Our First Visitor!

My brother Adam, an amazingly talented artist,  came our way for a quick visit before he soaked in all of the art history Italy has to offer.  We met in Venice for the day.  He took in the museums and I wandered the alleys with the kids.

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If you want to experience one of the most miserable experiences of your life, take the big water bus.  Otherwise, the water taxi is totally worth the splurge.  Venice is one of those cities where you will blow through money faster than you could ever imagine.  I think it is best to mentally prepare yourself and enjoy your time.

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We were so lucky to have beautiful weather all weekend because it had been raining buckets for months!

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While wandering through Venice with the kids, we looked at the fish, chased bubbles, enjoyed gelato, and watched the gondolas row by.

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I think every kid in Venice logged time with the bubbles.  These guys must make a killing.

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We all dined at this lovely spot right outside of the hotel for dinner.  The hotel was wasn’t fancy by any means, but with a five minute walk to Piazza San Marco, the location couldn’t be beat.

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Our hotel

I left Venice with the kids as soon as possible as it is not a bit child friendly.  The crowds are insane, it’s just too much walking, and a bathroom is impossible to find!  My brother enjoyed another day getting lost in the alleys.

The next day, we showed him around Maniago, Lago di Barcis, and drove through the Dolomites.

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We enjoyed a coffee while the kids played at the playground.  Sister will always find a place to relax.

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Piazza Italia in Maniago

The last day of his visit we took  a day trip to Piran, Slovenia. Slovenia’s coastline only stretches 27 miles. Piran is located at the very tip of a narrow peninsula.  It’s old town is one of the best preserved historical towns anywhere on the Adriatic.   20160508-_DSC244020160508-_DSC2444

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Tartini Square named after the violinist Giuseppe Tartini

We enjoyed lunch and a good bottle of local Slovenian wine in the square.

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The kids had time to run around the square.

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We strolled through the old winding alleyways.

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We climbed the bell tower for spectacular views of the city and Tartini Square.  From up here we could hear a choir practicing on one of the balconies down below.  We never did figure out where the sound was coming from, but listening was treat!

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Hello down there!

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Laskos under the sun at this seaside cafe — does life get any better?!?

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Looks so inviting!

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We capped off our time in Piran with a gelato stop.  Benny was served his first ice cream cone.  He felt like such a hot shot.

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Looks like we missed another day of rain in Maniago and came home to a  beautiful rainbow.  We had a good visit with my brother and now he’s off to explore Italy’s endless treasures.

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Aquileia

The day after Christmas we took a quick jaunt to Aquileia. Also being an Italian holiday, we were lucky it was open (apparently Christmas is a three day event).

Founded in 181 BC, Aquileia was one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the Roman Empire.  It is also believed to be the last Roman city to remain unexcavated.

There was a nice nature walk from the Roman ruins leading up to the town center.

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Benny was so intrigued with this tree and believes candy lives behind the door. 

We visited the Basilica di Aquileia.  The basilica was originally built in 313 AD and rebuilt four different times.  Today it is Romanesque-Gothic style and has the most amazing 4th century mosaic floor.  They had elevated glass walkways around the perimeter.  I didn’t get any pictures inside, so I got these from basilicaaquileia.it.

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These mosaics had been covered up by tile and were uncovered around 1909.  I can’t imagine hiding this beautiful floor with boring tile!

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Under the bell tower is the crypt of excavations.  They had another elevated walkway to view the excavations and additional mosaics.  Benny loved the “secret pathways”.

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photo from basilicadiaquileia.it

After viewing the basilica, we had plenty of time to monkey around the gardens.

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The pyramids are urns corresponding to the life and burial of an old inhabitant of Aquileia. 

We had lunch.  Benny was THRILLED to be served water in a wine goblet.

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Trying to beat the fog rolling in. 

Andreis: Christmas Trees and Carvings

We visited a tiny village in the Dolomites known for it’s Christmas tree displays called Andreis.  Unknowingly, we took a  backroad to get there and with Derek not feeling well, the twists and turns were very unkind. The one lane Alpine roads are no joke.  It took us over an hour to get there and it turned out to be about 10 minutes behind Maniago!

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A playground is always a highlight!

The streets were filled with wooden carvings.

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I loved these wooden candles in planters all over the village!

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More trees…

I thought this display was adorable!

We stopped for lunch at the only small restaurant in the village.  They had the most delicious ham and cheese strudel which I believe both Derek and I have been dreaming about ever since.  We must return soon!

Beautiful village with stunning views!

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Please don’t fall through!!!

I love the look of these trees for some reason.

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Presepi in Poffabro

Poffabro is a village of  about 180 people.  Every single window had a unique handcrafted nativity scene. I believe the theme was crib between the cribs. I’m not quite sure what that means, but I wish I had known that before we went and I would’ve looked at them closer.

Our town Maniago was offering a free shuttle bus to village (about 10 minutes away) so we hopped on to check it out.

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Benny loved the bus!

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The kids loved looking at the “little villages” as Benny would say.  Some were quite large and intricate and others were tiny.

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I thought this was interesting.  I wondered why they were all buried…

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Vin Brule is always a good idea!

And of course, every town in Italy has a beautiful church.

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Bolzano Christmas Market

We went to Bolzano for Thanksgiving.  It didn’t feel like Thanksgiving, but we were happy to get out of temporary housing for a few days and lucky for me…the Christmas market opened!!!

We set our with our fancy new GPS which took us straight up and over the San Pellegrino pass (there is a much easier route).  It was beautiful, but all I could focus on were plumetting temperatures, the rapidly setting sun, and roads beginning to ice over.  I thought it was never going to end.  I somehow thought tightly gripping the door handle and pushing my feet into the floor would stop the car from sliding off the cliff.

The drive turned out to be only half the battle.  Finding the hotel park was next.  The GPS took us straight into the Christmas market in the Piazza Walther! Derek had to reverse a very narrow road crawling with pedestrians.  The best part…? Nobody looked at him like he was crazy!

Benny loved the hotel. They had cookies and fruit waiting for us and he especially loved climbing the ladder to peek out the window.

Bolzano is a charming city in the Dolomites and is said to have the largest and most traditional market in all of Italy. This region was a part of Austria until World War I, and according to Rick Steves, many locals would still prefer to be Austrian and speak German as their first language.  The city also has a German name (Bozen) and all of the signs are printed in German and Italian.

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I loved the decorations around town!

We strolled around the streets a while.  Carrying Clara gets quite painful.

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We visited Bolzano’s archaeology museum to see Ötzi the Iceman. He was discovered (frozen in a glacier) by a German couple while hiking and is over 5,000 years old.  It would’ve been interesting, but Clara was having an epic meltdown so we didn’t spend a whole lot of time there.

After lunch we were all feeling better and took a cable car to Oberbozen – a tiny village high in the Dolomites.

We strolled around the village for a while enjoying the views, some coffee, and garden decorations.

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I actually made it in  a picture!  The kids were doing silly faces.

The kids were exhausted after the cable car and needed to rest.  Derek was nice and watched them at the hotel while I enjoyed the Christmas market!

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Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

The next day we set out to find one of the castles in the area.  There are many, but only one was open for the season.  We did a long hike up a promenade that paralleled the river. It was quite lovely, but hard to enjoy while carrying Clara.  We made some wrong turns and finally found the castle!  20151128-DSC00228

When we got up to the doors everything was locked.  It turns out we had found the wrong castle! The kids were quite disappointed.  They were so excited to go in a real castle.

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After some lunch and a rest, we enjoyed the Christmas market.  Everything was so festive with bands, carolers, and lots of gluwein!!!

We enjoyed a carriage ride.  Benny only made it half way.

The kids loved the carousel and train!

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They had a big snow hill and we thought the kids would like to sled, but it was big ice pile and everyone was falling.  Derek was knocking kids down, Benny was whining, and Clara was crying out: “I fa down”!  The snow hill was a bad idea.

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It was a great trip! I hope we can make it back in the summer to see more castles and maybe do some hiking around the Dolomites.

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What a difference quiet time can make!
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Yum! Bavarian doughnuts

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