Monthly Archives: August 2009

To Tivoli

Villa D'EsteAbout an hour outside of Rome is a beautiful area called Tivoli. And within it there are three grand villas. This one is Villa d’Este and it’s indeed amazing. Built in the seventeenth century, it was commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, grandson of Pope Alexander VI. The story goes that he tried and failed to become a Pope himself but went on to become governor–and create a villa and garden worthy of “one of the wealthiest ecclesiastics of the sixteenth century”. But it’s not just another castle.


The gardens are a phenomenon, just when you think you’ve seen the most beautiful fountain, there’s another to take your breath away. Go Europe phrases is perfectly saying, “The garden, like many other forms of art, is designed in a way to encourage exploration, stimulate imagination, and elicit surprise. It will.”

One hundred fountains

Mansion, castle, villa. Call it what you like but it must have been a delight to live in one of these homes. Especially when the gardens look like this–and someone else is doing the work.


And Phoebe was there too.

in the Bjorn, sleeping as usual

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A lot can happen in one year but this is how it all started. Happy anniversary!

getting ready

Paul and his mom

walking down

My grandma singing Ave Maria


Alex, the littlest flower girl

thank you

wedding party


going to the reception





Wade's toast


here we go


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The best way to learn Italian


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Soaking up the siesta culture




black and white

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Nursing a sore elbow, I hope to have him back in shape by the time I figure out where this is…


In Rome, summer has gone to the dogs

Canines hit the pool as scorching temperatures slam Italian capital

updated 2:36 p.m. ET Aug. 19, 2009

ROME – The Dog Days of summer hit Rome on Wednesday as temperatures soared toward 40 degrees Celsius, but for the city’s canines salvation was at hand in the form of its first doggy swimming pool.

While tourists and Rome residents who stuck out the sizzling summer temperatures devoured ice-creams or splashed in the city’s historic fountains to keep cool, pet lovers accompanied their dogs to “Bau Beach” by the banks of the river Tiber.

“This is a paradise, especially for dogs but for the owners too,” said Massimo Lupo, as his pet splashed around in the 50-cm deep pool, surrounded by grass and trees.

The organizer of Bau Beach, Pierpaolo Azzone, said animals were provided with water and bins of food, but owners had to remain with their pets at all times. Before being turned into Rome’s first doggy pool, the area was a disused sports facility.

Summer heatwaves can be detrimental to dogs’ health as they have a higher internal temperature than humans and can get hot very quickly. Unlike humans, who have sweat glands all over their bodies, dogs have glands only between the pads of their feet. They also pant to remain cool.

For some owners, keeping Fido happy was their top priority during the traditional mid-August holiday. Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Bau Beach has notched up more than 3,000 dogs registered in its first month.

“I do everything possible for him,” said pensioner Vincenzo Vinci, gesturing to his dog. “I give up my holidays too.”

The Dog Days of summer, or caniculae dies, was the term used by ancient Romans to refer to the hottest days of the year falling between early July and late August, presaged by the rising of the Dog Star, Sirius, just before the sun.

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

In Rome, summer has gone to the dogs

Canines hit the pool as scorching temperatures slam Italian capital

Image: Roman dog time

Chris Helgren / Reuters
A woman holds her dog in a pool at a beach for dogs on the Tiber River in Rome.



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updated 2:36 p.m. ET Aug. 19, 2009

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Aren’t you supposed to lose weight after the baby is born?

So, we’ve got a new fitness plan in our house. There are sit-ups, push-ups and squats. Long walks, brisk walks and hilly walks too. Paul does the exercises, Carter does the walks. And as when this all started, Phoebe’s just along for the ride. With the extra LBs not exactly melting off, I’ve wondered a few times if I should just cut back on the gelato…but let’s not get crazy. There will be a time for desperate measures. It’s called jeans season. Until then, we’ll just keep it moving.


Move it


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Out: Tummy time In: Bouncy chair



Filed under Phoebe

He did it

All donePaul swam across Lake Albano last night. Along with a dozen other athletic souls, he dove in after work and swiftly paddled all the way to the other side. One hour of continuous swimming. Unfortunately our plan to cheer him on as he reached the other shore didn’t quite work out–the lake was further away than I thought and Phoebe and I just didn’t get there in soon enough. (Score 1, Italy.)

It’s a beautiful place to exercise though, in the middle of a retired volcano. The water is cool, the sun is hot and the crater’s enormous walls surround the lake. At once it’s a cozy but majestic atmosphere. (And for added drama last night, a rescue plane plunged in and out of the lake, practicing the art of collecting water to fight fires.) Runners glide around the perimeter and kids splash in the shallow end. And it all takes place in a town called Castel Gandolfo, home to a papal palace where Popes have spent their summers since the 17th century. Not a bad recommendation.

Now, we were on time to enjoy a sunset dinner with Amy, Dan and the kids afterward. Festive restaurants line the lake, perfect for weary swimmers to enjoy fresh mussels, lobster and pasta as we did, washing all it down with a crisp white Italian wine. What a perfect find, late in the summer. Turns out, they swim every Wednesday so we’ll be there again next week. Right on time.



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The serious business of swimming

Italy is beautiful but you’ve got to know what you’re doing. Even for leisure time, actually especially then. Food, drink and the pursuit of other pleasures are taken quite seriously here–and it’s been said that no one has mastered any of them as well as the Italians. Most important to one’s happiness these days is cooling off but like my Aquagym class, there is a whole system of dos, don’ts and even don’t looks (more on this later) involved with public swimming. So, we’re paying attention.

First there are outdoor pools, never heated but by mid-summer they’re warm and nice. You’ll pay an admission fee, which seems a bit steep until you realize that it includes towel service and a lounge chair.  There might be a snack bar too and if so, they’ll serve the local fare: pizza, panini (sandwiches), ice cream bars and mixed drinks (natch). Like you’d expect at home, lounge chairs and umbrellas line the deck while kids run around, splashing and shouting. And as proof of their world wide dominance, there are Water Wings everywhere.

Less enjoyable are the required swim caps. Every single person must wear one, because really nothing says “frolic” like a tight plastic hat. And don’t try to just blend in by slipping into the water, thinking your bare head will be overlooked. Because it won’t be. A pool attendant will come up to you and say lots of things in a language that you haven’t quite mastered but you’ll know what he means when he starts patting his own noggin. Defeated, you’ll walk over to the snack bar, pony up one Euro fifty for a cap…then go get a beer instead.


Italians don’t really seem to be into, say, nature. With the exception of a national obsession over fresh produce, they prefer things extremely clean (hence the caps), bundled (all children will be swaddled head to toe come September) and scheduled (C-sections are actually very popular). That’s what makes beach culture so comical. At least, lake culture. I hope to have experienced more of the sandy shores by next summer. But in the meantime…

There are are two choices at the lake: wild or civilized. The first is basically the US beach experience. First come, first serve, claim your spot on the sand with your blanket. Lie back or take a dip at will. But more common in Europe is the second. Around the lake you’ll find stabilimenti, private beach areas with little snack bar restaurants and porta-potties in the back. The beach is a business and what they are selling is comfort.

Like the pool, there are lounge chairs here too. But this time they’re rented out one by one. Ditto for umbrellas and prices start at a reasonable five Euros. This means when you amble down from the car, loaded with towels, a cooler, baby’s things and sometimes your giant Golden Retriever, you can’t just throw down a blanket wherever you want. You first register at the kiosk, pay your bit then discuss location with the attendant who escorts you to your sunbeds (not “chairs”, which is unfortunate because I knew the word for that). It’s not a bad setup really. The chairs are indeed comfy and renting them saves us the trouble of toting our own, plus Phoebe is off the ground. Perhaps the culture is getting to us just a bit…

Nottreat?Now a note about attire. There is simply one rule for Italian swimwear, shoot for the smallest amount of material possible, no matter the size of the person. Young, old, thin or otherwise, there are basically two suits on the beach: bikinis and Speedos. Sometimes a treat, sometimes  not. And a third category is toplessness, which seems to be appropriate for little girls under the age of 10, then again over the age of 16.

Now, in the waves you’ll find the following: lovers making out, a group of raggazzi (boys) throwing a ball around, kids wearing the requisite Water Wings and two dogs. On the sand, people are doing what you’d expect. Sun bathing, kicking the ball around, playing cards but mostly eating or smoking and sometimes both.

Occasionally I have moments when I think I’ll never catch on to life in Italy then something small gives me hope. Paul and I both chuckled on our first trip to the lake when we saw a little girl about eight or nine years old. She was wearing only the bottoms of her ruffled bikini but half walking, half hopping across the hot summer sand saying, “caldo, caldo, caldo” (hot, hot hot).


Filed under About Italy, Life

New beach outfit in action


sparkly water

not bad!

all done


Filed under Life, Phoebe