatile market, electricity is pretty expensive. Many homes don’t have a clothes dryer. It is common to see clothes hanging out on railings throughout Italy.

Speaking of clothes, I do have a few female style observations to share so far:

  • I’m seeing a lot of full leg cropped pants, often worn with sneakers. They were pretty common last year too. 
  • Speaking of sneakers, they are worn all of the time, usually in neutral colors.  The most common brand I’ve noticed is New Balance.
  • One of the bloggers I follow did a post about snazzing up a super casual look and she suggests a third piece.  In Italy, that is usually a scarf.
  • I see younger girls in athleisure wear, but not on older women.

Italians know that what matters is style, not fashion.  Italian style does not have social or age boundaries.

Stefano Gabbana

I will do more style observations later, but Ciao for now!