Many, many years ago, we lived and worked in San Francisco. We were young and loved the excitement and fun of the city. When Aunt Judy came for a visit, we wondered what we could possibly do, with Aunt Judy, in a hip city like San Francisco? Little did we know that Aunt Judy (who really wasn't a lot older than we were) was the "Cool" Aunt.
Some 37 years later, when Aunt Judy decided she wanted to visit us on Berkeley East, we were impressed, but definitely not surprised, that she would want to take on such a challenge. She joined us in Venice, after having already traveled for three weeks in Ireland and Scotland.
While awaiting her arrival, we received a call from a polite Italian man requesting the name and location of the lovely American woman's yacht. Always resourceful, when Aunt Judy's phone didn't work in Italy, she enlisted the assistance of a local. After a spirited water taxi ride to the marina, she didn't flinch at having to navigate the passerelle (gang plank) just to board BE, and after a glass of wine, she practically ran across the plank.
We introduced Aunt Judy to our Venice neighborhood, Castello, and got her in the groove of chilling in the famous city.
She saw much of the area by water, via taxi, gondola and valporetto (bus), a very fitting way to explore Venice and its surrounding islands.
After a couple of days, we sailed Berkeley East more than 60 miles to Ravenna. Aunt Judy is somewhat familiar with boats, and had sailed with her brother (Big Lar), but this was a new experience, sailing out of the Venice lagoon into the Adriatic, even navigating BE through a huge fishing fleet. There were more AIS targets on our screen than we had ever seen before.
Upon arriving at the marina in Ravenna, Aunt Judy got to witness the excitement of what happens when BE's bow thruster cuts out during docking. And the following day, she shared in the joyful hours of tracing and repairing the issue, a little loose wire deep under the forward berth. But with the work comes the reward of touring a beautiful city like Ravenna, and it's 1,500-year-old churches, decorated in sparkling Byzantium mosaics that create the largest collection in Western Europe.
One of our favorites, the Galla Placidia Mausoleum, was built in the 5th Century, commissioned as a family tomb by the Empress. It is also said that the structure inspired Cole Porter's legendary song "Night and Day." The singer was awestruck by the mosaic-adorned cupola that depicted a nighttime sky in which 900 golden stars shine. The mosaic seems to alternate between night and day, hence the song.
From Ravenna, we traveled by car to the tiny country of San Marino. An independent republic enclosed within Italy, San Marino is the world's oldest surviving sovereign state and its oldest republic (since AD 301).
Despite its Italian character, San Marino is very proud of its independent status, and has its own football team, military force and stamps. The town of San Marino is high above the coastal plains, and can be reached via tram. Although the steep slopes, cliffs and castles are impressive, what really takes your breath away is the view. On a clear day you can see the Adriatic Sea and the marina where we left Berkeley East
Another day found us lost in the streets of Bologna. Trying to use a GPS in a big, busy, Italian city is always entertaining, and our driving experience in Bologna was no exception. After an hour of near misses onto one-way streets, and wrong turns into pedestrian squares, we decided to park and walk. Bologna is the largest city, and the capital, of the Emilia-Romagna Region in Northern Italy. Often called scruffy and gritty, we would describe Bologna as having a down-to-earth elegance. Our visit was a brief one that showed us that this city was well worth a return trip.
On our final day with Aunt Judy, we drove her to Padua to begin the last part of her European adventure. We'd had a very busy week, and at 73, even with a bum foot, she was a trooper, with no complaints. Like us, Judy was happy and excited to be in such fascinating places, always the "Cool" Aunt.