Tuesday, Sept. 13
My son-in-law, Mark, said Italian roads were designed by an engineer who spilled a plate of spaghetti. How true as it did not take us long to find out. For that matter, the trip over was like a plate of spilled spaghetti!
It’s our second day in Italy – did not write on our first day because it was 1 a.m. when we finally got to our B&B. The plane trip was long and fraught with delays and miscues. We did get to fly on a Boeing 747, but being in the general seats it was just another huge plane. Our flight out of San Diego was delayed three hours due to plane issues so we didn’t take off until about 11:30 p.m.
We did make good time to London but then got stuck in holding for a half hour. We couldn’t get off the plane because the jetty wouldn’t link up so had to wait another half hour while they got stairs up to the door. All of this put together meant we missed our flight to Rome. We rescheduled but that added another 2 hours to the trip. By the time we got to Rome we were all worn out. Went to B&B La Brezz Marina but Luther didn’t let mommy and daddy sleep until about 4 a.m. We finally got up about 9 am and started to make our way to Levanto. On the way we stopped for a bit at Ortovello, then again at Pisa. Was good to see the tower and Duomo. Had dinner there, Spaghetti Amatriciana. One more place to cross off the list. Arrived at at Hotel Oliva about 8:30 and walked down to get wine and snacks.
Friday, Sept. 16
Over the past few days we have gone from sunny heat and the crowds in the Cinque Terra to the quiet serenity of a small Tuscan town. The days spanned train rides from Levanto south to a day of torrential rain which nearly drowned out our visit to Firenze.
On Tuesday, we walked the villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola in the Cinque Terra. Beautiful towns and good food, though very touristy. Can’t complain, we’re tourists, too. When we got back to Levanto we checked the weather and Wednesday was supposed to be rainy, so I hopped back on the train for Vernazza, climbed several blocks of stairs to reach a path which took me to a good view and I shot some photos, got back on the train and headed back to Levanto. I met a nice couple from Montreal whose son is a Packers nut – has been to games in GB three years in a row. On the trail, had a conversation with a young man from Singapore who thought the scenery was amazing.
Yesterday, we went to Vernazza and Monte Rosso which is the nicest of the five. Had some good walks and sightseeing then back to Levanto.
Left this morning, driving through Lucca in the rain, then stopped in Firenze to see the dome and the Ponte Vechio. Took a few nice shots, though much of the day was pouring rain. Made the trip harder. We were weaving through the mountains and I looked over at Luther and here he was spewing out his breakfast. Managed to get things cleaned up and he was one of the happiest, brightest little boys you could wish for the rest of the day. He is so smart and quick – knows most of his body parts and the sounds animals make. He makes my day!
We are staying at the Mariana Bed and Breakfast in Castellina in Chianti.
Out to dinner tonight where Mark and I split a bistecca – a 1 kilo, three-inch steak! It’s a Tuscan specialty and was delicious. On the way back to the B&B it was foggy, so I grabbed the camera and headed back up the hill only to find the fog had lifted and it was beginning to rain – disappointed because they would have been some amazing photos.
Monday, Sept. 18
Tuscany has the most beautiful landscape. Each hill seems topped with medieval village, all of them with a big church and many of them with castles dating from more than a thousand years ago.
On Friday, we visited two small towns, Greve and Radda. In the first a wine tasting festival was being held. Didn’t take any arm twisting to get us to buy a glass for 20 euros and begin sipping the best Chianti had to offer. We just wandered around the hilly countryside until late in the day, then out for pasta and cinghiale for dinner. We had stayed two nights at the Mariana B&B in Castellina in Chianti. It was run by a woman named Serena – apparently all by herself. She was a great host and fell in love with Luther. I think she hated to see us go. I got up early in the morning and found some great photos just after sunrise, including a pair of olives on a branch joined by a bead of rain from overnight. Despite all of the beautiful scenery and old buildings, I think it is my favorite photo so far.
This morning dawned cloudy and rainy but we made our way to Brolio where there is a large castle which still houses the 32nd generation of the Brosolli family! It saw several battles since it was built in 1141. The grounds and views are amazing.
We made our way to Perugia where we are actually staying in Castello de Monterone! The castle was built 13th century, was destroyed several times, rebuilt and is now a 4-star hotel. Classy!! Can’t believe we’re staying in something like this. The view across the valley to Perugia is stunning both day and night.
Tuesday, Sept. 19
Castles and more castles! Made our way to La Casa Su Le DImore Del Borgo, Santo Stefano di Sessanio in Abruzzo. We left the steep wooded hills and mountains of Tuscany for a series of rolling hills barren of everything. All of a sudden we crossed a bridge and beneath us was a wide valley of hayfields surrounded on both sides by steep hills. Beautiful! I don’t know how Meredith finds such treasures. The woman at the B&B suggested a little restaurant for dinner. When we got there we weren’t sure it was open. The front door opened into part of an old barn. When Mark knocked at the door at the end, a man told him they were closed on Mondays, but then invited us into the dining room where he served us lentil soup, bread, then offered lamb chops. He had a little boy just a bit older than Luther and the two of them chased around the place all evening. It was a one-of-a-kind experience you read about in a book. For the digestive, he gave Mark two local liqueurs. They were some astringent soul-shaking shots.
The B&B woman said they had a 3.5 scale earthquake as Amatriccia suffered 6.5. There had been little damage. This town looked like time had forgotten it. It took little imagination to believe you were somewhere in the 18th century. I went out with the camera and the light was amazing. It’s impossible to describe on paper. Crumbly stone buildings that cling to the sides of the mountains with narrow, steep alleys snaking their way between.
If we thought that was old, we hadn’t seen the best. Twelve kilometers away were the ruins of a castle that was already old when these towns were built. Rocca Calascsio is a shamble of towers, walls and fortifications perched on top of yet another mountain. At an elevation of 1,460 metres, Rocca Calascio begun in the 10th century, is the highest fortress in the Apennines. Built of stone and masonry exclusively for military purposes and intended only to accommodate troops and never as residence for nobles, the fortress overlooks the Plain of Navelli at one of the highest points in the ancient Barony of Carapelle.
After a lunch of ravioli with tomato sauce and lamb, we began the trek to Napoli.
We stopped at a large waterfall and were puzzled that the park and falls were only open two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. The falls were huge and filled the valley with mist. Checking the time, we saw it was nearly the end of the afternoon period and on the way back to the car we noticed the water began to slow and was a relative trickle by the time we were at the parking lot! The falls were manmade!! At first it was a bit disappointing that this beautiful display of nature had been manipulated, but then reading more carefully we learned that this feature was created in the third century BC by the Romans when they drained a large wetland. Since the 1800s, the water above is used in industry, but it then let loose twice a day.
Winding roads, slow trucks and a detour added to the day, but we eventually found ourselves on the coastal plain north of Pozzuoli. The traffic became heavier, many more roadside businesses, apartment buildings and the like.
Our apartment is on Via Napoli, only a few blocks from where Mark and Meredith lived. Naples is just as traffic-filled and noisy as we remembered. We have a view of the sea from our patio and a nice balcony. Mark’s longtime friend, Will, met us for dinner. Neopolitan pizza! Delicious.
Thursday, Sept. 22
Hands down, the Amalfi Coast is the most beautiful place I have ever been. It makes the Cinque Terra rather ordinary. The gorgeous villages built into the high cliffs, the bright blue seas, the steep mountains all combine to be a place like no other. We left Pozuolli about 8:30 this morning for Vietri. Shopped the ceramics. I found my salt cellars, and a half dozen small plates, and a wine stopper. Then on to Il Convento in Cetara! The best restaurant I have ever been at. Antipasto of marinated, fried, rice ball, buttered bread and salted alici! Then bucatini puttanesca with alici, garlic, capers and olives! Magnificent. I also picked up some alici colatura. Anxious to try it out.
Along the coast to Amalfi then up the mountain to Ravello. Was not impressed by the village – too much pure tourist stuff, but then Mark and Meredith took off for a villa on the top of the cliff. Stunning gardens, and views complete with a beautiful rainbow.
The trip home was long and hard. Luther kept crying for mommy and I tried to keep him content with cell phone videos through the narrow, winding roads. Was kind of carsick by the time we got back.
Yesterday was kind of a day off. Took a walk through the port and Luther and I visited our favorite Pozzuolli barber.
Friday, Sept 23
It is hard to believe how old this area is. Roman ruins pop up all over the place. Traveling along the countryside, a stretch of aqueduct is along the roadside. Just around the bay is a village called Baia. We walked through a Roman villa known for its baths built in the second century BC. The engineering and construction of this huge place was amazing. Earlier in the day we walked to the fish market and met Mark and Meredith’s old friend Pasquale for caffe’. He was so sympathetic to me about Fran’s passing, very touching. He told me to “stay strong.” That I do with God’s grace.
After the trip to Baia, we met Will again for dinner in the Piazza for some street food. Delicious as always. Fried alici and calamari and wraps filled with fish and lettuce.
Saturday, Sept. 24
Another new experience – soccer! Mark, Will and I went to the Napoli v Verona match last night. Took the Cumana train to the stadium – looked more like Naples – covered with graffiti. Picked up a pork kebab from the Barry White stand before the game. Inside the stadium is a glassed off area on the curves where the most rabid of fans sit waving huge flags, cheering, chanting and occasionally setting off red smoke flares! It wasn’t as boisterous as sometimes, according to Mark. Napoli won 2-0. Fans also can smoke in the stand. The number of smokers here is amazing. There’s not smoking inside most buildings, but everywhere else tobacco smolders. When we got out we found the trains were no longer running for the night. Cabbed it back to P for 50 euros! He was fast, though.
Earlier in the day we drove to Veromo. Took the metro down to Castel Nuovo. We walked through. Very interesting. The castel was built in the 1400s and is still in use. Then to Brandi’s the originator of the Margherita pizza. According to popular tradition, in 1889, 28 years after the unification of Italy, during a visit to Naples of Queen Margherita of Savoy, wife of King Umberto I, chef Raffaele Esposito of Pizzeria Brandi and his wife created a pizza resembling the colors of the Italian flag, red (tomato), white (mozzarella) and green (basil). They named it after the Queen - Pizza Margherita. -Wonderful.
The most shocking thing – Naples was clean!! No garbage, graffiti cleaned off. It was beautiful and so unexpected. The Piazza Publuscito was amazing. Inside is a beautiful church. Desert of a strawberry tart a baba for Mark and tira misu for Meredith at Gambrinus! A walk through the Spanish Quarter and up the hill on a funiculare capped off another amazing day.
Sunday, Sept. 25
Bones, bones and more bones. According to Napoli Unplugged: “It was probably the most disastrous century in Neapolitan history: three civil uprisings including Masanielos’s Revolt of 1647; three famines; three earthquakes; five eruptions of Vesuvius; and three epidemics including the great plague of 1656 which is purported to have claimed the lives of at least half of Naples citizens. Lack of burial space in the city and fear of contamination led the government to seek an isolated burial location outside of the city walls, north of the Naples San Gennaro gate.” Later it became a pauper’s burial, then people started building shrines and worshiping the remains. The bishop finally put a stop to that in 1969. It was refurbished and organized in the early 2000s and now Fontenelle Cemetery is open to the public. Meredith wanted to see it so we did. Will went with us. It is in a very rough looking neighborhood, not a place an American tourist would want to venture into alone. After that we wound our way down to the harbor for pizza at Pizza 50. Very good, but not as good as Brandi’s.
After a nap, went to the Rone Terra here in P. It was a very important spot where the Greeks, then the Romans established the initial village and subsequent port. Some archeological restoration has been done and it is very fascinating. Funny, M and M lived right next to it for three years and never knew what it was all about. It also houses the basilica where Paul may have preached during his stop here on the way to Rome.
After aperol spritzes, dinner was at a spot beneath M and M’s old apartment. Good octopus salad and spaghetti di mare.
Monday, Sept. 26
This is Roma! By day, herds of tourists near the main sites. By night, quieter and piazzas with music, good food and wine.
We left Pozzuoli about 10 a.m. after a final walk through the piazza and a caffe’. Pretty much a highway day though we did stop at an Autogrill built next to an archeological site. Arrived in Rome about 2:30 and to the hotel Relais Madelana about 3:15 after a half-hour walk from the parking garage. Wisely, Meredith said we should just bring our backpacks with what we need.
After a brief rest, we walked through the city to Ponte san Angelo and Castel San Angelo across the river, then back down to Campo de Fiori for cocktails. After a brief visit to Victor Emmanuel monument we came back to the hotel, then out for dinner at Ristoranti di macellaio a place which specialized in fine, aged beef. We began the meal with tartare – delicious with onions, then tagliatelle with meat sauce. Mark had beef medallions. All was topped off with a Montepulciano Nobile. After gelato we were stuffed and exhausted.
Tuesday, Sept. 27
When Meredith makes the travel arrangements every day is a new experience. I’ve been thinking this week that when people say they have been to Italy, they tell you they were in Rome, Florence, Venice, maybe Siena. We hit those spots as well, but for the most part, were in real Italy, off the tourist track where people open their restaurant just for you, where one visits towns that have changed little over the centuries, where the roads are so narrow and winding, you hardly believe you made it through, where the scenery is so stunning it takes your breath away.
Even in Rome, no walk through the Roman ruins with the crowds, instead a picnic beneath an aquaduct on the edge of town and back in Fiumicino, an amazing dinner at a little mom and pop restaurant set back in a neighborhood.
The trip was a beautiful experience start to finish and I will be forever grateful for Mark and Meredith taking me with them.
I left Green Bay on Aug. 29 on a six-week trip that will take me to the Grand Canyon, Italy, Utah, Colorado and points in between.
As I travel there will be new folders of photos that I hope you enjoy.
Aug. 31. Travelled from Des Moines to Kearney, Neb. Did take a short look at Fort Kearney – interesting especially since I am reading Steven Ambrose’s Nothing Like It in the World – the story of building the transcontinental railroad in 1869. The rail route followed the Platte River valley because it’s a history route and flat.
Today I got off the I and came down through western Kansas through St. Francis and down into Burlington. Brought back a lot of memories. Our house is still there, but has been painted an ugly blue and there’s a bunch of furniture out in the driveway. Looks pretty dumpy – and the KNAB studios? They now look like a shack. The station is playing old elevator music! Didn’t stop in. Don’t know anyone and it was all kind of sad. I’m glad I stopped though, satisfied a long curiosity.
Made it as far as Alamosa tonight – nearly 12 hours on the road. It’s nice to be off the freeway and up in the high country although I really enjoyed the trip through the High Plains.
Travelled through some of the most amazing scenery on the continent today. Left Alamosa about 6:30 a.m. after a so-so motel. Bed was comfortable though. Made my way up up and up to the Wolf Creek Pass, with amazing rocks and mountains. Then, down through Durango, through the Ute reservation and onto the Navaho reservation. What a place! Amazing rocks, cliffs, canyons and mesas - but very depressed. Arrived late afternoon at the campground. They say only 10 percent of Grand Canyon visitors go to the north rim and I now know why. It’s quite a trip to get here, though through very beautiful country. I forgot about the distances of the west. Everything is so far. I’m still 40 miles from the park and will have to travel 2 hours to get to Page for the slot canyon tour. I’m also still wondering if I have too much time here. If my slot tour is Sunday, will probably leave Monday instead of Tuesday. We’ll see.
Got the tent set up just in time for a rain shower. I’m writing this in the car. The rain has stopped, so I think I’ll finish setting up and go for a walk. I gained another hour coming here so I have time to kill.
Two days in the Grand Canyon and I have the best sunset shots I have ever taken. Left for the GC about 8 a.m. yesterday and spent the morning awestruck by its size and beauty. When God set the erosion of the Colorado River into motion, it is like He used it like a sculptor’s tool, carving through the layers of rock to create this mammoth frieze upon the planet. I hiked two trails, taking photos along the way and having conversations with other park goers. Late in the day a storm moved in and I thought it was over. I had a talk with a man who related showing up at the end of the storm for an amazing sunset. Just as I was getting into the truck, I looked back could see blue on the horizon so I returned to the rim and waited as the sun sunk lower in the sky. Just before sunset another squall crossed the canyon, though not hitting us. Suddenly this rainbow appeared as if anchored to the cliff and going skyward. Through the mists, the colors bloomed. Then as the sun set, a bright window opened in the cloud and rays of sun shot out of this fiery hole! I remarked that it looked like the Gate of Heaven. A nearby woman said “I like that description.” I have never seen anything that beautiful and I was just filled with awe to our great God.
The 45-mile trip back to the camp was an adventure as well. I saw three deer, ready to cross the road in front of my, but held back. Cattle are not fenced on the open range and up ahead, a man was waving a flashlight – there an SUV had hit a steer! I was on edge all the way back.
Woke at 3:30 this morning to make the trip back for sunrise on. Only saw one deer, a huge buck, and no cattle. I expected a lot of people but only a few were there when the sun rose at 6. The sunrise it self was anticlimactic, but the way the new light lit the canyon resulted in some more great shots. Spent the rest of the morning there, but my knee and a headache kept me from hiking below the rim. Felt cheated. Then the Labor Day crowds started to stream in and I decided it was time to come back to camp. On the way back I was required to stop and wait for cattle to remove themselves from the road.
Today’s scenery, in addition to the GC was so amazing I came back to the campsite and read the Creation story in Gen. 1 and 2. How God put all this variety on Earth alone makes Him worthy of worship. I cannot fathom how anyone can accept that it all just happened.
Left here about 8 for Zion Nat. Park about 70 miles northwest of where I am. First, this drive through the high plateau filled with pines – much like Wisconsin. Then, down onto the basin where huge vermillion colored bluffs and mesas erupt hundreds of feet into the air. It is hard to keep your eyes on the road.
At Zion, I expected a lot of people due to the holiday weekend and the beautiful day. First, I parked and walked a trail overlook of the canyon. Was stunning with the mountains and bluffs looming ahead. Then, back in the car it soon became obvious just HOW crowded it was. There were cars parked for miles on either side of the visitor center and it was just swarming with people. I decided it was more than I was able to handle so just drove through and made a loop down back into Arizona. It was nice enjoying the cliffs, rangeland and passing through the small towns where people live. I didn’t feel bad about missing some of sites in Zion.
I have decided to leave for SD tomorrow after the photo excursion to Secret Canyon. I should easily be able to make Flagstaff. That way I can get up early Tuesday, come down through Sedona and on to San Diego in a manageable day. I would have had a 12-hour drive from here and would have just sat here for an extra night.
I achieved my second goal of the trip yesterday, a visit to a slot canyon. I left for Page early, an amazing drive in itself past the Vermillion Cliffs, then up along the ranges near the Colorado River. When I arrived at the Hummer Tours, I found out that I indeed would be alone with the guide, since the other couple had car trouble and would not be able to make it. We left the highway and entered Navajo land in the Hummer. A several-mile, off-road trip through sand and rock followed until we arrived at the mouth of the canyon. Inside my guide was great, pointing out good shots and offering any assistance he could. I came out with some amazing photos that will be part of the exhibit I plan for the Art Garage this winter. It was another world in there with light creating wonderful images.
Then it was off to Flagstaff. Found a very nice room for a total of $43 on Booking.com. Went downtown for a bit, but then just relaxed. Felt good to be back in a bed.
Up at 5 this morning and came down through Sedona. Beautiful country, but very high class towns. Didn’t take any photos, kind of on overload of rocky views.
As I headed south, the temperature increased – by the time I got to Gila Bend and Yuma, it was 100. Had a full lunch at a Mexican place in Yuma, then on to SD. What a variety of land along the southern border: big rock pile mountains, a stretch of huge sand dunes, then slowly more grass and trees came into play and by the time arrived in SD the palm trees were back.
After six weeks, I am about 10 hours from home.
Reluctantly left SD on Monday the third and made it to Green River, Utah – 14 hours worth. Tuesday headed to Arches NP and Moab. The intown campsites were full, so ended up at a small BLM grounds right on the Colorado River. Talk about a great turn of events. It was a wonderful spot to stay. After two days in Arches and Canyonlands. The Colorado River creates one of the most amazing landscapes on earth all through eastern Utah. Every turn in the road creates vistas beyond imagination.
While visiting friend near Aspen CO, went to see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Very impressive. Another day of fine scenery. Just took it easy on Saturday and left at 4:30 this a.m. Made it to Council Bluffs, IA so will have one more day on the road.
Welcome to Cohler Photos. I have been entranced by photography since I found a darkroom kit in my childhood home's store room when I was about 14. I graduated from my dad's Kodak Brownie to an Argus C3 I bought from an ad in the back of a photography magazine.
For the past 18 years I have been the main photographer for a weekly newspaper. Most of the work is very mundane, but I have enjoyed sports photography and have honed my overall skills through the fast-paced game coverage. I have also had the luxury of doing feature photo work and, of course, have continued to take my own photos.
Now I am pleased to share my love of photography through this website. I hope you enjoy what you see and what is to come.
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