Italy Villages tour where small town charm abounds

Italy Villages tour where small town charm abounds

Padua or like the Italians spell it, Padova, in Italy’s Veneto region took all of 28 minutes to get to by train from Venice. Alice and I arrived in Padua yesterday to start our Rick Steves 14-days “Village Italy” tour.

Padua is a lovely city and even though it is geographically close to Venice, the two cities are worlds apart. And, unfortunately for Padua, I still have Venice on my mind and in my heart. But none of that stopped me from relishing in two of Padua’s treasures, the Scrovegni Chapel and the Basilica of St. Anthony.

Tomorrow our tour group hits the road for Montefalco, Italy, with a couple of stops along the way.

The Rick Steves map of the “Village Italy” 14 days tour which is part of my two month trek through Sicily, Italy and Malta.
Alice and I arrived in Padua by train from Venice to a village in celebration and also hosting an international festival. This is the exterior of the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua, Italy, which we tried to enter but there were just too many people so instead we made our way to the festival. May 1, 2017
At the international festival in Padua, Italy, where various booths were serving a variety of foods, including this one from Spain. May 1, 2017
Padua, Italy, is the start of our Rick Steves 14-days “Village Italy” tour. A college town with a student population in excess of 60,000 and a residential population in excess of 200,000. May 2, 2017
Our Rick Steves “Village Italy” tour group in front of the University of Padua which was founded in 1222 and where Galileo Galilei was a lecturer. May 2, 2017
The clock tower, which was erected between 1426 and 1430, dominates the Piazza dei Signori in Padua, Italy, where a local market is also taking place. May 2, 2017
The Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. The entrance is the canopied building to the right which controls the climate and limits the number of visitors to 25 people for no more than 15 minutes. The fresco work of Giotto inside the chapel is regarded as one of the supreme masterpieces of the Early Renaissance. May 2, 2017
The interior of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. The amazing fresco by Giotto, contains the life of both Mary and Jesus Christ along with the Last Judgement and other religious themes, took two years and was completed about 1305. Giotto, who was born around 1267, was 36–38 years old when he worked at Enrico Scrovegni’s private family chapel. A fresco is when you merge a pigment with the plaster before the plaster sets and is no longer “fresh,” (fresco in Italian). May 2, 2017
A close up of Giotto’s the “Last Judgement” in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. May 2, 2017
The fresco ceiling of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. May 2, 2017
A portrait of Jesus Christ as part of Giotto’s “Last Judgement” which can be seen on the west wall of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. May 2, 2017
The “Last Supper” fresco by Giotto inside the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. May 2, 2017
The “Crucifixion” fresco by Giotto inside the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. May 2, 2017
The “Lamentation over the dead Christ” fresco by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. May 2, 2017
The exterior of the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua, Italy. The basilica was initiated in 1232. It was dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, who was born around 1195 in Lisbon, Portugal, but who died in Padua on June 13, 1231. May 2, 2017
The interior and central nave of the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua, Italy. May 2, 2017
There are numerous side chapels in the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua, Italy, including this chapel of Saint James. May 2, 2017
This is the Chapel of Saint Anthony where his remains are buried in the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua, Italy. Saint Anthony always defended those who were powerless and incapable of defending themselves. He proclaimed the dignity of every person. May 2, 2017
As you enter the Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua, Italy, this 1350 fresco by Stefan da Ferrara of the “Madonna and Child” can be seen. May 2, 2017
A night time view of the beautiful and ornate Basilica of Saint Anthony in Padua, Italy. May 1, 2017

It’s been a brilliantly full day of ancient mosaics, the lush Umbrian countryside, a Proseco toast with tour mates and a delicious pork shank dinner.

I felt my spirit warm up as our luxurious tour bus whisked us away from Padua this morning to Ravenna and then to our villa for the next two nights in Montefalco, Italy.

I’m already feeling the love of this “Village Italy” tour.

We left Padua this morning to make our way to Montefalco with a stop here in Ravenna, Italy, to visit two of the town’s eight UNESCO Heritage sites: the Basilica di San Vitale and the Mausoleo di Galla Pacidia. May 3, 2017
Because Ravenna, Italy, is known for the colorful mosaics adorning many of its central buildings including the Basilica di San Vitale and the Mausoleo di Galla Pacidia, its street signs are these mosaics. May 3, 2017
The exterior of the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, begun in 526, with its octagonal shape may look plain on the outside, but the inside is filled with colorful and vivid mosaics from the ceilings to the floors. May 3, 2017
The interior of Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy, is one of the most important examples of early Christian Byzantine art and architecture in Europe. May 3, 2017
A close-up of the Apse mosaic in the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. May 3, 2017
A close up of Empress Theodora and her attendants located in the apse (center to the right) of the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. May 3, 2017
A close-up of the Emperor Justinian located in the apse (center to the left) of the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. May 3, 2017
A close-up of the triumphal arch mosaics of Jesus Christ and the Apostles at the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. May 3, 2017
The beautiful geometric mosaic floors of the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. May 3, 2017
The beautiful geometric mosaic floors of the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. (For quilters like myself this looks like circular flying geese blocks.) May 3, 2017
More intricate mosaics on the floor of the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. May 3, 2017
The Mausoleo di Galla Pacidia in Ravenna, Italy, was built by Galla Placidia, as a mausoleum for her and her family, however neither she nor the intended family members, her son and husband are buried here. May 3, 2017
The interior of the Mausoleo di Galla Pacidia in Ravenna, Italy. The mausoleum of Galla Placidia (386-452), sister of the Roman emperor Honorius, is a Christian funerary monument. May 3, 2017
The interior ceiling mosaics of the Mausoleo di Galla Pacidia in Ravenna, Italy. May 3, 2017
The interior ceiling mosaics of the Mausoleo di Galla Pacidia in Ravenna, Italy. May 3, 2017
A close-up of the interior mosaics of the Mausoleo di Galla Pacidia in Ravenna, Italy. May 3, 2017
A walk through Ravenna, Italy. May 3, 2017
The main square, Piazza del Popolo, in Ravenna, Italy. May 3, 2017
The lush, green Umbria region of Italy. May 3, 2017
Enjoying Proseco with my tour buddy Sanders, his wife, Suzanne and my travel buddy, Alice, by the pool of our villa in Montefalco, Italy, where we will be staying the next two nights. May 3, 2017
The old town center of Montefalco, Italy, with its gate. May 3, 2017
The old town center of Montefalco, Italy, with its gate. May 3, 2017
The restaurant Alice and I decided to eat at tonight for dinner…Ristomuseo Pizzeria Enoteca I’ll Verziere in Montefalco, Italy, where we are spending the next two nights. May 3, 2017
The rustic interior of the restaurant where Alice and I decided to eat dinner…Ristomuseo Pizzeria Enoteca I’ll Verziere in Montefalco, Italy. We’re in Montefalco for the next two nights. May 3, 2017
Enjoying dinner with Alice and this delicious pork shank at the Ristomuseo Pizzeria Enoteca In Verviers in Montefalco, Italy, where we will be staying for the next two nights. Yum! May 3, 2017

He was a simple man who gave up his family’s wealth to follow his religious beliefs and spread the Gospel to all of God’s creatures. On Thursday, we paid our respects to St. Francis of Assisi in his birthplace and hometown of Assisi, Italy, at two churches in Assisi that honor him, The Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels and the Basilica of Saint Francis. In a lot of ways, I feel as if I am on a religious pilgrimage.

My early education years, I went to Catholic school and performed the various rights of passage through baptism, which I don’t remember because I was an infant, my confirmation and communion. It’s odd that I feel more Catholic when I travel through Europe than at any other time in my life. St. Francis also preached of peace, both internal and external. I feel a great sense of peace in the presence of this beautiful region of Umbria.

The exterior of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi, Italy, holds…in its interior…the sacred 9th century church of the Franciscans where St. Francis of Assisi renounced the world in order to live in poverty amongst the poor and began the Franciscan order. May 4, 2017
The gold-plated statue of the Madonna degli Angeli (“Madonna of the Angels”) glows on top of the exterior of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi, Italy. May 4, 2017
I took this photo inside of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi, Italy, before I found out that no photos are allowed inside of the basilica. The bigger basilica was built basilica was built between 1569 and 1679 enclosing the 9th century little church, a most sacred place for the Franciscans. It was here young Francis of Assisi renounced the world in order to live in poverty amongst the poor and began the Franciscan order. May 4, 2017
Our Rick Steves tour guide, Patricia Brady, explaining about the kind of man St. Francis of Assisi was inside the Chapel of the Roses, where St. Francis of Assisi once lived. The chapel is part of the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels in Assisi, Italy. May 4, 2017
A panoramic view of the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, Italy. May 4, 2017
More panoramic view of Assisi, Italy. May 4, 2017
The Lower and Upper basilicas of the Basilica of Saint Francis and the portico, as seen from the Lower Plaza of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy. The Lower level is for prayer and contains the tomb and chapel of St. Francis of Assisi in a smaller level below the Lower level. Photographs are prohibited in the basilicas. May 4, 2017
The Lower basilica entrance of the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy. Photos inside of the beautiful mosaics are unfortunately prohibited. May 4, 2017
The Upper basilica entrance of the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, Italy. May 4, 2017
It’s called “Pellegrino di pace” (Pilgrim of peace) created by Norberto Proietti in 2005, depicts St. Francis returning from a war with Perugia. May 4, 2017
The old town of Assisi, Italy. May 4, 2017
The old town of Assisi, Italy. May 4, 2017
An artist drawing a beautiful Madonna and Child on the ancient streets in the old town of Assisi, Italy. May 4, 2017
The old town of Assisi, Italy. May 4, 2017
The old town of Assisi, Italy. May 4, 2017
Our tour group following Bruno and Poochie as they hunt for truffles at the truffle farm of San Pietro a Pettine in Trevi, Italy. May 4, 2017
A man named Bruno and his truffle hunting dog Poochie work as a team to hunt for truffles at the San Pietro a Pettine truffle farm in Trevi, Italy…about 20 minutes from our home base in Montefalco, Italy. Poochie, smells for treasured truffle and retrieves it for Bruno. Truffles are fungi found in close association with tree roots. May 4, 2017
A close up of the truffle found by Poochie, the truffle hunting dog and his owner Bruno at the San Pietro a Pettine truffle farm in Trevi, Italy, just outside of our home base of Montefalco. May 4, 2017
Me at the San Pietro a Pettine truffle farm in Trevi, Italy. May 4, 2017
The view from the San Pietro a Pettine truffle farm in Trevi of the village of Trevi, Italy on the hillside. May 4, 2017
We had a four course meal at the La Covina di San Pietro a Pettine truffle farm in Trevi, Italy. This was the fourth course of Pork shoulder on top a creamy potatoe loaf and topped with pieces of truffles. Each course prior had some form of truffles with it…except the dessert which was a delicious Tiramisu. May 4, 2017
Our quaint dinner area at La Covina di San Pietro a Pettine truffle farm in Trevi, Italy. May 4, 2017
Our dessert of Tiramisu at La Covina di San Pietro a Pettine truffle farm in Trevi, Italy. May 4, 2017
Saying goodnight and goodbye to our villa in Montefalco, Italy. Next stop, Orvieto, Italy. May 3, 2017

We left our villa in Montefalco to make our way to the medieval hilltop town of Orvieto. But along the way, we stopped in Deruta to see the ceramic making process, along with some gorgeous ceramics, all done by hand. Then at lunchtime we were treated to a wine tasting and treats on the family estate and winery of Tenute Le Velette before being wowed by the stunning Cathedral of Orvieto.

We’ll spend the next two nights in Orvieto, Italy.

The beautiful pottery of the Ceramiche Artistiche Gialletti Giulio in Deruta, Italy, where pieces are made entirely by hand. Deruta, a hill town in the Umbria region of central Italy has a long history of refined majolica manufacturing which dates from the Renaissance period. May 5, 2017
Mauro at the ceramic wheel at the Ceramiche Artistiche Gialletti Giulio in Deruta, Italy, where ceramic pieces are made entirely by hand. May 5, 2017
Our Rick Steves tour guide, Patricia Brady, explaining the firing process and showing our group how the ceramic pots look once they’ve been fired at the Ceramiche Artistiche Gialletti Giulio in Deruta, Italy. May 5, 2017
Carlo is stirring the glaze that will be used to cover the pottery once it has even removed from the firing process at the Ceramiche Artistiche Gialletti Giulio in Deruta, Italy. May 5, 2017
After the pottery has been glazed then it enters the hands of these artisans who hand paint the designs onto the potter at the Ceramiche Artistiche Gialletti Giulio in Deruta, Italy. May 5, 2017
The beautiful pottery of the Ceramiche Artistiche Gialletti Giulio in Deruta, Italy, where pieces are made entirely by hand. May 5, 2017
The beautiful pottery of the Ceramiche Artistiche Gialletti Giulio in Deruta, Italy, where pieces are made entirely by hand. May 5, 2017
The estate of the Felici family makers of the Tenute Le Velette winery in Orvieto, Italy, where our tour group was treated to a wine tasting on this beautiful estate. May 5, 2017
Alessandro, who manages the vineyards at the Tenute Le Velette winery in Orvieto, Italy, explains the history, the process and the wine making on the estate of the Felici family. May 5, 2017
A tunnel under the Le Velette estate of the Felici family in Orvieto, Italy, was used by the Etruscans to store their wine. The Etruscan civilization flourished in central Italy between the 8th and 3rd centuries BC. May 5, 2017
Alice and I on the beautiful estate of the Felici family, producers of the Tenute Le Velette winery in Orvieto, Italy. May 5, 2017
The family chapel on the estate of the Felici family, producers of the Tenute Le Velette winery in Orvieto, Italy. May 5, 2017
The interior of the family chapel on the estate of the Felici family, producers of the Tenute Le Velette winery in Orvieto, Italy. May 5, 2017
The gorgeous estate of the Felici family, producers of the Tenute Le Velette winery in Orvieto, Italy. The estate overlooks the old town of Orvieto. May 5, 2017
Some wine to taste and some complimentary appetizers in the salon on the gorgeous estate of the Felici family, producers of the Tenute Le Velette winery in Orvieto, Italy. May 5, 2017
A panoramic view of old town Orvieto can be seen from the gorgeous estate of the Felici family producers of the Tenute Le Velette winery in Orvieto, Italy.
I look like I have a patch over one eye, but its obviously just the shadow. A panoramic view of old town Orvieto can be seen from the gorgeous estate of the Felici family producers of the Tenute Le Velette winery in Orvieto, Italy. May 5, 2017
Our tour group hauling our bags up to the old town hilltop of Orvieto, Italy, where will spend the next two nights. There are two way to get up to the old town, an elevator, which we took to the medieval upper town or a funicular. May 5, 2017
The stunning Cathedral in Orvieto, Italy. May 5, 2017
The stunning front facade of the Cathedral in Orvieto, Italy. a large 14th-century Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. May 5, 2017
The interior of the Cathedral in Orvieto, Italy.May 5, 2017
The Chapel of San Brizio inside the Cathedral in Orvieto, Italy, features the brilliant frescoes of Luca Signorelli’s the Day of Judgment and Life after Death. May 5, 2017
The Elect in Paradise, one of the frescoes in the Cathedral of Orvieto, Italy, highlighted in the Chapel of San Brizio by Luca Signorelli, showing the elect preparing to ascend to Heaven. May 5, 2017
The Pieta by Luca Signorelli in the Cathedral of Orvieto’s Chapel of San Brizio. May 5, 2017
The Judging Christ featured in the vault of the Chapel of San Brizio inside the Cathedral in Orvieto, Italy. May 5, 2017
The Pieta, a group of four figures, was sculpted from a single block of marble by Ippolito Scalza in 1570 and is housed inside the Cathedral in Orvieto, Italy. Scalza, who was born in Orvieto, worked on the sculpture for nine years. The four figures of the Pieta (Mary with Christ after the Crucifixion) are Mary holding Jesus, Nicodemus with ladder and Magdalena mourning to the side. May 5, 2017
A close up of Mary’s face on Ippolito Scalza’s Pieta which he began sculpting from a single block of marble in 1570 is housed inside the Cathedral in Orvieto, Italy. May 5, 2017
One of the things that Orvieto, Italy, is known for are these wonderful quirky, two-dimensional wood carvings adorning the streets and shops. These pinewood sculptures are the works of the Bottega Michelangelo atelier developed under Gualverio Michelangeli in the mid-20th century, who departed from the five generations of furniture-making tradition begun by his family in 1789 to experiment with these sculptures. May 5, 2017
More of the whimsical two-dimensional wood carvings in Orvieto, Italy. May 5, 2017
And, just one more of the two-dimensional wood carvings, a bench, in Orvieto, Italy. May 5, 2017
Just the cuteness and quaintness of an alleyway in Orvieto, Italy. May 5, 2017
Alice captured me at dinner again tonight. This time we’re in Orvieto, Italy, at the Osteria da Mama Angela. I’m enjoying a light dinner of chickpea soup. May 5, 2017

Today was about kicking back and taking it easy, which I took full advantage of, at least for the morning portion of the day. I strolled the Orvieto, Italy, outdoor market and even purchased pork slices (porchetta) for a tour group picnic. The afternoon wasn’t quite so laid back, but it was exhilarating, the steep walk up to the medieval hilltop town of Civita di Bagnoregio…a magical treat that led me to take this Rick Steves “Village Italy” tour.

Tomorrow, we head into Italy’s Tuscany region where we will be staying for the next two nights in the wine area of Chianti at a country hotel.

Me in Orvieto, Italy, on the upper level of the Palazzo del Capital del Popolo during the town’s market day. May 6, 2017
Looking down at the vendors on market day in Orvieto, Italy, from a top the Palazzo del Capital del Puopolo. May 6, 2017
Market day in Orvieto, Italy, in the Piazza del Popolo. For our group tour lunch everyone was asked to buy something from the market to contribute to the lunch. The plan was to get our goods and gather together for a picnic lunch close to Orvieto’s ancient wall…but then it rained so our tour guide, Patricia Brady, went to Plan B. May 6, 2017
Plan B: instead of having a picnic lunch by Orvieto’s ancient wall, our tour group brought our goodies from the market to an indoor picnic lunch at our hotel. May 6, 2017
The various goodies our tour group members purchased from the Orvieto outdoor market. Our tour guide, Patricia Brady, gave us all instructions on what to get and what to ask for…in Italian. She even provided us with a cheat sheet of Italian words to use for the various fruits, vegetables and meats at the market. May 6, 2017
More goodies from our tour group market purchases for our picnic lunch today. May 6, 2017
The Piazza Della Repubblica with the Palazzo Comunale and the church of Sant’Andrea in Orvieto, Italy. May 6, 2017
The tufa rock cliffs of Orvieto, Italy. May 6, 2017
Alice and I by the wall and tufa rock cliffs of Orvieto, Italy. May 6, 2017
This wonderful little enchanting town of Civita di Bagnoregio is one of the main reasons why I wanted to take this Rick Steves “Village Italy” tour. Founded more than 2,500 years by the Etruscans, Civita was basically separated from the town of Bagnoregio due to a major earthquake in the 1600’s. To get to Civita, we walked through the town of Bagnoregio, went down a set of stairs and then took the walk up the foot bridge in the photo. At present, about 10 people actually live in Civita di Bagnoregio which risks disappearing because the tufa hill where it is located is being eroded by the effects of the wind and the rain. May 6, 2017
The sun came out just before we were heading up for our walk to the ancient town of Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy. Here I am stopping to take a selfie on my way up to the ancient city. May 6, 2017
The archway entrance into the ancient town of Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy. May 6, 2017
Our tour group taking a breather in the piazza of the ancient town of Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy. May 6, 2017
The ivy covered buildings of Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy. May 6, 2017
Thank you Alice for this photo of me doing what I love doing, experiencing enchanting sites like Civita di Bagnoregio and taking my photos. May 6, 2017
The archway entrance and exit of the enchanting Civita di Bagnoregio in Italy. May 6, 2017
Me after my visit to the enchanting Civita di Bagnoregio. I did it. I can cross this accomplishment off my list. May 6, 2017
This golden winged figure of a female in terra-cotta, perhaps a goddess, is part of an architectural element of an Etruscan Temple and can be seen at the Archeological Museum of Chianciano Terme in Italy. May 7, 2017
Inside the cellar of the Archeological Museum of Chianciano Terme where Roberto is telling our tour group about how important the Etruscans regarded their ancestors because the items in the tombs are there to let the ancestors know who this person was and the deeds accomplished in their lifetimes. Death was seen as a celebration of this person’s life. May 7, 2017
This statue, the lid of a funerary urn, of a winged goddess holds a scroll of the deceased person’s fate who is seated beside her can be seen at the Archeological Museum of Chianciano Terme in Italy. An extensive 19th century excavation of this fifth-century BC necropolis led to the discovery of some of the most important masterpieces of Etruscan sculpture such as the this one and several others. May 7, 2017
This remarkable stone, once circular, depicts young girls, griffins, lions and goats at the Archeological Museum of Chianciano Terme in Italy. It is from an necropolis (cemetery) outside of a place called Pedata. An extensive 19th century excavation of this fifth-century BC necropolis led to the discovery of some of the most important masterpieces of Etruscan sculpture such as the this one and several others. May 7, 2017
The Etruscan Canopic vases or jars, which contained the dead person’ ashes, represent one of the most distinctive examples of Etruscan funerary art from the mid-7th century BC, specially in the area of Chianciano at the Archeological Museum of Chianciano Terme, Italy. The jars…with their mysterious human-shapes..symbolize the body of the deceased and was also a way for the family to maintain a connection…as if the soul of the deceased person was present in the jar. May 7, 2017
Roberto, at the Archeological Museum of Chianciano Terme in Italy, explains the importance of women in the Etruscan society. This impressive figure of the Mater Matuta, a statue on a funerary urn of a woman holding a child, is just one of the examples illustrating the important role women held in the Etruscan society. May 7, 2017
A close-up of the Mater Matuta statue of a woman holding a child in her lap, representing motherhood and the possible loss of a child, at the Archaeological Museum of Chianciano Terme in Italy. May 7, 2017
The view of the town of Chianciano Terme from La Pietriccia agriturismo in Chianciano Terme, Italy. Chianchiano Terme is a spa town where a number of Etruscan tombs are still being excavated. May 7, 2017
I don’t claim to be a good cook, or even someone that cooks on a regular basis, so how both of my adult children turned out to be their families chefs, I have no idea. Don’t get me wrong, there are really great cooks in my family’s history, my great, grandmother for one. I cooked when both of my children were growing up, but it was just the basics, spaghetti, meatloaf, tuna and red beans and riceon special occasions. So, taking a cooking class doesn’t excite me, but I so appreciated the information, Chef Stefano, of La Pietriccia agriturismo… a working farm where tourists can stay…in Chianciano Terme, Italy, so passionately imparted on our tour group about how using fresh produce and ingredients can make for both a healthy and a delicious meal. May 7, 2017
A little snack waiting for us when we arrived at the La Pietriccia agriturismo in Chianciano Terme, Italy. Chef Stefano’s made the sausage, grew the zucchini and processed the olive oil used to create the delicious brochettes we ate for our snack. May 7, 2017
Members of our tour group cutting the pasta circles for the Ravioli at the La Pietriccia agriturismo in Chianciano Terme, Italy. May 7, 2017
Alice showing off her beautifully made Ravioli at the La Pietriccia agriturismo in Chianciano Terme, Italy, where our tour group essentially prepared our lunch for the day with the help of Chef Stefano and his insights into using fresh everything to cook with and eat as part of Italy’s slow food mantra. I chose to take pictures and of course enjoy eating the healthy food my travel mates prepared. May 7, 2017
Here Alice is helping Chef Stefano make sausages…and he uses the best cuts of meat at the La Pietriccia agriturismo in Chianciano Terme, Italy. May 7, 2017

The sun setting on our hotel in the Chianti, Italy, countryside. May 7, 2017

It wasn’t long ago when I intensely disliked Mondays. I would say hate, but I don’t want to harbor that spirit of hate inside of me and now, I don’t have to. Mondays, like every other day now, is just tremendous because I am work-free. And, this Monday, was spent in the medieval city of Siena, Tuscany, Italy. Now that’s the way to spend a Monday! I’ve so enjoyed this Rick Steves “Village Italy” tour…everyday has just been spectacular. Although rain was predicted for our afternoon in Siena, there were clouds, but it never rained.

We say good-bye to our stay in the Chianti countryside to make our way to lovely Lucca, Italy.

A gorgeous morning view of the Chianti, Tuscany countryside of Italy from our hotel. May 8, 2017
The famous and historic Piazza del Campo with a view of the Palazzo Publico and Torre del Mangia in Siena, Tuscany, Italy, is regarded as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. May 8, 2017
The famous and historic Piazza del Campo in Siena, Tuscany, Italy, is regarded as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. It slants downward from the top and is shaped like a clamshell. May 8, 2017
Me standing in the Piazza del Campo by the Fonte Gaia…Fountain of Joy…in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. This is a copy of the original fountain which the Italian Renaissance sculptor Jacopo della Quercia was asked to build in 1406 to replace a pagan statue which was blamed for the Black Plague outbreak. May 8, 2017
The Siena Cathedral…Duomo, in Italian…is a 12th century masterpiece of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architecture. The original plan called for an ambitiously massive duomo, but the scarcity of funds, in part due to war and plague, truncated the project. However this stunning piece of architectural wonder is beyond impressive both outside and inside. May 8, 2017
Me inside the stunning and art-filled Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. May 8, 2017
The high altar of the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. May 8, 2017
The horizontal moulding around the nave and the presbytery of the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy, contains 172 plaster busts of popes dating from the 15th and 16th centuries starting with St. Peter and ending with Lucius III. May 8, 2017
The She-Wolf of Siena which possibly dates from 1373 is one of a number of inlaid marble mosaics on the floor of the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. May 8, 2017
The Piccolomini altar, left of the entrance to the Piccolomini library, is the work of sculptor Andrea Bregno in 1483, inside the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. This altarpiece bares the work of young Michelangelo Buonarroti …the four sculptures in the lower niches…which were made between 1501 and 1504: Saint Peter, Saint Paul, Saint Gregory and Saint Pius. On top of the altar is the Madonna and Child, which was possibly sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia. May 8, 2017
A close-up of the Madonna and Child, which was possibly sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia, on the Piccolomini altar inside the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. May 8, 2017
A close-up of the Saint Paul sculpture by Michelangelo Buonarroti on the Piccolomini altar inside the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. May 8, 2017
The Piccolomini Library with its statue of the “Three Graces” was built for Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini in 1495, who was later to become Pope Pius III to house the books of his uncle, Pius II inside the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. The frescoes, which cover the walls from front to back, depict the life of Pope Pius II and also contain his collection of large beautifully adorned manuscripts. May 8, 2017
The ornate ceiling of the Piccolomini Library inside the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. May 8, 2017
A fresco inside the Piccolomini Library depicts the life of Pope Pius II. The library is located inside the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. May 8, 2017
A large manuscript from the collection of the Piccolomini Library inside the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy.
My feet selfie of the Piccolomini Library inside the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy.
The Chapel of Saint John the Baptist is situated in the left transept of the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. At the back of this chapel, amidst a rich renaissance decorations, is the bronze statue of St. John the Baptist by Donatello and just below him a 15th-century baptismal font. May 8, 2017
A close-up of Donatello’s statue of St. John the Baptist at the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. May 8, 2017
The beautiful rose window, the stained glass at the main entryway inside the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Italy, features “The Last Supper” by Pastorino Dei Pastorini (1549). May 8, 2017
The thick black and white striped columns inside the Siena Cathedral in Sienna, Tuscany, Italy. May 8, 2017
One more foot selfie of a section of the floor inside the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy. May 8, 2017
The east wall of the abandoned original nave of the Siena Cathedral in Siena, Tuscany, Italy, which still stands. The lone wall to the right is an internal staircase which visitors can climb for a grand view of Siena. May 8, 2017
A panoramic look at the medieval cityscape of this beautiful hill town…Siena, Tuscany, Italy. May 8, 2017
The interior of the Basilica of San Domenico, also known as Basilica Cateriniana, in Siena, Tuscany, Italy,contains several relics of St. Catherine of Siena. The basilica was begun in 1226-1265, but was enlarged in the 14th century resulting in the Gothic appearance it has now. May 8, 2017
The Chapel of Saint Catherine inside the Basilica of San Domenico, also known as Basilica Cateriniana, in Siena, Tuscany, Italy, where her head is inserted into this bronze bust. The remainder of her body is buried beneath the High Altar of Santa Maria supra Minerva in Rome, Italy. She also worked to bring the papacy of Gregory XI back to Rome from its displacement in France and to establish peace among the Italian city-states. She is believed, in Catholicism, to have had miraculous visions and felt herself to be united in marriage with Jesus,[1] stating in her letters that she wore the wedding ring he gave her but that it was invisible. May 8, 2017
This substantial structure is a fortress…the Medici Fortress…which was built in Siena between 1561 and 1563. It presently houses the Enoteca, where wines from all over Italy are stored and where wine tastings and exhibitions are held. May 8, 2017
This is our last night in the Tuscany region of Italy. Next stop, lovely Lucca. May 8, 2017
This is our last night in the Tuscany region of Italy. Next stop, lovely Lucca. May 8, 2017

After two nights in a place, I start to get comfortable…especially after an orientation walk. However, being in the countryside of Chianti meant no city streets to figure out with delicious meals prepared in a gorgeous setting at our hotel. I loved the vast scenery, quaintness and quietness. But, I’m a city girl and I’m ready for our next stop…the walled town of Lucca. And, as is common on this tour, we made a wonderful stop along the way in the Etruscan, Roman and medieval magic of Volterra. Again the weather forecast called for rain and again it turned out to be a delightfully beautiful day.

Next up, two nights in lovely Lucca, Italy.

The rooftops of Volterra, Italy, under a threatening sky that brightened up as the day continued. May 9, 2017
The cobblestoned walkway leading to the ancient Etruscan archway and wall of Porta all’Arco in Volterra, Italy. May 9, 2017
Our Rick Steves tour guide, Patricia Brady (orange jacket) giving us the history of this ancient Etruscan wall and gate…the Porta all’Arco…in Volterra, Italy. May 9, 2017
Our Rick Steve tour group standing under the ancient Etruscan arch…Porta all’Arco…in Volterra, Italy. Photo taken by tourmate Lori Church at Lori Anne Photography on Facebook. May 9, 2017
This plaque outside the Etruscan arch entrance in Volterra, Italy, honors the townspeople who on June 30, 1944 plugged up the gate and convinced the Nazi commander that there was no need to blow up the ancient arch. May 9, 2017
The alabaster workshop in the Rossi Alabastri Factory and Shop in Volterra, Italy. May 9, 2017
Pietro Rossi, whose grandfather began the Rossi Alabastri Factory and Shop in Volterra, Italy, demonstrates carving this precious alabaster mineral into a work of art. May 9, 2017
Franco showing off his alabaster carving skills at the Rossi Alabastri Factory and Shop in Volterra, Italy, which is known for its alabaster workmanship. May 9, 2017
Franco showing off his completed small vase, which one of our tour members bought on the spot, at the Rossi Alabastri Factory and Shop in Volterra, Italy. (Rick Steves tour guide, Patricia Brady is in the background.) May 9, 2017
The Palazzo dei Priori, built between 1208 and 1256, is the oldest palace in Tuscany even preceding the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. May 9, 2017
Coats of arms on the facade of the Palazzo dei Priori in Volterra, Italy. May 9, 2017
The sea use to cover the ground in Volterra, Italy, so when the stone was laid, little pieces of shells from the sea would appear. This is my feet selfie of a shell imbedded in the streets of Volterra. May 9, 2017
The streets of Volterra, Italy. May 9, 2017
The streets of Volterra, Italy. May 9, 2017
The Roman Theatre of Volterra, Italy, was built at the end of the 1st century BC. May 9, 2017
A close up of part of the stage area of the Roman Theatre of Volterra, Italy, which was reconstructed. May 9, 2017
The Piazza San Giovanni with the bell tower and the Cathedral in Volterro, Italy. May 9, 2017
The facade of the Cathedral, in the Piazza San Giovanni, dates back to 1254 and was obviously being refurbished in Volterro, Italy. May 9, 2017
The inlaid statue on the exterior of the Cathedral in Volterro, Italy, of Pope St. Linus. May 9, 2017
The octagonal Baptistery, built in the 13th century with its white and green marble facade, in the Piazza San Giovanni, along with the Cathedral and bell tower, are considered the religious heart of Volterra, Italy. May 9, 2017
The baptismal font with the statue of John the Baptist inside the Baptistery in Volterra, Italy, dates to about 1760. May 9, 2017
Just loved this ornate terra-cotta doorway on a street in Volterra, Italy. May 9, 2017
The streets of Volterra, Italy. May 9, 2017
The streets of Volterra, Italy. May 9, 2017
The streets of Volterra, Italy. May 9, 2017
The Tuscan countryside as our tour bus leaves Volterra to head to Lucca. May 9, 2017
Our tour group with luggage in hand heading to our hotel inside the town walls of Lucca, Italy, through the Santa Maria gate. We will spend the next two nights in Lucca. May 9, 2017

Staying within the medieval walls of Lucca, Italy, feels like being wrapped in an abundance of history that requires more time to unravel. Although I’ve seen much and done much during this brief stay, I think these walls and this city still have much more to reveal.

In addition to walking the two and a half mile long oval-shaped wall’s walking/bike riding path this afternoon with my traveling friend Alice, we also attended a wonderful opera concert tonight devoted to the works of Lucca-born Giacomo Puccini inside the 12th century church of San Giovanni.

Good-bye for now Lucca. Tomorrow we head to the hill-hugging villages of the Cinque Terre as we inch closer to the end of this Rick Steves “Village Italy” tour.

Me, while on a group walking tour, at one of the underground stone areas where vaulted rooms were used to store ammunition under the medieval wall of Lucca, Italy. May 10, 2017
Looking out from the Lucca, Italy, medieval wall onto the city outside of the wall and those gorgeous and stately umbrella pine trees that dot certain parts of Italy. May 10, 2017
The first set of walls around Lucca as seen from inside the second set of ancient walls in Lucca, May 10, 2017
The preserved walls perform a ring around Lucca, Italy. May 10, 2017
The upper part of the walls around Lucca, Italy, provide walking path with beautiful trees along the walkway. May 10, 2017
Entrance to the underground stone vaulted rooms, part of the medieval town walls of Lucca, Italy. May 10, 2017
The underground stone vaulted rooms, part of the medieval town walls of Lucca, Italy. May 10, 2017
The Borghi Gate inside the wall of Lucca, Italy. May 10, 2017
This is called a ditch but it runs down the center of the Via Dei Fossi in Lucca, Italy. May 10, 2017
The Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, now restaurants below and apartments above, was once the site of an ancient Roman amphitheater, hence the circular shape, in Lucca, Italy. May 10, 2017
The exterior of the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, now restaurants below and apartments above, was once the site of an ancient Roman amphitheater, hence the circular shape and the Roman remnants built into the building in Lucca, Italy.
The San Michele church in Lucca, Italy, is dedicated to the Archangel Michael and was built over the ancient Roman forum around 1070 AD. May 9, 2017
A close up of the Archangel Michael atop the Roman Catholic Church of San Michele in Lucca, Italy. May 9, 2017
The gorgeous store front on the Via Fillungo in Lucca, Italy. May 9, 2017
Although there are about 40 churches inside the Lucca wall, this Basilica of San Frediano in Lucca, Italy, is the only one with a Byzantine mosaic facade. May 10, 2017
A close-up of the mosaic on the exterior facade of the Basilica of San Frediano in Lucca, Italy, which depicts the Ascension of Christ in a Byzantine style. Below the 12 Apostles look on while the angels lift Christ upwards. May 10, 2017
A street view of Lucca, Italy, from my walk on the medieval wall. May 10, 2017
A group lunch today at a traditional frantoio, olive oil mill, where we enjoyed various olive made treats and a taste test of extra-virgin olive oil and how it is made. May 10, 2017
The Aqueduct of Nottolini is a prominent Neoclassical architectural landmark near the city of Lucca, region of Tuscany, Italy. The 19th-century structure brought water to Lucca from the mountains south of the city through a stone channel supported by more than 400 arches, stretching for almost two miles. May 10, 2017
The Aqueduct of Nottolini is a prominent Neoclassical architectural landmark near the city of Lucca, region of Tuscany, Italy. The arches of the aqueduct are often confused as being those of an ancient Roman aqueduct, however construction of the aqueduct began in 1823 by the architect Lorenzo Nottolini until 1851. May 10, 2017
I capped off my evening and my time in Lucca with a concert devoted to the works of Giacomo Puccini, an opera composer who was born in Lucca. The concert was held in the San Giovanni church. May 10, 2017
I capped off my evening and my time in Lucca with a concert devoted to the works of Giacomo Puccini, an opera composer who was born in Lucca. The concert was held in the San Giovanni church. May 10, 2017

What a full and fabulous day we had leaving Lucca yesterday morning and making our way to the charming Cinque Terre hilltowns of Italy.

Here, let me show you what that day looked like.

I took this from our tour bus on our way to Carrara, Italy, known for marble quarries…see the white markings on the mountains…and the marble removed from the quarries. May 11, 2017
Carrara, Italy, has been linked to the process of quarrying and carving marble since the Roman Age. Even Michaelangelo came to Carrera personally to pick out the marble he wanted for his sculptures. May 11, 2017
A view of a mountainside marble quarry in Carrara, Italy. There are currently 80 active quarries in Carrera. The government owns the mountains and the companies that extract the marble must pay a tax to the government. May 11, 2017
The blocks of Carrara marble in Carrara, Italy. May 11, 2017
The Cava Museo Fantiscritti in Carrara, Italy. It is an open-air museum created, in the middle of the mountainside work being done to extract marble, by Walter Danesi to highlight the history and the difficult work of the quarrymen in Carrara. Yes, that’s me behind the ox that were once used to remove the marble from the quarry. Of course these are not actually ox, but marble carved ones. May 11, 2017
Our Rick Steves tour guide, Patricia Brady, holding up a photo of Walter Danesi, the man who created the open-air Cava Museo Fantiscriti in the middle of the Carrara, Italy, marble quarries to highlight the work of the quarrymen and the ancient history of the quarries in Carrera. I thought this marble quarry tour would be boring, but I was so wrong. May 11, 2017
After the Carrera marble quarry, we made our way to Portovenere for lunch and to take the Cinque Terre ferry ride that stopped at the very scenic seaside villages along the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. May 11, 2017
The Church of St. Peter is a Roman Catholic church in Portovenere, Italy, in the Gulf of Poets in the province of La Spezia. May 11, 2017
Alice on the ferry getting ready for our sightseeing extravaganza of the scenic seaside villages of the Cinque Terre along the Italian Riviera coastline. The weather, which once again the forecast was rain, turned out to be quite beautiful. The clouds did eventually make an appearance, but there was still no rain. May 11, 2017
My Rick Steves “Village Italy” tour mates all comfy on our ferry ride to Monterosso al Mare, one of the hillside villages of the Cinque Terre. May 11, 2017
Me still on the the ferry while it docks to let passengers off at the hill-hugging village of Riomaggiore, one of the Cinque Terre villages. May 11, 2017
The hill-hugging village of Riomaggiore, one of the Cinque Terre villages in Italy. May 11, 2017
A view of Monterosso al Mare, one of the Cinque Terre villages, as the ferry approached the village. May 11, 2017
Tour members disembarking from our ferry ride onto Monterosso al Mare, one of the hill-hugging villages of the Cinque Terre on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. From Monterosso we’ll take the six minute train to our home base of Levanto…but not before checking out this little gem. May 11, 2017
Our fearless leader and Rick Steves tour guide extraordinaire, Patricia Brady, waiting for all of us to gather in Monterosso al Mare after disembarking from our ferry ride. May 11, 2017
The colorful and quaint old town section of Monterosso al Mare, one of the Cinque Terre villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. May 11, 2017
The colorful and quaint old town section of Monterosso al Mare, one of the Cinque Terre villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. May 11, 2017
The colorful and quaint old town section of Monterosso al Mare, one of the Cinque Terre villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. May 11, 2017
More of the old town section of Monterosso al Mare, one of the Cinque Terre villages. May 11, 2017
I saw this cute piece of art hanging on the wall of Fabbrica d’Arte Monterosso, a shop in the quaint old town section of Monterosso al Mare, one of the Cinque Terre villages on the rugged Italian Rivera coastline. I was set to buy it and have it shipped home, but it was already sold to someone else. So instead of buying this large piece, I bought a smaller piece. May 11, 2017
The Church of Saint John The Baptist in the old town section of Monterosso al Mare, with its white and green marble facade, was built between 1244 and 1307. This is the church featured in the piece of artwork that I like, from Fabbrica d’Arte Monterosso, and the piece that I purchased. May 11, 2017
Walking through the pedestrian tunnel in Monterosso al Mare from the old town section into the new town to catch the six minute train to our home base of Levanto. May 11, 2017
On the other side of the pedestrian tunnel in Monterosso al Mare…from the old town section…takes you into the new town section and this gorgeous view. May 11, 2017
Our tour gathered at the Monterosso al Mare train station to take the train to Levanto, our home base…just a six minute train ride away. May 11, 2017
And, after a full day, this sumptuous seafood buffet was waiting for us at our hotel in Levanto. May 11, 2017
The view from my hotel balcony in Levanto. Goodnight for now! May 12, 2017

When I was planning this trip to Italy and specifically this Rick Steves “Village Italy” tour, the hill-hugging villages of the Cinque Terre were on my list of “must do.” Between the ferry ride yesterday and the village hopping today, the Cinque Terre did not disappoint. And again, neither did the weather…which forecasted rain that thankfully never occurred. A group of us took the train from our home base in Levanto to the villages of Manarola, Corniglia and Vernazza.

Tomorrow we leave Levanto and head to Lake Orta and to the last night of our tour. But for now, come village hop with me.

Me with the picturesque Manarola village of the Cinque Terre behind me. May 12, 2017
More of the Manarola village of the Cinque Terre from up high. Several of my tour group members and I walked up to the vineyards and cemetery of Manarola. May 12, 2017
Several members of my Rick Steves “Village Italy” tour group took the vineyard and cemetery trail through Manarola village of the Cinque Terre. From left: Doug, Debbie, Walt, Alice, me and Cindy. May 12, 2017
More views of Manarola village of the Cinque Terre. May 12, 2017
Looking down onto a main street of the Manarola village of the Cinque Terre. May 12, 2017
My feet selfie of this circular mosaic in a square overlooking a main street of Manarola village of the Cinque Terre. May 12, 2017
Me sitting in the middle of the circular mosaic in a square overlooking a main street of Manarola village of the Cinque Terre. I was able to get on the ground by myself but I definitely needed help getting up. May 12, 2017
Our next Cinque Terre village was Corniglia. All it took to get there from Manarola was the train…linking the villages to one another…and a shuttle bus up to the village center. Although it is the smallest and quietest of the Cinque Terre villages, in my opinion, it is also the quaintest with stunning sea views. May 12, 2017
These lemons, spotted at a store front on the Cinque Terre village of Corniglia, were the biggest lemons I’ve ever seen. May 12, 2017
Corniglia, a Cinque Terre village, with its narrow lanes has a less touristy feel to it. May 12, 2017
You definitely get more village cuteness in Corniglia…of the Cinque Terre villages. May 12, 2017
Peering into someone’s gardens on the Cinque Terre village of Cornelia. May 12, 2017
A lively square in the Cinque Terre village of Cornelia. May 12, 2017
The sea view from the promenade on the Cinque Terre village of Cornelia. May 12, 2017
Vernazza, probably the most touristy of the Cinque Terre villages, definitely had a more hectic feel to it, but that didn’t lessen its charm. May 12, 2017
The colorful, congested yet beautiful harbor of Vernazza, a very busy and vibrant Cinque Terre village. May 12, 2017
The harbor view of the Cinque Terre village of Vernazza. May 12, 2017
Me by the harbor of the Cinque Terre village of Vernazza. May 12, 2017
The harbor views of the Cinque Terre village of Vernazza. May 12, 2017
I decided to treat myself to a small piece of art as a reminder of my Vernazza and Cinque Terre visit from the artist himself, Antonio Greco of Bottega d’Arte Cinqueterre. Thank you Cindy for spotting this little gem! Oh, and don’t mind the legs are dangling from the ceiling. (Not real, just a piece of art.) May 12, 2017
Levanto, Italy, a train ride away from the Cinque Terre villages, made for a very charming home base. After exploring the Cinque Terre, Alice and I did get in a quick walk of Levanto. May 12, 2017
The gorgeous facade of the 13th century La Chiesa di Sant’Andrea or St. Andrew’s Church in the charming town of our home base of Levanto, Italy. May 12, 2017
The interior of the 13th century La Chiesa di Sant’Andrea or St. Andrew’s Church in the charming town of our home base of Levanto, Italy. May 12, 2017
This 13th-century medieval loggia in Levanto, Italy, is a UNESCO Heritage monument. May 12, 2017
The 13th century city walls and a rock, starred pathway leading to the 13th century castle in Levanto, Italy. May 12, 2017
The medieval castle in Levanto, Italy. May 12, 2017
The medieval castle in Levanto, Italy. May 12, 2017
Part of the medieval wall in Levanto, Italy. May 12, 2017
The view from my hotel balcony in Levanto. Goodnight for now! May 12, 2017

My days on this “Village Italy” tour have been long and filled with wondrous treasures of places I probably would not have seen on my own if this tour had not made it possible. Whether we stayed at the village or just spent an afternoon at one, each place has left me in awe. I came with no expectations, but I leave this tour filled with so many magical moments.

Endings can be difficult and like our Rick Steves tour guide Patricia said at the onset of the “Village Italy” tour, you do get to know the people you’re traveling with and by the end, you’ve really begun to gel. That was the case for this group. And, there was no better place than Orta with its gleaming lake, spiritual island and hotel accommodations overlooking it all to close this tour chapter.

From Orta I make my way to Milan where I begin the next leg of my Italian excursion…as a solo traveler.

We got to our hotel in Orta early in the afternoon on Saturday…and this was the stunning view from my hotel room window…a gorgeous view of Lake Orta and the Island of San Giulio which looks like it floats on the lake. May 13, 2017
After a brief respite at our hotel in Lake Orta, Italy, we were out for our orientation walk and a quick bite to eat for lunch to the Pizza Motto in Orta. May 13, 2017
The Palazzo Della Comunita in the Piazza Motta in Orta, Italy. May 13, 2017
The stairs, to the side of the Piazza Motto, that lead up to a church in Lake Orta, Italy. May 13, 2017
Outdoor restaurants in the Piazza Motta in Lake Orta, Italy. May 13, 2017
A walkway through in Lake Orta, Italy. May 13, 2017
A walkway through Lake Orta, Italy. May 13, 2017
Lake Orta, Italy, water views. May 13, 2017
After lunch, we took a group motor boat ride from Orta across the lake to the Island of San Giulio, which took all of about 10 minutes. May 13, 2017
The Island of San Giulio as seen from our motor boat on Lake Orta. The perfectly placed island looks like it just floats there on the lake. May 13, 2017
The Island of San Giulio as seen from our motor boat on Lake Orta. May 13, 2017
The Island of San Giulio as seen from our motor boat on Lake Orta. May 13, 2017
The exterior of the Basilica of San Giulio seen from the lake as we approach the Island of San Giulio. According to tradition, San Giulio was founded by Giulio di Orta, a missionary priest, in 390 who defeated the dragons of paganism to build a small church devoted to the Twelve Apostles. May 13, 2017
Inside the Basilica of San Giulio on the Island of San Giulio on Lake Orta in Italy. May 13, 2017
One of many frescoes inside the Basilica of San Giulio on the island of San Giulio on Lake Orta in Italy. This fresco is The Nativity (above) and the Theory of the Saints (below.) May 13, 2016
A close up of the Theory of the Saints fresco inside the Basilica of San Giulio on the Island of San Giulio on Lake Orta. May 13, 2017
This fresco, inside the Basilica of San Giulio on the Island of San Giulio on Lake Orta, is of the Holy Trinity (top) and episodes in the life of San Giulio (bottom). May 13, 2017
The crypt and the urn supposedly containing the remains of San Giulio in the Basilica of San Giulio…named in his honor…on the Island of San Giulio in Lake Orta, Italy. May 13, 2017
The beginning of the “Walk of Silence” on the Island of San Giulio on Lake Orta, Italy. It’s a very short, spiritual walk, with sayings along the way, to help in your contemplation. Unfortunately, there were groups on the path that were not silent, but the brief walk, while reading the signs felt uplifting. May 13, 2017
Taking the “Walk of Silence” on the Island of San Giulio on Lake Orta, Italy. May 13, 2017
Signs similar to this, in different languages, were along the “Walk of Silence” path on the island of San Giulio on Lake Orta, Italy. This sign reads: “In the silence you receive all.” Other signs and sayings included “Silence is truth and prayer,” “In the silence you breathe God,” and “Silence is the peace of oneself.” May 13, 2017
A path along the “Walk of Silence” on the Island of San Giulio on Lake Orta, Italy. Some meditative thoughts from the walk included: “Walls are in the mind,” “The wise man makes a mistake and smiles,” and my favorite, “If you can be yourself, you are everything.” May 13, 2017
A path along the “Walk of Silence” on the Island of San Giulio on Lake Orta, Italy.
The beauty of Lake Orta from the Island of San Giulio. May 13, 2017
This is the million dollar potty view…for a long time, this was at one time, the only toilet on the Island of San Giulio on Lake Orta. May 13, 2017
My buddy, Sanders and I, as our group is heading out to our farewell dinner in Orta, Italy. Thank you Sanders for looking out for me. And, thank you to his wife, Susanne, for looking out for the both of us. I’ve gotten very lucky with my buddies on both of my tours, Sanders on this one and Jim on my Sicily tour. May 13, 2017
Our Rick Steves “Village Italy” tour group at our last night and dinner of our tour in Lake Orta, Italy. May 13, 2017
Alice, me and Cindy enjoying our last group dinner together in Orta, Italy at the Venus Restaurant by the lake. May 13, 2017
Patricia Brady, our Rick Steves tour guide, giving us a rundown on the menu for our farewell dinner. On the bus from Levanto to Orta, Patricia (standing) also recapped our whole trip and provided us with a wonderful verbal account of the things we saw and did during our Rick Steves 14-days “Village Italy” tour. Sitting next to Patricia is my tour buddy, Sanders and his wife Susanne. May 13, 2017
A night view of the gorgeously lit Island of San Giulio. May 13, 2017
Okay, one more night view of the gorgeously lit Island of San Giulio. May 13, 2017
The night views of the Piazza Motta on Orta, Italy. May 13, 2017
On our walk back to the hotel after dinner, we came across this lovely grotto. A good place to pause and say safe travels to my tour mates and to my friend and travel buddy Alice, who heads to London; and a big “Thank you” to our Rick Steves tour guide, Patricia Brady whose energetic positivity and historical knowledge kept us organized and educated. So long to the villages of Italy, hello to the cities. Next stop, as I carry on as a solo traveler, is Milan, Italy. May 13, 2017

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