Ultimo giorno al Lago di Como

This morning we took the ferry across the lake to Menaggio. Once there we wandered around the square looking for a tourist office. We never found anything, but enjoyed the walk around the lake front. We decided to walk to the Villa Carlotta. Google maps said it was a 3km walk and it would take us about an hour. Shari and Albert were game, so we started walking. Most of the walk had sidewalks, but there were a few places we had to walk on the road. At one point we walked through a tunnel, which Albert thought was a pretty neat experience. He asked me later if we were going to walk through it again.

The Villa Carlotta is an old estate and botanical garden. When we arrived we approached the ticket window and asked for three adult tickets. The tickets are €10 each. The woman at the ticket window asked how old Albert was and I told her he is an adult. Then she said in broken English, he doesn’t pay. I said, Thank you. She handed me back my card and three tickets. We all said thank you and began to walk into the gardens. It occurred to me that she didn’t have me sign anything for the charge. Then I looked at the tickets and all three were no charge. This is not the first time, in Italy, Albert has not been charged an entrance fee. The first time was when we were in Rome at Castle San Angelo. However, this is the first time the someone let all three of us in for free.

We wandered around the Villa Carlotta’s gardens for about an hour. They were spectacular in both the variety of plants and how beautifully the flowers were maintained and arranged. After touring the gardens we entered the house. It was also spectacular with the first floor having greco-roman plaster reliefs all along the walls. It contained several greco-roman statues. It also contained a collection of paintings. www.villacarlotta.it

After walking around the Villa Carlotta, Albert was starving. We walked south to Tremezzo and found a restaurant with shaded outdoor seating and ate lunch. After lunch we walked about 1/4 of a mile to the ferry launch on the lake in front of the Villa Carlotta. We found a shady spot under a tree and waited about 15 minutes for the ferry. We rode the ferry across the lake to San Geovani, then to Bellagio, Menaggio, and then to Varenna. Shari wanted to sit on the front of the ferry in the open air and sun. After a while Albert and I couldn’t handle the heat anymore and went into the main cabin. This turned out to be a good move. The normally stuffy cabin was breezy and not in the sun.

After arriving in Varenna, we walked along the water to the gelatoria where everyone got gelato, and then we walked up the the Varenna town square and found a shady spot to sit and eat our gelato. I went to fill up the water bottle at a spring outside the church and noticed the church was open. Shari and Albert walked over and we all went into the church. This was our first time inside the church in Varenna. After touring the church and saying a prayer we went back to the square and sat on a bench under a tree. Albert asked if we could leave a couple of times and I told him no. He was bored sitting in the shade. I told him we would leave once the church bells rang six o’clock.

After the church bells rang we walked back to the ferry terminal. We decided to see if we could just ride the ferry around the lake for a while. We rode a car ferry from Varenna to Menaggio. At Menaggio I realized that this would be the only ferry for 40 minutes, so we quickly got back on the ferry. We thought it was headed to Bellagio, but Varenna was it’s first stop. Once back in Varenna, we decided to get off the ferry and go up to the house and clean up. Since this is our last night in Varenna, we decided to go out to dinner.

After we all showered and dressed, we walked back down the hill to a restaurant that overlooks the ferry terminal and the lake. The restaurant specializes in lake seafood, so we all ordered seafood for dinner. Everyone enjoyed their meals and we had dessert. It looked like a thunderstorm was rolling in, so we finished up and paid so we could get back to the house before it rained.

Once back at the house, we watched the thunderstorm from the patio. The lightening flashed across the lake, but the storm moved South and away from us. Shari and I sat outside and finished off the last of the red wine and watching the lightening show across the lake.

Secondo giorno al Lago di Como

Today we explored Varenna. We are moving slow this morning and it will be a nice day to stay close to the house and see what is nearby.

We started exploring Varenna by walking down to the ferry terminal and then along the sidewalk that winds around the water front. We continued past the town center and up an alley way that brought us south of the main town square. The Tourist information center is nearby, so we went in to get a map. After reviewing the map we continued to walk south along the road past the monastery We walk along via Roma until we reached the top of the hill and steps to continue to Castle of Vezio. The climb to the castle was very steep and rocky. Albert has some difficulty. Mostly he was uncomfortable with the rocky trail and worried about loosing his footing. So he moved slow. It took us 30 minutes from the stairs to get to the castle. The castle is mostly ruins and was built by either the Romans or the Lombards depending on what historical reference you believe. The view of the lake was spectacular.

We took the ferry trail back to Varenna. It was steep and rocky and we moved slow. As we reached the end, we realized we were at the gate to our house. So we took a break and went inside for a few minutes. Next, we walked back down to the ferry terminal and along the water front. We wanted to get a gelato, but it was sunny and hot and Shari wanted to find some shade. All the gelaterias were down around the waterfront, where at this time of day it is sunny and hot. Fortunately, we found a shaded place along the sidewalk to eat our gelato. Afterward we walked back up to the shade of the town square.

While filling the water bottle near the town square, Shari notice another grocery store. So after sitting in the shade for a while, we walked over to the store. I bought a bottle of wine and a little cheese. Afterwards we walked along the road toward the house.

After the sun was low, we went outside on the patio and ate dinner. We had the meat, olives, and cheese we bought and of course, the wine. We played Uno on the patio as we watched the sun go down over the mountain.

Primo giorno sul lago di Como

This morning I learned something new. How to make coffee in an Italian stove-top espresso maker. I made one pot and it did not turn out very well. So I watched a video on YouTube and realized what I did wrong. I was using too much heat on the first batch. I used a lower heat on the second and it turned out much better.

This morning we rode the ferry over to Bellagio. Today we don’t have an agenda, we are just explored. The ferry terminal in Bellagio is right outside a promenade with shops. We strolled down the promenade until we reached the end and then crossed the street and walked along the sea wall. At one point we stopped and walked down a few steps to the water’s edge. Shari stuck her feet in the water and said it was cold. We continued to walk along the sea wall until we reached the entrance to the Villa Melzi gardens.

After pizza for lunch, we walked down Via Eugenio Vitali to Parchetto della Punta, a beautiful park on the tip of Bellagio. It has a spectacular view of the lake and a green lawn with plenty of shade. People were lounging in the grass enjoying the spectacular view of the lake. Watching the people around us, it occurred to me that what everyone wants is someone to love, maybe a family, and if you have that family, to enjoy the time together with them and to experience the world together.

Since we were all running out of gas, we walked back down to the ferry terminal to catch a boat back to Varenna. We stopped at a Gelateria along the way and each got a gelato. We boarded a ferry and sat at the front and ate our gelato as we rode back to Varenna.

After the sun went down, we went outside on the patio. I opened a bottle of wine and plated some of the meats, cheese, and olives we bought. We sat on the patio eating, drinking wine and playing Uno. We also discovered that the house came with an affectionate cat.

Ultimo giorno a Venezia

Today is our last day in Venice and a travel day. We slept in this morning and packed up for the train ride to Varenna. We left the hotel around noon and took a vaporetto to the train station. We arrived a little early, so we stood outside the train station in the shade people watching.

The train trip to Milan took a little over two hours, but we saw a lot of beautiful Italian countryside. Once in the Milan Centrale station, we waited for our train to Varenna-Esino to be assigned a platform. Our train was delayed 30 minutes, but that was not a major inconvenience.

I was having trouble finding a triple hotel room in Varenna, so I used AirBNB to find a great house. It has an awesome patio that overlooks the town an Lake Como. Here is the view.

After settling in, we walked to town to get something for dinner before the stores closed. We walked on a narrow sidewalk along the main road until we came to a set of steps. The steps led to an alley were we walked along the outside dining for several restaurants. Eventually, we came to an open area. It was the town center where the church was located. At the south end of the square, we found a shop the sold a few groceries. We bought wine, cheese, prosciutto, and salami. They were out of bread for the day. With our dinner in the bag we walked back to the house.

Once the sun went behind a cloud we sat outside and enjoyed the lake view. Shari and I sat outside on the patio watching the sun go down and the stars come out until 10:30, when we went inside to go to bed.

Terzo giorno a Venezia

This morning we stood in line for about 40 minutes to get inside the Basilica of San Marco. Once inside we toured the ground floor in a few minutes. It was dark and hard to make out much detail of the mosaics. Afterwards we went up a steep flight of stairs to reach the San Marco Museum. We toured the museum which was interesting, but what I really wanted to do was to go outside and look over Piazza San Marco.

In the afternoon, we wandered the alley ways of Venice eventually arriving at the far end of Piazza San Marco. We took a right and headed toward the Accademia. We were just strolling with no real destination or time to get there. We came to the Santa Maria De Giglio square. At one end of the square was the Ristorante Al Giglio. They had a nice shaded outdoor eating area, so stopped there for a late lunch/early dinner.

After dinner we walked to the Grand Canal and hired a gondola to take us on a tour. The tour lasted 30 minutes and it costed €100 including the tip. It was pricey, but definitely one of those things you need to experience in Venice.

After the gondola ride we continued walking toward the Accademia. We crossed the Accademia bridge across the Grand Canal. We walked along Rio Tera Foscarini until we reached the waters of the Guidecca Canal. Right then a tug boat was pulling a huge cruise ship through the canal. I’ve never been on a cruise, so it looked like a huge ship to me.

We walked back to Piazza San Marco and went to 6:45 mass in the Basilica. For mass they had the lights on which made it much easier to see the gold mosaics above the altar. We also had a choir visiting from somewhere which added beautiful a capella music to the mass. The mass was in Italian, of course. I kept up with it a little bit, but I was too slow at some place to get the responses right.

After mass we walked back to the hotel and got a gelato along the way. We ate our gelato and did a little window shopping as we walked.

Secondo giorno a Venezia

After breakfast we began walking towards the Piazza San Marco. We started at the Rialto bridge which is close to our hotel. Once we reached the Piazza we continued walking until we reached the water. A cool breeze was blowing in off the Grand Canal. We walked along the Grand Canal away from the Piazza. It was a nice stroll and we occasionally encountered large waves of fellow tourist headed toward the Piazza. We walked almost to the end before turning around and returning to the Piazza. We walked through the streets and stopped in at the Church of St Giuliano and the church of St Salvador.

This evening we ate dinner while a thunderstorm blew through. Afterwards, we walked back to Piazza San Marco and rode the elevator up to the top of the Campanile. A view of Venice from the Campanile of St. Mark’s..

Primo giorno a Venezia

Today was a travel day. We flew from Atlanta to Milan. Took the train from Milan to Venice. Then a Vaporetta from the train station to the Rialto launch which is near our hotel. We are staying at Hotel a La Commedia in Venice. It took us 17 hours of travel to get here. After freshening up, we went up to the hotel’s rooftop bar for cocktails and snacks.

Through the eyes of CNN

During my travels in Europe, I’ve noticed that most hotels have a TV somewhere in the lobby. In my experience, that TV is tuned into CNN. If most Europeans get their impression of America and Americans from CNN, they are receiving a very distorted picture.

Ant-man and the Wasp

This afternoon I took my son and a friend to see Ant-man and the Wasp. It was a really fun movie. It was extra special for my son, because he visit the set of the movie while they were filming in Atlanta. He was allowed to watch the filming of a few scenes and had the pleasure of meeting Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly on the set.

The studio visit was arrange by my nieces boyfriend, Daniele who was working on the movie. He was such a great guy and photographer. Later he presented Albert with framed copies of the photos that were autographed by Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly. What a special gift to remember a special day.

Tomato sandwiches

For lunch today I had the first tomato sandwiches of 2018. The tomatoes were some of the first, that the birds didn’t get, from my garden.

I make my tomato sandwiches with fresh soft white bread. Sunbeam “King Thin” is my favorite. I slather each side of the bread with a generous portion of Duke’s mayonnaise. Then I slice as much tomato as will fit on the bread without falling out when I pick it up to eat. Then a little salt and pepper to finish. Bon appetit, y’all. I have so many tomatoes, I had to have two sandwiches today, before the tomatoes go bad. I finished the meal with a moon pie.

In my humble opinion, that is a classic southern lunch.