Archive for the ‘Italy’ Tag

2018 Winter in Tuscany with Leanda   Leave a comment

Presenting the latest episode of

“Hawaiians in Italy”

Starring: Lari & Leanda Santos

January 28 to February 8, 2018

Last fall I called Leanda and asked her if she knows how to drive stick, and she said yes. So I asked if she wanted to go with me to Tuscany on a 1-week Air, Hotel, Car deal for $600 pp. And she said yes, because she had never been to Italy and that she would drive. It was an unescorted package from Gate1 Travel-what a deal! So we flew to New York and stayed with Yvette. Noakai let us sleep in his bed and he slept on the floor. We visited Marlowe’s pre school. Leanda had never been to NY, so I showed her places like the Oculus, 9-11 Memorial, riding the Staten Island Ferry to see Lady Liberty, walking the High Line to from Meatpacking to Chelsea Market. We had lunch at Serafina’s Meatpacking, where my friend, Miko works. I met him years ago in Florence.


Lady Liberty from Staten Island Ferry


Grandma Lari visits Yellow Room at Marlowe’s pre school

We flew on a red eye on Emirates Airline to Milan. They have HUGE planes: 88 rows of 10 seats per row. There were so few passengers that everyone could lie flat in  empty rows. In Milan, we got our rental car and drove to Tuscany and found our hotel in Montecatini, a small village in Tuscany. It was cold and rainy almost every day there, but we made the best of it. We walked around the village and went to a hot spring pool to relax. We enjoyed delicious Italian dinners.


Our hotel in Montecatini

We drove to Pisa where we went inside the cathedral and climbed up to the top of the leaning tower. Then we drove to Lucca, a lovely walled village. We walked partially around the city wall, then into the city for lunch. Leanda loved all the beautiful doors, so we took a collection of photos with Leanda and her doors.


The iconic Leaning Tower in Pisa

The bell tower at the top of the Leaning Tower in Pisa.


Love this tower with the tree on top in Lucca


One of many Lucca doors Leanda loves

We took the train to Florence, because parking would be a problem there. We walked all over the city, first to Mercato Centrale then to Duomo and Piazza Signoria to see David, then to Ponte Vecchio. We had lunch at Gatto La Volpe where I met Miko several years ago, and back to Central market to shop for omiyage. Back to train station for gelato before boarding train back home.

Rainy shopping at Mercato Centrale in Florence


David in Florence

We had lunch here in Florence, where Lari met Miko in 2007.

It’s the law: Gelato every day in Italy

On the one sunny day, we took the train to Viareggio for Carnivale. It’s mardi gras in Italy! They had a parade and people are dressed in costumes. It was so much fun!


Carnivale in Viareggio

On our last day, we checked out and drove to Cinque Terre. We got all-day train tickets to the 5 villages. Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” in English and is composed of five crazily constructed small fishing villages located on rocks along the cliff in a spectacular landscape. First stop Riomaggiore, next Manarola, then Vernazza, (we skipped Corniglia), finally Monterosso. Leanda drove all the way to our hotel near Milano airport.  We stayed overnight and the next day flew back to NY on Emirates.



Our last night at Milano airport hotel

Back in NY, we stayed with Yvette’s family again. We did more touring of the city, first to Times Square, Luke’s Lobster, Rockefeller Center, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Mood, Flatiron, Eataly, Union Square and Trader Joe’s. At Mood, the fabric store on Project Runway, we met Swatch the mascot at Mood. He is super cute!

We had fun with Swatch at Mood

It was a wonderful trip with a good fun friend, Leanda! We had a blast!




Posted July 30, 2018 by lariyasui in Europe

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Lari’s Trip to Germany & Italy with Sisters   Leave a comment

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With my sisters, Karen and Chris

APRIL 26 TO MAY 11, 2011

My sister Christine, who lives in Boulder, CO invited me and my sister Karen to go to Spoleto, Italy to stay with her in her apartment that she owns with 3 other couples. So Karen and I used our miles and booked our flights to Rome. Karen also wanted us to go to Germany to see Mother Meera, a spiritual leader from India who lives in Germany, where hundreds go to be blessed by her. So we flew to Frankfurt, rented a car and stayed in a small guest house/hotel in Balduinstein, spending our days walking and relaxing and 3 evenings receiving Darshan from Mother Meera. We found a wonderful little restaurant Lahn Blick, owned by Jessica across the river from our guest house, where the food was delicious and cheap.

Then we flew back to Rome and took a train to Spoleto, a lovely hill town about an hour or two east of Rome in the hilly countryside of Umbria. Since we had no car, we walked everywhere, and since it’s a hill town, we walked up and down stairs and cobblestone streets. The old town has a castle on the top, a large duomo (cathedral) and the modern part of Spoleto outside the ancient city walls. Chris’s apartment was near the duomo and just a few steps away was the Mercato Piazza, a small plaza with an ancient Roman fountain, gelato shops, restaurants, salami/cheese shops and our favorite bar, Café Artiste. We hung out there every day because they had free wi -fi for my iphone and ipad. They serve coffee, tea, wine, beer, gelato and various light fare such as pizza. Salvatore, our waiter, and owner, Mauro became my friends. Every afternoon a bunch of men hang out and play Italian cards in foursomes. I would watch them play between checking my email and facebook. We also made friends with Elcinio, who owns a little produce shop in the piazza. He always gives us a little fruit to eat.

Chris’s place was very comfy, with a living-room, kitchen/dining-room, 2 bedrooms and 2 baths. Chris cooked risotto with porcini mushrooms one night and another night cooked pasta. We got fresh salad greens from a truck farmer who came to our piazza every morning next to the roast pork truck. We walked down to the super market, Maxi Tigre, just outside the village walls and walked back up with our loads of wine, pasta, cheese, and fixings for dinner. Most nights we ate out, but many of the restaurants open late at 8 pm. So we’d go to Artiste for free pupus and wine or beer before dinner.

Cafe Artiste my hangout in Spoleto

Inside Spoleto Cathedral

We spent the days looking for different churches, museums and shops in town. One day we decided to hike up the mountain of Monteluco next to our village, and it took us two hours to get to the convent and hotel at the top. We walked through the little convent where St. Francis had a sanctuary and had lunch at Hotel Ferretti where the salad and pasta were very delicious! Then we hitched a ride back to Spoleto, because I refused to walk back down the steep trail.

Every Friday is market day in Spoleto. We were excited to see what would be sold there. So on Friday morning, we walked down to Garibaldi Piazza, and right outside the village wall was the market. It is sort of like our swap meet where vendors set up their tents. We found farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, underwear and socks, scarves, cookware, tableware, shoes, clothing and much more. One vendor had piles of clothes on a huge table for 2 pieces for 5 euro so I got 4 pieces (blouse, slacks, skirt, and sweater) for 10 euro! Another table had leather jackets for 10 euro so Karen and I each bought a leather jacket. Great deals! Good fun!

Mother’s Day, was my birthday and the monthly market came to Spoleto. On the second Sunday of each month, vendors come to set up their tents/tables right in Mercato Piazza, down the street to the next piazza. Most of the vendors sold antiques, but there was jewelry, spices, honey, truffles, and more. We had fun shopping again! That evening we walked down to a Church where they had a free choir concert. It was divine with the wonderful acoustics in the old Church. Then we went down the street to Chris’s favorite pizza shop, where her hubby Phil, who just drove in from Rome, met us for dinner.

Our last day was spent with Phil driving us to neighboring villages. We took a wrong turn and got lost on our way to Assisi where the magnificent St. Francis Basilica has 3 levels: two cathedrals, one on top of the other, and St. Francis’ tomb in the bottom level. We also went to the villages of Spello and Montefalco. The countryside drive was so beautiful with olive trees and vineyards as far as your eyes could see on the rolling hillsides.

Phil and Chris took us to the train station where they saw us off to Rome. We caught a flight to London, where we stayed overnight near Heathrow, before flying home the next day via Los Angeles.

Lari’s Top Seven:

7.  In Spoleto, no need stairmaster or treadmills, we just lived without a car and walked everywhere, and we could eat all the pasta and never gain weight

6. Ohh, the wine! We got the cheapest wine at the supermarket and house wine in a carafe at restaurants, and it always tasted so good!

5. Ancient Roman architecture still standing after thousands of years- the teatro, the arches, the cobblestones, the fountains, and more

4. The food! So ono! Love the fresh, non-processed food. Italian food is the best! We even had great pasta in Germany.

3. Not being on a tour, and spending time with my sisters

2. Experiencing darshan from Mother Meera

1. Hanging out at Artiste Café every day, like a local

Posted May 25, 2011 by lariyasui in Europe

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