Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We'll start with this:

Mom and Dad's visit 4/11/2009 - 4/19/2009

The Menzies Italian Tour has come to a close. We had a week filled with history and art, food and wine. It's strange to be back to "normal" here at the monastery. We saw three wonderful and very different cities: Orvieto, Florence and Rome.

We started with a lovely, long set of days in our Orvieto. The first day provided some time to get to know the little city. We started them on a tour of the monastery and a small respite in our room. Then we made our way over to Pizzeria Charlie, our favorite in Orvieto. We took them on a slow walk over to their B&B, finding out along the way that it was the Antiques Fair weekend in Orvieto, as though they knew my father was coming. There were more people in our little town than there have ever was actually bustling in the streets! We spent the rest of the day walking around the old part of town and visiting the antique shops that were actually open for once and spilling out onto the streets to meet the other vendors now crowding our piazze. We did the obligatory pause in the Piazza del Duomo and even popped inside for a moment. After some great shopping and gaping, we split up for a while so that Mom and Dad could relax and clean up a bit. We met in the Piazza della Republica later and tried to eat at a local place called La Palomba, but it was filled to the brim. So, we wandered around and found a little trattoria near the Duomo. We had a lovely antipasti of meats and cheese (drizzled with honey....mmmmm!). It was there that I had my first real meal of Cinghiale, Orvieto's famous wild boar meat. It was deliciously stewed in a dark brown gravy...yum yum. Then, of course, we took them to a late night gelato at our favorite place in town...Mommy ate every bit of her pile of chocolate gelato.

Easter Sunday! Penn and I ate a pancake breakfast with the others in the program and then met up with Mom and Dad. We surprised them with our membership in the Easter choir at our church in the old part of town. They came to hear us practice and to soak up the ancient building we get to worship in! Dad was in heaven. It was a good reminder of the incredible uniqueness of our life here; our church was built in 1004! The singing went very well and the priest gave us all hand-painted Easter eggs as a thank you. He actually acknowledged the American choir members during the service, noting our talent, energy and enthusiasm. Our director was very proud. Then we went back for a rushed lunch at Locanda del Lupo and a small wine reception in the courtyard at the monastery, hosted by the Howards. We had a small photo shoot of those all gussied up for Easter and then Penn and I took my parents on another walk around the city to soak up the Easter excitement of an Italian city. It seemed that everyone and their grandmother (literally) was roaming the streets that morning. We found our way over to the church where Thomas Aquinas spent 4 years in residency and then to our favorite little park that overlooks the cliffs and the Medieval Quarter. We got rest and pictures there. In town again we stocked up on food and wine for our picnic the next day, in case stores weren't open for Easter Monday, a national day of rest and do-nothingness in Italy. Again, we parted ways to freshen up for our Easter dinner with friends. Riel, Allyson, Jana, Penn, Mom, Dad and I went over to our friend's restaurant, Da Carlo. We weren't disappointed by our host. He was in top form that night, working with his co-waiter to keep us entertained and fed. It's always nice to go there because he does traditional dishes and non-traditional dishes, all with a very special...flare. We had a blast and ate very well. Unfortunately, we parted ways without making a plan for the next day and no cell phones to speak of, so I knew my next morning was going to be an interesting one...

I woke up early to get over to M&D's before they would have left from breakfast. I arrived at 8:40 and called up to them, occasionally using little pebbles on what I hoped was their window. The lady on the floor above them got very concerned about my presence and finally asked if I needed to get in. She buzzed me through and I rang the bell to the B&B. I did so three or 4 times and figured that they had gone out for some early morning antiquing or strolling (or both). So, I sped-walked around the city, making a pit-stop potty break at the monastery on the other side of town. Finally, I went back to the B&B thinking we must have just missed each other. The main door was open and I could get up to their place without having to ask the curious lady on the third floor. I rang their bell again and heard slow feet coming over to the door on the second or so ring. It was Dad. They had slept in until 9, having shut their shutters, blocking out all light from outside! Well, I got my exercise! We had another shopping and touring morning. We retrieved Penn after his class was done and went over towards the Etruscan tombs to find a place to picnic. I think it was fate that we decided to do that, because the cliff on that side is breathtaking and we found a private little triangle of land to eat our meats, cheeses, breads, olives and wine. By far my most favorite picnic and the most calming moments of our time here. So delicious. And we had Nutella and cookies for dessert! Penn went off to draw for his final and we explored some of the cliff and the Etruscan caves. We got some really good exercise and saw some of the city that I'd never seen before. We tried to go to Palomba again that night, but it was full AGAIN. No one told me about needed a reservation for that place! Oh well...we ended up at our favorite wine bar, Vin Caffe and had some lighter fare (salad, oh lovely salad, how I've missed you!) and delicious Prosecco. Gelato again and then bed.

Tuesday we shopped in the morning and met Penn to head over to the wine tasting. We grabbed kebabs on the way (MmmmMmmm) and had a nice, long time with the cellar lady. It was really interesting to go there with my parents, who know all the right questions to ask. After two big glasses of red and white, Penn and I made them walk up the steepest hill in the Medieval Quarter. Woops! Penn went back to draw again and I took Mom and Dad over to our side of the cliff. There we did a walk around the perimeter of the fortress and sat in the daisies for a while. Then it was time for the 200-some-odd steps of St. Patrick's Well. Unfortunately the camera died just before that, so we'll have to go down again to show you all the cool view. We made wishes at the bottom and stopped every 50 steps on the way up to breathe. I think the story of the well may be slightly more interesting than the actual trip down/up, but it's one of Orvieto's claims to fame, so we had to do it. We parted ways again to get ready for dinner at the famous Mezza Luna...Orvieto's best Pasta Carbonara. This night was definitely one of the most memorable meals of the visit!! We started with a mixed antipasta including pate and lard bruschettas! That was interesting. Three of us got the carbonara and mommy got ravioli with meat sauce. By the end, we were all a little giddy on the house white wine (infamously much stronger than normal bottles of wine...we forgot about that fact!!!!) and I was so full I couldn't even think about bacon anymore, though it looked like I had barely scratched the surface! Then, let's just say that there was a funny incident with the check (il conto) where Daddy was at one point following the owner into the kitchen until I called him back to the table. Tears of over-laughter were shed by all. Now I wish I had that pile of carbonara left-overs...

Wednesday was a day trip for the parents and me. And I will finish writing about Florence and Rome tomorrow!


  1. Yay! I've been WAITING for this post. Sounds like you all had a fabulous time. One question: When you say "our membership" in the Easter choir, do you mean to say that Penn joined the choir? I know he can sing, but still, I'm shocked.

    Can't wait for the next installment!

    Love you,

  2. Not only is she a great tour guide, but she posts all our memories for us and uploads photos to Facebook--what a dear! Can't thank you enough for making our trip to Italy more than we could have ever imagined. And of course, being with you and Penn was the highlight for us both!

  3. Awesome journal Grace! Can we come over again next week, can we, huh?? I've already forgotten just how beautiful your church is...the pictures were a nice reminder. I'm very glad you are our story teller. Heck, even I can't wait for your next installment, and I was here! Love you guys!

  4. We were all trying to be cool and patient and not bug you during the visit...but we're so glad to hear some of the stories now!!

    I LOVE the surprise choir singing! Yay, Penn and Grace. Well done! Dad and I can't wait to see your Orvieto.

  5. I woke up today. Made some coffee. Read the paper. Had some raisin bran, rinsed my bowl, put it in the dishwasher. Remembered at the last minute to unplug my cellphone and put it in my briefcase and head on out to the car which was wet because it had rained so I turned on the windshield wipers as I backed out of the driveway and by the time I hit the street, the windshield was dry so I turned them off. Parked. Walked. Metro was unusually quiet this morning and I was able to get up to page 259 of "Little Dorrit." At work I finished up some designs and when I looked at my watch it was 4:30, my, where had the time gone, I don't think I left my chair once, well, maybe once. Came home and made oatcakes... triple batches (to get rid of some excess oatmeal in the pantry) in between which I watched Lil Rounds get booted off "American Idol" (like anybody has a ghost of a chance to win against Adam Lambert since it's only a matter of time and the real art is in picking THE ORDER of who gets the boot in the next 5 weeks leading up to announcing Adam as the winner). Now I'm typing.

    I say all this to say HOW MUCH WE CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOUR ORVIETO!

  6. Charlie - you will love it. They even named the best Pizzaria after you. It's ALMOST as good as Sally's. And we reserved the BEST tour guides for you (just be prepared - they really really like to eat). Can't wait to swap notes.