An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Braces for Halloween and a Formal Apology

Halloween brings out the scary in me.
And, no, I’m not talking about a scary costume. What’s scary is that I morph into someone I don’t even recognize.

Allow me to explain. For the rest of the year I (mostly) avoid sugar. I don’t put sugar in my cappuccino or my tea. I don’t eat sugary cereals. I am careful with desserts.
But on Halloween … I go all out.

I have to try one of everything. And sometimes two, or three. I am not joking. I once wrote a Halloween blog post entitled “What not to eat on Halloween”, which basically listed every piece of candy I ate that night. The title of the post was a joke (ha, ha) … What not to eat on Halloween? The candy wrappers. That was my lesson.
Then there was the one year we bought two huge bags of candy (for a total of 10 pounds) and hid them high on a shelf in the laundry room until Halloween night. Except that on Halloween night ... Where's the Candy? Only 5 pounds left, and this was before trick-or-treating. Now, in my defense I didn’t eat all that candy, and there were other guilty parties involved, but still.

Another year was the tootsie roll year. I don't know what-in-the-heck was wrong with me, but I think I ate ... well, I won't tell you how many tootsie rolls I ate, and I wasn't picky: the big fat ones, the long skinny ones, and the small bite-sized ones all called my name. According to Google it takes a 1/4 mile run or 550 steps to burn off one small Tootsie Roll, so it took quite a while to burn off that tootsie roll binge.
Last year, to help me get a grip, I did something smart. Well, brilliant, if you ask me. On Halloween morning, bright and early, I scheduled a dental appointment. Why would I do such a thing? Well, let me tell you. After cleaning, scraping, buffing, and flossing I wasn't letting anything near those pearly whites.

I was the Queen of Moderation, the Resistor of Temptation, and the Epitome of Steely Resolve.

This year I decided to do something similar except instead of scheduling an appointment with my dentist, I made one with our orthodontist. Yes, I am an adult who is getting braces (or rather,  invisalign). So after enduring all the prep work before getting my invisalign trays on Dec. 2 (a consultation, an x-ray, and in-depth photos) I am very conscious of my teeth and have no desire for any candy. Brilliant, yes?

Finally, here is a totally last minute Halloween costume formula, which works whether you're eating candy or not ...

formal attire + I'm sorry name tag = a formal apology
(ha! get it?)
(btw, those are my mother's wedding gloves)




Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Public Library and Community Outreach

Last week I visited the Van Gogh exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art. After a lovely afternoon wandering around the museum, we then walked across the street to the Richland County Public Library. My sister, Laura, who is the Assistant Director for Information Services at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Library, wanted to show us an example of the new age of public libraries which focuses on community outreach.

I was blown away. The Richland Library, with its dramatic and exciting architecture, is a public library in the heart of downtown Columbia. It offers 240,000 square feet of creative spaces to help patrons learn and grow while strengthening the connections that bring them together as a community. Some of their services include:

1- Business, Careers and Research Center (with access to computers, advice from a career coach, practice interviews, and resume assistance)
2- Makerspaces and Studios (offering free workshops such as woodworking,  jewelry-making, movie production)
3- weekly Farmers' Market
4- public art displays
5- cafe` 
6- auditorium and theater
7- Social Work Department (to help area residents seek reliable information on healthcare, housing and food) (they even host a flu clinic)
8- Children's Room/Teen Center

And then there was this genius idea:

9- Book Club Sets (in which you can check out multiple copies of a book to host a Book Club) 

The Richland County Public Library is beautiful, bright, clean, welcoming, and enlightening. The programs and services offered are amazing, and in an age which has seen the decline of the public library, the Richland Library is a shining example on how the public library can still be the heart and soul of a community. 



Monday, October 28, 2019

The Timothy Pantry

"Mom, you seriously need to go shopping," Timothy announced yesterday. "The pantry is empty."

Well, empty it was not, so he clarified his statement.

"What I'm talking about is a Jonathan-is-coming-home pantry," he explained. "Now that's a full pantry. I also like the Jonathan-is-coming-home meals that you make."

Busted. There is also a Nicholas-is-coming-home pantry, but it's a little less frequent because he lives in Arkansas. I freely admit that before the older boys come home, my tendency to stock the pantry and refrigerator is akin to the father offering the fattened calf to his prodigal son. And Timothy knows this all too well. Last month, after an especially big grocery store haul, I excitedly showed him the pantry. The shelves were packed with sodas of all kind (which we never get), chips, cookies, pasta, cereal boxes (everything from Cheerios to Fruit Loops), and Little Debbie cakes (a real treat). Timothy looked at the pantry and with a touch of irony said, "Jonathan is coming home this weekend, isn't he?"

So yesterday I listened to Timothy lament the state of our pantry, and because I felt little sorry for him, poor neglected thing that he is, I asked him what Jonathan-is-coming-home meals he would like me to make. Just like that he rattled off a list: tuna spaghetti, chicken and polenta (the one with the tomato sauce), that spicy beef with the mashed potatoes, breaded Italian chicken, and homemade pizza which, evidently, I haven't made in a while.

"That's a whole week right there," he said helpfully.

I looked at my growing boy. Earlier, when he came downstairs for breakfast, I demanded that he stop growing because there was no way my baby could be six feet tall. When he told me that I needed to add two inches, I said uh-uh no way so he pulled out the tape measure to prove he was right.

My baby is officially six feet, two inches tall.

And that baby was still standing there, grinning, and looking hungry. So fine. I made chicken and polenta for dinner.

And today, since my menu planning is complete thanks to you-know-who, I'll go grocery shopping and stock a Jonathan-is-coming-home pantry ... all for Timothy.


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Speak to Me Sunday: Fuzzy Slippers

This morning I was going through my emails when I noticed that Amazon had sent me a list of recommended reading. Number one on the list was How to Make a Living as a Writer.

Huh. I cannot even begin to tell you how serendipitous that was.

Just a few years ago, Joe was doing our taxes and made an interesting discovery. Our eldest son, who had an engineering internship during the summer and another one over the Christmas holidays, actually made more money that year than I did as a writer.

On one hand we were laughing and saying, "Yay, Nicho!" (especially my engineering husband who expects our sons to contribute financially to their college education); on the other hand, I was like ... DANG.

I love writing, but for all the heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears I pour into it, there's not a lot to show for all the work.

Sometimes this bothers me. I mean, who doesn't like to get recognized for the work they do? It's nice being told you are getting a raise, or given a bonus for finishing a project, or called up on stage to receive an award. It's nice being told you did a good job, or that you are making a difference.

But whenever my thoughts go down that road I pause and think of those who work hard, sacrifice to make ends meet, get up early in the morning or work late into the night, and who do all this without expecting anything in return except good health in order to get up the next day and do it all over again. In a society in which popularity is measured in Facebook likes and Twitter shares, and where recognition is given for throwing a football or for the latest hit song, the Real World is full of those who do what they need to do and that's it.

Hard work is not always celebrated. Or recognized. Success is not always measured in dollar signs.

So in the end, I am perfectly okay with the fact that my taxable income isn't indicative of my hard work, or that when people ask what I do and I say writer ... they still want to know what I do.

Besides, I get to do what I do while wearing my bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. So it's all good.

illustration from

Thursday, October 24, 2019

A gondolier, a baseball player, and Mrs. Clinton walked into a bar ...

Actually.

They walked into my house.

Last night I hosted Halloween Bunco and Timothy, who was home and therefore pressed into taking our group photo, commented afterwards that we know how to have fun. (He also might have used the word "crazy" but he meant crazy-fun.) (At least, I'm pretty sure that's what he meant.)

But it HAS been crazy-fun with these gals. We've gathered together once a month now for almost 17 years (I know this because, as the youngest of our children, Timothy is our "Bunco Baby"). We've laughed, cried, and celebrated one another. We've watched our children graduate high school, then college. There have been weddings and births. Half of the group came with me to Italy earlier this month, and the other half cheered us on. We're all different, with unique talents, but we have the common bond of friendship.

Anyway, a gondolier, a baseball player, and Mrs. Clinton walked into my house. Along with several witches, Robin (Batman's sidekick), and a girl from dia de los muertos with the most expertly applied Halloween makeup.

And what was I dressed up as? I wore a formal dress with "I'm sorry" written on a name tag. A formal apology ... get it?

See? Crazy fun.


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

In Which I was Caddie for a Day

Yesterday I went golfing with Joe.

Wait. Allow me to clarify: yesterday I drove a golf cart while Joe golfed. 

It was actually my idea. My plan was to play caddie, drive the golf cart, and take photos of the fall foliage around the golf course. 

But the weather did not cooperate. 

It was foggy, very damp, and the fogginess and dampness did a number on my hair--FRIZZY out to there (even Joe commented on the state of my hair). It was also chilly (I drove the golf cart wrapped in a blanket) and everything was gray--the sky, clouds, fog, and even my sweater and blanket. No colors, just drabness, so no pretty photos.  

But I rallied and did my best to be a good caddie for Joe. I was very helpful. In my opinion, golf is too complicated and involves too much math and too many clubs. Really, one should only need three clubs: a driver, putter, and 7-iron. That's all I use when I play which, strangely enough, works for me. So in my role as caddie, whenever Joe wasn't driving or putting I helpfully advised him to use a 7-iron. 

I was also ready to look for balls, but Joe is a pretty good player and all his balls landed on the fairway. Well, except one which landed in the lake. I couldn't help him with that one.

Finally, since I was the official scorekeeper, I dutifully recorded pars, bogeys, and birdies. But I also used the little squares on the scorecard to draw smiley faces and hearts. 

After 18 holes, Joe's golf card was pretty.


Monday, October 21, 2019

A Mother, Two Daughters, and Vincent Van Gogh

For my mother's birthday last July I gave her three tickets for the special Vincent Van Gogh fall exhibit at the Columbia Museum of Art. This past weekend we used those tickets. Here is what happened at the an art museum with my mom and my sister ...

1- My dad (reluctantly) gave up his ticket. When I presented the tickets to my mother, I suggested we could use them one of two ways: 1/ for my mom, my dad, and me  OR  2/ for my mom, my sister, and me. My dad immediately said that Laura should go; in fact, he insisted. I'm not sure if money exchanged hands, but Laura said she'd be happy to go and just like that my dad spent the afternoon on his recliner watching television while we went to the art museum. My poor Dad. Don't you feel sorry he missed the Van Gogh exhibit?

2- Wine on Sunday. Before the museum we attended Mass at my sister's church and then had lunch at the Blue Marlin. My mother and I each ordered a glass of white wine, and when I looked around the restaurant we were the ONLY ONES indulging. Everyone else was drinking tea or lemonade. I felt positively decadent having wine with lunch on a Sunday. In my mother's defense ... she's Italian. In my defense ... I just returned from Italy where I had been SPOILED with wine at every single meal. Including Sundays.

3- Poor Van Gogh. As well known as he is today, Van Gogh suffered from rejection his entire life. "You'll agree with me that ... you can do better than this ... art is too important to be treated so cavalierly" wrote Dutch painter Van Rappard to Van Gogh. When Van Gogh wrote another Dutch painter, Matthijs Maris, asking for instruction, Maris replies that it would be better for Van Gogh
"to hang himself." In fact, the experience of failure was as much part of him as any other life experience. 

4- The struggle was real. To be drawn into Van Gogh's art is to recognize the raw mix of pain, beauty, violence, and struggle that, at the same time, manages to convey introspection, beauty, and humanity. He struggled mentally and spiritually, and never has the idea of tortured genius been more exemplified than with his severed ear. 

5- My sister got in trouble. After the VanGogh exhibit we explored the rest of the museum and there, on the second floor, was The Nativity by Sandro Botticelli. The last time we saw works by Botticelli was at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and here was one of his masterpieces in (of all places) Columbia, SC. Evidently, not only is this the ONLY Botticelli in the entire United States, but it is also the only one exhibited outside of Italy. Well. Laura (who lives in Columbia) was in BIG TROUBLE for not knowing this important fact. Like ... she was in the doghouse. 

6- Introducing levity. You might think all this introspection and analysis was getting heavy, but we  three knew how to liven things up (see #2 above). In the spirit of fun, we took selfies in mirrors and interacted with the displays. 


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Saturday Afternoon

Sometimes a rainy Saturday afternoon is perfect for staying home and organizing ...

my kitchen "desk" cabinet 
(where I keep all my stationery, notebooks, and recipe binders)

and 

the pantry
(to make room for holiday supplies).









Friday, October 18, 2019

The Floating Pumpkin (a diy centerpiece)

Boo! 
Here's something scary for you ...

an autumn gourd + one rusty mattress coil = one floating pumpkin

a row of floating pumpkins, some candles, and your decor is done



Thursday, October 17, 2019

Deep Breaths

I am a study of contradiction.

Put me in front of a group of people to do a presentation on Italy, share ideas on family Lenten practices or explain Brunelleschi's dome and its influence on architecture, and I am in my element; in fact, I love it.

But, ask me to do a book talk and I am a bundle of nerves. As in, take-deep-breaths-or-I-will-throw-up kind of nerves.

It's a conundrum. The only thing I can figure is that in one scenario I'm teaching, in the other I'm sharing.

Also, I've never done this sort of thing before, so there has been a huge learning curve. Each time I give a book talk I learn something new, which is good, but also creates self-doubt because I'm in a situation involving trial and error. But I now know, for instance, to bring a pen to sign books (at my first book talk I had to borrow one), to ask questions about the venue because it helps knowing ahead of time if there will be a podium or if I will be using a microphone, to speak from my heart and not rely on notes, and to request two easels for poster boards I like to use as a backdrop.

Yesterday I was invited to speak at the local chapter of the Suburban Woman's Club, and when it was time to leave home I was this close to being sick. I needed backup, so I turned to God and called my sister. In that order. With God I was grateful for this opportunity to share my story and humbly asked for a smidgen of courage; with my sister I got to the point.

"Okay. Talk to me. I'm giving a book talk in 30 minutes and I already feel like I'm going to be sick," I said. "Why do I do this? It is so idiotic. I am prepared. I have a really good talk that comes full circle by the end. I am even having a good hair day! So why can't I breathe?"

I'm laughing when I say this, but not really.

"Oh, you do need to breathe," Laura says helpfully. "Breathing is important."

Before I can come up with a witty response, she continues.

"I get the same way when I have to do a presentation at work," she explains. "You need to remember to breathe from your diaphragm, not your upper chest. It helps."

See? I always learn something new. A little later I'm smiling and breathing from my diaphragm while the treasurer of the club introduces me.

Here's another thing I've learned in doing these book talks: After working myself up into such a state, at some point during the presentation I settle down and actually enjoy it. Which is precisely what happened yesterday. I had a lovely lunch with some truly lovely people who liked hearing my story. They laughed, wiped away a tear or two, asked questions, and wanted to know more.

"You are the best speaker we've had in a long time," one woman said afterwards. "You are so personable. Do you have other things you could talk about because I want to hear you again."

I liked the fact that she used the word personable because it allows for a little bit of everything, including nerves.

I smiled at her, and remembered to breathe from my diaphragm.


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

prayers and birthday cake


from a place of staying
waving to the going
who carries with him
a mother's prayer
and
chiptole chicken
homemade pasta
chicken salad
and 
leftover birthday cake

Lighting a candle at Isola San Giulio

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Speak to Me Sunday: A Perspective on Gratitude

On the morning we left Venice, I was delayed at the Air France check-in counter because the computer system had somehow merged my ticket with that of my sister-in-law. In a way, I could understand ... Maria Anna Novajosky and Mary Treacy Novajosky sound and look very, very similar. It was a problem we had encountered earlier in the trip when Mary checked in for our Atlanta-Amersterdam flight and they gave her my boarding pass.

So one at a time, members of my group received their boarding passes while I stood at the counter waiting for Air France to fix the problem. I finally told the group to go through security and that I'd meet them at the gate. My sister, who had her boarding pass, remained with me.

Time passed. The nice Air France attendant typed furiously on her computer. She made three phone calls. Four. Then five. She called her manager. Finally, she had to cancel my ticket and re-issue it, and by the time she handed me the boarding pass our plane was already boarding. Luckily, the attendant had stamped our passes so we could race through security. Honestly, I have never gone through security so quickly--straight to the head of the line, throw our bags on the belt, leave on our shoes, run through the metal detector, and grab everything and go. We made it to the gate just in time.

Now, while all this was going on I had been very calm. I knew the issue would be resolved. I was even happy that, out of everyone in the group, it had happened to me because I could speak Italian (which facilitated things greatly with the ticket agent).

But when I boarded the plane I realized that, in canceling and then reissuing my ticket, my seat assignment had been changed. Prior to our trip I had been so careful with my seat selections; in fact, on that particular flight (Venice to Paris) I had even paid for an upgrade so I could have more leg room. Now, however, I was stuck in the middle, with an elderly American woman on one side and a gentleman of Middle-Eastern descent on the other.

I was mad. And hot after my airport run. Then I thought how my seat assignment on my next flight--the one from Paris to Atlanta--was probably changed too.

So I sat there stewing, with my elbows wedged to my side, typing a text to Joe asking him please (when he woke up) (hopefully before I landed in Paris) to go online and try to get back my original seats. I ignored the lady to my left (who, I was sure, was going to talk my ear off) and the gentleman to my right (who, I was sure, had nothing in common with me).

You know how someone can give off an air that tells people not to mess with them? Well, I gave off that air. Don't look at me, touch me, talk to me. Don't smile at me. Don't be nice to me. Just. Leave. Me. Alone.

I was in a mood.

A little later the pilot announced that there was a clear view of the Alps out the window, so I leaned over to take a look. What a view! Grandiose. Majestic. And it put things into perspective for me. Our plane was so insignificant compared to that majestic mountain range, just as my little ticket problem was insignificant compared to what had been a wonderful and problem-free trip. I thought back to the past 13 days of traveling with 31 women, a trip I had organized, and of the thousand--no, the MILLION--things that could have gone wrong ... and nothing had.

It's so easy to complain that the rose bushes have thorns instead of rejoicing because thorn bushes have roses.

Just then the flight attendant came by offering snacks and drinks. The woman next to me asked the attendant for a gluten-free snack, but they were out so she settled for a cup of hot tea. I took a deep breath and turned to her with a smile.

"As it happens, I have a gluten-free muffin in my purse," I told her. "It's from our hotel breakfast this morning. You are welcome to have it."

And I handed it to her. Then, because I didn't want ignore the gentleman on the other side, I turned to him.

"I'm sorry," I said. "That was the only muffin I had."

He smiled and, in broken English, asked where I was headed. And there I was, having a conversation with a gentleman from Egypt who was flying to Paris on business and nervous about everything because he had never been out of his country before.

As we started our descent into Paris, I was awash in gratitude--for our wonderful trip, for the memories and laughter and experiences, for the time with my sister and the visit with my relatives, for smooth flights and good health for everyone, for the view of the Alps and the sight of Mont Blanc. I was grateful for the elderly American woman on my right and the Egyptian gentleman on my left. I was even grateful for my ticket woes and wherever I happened to be seated on the next flight.

There was so, so much for which to be grateful.

Mostly, though, I was grateful that when I was so quick to resort to childishness when something didn't go right, God's grace enabled me to see the roses through the thorns.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

2019 Girls' Trip to Italy (Trip Recap, Days 11, 12)

This is the last of my five part La Dolce Vita Travels series on the 2019 Girls' Trip to Italy. Appropriately, we end in Verona and Venice, two of my favorite places on earth. 

If you'd like to catch up ...

Days 1-3: Pistoia, Firenze, Chianti, Siena, San Gimignano
Days 4-5: Santa Margherita Ligure, Cinque Terre, Porto Venere, Portofino
Days 6-8: Stresa, Lago Maggiore, Milano, Isola Bella, Isola dei Pescatori, Isola San Giulio
Days 9-10: Bolzano, Franciacorta, Soprabolzano


Day 11: Bolzano, Verona, Venezia (Sept. 29)

Today we said arrivederci (or auf wiedersehen) to Bolzano and stopped in Verona for a half day walking tour before continuing on to our final stop, Venezia. As many of you know, my mother is from Verona, and our relatives still live there; additionally, Nicoletta's mother is also from Verona. So when our bus arrived to Ponte della Vittoria in downtown Verona our relatives were all there, waving and smiling at the bus with its GIRLS' TRIP TO ITALY banner on the front window. After everyone said goodby to Nicoletta (who would remain in Verona), my sister and I spent a few hours with our relatives while the rest of the group toured the city of Romeo and Juliet. They visited Juliet's house, Romeo's house, Piazza delle Erbe (with its market stalls), and Piazza Bra with the world famous l'Arena (the open air colosseum which is still used today for concerts and a summer opera season). There was free time to explore and have lunch, and in the early afternoon we boarded the bus for the last time for a short drive to Venice.

On the outskirts of Venice we said a final goodbye to Rocco (alas, no bus drivers are needed in Venezia) and boarded water taxis for a thrilling ride up the channel and into the Grand Canal. It was an amazing way to arrive into this magical city. We disembarked at Piazza San Marco and walked across the famous square to our hotel, Hotel Cavalletto. Yes, that's right, our hotel was right next to Piazza San Marco!

That night, most of the group participated in a dinner and gondola serenade (Mary Brooke participated in a duet with the musicians on the gondola as they were floating down a canal) while the rest of the group either explored on their own or attended the 6:45 p.m. Mass at St. Mark's Basilica.

Two of my favorite places on earth.

Enjoying lunch with my Italian family in Piazza Bra.

Much love to Paola, Silvio, Tizi, Luciano, and Martha!
And much love to Davide, Damiano & Irene (who had a baby
just a few days ago), and Chiara (who was away at university).

Melanie, Elizabeth, Jeannie
Verona, Italy

Lunch with a view.

Exploring Verona.

Our grand entrance into Venezia.

Our first glimpse of Piazza S. Marco, Doge's Palace,
and the campanile.

Melanie and Cathy taking in our view from Hotel Cavaletto.
If you go out the back door, you land in the canal.

Off to a gondola ride and serenade, followed by dinner.
Lower left photo shows the musicians (including Mary Brooke
who sang along).

Gondola Serenade

Piazza S. Marco at night,
and Mass at the Basilica (one of the few times they turn
on the interior lights is during Mass).

Venezia at night is magical. 

Story of this photo: I was trying to identify a church across the 
lagoon and slowed down to look at a map while my group went on ahead. 
Since it was dark, I held the map up high to try and read it by
lamp light. All of a sudden I heard the sound of laughter ...
my group, taking this photo, saying I looked like a tourist.
You think? 

Day 12: Venezia (Sept. 30)

The sun was shining on our first full day in Venezia. We began with a guided tour of Doge's Palace where we saw masterpieces by Titian (one of the most important artists of the High Renaissance), Tintoretto (responsible for the largest oil on canvas in the world), and Veronese (known for his characteristic blue skies in the background of his paintings). We were able to walk across the Bridge of Sighs (so named by Lord Byron) which connects the justice chambers of Doge's Palace with the prisons.

After touring St. Mark's Basilica, we watched a glass blowing demonstration at the Vecchia Murano Glass Factory. Our afternoon was then free, and almost everyone spent that time exploring or, if they hadn't already done so the previous evening, taking a gondola ride.

Our Farewell Dinner was at Ristorante Al Colombo where we dined outside in a courtyard that provided excellent acoustics for Mary Brooke to sing two arias--Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro and Ave Maria. She received a standing ovation from all of us, as well as from the other patrons dining nearby. After one last group photo, and after making a speech thanking Jane for being such a wonderful guide, we spent the rest of the evening in St. Mark's Square enjoying a magical evening of twinkling lights, orchestra music, and the festive air of the piazza.

Note: In the months leading up to our trip, my sister and I hosted several information sessions about some of the sights we would be seeing in Italy. While we went over Florence, Milano, Verona and Bolzano, I purposely did not go into great detail on Venezia ... mainly because I believe everyone's first visit to La Serenissima shouldn't so much be about the mind, but about the senses. You have to feel, taste, touch, smell, see, hear, and experience Venezia as the unique and magical place that it is.


Mollie and Cathy
Buongiorno Venezia!

Brilliant sun, blue skies.
Our first full day in Venezia was perfect.

St. Mark's Basilica in the morning sun.

Very proud of this photo showing a streetlight (with the characteristic
pink Venetian glass) and St. Mark's lion (the symbol of Venezia).

Three details from Doge's Palace. 

Details from inside Doge's Palace.

Window with a view, Doge's Palace.

My sweet sister in law, Mary, outside Doge's Palace.

Vecchia Murano Glass Factory.
The demonstration included glass blowing and glass pulling.

Each piece is exquisite.

So beautiful.

Waiting for our gondola.

A few of us took a sunset gondola cruise before dinner.

Flavio, our gondoliere.

Flavio, our gondoloiere, taking us through the smaller canals
and into the larger, Grand Canal.

Dinner in a courtyard.

Mary Brooke singing Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro

Mary Brooke singing Ave Maria

Post dinner stroll.

Piazza S. Marco on our last night.

Our friend Karla took this amazing 360-degree photo
of Piazza S. Marco at night.

First night in Italy,
last night in Italy.

Day 12: Venice-USA (Oct. 1)

Sadly, departure day. After our checked luggage was sent on ahead by boat (luggage which had "mysteriously" not only grown in weight, but also in number), the group again boarded water taxis for a 30-minute boat ride to the Marco Polo Airport. Long lines awaited us at the Air France counter, and while the rest of the group sailed on through without any problem, Maria was stuck at the ticket counter trying to prove that Maria Anna Novajosky and Maria Treacy Novajosky were sisters-in-law ... that is, two different people and not the same person! She made it to the gate just as everyone was boarding! Whew!

A connection in Paris, a customs and passport control in Atlanta, and the group said goodbye to Brenda, Jeannie, Elizabeth, Mary, and Mary Brooke (all of whom, with the exception of Mary Brooke, had connecting flights). Everyone else flew in to Augusta.

Much later that night (well past midnight) texts via WhatsApp confirmed that everyone had made it home safe and sound.

Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends,
but it is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers.
~Pat Conroy

Half of our Bunco group (we missed the other half!).
We've been together for amost 17 years.

Walking across Piazza S. Marco one last time.

The heavier luggage was sent by boat ahead of time.
Mysteriously, our luggage not only creased in weight, but in number.

One last view of Venezia.
(photo sent to me by a blogging friend)

And I leave you with this ... a gondoliere singing
Ciao Venezia, which I happened to record on our 
very last afternoon.