Monday, July 11, 2011

We Had a Farmhouse in Tuscany...

We Had a Farmhouse in Tuscany...

Loggia ... our farmhouse.


We Had a Farmhouse in Tuscany...
well that's what they called it in the information...
and that is indeed what it turned out to be. We had rented "farmhouses" in Italy before but they had been renovated at different levels of comfort and esthetics but always the hay loft and stables had long since been converted to new kitchens or  comfortable  living spaces. Remember Umbria Joe and Lynne? At Spannocchia they truly meant farmhouses.
After a comfy flight on British Air from Phoenix to Heathrow ( flat beds this trip) we had a quick connecting hop to Rome ... a night at the airport  Hilton Garden Hotel ( not the HILTON that is impossible to miss ) but the Hilton Garden that is impossible to find until you catch on to their signage and trust that it does feel like you are in farmland on the grounds of Davinci airport. We were off the next morning in our rent a car to find our farm ( and school site ) in Tuscany.The directions were perfect and after a stop on the Rt.78 for groceries and staples at a Mercantile we arrived late Saturday morning at Spannocchia. Our home for the next four weeks. 
Spannochia Castle home of larry's Program for three weeks.
Lucia our fabulous Guest Relations Manager and Maddalena, Greeter/Helper
We were met at the reception desk by Maddalena who promptly sold us some of her husbands goat cheese ( from his 80 goats ) from the cooler on the farm products side of the office. Then we followed her in her electric cart to our farmhouse ... which because of a last minute change in our reservation by Lucia ( Guest Relations Manager ) was now only a mile away from the Castello . I think they were hoping that larry would walk to class everyday so we didn't burn Diesel getting him back and forth but we assured them that that would not be happening ( sorry Pamela ).

A little history on this Spannocchia ( estate ) we are now living on. The Spannocchia family, who began the estate were known to be active in the nearby city of Siena as far back as the mid-1200's and maintained ownership until the 1920's when the current family owners, Cinelli, bought it. Until 1991 the property was operated under a time honored system known as mazzadria which was a tenant farming system
A Vineyard on the farm next to our house.

A product of the farm we enjoyed.
known in Tuscany from the 1100's. Our farm house Palazze Logge was one of the tenant farmers homes. To-day Spannoccia is operated as part of a non-profit foundation as an educational center for learning and research in archeology and architectural conservation, natural resource conservation, local ecology, sustainable agriculture and forestry, cultural history including crafts and fine arts and traditional land management practices.

The Castello from our Portico.
Larry's PhD program is closely associated with the Maine based US office of the foundation and he will be attending classes in the Castello ( castle ), the ancient tower that we view from the portico of our farmhouse, surrounded by aged Italian Pines. Each night at sunset the Castello reflects the rose hue of the brilliant setting Tuscan Sun... of which many romantic and inspiring books and stories have been written. Yes, the LIGHT here is INSPIRING, 
Sunset from the Portico.
As I write this we have been here one week. Our plan was to come early to allow our aging bones and psyches to adjust to the time change, get settled in our new home and get rested for this great creative adventure. It has gone better than we hoped. We've gotten to know the house, the path the sun tracks around our shuttered windows, when to have them open for the warmth of the sun and when to close up tight against the frigid night air ... it's still early Spring here but each day seems to grow warmer. 
Poppy's blooming in our front yard.
Lavender for the house.

We've got our COOP     (market ) located and are familiar with their products and know that you can't ask the deli lady to grind meat for you ... that is for the butcher right next to her.
We know how to drive to and from Siena ... about 20 minutes each way once you can find your way back to the Rt 73 from Porto San Marco. I've found the best place to find kindling and pine cones for our nightly warming fires ... we have a good supply of wood left for us on the portico from the surrounding forests ... and Larry has become the fire starter and chief.

Popi in front of his hard earned fire.
We located my school in Siena ( The Siena School for Liberal Arts ) and met David , from Mobile , AL. who seems to be the head guy and Lisa ( from CT. with a Masters from the Chicago Art Institute ) who will be my private teacher for two hours twice a week for the next three weeks. Her mission to teach me how to draw ... at least a little bit.

The Siena School for the Liberal Arts where I studied.

Lisa my professor .. a VERY talented artist and an inspiring teacher! She gave me the keys to the
 "Drawing Kingdom".

David with his charming Alabama accent always had time to help! Endlessly patient. 
 After a tour of the school we set out with David's directions to find a hardware store and we hoped an electric heating pad. Mine didn't work when I plugged it in on arrival. Well, we never found the hardware store but we DID find the heating pad, I had a photo of mine on CLD's little camera and that saved the day. I declared to the woman in the shop that it was a MIRACLE!!! Don't all Catholic Italians know MIRACLE???

Since the Italian heating pad arrived life in general has warmed. I'm really ( as of to-day ) getting into the FARM life. Amazing how you can live without foil, Saran wrap ( plastic bags from produce at the COOP are treasures and to be respected and coveted ). And keeping a pot of home made soup on the stove gives you a feeling that a meal is just a warm-up away ... especially with croutons made from your, fresh from the baker, day old bread.

The student comes home to a hot meal and helps himself ... playing house at the Farm!

Soup... pasta ( Bolognese of course ) hot bubbling fare ... Tuscan style.

So, we've watched Angelo the vineyard/ olive manager  tending lovingly to each of his children in the perfectly trellised vineyard in front of our house ... taking his shirt off in the heat of the day to cool himself under that  TUSCAN SUN.

Sorry, I missed Angelo and his interns in the vineyard. Hope you can picture the scene here in the vines!

We've enjoyed watching art students from Oklahoma University, studying for three weeks with their professor at the Costello, bring their easels and paints to spend a sunny afternoon painting the landscape we live with everyday.

 I've put a cool bowl of milk out for our visiting kitty ( against farm rules ), picked wildflowers for our tables, done my first load of wash in the machine in the old stable below us ... nothing like the smell of sun dried clothes, I think I remember that from my childhood ... yes, indeed. 
Evenings are spent in front of the fire, a necessity, playing Knock Knock ( with KJ and Di's typed rules at hand ), Gin Rummy, 500 Rummy and Aunt Judy's Jewel Quest on CLD's IPad and thanks to the Saul's ... easy to carry Farkyl with music provided by my IPOD or the IPAD. Larry tells me that I'm killing him with the old fashioned games and catching on with Jewel Quest ... now I understand, Michael and Amy, how you get addicted to these games!
Like the SLOW food movement, started not too far from here in Alba ... near a farmhouse EE and KK will remember well ... this is life in the SLOW lane. Once you slow down with it, it begins to get into your skin or under it. The air starts to smell sweeter, the sounds get sharper ... you actually hear the birds start and stop their songs before and when an approaching late afternoon storm kicks up the wind in the trees. You notice new blossoms and buds arrive daily in the fields and trees  and when you just KNEW that you kept smelling an herbal scent in the air out by the old well ...  you at last discover the ages old rosemary TREE that you know has flavored many a pot of farmer's soup in our house.
Well CLD has been laboring on and off for this first week to get his reports and presentations prepared for first day of school Wednesday. After losing presentation One on his powerpoint ( yes, a sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach ) he seems to have his system organized and will be ready for his first " on stage ". The articles his reports are based on read like jibber jabber. That's how he describes his interpretations of them too ... I tell him that it is only fair considering the source. So, we now await the arrival of his 11 classmates, faculty and the President  of IDSVA ( Institute for Doctoral Studies and the Visual Arts ) George Smith on Tuesday afternoon. They will arrive together by bus from Rome Airport. George is the one that changed the operational rules this year which allows Larry to come home each night to our farmhouse and live with me at the hotel on the Lido in Venice ... we worship George and haven't even met him yet.
So like our year in New York ... we look forward to the coming adventure, hoping that our classmates are half as wonderful as those in our Christie's class... notice I use the royal "WE", and that our farmhouse experience is a fraction as fulfilling as our apartment on 5th Avenue.
Do I make our first week sound too romantic, idyllic and easy? Well; I spared you the water pump break down on our third morning when we had no water then red water, the icy sheets that greet us every night ... me the one that pre-heats her side of the bed each night of the year at home ( so the heating pad hunt ), the narrow walled lane to our farmhouse...
The very narrow lane from our house. As the flowers and grasses grew it began to feel like it was narrowing even more.

...  from the slightly wider main road ( all roads of white limestone ) ...  where you have to watch BOTH side view mirrors to be sure you don't knock them off. But, from those same centuries old narrow field stone walls thrust tender crimson poppies like a knight's sword jutting from a sorcerers stone. 
So on to the next stage of our adventure  and week two. Ciao!!
Week Two - 
It's Sunday morning. Another perfect morning in the Tuscan Hills. I love getting up every morning and opening the shutters and windows to let the bright sun inside our stone house and moving our potted Basil to the living room window to capture the daytime sun ... it really feels like a rebirth everyday ... sounds corny I know but it really feels like that. Water the plants, put on the coffee and the day begins. Planning on making French Toast with our aging Italian peasant bread and topping it with heated honey from Spannochia and fresh strawberries from the coop ... for our traditional BIG Sunday lunch ... just like home.
Yesterday was a challenge and an adventure for me. I drove us to Firenze on the autostrada ( EE would be impressed ), found the parking lot I'd read about in my hours of research on this trip, and the taxi stand to take us over the Arno to meet the rest of the class at the Academia to see Michaelangelo's DAVID. It never fails to bring chills to your spin when it first comes into view. Then a quick lunch and on to the Uffizi and then home early ... the rest of the class stayed to wait for the bus departing at 10PM for Spannochia .. too late for us old folks. But, it gave the students a chance to roam around Florence and get to know her a little bit. Arrived back at the farm house exhausted but feeling good at mastering the autostrada ... my maiden voyage.
This week has flown by. A week ago to-day we finally connected with Nicoletta in Venice ... she and bambina Nina will meet us at the train when we arrive in a couple of weeks.
I planted some pink petunia's in our portico pots, workman arrived to start doing some repairs on the house next door ( hear we will have guests there this next week ). Love hearing their Italian ... like being in a neighborhood.
But, the big news of the week was that Larry finally started his classes Wednesday morning. The bus from Rome arrived with a tired group on Tuesday afternoon
We decided not to go up and greet them since they'd had a long overnight trip from the States. But, much to our surprise a few hours later we hear someone calling out to us and it was George Smith founder and president of the program ... who had come to call and introduce himself. It turns out that he walks down our lane everyday when he's here at Spanocchia every year for his exercise. A VERY warm and likable gentleman ... you feel at ease with him at once. A great start for us.

Larry on the terrace with some of the first students to arrive. This is where everyone staying at the Costello gathered for wine from the farm every night before dinner.

The husband of the owner of Spannocchia greets all the students to welcome all.

Throughout the rest of the week CLD has gotten to know his class mates slowly ... and I've had the chance to spend time with them too. It's a small group compared with Christie's class and living here in a pseudo communal style forces you to move toward each other more quickly than you would otherwise ... George's plan I'm sure.

They are all studio artist's and teachers at the college or high school level except for Cld and a student from Alaska. Most have put themselves through school and have earned their way at every turn ... survivors .

Popi at work in the Costello study ... the CLASSROOM!

Classmates with their pedals to the metal 24/7 !
Note the ancient tiles on the floor... the original fireplace the ... VERY antique table.
And the second big news was my starting my bi-weekly drawing class ( one to one ) with Lisa. Proud of myself for making my way to Siena, finding the school ( after our dry run together last week ), and living through the first steps of trying to learn a NEW skill.
Porto San Marco my gate to Siena ... my landmark for entry.

The new underground parking garage ... just had to learn how to PAY!!

It was all UP from the garage ... on the way to school. All quiet this time of day in Siena before the tour buses arrive ... cherished the walk every trip.

I'm loving it. I range from big ah.. hah moments for me ( baby steps for Lisa ) and total frustration when I look out over the sea of tiled roofs that blanket Siena and Lisa asks me to do a very simple blocking of an area I'd like to work with.

The roofs of Siena from my school ... fabulous vista but too overwhelming for me to draw.

 Overwhelming!!! I seem to love working with figures and soft forms best ... no secret I guess since I love to shoot people best with a camera.

I treat myself to a gelatto for lunch after class on Tuesdays and Thursdays and have found a shady place to enjoy it on the steps of a church near the school which seems to be a favorite resting spot for the locals ... I'm always the only non Italian there.
Came home the first day of class to find three art students, from the visiting Oklahoma U. program here at Spannochia, with their easels set up in our front yard painting our view of the vineyard and the Castillo. It was a picture itself which I promptly took.

A painting within a painting ... Magritte style! And a kitty.
The Oklahoma art students hard at work. What a wonderful surprise to come home to. They are all under grades here studying for three weeks with a professor from their school  Lucky them!!!!!

Popi has celebrated his birthday this week with a flare-up of his arthritic knee. It had behaved so well for the last three years that we'd forgotten about it. Lisa took me to a pharmacy in Siena after class Thursday so I could get some Tylenol ( there version which is stronger than ours ) ... GOOD!  And I drove a lovely back road, almost to Firenze, to Colle di Val d'Elsa on Friday ( his actual BD ) to a chocolate factory and visited their small lovely air-conditioned showroom and bought some luscious treats for a surprise present to add to the Spannochia Apron from the farm shop here and a handmade card decorated by a tiny water color that featured our farmhouse ... created by Hana one of the OK students that frequented our painting location ... perfect!
We had dinner at the Castillo that night so the students from our program, the farm interns, students from OK U. and other dignitaries could sing happy birthday to CLD in Italian ... it sounding so lovely in this romantic language ... in the dark cavernous dinning hall of the tower ( Castillo ) with a single lit candle in a slice of cherry torte. Not quite as impressive as Lam's HAPPY BIRTHDAY solo on the boat last year ... but moving in its own way. Much appreciated.  Then home for our private celebration... and some CHOCOLATE!
So at the end of week two ... we have two cell phones that speak English ( no easy feat ), I've conquered the washing machine, recycling system, local shopping, maneuvering Siena and beyond... highways and byways ( including how to pass a team of cyclists on a twisty two lane road ), we've enjoyed our first PIZZA night at the Castillo ( they make them in an outdoor ancient oven and bring them one after another for two hours ... until you beg them to stop ), transitioned from last weeks winter weather to this weeks lovely Tuscan Spring/Summer temperatures and we are both settled into our learning experiences. Now if we could only find time for our homework!!!! 

Week Three
Well, it's our last Sunday morning at Spanocchia and we've just  finished week three ... it has flown by. After two chilly days and evening fires in the fireplace to warm us we woke this morning to Summer again. I lay in bed listening to the sounds of the birds ... looking at the green of the Tuscan hills. Since we've been here the vineyards have burst to life ... hadn't noticed it until I looked back at early pictures of the vines outside our windows ... they look so full and leafy now. 
Our donkey Mom hasn't given birth yet but a small herd of beautiful white cows passed me on the road yesterday ( they too were being moved to a different pasture for the Summer ) and a Mom and baby were among them. The calf reminded me of Norman in City Slickers for those who saw it. Life at the farm...
Last Sunday was a jammy day.  Had a fabulous Sunday brunch on our portico. Luscious melon with the sweetest strawberries ( tasted like the ones you picked in the field as a kid ) and I made french toast with peasant bread, sweet butter and warmed Spanocchia honey and again strawberries on top. 

Can you just taste the sweet berries and warm syrupy honey from the farm's bees? All on that wickedly tender Italian bread sauteed in farm olive oil?
Made fried eggs for Popi ( their shells are so thin and yolks so big ) and we both had bacon ... really Prosciutto ( elegant Italian ham ) quite a delicacy for bacon ... a big treat!!! 

Popi's fried farm fresh eggs and the sweetest melon from Morocco .. to early for the Italian melons.
I've learned on this trip that in this COOP market they don't sell anything that is not RIPE and ready for eating. So no ripening required and you better go home and enjoy it before it's too late ... takes some getting used to ... but it's great!!!
Popi has completed two of his three Power Point  presentations. He felt pretty good about them and reports that he was able to handle the student and faculty questions. He is up at 6AM every morning now to get work done before I take him to the Castillo at 8 so he can work again until class starts at 9 or 9:30. They had two guest lecturers this week ... one a Columbia professor who consults with the Chinese and Korean art world...
in country  ( also, helping with their pavilions at this years Venice Bienalle ). He spoke on Chinese art to-day comparing work from the North and South of the country. The other guest lecturer, from the United Kingdom, spoke on Goya ... his Catastrophes of War Series and his Keyhole Prints.  All the guest speakers seem to be very well recognized international experts in their fields and tightly connected to the international art world.
Thursday night Spanocchia hosted a party to celebrate Italy's 150th anniversary. A band from Vancouver, Canada ...  "Brasstronaut"...  who has been touring Germany and Austria for several months and has a band member with a relative working here at Spanocchia ... entertained with a concert on the front lawn. 

The Italian guests invited to the celebration concert and dinner. The band is under the canopy where the rest of the class and others staying at the Costello have lunch and dinner everyday ... weather permitting. We would join them here on the Farm's FAMILY NIGHT DINNER every Wednesday.

One of the farms interns who had worked at a French bakery ( she is a graduate Botonist ) made the bread for the celebratory dinner that night! It was PURE ART!

As we sneaked home early to have a private dinner and time for some homework we snatched a few slices and they melted in our mouths as we drove home
Our cook and her helpers prepared a bountiful buffet for the evening meal. I took pictures of her making the pasta in her kitchen that afternoon. When she was a child she lived in the farmhouse we now stay in ... her family were part of the tenet system. There were about 50 local Italian guests who joined everyone else at Spanocchia ... many young beautiful Italians. We skipped the dinner and went home to our own quiet evening ... CLD was loaded with homework to do and I had had a long day ... a school day for me in Siena.
This week has seen another break through for me. Last week it was my fruit and vegetable and Congo brother and sister drawings that gave me wind in my sails ...
Our veggie basket hanging in our kitchen ... drawn free hand while i was standing ... and cooking dinner.

Can you recognize the melon and berries from Sunday's brunch? I hope so.

This I drew from one of my pics from the Congo on our West African cruise before we left for italy. This little girl carrying her baby brother on her back brought back memories of the old Mickey Rooney movie about Boy's Town that had a similar sculpture with the words ..." HE'S NOT HEAVY ... HE'S MY BROTHER ".

... and yesterday it was my FIRST full figure drawing. Wish I could figure out how to get some of my pics into this document. I think there is something wrong with my Pages software ... I follow the simple directions but it just shuts down the program ... will share when I get home to my computer. Anyway, I was thrilled that I have found my own path to figure drawing .. based on the ideas and instruction of Lisa my teacher and the excellent reference materials she has provided for me. It was another big "AH HAH" moment for this kid with ADD ( attention deficit disorder ). Now I understand why people like to do Life drawing classes.

My first figure drawing ... I shocked ... didn't think it was possible for me. Not perfect by any means ( as KK and EE can tell you) ... but i am proud at this BIG beginning step for me.

 Next challenge FACES .... TOUGH!!!! Started with marble sculptured heads at the City Hall Museum in Siena this week with Lisa ... very hard and discouraging ... she says faces are the very hardest to draw and I see why ... but will hope for a break through ... much to study!!!
I was in the school office the other day before my class and met three young ladies who had just arrived from the states to study book restoration. Guess what? Two of them are students at NAU in Flagstaff and one actually is from Flagstaff ... they were stunned to find me there. As Lam would say ... " and the world is round!!!!"
Friday night after dinner we returned to the Castillo to attend the first Pechakucha ( a Japanese invention). The 6 minute, forty second power point presentations were prepared by each first and second year student ( the second years joined us on Wednesday ) as a way to introduce themselves to each other. Pleased that George allowed the other spouse here and myself to attend. There were four that night ( CLD presents tonight ) ... all artists ... metal work / teachers, painters/ teachers / writer , stain glass artist/ high school art teacher ... all shared visuals of their work and bits of their personal story. Some very interesting and talented people in our new family. One in particular, the student from Alaska, we now refer to as the female Francis Bacon ... with a touch of feminine softness.
The process of getting to know a new class, when everyone is in a constant state of panic and exhaustion, is a challenge but personalities are beginning to emerge and there is warmth, heart, passion and gifts to be seen in their souls ... as always .. it just takes a little patience.
So now this third week we end each night with a few games of Quest and then we tuck into bed and I read a Dick Francis mystery novel to Popi before we go to sleep. Last week it was an Evanovich between the numbers goofy, fun novel.... she makes you laugh out loud. It helps us both relax and drift off to sleep after our wonderful but stressful days ... at the farm!!! One more week to go!!! SAD!

Below are a few pics of our house.. before we say goodbye...

Our kitchen window in the early morning light.

Our bedroom with magnificent views of the farm in every direction!

Our living room, scene of many fires in the fireplace, reading, studying, games and "snuggling in" evenings!

No no dishwasher ... just me! Flowers from the field.

We made it all work and LOVED every minute of it!!

A favorite place to study when it was to chilly too study outside on the Portico.
Even when it was CHILLY in the early weeks ... we were prepared!!!!

Week Four
Well it's Thursday night and we are all packed. Our time here at the farm has come to an end. Larry turned in his last assignment this morning with a sigh of relief. Everyone in the group is exhausted, that includes both of us. It has been wonderful but stressful.Are we both happy with the outcome ... YES!!!! We've gotten to know our wonderful classmates and George and his team ... and they are all wonderful!!!!
I had my last meeting with Lisa ... my drawing teacher. I am so encouraged that I plan to investigate opportunities at NAU in Flagstaff when I get home. A drawing class maybe, now that I have the confidence to know that I can draw ... and assume learning.. even at my age, Hey, Grandma Moses had 20 years on me at this point. I took taste treats from the farm to Lisa and David ( he made the whole thing come together long distance and was endlessly helpful to me with directions, translations, problem solving ... anything and everything). Hope to stay in touch with them both.
Also, delivered some more of the amazing chocolates ( from the chocolate factory and show room just south of Florence ) along with a big thank you for all they did to make our stay here at the farm and beyond so very successful and special ... to Lucia and Magalena. And they always did it with a big smile. Lucia, the guest relations manager did everything from program our new Italian phones for English, to adding time to them, to writing translations for us and on and on. She is a gem. Magalena was the one who coordinated the effort to find me a drawing teacher in Siena through her friend Jennifer ... and what a job she did. I also gave David and Lisa some of Magalena's husband's goat cheese as a gift to-day.
As I'm typing this one of the farm kitties just ran under my table. She had sneaked in without Popi even noticing.
This week after dinner in the evenings the students in Larry's class finished their Pechakuchas. Again they were fascinating and revealing. A big help in getting to know who each of them are and where their creative juices flow. Monday night was the last presentations and also the last night that all the first and second year students were together. So, last Friday I had gone to the chocolate factory up the road and ordered 25 hand selected trays of chocolates for all the students, staff and faculty as well as Lisa and David and Lucia and Magalena. When I picked them up Monday morning he ( he still had his apron on ) and his wife had just finished preparing them and they had added elegant ribbons and their lovely stickers to each to make them extra special ... we have one for ourselves I must take a picture before we attack it.
A true Tuscan treasure! All handmade,selected and wrapped. A treat for all of us!
Lisa took me to the Natural History Museum in Siena this week so we could draw from real skeletons ... another BIG challenge. She also invited the new resident artist who had just arrived from the states. The three of us drew together and we had a chance to look at some of her work on her IPhone. Drawing the bones brought back a lot of old information learned when I took Anatomy in college for nursing. 
Our Chef with her team of Farm interns on pizza night!

Kneading with LOVE!

Also, had our last pizza night at the Costillo Wednesday night. They make the pizzas out side where they have an outdoor oven. They heat the brick walls all day with a wood fire  then remove the embers and the heat held in the floor and walls bakes the pizzas in  no time. They make every kind you can imagine. The challenge is not to fill up on the first so you have room to try the later editions. They also had homemade gellato. We left before they served it so they insisted that we take a bowl home with us. Turned out that it was coffee ... my favorite.
The weather this last week has been a mystery. It has rained off and on almost everyday and like our West it hits without warning. Yesterday was a trick to try and get clothes dry hanging outside. At one point our farmhouse looked like a Chinese Laundry.  
No pun intended Ed.
No baby donkey yet I'm sad to report but we did see a herd of Boar cross the road in front of us the other night as we drove home from Pizza night in the dark. They look at lot like our Javelina except they have long tails. Made us feel right at home.

The entry to the Costello where usually there are three very sweet dogs laying in the sun waiting to be fed.

Popi waiting for me to pick him up from school!!
Hey a picture of me in front of the store rooms at the Costello.
A few moments at Spannocchia ... here one of the cottages at the Costello ...
... wild dill growing along the road ...

... beauty in the ordinary...
... a place to create, to learn, to stretch your mind and your body ... to just BREATH!!!!!
Tomorrow it's off on the train to Venice . Our dear Venetian friend Nicoletta and the "NEW" Nina will be at the train station waiting for us!! So, watch next week for the report on the first of two weeks in Venice ... if you can stay awake through it. I promise that it will be lots better with pictures!!!

The view from our apartment in Venice ... we're coming home again to VENECIA!!!