North America, Europe · 30 Days · 71 Moments · August 2017

23 September 2017

Sitting at the gate now, waiting to board the plane that will take us home. Long day ahead, but we take many wonderful memories with us.
Drove to the Milano-Malpensa Airport yesterday morning, taking in our last views of beautiful northern Italy. Smooth travels all the way, landed in Frankfurt only 20 minutes late. Once again had difficulty finding the Hilton. Long, long walk. Rob found a Sicilian restaurant! The guy at the front desk of the hotel called to make a reservation, but no one answered. They opened at 6 PM, so we decided to just be there when they opened the doors. Got there 40 minutes early, and we asked a guy working there if we could get a table at 6. He signaled “ok”. We took a stroll around the block. Frankfurt seems to be quite pretty, with beautiful architecture and lots of green spaces. Lots of litter, though. At 6:01 we went into the restaurant. The owner spoke no English—only Italian! He said they were fully booked. Period. Rob was angry; but a server said we could stay until 8. Lots of time. The food, pasta with sausage, was amazing, in spite of the Italian nazi!

22 September 2017

Sicilian restaurant in Frankfurt.
When we returned to La Rosa Gialla, Valentina (Marina’s daughter) was holding a dog by the collar and talking on the phone. We approached and began to pet the dog. The dog’s nails were horribly long and must have been uncomfortable. She cowered and urinated as we were petting her. Valentina said that the dog, Diana, had learned to jump over the fence. She was their best truffle dog, so now they have a problem. She said she had called her father to come get Diana. As we were going into our room, I saw the father walking up the hill, and the dog running ahead of him. During our stay, we’d heard the dogs barking and howling, and I wondered about their care. I understand they are working dogs, but cowering is never a good sign. It’s possible she was a rescue dog...but those nails? The experience soured us on the place, I have to say. But as we were leaving this morning, Valentina ran to say goodbye, and she actually began to cry. She hugged us both and gave me a big kiss on the cheek.
After our tour of Alba, Barbaresco and Bra yesterday, we went back to La Rosa Gialla for some sun and one more swim. Then we went to Barolo for a tasting at Borgogno. Alessandro was our host. Just 22, he has graduated from an oenology program, purchased grapes from his “old uncle” in La Morra, and will make his first wine this year, about 1000 bottles, that will have the DOCG designation for Barolo. Very impressive. He allowed us to taste many wines, riservas and very old Barolos. Of course we bought a case to send home! Alessandro even gave us free shipping. We forgot to tip him, and I feel really bad about that, but I think we can track him down and maybe send something nice. His uncle (not the old one) owns the restaurant Buon Padre in Vergne. For dinner, we went back for one more pizza at Per Bacco in La Morra. Arrived early and just stared at the scenery, the sun low in the sky, the lush landscape, the old stone houses. Such beauty nourishes the soul.
Yesterday, Thursday, September 21, we explored a little more. Went through Alba, Barbaresco (which is a beautiful village, with one of Gaja’s wineries prominently featured), and Bra, where we had lunch at Osteria Chiosco—9 years ago, we had a delicious dinner there, and a long chat with the owner, Bruno, and his son, who was the cook. Yesterday, the man in charge was not Bruno, and was all business. We sat outside, and a young girl sat at the table beside us. As she was sitting down, a shower of nuts and prickly pods fell from a nearby tree, startling us all. The girl exclaimed something in rapid Italian and we laughed. I asked, “Nociole?” Hazelnuts, the ubiquitous nut in the area. “No. Castagna,” she responded. Chestnuts, which had been Rob’s guess. The tree sent many more castagne to the ground before our lunch was over. Wouldn’t want a direct hit. Because I had not had an entire scoop of gelato on this trip, we found a gelateria. Chocolate, yum!

21 September 2017

Just a few more...the tasting with Alessandro, our last night in Piedmont. Ciao, Italia!
Dinner last night, Wednesday, September 20, was in Barolo at Osteria La Cantinella. We shared an amazing bagna cauda appetizer--roasted orange and red peppers, slices into quarters, with the bagna cauda mixture in the center of each piece. So delicious! Our main courses were wonderful as well (I had the local pasta, Tajarin, with ragu sauce, and Rob had brasato with polenta.) Today is our last day here, and it's wide open.
Dinner on Tuesday: pizza that rivaled Gusta Pizza. Incredible. Then, Wednesday morning we set out to explore. We drove through Serralunga, Diano d'Alba, Sinio, for old times' sake, and Barolo. We bought a beautiful wine key in a shop we visited 9 years ago called il Bacco. The man working there was sweet, but tried to give me an extra 20 euros in change (the purchase totaled 25, we gave him 40, and he tried to give me 35 back.) I said that it was too much and gave him 20 back. He seemed very confused, and I worry that many would take full advantage. Marina set up a tasting for us at Cannubi, so after a quick lunch we were off. We met with a young woman named Federica, who is part of the fifth generation to work in the family business. She was very warm and generous. We bought two of her stunning photos, and a case of wine to ship home. She gave us cookies made with local hazelnuts. I love how the tastings here are private, personalized events!

20 September 2017

19 September 2017

The view from our deck in Piemonte.
Vergne, to Monforte d'Alba, La Morra, and back to Vergne.
This morning is sunny, a warm day ahead. Breakfast was served in our room by Marina's daughter, Valentina. Soon we'll be off to re-acquaint ourselves with this gorgeous area. Lunch in La Morra: Osteria More e Macine. I finally figured out what Insalata Russa is, something I've been seeing on menus here. Last night, we were served a tiny version of it as an amuse bouche. Today, I had it for lunch. It's veggies--peas, carrots, and potatoes--plus tuna, mixed with mayo (the Italian kind) and mustard. Delicious! Our server was a delightful young woman with a cascade of curls. Such fun. The sun really came out this afternoon, and it's hot. We learned today that the high mountain we look at from our room is Monviso, aka Monte Viso. It is just this side of the border between Italy and France, and part of the Cottian Alps. The entire mountain range is simply stunning. Tonight we'll go back to La Morra to a Pizza Vera restaurant, Pizzeria Per Bocco (it was closed for lunch today.)
Arriving in Piemonte yesterday, I realized I'd forgotten how beautiful it is here. Vast and hilly, with vines everywhere. The Nebbiolo grapes have not yet been harvested, and we see them from the vines here, at La Rosa Gialla, where we're staying. Marina greeted us like old friends. She is a delight, and a wealth of information. Sadly, the summer was so hot and dry that white truffles are nowhere to be found. Marina's family owns truffle dogs, and we would have gone on a hunt with them if conditions had been better. It was chilly yesterday, so we had a quiet afternoon. Then Marina herself drove us to dinner in the nearby village of Castiglione Falletto, a restaurant called Le Torri. There, we enjoyed one of our most amazing meals ever. We shared an appetizer, pistachio crusted shrimp. Just incredible. Simple pastas followed: ravioli with burrata and black truffle, and the local specialty, tajarin with leeks. Marina picked us up, pointing out towns and good restaurants.

18 September 2017

Piemonte.
Enrica served us breakfast this morning: bread she made herself, with pumpkin seeds and walnuts, organic jam and butter. She made the cappuccinos, first pouring hot milk into our cups, followed by espresso, then more milk she had whipped into foam. Delicious. She praised my Italian, telling me I was "ready"--I just need to practice, to speak, speak, speak. She hugged and kissed us all goodbye. "You sure? No stay?" She asked. Then, another difficult goodbye. We dropped the Carstons off at Malpensa airport. Tears, hugs, and kisses, and they were off. As were we, on to Piedmont.
Magenta turned out to be quite a lovely town, though our B & B was not in the prettiest part. Our hostess, Enrica, was just a dear woman--the nonna you wish you had. Our room consisted of two bedrooms, one with a large bed and one with two small beds, and a shared bathroom. Sadly, there was no common area, but it was still comfortable enough. Enrica recommended a pizzeria right across the street for dinner, which was really good. We were the only English speakers in the place, just a neighborhood family restaurant. The menu was surprisingly big! After dinner, we walked to the Australian pub that had been the clincher in our decision to go to Magenta. It's called the Wallaby Pub, and the decor had an underwater theme: sea creatures were painted on the walls and ceiling, on a turquoise background. A tv was showing European basketball: Slovenia v Serbia. Loud sports fans sat nearby. We shared with the staff that there was an Aussie among us--they seemed unimpressed.

17 September 2017

Last night, we went to dinner once again at Re di Macchia. Once again, an amazing experience. Antonio gave us an entire bottle of Prosecco! Absolutely delicious food, perfectly prepared, and kind, fun hosts. This morning was our last at Canalicchio. We had one more breakfast, packed, paid the bill, and said goodbye. One of the owners, Francesco, came to our table at breakfast to introduce himself and thank us. The staff here, first Lucia, then Elisa, were so warm and accommodating. We adored them. The cat, Valentino, came to see us off as well. What a wonderful place, and so close to Montalcino. Now we are on our way to a town that will be new to all of us, Magenta--a color I am wearing today, of course.
Saturday, September 16: We decided to go to Montepulciano, located about 45 minutes from our agriturismo. We parked and walked up, up, up to the main piazza, where we saw a bride and her father about to enter the church. Found some places along the outer walls with incredible views of the Tuscan countryside. After shopping a bit, We enjoyed a delicious lunch in a small restaurant, Osteria Conte. Montepulciano is yet another gorgeous old hill town, with charming shops--some are actually built in what are essentially caves, carved into the rocks of the hill. One shop had amazing art made of entirely re-purposed materials. There were lamps in the shapes of musical instruments, their shades made from old sheet music. We arrived back at Canalicchio di Sopra in time to watch a wedding there, in the olive orchard. It was a tiny wedding, just family members, and the participants were Swedish. The groom chatted with us while waiting for his bride. Afterward, we clapped as they walked past.

16 September 2017

Friday, September 15th, we slept in, recovering from our exhausting day in Florence. Our kind hostess made an appointment for a tasting at the Altesino winery. We dropped Geoff and Julie off in Montalcino, then headed up to the winery, located on top of a hill. The views are magnificent. We went on a tour with our guide, a feisty young woman named Iliana. The underground barrel room was expansive and impressive, with the small barrels carefully stained with wine around the center. Included in our tasting was a Rosso di Montalcino, a Supertuscan, which was young but with great potential, the 2012 Brunello, which is made with grapes from many vineyards, and one more Brunello, made with grapes of one special vineyard. We bought a case to ship home (of course). Picked up the Carstons and headed back to Canalicchio. Dinner was in a different town, San Giovanni d'Asso, a tiny village with a lovely little park. Our food at Osteria felled Crete was delicious-truffle dishes, veal, fresh pasta.
Canalicchio di Sopra, Montepulciano, and dessert at Re di Macchia.

15 September 2017

Altesino.
Yesterday, Thursday, September 14, was our day in Florence. Early morning, on the road at 6:15. Our reservations for tickets at the Uffizi and Accademia worked perfectly. At the Uffizi, we saw The Birth of Venus and other amazing works of art. And at the Accademia, of course the David, and Michelangelo's The Peasants, unfinished figures emerging from marble. In between the two galleries, we had lunch at Gusta Pizza, the place that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Fieri. The menu consists of 7 pizzas, wine, soft drinks, and plastic cutlery. The pizza is served on cardboard. You order, then wait for your number to be called. Best pizza ever. Rob bought a t-shirt and had the staff sign it. As we were leaving, we spotted the owner, who was on Guy's show. Julie decided we had to ask for his signature on Rob's t-shirt as well, so off she went. I joined her just as Pasquale returned with the shirt. He kissed us both on our cheeks and said, "I'll never wash my cheeks again"
Wednesday, September 13th, (happy birthday, Ashley!) was a pool day. Spent a lazy, lovely day lounging by the pool, reading, chatting, sipping Prosecco, and occasionally swimming in the chilly infinity pool. Rob made bruschetta for lunch from the luscious ingredients we'd bought at the grocery store in Buonconvento. Late in the day, we wandered into Montalcino for a look around, then went to dinner at Il Grifo, which is a pizzeria, but we all had wonderful, tasty pasta dishes. Fabulous day of rest.

14 September 2017

Florence and Montalcino.

13 September 2017

Re di Macchia, our favorite restaurant in Montalcino, was just as wonderful two years later. Rob and I shared two dishes: homemade ravioli with porcini mushrooms, and pinci with cinguale ragu. Amazing. The people there, especially Antonio, are fun and entertaining. Perfect. Yesterday, we spent a day in Siena, where we walked through the breathtaking Duomo, so unique with its zebra striped pillars, mosaics on the floor depicting scenes of battles and murders, as well as the mascots of Siena's contrade (neighborhoods). There are crypts dating back to the 12th century. Stunning. We had lunch, then drove back to our agriturismo. Dinner last night was at Il Leccio in the tiny village of Sant'Angelo in Colle. Dinner was wonderful, but the restaurant is much more crowded with tourists than it was nine years ago. Still, we had a table that was tucked away in its own corner. Our server seemed a bit stern initially, but soon she was laughing with us. Another great day.

11 September 2017

Today we had breakfast here at Canalicchio, then went on a tour with Lucia. She showed us a vineyard and spoke about the grapes and winemaking process, then took us into the barrel room. We saw barrels labeled 2015 and 2016, that will be released in 2020 and 2021. Finally, she took us into a tasting room, where we tried two Rosso di Montalcino wines, and some Brunellos. So interesting to taste the differences between vintages. 2012 was a great year, and 2015 will be as well. Went for a drive through Montalcino, past Sant'Angelo in Colle, and up to Banfi and La Piave. Couldn't find anything open for lunch without going into the town of Montalcino, so we came back to our room and snacked on breadsticks, peaches, cheese and chips. And wine, of course. Dinner tonight in Montalcino at Re di Macchia, a place we remember fondly from two years ago. The weather is a bit chilly, raining off and on, so it's not a pool day, but hard to complain!
Arrived at our agriturismo Canalicchio di Sopra yesterday and moved in to a gorgeous two bedroom/two bathroom villa that will be our home for a week. Once again we have found accommodations run by lovely, warm, and welcoming people, especially the manager, Lucia. On a somewhat sour note, Lucia recommended a restaurant for us last night (and made a reservation for us): Boccan Divino. The food was fine--excellent in fact, except for Rob's. He and Geoff ordered the same thing, a beef stew (which was just a slow cooked beef with chickpeas. Geoff's meat was good, but Rob's was nothing but fat. Still, we enjoyed ourselves, in spite of the fact that the owner greeted many other patrons and said not a word to us. We had dessert and limoncello, paid the bill, then Rob tried to talk to a server about the problem with his food. He was referred to the owner. She tried to tell us we simply didn't understand Tuscan cuisine. We tried to explain, but she got angry and slammed the door in our faces!
Canalicchio di Sopra, Montalcino.

10 September 2017

After our Segway tour last night, we found a restaurant and sat outside. Rob and Geoff had pizza (which they shared), and because I'd had my main meal at lunch, I ordered a salad. Unfortunately, I accidentally added some olio picante instead of the regular olive oil, and ended up with an extremely spicy salad. Oops! It started raining before we left, so we walked to the hotel in a storm. Thunder, and lightening bolts that streaked across the entire sky. The storm continued all night and it was still raining when we left Bologna this morning. We were delayed a bit by endless marathon runners, but Rob's driving skills served us well, and soon we were back on the autostrada.
Our full day in Bologna, Saturday, September 9. Delicious breakfast in our hotel! So much to choose from. We'd scheduled a Segway tour for 6 PM, so we decided to find the office so we knew what we were doing later. No office to be found. Rob called, but the guy spoke very little English, so I took the phone, and was able to learn that there was no office at all! We were just to meet the guide in that area, Piazza XX Settembre. Mission accomplished. Spent the day shopping, nibbling and sipping. In one shop, I received the best compliment! The young man said he was really impressed by my Italian. Initially, he even thought I WAS Italian! I am so proud. Our Segway tour was great fun, led by a lovely woman named Chiara. We saw some amazing sights: a canal (the only left from the many that once existed), a tower that you can actually rent to stay in, beautiful churches, and the Jewish ghetto. Dodging traffic and crowds was a challenge, but there were no casualties.
Bologna is a beautiful city, famous for its seven churches, few remaining towers that once numbered in the hundreds, and of course its cured meats. We arrived at our hotel, Arte Orologio, to learn that the elevator is under renovation. As an apology for the inconvenience, they'd upgraded our rooms to suites. Gorgeous rooms. We were in room 12, which was amazing! Living room, bedroom and large bathroom with a wonderful shower and a real blow dryer! We settled in, then set off to explore. We were located just around the corner from Piazza Maggiore, one of the largest piazzas in Italy. Sadly, the famous Neptune fountain is being restored, and was completely covered during our stay. Found a lovely little jewelry shop, Sforza, where Rob bought me an exquisite emerald and diamond ring for our anniversary. Franco, who sold us the ring, actually designed and made it himself! Julie and I did some window shopping, leaving the real shopping for the next day. Later, we found a pizzeria for dinner.
Our second (and final) dinner in Prosecco Land was at an agriturismo, Riva de Milan. We were treated to some appetizers and a glass of Prosecco while we waited for our table. The resident dog was a small-ish terrier named Billy. We were seated in a room with a long table filled with older Italian men, and Billy divided his time between both groups. Our server was a tiny young woman with very short hair, named Carolina. She had spent two years in London, so she spoke excellent English. There were no menus, so we trusted Carolina to choose our dinner items. With only one exception, a starter we all found disgusting (animal fat on toasted bread, we later learned) the meal was delicious. When dinner was nearly over, one of the men at the other table was petting Billy. Rob caught his eye, smiled, and raised his glass. "Cent'anni!" He toasted. All of the men responded with an enthusiastic "Cent"anni!" Some said, "t'anni!" As we were leaving, two of the men kissed Julie and me on both cheeks.

9 September 2017

Thursday, September 7th: our full day in Prosecco Land. Wow. Renato is the landscaper here at Dolcevista...and also the baker! He and Monica offer quite a lovely spread for breakfast, with egg dishes, tarts, beautiful breads, and fresh, ripe fruit. The cappuccini, made by Monica, were perfect, and topped with a little sprinkle of chocolate. After breakfast, we set off to explore the Strada del Prosecco (prosecco road). After a lovely, but unproductive drive, we found the winery/bed and breakfast Rob and I visited four years ago, Garbara. Alas, it was closed for harvest. But, just up the road a bit, we found the restaurant we'd gone to on that first trip: Salis. We had a yummy lunch (with Garbara prosecco!). Then Rob, Julie and I hiked up the hill next to the parking lot to enjoy the expansive view of the valley below. There was an "osteria" which was simply an old shack with an open door. Inside were loaves of bread for 2 euros each. No one was attending them.

8 September 2017

Bologna.
Leaving Dolcevista on Friday (9/8) was a bit sad. Both times we've been to the Valdobbiadene, we've been blown away by its beauty, and the hospitality of the people. I'm so grateful we chose Dolcevista for Geoff and Julie's first visit to the area. It was perfect. Monica hugged us all goodbye and said she wished we were staying longer. Next time!

7 September 2017

Carolina.
Rented a car at Europcar in Venice and headed north to the Valdobbiadene. Found our agriturismo, Relais Dolcevista, but it was an hour and a half from check in time and no one could be found. So, went down the road and found Osteria del Terrazzo, where we had an amazing lunch (salad with roasted chicken and gorgeous ripe cherry tomatoes), and the non-fizzy Prosecco was so delicious we bought two bottles to take with us. Back at Dolcevista, we met Monica, a warm and welcoming hostess who brought us a glass of the prosecco made by the owners, along with slices of cake and cookies. She told us a bit about our surroundings, then showed us our rooms. We insisted that Geoff and Julie take the room called Prosecco on the upper floor, with an expansive view of the magnificent valley. We are on the main floor in Bianchetta, which is the name of another grape used in the area. What an incredible place! I told Julie, "Well, you knew that Prosecco had to come from a magical place."
Impressions of Venice: crowds of tourists thrilled to be in the most unique city in the world. Difficult to navigate boats, sidewalks, and bridges with luggage, but once you drop your bags off at your hotel room, you feel free and unencumbered. But it's the morning and at night, when far fewer people are present, that Venice seems truly magical. Balcony railings, in stone or wrought iron, are themselves elevated to art forms. Gondoliers sing, play the accordion, or simply warn each other as they approach corners with a loud "Oy!" If you cannot find magic and romance in Venice, then neither is in your soul.

6 September 2017

Ciao, Venezia, and Welcome to Prosecco Land!
Our hotel in Venice, Locanda Orseolo, is housed in a thousand year old building, and authentically Venetian in decor and ambiance: rich, warm colors, Murani glass chandeliers. Our rooms overlooked the Orseolo canal. And the service was impeccable. Everyone, Barbara, Igor, Gigi (who is a man, btw), Lorenzo--all were generous and kind, learning and using each of our names regularly. Their recommendations and directions were spot on. The bed was so comfy, especially after the rock hard beds we slept on in our first two hotels. The shower's temperature continuously moved from hot to cold and back again, but what can you expect in a thousand year old building? All in all, a perfect experience.

4 September 2017

Our first night in Venice, we had dinner at Da Rafaele, where Rob and I dined two years ago. Delicious food, if slightly condescending service. After dinner (and incredible chocolate and strawberry gelato), we went on a glorious gondola ride. Past Mozart's house, beautiful government buildings, and through dark, silent canals. Breathtaking. Yesterday, we took a vaporetto (the public boat system) to Burano, the island of lace and brightly colored buildings. Had a lovely lunch beside a canal, then Julie and I were off to explore and shop. Actually saw an elderly woman making lace by hand. Sat outside on the back of the vaporetto on the way back, enjoying the sunshine and breeze. Our last dinner in Venice was at Linea d'Ombra. Outside, on a deck directly over the water, we saw the full moon rise over the city. The food was delicious, the surroundings stunning. Tired from our long day, we took a water taxi both to and from dinner, relaxing and taking in the sights.
Venice is simply a magical place. Completely unique, beautiful, at times maddeningly crowded with tourists from cruise ships and other day trippers. We scored rooms in a stunning boutique hotel, Locanda Orseolo, overlooking a canal. Just a moment ago, a group of minstrels dressed in black, white, and red, serenaded an older woman. We just returned from a long walk along the Grand Canal, where we viewed gigantic yachts, including the Limitless, which was once owned by Paul Allen. We also found my favorite fountain, in a park lined with benches. The fountain is filled with plants, topped with a sculpture of Garibaldi, and the most amazing lion, with a kind, gentle face. The base of the fountain is filled with water, and is home to turtles and fish. The last time we found this place, we were alone except for an old man who was feeding some pigeons. This time, the park was full of people, and the fountain was full of garbage. Grr...
Our arrival, and a walk through Venezia.
Sunday, September 3rd: race day. The grounds were muddy in places from yesterday's rain, but the day was sunny and warm. Security has tightened up considerably from two years ago; they checked tickets going in and out of the grandstands, and they checked us and our packs with wands when we entered the park. We were not able to buy whole bottles of Prosecco, as before. Instead we had to pour it into plastic glasses before taking it out of the bar. The F1 Grand Prix started at 2 PM, and belonged to Lewis Hamilton the entire time, But Vettel came in 3rd for Ferrari. Back at the hotel, there were parties with local families celebrating new babies. Balloons, flowers, and beautiful little girls in gorgeous dresses. They squeezed us into the restaurant somehow, and we enjoyed one more meal there. The man we had initially judged to be so rude actually gave Rob a high five and warm handshake. Made friends with a family from the U.K. All in all, a lovely time. Now on our way to Venice.
La Bergamina, our hotel in Arcore, turned out to be absolutely charming. Wonderful service, kind and helpful staff. The transportation arrangements we made through them worked perfectly. Sadly, qualifying day, Saturday, September 2nd, was chilly and rainy. Initially, the rain was supposed to stop at 10 AM, then 11, then noon, then 4. We were soaked to the skin, cold and shivering. Miserable. The events were delayed and delayed. We called for our ride and bailed at 1 PM. The qualifying races finally began at 4:30, so we had plenty of time for a hot shower. Finally warm and dry, we watched the races on TV in our room. I confess I drifted off for a quick nap...
Ellen, the hotel cat at La Bergamina, and the Grand Prix.

1 September 2017

Initially, we were not overly impressed with our hotel here in Arcore, but it's growing on us. The bed is extremely uncomfortable and the rooms are hot, even with the AC running constantly. The guy we were directed to for our apperativo seemed horribly rude at first. However, dinner at the restaurant here was absolutely wonderful last night--Rob, Julie and I all had tagliatelle with sausage, black truffle, and cheese. Wow, what an amazing dish! I may have it again tonight. The fellow we thought was so rude, actually appears to be a bit developmentally delayed. (Probably shouldn't be working alone.) Also, there is a sweet, friendly little orange cat here that I adore. Today we hired a driver (through Blacklane) and went to Milan. Saw the incredible gothic duomo, the world's most famous opera house La Scala, and of course went shopping. Picked up our tickets for tomorrow's day at the races on the way back. Milan is lovely, and its spot at the top of the fashion world is well-deserved.
Milano.

31 August 2017

Dinner last night was wonderful, although Rob's veal was a bit fatty. Sat up for a while on our deck afterward, chatting. This morning, Julie and I dove into the lake for one more quick swim after breakfast and before packing. Alas, Daisy was still nowhere to be found. After depositing our luggage at the front desk, we trudged off to the Bar Il Porto for some prosecco. Along with the drinks came tiny cheese sandwiches, pieces of cheesy flatbread, plain bread, and of course potato chips. Had our last lunch at La Piazetta, then back to the hotel we went to sit outside and wait for our ride to Arcore. Our driver revealed he'd worked in Auckland for a year, and spent time in Brisbane, too! We're now in Arcore, checked into our hotel and resting a bit.

30 August 2017

Today we took the slow boat to Tremezzo, our first time there. We wandered a bit, checked out a shop, and enjoyed some refreshments, before going to a charming restaurant, "Red and White," for lunch. The tuna, tomato and onion salad was delicious, and Rob loved his cannelloni. We hopped on another slow boat back and were at our hotel by 3. Every morning we've been here--except when we slept so late--Julie and I have started the day with a swim in the lake. Even after the snake episode! Daisy the duck was, until yesterday, appearing twice a day. But we didn't see her yesterday once she'd left after breakfast, and we haven't seen her since. Still holding out hope she'll return again before we leave tomorrow afternoon. Tonight is our last one in Argegno, so we will go to our favorite place for dinner, Barchetta.
Yesterday, we rented a boat and spent 5 hours viewing homes and hotels from the water. We had passed the town of Bellano-which looked beautiful-when we saw something in the water. A feather? A fish? No. It was a butterfly, fighting to escape the lake. Rob moved the boat closer, and I scooped it up. I shielded it from the wind as we drove the boat closer to shore so we could let it go. When we slowed down in a suitable place, I put the butterfly on the seat beside me. It was injured, with one wing quite tattered, but suddenly it took wing and fluttered toward shore. So far on this trip, I have saved a honeybee and a butterfly from certain death. Feels good. We swam for a bit, then motored back to Argegno. Had dinner at La Piazzetta: the pasta with shrimp was delicious, and Julie had fish that they called sea bass that was very good as well.

27 August 2017

Yesterday morning, our first in Argegno, a little white duck appeared on the water near Geoff and Julie's room. Julie immediately named her Daisy. She visits periodically and sometimes gets a little treat from us. She is adorable and unafraid. Then, this afternoon, Julie and I had another wildlife encounter. The two of us had been sitting on the dock, dangling our feet in the water. We'd both brought our feet up to the dock, thinking we'd go for a swim. Suddenly, Julie pointed and gasped, pointing. I looked. It was a snake, a brown one, about 3-4 feet long, swimming toward the dock. It went under the dock, then swam out the other side. It then turned toward us and actually brought its head out of the water to look at us. Reflexively, we both stood up, startling the snake, which darted back under the water, quickly swimming straight down. We watched until it disappeared. It didn't reappear, and so we dove into the lake to cool off. I got out right away, but brave Julie took her time.
Went to dinner for Julie's birthday last night at Crotto di Platani. Couldn't find an English translation for Crotto, but Platani apparently means sycamore trees. Absolutely beautiful spot on the lake, and we sat outside. One of the servers was a young woman who had quite an attitude. We were unsure of her at first, but she warmed up to us quickly. She seemed to have a friendly relationship with the sommelier there, and each of them began to tell stories about the other. The food was mostly good--especially the pasta with truffle--but the atmosphere and service were amazing. We met a group of young women on holiday from London, one of whom was celebrating her 30th birthday. We took group photos of each other while we were all waiting to be seated. Topped it off with gelato di noci (nut gelato)--yum! Julie looked stunning in black, wearing her new jewels. If that's 60, sign me up! PS: Crotto means "underground cellar," and there is one, nestled among the trees, in a separate building.

26 August 2017

Julie's 60th Birthday has been wonderful so far. At breakfast, Geoff presented her with a gorgeous tanzanite ring, and there was a lovely note from her sister, Deb, complete with a photo of Julie as a baby. It was easy to recognize her, with everything about her so tiny, except of course for those huge, soulful eyes. After breakfast, we got ready for the day and set off for the funivia, a gondola that goes up, up, up to the town of Priga. Had lunch at Le Lanterne, where we sat outside watching other patrons' children playing on a tiny slide, a playhouse, and other toys. The funivia ride back down was packed full and quite uncomfortable, but at least it was quick. Another swim topped off the afternoon, then while Geoff had a siesta, Rob, Julie and I had some wine/prosecco and sat on our deck overlooking the lake. We mused that being here, in this glorious place with our wonderful friends, celebrating life, doesn't exactly suck. Soon we'll leave for dinner.
What we see from our deck.
Good morning, Argegno! This is the view from our room. It's Julie's birthday! We started the day with a swim and a tasty breakfast. Now we're off to explore and celebrate our beautiful friend.

25 August 2017

We are in Argegno. Hotel Belvedere is exactly as we remember it, and we checked into the very same rooms as last time. The staff has changed, but they are still as warm and helpful. Dinner at Barchetta was as delicious as before. Free limoncello to top it off? Perfect.
Pictures from Argegno and Pigra.

24 August 2017

Approaching Frankfurt on a hot and humid morning.
At SeaTac airport, waiting to board our flight to Frankfurt. We'll have two hours there, then we'll be on our way to Milan. A pre-arranged driver will meet us and take us to Como. Long hours of travel ahead of us, but we're so excited to get to beautiful Lake Como.