The kindness of strangers…

Every trip to Tuscany I keep my eyes out for a random piece of iron for a blank area at my flat. One October, my friend and I made a valiant effort by stopping at several places I had read about…but gees the prices were insane so that little dream stayed dormant for awhile.
Then as luck would have it- as my new friend Joanna and I walked through a car park I shared my dream for a random piece of wrought iron …sometimes sharing leads to big surprises. Who would have thought we were literally steps from the iron worker in town!?Joanna jumps out of the car and asks if he would consider letting go some of the old pieces I had eyed that were leaning in the weeds outside in the car park. He said,” Ahhh these are Vecchio ( old) please just take them”. We tried to pay for the lovely items and he said, please do not insult me. The kindness of strangers…
So the next day I arrived with sweets I had brought from Tennessee ( and some from the local bakery too just in case) and the two brothers smiled and nodded having no idea how happy they had made me! I showed them pictures of where I placed the lovely iron work. I gave them a rum cake made from Tennessee rum Jack Daniels- Stefano said, “I don’t speak English but I know Jack Daniels!” ha. It really is a small world. His brother explained the two small pieces were old gates from a church protecting the Madonna statues, and the larger was a small gate into a garden area. They are handmade and you can not get these anymore so I am so proud to restore them (or maybe not?) and hang them in Casa Carideo. I ended up making the larger one a fireplace adornment, and the other smaller piece I hung in the entrance way. I still want to lightly sand them and paint green but that will have to wait for another trip! What do you think?


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And so it begins…

Italia nov 13

Well, I am officially out of the country! How do I know? A few things…clatter of spoons and cups and saucers in the many coffee bars, no one knows how to line up (or cue up as they say in London), the cars just got smaller, the hair just got darker, and I just saw the newest Audi on show in the Munich airport with a crowd of skinny jean loafer wearing fashionable men…now it may sound like I am complaining but I am not! It is just all true ha!
But ohhh, the smells of sweet warm rolls and croissants…the insane coffee that spoils me so badly that I cannot drink coffee for weeks upon my return…the views of the Alps …yep…I am approaching Italia!


The first of many…

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Our puppets went to Italy!

In June, a few of us traveled to Lucca, Pistoia and Florence to offer some fun and friendly puppet theatre!

The puppet journey has not been as easy as it sounds…

During last years visit to Tuscany several churches and groups asked if we had puppets to bring on our next visit. We were amazed that so many people asked the same question so we came home searching for puppets.
Of course our church had some interesting characters hidden in the closet, in need of some repair ! Luckily I am surrounded by crafty people and the puppets got a well deserved face lift.
We have brought the puppets out of retirement and they went on a world wide tour!….well, just Italy really but they passed through Munich, Paris and Spain on the way in and out of Italy so that counts as world wide.

First we had to read about a billion puppet scripts to find just the right ones! Puppet theatre died in the States several years ago and I did not want anything too checky, out dated or over the top. After reading and even editing a few times, we found some shows that would work for all audiences. We have a show dealing with patience, another with lessons on kindness, having a positive attitude and even the advantages of helping your Mom around the house! These can be performed in small rooms, parks, churches…wherever we got called to go.

New outfits, some handmade props of fishing poles, fish, teddy bears, glasses and other items were stuffed in a tote bag with four puppets of various ages! We had a little boy and girl, a “Mom” type and of course the grey haired Grandpa who doubled as a fishing expert and a train conductor. The four characters played several parts in four different shows. Each show was followed by a take away craft…the children (and several adults) made fish out of colorful socks, paper bag fish, sunglasses, and even promise necklaces to help Mom around the home more! We prepped most of these crafts before we left with the help of friends and family! These were a great reminder for the kids of what they had just heard and witnessed in the show.

Our next step was to record the scripts in English. I asked several friends from my local community theatre group and some home schooled kids to come to record the voices. They were GREAT! One practice, then our soundman, Joel gave them the thumbs up to record. I was so thankful to my friends for helping. I could not believe how fast we accomplished the recordings and everyone had fun knowing their voices will be traveling to Italy soon.

The churches and communities we would be performing for mostly spoke Italian, so our next challenge was translation. After emailing the University of Tennessee located right in my backyard of Knoxville, a wonderful reply came from an Italian professor! She said she would be glad to help translate the shows into her native tongue. After a few weeks, we gathered to then record the shows onto a CD to take with us! Francesca, the professor and her visiting sister from Italy, along with her priest met at my office for a few hours of fun! I listened in awe as they brought so much life to the pages of the script. Of course there was Italian hand gesturing, wonderful facial expressions…non of which anyone would ever see but me and the recording engineer but it was magical. The translations were done so well…and they even corrected them as they went, making sure what they were saying was exactly what we wanted. I can not thank Father David and the ladies enough for their volunteered time on this project.
As the “actors” left we realized the two ladies were from Florence. Florence was one stop on our itinerary! It really is a small world. They demanded we put their Parrish on the list of places to perform so of course we did! It was great for them to see the voices come to life weeks later for their own children!

The week before we left for Europe we all gathered for a practice run at a local Festival in town. We had nice crowds and the kids seem to really enjoy the shows and interacting with the puppets afterwards. Our church was kind enough to print flyers to pass out to the crowds in English and Italian explaining the topics and why we felt puppet theatre was important. The message of love, giving, sharing and God’s salvation was able to be explained via the flyers in the local language once we arrived in Italy.

The shows in Bagni Di Lucca, Lucca, Pistoia, and Florence were super fun. The children all wanted to touch and play with the puppets. The adults also! Most of the mothers wanted to know how they were made! Maybe we should have brought more to sell as a fundraiser! Every location asked that we return and many friends were made this special week in Italy. The people are so appreciative and supportive. The crafts we did after each show also went over very well. Most of these towns do no offer many things for the children to do so it was nice for us to share the shows with them. I can not thank our puppeteers, crafty team members, sound and stage crew and all the volunteers enough for a glorious week of PUPPETS!!!

Thanks to everyone who has helped make this “little request” come true for our Italian friends!

We hope many other groups will ask for our puppets/crafts program! You can reach The Carideo Clan and Friends by emailing for more information.

Preparing the crafts and Recording Italian was just as much fun!

Florence and friends!

Crafts In Bagni Di Lucca!

Thanks to all our Hosts!

Happy Puppets!

It takes a lot of teamwork!

Thanks to all who volunteered!

Posted in Bagni Di Lucca, Family, Florence, Holidays, Italy, Lucca, Puppets, Tennessee, Things to do, Tuscany, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

International Festival in Tennessee Hills!

Everyone thinks of Tennessee as the home of Elvis, Jack Daniels, or Nashville Country Music-but Tennessee has a lot of surprises!
Tucked in the valley of the Great Smoky Mountain National Forest in a busy traffic filled town called Pigeon Forge is a fun little place we like to call “the wood”… Dollywood Theme Park!
I worked at this amazing theme park a lifetime ago and have watched as this little quaint “theme” park has grown to a serious Amusement Park filled with 40plus live shows daily, thrill seeking rides, insane food and drinks, and still the handmade crafts and craftsmen we have grown to love over the years.
Although I could tell you endless stories of this lovely Amusement Park, owned by non other than Dolly Parton herself, I will simply share a lovely season there called Festival Of Nations!

Voted one of the world’s Best Theme parks, receiving the Applause Award, Dollywood boasts five of the South’s largest festivals and different seasons filled with fun rides great entertainment and specialty themes. The fall festival is yummy, the Christmas Festival with 5 billion lights is not to be missed, and this year the Festival of Nation was at it’s best. A five week cultural festival included entertainment and food from 25 countries, including China, India, Germany, Mexico and more!

Every night they end the day with a lovely celebration of costumed characters in a colorful vibrant parade. While I was there with a few 12 year old’s itching to ride every roller coaster available I was able to take some pictures of some of the tasty treats and colorful shopping and music available!

Visit Dollywood for the other festivals throughout the year and Splash Country (35 acres of water fun)!!!
Check it all out at for more information

Festival of Nations!

Bakery Items from Countries afar!

Some great shopping!

and our purchase of the day…

More yummy homemade treats!!

The newest ride…

Up…Up..and away!

Come Visit Festival of Nations!!

Posted in Dollywood, Family, Food, Holidays, Tennessee, Things to do, Travel Tips, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Getting To Bagni Di Lucca….

Getting to Bagni di Lucca…reposted without pictures from an amazing Blog writer Debra… I have added my comments in ( ) ! I know this will be helpful or our guests this summer!

Posted on April 27, 2013

The most likely way for you to arrive in Bagni di Lucca is to drive. No doubt you will be armed with maps and a sat-nav.

Be sure to know the name of the village you are looking for. Bagni di Lucca usually refers to La Villa, the administrative centre. Along with Fornoli and Ponte a Serraglio, La Villa is situated beside the Lima River. All other villages are scattered on the mountains on either side of the river.

The most likely way for you is to drive. It will take about 30 minutes to drive from Lucca to Bagni di Lucca.

After leaving the A11 or the A12 Autostrada you will go through the Alt Stazione and find yourself in Viale Europa. As you come over a small rise you will see the wall surrounding Lucca…and a roundabout.

You can go either way at the roundabout and follow the wall around the town.

If you go left you will drive through a beautiful tunnel formed by the huge trees lining the street.

Follow the signs towards Abetone and Bagni di Lucca.

You will come to a distinctive roundabout with 4 poles.

Turn here for the Strada Statale 12 (SS12) dell’Abetone e del Brennero, which will take you to Bagni di Lucca.

After a couple of kilometres you will leave the town behind and the scenery will change and you will see our mountains.

You will come to a roundabout, follow the signs for Abetone. (your map quest will tell you to take the third “exit”, there are really no exits, but it means third turn off the roundabout)

You will go though a series of tunnels.

Soon you will come to a fork in the road. Take the road to the left towards Bagni/Abetone.

Don’t panic if you are in the wrong lane and take to road to the right. It will take you to Borgo a Mozzano and you will find signs there to take back to the SS12.

You will soon come to the stunning Ponte della Madelena. It should be on your left. ( Also known as the Devil’s Bridge)

A few kilometres from here you will arrive in Bagni di Lucca. You can turn left at this sign to go to Fornoli and on to Ponte a Serraglio and La Villa.

Or go straight ahead until you come to these signs, where if you turn left, you will have arrived at Ponte a Serraglio. (where my favorite Bar Italia is located)

Cross the bridge and you will be in the piazza of Ponte a Serraglio. Turn right at the end of the bridge and La Villa is approximately 1 kilometre further on. (La Villa houses Conad grocery, several good places to eat, a gas station, etc. More information about Bagni in the apartment).

(Not ready to stop in Bagni yet…just continue on a few more miles up SS12 till you see the right turn off taking you up the mountain to Crasciana.)

It is also possible to arrive in Bagni di Lucca by Lazzi bus from Lucca. Here is Piazzale Verdi where the bus station is. The bus trip will be about 40 – 50 minutes.

There is a ticket office on the corner where you can buy a ticket and ask where is the bus stop. Don’t forget to validate your ticket when you enter the bus. There are often inspectors on the bus and you may be fined if your ticket has not been validated. Ask the driver to let you off in Bagni di Lucca.

There is also a train from Lucca to Bagni di Lucca. Here is the train station in Lucca.

Bagni di Lucca is not the final destination of the train. Look for a train going to Piazza al Serchio or Aulla. It will take about 25 minutes to get from Lucca to Bagni di Lucca. Bagni di Lucca is the stop after Borgo a Mozzano. Once again, your ticket must be validated before you enter the train.

At the front of the station, near the covered bus seat, you can catch a bus to Fornoli, Ponte a Serraglio and La Villa.

The buses do not coordinate very well with the trains…don’t ask me why.

For this reason I think it is better to arrive in Bagni di Lucca by bus, rather than train. There is no footpath most of the way from Fornoli station to Ponte a Serraglio and the approximately 1 kilometre walk can be a bit dangerous.

(Thank you Debra for the directions…I hope everyone will go to her blog and see the great pictures she has provided!!)

Posted in Bagni Di Lucca, Family, Italy, Lucca, Rules and Regs, Things to do, Travel Tips, Tuscany | Leave a comment

The great outdoors.

This area of East Tennessee is noted for our beautiful scenery, the famous Great Smokey Mountains, lakes, rivers, and lots of outdoor activities. This time of year the kayaks and hiking boots come out of hiding. Many Trekkers grab their hiking sticks and head to the hills.

In preparing for our up and coming Camino in Spain we have been out finding some trails ourselves. The great news is we don’t have to travel far! About ten miles down the road is a quick and easy trail called Gee Creek. Us gals had a nice day walking along the creek, over the bridges, up and over rocks. We walked several hours till the trial just gave out and we returned nice and tired.

The sign at the front warned us of bears and reminded us to have a fishing license, neither of which we were interested in! We saw many others enjoying the day as well. Boy Scouts, couples, even dog owners out for a stroll. Although it is still cold and rainy we were lucky this day.

There are literally hundreds of trails in our area, many are tough and take all day, others very easy and some even paved. Getting a book at the visitors center or local book store will detail many options.

When visiting the Appalachia area take time to enjoy our many trails, paths and waterways.

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Building houses….

As a real estate agent I am known to sell a house or two, even help others work with a builder to build there dream home. But once a year The Carideo Clan gets to build a house! That’s right we build a house and bring it home!
It is way past Christmas but I just got the nerve to throw away the house we built in December. Of course I am speaking of our gingerbread house!
A fab family hosts many other family’s each year in building our houses. We all bring decorations to share and there is always snacks and then we get to work! It is a messy job, filled with sticky icing, stained outfits, candy filled teeth, and decorations everywhere. The sugar rush from eating the decorations keeps everyone excited too.

Every year we walk around and marvel at everyone’s creative handiwork.
This year we added a sleigh and reindeer, it took so long we did not have time to decorate the house HA.
Here are some amazing creations…

Of course the workers are very serious!

Our hostesses….Thank you Offutt Ladies.

The sled…

Till next year!!

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A Worthy Cause….

Our friends and missionaries to Naples Italy, The Worthy Family, have recently had some exciting news. Charles has been assigned the duty of organizing volunteer groups like ourselves for the entire country now not just Naples.
We were lucky to have him tour our group from Tennessee last year to many cities needing workers and meeting Pastors already building churches in S Italy. We also toured Bologna with him, meeting amazing young men and women doing great work there too.
Last summer his family of 6 joined us in Lucca, Bagni Di Lucca, and our hamlet of Crasciana. We were honored to have them and excited to show them N Italy. Together we hope to find other Christians in the area to help volunteer as needed.
Spending years in the big city of Naples the kids had a blast being in rural Tuscany. We swam in the river, hiked, made homemade pasta, ate lots of gelato and chased the town cats! The slower pace was a much needed break for the family and we hope to host them again this year. Please help pray for continued mental strength and financial support for this special family.

The kids and my kid had a blast! Yum pizza in Lucca.

We attended a pasta festival

Touring Lucca with the Worthy kids.

Swimming in Bagni Di Lucca was a hit!

Posted in Bagni Di Lucca, Bologna, Family, Food, Italy, Lucca, Naples, Tennessee, Things to do, Tuscany, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

You want me to eat that?

Being married to a Chef I have been introduced to some unusual foods. I am very willing to try just about anything and this makes traveling to another country easy. In Italy we have tried hot ricotta???, uncooked sausage???, dandelions??? and other items of interest.
We are always so grateful for whatever is in season! Eating in Italy is never the same depending on the time of year you travel. For example in the summer I can never eat enough Caprese salad filled with lovely tomatoes, fresh basil and soft mozzarella. In the fall, it is wild boar!!! Last October I ate wild boar in every way imaginable and could not stop.
In the summer we spent another glorious day with Heather Jarmin of visiting a cheese maker (see “While we’re on the subject of cheese” previous post). We spent the end of the day gathering an ingredient for the pasta that would be made for dinner. So we set off to pick our “nettles”.
She handed us all a pair of gloves and a plastic bag??? The gloves she said were to protect us from the poison! POISON? I thought we were going to eat these gatherings?
Nettles, also known as “stinging nettles” do indeed. The weed looking green plant has tiny hairs on it and if it grazes your hand or arm you are going to sting and itch for awhile. It contains acids, histamine, and other debatable toxins in the hairs.

Nettles have been used for centuries for medicinal purposes healing everything from hay fever, gout, pancreatic cancer, arthritis and more. Nettles have been a character in folklore too-rub on you to keep ghosts away, men eat it for fertility, or stick some under your pillow for good luck on a full moon night?

Caterpillars love them and some horses have been known to eat nettles but other than that they make great shade for insects…oh, and a nice pasta filling!!!??
Yep-only my foodie friend Heather would have discovered after only 30 seconds of boiling nettles you can cook and season them like any other “green”. They make a nice lasagna, fill pasta or ravioli, put in white bean soup like you would spinach, etc etc…

We can now spot a nettle a mile away…they are very common in Tennessee or Tuscany…but careful, they live up to the name! Who ever thought you would say ouch and yum all in the same meal?

Gathering nettles in the Garfagnana…

Close up

Close up

Below is a closer picture of a bundle of nettles…
italy 2012 262

And when you are done…you can eat this!

Yum, boil and serve

Yum, boil and serve

Posted in Bagni Di Lucca, Family, Food, History, Italy, Lucca, Tennessee, Things to do, Travel Tips, Tuscany | Leave a comment

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”

The title above are the starting lines to what has been named the most popular love poem of all time!!

We throw the word love around fairly easily. I love my hubby, I love my kid, I really love hot Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies, I love to run once I have started, and I love Bagni Di Lucca…

We are not the only people to have fallen in love with such a quaint beautiful town in the Northern hills of Tuscany…titled as one of the most “romantic couples” in all of the Victorian period, poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett also fell in love with Bagni.

In 1846 at her doctors almost insistance for health reasons (failing in one way or another since a teenager), she and her new husband moved to Italy! After a private and secret marriage Robert swooped up his new bride from her disapproving father’s home in England. They lived in Florence for many years , then in Siena, but spent several summers in Bagni di Lucca to escape the summer heat. Although Elizabeth was a prolific writer of poetry, she was also controversial dealing with issues like child labour and slavery. These strong topics are what drew Robert to her in the first place. But her romantic side flourished in Italy. During the summer of 1849 while in Bagni di Lucca, she presented her husband with a notebook filled with love poems from the year of their courtship…it was published as “Sonnets from the Portuguese” and made her instantly popular with the love stricken Italians!

A walkway along the river was named after the famous couple. You can find the brown sign down by the Conad grocery store pointing the way to the walkway , known as the “Passeggiata”. Enter the paved trail and follow the walkway up the river. At the end you can hop over the wall and enjoy a dip in the river or throw some rocks in! The staircase leading up to the road lands you down into LaVilla where you can convienently grab a gelato!

Isn’t love grand?

“…and if God choose, I shall love you better after death.” Poems, E E Browning 1850

Come and take a river side stroll won’t you??

Posted in Bagni Di Lucca, Family, Florence, History, Italy, Things to do, Travel Tips, Tuscany, Uncategorized | Leave a comment