ITALY – a Land to Love and Linger In

Who doesn’t love Italy? It is among the top 5 most visited countries in the world. Even those who haven’t been there love Italian food, Italian wine, Italian cars, authors, designers and opera singers. 

I just felt so happy, it was like the sun came out of the clouds for me.
I love Italy. 
Bruce Sterling

We have been fortunate to spend a great deal of time in Italy and are happy to be back again this May 2017. This is the 3rd year we have leased a car to spend months traveling around Europe. If you are to be there for any length of time, leasing is much more economical and practical. You get a brand new car, fully insured with GPS, standard or automatic. Check it out at

Leaning Tower of Pisa

In the past, we have sailed along the Italian coast on various cruise ships, and taken excellent land tours of both northern and southern Italy. Consequently, we have visited most of the great cities in Italy – Rome, Florence, Venice, Sienna, Assisi, Naples, Perugia – and many of the historical sites. Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country.

Now we seek places off the beaten path. We cruise to Europe in the spring and return to Florida via cruise ship in the fall on repositioning voyages. It is the equivalent of flying business class but includes 2 weeks of room, food and entertainment. I choose the ship based on the dates and ports of departure. This year we sailed Celebrity Reflection out of Miami to Civitavecchia, Italy. Cruise lines now charge $75 per person from Civitavecchia to Rome city or airport and vice versa. There are other options: A train if you are not overburdened with luggage, a taxi or a shuttle. I arranged a shuttle with NCC Plus for $70 for the two of us. They were fantastic. 

I will write about our time in Italy in my next blog.  In the meantime, some things you may not know about this beautiful country…

Rome was founded in 753 B.C. and gave birth to the Roman Empire. At its height in 117 A.D. the Empire was 2/3 the size of the United States. It reached from Portugal in the east to Syria in the west, from Britain in the north to the northern deserts of Africa.

Today the Italian Republic (Repubblica Italiana) is slightly larger than the state of Arizona. It has 7,600 km or 4,720 miles of coastline. 

Two countries – Vatican City and San Marino – are nestled within its borders. 

Famous authors include Dante, Petracrch and Boccaccio. Pinocchio (meaning pine nut) was also penned by an Italian.

Famous designers: Valentino, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and Prada.

Famous car makers: Ferrari, Lamborghini, Alfa Romeo and Maserati. 

Italy produced the first operas and claims Rossini, Puccini, Verdi, and Pavarotti as native sons.

You may have the universe if I may have Italy. Giuseppe Verdi

As the birthplace of the Renaissance, Italy proudly boasts of achievements in poetry, painting and architecture by many famous artists: Raphael, Michelangelo,  Donatello, and Leonardo Da Vinci.

Famous scientists and mathematicians: Da Vinci, Galilei, Volta, and Fibonacci.

As of 2016, Italy was the world’s top wine producing country.

It is the largest exporter of olive oil. (While Spain is the la
rgest producer, Italy blends olive oil imported from other countries making it the largest importer and exporter.)

The home of pizza, pasta, risotto gelato and espresso.

Italians created many delicious cheeses including parmigiano-reggiano, gorgonzola, fontina, mozzarella, asiago and provolone.

There is in the DNA of the Italians a bit of madness, which in the overwhelming majority of cases is positive. It is genius. It is talent. It’s the masterpieces of art. It’s the food, fashion, everything that makes Italy great in the world. Matteo Renzi

Italy has some problems

Italy lives with the threat of three active volcanoes – Etna, Vesuvius, and Stromboli – and devastating earthquakes. They suffered several this past year.

High unemployment, high aging population and low birth rate (lowest in Europe).

Nevertheless, there is so much to love about Italy and the warm-hearted Italian people. It’s good to be back.

I was offered a free villa in Hollywood, but I said no thank you, I prefer to live in Italy. Ennio Morricone

The Funny, Silly and Strange Things We Say

One hot summer day a fox was strolling through a vineyard. He spotted a bunch of juicy, green grapes. That would be just the thing to quench my thirst, he thought. He jumped up to grab grape-1129346_640some but missed. Backing up, he ran a bit, jumped higher, and missed again. He backed up farther, ran faster, jumped higher, and missed again. The fox walked off with his nose in the air saying, “They are probably sour anyway.” And so, from one of Aesop’s Fables we get the phrase sour grapes, meaning we’re inclined to denigrate what we can’t get.

Every day we use expressions that originated in ages past. They stand the test of time because they convey universal truths in a few colorful words. We know exactly what ‘sour grapes’ means without hearing the whole story.


Two of the greatest sources of common idioms and clichés are the Bible and Shakespeare’s plays. Along bible-998150_640with the Oxford English Dictionary, they were primary influences in the development of the English language. The King James Version was first printed in 1611 and many of the expressions therein are still used today…

—Fall from grace—
Forbidden fruit—
A drop in the bucket
—Eat drink and be merry
—Salt of the earth
The blind leading the blind——

More phrases in the English language come from Shakespeare than any other individual. Not all originated with him, but he expanded their usage. Even those who never read Shakepeare unknowingly quote him…

—Night owl—
Primrose path
—Truth will out
—The game is up
—Vanish into thin air—
Wild goose chase


It is impossible to know the exact origin and meaning of many expressions we commonly use, but to the best of my knowledge, I’m going to tell you the naked truth. The naked truth? Where did that come from?  According to a very old fable, Truth and Falsehood went swimming together one day and Falsehood stole Truth’s clothes. Truth refused to wear Falsehood’s clothes and had to go naked.

You can probably figure out the meaning of high and dry if you realize it’s a nautical term – another rich source of clichés. wreck-687568_640 High and dry referred to beached ships – high out of the water and dry because they had been stranded for some time. The phrase has come to mean: stranded with no rescue in sight.

The words Bah humbug became popular with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol but existed long before that. It is an old English term meaning scam. A Christmas grouch might say the same thing today in these words: “Christmas, what a ripoff.”

In card games, an item called a buck was once passed from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal. If someone did not want to deal, he would  pass the buck to the next player.

Many clichés seem nonsensical to us today like son of a gun. The popular explanation for that is… Hundreds of years ago, ships were often tied up in port for a lengthy period of time.  Wives and ladies of easy virtue were permitted to live aboard with crew. Consequently, it wasn’t unusual for a child to be born on the ship and the best place for that was the gun deck.  If the father of a child was unknown, the baby was entered into the ship’s log as son of a gun.


Many common sayings came from the way people lived in earlier times. The wealthy had slate floors but most people were very poor. Their homes had dirt floors so they were called dirt poor. When it rained, water seeped below the door and the floor became very slippery.  Thresh/straw was spread across the entrance to absorb water. A piece of wood was placed on top of it to keep it in place. That was known as the thresh-hold. To be sure bride didn’t trip or slip on the threshold, the groom carried her over it.

With dirt floors and thatched roofs, little bugs and critters found a ready-made home. Insects and droppings from above were a prodoll-732611_640blem. To keep them from falling on a sleeping person, the preferred bed had four tall posts a sheet could be hung over. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.

Mattresses on those beds were secured to frame by ropes.  Pulling on ropes tightened the mattress, making the bed firmer to sleep on. Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.

During the day, cats and dogs often napped on the thatched roof. Rain made it slippery up there and the animals could slide right off.  It would be raining cats and dogs.

On special occasions or when times were good, the family would splurge and buy some pork. It was hung where it could easily be seen thus proving to visitors that a man could bring home the bacon. A piece would be cut off and shared with guests. Then they would sit around and chew the fat.

At one time, the funny, silly and strange things we say today made perfect sense. We’re still saying the words though we’ve lost their meaning. Evidently, we inherit more than DNA from our ancestors.