In Photos: Views from the Santa Maria del Fiore

Two of my favourite shots – both from the top of the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence – are almost as good as gone.

At the beginning of my first trip with a proper DSLR in hand, I was so intent on keeping on top of my photos – going through them, organizing them, deleting the clearly unusable ones – that I got a bit ‘delete’ happy. I’d not only delete the photos that didn’t have the composition or subject I cared for at the moment, but I also deleted the originals (so much facepalm) after I edited and saved the photos I wanted to post.

Hence the filter coated lower quality version of the feature image above and the Campagnile (bell tower) below. Here’s a look back at them along with some other images from above.

Next Adventure: Europe (Again)

This might come as two announcements in one but: we’re getting married in Europe!

Yup, this June/July, we’re heading back to Europe for a four week jaunt filled with family, friends, fun and, most importantly, sunshine and relaxation.

With some favourites and some new locations, here’s what’s in store for us this summer.

Some place, Somewhere

In Tel Aviv, Israel - Not where we'll be going....
Enjoying a hot and sunny boardwalk.

To be honest, we don’t know where we’re going to start the trip (!) and we’re looking for suggestions.

We have 3-4 days before we arrive in the next place and really want to spend those days unwinding and organizing ourselves for the upcoming weeks instead of exploring a new or exotic location. We’re thinking somewhere with a hot spring/thermal spa/lake/etc. and wifi is a must. Because of the limited time, it can’t be too difficult to get there, or take too long to get to Czech afterwards.

Any advice???

Tabor, Czech

Tabor New Year's Day 2007 - Donald Judge [cropped]
Tabor New Year’s Day 2007 – Donald Judge [cropped]
Before we get to our wedding, we get to be guests at some friends’ wedding in Czech! Tabor is a 15th century medieval town full of monuments, towers, castles, and museums to see. We’ll only be here a couple of nights but we’ll definitely take a walk along with the city wall – a point of pride – and take in the historic park, home to central Europe’s oldest artificial lake.

Florence, Italy

Piazza della Repubblica, Florence
Piazza della Repubblica, Florence

This place tugs at my heartstrings every time. With the setting and my history here, is it any wonder it’s the location for our wedding? We have a beautiful villa just outside of Florence and you better believe we’ll be revisiting the city! Climbing up the Duomo, the steps up to San Miniato al Monte, the strolls through the streets…LOVE.

Florence will be flanked by a day in Rome, and a week visiting family in the north – San Zenone, Cornuda, and Venice – before leaving Italy.

Menorca, Spain

Macarelleta - Morfheos [cropped]
Macarelleta – Morfheos [cropped]
Do you even know how excited I am for this? Besides the fact that I was born to live near white beaches and turquoise waters I’m pretty sure, the island of Menorca also looks glorious for a honeymoon. And kayaking! It looks stunning for kayaking! I can barely wait :)


What do you think of our choices? Any place we should check out in Tabor? Or Menorca? Or, any suggestions on where we should start our trip? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Monte Pasubio: A Hike of 52 Tunnels

Monte Pasubio, a rocky summit in Vicenza, was the site of some of the most important battles of the Italian Front in the First World War.  Today it attracts hundreds of hikers each day who come to climb and even scramble up its steep trails and tunnels.

Getting There

The two hour drive from the tiny town of Cornuda passes through vineyards, corn fields and other villages before arriving at Paso Xomo.  Yes, unlike Italian, there are x’s in Venexian the language of my ancestors which is spoken in these parts.  At Xomo, there is parking available for 5 Euros. The trail head begins with a large sign marking the entry to the Strade Delle 52 Gallerie as well as information plaques in Italian, German and English.

Entrance to Monte Pasubio hike
Start point of Monte Pasubio hike

The 52 Gallery Hike

The hike takes you up a 6.5 km mule track that served as a supply road for the Italian military positions here in the First World War.   2,300 meters of the path are contained within 52 tunnels and the 2.5m wide path has an average incline of 12%, with 22% at its steepest.

Monte Pasubio Scarubi road
Monte Pasubio Scarubi road

Recognizing the importance of holding onto Mt. Pasubio and the whole alpine plateau, The Italian miners constructed this supply route in just 9 months. The road and tunnels are a fine example of Italian alpine engineering and hard work: Tunnel n.19 is the longest excavated passage at 320m and tunnel n.20 makes 4 helical turns as it rises steeply inside a rock spire which provides access to higher portions of the mountain. It is akin to walking inside a giant corkscrew.

Monte Pasubio inside tunnel
Monte Pasubio inside tunnel

Not far from the exit of tunnel n.52 is the Porte del Pasubio, the final halt of the Austro-Hungarian Strafexpedition (Punitive Expedition) offensive. One hundred meters from that is the Refugio Generale Achille Papa, a lodge where weary hikers can refuel with local meals like polenta e funghi or minestrone.

I made my descent from Porte del Pasubio at 1928m, via the Scarubi road, a much wider supply road that winds its way down the northeast face of Pasubio, to Paso Xomo at 1058m.

Trail markers Monte Pasubio
Trail markers Monte Pasubio

History of Monte Pasubio

Monte Pasubio tunnel n.1
Monte Pasubio tunnel n.1

Monte Pasubio was of great strategic importance to both the Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces and huge efforts were made to gain control of it.  The Austrian offensive in the Trentino was comprised of 18 divisions, 400,000 men and more than 2,000 cannons.  By 1916 at least 50,000 Italian soldiers were living, fighting and dying on Pasubio’s windswept slopes.  The Italians constructed makeshift huts that were attached to the side of the mountain and safe from Austrian artillery.

In the winters most of the fighting subsided as both sides were busy just trying to survive the frigid temperatures and the terrifying threat of avalanches.  During three winters of alpine combat at least 60,000 soldiers were killed by avalanches. To put that into perspective, on the entire Western Front a total of 25,000 troops died as a result of poison gas attacks.

Scarubi road and cliff Monte Pasubio
Scarubi road and cliff Monte Pasubio

With fighting on Pasubio resulting in stalemate, each side began mining under each others’ positions in an attempt to detonate explosives underneath sections of the opposing forces’ front line.  On March 13, 1918 the Austrians ignited a 50,000kg explosive under an Italian position completely destroying it.

However, Monte Pasubio never fell and the forces of the Triple Alliance were eventually repelled as Italy marched to victory in 1918.

First impressions: Pisa

I love Italy.

I love the way people speak the language, the hint of warmth in the air even when it’s supposed to be cold out, the fact that it is absolutely normal to be called “bella” as a term not only of endearment but as a salutation, and the idea of going for walks along the river Arno just because.

leaning tower of pisaPisa, so far, is wonderful. I was lucky enough to land in PSA on a sunny day (a warm 14 degrees) so my cousin took me to the Piazza dei Miracoli where, among other wonders, the leaning tower stands. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting to see it so soon.

It blew my mind.

Its angle (defying gravity), its size (smaller but more profound than expected), its pure existence (always so surreal in photographs) – here it was right in front of me, leaning under the glow of the sun. It was breathtaking. I fell in love with it the way I fell for Venice.

I love Italy.