Monday, April 13, 2009
Back From Italy
When you are on vacation, and especially on a group tour, you travel in your own little bubble a little oblivious to the outside world. In our case, the world intruded. On April 6, while we were in Florence, a 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit the town of L'Aquila in central Italy. Since we were traveling with a group of 38 middle-schoolers from earthquake prone California, the kids were getting frantic calls from their parents.
Everyone was reassured that we were well out of danger and not traveling near the disaster area. The next morning, the Italian newspaper at the hotel had a dozen pages of coverage that were, of course, unintelligible to me, but we could see the pictures of the damage that had struck the city and destroyed the beautiful cathedral in the center of town.
Our next stop was in Assisi of St. Francis fame which had suffered severe earthquake damage in 1997 including several priceless frescos in the Basilica of St Francis. Our guide explained that L'Aquila, like Assisi was 13th century town with roots in the Roman era. My heart goes out to the 275 and counting victims of that quake.
By Friday we were in Rome and a national day of mourning had been called. Flags throughout the city were flown at half-mast, including the flags flying over the monstrous Victor Emmanuel II monument in the center of the city.
On a lighter note, I abandoned my quest for Amaretto and decided to go more obscure. We ended up buying three different liqueurs. The problem with Italian digestivos is that they tend to either taste like cough syrup or diesel fuel. One that straddled the sweetness/harshness line was Mirtillo, a blueberry tinged flavor so obscure that I can’t find an English language web page for it. The second was Limoncello, a lemon-based drink, which is gaining a cult following. There are dozens of brands and ours, like most, is from the Sorrento region where they grow lemons bigger than your head. The last one was a splurge mostly because the bottle was so cute. I assume from the name and the picture of a Franciscan monk watering a rose bush that Rosolio has something to do with roses. Not that I’m going to eat any flowers to see how accurate the taste is.
In case you are considering a trip to Italy just for Amaretto, it sells for €12,90 (about $18) for a full liter bottle in the Rome duty-free shop and £14.99 (~$23) in Terminal 5 at Heathrow. While either of those would have been a better deal than the $25-30 a 750 ml bottle goes for in the States, I now have plenty of other liqueurs to keep me soused once the amaretto is drained.
And finally, I have over three thousand photos to sort through before I start showing off the wheat and deleting the chaff. I was doing a lot of stupid things with the camera like forgetting to take the polarizing filter off when going inside or not resetting the ISO when I went back outside. I also kept doing stupid things which wouldn't affect me if I knew how to shoot in RAW, like accidentally changing the white balance setting. Nevertheless, I am impressed with how beautiful the pictures are despite my bumbling. Let’s just say that every church, chapel, basilica, cathedral, and duomo was more beautiful than the last. For now, this picture of me with the car I picked up on the trip home will have to do.