The Great Vonderpiro Caper – Now in Italian! Chapter 9

Al Pal and I finally went on our honeymoon to Italy. What follows are actual notes taken on the trip, in actual note form. Enjoy!

Monday, May 10th – In Venice

Venice happened today!

Our hotel is kind of the pits. Al Pal’s little twin bed, which is pushed next to my little twin bed that together make up our normal sized bed (Europe!), is No Good. Every time he moves there’s a sound like the creaking open of the gates of hell, which keeps us up all night– not in a positive way. So can they try to fix it or can we maybe move rooms, please? “All our beds are the same.” Oh, so you are terrible, okay, cool. WE WILL MURDER YOU (with words, on Trip Advisor).


I also blame them for my bad hair day.

Spritzes in the Jewish ghetto. Not good spritzes, either! Note to self – Aperol is the delicious one and Campari is the pickley one. The Jewish ghetto is small and sad and made us feel small and sad. But full of awesome Jewish shops with cool stuff in them. Bought some!


Did not buy this :(


In the Ghettooooo

 There are also a bunch of frum people here, which was sort of unexpected and I reacted in my usual way which was to panic and order treif.

Walked to St. Mark’s. It’s so COLORFUL. Some super old dude was like, “Let’s make this one wacky! But not too wacky.”


Marble, amirite?


The most beautiful ADD

People are on the street all over the place playing music, singing opera, and having a GARAGE SALE. When you’re Italian, even your garage sales are fancy and mysterious. Science fact.




People being fancy.

Two spritzes for me, one half liter red wine for Al Pal (this is our new trend) at lunch at some weirdly Americanized place that served hamburgers. Poor choice, Vonderpiro!

More walking. There are so many masks. Can’t imagine what it looks like around here when people are actually wearing them.

Two spritzes, one half liter red wine at happy hour. Boozy! Looked at more art.


One of da Vinci’s most famous works

Dinner in a little square: two spritzes, one half liter red wine. We now just say, “The usual, please!” to waiters we’ve never seen at restaurants we’ve never been to.

TO THE VENICE JAZZ CLUB! Skinny Italian dudes in hats playing piano and making jokes about Miles Davis is pretty much the cutest. Al Pal has decided he loves jazz now. None of them terrible jazz hats for you, Al Pal, or we will have yells.

Then xylophone guy gets a solo and we are just beside ourselves.

Three spritzes, three house red, one grappa each. And now we’re wasted. We stagger home and that is the end of today. Vonderpiro out (cold).


Quiet time.

Level of booziness: Like, really a lot.

Al Pal: Strachiatella, Tiramisu
Dena: Hazlenut, caramel

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The Great Vonderpiro Caper – Now in Italian! Chapter 8

Al Pal and I finally went on our honeymoon to Italy. What follows are actual notes taken on the trip, in actual note form. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 9th – In Venice

FINALLY returned the car, hooray! It was like the freedom you feel when you first get your license, except the opposite of that, and better. Stopped for gas before dropping it off, and also Al Pal’s first ever Kinder Surprise!



Adventures figuring out the train. Didn’t realize there are assigned seats, woops. Made a lady sad when she was like, “This is my seat, who the hell are you?” But, you know, in Italian. And with lots of gestures. We apologized, also with gestures.

Ah, Venice!

Panicked when we got off the train and took a water taxi instead of a water bus. This is  preposterously expensive! But also exciting and vaguely Indiana Jonesey looking. A moment of fanciness before eternal poverty.



Lunch immediately because trains make you real hungry.  Two spritzes, Al Pal half liter of house red. They put so many olives in the spritzes here. Good job, Venice!

Randomly found Peggy Guggenheim collection during walk, so we did that. So modern and funky and gorgeous. Not even any Jesuses there. Walked around some more, staring at things and generally just being giddy, because Venice. Then early bedtime.

Note: Venice is kind of creepy! There are eerie masks everywhere, staring at you with their dead, empty eyes. And it’s all dusky and slippery and like, you could die? If you fell? Does anyone ever mention that? YOU COULD DIE IF YOU FELL.


Dangerously beautiful.

Level of Booziness: Eh, minimal. Too sleepy and full of food. Must stay alert and alive.

Al Pal: Mixed berry, strawberry
Dena: Nutella, strawberry

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The Great Vonderpiro Caper – Now in Italian! Chapter 7

Al Pal and I finally went on our honeymoon to Italy. What follows are actual notes taken on the trip, in actual note form. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 9th – In Florence Almost missed the David because there was so much good breakfast to destroy, with our mouths.

Made it to the David in the end. It’s real big. (Yes, yes, insert your disgusting jokes here, you vile filthsters.)


Big Shoes, or whatever.

Lots of other beautiful shit!


Duomo! It’s green, because someone was awesome.


Don’t ask questions.

Gestured wildly (“look at that crazy thing!”) at an all too life-like bust in the Uffizi and actually HIT AN ITALIAN CHILD IN THE FACE. Apologized one million times, but fairly sure he didn’t understand me, because Italian. This is why they hate us.

Renaissance art is pretty much the best. Varies between angry Jesus, creepy Jesus, scary Jesus, flying Jesus, and drama Jesus. (Post re: creepy art of Florence forthcoming. No room for all that here.)

One carafe house white during lunch. Random bachelorette party in restaurant eating some food. They kept blowing a whistle, we’ll never know why.

Happened upon the filming of the new Dan Brown bookmoviedisaster. It’s called “We Will Tell You Nonsense Secrets,” starring Tom Hanks and Friends. Watch for it this fall! Lots of boats and people were happening. No Tom Hanks, guess he was off solving mysterious Catholic secrets elsewhere.


Filming all of the secrets

Two spritzes, one ENORMOUS beer (or regular sized beer, in an enormous wine glass?)next to Uffizi and Florence historic town hall. Watched ANOTHER wedding, and some birds eat a waffle w/ strawberries because birds love brunch. Get at it, birds!


Pinot Beergio

Was so excited to visit Great Synagogue of Florence and talk to them about their Italian style feelings toward gefilte fish and scotch, but it was closed, because Shabbat. Kind of seems like that’s the one day it should definitely be open? Who was the dumb one here? Still unsure.


The Great Synagogue through a locked fence. On Shabbat. Because that’s logical.

We were sad, so we stopped for one more spritz each. That’s when a man tried to sell us a live parakeet. Wtf.

Found world’s oldest pharmacy, bought some real fancy stuff in it!

Two glasses Prosecco, one bottle house red with dinner. Too full of enormous amounts of food for drinks to be truly effective.

Level of booziness: Functional, actually!

Al Pal: Mint, mango (Another weird combo. Why does he do this to himself?)
Dena: Tiramisu, panna cotta (Too rich. Ick.)

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The Great Vonderpiro Caper – Now in Italian! Chapter 6

Al Pal and I finally went on our honeymoon to Italy. What follows are actual notes taken on the trip, in actual note form. Enjoy!

Friday, May 8th – In Florence

Day in Fiesole, outside Florence. It’s like Florence’s baby sister, all cute and small and less full of terrifying traffic. Al Pal is still afraid of our car and its relationship to other cars, thanks for asking.


Modern art! Is that even allowed?

One spritz, one red wine at lunch. Actually legit serenaded by an accordian player while we were sitting there. So awkward and hilarious. Al Pal was all, “let’s hold hands” and I was all, “let’s titter rudely.” This is called “interpersonal communication.”

At the Fiesole Franciscan Missionary Museum, “Get Lucky” is playing over the loud speaker throughout the whole place. This seems appropriate, somehow.


Franciscan Missionary Museum. So peaceful until you pass a loudspeaker.


Child star Drew Barrymore says, “Welcome to the Franciscan Missionary Museum!”

Also saw a bunch of real old archaeological stuff, which was important! Europe: it’s old.


Selfie fail at the Roman Theatre


More ruins, and Tuscany looking boss.


Ruins with a view.


Ruins and views, ruins and views.

Back to the B&B, which is a 600 year old villa in the Tuscan countryside and ridiculous, absurdly, insanely gorgeous, btw (and they make SUCH GOOD BREAKFAST GOOD GOD). Spend afternoon drinking bottle of local Chianti while reading books and looking out over Tuscany. All romantical and literary and boozy and fancy and pretty damned sunburned.


Just happy to be sitting down, really.


Obligatory feet picture.

Home Food” dinner with Italian couple. Al Pal’s one great goal for this trip was for an Italian nonna cook him dinner and no one should understand each other and everyone should just be yelling “EAT, EAT!”

It didn’t quite happen that way– They were a young couple and they spoke English and we just chatted all night. They’re both chefs and the food was fantastic. We talked about their cats and how they live in Florence’s oldest synagogue and one of them didn’t find out she was a secret mystery Jew until she was an adult, true story! They also told us that Italians are disgusted (direct quote) at the idea of salty food and meat for breakfast and don’t like new flavors.

It was bizarre and fantastic and most importantly: delicious.

One bottle Prosecco, one bottle mystery red, one shot each grappa, one shot each limoncello, one glass actual Catholic Vatican priest wine (also true story!) for Allen and like four for me, because apparently the Vatican and I both enjoy super sweet dessert wines.

Level of Booziness: EXTREME

Al Pal: Chocolate, nutella
Dena: Strawberry, caramelized fig (omg)


We never know where the lens is.

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The Great Vonderpiro Caper – Now in Italian! Chapter 5

Al Pal and I finally went on our honeymoon to Italy. What follows are actual notes taken on the trip, in actual note form. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 7th – In Florence

No booze until 3pm, WINE WITHDRAWAL. But then, wine tour in Tuscany!

One teaser glass at “wine school.” Had to listen to a bunch of silly wine nonsense to get at it.

Four (hefty) glasses of wine at first vineyard! FOUR. So chatty with new friends, because stuck in a van with them. Everything is delicious and we bought all of it. Telling strangers all our secrets. We all drunkenly discuss how much we miss our dogs and how Italians bring their dogs everywhere just to spite us. The term ” dog stalking” is used unironically. By me.


Baby Chianti


The term for Chianti Classico is “The Black Rooster.” This seems important.

Our tour guide moved here 34 years ago for a dude, which was hot at the time, and then got divorced, which makes it less hot looking back. And after all that her kids ended up going back to America for college anyway, so she’s kind of bummed. She talks like an American and drives like an Italian and we unabashedly admire her and tell her so. She’s like a person in a movie, but with a floppier hat.


Grapes! Which later become wine. So, wine!


More future wine.

Five more (hefty, again) glasses of wine at second vineyard, oy vey. Allen and I both knock over glasses while reaching for snacks (don’t worry, they’re empty). One of the ladies on tour with us wraps up some cookies in a napkin and secretly hands them to me as we’re leaving because apparently I’m the kind of person that looks like she needs more cookies. News to me.

Everyone is extremely giggly and pretty glad we have sexy floppy hat lady to drive us back. More talk about dogs and there is a small fight about whether or not we should all love grappa (yes, we should all love grappa). Also, none of us can believe how it looks here. In Tuscany. It’s looks real nice.


It’s okay I guess.

More house wine at dinner because what difference does it even make at this point?

Level of booziness: Preposterous

Gelato: None again! What is even happening.

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The Great Vonderpiro Caper – Now in Italian! Chapter 4

Al Pal and I finally went on our honeymoon to Italy. What follows are actual notes taken on the trip, in actual note form. Enjoy!

Also– a quick note on the spritz, since I continuously refer to drinking thousands of them. The Aperol spritz is Italy’s national cocktail and people just spritz the hell out of everything over there. I like them because they’re bubbly, bitter, and full of olives, (just like me). Al Pal made the mistake of thinking that because they’re brightly colored, they must be girly, which he regretted saying that as soon as he tried one, because they’re bitter and weird. Give them all to me now.

They left out the olives. THEY’RE THERE, TRUST ME.

Wednesday May 6 – In Cinque Terre
One bottle house white with lunch. Then accidentally ordered very expensive bottle of—-

** This is the precise moment in my note taking that a dude, whose name we later learned was “Westin,” leaned over under the guise of asking if I have WiFi, but really just wanted to tell us that he was “fascinated by the interaction” of watching me accidentally order a 28 Euro bottle of  Prosecco to go with our pizza.WHATEVER, I DON’T SPEAK ITALIAN, SO SUE ME.

Thus was born a beautiful friendship, over booze and pizza. We chatted about life, the universe, and everything. For like 20 minutes. Instant friendship! Like pudding or ramen or something. Then as he was leaving, he knocked my wine glass over with his backpack and said, “Oh GOD, that is SUCH expensive wine!” And then we fell over dead, from laughter. We will never forget you, Westin.


Some fancy-ass wine.

Side note: Westin mentioned at one point that his name is “spelled differently than the hotels.” After much consideration, there is no possible other spelling. Sorry Westin, your request for a different spelling has been denied. Please deal with it accordingly.

Had long conversation with large group of Australians about selfie sticks. Namely: how do they work, from, like, a technical perspective? Everyone was also in agreement that they’re dumb, but that’s nothing new.

Saw a tiny boat that looked like it should have been a bigger boat. We named it Zelda.



First experience with a public female urinal! Learned so much about myself, some of it more unpleasant than I’d prefer.

Spritz and local red at bar before train. Kept dropping things while shopping (because DRUNK). Ran into Westin again. Hadn’t forgotten him yet. He was still so embarrassed about spilling the wine that I was embarrassed about ordering.

Said “Yes, please” to someone in Hebrew. My brain is like, “It’s time for a foreign language, and I know one!”

Two spritz, one “Birra Moretti” in Corniglia (which we climbed 300+steps to get to. So many ughs.). This is the probably the most ridiculous beer I’ve ever seen. Also talked Al Pal into ordering fresh anchovies. He likes them, he REALLY likes them! LOLJK he tolerated them because honeymoon.


So. Many. Stairs.


Clark Gable Approved!


Tiny fishes

Heard a lady on the train platform talking about how much Minnesotans love Jucy Lucys and tater tots, and I said, “I’m sorry, I really need to insert myself into this conversation right now.” And we had an excellent chat about Haute Dish, Travail, and the wisdom of using snow removal services when living in and around South Minneapolis. Sometimes you run into General Mills employees who live in Edina when you’re standing on a train platform in rural Italy. It happens.

Tripped and fell on my face getting on the train just as someone recognized us from the bar and said, “Oh, hello!” Awesome.



Managed to get to all five towns at some point today.


Oh look, it’s beautiful.


Beach time at Vernazza


Riomaggiore! Which here means, “asthma attack.”


Al Pal is SO EXCITED that he learned how to say, “Riomaggiore”


Monterosso, “the beachy one”

Happy hour: one spritz, one accidental white wine. Al Pal just sometimes closes his eyes and points and then gets sad when they aren’t what he expects. Language barriers!

Two bottles house white with dinner and sooo much seafood. Met a couple from Thailand who ordered everything we ordered, then asked us how we found our B&B and said “OF COURSE we also use Trip Advisor!” She was also wearing fur in like 80 degree weather. I didn’t trust them.

Level of booziness: Chatty with strangers!

Gelato: None, somehow :-(

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The Great Vonderpiro Caper – Now in Italian! Chapter 3

Al Pal and I finally went on our honeymoon to Italy. What follows are actual notes taken on the trip, in actual note form. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 5th – In Cinque Terre

A stressful day! One of our converters essploded a fuse and killed all lights in the entire B&B. We were not popular among the other guests, probably. After eating another nine thousand pounds worth of breakfast, checked out of the B&B and then checked out of Milan.

Al Pal’s first European driving experience. He was not pleased and had many emotions.

Tried to stop and have booze for lunch in Genoa on the way to Cinque Terre, but got lost and had many more emotions. Real pretty, though!


Million Dollar View just chilling along the highway

European drivers are not polite. Our Midwestern sensibilities are highly offended by this. They hate our table manners though, so we’re even maybe? YES I BLEW MY NOSE DURING DINNER, GET OVER IT YOU OLD BAG.

Eventually got to Cinque Terre, good God. Two carafes house white with ENORMOUS lunch because all the emotions and also HELLO SEAFOOD.


Al Pal getting serious about lunch. Manarola getting serious about hills behind him.

Further exploration (and more day drinking) in all five villages ensues. Argument re: whether spritzes are a girly drink. They are not a girly drink, dick. I proceed to drink three spritzes to prove a point, Al Pal drinks two red wines, I eat eleventy nine million olives.


Pinkies up, ladies!

We climb one million hills and are thin and beautiful now.

Two carafes house red with late dinner, which is pasta and more seafood, duh! More arguments about whether ladies (I) should like to drink beer. They (I) do not like to drink beer.

Booziness level: Confrontational!

Al Pal: Mango, chocolate (This was a  weird combo.)
Dena: Black cherry, pistachio


Gelato! It’s exciting.

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