Tuesday, May 31, 2016


When we returned to our ship after our day in Florence, which also included viewing of the freshly cleaned Duomo complex (4 years ago it was covered with scaffolding), 
Kee, Valerie, Chris and Bob are in the lower left corner!

two problems presented:  1)  my new camera...I've always been a faithful Canon fan, and have replaced schlepping around my 35mm with hybrid point and shoots...well, I jumped ship and bought the latest, highly touted Panasonic DMC TS100 (the horror) Lumix with Leica lens and guts, just a few days before our trip.  I knew nothing about it, and dug myself into such a deep hole with the menu/options button, that my pictures were out of focus, etc...luckily I found the reset button several days later, and solved that problem. Unfortunately, I didn't get the quality I wanted on the first few days of the trip.  And I do like the camera.  And 2), the weather. Stormy in the Mediterranean region...we knew this, brought umbrellas, it did rain a little in Florence, but we would rather have cloudy skies than beating down sun.  But, because of rough seas, (the boat rocked, which I thought was fun), our ship couldn't get into the planned Corsican port, so we segued to Sardinia, to the port Olbia.

Lots of granite and mountains, just like home.

There were scads of fishing nets in the harbor...sardines?
Sardinia had some interest to me, as my father was there in WWII, and one of my favorite authors has used the island as a locale in his books.  But, oh dear, I had to pick a new tour, was presented with three choices, no internet or planning...so I chose door #2, a combo tour of The Costa Smeralda, Nuraghes, and a local winery.
Our tour guide, Renata, with a thickly rolled R, yet distinctly eastern European accent (she was Polish, married a Sardinian) told us the story of Costa Smeralda.  It seems the Aga Kahn needed a new playground, so he and his buddies bought all the sheep land around a beautiful bay,

The first of many mega yachts we saw.
Pucci Boutique, one of many in the shopping center.
and made an exclusive resort community.  It was beautiful, and the beginning of the conspicuous consumption we witnessed.  We drove by many discos, restaurants, and the Billionaire's Club.  Can't get in there.  Heard stories of Bruce Willis, Leonardo di Caprio...paparazzi's heaven.  We continued our quest for the best espresso and gelato in Italy, and were not disappointed with Costa Smeralda's offerings.
Typical real estate.
Back on the bus, as we drove into the countryside/mountain region, Renata began a 30 minute drone (for me, her accent was difficult because it was such a mishmash, her voice without inflection, and I wanted to understand what she was saying, because I had never heard of a Nuraghe) on the history of the Nuraghes.  The Nuraghes, some 7-10,000 of them, were constructed approximately 2000 years BC, during the Bronze Age, and their purpose is unknown.  Some believe they were used as a means of communication, because if you set a fire in the most southern one, it will only take 45 minutes to pass a signal to the most northern one, about 1000 miles away. Other people, including Renata, believe that they were used for religious/medicinal purposes. She told us people would take drugs, hallucinogenics, and incubate at the Nuraghes till they were cured, felt better.  Hmm.  We finally arrived, and saw the conical structures.  

Conical shape.
Looking up at the top of the cone.
Nuraghe base.
They were double walled, with a stairway up between the walls.  If you take stones out, the cone will not collapse.  Sophisticated architecture.
Stairway between walls.
We were standing outside a Nuraghe, listening to Renata, when someone from the group says "what's a Nuraghe?"....I looked at Robert like 'what the ?"  and had to put my head down and bite my lip to keep from laughing hysterically.  There was an audible collective gasp...where had this person been for the last hour?
Next stop was a local winery.  The wine was so so, but the grounds were pretty with 700 year old olive trees!

The winery grew Vermentino grapes, used for white wine, which they fermented in concrete casks...we had never seen this before.
Their red wine was from Carignano grapes, again, not a fan.  Back on the bus, we saw some of the Sardinian countryside on our way back to Olbia.

When we got back to the ship, a letter delivered to our cabin told us that our Cinque Terra boat tour had been cancelled, due to weather.  We hadn't been to Cinque Terra, this was a site we were really looking forward to visiting.  Disappointed, I got on the internet - we were connected while in port - to figure out an alternative plan...we would still dock in La Spezia, and a train could take us to Cinque Terra...tomorrow would be an adventure.

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