Piombino Dese and Venice

Piombino Dese and Ca’ de Memi

We’ve visited Piombino Dese twice before, at the agriturismo "Ca’ de Memi." It’s a great place to stay on its own, due to its location in Veneto: Bassano del Grappa, Asolo, Treviso, and Castelfranco are all easily reachable by car or train. It’s also a fantastic place to eat. If you’re going to visit Ca’ de Memi, book it soon, because this month they got a write-up in the Guardian as one of the ten best cooking classes with stays in Europe. We have enjoyed their food immensely, but not yet taken a cooking course there…maybe next time!

This time the draw to us was the five-minute walk from the train station. From there we did a 40-minute train trip to Santa Lucia station in Venice.

Venice and Piazza San Marco

For less than 5€ each we took the train into Venice and started exploring on foot. We had just the right amount of time to kill and before our scheduled visits to the Basilica and bell tower on Piazza San Marco. Sarah had purchased us tickets in advance, allowing us to skip the line on both sites. A few words to the wise about the basilica and bell tower:

  1. No photography of any kind is permitted — no tripods, no video recording, no flashless still photography. Take a picture with your heart if you must.
  2. We didn’t allow enough time to take in the splendor of the basilica before we were expected at the bell tower. Give yourself at least 45 minutes in the basilica before your next appointment.
  3. You have to check any bags larger than a medium-sized purse. I was carrying a small backpack, and it was a no-go. The bag check counter is in a separate building around the corner from the basilica. It’s free, but they advise against leaving anything of value in your bag. Thus I emptied all my stuff from my backpack into my pockets or hung it around my neck for our visit to the piazza.
  4. You can only go up to the bell tower via the elevator. It will be crowded, like everything else about Venice.
  5. The bells will go off while you’re up in the tower. They are loud. Cover your ears with your hands; plugs are probably overkill.

We got lucky with the weather that day.

Italian Road Trip September 2019

It’s not every year that we get TWO trips to Italy. Last time our focus was Tuscany. This time was a mix of new and old destinations in Veneto and Emilia-Romagna, showing Sarah’s mom some stuff we knew, and some we didn’t. Clearly this is going to have to be split into several different posts. We took way too many pictures to cover it all in one post. Stay tuned for individual segments to follow.

The Route

Places Visited


I know it’s not in Italy. We gave Sarah’s mom a chance to de-jetlag with a day trip here before starting the roadtrip. That’s why it’s not on the route map above.

B. Piombino Dese and Venice

We’ve stayed here twice before, at the agriturismo "Ca’ de Memi." That is a great place to stay (and eat!) on its own, but it’s a five-minute walk from the train station in Piombino Dese, and from there a 40-minute train trip to Santa Lucia station in Venice. If you’re going to go there, book it soon, because this month they got a write-up in the Guardian as one of the ten best cooking classes with stays in Europe. We have enjoyed their food but not yet taken a cooking course there…maybe next time!

C. Ravenna

We’d been to Ravenna once before, but only saw the mausoleum and Basilica San Vitale. This time we had much nicer weather and more motivation to explore the town a bit more.

D. Modena and Parma

These were both new towns for us. We parked our car in Modena near the apartment and only moved it for our day trip to Parma. Both towns are very walkable, and we took advantage of that.

E. San Valentino alla Muta or Sankt Valentin in der Haide

Another whole new region for us! We really like those places where the languages blend:

  • Aostatal / Val d’Aosta (bonus! French and German and Italian)
  • Elsaß / Alsace
  • Südtirol / Alto Adige


We know Munich pretty well, but Sarah’s mom didn’t, so we spent a day down there acclimating. Bayern Ticket for the win!

Neues Rathaus / Viktualienmarkt / Residenz

We’d never been to the Residenz, so we bought us a self-guided tour of the Schatzkammer towards the end of the day before heading home again on the train.

Let the italying begin!

Vegetable Broth

A good solid broth makes all things possible! And a vegetarian one is accessible to everyone. This recipe is very simple and can be personalized to your own taste or use case. The amounts shown are what I use for an 8-liter (roughly 8 quart) pot.

1-2 onions, root end trimmed and sliced in half
3 carrots, trimmed and cut into 3-4 pieces
4 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into 3-4 pieces
1 bunch parsley
1 clove garlic, lightly crushed
5-6 sprigs thyme
10 peppercorns
2 T salt
2 T soy sauce or tamari

Add all ingredients to a large soup pot, fill with cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and allow at least 2 liters to cook off. Filter and adjust seasoning as desired.

Whoa! Air!

For the last eleven months I’ve been cultivating a beard. I told everyone at work I’d shave it when we reached a certain milestone at work. Well, the work thing finally happened today. True to my word, the beard is gone, as of about 20 minutes ago.

I’m not excited about shaving (nearly) every day again, but I do look forward to eating without

  • straining my food like a baleen whale
  • giving food particles hundreds of jumping-off points as they try to land on my shirt
  • hogging the napkins

Fast Break to Berchtesgaden and Burg Hohenwerfen

We planned a rendezvous with some of Sarah’s extended family months ago and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

We’d been to Berchtesgaden before, several years ago, in that dark, rainy period before Christmas. Visiting it in the summer was a very different experience! Also, this time we stayed in the Kempinski hotel above the town. We were only there one night — just long enough to catch up with the fam and send them back on their way home to the USA.

After a glorious breakfast among breaks in the clouds, it was time to check out. We followed a tip to visit Burg Hohenwerfen while in the area. It’s only about 40 minutes away from Berchtesgaden.

It was kind of crowded, and a little cheesy, but nonetheless enjoyable for a few hours before we got back in the car for the drive home. The highlight was the climb to the top of the bell tower for the views.

Note well: our route from Regensburg took us south around Munich and into Austria, obligating us to buy the Vignette for Austrian toll roads. On the way back — a Friday afternoon approaching rush hour — we opted for a nominally slower route along the Bundestraßen instead of the Autobahnen. It was in fact slower, but at least we kept moving.

Again with the passwords


  • Don’t re-use passwords, ever.
  • Make the passwords you use cryptographically strong — adequate length, no stock phrases, and a mix of cases, numbers, and symbols can’t hurt. Lots of sites are dumb about these rules.
  • Use a system that works for you to generate and store them: Password Safe, KeePass, 1Password, LastPass, whatever. Google them.
  • Retire old passwords, and replace them with completely unrelated new, better ones.

Bonus Points:

  • Use a password system that replicates across all your devices (lappy, tablet, desktop, phone).
  • Save yourself some headache by generating human-readable (but still of acceptable complexity) passwords for when you do have to read from one device and type/tap into another, or read one off to another human.
  • Set your password system bug you to update your passwords periodically.

https://pw.cliff1976.net is my gift to you for generating those.

Continue reading Again with the passwords

Cutting Winter Short in Catalonia

Oops! This post has been lurking in our drafts for a couple months. Sorry about that!

We needed to get outta town for a change of scenery after getting most of the way through the winter. Plus, it was a chance to celebrate a milestone and a Hallmark Holiday.™ Barcelona was the right mix of travel effort, climate, and activity.

Continue reading Cutting Winter Short in Catalonia