Link to my images for entire trip

September 24, 2015: Well, on my way to Italy. Got up around 7:00, had breakfast, and Marian drove me to the airport so we arrived about 8:30 for my 10:30 flight to Detroit. With TSA Pre Check, I breezed through keeping on my belt, jacket, shoes and no liquids bag inspection or taking computer out of case. Nice.

Good flight to Detroit. Interesting view out the window was when other Delta airplanes at lower altitudes flew under us. Speed was accelerated given us heading in different directions. Got into Detroit on time. Long wait and drive to the terminal. Then, we deplaned at the end of Concourse B, the very end. While there are moving sidewalks to help, it’s a long, long way to the escalators that take you to the tunnel to Concourse A. Before heading down, I looked on a monitor to see where my Rome flight was to be. Given the tram system in A is down until 10/12, I wanted to scope out my gate and the nearest of the several Delta Sky Clubs. So Gate 28 and the club way down at the end of the concourse around Gate 10 or so. But it’s the closest.

The camera backpack I carry weighs about 27 pounds and that, along with the bag with my laptop, was a heavy load and I was a tired pup when I staggered into the club. But nice surroundings, food, drink, easy chairs. Two German men and I share the space along with others that come and go as our fourth. So I had some since spicy gumbo and some chicken salad and chill until it’s time to go to the gate for 5:00 boarding, 6:00 departure.  

Nice flight. Great seat (2A), a single with the ability to fold down flat for sleep. So I continued to read The Martian which I had started at the airport. Dinner was served about an hour into the flight. Reasonable if not great food, but satisfying. I then read some more and listened to music. When the screen that showed “Time to Dest” was around 5 hours (around 3:00 AM Rome time), I took a sleeping pill, lowered my seat all the way, and attempted to sleep and attempted to sleep and attempted to sleep. I watched part of Olive Kitteridge first part until it got really sad. Then tried to sleep and tried to sleep. Finally I just sat up and watched a good portion of Six by Sondheim which I had seen before and dark started turning to light ahead of us to the east. And it’s now well into September 25th around 7:00 AM. Breakfast cannot be far behind. “Time to Dest” says 1:32 as the pink and orange on the horizon moves to light blue fading into dark above.

The crew is gearing up for our “Almost There” meal of seasonal fresh fruit followed by either a tomato basil frittata or some honey almond granola with a basket of breads and preserves. Need coffee, lots of coffee, gallons of coffee!

September 25, 2015: Got into Rome on time. The airport there is a zoo. Lots of construction going on which really affects things. So, when I got off the plane, I walked through long halls on and on until I got to a tram. After a short ride, it was down an escalator and security scan with empty pockets and no belt, then another long walk Next stop was passport control. Then down an escalator to a waiting bus. Bus drove us to the building where connecting flight gates are. Up an escalator, down long passageways, and down an escalator to a large waiting room. Stood in line until we again boarded a bus which took us way out onto the tarmac to our airplane. The plane had two sets of stairs, one fore and one aft. People rushed for whatever staircase was nearest to them when they got off the bus. The plane has 28 rows, I think. I headed for the back stairs since I was to go to row 19. Imagine the chaos for those who got on in back but are to be seated up front and vice versa. Glad I figured it out on the ground before I got on! So I sat and watched people with luggage trying to pass one another in the aisle.

The flight left on time and in air it’s only about 30 minutes to Firenze. Firenze has only mobile steps brought to the planes. So bus over the tarmac, wait for luggage, and then customs … fast pass through. Long walk all the way around the building to the taxi rank. Fixed price for ride to the city. Having been in Venice which is so circumscribed, seeing a city like this with its teaming scooters, bicycles, cars, trucks going at fast speeds and close to one another is different. Got to the hotel, but really have clue where I am. No real landmarks. Need to consult a map. Room 304, which was made up as a double bed and I had them change it to twins. Hotel Magenta is serviceable, plain, but in a great location and wonderful host, Sabina, who would be our guide here and in Tuscany.

Asked Sabina at the front desk about where to eat and went around the corner for lunch. Osteria Il Mostrino. Nice place. Had meatballs and mushrooms in tomato sauce. Two men sitting next to me split the biggest T-bone I think I’ve ever seen! Then back to the hotel to wait for Hugh and to rest … I’m beat from lack of sleep, from the long walks in airports lugging my gear, etc.

Took a long walk along the river, which is only a few blocks from the hotel. Got some nice shots and could see the lay of the land, so to speak. Lots and lots of bridges, all of which, except for the Ponte Vecchio are replacement bridges after WWII. Hugh arrived about 5:30 and we all gathered with Kathy at 6:00 for he to lay out the schedule, for us to meet one another, and then to have a lovely meal prepared by the hosts of the hotel. Sabina will be our guide here and in Tuscany, where we will stay at their villa/inn. Got to bed around 8:30 after a nice hot shower and a shave. Will have to adjust when I do that since we leave the hotel each morning at 6:00 AM.

September 26, 2015: Awakened about 4:45 and got up around 5:15, dressed, fooled with gear, and downstairs to leave at 6:00 sharp. Walked to the river and onto a bridge for a series of pre-dawn and dawn shots from all angles with f/22, ISO 100, and 30-second exposures. Fun. Neat tones and colors. Shot both towards dawn and the other way as well.

Back to hotel around 8:00 for a typical breakfast in Italy with meats, hardboiled eggs, yoghurt, cereal, breads and cakes, fresh and canned fruit, etc. We to our room afterwards to download the morning’s images. At 9:30, we left the hotel again with Kathy. First stop was a perfumery run by nuns, Officina Promumo Farmaceutica de Santa Maria Novella. Very fancy and pricey as well and not a nun in sight. Then to Santa Maria Novella, a beautiful church where we went inside. Fun place for my very wide angle lens. From there onward to the Mercato Centrale, the big enclosed veggie and meat market. There were a dizzying array of fresh and dried mushrooms. Of course, fresh pastas, olive oils, vinegars, wines, cheeses, breads …. and on and on. Around 12:30 we all went up to the second level which has a full array of food and drink stalls along with tables. I had a skewer of grilled calamari that came with a salad, a double espresso, and some dark chocolate gelato. All the good food groups.

From there we walked through the thongs over by the Duomo and the Academia to the Uffizi. Some of the group had earlier tickets than mine, so I followed them by about a half an hour. Took about two hours to go through the museum … and that means picking and choosing what rooms to visit. Lots of people in groups and crowding close to the “famous” works. Had a clear shot at Da Vinci room since you could only stand at a barrier in a doorway and shoot pix from there. Good views of the city and the Duomo from inside the museum.

Upon exiting, I went to the street that connects to the Ponte Vecchio and walked down toward the bridge. To say it was wall-to-wall people would be an understatement. Never intended to go onto the bridge, just passed it by and headed down the river toward the hotel, arrived pretty beat. Had a couple of hours before we headed out again, so downloaded and played with some images.

At 6:00 we met in the lobby and went a couple o bridges down along the river. The sun was behind a church and we learned how to get starbursts by letting the edge of the sun into our frame and shooting at f/22, 100 ISO, and down one stop. Interesting. As the sun set, we got some good shots including a moon rise. Then down to the next bridge, the one nearest to Ponte Vecchio. Shot until after dark. Then headed to a nice outdoor restaurant by the river for food and wine, Bar Due Ponti. Some even had gelato; I abstained. Then the walk back to the hotel. Did over 7 miles today not counting the Uffizi. So, we were back here about 9:45 to shower, shave, and get to bed to awaken at 5:30 and out the door at 6:00.

September 27, 2015: Yesterday was a 1,000 image day, so, as you can imagine, I’m way behind at even looking at my pix. Since I have taken quite a few 7-frame series for HDR, that alone has slowed my progress, but so many things lend themselves for HDR.

Today, so far, and it’s about 4:30 PM when I am writing this, has had its highs and lows. Up at 5:30 and out on the street at 6:00. Today, Kathy wanted us to shoot street scenes as dawn was emerging and the street lights were still on. Learned how to get star bursts out of the street lights – f/22 on a tripod at 30 seconds does it. But it got repetitive after awhile and not much new to shoot. Anthony and I wandered away to the river and shot pix of, you guessed it, Ponte Vecchio. Back to the hotel for breakfast around 8:00 and then just time to download and recharge batteries before we left again at 9:30.

We took a total of three taxis across the river and up to a residential area for a long walk with elegant estates visible and invisible behind stone walls and gates. Ended up at Forte Belvedere, which includes some of the old city walls. There was a huge walk going on with folks in pink T-shirts. I mean several hundred of them. And they all converged on the fort when we did. Also there were neat human sculptures all over the grounds in a “Human” exhibition by Antony Gormley. So the site was inundated with people, pets, and sculpture. It’s way way up overlooking the city, thus nice views from there. Even got to spot the Grand Synagogue from there (and decided there was too much to do to go there at all). After about 45 minutes of shooting there, we walked down and down and down a very steep street to the base of the fort and through a gate “into the city.” Ate at a nice restaurant there with a buffet lunch, Il Baretto del Rifrullo, which lasted way too long for me.

After getting our “herd of cats” moving, we came to a standstill while Sabina tried to get a taxi for two of the group who did not want to walk anymore. So that took some time where we just stood around on a corner. But did learn something. Many of the street signs here, especially the do not enter red circles with white stripe signs, have art on them. Men climbing out of the stripe and the like. The corner where we waited for the taxi had the studio of the man who does this. Very clever. You will see some of his work in my pix.

Well, finally we headed toward Bobali Gardens. However, we went through  an entrance to an adjacent garden and had a long long long, steep steep uphill set of paths to climb way up to the top of the hill. Again, there was a lot of delay and loitering … cats spreading out all over. So I got my ticket from Sabina and left the others. It was up and up again and then down and down and around the fort to the entrance to the gardens. I traversed the gardens alone and they were beautiful. Much more closed in with paths with tall trees than I remember, but that was 1962 when I was here last. It’s all downhill, except the paths that lead one uphill. You end up at the Pitti Palace and exit onto a street with hoards of tourists. Downhill from the palace is Pone Vecchio. When I got to its end, there was no way I was going to use it to cross the river. I walked on some streets parallel to the river until I came to a cross street where I could see the river and the next bridge down from the Ponte Vecchio. Thus across and by the river looking for gelato all the way. I remembered there was a place about a block from the hotel and went there and then came back here where I am writing this part while my afternoon’s images are loading in LR.

This evening, Hugh and I didn’t remember we were to leave here at 5:30, and went down at 6:00. Thus, we had to take our own taxi up to Piazzale Michelangiolo where about all of Florence gathers to take pix of the sunset. It’s on the other side of the river way way up but the viewing spot is right over the river so you get a wonderful line of sight right down the river with the Duomo, Palace Vecchio ad all across from you. Stayed there until well after dark and then found taxis to take us to the same restaurant we ate at last night. A T-bone and some gelato and then a walk home.

September 28, 2015: Last night was laundry night. All but the socks were dry this AM. We got up at 5:00 for outing at 5:30 hopefully to see the moon coming out of the eclipse and setting. Ah, cloudy and some drizzle so we really couldn’t do much and returned to hotel to work in our rooms until 8:00 for breakfast.

Around 9:30, Sabina led us on a walking trip that took us across the river to see some artisans. The best was a school/studio that did inlaid marble in one set of areas and restored ancient paintings in another, Scuola Media Paritaria and Istituto Artigianelli Scuola Media. Informative and fun. Walked around the Spirito neighborhood and square until lunch at local restaurant, Ricchi. Then Hugh and I headed to the Duomo where we all were to meet at 3:00 for those who wanted to climb the dome. Huge crowds all around, of course. Got in line where the end was way around the building. We were to hold a place in line for the rest and then Kathy and others came. Kathy went to the tix office and the line moved fairly quickly.

It’s 33 flights up according to Kathy’s Fitbit and it’s over 400 steps. Besides the climb, there are areas where the up and down traffic meet but it’s only one person wide. So you step on toes or have yours stepped on or miss a step since the light in that area is being blocked by others. After climbing steps that really take you to the bottom of the dome, it opens up so that you can see the inside of the dome and walk around about a half circle before heading up again. In the end, you emerge at the cupola and can walk around for a 360-degree view of the city. Great vantage point. And going up you can see the old bricks and how the dome was built. Pretty neat. Going down was harder with the “two way” areas than going up and we were squeezed against the walls. Kathy was great saying over and over “Coming down” and I was right behind her. When we got down, Kathy, Hugh, and I all had gelato and walked back to the hotel.  This is another 7-mile day when it’s all through.

Just had time to get back to hotel, wash, and pick up tripods and then back to meet those who wanted to come at Uffizi. Took some shots using 10 ND filter which was fun to see all the tourists disappear in the long exposure. Then to Palace Vecchio and onward to Duomo for other night shots. Had dinner in the area (including my second gelato of the day) and back to the hotel … very weary. No morning shoot tomorrow since we’ll be on the move toward the villa in Tuscany.

September 29, 2015: The people on the trip are all very interesting. Most have been a zillion places on a zillion photo trips. Experience in photography varies and, with some couples, it’s one and not both. All are in my age group (at least 60), but I might be the oldest. And Kathy has also been and led trips all over the world. She’s doing Spain with Barcelona in 2017.

Big crowds all over the city. Felt safe so far, but do watch my surroundings and folks around me. Tons of scooters and motorbikes zipping in and out. Very narrow sidewalks, so you often walk in the street and get out of the way when you hear something motorized coming up behind you or heading your direction. Lots of those damn selfie sticks and lots of street vendors selling more.

Food has been good. Dinners at the restaurant we dined at twice were a bit pricey, around $50 including shared Chianti, which is all we’ve been drinking. But quality of the food is universally good. Have avoided bread, but lots of pasta and gelato. Ah, Italy.

My red hat has been a hit. All comment on it. And when I put on another hat yesterday since it looked like rain, everyone wanted to know what happened to my red hat. Since I am almost always near the front of the group when we move, they can spot which way we’re turning or just find me. It’s been fun.

Slept all the way until we had to get up at 7:00. Breakfast at 8:00, luggage and us onto the van at 9:30. Drove up to Greve in Chianti, a small market town with open square. Market is later in the week and there were plans to be back then, but they changed. Nice, but not great. Next to Montefiarelle, a small hilltop town (very small) that has no cars inside it’s walls. Wandered around for a while before lunch on a terrace overlooking vineyards and olive groves, Taverna del Guerrino. Nice big lunch and wine. We then did some more walking around town until 3:30 when we got on the van and went to Villa Rosa de Boscorotondo, our inn for the next several nights … and it’s owned by Sabina and her husband. We’re on the second floor, or what we’d call the third floor, and no elevator. Lugged stuff up and up. Hugh, bless him, helped with my duffel.

At 6:00, walked WAY uphill through the vineyards for shots until after sunset. Interesting to see all the grapes on the vines and the changing colors as the sun went down. Back to the inn for 7:30 dinner of bruschettas and penne w/meat sauce and roast pork. We ate outside on the terrace, but it was really cold. Was only evening meal outside due to the weather. Back inside to do some uploading and write this before a hot shower, shave, and bed.

September 30, 2015: Got up to be outside on the hills at 7:00. Cold cold cold. Out there to shoot surrounding hills and mist. Breakfast at 8:00 on the terrace, the last time we ate outside for breakfast. Still cold. Worked on stuff until we left on a van at 9:30. This was a long day since we did not get back until 6:30. We had a day trip to Siena, which was not on the original itinerary.

Good and bad, mostly good. It takes an hour to get there. Then the van has to park down by the fort which meant a 20 minute walk, mostly uphill. Sabina and Kathy took us through the city to the main square (Piazza del Campo) by city hall and then up some more to the Duomo. We were to meet at 1:00 at the edge of the square to go to lunch.

I spent all my time at the Duomo. Got a ticket to go to the upper level and had a half hour to wander through the main floor taking lots of HDR and mostly with my super wide angle lens. At 12:30, two others from our group (Anthony and Alice) and I were part of the 18 they take up at a time. You go up tight circular stairs to where you get to overlook the side of the nave. You can see how the roof is held up, old tools from when it was built, and there are open windows to shoot pix. Some of the tour went outside the building onto balcony paths and back in and back out. It’s half an hour, but worth it. Really enjoyed it.

So the three of us went back to the meeting place at Piazza del Campo, and there were no others in sight. We got there only about 1:03 according to all three of our watches. After waiting for about 10 minutes, we started walking along the restaurants that are there until the others spotted us. They swore they waited, but. Huge five-course lunch and lots of wine at Il Campo. We were not done until around 3:30, so no time to do any more photography in Sienna. Then it was a walk back down to the fort and the van.

On the way back, about the time I’d fallen asleep, we stopped in the middle of nowhere at a small church/cemetery (Lilliano) with vineyards and olive groves and a small town on the hill. Then on to another spot which was a long lane with huge chestnut trees on both sides. Back in the van. Back to the villa at 6:30 for dinner at 7:30.

Overall, I like Kathy. She’s assertive and instructs those who don’t know their equipment well or their software. She is informative and herds us cats pretty well. Interesting tips and angles.

Lighter than usual supper, but still a lot of food. And I’m back eating bread. Oh, well.

October 1, 2015: In thinking about both today and yesterday, it was just too long. The day trip to Siena given the time to get there and the time to return meant I could only do the Duomo and nothing else except lunch (which has been a bit too long altogether in many places). Today it was out at 9:00 and not back until about 6:30. In addition, it was really cold (50s) and rained all day long. Thus, whenever we were out of the van, it was miserable.

We ended up really at two destinations. First was the Abbey Sant’antimo, a monastery, but the monks were out of sight. Really interesting building with stones from all ages and shapes making up its construction. And that was a long distance from here to begin with. Probably about two hours.

After the monastery, we drove another distance to Pienza. Nice small hilltop town, but the wind was strong, the temperature cold, and it was blowing rain. We only had about two hours there and one of these was at lunch at Ristorante Trattoria La Buca della Fate, which we were all glad to do given the weather. Church there has bullet holes in its walls and surrounding walls from German snipers shooting at allied troops as they fought uphill to take the town.

So, we’re a long way from the villa and it’s cold and raining. But Kathy wanted to stop at certain spots that were good photo opportunities, about three of them on the way back. I got a tad grumpy since I really didn’t want to get out of the van into the wind and rain and only did so for brief forays while others frolicked in the rain getting their gear all wet. For most of the day, I just used my waterproof camera and kept my good stuff tucked away.

Nice dinner at the villa. Spent some time with Bruce and Will showing how to process HDR images.

Bruce is a venture capitalist; Will is retired ESSO finance; Anthony is retired Sony Executive VP in the industrial division; Jim has a truck parts junkyard; Gary is an engineer stationed in Korea who works for the US military; Hugh is a retired geologist who is now a winemaker.

Looks like rain tomorrow but with warmer temperatures. We’re switching some of our itinerary given Saturday looks like a sunny day.

Oh, bought a good bottle of Brunello that Hugh and I drank tonight. Yum.

October 2, 2015: Very nice day altogether. The group is really knitted and we have fun together in our conversations and kidding each other. Left here 9:30 and drove over the mountains to a particular stand of cypress that line a drive up to a winery. Nice shots. Then back to Villa Rosa to pick up Sabina and on to Panzano to walk around the city and look out onto the hills and vistas. Had espresso and the WC toilet there had a sign over it: “Do not put ANYTHING in the toilet except toilet paper.” I peed anyway.

We went over a long and windy gravel back road to Volpaia, a restored village and winery. Had a great lunch there at Bar-Ucci, walked the town, saw some of the wine making. Back in the van and a short drive back to the inn. Got back around 4:00 so we could download and work on pix before dinner.

October 3, 2015: Nice day today. Out of here at 8:00 and over the San Gimignano with its towers and narrow streets. Wonderful views of the city from several vantage points before we wandered its streets. We had wonderful fog and clouds giving us interesting aspects to our photos of the towers from the roads surrounding the city. From there we went to Vigna Maggio for a set lunch and then winery tour. It’s where Mona Lisa was born from the first family that owned the vineyard. Beautiful gardens surround the villa and we also got to watch some of the grapes being separated rom stems and vine. On the way back, we stopped at a small church and several of us walked back to the inn with Kathy traversing some old Roman roads and then through the vineyards. We all got together at 6:00 and did some sharing of some of our pictures. Interesting to see not only the different points of view of our group, but also how images were processed to get what the photographer wanted as a result. Another great dinner and I gave Sabina a copy of my latest book as a thank you. She was terrific both as a hostess and as our guide. Tomorrow we leave here at 8:00 for our drive to Venice for the last part of the trip.

October 4, 2015: This was a day that started with a downpour and ended with several more. We were all up and left Villa Rosa at 8:00. Took Hugh to the Florence airport. Then the rain came in torrents. And it rained all the way until we got into the mountains where it cleared. Took around four hours to get to Venice. When we got there, a mix up with the resident guide meant that the water taxi that was to take us to the hotel was not there and we sat for 20 minutes waiting for it.

Got to the Hotel Igea, part of Hotel Savoia & Jolanda,, which is very nice and only a block from the Grand Canal and very near St. Mark’s Square. I’m in Room 503, which is a double so I have lot of space to spread out all my stuff. Went around the corner to Trattoria da Roberto for a nice pizza and ended lunch around 3:00. Three of us then walked down the waterfront away from St. Marks all the way to Garibaldi street and then back.

At 6:00 we all met in the lobby for some sunset and night shooting. Went toward St. Marks. Big storm clouds in the sky. Even lightening from time to time. Weird lighting with clouds, sun, reflections. Then it rained. I scampered under the colonnade on that side of the Doge’s Palace and never saw the rest of out group at all until back at the hotel. I kept shooting from under cover. When it stopped raining, I went in search of our group to no avail. So I walked into and through St. Mark’s back to the colonnade near the cathedral and took pictures there of the lights around the colonnade. Then there was another downpour and I ran for cover along with everyone else. When it let up, I walked back to the hotel. Eventually the rest of the crew showed up, some drenched to the skin.

Kathy and I went to a local shop near the hotel and got a sandwich and dessert and sat there and talked. Then to the room to download and do some laundry. Tomorrow, unless it’s raining, we are to meet at 6:00 AM for some sunrise shots.

October 5, 2015: Got us around 5:15 and screwed around with the Internet, which varies between slow as sap in winter and dead stop. Left with group at 6:00 and headed for St. Mark’s Square for predawn and sunrise shots. Had a wonderful cloud layer that allowed lots of color underneath it. After 7:30, we went back to the main hotel and had a wonderful buffet breakfast. First time I’ve had scrambled eggs vs. what we normally get … hardboiled eggs.

At 9:30, we left again and got on a vaporetto and went over the canal to Santa Maria della Salute for pix inside (really had fun with my super-wide). From there, we walked through the neighborhood. I recognized the places we walked from our strolls in 2011. No crowds over on this side, which is really nice. Ate at a lovely restaurant in the area, Al Vecio Forner. I had a seafood lasagna which had shrimp, mussels, calamari, and octopus with a white sauce. Wowzer. The lasagna here does not look like what we get in the US. It’s almost deconstructed and is quite a bit shorter than what I’m used to seeing.

After lunch, Will, Barbara, and I wended our way to the Acadamia Bridge and from there wandered back to St. Mark’s and then to the hotel. We stopped at a lot of shops both before and after lunch. And I was befriended by a small dog from a nearby shop who had a ball in his mouth and played tug-of-war with him like I do with Sabrina. Reminded me of Rita Chu with a dog in 2011.

At 4:00, we met our great guide, Laura, and went to St. Mark’s Cathedral and the Duke’s Palace. She was very informative about the history of both. First time I was in the cathedral. Very interesting background … and no pix allowed at all. Then dinner at a place near the hotel (“welcoming dinner”), Al Giardinetto da Severino. Nice food and company. Learned a lot about Laura, who sat across from me at the table.

Up for 6:00 shoot tomorrow!

October 6, 2015: Got up around 5:45 and headed out the door at 6:00. Gray day. Went to Academia Bridge and got some good shots, but no sun at all. On our way back on the vaporetto it started to rain. Went right to the breakfast buffet and then to the room until 10:00.

Laura met us at 10:00 and we headed out on a walking tour that went toward and then over and past the Rialto Bridge, which is under renovation and mostly wrapped. Stopped for a good time at the open-air fish market. My pictures will tell more about where we went. I had to eat a hurried lunch since m food came slowly and I was to meet Luisella at 2:00. And it rained all morning.

Got to a new meeting place with Luisella that Laura had arranged. We headed across the Grand Canal and spent two hours walking and talking through the Santa Croce section of Venice. Very entertaining and always such a pleasure to be with her. Ended up near the hotel around 4:00. I went out for a gelato. Saw Gary and Mimi along the way so knew to meet in lobby for dinner at 7:00.

Seven of us went to a nearby restaurant with good food and a grumpy waiter, San Provolo. Lots of laughs around the table.

October 7, 2015: Last day in Venice. Last day on trip. Leave hotel at 8:40 tomorrow AM for 11:30 flight to Amsterdam and then to Detroit and then to St. Louis. Good way to spend my birthday.

Today was Burano and Murano. Long boat ride to Burano, over an hour to get there. Lovely as it was last time. Spent most of my time on side streets and in residential areas instead of along the main canal where most of the tourists are.

Then a shorter trip to Murano with all its nice glass … not a great place for pix, though. And back to Venice. Left at 10:00 AM and got back at 5:00 PM.

Met for dinner at 7:15 and walked down to Garibaldi for dinner at Osteria al Garangheto that Laura had arranged … paid for by Strabo. Lots of good laughs and friendships. Walked home with almost no one on the streets and restaurants all closing up at 10:00.

Been a very good trip. Enjoyed not only the photography and food, but especially the camaraderie of our group. Nice people all.

October 8, 2015: It’s my birthday! And an interesting way to spend it, right? At this point, I’ve been up for 11 hours. Didn’t sleep well last night (or the night before). Got up around 6:00 because I was awake. Did my first morning shower and shave since I’ve been doing night the rest of the trip (given how early we were out taking pictures). Had breakfast with several members of the trip and back to the room to get my stuff.

At about 8:30, we boarded a water taxi really right in front of the hotel. Five of us … Anthony and Alice, Bruce and Pam, and me. He took side canals to cut through to the north emerging near the hospital in a few minutes as compared to the long vaporetto ride we had yesterday from about that point all the way around the “tail of the fish” to San Marco. So, taxi took about 20 minutes or so to get to the airport. Then it’s a long walk from the water into the terminal. Long walk. I was pooped by the time I dragged my stuff into the building. Now, the nice thing about going Business Class is that you are always in the short “priority” line for check-in and even for screening. I was there early enough to go to the Alitalia VIP lounge for over an hour, did some photo editing, had coffees #3 and #4.

KLM flight was late (there is a French air controllers’ strike and that might have delayed them if they had to go around French airspace). “Business Class” on the flight was interesting. The whole plane is six across. The first few rows have a bit more leg room and  there are only people seated at the window and on the aisle. Hour-and-a-half flight. Business Class got sandwiches and salad and dessert. That was meal #2 for me and coffee #5.

When we got into Amsterdam, it was at gate D73 and we had to go to D1 including going through passport control. Long concourse, moving sidewalks. Since our plane was already boarding, we were put into a shorter line. Gate D1 is really a clearing place for D2-9. So, again in the priority line. And the scan of my boarding pass showed some passport irregularity and, thus, another scan of my passport and onto the plane. Took off on time. About an 8.5 hour trip to Detroit. Nice lunch (meal #3, coffee #6) and now I’m writing this.

Really good trip. Nice people. Knowledgeable and helpful. We shared tips and angles with one another. And we all had fun. We laughed. We kidded each other. And we made friendships. We even kept in contact with Hugh, who was in the Black Forest with a new female acquaintance – traded barbs on FB. On many days, we walked over 6 miles. Kathy keeps her Fit Bit I her sock, says it give more accurate readings. She told us every day how may steps and how many miles.

I was glad that neither my feet nor my shoulder nor my elbow bothered me the entire trip. Don’t know why, but it was nice.

I was the only Jew on the trip. My ring drew inquiries and we had interesting conversations since we’re in the heart of Christendom. Learned you have to take your hat off in a Catholic church … sort of the opposite of what we do.

My red hat was a hit. On days it rained or looked like it, I wore my canvas hat and all commented about where the red had was.

Two of the group were not photographers, per se, but used their iPhones and had pictures to rival the ones we took with expensive cameras. Liked the gear I brought, but did not use the macro lens at all and the 70-300 only once. Will leave them at home, I think, the next trip unless there is a real need for them. As I have written before, we were out so early and back so late and had very little down time (not complaining, just describing). Thus my workflow got behind. As of this point, I’m through 10/2 and it’s ready for Flickr. All the HDR shots I did also slowed me down. And the Internet speed was sap in winter especially in Tuscany and Venice.

I did editing on the plane for several hours until I got too tired. (Also, what I have really discovered is editing on my laptop is not as good or accurate as editing on my desktop. I did some editing over again when I got home.) Had snack of nuts. Later had warm chocolate chip cookie. I know there is more food for us before we land. Eating everything that is being put in front of me. It’s my birthday.

Got into Detroit. Another nice thing about “Priority” is that our baggage came on a separate carrousel. And there is no more paperwork for Customs. Global Entry has a big bank of monitors  and then there is another big bank of a different set of monitors for everyone else. After rechecking my luggage, time to go through another set of security screening. The TSA folks laughed when I told them I was 75 today and didn’t have to take off my shoes. And I didn’t have to.

Now the Delta Connection flight to STL was a SNAFU. Seems as if equipment had been changed to a smaller aircraft. So they were looking for volunteers to take a later flight and be paid $800 in vouchers besides. What I didn’t know was that the First Class section was also smaller. I had a confirmed seat 2A, but was shunted to seat 8A in Premium Economy. I was “downgraded,” but no one at the gate told me … just found out when I got on the plane. Guess the “free” ticket using Skymiles points leaves you open to this. However, they had given a standby seat 1A and he was nice enough to trade with me. It ended well, but didn’t need this at the end of a long day.

Glad to be heading home … final leg.

Next day, Delta sent me an email in which they apologized for the seat switch and informed me I’d get a $100 prepaid VISA card, which arrived a couple of days later. Way to go.

Here is where we ate, and all were good. See my 2015 Italy Food album on Flickr for pictures of most of the food.


9/25 lunch – Osteria Il Mostrino

9/26 lunch – Mercato Centrale upstairs

9/26 and 9/27 dinner – Bar Due Ponti (on river near Ponte Vecchio)

9/28 lunch – Ricchi

Tuscany lunches (dinner at Villa Rosa)

Montefiarelle – Taverna del Guerrino

Siena – Il Campo

Pienza - Ristorante Trattoria La Buca della Fate

Volpaia - Bar-Ucci

Vigna Maggio Winery


10/4 lunch – Trattoria “da Roberto” Pizzeria

10/5 lunch – Al Vecio Forner

10/5 dinner - Al Giardinetto da Severino

10/6 lunch - ?

10/6 dinner – San Provolo

10/7 dinner – Osteria al Garangheto (on Garibaldi)