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Familiar faces and places

22 Sep
22 September 2017.
When “Taxi Ivan” picked us up in Bolzano last week, we could scarcely contain our excitement. We were returning to Ortisei for our 6th summer visit. Ivan remembered transporting us with our cats last summer.

The street where we lived, temporarily. So charming!

Despite the calendar, it did not feel like summer.  Lows of 2 C/35 F and highs of 12  C/54 F were not quite what we expected. We each had to purchase a fleece as a warm layer: our long-sleeved tees and rain jackets just did not cut it.
Nonetheless, it felt like coming home. We stayed in the same apartment we shared with our cats, Libby and Jane, last year. Justine and Siegfried at Residence Astoria greeted us like old friends. We were honored to see Justine had purchased our book for use by her guests! Even the staff in the gelato and grappa store recognized us. It really felt great to come back and feel so at home. And my Italian came back rather quickly, if imperfectly.

That view looks fake, but it very real. The Sciliar and Punta Santner with Compatsch in the foreground.

We managed to carve out two good hikes in our four full days. One was crossing the Alpe di Siusi on a favorite route, stopping for strudel at a preferred mountain hotel. The other a very cold hike through fog across the ridge at Rasciesa. Luckily hot coffee and fine strudel awaited us at the rifugio.
Another day we listened to the forecast of rain all day and decided not to risk a mountain expedition, so we took a bus into Bolzano for shopping and lunch. But we never got our umbrellas wet! Not in 36 hours! It looked like rain most of the day so our time at higher altitudes might have been cut short. Hard to know when to believe a forecast.

One of our favorite rifugi, Rasciesa. We were the first customers at 9:45. As we were leaving, the crowds were arriving.

We cooked several dinners (restaurants get tiring when you travel long term) but treated ourselves to one fine meal at what has become our favorite fine dining establishment in Ortisei, Restaurant Concordia. We were one of only three parties on a Sunday evening, all seated in a cozy room with the woodstove burning. We dithered over many fine options on the menu, choosing an antipasto of involtini with mozzarella and grilled vegetables and secondi of venison and pork, with a fine local Lagrein to accompany. Everything was superb! The owners are wait staff and chef, making for a very personal experience. They were thrilled to hear we returned to them after a great experience last year. It is so nice to go to restaurants away from the main streets, no matter how small the town, and find such intimacy.
Here are a few more pictures from our stay in Ortisei. Click any picture for complete captions.

The canal where we live.

We are now in Venezia and the weather gods have cooperated. We were out in shirtsleeves and ate lunch al aperto twice this week.
Venezia is, of course, very familiar to us. We’ve been here 10 times although I am not sure we should count our one-night-stand in August of 2016 when we came here simply to briefly escape the heat in Roma. We know where we are going most of the time although I am grateful for GPS on the phone when we get twisted about. The first few times we visited we used only paper maps. I am happy to have adopted the electronic form when I see others standing around gaping at their maps trying to decipher Venezia.

Incredible saute of mussels and clams at Trattoria da Jonny.

It was another fine meal we got ourselves into at Trattoria da Jonny. Or rather, I should thank Michele over at Meandering with Misha for getting us there. She raved about it in March and I remembered her post was so inspiring we had to go. We were shocked to arrive and find the place lightly attended while out on the main tourist piazzas things were humming. It was to our advantage: a finely prepared lunch in a peaceful location with only schoolkids and local shoppers passing through. We kept it simple: branzino with spinach for Ric, a lovely bowl of mussels and clams for me, accompanied by seasonal veggies and roasted potatoes we shared. A little Soave washed it down nicely. A lot to eat for lunch but after our three-plus mile morning walk (and knowing we’d do four more miles before the day was finished) we deserved it. Again we are preparing food a casa so a simple salad and more good wine (Donna Fugata why are you not exporting to the U.S?) made a fitting evening meal.
When we travel long like this, our evenings are much like being in the U.S. If we do not go out to eat, and if we’ve had an active day, a simple supper at “home” with perhaps some streaming of American TV is a nice way to chill out. Unfortunately, Amazon and Netflix are wise to our use of a VPN. Although Amazon worked in Ortisei, they are apparently on to us now. We found PBS is still willing to feed our need with their fine programming. Is anyone else watching Ken Burns’ “Vietnam?”

Giant hands support a building along the Grand Canal. Interesting metaphor.

In addition to eating at several new-to-us places, this is turning out to be an art tour of Venezia as we finally attended the Biennale. More on that later. Always new things to see even in a place you’ve visited many times.
Per addesso, ciao!



16 things I will miss when we leave Italy

7 Oct
7 October 2016. I have received many comments on Facebook, here, and via email about our impending departure from Italy. Some people are shocked as we are “living the dream.” Why give it up? My next few posts will address the good and not-so-good about both the U.S. and Italy, as places to live. Living somewhere and traveling there are entirely different things. First, what I will miss about Italy, i.e., the good stuff!

1. €1.00 shots of espresso and high-quality €1.20 cappuccino served in seconds at almost any bar.

Notice the cappuccino is not a Big Gulp, but a sensible size. Not so many calories so you can have cake, too.

Notice the cappuccino is not a Big Gulp, but a sensible size. Not so many calories so you can have cake, too.

Why does it take an American barista so long to make a coffee? An Italian has it in front of you in seconds! And it is good! No funny flavors, no 20-ounce mugs, and no paper cups! Even in the tiniest mountain hamlet, in a museum, or in a castle on a hill, you can get espresso. In a real cup. I love my coffee in a ceramic cup and a small cappuccino is just the right amount. 

2. Bars on every street where you can get the aforementioned beverages and good sandwiches for under €3.00.

Fast food is a sandwich you pick up in a bar for €2.70-3.00. Many varieties on a fresh panino with the best ingredients from prosciutto and formaggio to a vegetarian’s dream combo including my favorite, cicoria, They warm it and hand it to you. Maybe you sit down if it is your neighborhood place and not a tourist zone. It’s simple, fresh, delicious, and mostly healthy.

3. Trains

The train we take most often, Italy's Frecciarossa (Red Arrow).

The train we take most often, Italy’s Frecciarossa (Red Arrow).

OMG we love to travel by train. Go to Torino for a day? Sure! Venezia overnight? Why not? We have flown on only three trips in 4.5 years. Love love love the trains and the early-purchase discounts!
See Ric. Ric is happy. Ric in on a train in a sleeper compartment, How civilized!

See Ric. Ric is happy. Ric in on a train in a sleeper compartment, How civilized!

4. The ability to go almost anywhere in Europe with little planning

Instead of mounting an expedition from the U.S., we can explore Europe so easily from Base Camp Barton in Roma. Thank you, cat sitters, for making this possible!
Luscious, tender grilled octopus.

Luscious, tender grilled octopus.

5. Seafood

I always hated anchovies until I had them fresh, marinated. A plateful is a perfect antipasto. Mixed into fresh pasta they are heaven; with mozzarella, a delight! I love pizza Napoletana for its simplicity. Then there is calamaro. Not deep fried little Os, but lovely, fresh, grilled squid. Or polpo (octopus), gently grilled or sliced paper-thin as carpaccio. How about a hearty bowl of mussels in wine sauce? Good reasons to come back to Italy.

6. Wood-fired pizza

One of our four favorite pizzerias, La Pratolina. Smoked salmon and arugula with perfect mozzarella and no "sauce." Divine crust, wood-fired oven.

One of our four favorite pizzerias, La Pratolina. Smoked salmon and arugula with perfect mozzarella and no “sauce.” Divine crust, wood-fired oven.

Yes, there are wood-fired ovens in the U.S. We will seek them out. But simple Italian pizza will be hard to replace. Especially at Italian prices. Will I seem a pig when I order my own pizza in the U.S? Here it is the norm. To not order your own pizza is boorish.

7. Fresh mozzarella available in almost every little store daily

No pre-shredded Kraft plastic, please! Fresh mozzarella, whether mozzarella di bufala or fior di latte, there is no room in our lives for anything less than fresh. Praying that Pastaworks in Portland has it!

8. Wine that does not blow the budget

We spend 75% less on wine here than we did in the U.S., and that is not because we are drinking less of it or drinking bad stuff.

9. Being greeted warmly – even with un bacio – at places we frequent. Loyal patronage is recognized and rewarded.

My buddy il Commandante, aka Marco, and me.

My buddy il Commandante (The Captain), aka Marco, and me.

Yesterday I called one of our two favorite restaurants, La Fraschetta del Pesce to make a reservation. Il Commandante (The Captain) recognized me immediately, was delighted to hear we were coming back on Saturday, and I know we will be personally welcomed as friends. From the second time we dined there, we were “regulars.” This happens at so many places: the delivery guys from DOC, the bar at Piazza Buenos Aires, the salumeria in Campo dei Fiori. You feel like you — and your business — are appreciated. 

10. Our portiere. What a wonderful tradition this is! Someone to take care of the building, help the tenants, keep things safe.

There are no doubt fancy buildings in big North American cities with doormen and building supers, but we are privileged to have a portiere in even middle-class buildings in Roma. What does he — or she — do? Takes in the mail; holds packages; lets tradespeople in; ensures security by not letting solicitors in; cleans; welcomes; takes care of (our) cats for short absences; gathers intelligence. The portiere is the go-to person for neighborhood news. The portieri in both of the buildings we’ve lived in have been true blessings. They have helped me with Italian and befriended us. We shall miss them.

11. Produce that tastes like what it is and that will spoil in a few days because it isn’t treated with chemicals.

Ths bounty in the market in autumn.

The bounty in the market in autumn.

Carrots taste like carrots, but they only last a few days, turning limp soon after purchase. Peppers are sweet and crisp and add immense flavor to anything you cook. Apples are a miracle of flavor. How can the fruit be so darn good? I bought a red pepper in San Francisco last summer. It was organic. It tasted like cardboard.

12. August in Roma

We will not miss the heat, and August is somewhat a month to be endured, but it really is fun to wander around the neighborhoods when so many people are absent. Pedestrian crossings are passable as they are not needed for parking. “Rush hour” on our main shopping street is Christmas-morning quiet. Buses are empty and we get to sit down. It is a culturally significant event, this exodus.

13. The passaggiata and the business in the street, the sociality of it all, even if you don’t talk to anyone.

Getting out for a walk every day is part of the Italian lifestyle. So smart to stroll through the neighborhood, see what is new, pick up some ingredients for dinner. Maybe have a coffee, a gelato, or un’apperitivo. See and be seen, enjoy the weather, then go home to make dinner. Eating before 20:00 is declasse.

14. So many kind people and interesting acquaintances: Our doctors, our landlords, the Embassy people. 

Especially my friend Eleonora. Ele patiently tutored me in Italian until I am finally at the point where I can have a reasonable conversation. Now we are “just” friends and that is the best! We play Scarabeo (Scrabble) together and laugh a lot. She tries to explain Italy to me. I will miss her dearly! 

15. Speaking Italian

Tiring as it is, I do like to speak Italian and I shall miss that daily possibility. My comprehension has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 18 months outside of the Embassy. 

16. Telling people “We live in Rome!”

Piazza San Pietro at Easter. We've had a marvelous time here!

Piazza San Pietro at Easter. We’ve had a marvelous time in Roma!

When fellow travelers hear our English they inevitably strike up a conversation with “Where are you folks from?” We are proud to be Americans and Oregonians, but what a joy it has been to say “We live in Rome!”

Small town memories

6 Jul
6 July 2016. My husband loves grappa. Over our years in Italy he has come to appreciate the good stuff versus the lighter fluid they sometimes give you free after dinner in a Roman restaurant. The good stuff, by the way, is usually yellow and aged, sometimes called barrique grappa. 
In 2014, during a trip to Ortisei with family, we stopped at a gelateria with the little grandnephew and grandniece. I noticed a shelf of grappas at the back of the shop and pointed it out to Ric and nephew John.  The young man serving the gelato immediately dropped the scoop into the hands of his colleague and offered to do a tasting for Ric and John at the back of the shop. We walked out a short time later with a most expensive bottle of grappa. Oh, and the rest of us did get gelato. 
Sibona Grappa di Porto. Golden and delicious, just the right ending to a meal. It is a digestivo, after all. (That's Libby in the corner of the banquette.)

Sibona Grappa da Porto. Golden and delicious, just the right ending to a meal. It is a digestivo, after all. That’s Libby in the corner of the banquette. She didn’t drink any.

We loved this grappa! It was smooth and delicious enough to (almost) replace my craving for the occasional Scotch. It proved to be hard to find this particular grappa in Roma, so the next summer, 2015, when we passed two weeks in Ortisei, Ric asked the shop for two bottles: one to drink while visiting and one to take back to the U.S. for a friend. The young man had one bottle in stock but asked us if we would please wait while he went to fetch another. I don’t know if he went home to get it from his private stock or bought it from a competitor, but 15 or 20 minutes later, after we had consumed a gratis gelato, he returned and we sailed off with our two bottles. 
Today we stopped in and went directly to the back of the shop and grabbed a bottle. A clerk asked us if we knew what it was, then stopped mid-sentence: “You were here last year! You waited and bought two bottles!” Unbelievably, even with the thousands of people they serve gelato to in that shop, this woman and her partner (the young man from the prior encounters) remembered us. I guess two bottles is a memorable sale. 
We’ve since found a source in Roma as well as one online, but as far as we know, you cannot get this stuff in the U.S. If anyone finds it, please let us know for future needs. I don’t think we can afford to ship home a carload.

The road less traveled in Austria

23 Feb
People traveling to Europe are often dismayed to find huge crowds everywhere they go. Firenze, Venezia, and Roma, not to mention Paris, Zermatt, Vienna, and Salzburg, are popular for a reason: they are beautiful and there is a lot to see and do. Everyone has heard of them. Everyone wants to go there. We do too. We’ve been to all of these places and many more but we also try to go places that are truly off the proverbial beaten path. Torino, the Val Gardena, Abruzzo, Porto Santo Stefano, and Procida are places unaccustomed to seeing very many North Americans and we’ve enjoyed these visits as an escape from the usual suspects such as the Cinque Terre and Sorrento, though we enjoy the latter as well.
Beautiful country. The only downside is that our hiking is at lower elevations.

Beautiful country. The only downside is that our hiking is at lower elevations.

Continuing to find places new-to-us, this week we are in the Pillerseetal (Pillersee Valley)  of Austria. Specifically, we are between two tiny towns: St. Ulrich am Pillersee and St. Jakob in Haus, staying at the charming and low-key Landhotel Strasserwirt  for some winterwandern or winter hiking on groomed paths. Yeah, it’s a thing in Europe. We’ve done winterwandern in Switzerland and Ortisei as well.
Loving the sun! Had a bit too much of the gray skies and rain in Vienna and Salzburg.

Loving the sun! Had a bit too much of the gray skies and rain in Vienna and Salzburg.

This is a destination patronized mostly by Austrians and Germans, with a smattering of other Europeans. Luckily English is widely spoken in Austria, although my college German comes flooding back at most unexpected moments. (I’m hoping it doesn’t push the Italian out.) The menus can be a little challenging to figure out, but that’s part of the fun. As long as I avoid anything with the word leber (liver) or blut (blood) I should be OK. The wines are excellent, too. We drank a lot of Grüner Veltliner in Vienna and Salzburg. Here we have turned to the Zweigelt, a generally lighter red with notes of berry and cherry, appropriate with the mountain cuisine of the hotel. As always when we leave Italy, we miss the ubiquitous bars with €1.00 espresso shots. There are no damn bars in these tiny towns so we are coffee deprived. 
Our home for 4 nights, Landhotel Strasserwirt.

Our home for 4 nights, Landhotel Strasserwirt.

We have certainly found a quiet, no-stress, restful retreat from the city. The scenery is excellent and the prices are low. All-in-all we prefer the hiking in all seasons that the Berner Oberland of Switzerland offers. There the amazing system of lifts and trains and rifugi offering coffee and lunch along the trail are an unbeatable combo, but the prices in Austria make for a more affordable trip. Here is a place a family of four can pass a week enjoying the horses and lessons, two-meals-a-day, and mountain activities nearby for €1700.00. Can you do that in the U.S? I don’t know, but I suspect you’d have to have a car to do it, and here you can do it car-free if you like thanks to the network of trains and buses.
Here we are high above the valley on a hiking trail. with Nordic trails criss-crossing below us. See the tiny people?

Here we are high above the valley on a hiking trail. with Nordic trails crisscrossing below us. See the tiny people?

In the Pillerseetal there is a convergence of downhill skiing, Nordic skiing, and hiking, something for nearly everyone. The Dutch are apparently having their winter break so we see school-age kids and their parents heading to the slopes, but there are no huge crowds.
As I write this we’ve spent 2 ½ days taking hikes of various lengths in decent weather. Some would say it is too warm, and the Austrians would love to see more snow. It has begun to rain this evening and we hope to experience snowfall ourselves before we depart the day after tomorrow. It’s been a very long time since these Minnesota and North Dakota natives have seen significant accumulation.

Unexpected Croatia

23 Jun
In the end we liked Croatia and would probably return; however, we expected to like Croatia more than we did in actuality.  Is it heresy to NOT rave about a place that everyone raves about?
Don’t get me wrong: we are glad that we made the trip and we really enjoyed our extended time with Rick and Jane, but the country did not enchant me as I had thought it might. That’s the problem with expectations: sometimes things do not live up to them.
Along the Korčula waterfront in the morning, soft light, pastel colors.

Along the Korčula waterfront in the morning, soft light, pastel colors.

Everyone said we would love it, and we did like many things; the sailors in the group would perhaps like to take a coastal sailing trip and pull in to dine each night since the food and wine are so darn good.

On the plus side

  1. It is beautiful. The waters are clear and the coastline is pristine. The cities are clean and there is no litter.

    Above Dubrovnik.

    Above Dubrovnik.

  2. The food is great. Heavily influenced by Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines, it features lots of fresh seafood and is well-prepared and healthy. There was some creativity in the cuisine we enjoyed in Dubrovnik. I expected more of a Balkan meat-and-potatoes diet but was pleasantly surprised.
  3. Dining is not expensive. One night in Dubrovnik (the new port area) we had an excellent two course meal including antipasto, main and contorni (usually sold separately in Italy) plus 2 glasses of wine each for about $68.00 for two. We’ve paid more than that for pizza, wine and fritti in Roma when the exchange rate was poor.
  4. The people are very nice and speak English fluently. While I cannot read much that is written on signs, the spoken English is clear and correct grammatically. They learn it from TV as the dubbing so prevalent in Italy and France does not exist there. Croatians grow up hearing English and reading the Croatian subtitles.
  5. Every single toilet we’ve been in has been, at a minimum, sparkling clean and often very nice. I know this seems odd, but when you have encountered the bathrooms on Trenitalia or in some Roman bars, finding a country full of clean restrooms is a pleasure.
  6. No one is selling Selfie-Sticks, roses, or flying light-up junk in the street. Hallelujah!
Ric and I took a lot of pictures…. Click on any one of these for some highlights from our time on Korčula.

On the other hand…

  1. There is a lack of efficient public transportation within the country so we had lots of windshield time. The train system is non-existent so most long haul travel is bus or ferry (or plane). It can take 4 or 5 hours to go from Dubrovnik to Split by bus, or 4 to 11 (eleven!!!) hours by ferry. Driving is 3.5 hours so that is what we did on our return. If you like to drive, it’s great. But be prepared to spend a lot of time getting from one place to another.
  2. It is dry, at least in Dalmatia. I like a more forested place, a rainforest with big, big trees. This is dry like Hawaii at Kona or parts of California. Obviously a personal preference. Beachgoers would love this climate.
  3. Cruise ships, sometimes 7-a-day in port at Dubrovnik, equal an overload of people clogging the streets. The Old Town in Dubrovnik just cannot handle the strain making…

    On a typical day, cruise ships in port - both old and new - plus launches to carry passengers to-and-fro.

    On a typical day, cruise ships in port – both old and new – plus launches to carry passengers to-and-fro.

  4. …Dubrovnik Old Town a caricature of itself. “There is no there, there,” as Gertrude Stein famously said (although about Oakland, CA). Shops and restaurants overwhelm what could be a very pretty, quaint place.
  5. The hawkers in front of restaurants in Dubrovnik  are indefatigable. They thrust menus in your face in an effort to attract your business. Very desperate seeming and annoying, adding to the State Fair atmosphere as one walks down a crowded street.
  6. The lack of racial diversity was odd. Racial minorities were conspicuously absent. I conjecture that because Croatia is not yet in the Schengen Zone, the immigrants arriving in Italy, Greece and Spain are not making their way here. 
I must give the Croatian people credit for their recovery and the building of a tourism industry that provides much-needed capital to its sagging economy. Twenty years after the war, you’d hardly know the war happened except that memories are long and when one engages a Croat in conversation one hears widely varying points of view from “It was better under Tito” to “Thank God the Communists are gone!” But it is difficult to get a feel for Croatian culture when you are so surrounded by TOURISM.
Also kudos to Croatia for good roads, overall. We were impressed by the autostrada, which although of limited presence was well-engineered and the tolls were cheap. Be prepared, though, for sticker shock of a different nature: prices look high but are actually moderate. The Croatian Kuna is about $.15. Yes, fifteen cents to the kuna (hrk). When you see a price on a menu of 110.00 hrk, your mind does a flip thinking “$110.00!!!” but it turns out to be $16.47 for that marvelous grilled tuna! Our four-night apartment rent was a staggering 5416 hrk, but a reasonable enough price in Euros. One throws around 200.00 hrk notes like twenty-dollar bills in the U.S.

 Things we enjoyed

  • Eating. Everything. Croatian prosciutto is delicious and different from Italian. They know what to do with mussels, risotto, and octopus. Pasta is perfection, grilled calamari sublime. Blitva may change my relationship with chard forever. Try sheep’s milk cheese from the island of Pag. It is perfect with their red wine Plavic Mali. See also my blog at Our Weekly Pizza for lovely seaside pizza dining in Korcula.
  • Exploring the island of Lokrum, just offshore of Dubrovnik. Wooded paths, a Napoleonic-era fort, and fantastic views are coupled with an absence of crowds. As in any good Italian location, one could get a good cappuccino on the island, served in a proper cup, not the American standard, Styrofoam.
  • Driving into Montenegro where there are more vestiges of the Communist Era than we saw in our Croatian wanderings. The Bay of Kotor is pretty and we had a nice lunch in Kotor Town, although once again a fortified city has been made a tourist zone and feels unreal.
  • Walking the walls in Dubrovnik, although I wish we had gone at 8:00 AM in the rainstorm when, according to friends who did so, they were the only people up there. The views are great, but it is a conga line that only moves at the speed of the slowest, most out-of-shape person. Thankfully that was not me.
  • Our tour of the Pelješac Peninsula, famous for wines most North Americans have never heard of unless they’ve been in Croatia. Pošip, Dingač, Plavic Mali: all good! People are passionate about their wines and we know why after a day of tasting. Our driver and guide, Petar of Dubrovnik Riviera Tours, was excellent giving us lessons not only in the wines of the region but of the recent history and political turmoil still simmering.
  • The Korčula Island Tour with a driver/guide, including the Ethnographic House in Blato where we were treated to a dose of cultural insight by a kind woman who was preserving the old ways of her family and sharing them passionately with visitors to a museum kept in the family home. It seems the Croatian emigration was akin to the one from Sicily and Calabria in the early 20th century.
  • The War Photo Limited museum in Dubrovnik which gave us some insight into the war specifically in this pretty city we had wandered. It was sobering and moving to think of something so brutal so recently in the Western world.
We like an active vacation and in summer hiking is a favorite thing to do. There is some hiking in Dalmatia, but the dry landscape and the heat limited attractive possibilities for us. We are not beachgoers so that as an activity was out. There are museums, but not the knock-your-socks-off variety so prevalent in Italy that one has to see before dying.  We had a lot of transport time with two day-long professional tours in vans, one day-long self-tour in a car, and one half-day driving back to Split. That’s lot of windshield time in a week for Ric and me. Luckily my brother was driving, or we had a tour guide. 
At the end of the 8 nights/9 days, we wish we had spent more time in Split and less in Dubrovnik. Rick Steves’ Guide to Croatia & Slovenia says:
“While Dubrovnik’s museums are nothing special, the city is one of those places that you never want to leave— the real attraction here is the Old Town and its relaxing, breezy ambiance. While Dubrovnik could easily be “seen” in a day, a second or third day to unwind (or even more time, for side-trips) makes the long trip here more worthwhile.”
Split is charming lighted at night.

Split is charming lighted at night.

So we planned 4 nights/3 full days. In planning the trip with one night in Split and two on Korčula, we thought the centerpiece of our trip should be the 4-night stay in an apartment high above the Adriatic in Dubrovnik. The Stari Grad (Old Town) was so crowded, hot (breezes were rare) and annoying we could barely stand to pass through it. In our experience, restaurants outside of the Stari Grad were far superior in food and atmosphere, and where the locals go. Thank goodness we stayed outside the old center! 
Sailboats crowd the Split marina as the sun colors the town.

Sailboats crowd the Split marina as the sun colors the town.

Split, on the other hand, had a great vibe and we could have spent more than our allotted half-day there had we known. Maybe the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia is more suited to the two-or-three night hops that Ric and I usually avoid.  
If you like beach time and really want to relax, or if you like sailing, the Dalmatian Coast is probably your cup of tea. We are happy to have visited and learned a bit about the history both ancient and recent. We had a great time with my brother and sister-in-law!  We are happy to have dined so well, been treated so kindly, and to have been exposed to the fabulous wines available there. The Italians, the French, and other cultures that have long been overrun by touristic hoards could learn a few lessons in customer service. The Croatians, Montenegrins, and Bosnians have it down. They are very friendly and one is made to feel welcome in a most hospitable way. 
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