Our Family Gathering in Italy - April 08

This site chronicals the gathering of family and friends we enjoyed during the first two weeks of April. I hope this will bring back some great memories for all.



Lets go to Italy!!





So long, Washington.





Someone is too excited to sleep. Karl thinks he may end up walking all the way...





Mommy finally takes the duty.





At last - Terrenia Beach below, final approach to Pisa. Faye meets us at the airport and takes us to Marina di Pisa for our first few days.





The upstairs floor of this corner building is Tamarra's apartment. On the main street of this historic city, and only about 50 yards to the beach. Tamarra was superbly generous in allowing us the use of her apartment for stays before and after the villa was available.





This is the view from Tamarra's balcony. Pretty hard to beat this...





First dinner in Lucca. Nonna (Faye) reunites with Audrey. Abbi, Xander, Flo, Adrian and Amarilli are still in the North and will arrive tomorrow.





In addition to Faye, the entire restaurant staff loved Audrey, and came by to play often.




The Villa


Late afternoon the next day we all moved into the villa. The remainder of our family also arrived, and this is our first glass of wine. Many more to follow...





Lucca view from the pool. Smoke coming from the left side of the villa is from the pizza oven, being stoked for a party feast by Jim. Tonight there will be a "surprise" party for Edith's 40th birthday.





Flo, Edith, Abbi and Kathy begin to party and try to keep Edith out of the villa where party preparations are underway.





Amarilli is ready, too!





Katie greets Xander and Abbi





Meanwhile, guests are arriving and having fun. Kay shows Robert something (opening wine bottles?) while Anna approves.





Felice says hello to Flo and Amarilli





Edith introduces an almost fully grown Emily to Audrey.





The party warms up while Jim begins cooking everyone's custom-made pizzas outside at the pizza oven.





Jim checking out the pizza ingredients.





Pizza cooking!!! Come make your own.





Lots of gifts for Edith and others.





After pizza the party moves inside for dessert and gifts.





Amid sumptuous desserts, Katie gets a gift.





Edith opens a present...





...and shows it off.





More action and tall tales.




Flo likes her present, too!





Three lovelies.





Three sisters.





The next few days were spent loafing and looking around.





Entrance to the villa





Xander and I are going for a walk.





He's too fast for me!





The views we enjoyed.










Time for a rest stop...





Then back up the hill. Xander picks flowers while he waits for Gramps.





During their time together, we enjoyed watching the early competition between Xander and Amarilli turn into genuine friendship and sharing. Now good friends, lets see what happens in the future...





Aqualea - the village below the villa





Last day view from the villa.





A view and place to remember...



Lucca and surrounds


Lucca approach - my favorite route into the wall





The full West wall face.





On the wall





Walking round the wall





First gelato of the day!





A favorite watering hole. The edge of Piazza San Michele





The car man finds a VW he likes...





More cars! Hey, Karl, isn't that a red Chinquecenta Fiat convertable???





Daddy said I couldn't look!!!





Lunch at Pinzo's





Kath checks out the crystal factory.





Faye and Xander play cars in the Lucca apartment.





A day trip to San Gimignano





San Gimignano ceramics galore.










Xander loved the toy stores





Xander picks out the duck he wants





Back in Lucca - Piazza Napoleone





From the opposite side.





We check out the exquisite goodies and interior construction of the Santori Store.




















Hooray! Abbs celebrates figuring out how to liberate the wash from the Italian washing machine that just kept running for two days... really clean!





Brunelleschi's Dome - Florence


First sight of the Dome. A large crowd of people are on the outlook at the very top.





Another view from in front of the cathederal





A long ways up from the floor.





Beautifully painted





The steep climb up between the inner and outer dome shells.





The wooden girdle for tension strength. Oak beams tied together and in place since about the year 1430.





Some of the herringbone brick pattern used for strength and resistance to slipping of the bricks on fresh mortar.





Description of some of the unique tools used, and shown in the photo below.





Some of the tools used. But the major tools for lifting and lateral placement of heavy stone blocks no longer exist.





Giotto's Bell Tower





Florence grand vista from the Dome.





One of the highlights of our trip was the two trips we made to Benabbio, our former home village. Visits and meals with Anna and Felice were memorable fun.


Xander gets some hugs from Anna in her kitchen.




Amazingly, Benabbio now has two restaurants - a pizzaria and this very exclusive restaurant, La Locarda Dei Lupari, which has just been voted as having the best chef in all of Lucca Provence. The meal proved that this was a genuinely deserved award.




Beautiful dining room










Ready to order. We then enjoyed one of the best restaurant meals I have ever experienced.





Felice and I take our potrait.





Walking down from the restaurant back to Anna's.





Xander has great fun chasing bubbles on the terrace.





The party is expanded by the arrival of Anna and Felice's daughter and son in law and their lovely family.





A final look at Anna's view before saying goodbye and heading back to Lucca to begin packing for our return to the States.





Goodbye to Italy, and the trip home



Maria and Xander exchange kisses, after a delightful visit with Maria. Sad to say goodbye...





The next day we fly to london's Gatwick airport. Now on the train from Gatwick to central London for the night.





Xander assumes the executive position for the ride to London.





Karl and Edith with their friend Stacy after a superb Thai dinner.





Ready to fly! Abbi lets Xander pick a plane to fly on.





Final quick farewells in Heathrow. Faye and Kathy fly to Dallas, and the rest of us fly to Chicago. Everyone with onward connections.





Xander is a professional traveler. Check out the earphones.





Edith and Karl trade a sleepy Audrey over gourmet American Airlines dinners. It was a good flight home.




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