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Trip Report Turin, Spoleto, Bologna and Bellagio TR

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This is dredging up a 2005 trip that shows JR (husband, rip) and DR (TDudette) traveling by train and bus with the 4 towns/cities above as our bases. This is for myer for the Spoleto part. Long and boring but I hope useful. We usually flew open jaw on our trips, but Dulles had a non-stop to Milan that we decided to try.

We named all of our trips as they always developed some theme. This one we called "It's only 200 meters, Madam!" in honor of how everyone giving us directions described a mile.

It's also the first year I have a digital camera, battery and adaptor plug. I was scared to death I'd burn down every hotel! More to come on that. Enjoy!
_______________

Sunday March 13, 2005

We left from Dulles Airport on a trip DR arranged through travel partners Delta and Alitalia. We arrived 4 hours early (no traffic and JR was an early freak) and it turned out for the best as Delta and Alitalia, partners in the air, were not on the same computer wavelength. Spent lots of time going from one desk to the other (they were at least 2 miles apart-joke) getting our tickets straight. Also sent us to a different and a faraway gate (now completed and wonderful)-it had nothing to occupy us (like a TV with NCAA and NIT information!)

Anyway, we scouted out a Fridays and got a beer and split a burger. No problems with flight except that it is about ½ hour late. It’s an Alitalia plane so we get a pretty good meal. Lots of things in small quantities: chicken with tomato sauce/olives/; mixed veggies; potatoes, cannelloni; green bean/proscuitto vinaigrette; pineapple/grapes and bread!

We actually slept this time and it wasn’t very bumpy. We wake up over the Alps (a guess) and they give us a lemon Danish; ½ tomato/cheese sandwich (great bread); and juice and coffee.

Monday March 14

It is 2 a.m. body time and 8 a.m. in Italy when we land at Malpense airport. By 9 a.m., we are looking for the bus ticket counter and find it by following icons. The bus to Turin doesn’t leave until 11:30 (internet said 10:30). Our other choice is to take the Malpense bus to Milan and catch the 11:00 Turin train. A difference of ½ hour and not a straight shot so we decide to wait.

We go to a coffee shop and have our first cappuccinos in Italy! JR scouts out a Herald Tribune and we see that Maryland is in the NIT.

Finally it’s bus time and the driver assures us he’ll drop us by the Santa Lucia train station. A nice trip to Turin and we nap a bit but awake to a very busy city with lots of industry. Except for the architecture, it could have been an American city with McDonalds, car dealerships, Esso gas and go stations.

We walk until DR gets tired and testy, so stop for beer, cold coffee and ½ foccacia with nice butter lettuce on the side. A nearby taxi takes us to the correct place and we then realize there was another train station (FS)! We should have stayed on the bus longer. If we'd taken the train from Milano, the station would have been a 5-minute walk from our hotel! Anyway, our room is big with a curved ceiling, great bed and small shower (without much pressure!). A Dali print of a melting watch reminds us that there are too many trips and not enough time! Or is that beer?

We stay at Hotel Astoria (this and all others arranged by DR online using Trip Advisor as starting off point): http://www.astoriahotel.it/

We freshened up and headed out! We have a very nice guy at the front desk who gives us some tips, points out the convenient bus stop right outside our door, and agrees to “baby sit” the battery charger as it does its first charge with the Italian electrical adapter. DR very nervous about something so new causing a room fire. Silly to look back on it.

We buy our bus tickets at the nearby Tabacchi shop and head for the Duomo. Even though the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin has been debunked by carbon dating, the shroud is still an item of interest and exploited to the fullest! A very nice docent with great English talked with us as if the shroud were her very own. We bought a book with the history.

Strolled back to room to take a nap before dinner following the main square Piazza Castello with royal palace (closed for renovation) and Palazza Madonna through part of the shopping galleria (where we find chocolate and lemon gelati for strength!), and along covered streets with scads of clothing stores along the way. The battery charger worked just fine so DR is immensely relieved that pictures will be taken!

We awake from our nap and it is the next day!

More to come.

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    Thanks, jmct714!


    Tuesday, March 15

    Down to cute pink breakfast rooms for the usual buffet. JR watches TV ad for Croation tourism. And on to get tomorrow’s train tickets, then the Egyptian Museum. FS is only a 10-minute walk away and, with the help of the Info lady, we bought 7:45 a.m. tickets to Spoleto. This will be our longest train ride-7 hours-but subsequent ones will bring us back towards Malpense as the trip proceeds.

    We walk back to hotel to catch the bus and do, but it is so crowded with commuters, we can’t get to the ticket date stamper so we have the tickets for another use as no one checked.

    The museum pales by comparison to the stuff stolen for the Vatican and British Museums but we did see a couple of good mummies. There were several tombs brought intact with all the stuff sent along with the dead for the trip to the next world. This would include mummified pets, organs in jars, lares and penates and even food. They also had what looked like American Indian arrow heads. One exhibit had a fragment of a boomerang (Predynasty period-ask JR).

    Upon leaving the museum, a tad disappointed, we just take our time walking and strolling toward Turin’s version of the Eiffel Tower, the Mole. The day had become very sunny and warm. Down a side street, we spotted tables and chairs placed outside a restaurant.

    Filli la Cozza,

    San Bernardo acqua, ¼ red
    Sfashion foccacia (mozzarella, ham, tomatoes)
    Speck foccacia (boar and mozzarella)


    The foccacias look like pizzas and cover our entire plates! Very tasty. An accordion player plays then makes the rounds for donations.

    We walked back by the Piazza Castello from last night and toward the Po River. The Mole started out as a Synagogue but ended up being owned by the town. It has a narrow tower and observation deck. We duly took the elevator up and viewed the city. Turin large and attractive. There will be a 2006 Olympics so lots of sprucing up occurring. There was a book/gift store but it mostly had American movie things so we didn’t find any Italian postcards.

    Back outside and we walked through the nearby university student section. Kids outside playing bongos, talking in Piazzelle Aldo Moro, and playing with dogs. Found chocolate and crème gelati and walked along the Po River (or, as JR said, the Po side of town!) back to our hotel for pre-dinner rest.

    Nice desk clerk recommended La Capannina as a typical Lombardy restaurant. We walked about 15 minutes under arcades, found it, and also found that we were early so we went to a nearby bar and got a processco for DR and Johnny Walker for JR-total of 6 Euros-sometimes gelato is more expensive than that! There was also bar food but we decided to save up for dinner.

    The resto:
    After discussing what we like and don’t like, we put ourselves in the hands of the waiter. You can’t believe all the food they gave us:


    La Capannina

    Red wine-Barbera d’Alba Roche di Ferrero alba 2003

    Course 1: Thinly sliced meat (veal?) with a light white sauce; Bresaola, sliced cured beef

    Course 2: Plate of sautéed zucchini, eggplant, pumpkin, red pepper, small cheese crepe, and coin sized polenta

    Course 3: Risotto al barola-rice in wine

    Main Courses: Veal with artichokes and Veal with Mushrooms-sliced meat with light cream sauce. Creamed spinach and French fries came with it

    Dessert: Tiramiso and a digestif called Amaro (from spices?)


    And then they brought a plate of cookies! Lingua di gatto (choc. Covered tongue shaped cookies) and Torcetti (L-shaped cookies-almond?).

    We decided to take an alternative and longer route home to walk off some of this food. Surely people don’t eat like this every day. We don’t see any obese Italians that’s for certain. We slept hard!

    Wednesday March 16

    We are up and out the door for our early train and say goodbye to Turin. We decide the buildings remind us of Pisa. The arcaded streets must be nice in bad weather and are quite attractive. Although we eschewed more churches and palaces, we felt this to be a less touristy place than any we’ve visited so far.

    We will take the Eurostar to Ancona then change to an intercity train for Spoleto. JR bought paper, croissant and water and we go on our way. We both dozed but when we were awake, we noticed Tuscany-type hills and agriculture. At Rimini, we are by the coast and the train is right by the Adriatic Sea. We pass almost hut-sized summer rooms (?) and a few folks jogging on the beach. Ancona very built up. We see our first escalator in a train station in Italy here!

    Catch the next train (about 20-minute wait) and see the Apennines-some still snow-covered and pretty tall.

    We pass a very attractive Trevi with buildings going up the side of the mountain. Spoleto will be similarly configured. We took an eleven Euro cab ride with Guisseppe who zigged and zagged the serpentine, and narrow, streets up to our hotel. On the way, talked a policeman into moving his car so we could get into the courtyard area.

    Next, we find a hotel gem.

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    A note about Hotel Clitunno. When we were there in 2005, we enjoyed the owners and head house person, Marco. It was a family home turned hotel. In quite a few cases, it needed updating but it had the quirkiness that always appealed to us.

    The restaurant was first class. I spent much time copying what we ate for my notes. More about our food experiences in the TR.

    When I recently googled the hotel directly, I got a malware warning. Here's a trip advisor reivew though, FYI:

    http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g194924-d233156-Reviews-Hotel_Clitunno-Spoleto_Province_of_Perugia_Umbria.html

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    Hotel Clitunno is in a square (relegated to cars parked around a central, non-functioning fountain) of gorgeous old buildings. We will find out that the hotel had been the home of the family and a large home it was!

    Our room is easily as large as that in Turin and, although a tad shabby, even prettier and more homey. There is a loveseat and table with 2 chairs. Pretty armoire for a closet and a wonderful bed. The bathroom is big but shower is only marginally better and we’ll never get totally hot water! Oh well, we do need to stay awake somehow!

    According to JR’s chart, it is time to do our laundry. Desk clerk (turns out to be one of the owner’s sons) directs us to a drop off place nearby. We find it and find it is 5.50 per kilo. Going back toward hotel is uphill and DR has to take a rest or 3 to make it. We can’t imagine living here and walking these hills in bad weather!

    We find the Roman amphitheatre but it is getting close to closing so we keep on (uphill) to the Piazza della Liberta where we go to the information shop and get information. As we work our way back, we find an auto teller (Bancomat) machine and it works fine for us with bank and credit cards. We also find an art gallery and go in. The work doesn’t call to us but we enjoy the artist and the 2 local guys playing cards (in their overcoats) in one of the gallery rooms!

    We had made dinner reservations at the hotel’s restaurant so got back to room to freshen up and check out the local TV. We couldn’t understand much so watched BBC before we go to eat. There is a table of 5 or 6 good looking guys whom we assume to be workers as much re-doing is going on; and a table of 3 businessmen who talk with a 2nd son of owner. Restaurant is pretty, orchids on table next to ours, and our meal was close to being outstanding:

    Wine is Spoleto Ducale Montefalco Rosso-it’s good and goes well with the food.

    1. Starter we shared: Il fazzoletto di sfoglia con formaggio dolce e crema al tarfufo is a warm puff pastry with cheese and truffles-very good

    2. First Plate we shared: Le strengozze spoletine medio piccanti-area’s “typical” pasta-not quite as wide as fettuccine with a sharp taste in the sauce. No tomatoes seen but sauce is reddish. I think there were truffles in that also.

    3. Second Plate we tasted each other’s: JR has the best one-La tagliata di cuberoll alle erbe fini-slices of steak covered with rosemary and DR’s is also good and is Il lombello di maialino su crosta di pane con la sua salsa, tartufo e olio nuovo-boneless pork on a crostoni with truffles/olive oil/veggie salsa. Entrees came with creamed spinach and radicchio-wrapped zucchini.

    Oh, while we are waiting for the first course, waiter (Marco) brings us greens, mushrooms and parm cheese mixed and served in a “cup” of thinly-slice fried potatoes-excellent!

    We asked for a digestif and he brings a Vin Santo which pales to the Amara we had in Turin. Marco speaks really great English and is very friendly.

    We are full and pooped so back to room and a good sleep.

    Thursday March 17

    Breakfast room is in lower level of hotel and decorated like a cave. Usual buffet but that normally rascally coffee machine gives pretty good coffee con latte. We are the only people in the room until Marco sticks his head out the door! Does he live here? He says “No but sometimes it feels like it”. He looks a little like the actor who plays Monk. JR finds some cookies (Rotelle biscolli colussi Milano) that look like the legendary Rome ones but alas.

    Our plan today is laundry and go to the top of the hill! Accordingly we pack up our laundry and go to lavanteria and negotiate with the lady to pick it up the next evening by 7:30. Back up that hill to Piazza della Liberta where we buy bus tickets and see the taxi stand. DR is not going all the way up by foot just yet! There are 3 guys standing by a car at the taxi stand and they say the taxi is not available. Our Italian isn’t good enough to fathom the reason so we just stand there. Eventually, one of the guys says, “Come, I take you close.” He is the taxi driver. Was he on his break? Anyway we cheerfully pay 3 E’s and get let off very close to the ticket office for La Rocca, a huge fort-like building at the summit. We are told that the next tour is in an hour but will only go if there are several people to fill the little bus going to the top.

    We walk along the Strada delle Torre to see the incredible bridge built in 14th century over a 4th C. Roman acquaduct. 200+ feet wide and 400+ high-it’s just amazing. There is a wide path so we walk across and look through the demi-lune window half way across. Pretty scenery. The Strada girds base of La Rocca so we stroll around it and back to ticket office. No go as we are the only 2 folks. We’ll try another day.

    Walked back to a bar (La Portella) we had passed and got water and some post cards and enjoyed the view. Down the hill (yes!) to Duomo which is just beautiful. Local school kids in the square and us (who seem to be the only tourists today). Pretty floors and paintings inside. Organ music in the background adds to the atmosphere in this lovely place.

    Our next place of interest is Piazzelle del Mercato. Down hill! We stroll and drool at the scenery. Houses are attractive and brave pedestrians share the narrow roads with auto drivers! We stop at Trattoria del Teatro and meet a lovely family, Mother (cook), Daughter (waitress) and Dad (overseer!) who give us a great meal of 1. Antipasto misto; 2. Tortellini panna e proscuitto; and 3. Vitello al tartufo. Wonderful warm bread also. We stay and talk in the strange salad of English they knew and Italian we did! Plan to return another day for dinner.

    When we ask for directions to Mercato, we realize we are on our hotel’s street again so we go to the room to get more sightseeing info and walk out without it! We crawl up to Mercato square. We have just missed the morning market but it’s a neat square with lots of shops. We buy a small jar of truffle spread for a souvenir. And walk back up the hill to Palazzo Leti garden and museo San Eufemio. Museo is closed for lunch so we go back down the hill to Amphitheatre and it is neat with separate museum of Spoleto stuff which didn’t interest us too much. Keep going down hill to find the FS.

    We pass a big art gallery being worked on, another church or 3 and walked down a pedestrian street filled with shops. We stop at a photo studio and buy postcards from the artist who kindly signs them for us. We end up on the Piazza Garibaldi and get ice cream but can’t remember what kind-maybe chocolate and strawberry. Seeing many huge chocolate Easter eggs but no marzipan as in the south. We follow fs signs and go out of our way a little because of one-way streets for cars. A nice gal (Helen) from California shows us how to use the ticket machine (she and her husband Jack and kids moved to Assisi to enjoy a different life style for the kids while they are young.)

    They suggest we buy a place in Venice and rent it out. Say it would pay for itself easily. Too tempting! We buy tickets for our Assisi and Orvieto day trips. The bus stop is right at the fs so we hop the A and it is going out of town instead of up the hill! We ride to the end of the line and they let us stay on without using another ticket. Return to fs and take correct bus. We did get a good view of “burbs” with some nice homes and quite a few apartments.

    Again we are pooped so decide to eat at hotel again and reserve our place (funny since there were so few folks in there last night).

    1. Millefoglie di mozzarella compana, pomodori candite e riduzione balsamica-cheese and veggies in a filo cup.

    2. JR has Il loma Argentina a la parilla (wedges of moist delicious steak) and DR has Darna di Salmone horveges con porro e Martini dry-excellent salmon fillet covered with vermouth marinated leeks. Both served with roasted potato cubes.

    3. A wonderful strawberry shortcake (light as a lady-finger) with Chantilly cream and strawberries fanned and elegant looking

    San Giovese lunga rotti wine.

    Again they bring us something while we are waiting for our starter-this time ham, baby spinach, mozzarella and a tiny slice of tomato.

    Marco tells us there is a meeting/dinner of/for prospective wine waiters (now the reservations are making sense) and that the guys are Spoleto team soccer (football) players who actually live in the hotel and eat lunch and dinner there. The meals are proscribed by the trainer but Marco says he’s seen the guys out eating pizza! After dessert is a brandy, stravecchio branca-good.

    We make it to 10 today!

    Tomorrow: Assisi and we are invited to a special hotel dinner

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    Friday March 18

    Up at 6 and 7 (you know who is earlier) and find 2 other couples in breakfast room. So far, weather has been sunny and DR has shed her coat. Today is a little cooler. Walk up to Liberta and get the wrong bus again but it ends up at fs in about 20 minutes-we are ok with time and wait for train and write post cards.

    Approaching Assisi by train is a treat as this is another town meandering up a hill. Its churches and monasteries are so large, they do stand out. Also, the town seems somewhat pink! Book suggests that sunrise and sunsets make nice pictures. Anyway, we cab to San Francesco which is mammoth and beautifully frescoed inside (an irony considering Francis’ vow of poverty!). See book as no pix allowed.

    We stroll the main street which goes up hill but gradually and eat lunch at Piazza del Commune. Basically get ham and cheese sandwiches (JR’s on crusty bread and DR’s on soft white) and they are good.

    Assisi has a Rocca also so we decide to walk up (“It isn’t too far-only 200 meters”). 45 minutes later we make it, lungs and calves humbled, to the top. Gorgeous views all around. We rest and enjoy more kids playing bongos, necking, and bravely kicking a soccer ball! We pass a fence covered with chewing gum.

    Back down the hill (almost as difficult-one doesn’t want to start rolling!) to Duomo and it is closed for lunch so we go down the hill to Santa Chiara (poverty nuns). It is pretty pink and white stone on a busy square with several school groups and more tourists than we’ve seen so far. Lots of girls in hip hugger jeans and guys with dragging pants. Few tattoos but lots of piercings.

    Church inside had been frescoed. Saw crypt of poverty nuns and pretty window. We really are getting “churched out”! Back up the hill to Duomo which is austere with only one ornate side chapel. No pix please.

    We stroll some more and are ready to go 3 hours before we anticipated. We take an earlier train and head back. An Italian high school team is waiting at fs and one guy is humming “Jingle Bells”.

    We take the bus to Liberta and walk down the hill to the Lavateria and she is ready and everything looks wonderful. Costs 24E-a little more than self, but vastly cheaper than hotel laundry. Went back up the hill for rest and shower.

    Tonight we have been invited by Marco to a wine and cheese tasting that the hotel is hosting for a group of people who meet monthly for food and drink enjoyment. It’s supposed to start at 8:30. We know better than to be early in Italy but at 8:30, no one is there except the hosts madly arranging tables! We go to the bar and watch Ed Norton movie (Italian dubbed so it was not understandable).


    At 8:45 people begin to arrive. Marco give us proseccos and we meet the wine ladies. Both speak enough English that we chat for some time with them. Their firm imports Montepulciano wines to New York. A saxophone player performing to canned background music.

    At 9:30 about half the people are getting seated. At 10:15 the first course is being removed! By the gorgonzola, the crowd is getting unruly and the cheese man is not “keeping” his audience’s attention! See the menu* for descriptions-a wonderful meal! We finished dessert around 1 a.m.! This is an all-time record! Oh, in addition to that on the menu, dessert was a strawberry cake with Chantilly cream. The cake was light as a feather. To bed and unconsciousness!

    *I'll add some photos later to this but here's the menu along with the notes I took:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/32219995@N07/?saved=1

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    TDudette, thanks for your recounting of sites in Spoleto, where we are staying for a few days in Sept. Was it you in another thread that suggested starting at the top of the town and working down? Sounds like that could be a good idea.
    I'm still not decided whether to stop in Assisi or not. We're not crazy about overly touristed towns. Venice and Rome are in another realm, of course....
    Either you kept very good notes, or you have an amazing memory!

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    Thanks jubi, he was the photogenic one, btw!

    Yes, sundried, top of the hill or furtherest site. As our stamina decreased over the years, it worked well. I do "hear" you about the tourist hordes but to miss a place was always difficult for us. The only good thing is that if you can get to places early or later, you do miss many of the busses. The TR was from notes--my memory is shot! Upon return from our first overseas trip, we found pictures of places we couldn't remember seeing, so we started trip/photo diaries.


    To Orvieto!

    Saturday, March 19

    6 and 7 a.m. come early but we make it and taxi is on time for our day-trip to Orvieto. It is sunny and crisp as yesterday. When train time came, a train passed us by so we are unsure if some sort of weekend schedule is in force. When the next train arrives, we just get on and, thankfully, it’s going our way!

    We pass rolling hills, farms and lots of evergreen trees then into more populated, flatter area. We arrive in Orvieto at 10 and take a funiculare to the next level, then a bus (included in the price) to the piazza of a magnificent Duomo. Just beautiful on the outside. Not too shabby inside but only one ornate chapel matches in beauty IMHO.

    We find an English tour of the town’s underground scheduled in 45 minutes so we grab salami and cheese and proscuitto and cheese pannini, 2 caps and enjoy this pretty square while we wait. DR, to JR’s consternation gets into an intense conversation with the owner of one of the ubiquitous ceramics store but no deals are consummated.

    The cave tour was interesting. At one time there was a sea and when it receded, caves were revealed and when the town became the town, the caves were used for grain, wine and oil storage/production. Animals (including pigeons) also lived there. On the tour was a couple from Washington State who would be going with Rick Steves on a Florence tour next; and an American family of 4-father stationed in Naples (hardship duty!)

    Walked all around the town. Tried to find 2 piazzas but only successful with one. Where Assisi is almost totally composed of pinkish rocks, Orvieto is made of tufa-a taupe/gray composition. We walked and shopped and ate banana and bacia gelati. Not as hilly as Assisi as most of the town built on the flatish summit.

    Back to the Duomo square, we see that Eustrucan museum is open so we go in. Seems that Greek works were popular, so many copies (they knew that because of scientific tests) abounded in the area.

    Retraced our rides to fs. There will be a train in 30 minutes, so we buy tickets from the machine and have a Heineken and a coke in the bar and sit at binario 2. We meet 2 girls from Vancouver who had taken a bus tour of Rome, Venice and Florence and were on their way reluctantly to stay with family friends (no room and no freedom!)

    Get back to Spoleto and buy our tickets to Bologna. Two eurostars only about 6E more expensive than non-reserved seats so we booked the nicer train. Back to room with intention of resting then returning to the Trattoria del Teatro for dinner. We sleep until 7 the next day!


    Sunday March 20 (Palm Sunday)

    Another sunny day. At breakfast, Marco suggests we visit Spello. He says it’s very pretty and has become a Unesco historical site. We decide to combine it with what we have left to visit is Spoleto so walk up the hill to bus station where we think we learn that bus won’t come for 30 minutes so we decide to walk.

    The walk is nice, downhill, and we pass churches with attendees carrying palm branches. Everyone sharing the street with cars. Train to Spello is at 1:30 so we taxi back up the hill to the Rocco where we sign up for the 11 a.m. tour. We check out St. Eufemia again and find it closed. Lots of church bells ringing. Very pleasant. The tour of La Rocco will be in Italian but they give us a brochure which, they promise, covers what the guide is saying.

    Very cool, large place where Pope lived when Church was taking over towns. Later it became a government center and then a prison. Unfortunately, frescoes were covered with other frescoes or just whitewashed! Awesome views.

    Back down the hill after a stop at Liberta for crema and melone gelati. Get our tickets for Spello and wait for train. We debate about getting our return tickets but decide to wait until we know how long we’ll be in Spello as there are trains returning well into the evening.

    In just a couple of stops we land at Spello and a deserted fs. There is a ticket machine but that’s it. We act like Scarlett (we'll worry about this tomorrow) and just go to town. No taxi or bus magically appears so we walk up the hill to the summit!

    We pass many shops and galleries and only a couple of churches. Ancient gate at bottom of hill bespeaks a walled city at one time. We climb. On the way up, a gallery owner describes the beautiful Infiorate di Spello when floral designs cover the streets. On the way back, we stop for wine and DR gets ½ sandwich-tremezzini?- which turns out to be tuna, artichoke, butter and olive oil. Not too good by Italian standards!

    Down the hill and we attack the ticket machine. Well, we can’t make it work for tickets to Spoleto. What to do? We hop the next train and try to figure out how to explain in Italian why we don’t have a ticket (they fine you). No conductor appears and we ride free to the next, larger, town of Foligno where we buy a ticket and find we have over an hour to kill.

    So we walk to the town center and find the entire population out for a Palm Sunday stroll. There are also many stores open-one being for children’s clothing and having a big sale. Many dads “manning” strollers waited outside while moms shopped for bargains. Center is very pretty. We visit an art exhibition in a deconsecrated church.


    Back to Spoleto and catch the correct bus to Liberta for our final dinner at Clitunno. We spoke with chef son who told us that stilton-like cheese we sampled the other night was the result of cheese-maker falling asleep. He and 5 other Italian chefs had recently been to Chicago to cook at local restaurants there! Marco was impressed with our train prowess and said that Spello real estate values increased 10-fold with the Unesco designation.

    Our last dinner: La tavolozza del norcino (ham, speck, proscuitto, cheese, tiny crostoni with cheese or tomatoes) and JR re-ordered the typical pasta, DR the rosemary-covered steak and we shared.

    Once again they bring us stuff while we are waiting; this time toasted bread with olive oil and a very thin pizza with very thin layer of tomato sauce.

    Wine is 1999 Colpretrone Sangratino which Marco says is an older smoother version of one we’ve had before.

    For dessert Il soufflé al cioccolato con crema al limone-it looks and tastes like pudding cake!

    JR offers to buy Marco a drink (can we stay awake??) who, after he has waited on 3 other tables brings out amaro for the 3 of us. We talk about his family (wife, 2 kids-one 20 and one 4). He is from Rome and his wife is from Spoleto. He lives near the fs and in bad weather his car won’t go up the hill so he walks. In busy season, usually works 12-hour days. Nice guy.


    [My goodness, we loved Spoleto and enjoyed the people at the hotel. I do hope the owners are able to update some of the plumbing! The chef son mentioned above is Filippo Tomassoni. While we were waiting for the other dinner guests, he told us about the huge chocolate Easter bunny that decorated his desk in the bar area. Each day, he snitched pieces from the back of it until it just collapsed in front of the startled guests nearby. I don't have in my notes but there is a huge music festival in Spoleto in the summer. Something to google if you have interest.]

    Tomorrow, Bologna.

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    Our very first trip to Europe, we landed in Rome, spent some days, then rented a car and headed for Pienza. On the highway we saw a sign for Orvieto and decided to explore it.

    Well, I thought I had done my homework, but hadn't heard of Orvieto. We were star struck, wandered around for awhile, took photos, got back in the car and took off for Pienza again.

    How embarrassing later to find out about the Duomo that we never saw and didn't know existed. Ha!

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    Wonderful that you found it though. The more we travelled, the more we pre-read and the more we realized we'd never accomplish it all.

    We usually bought the Eyewitness guides (sorry Fodor's!) but checked out from the library the others.


    Here's Bologna!


    Monday March 21

    We are ½ hour early for breakfast so return to room. Back for food with enough time to taxi to fs and stll be early. Time is speeding by! We have another sunny day as we wait for our train. Nice ride to Ancona (about 2 hours) and an employee actually told us where to stand to be close to our carriage on the next train. We also understood the message in Italian announcing our train so of course it was repeated in English! Passing again the Adriatic and 2 more hours to Bologna. More olives and grapes as we get closer.

    No problem finding our hotel-it’s right across from the train station! And, it is the nicest place we’ve had so far. Well, make that the most modern. A big bath tub and excellent shower are huge for us. Our view is on the garden (which has a bar we are told), room has a pants presser, suit rack, internet hookup and a little dressing area. Desk clerk gave us a bunch of info and suggested we go to Ferrara rather than Parma as architecture much better in the former.

    We took a cab to the main squares Piazza Maggiore and Fonte of Neptune. Had a sandwik (sic) –tomato/cheese/oil and a pannini –ham/arugula, wine and cap at Caffe Vittorio Emmanuele. We looked at a magnificent square with huge buildings and a cool Duomo, Basilica de San Petronio.


    We go into the basilica and it is pretty inside. It was supposed to be as big as St. Peters but Pope pulled the financial plug so church only has chapels on one side! We strolled arcaded (porticoed) streets and spied inviting side streets. We are surprised by the beauty of this city.

    We passed the 2 towers of 200 left in the city, stopped and shopped at a nice kitchen store, then visited another church on our list. This is San Stefano and it is homely both inside and out! We see a super market (“Plenty”-we’ll see another in a diff part of town) and go in to buy the Lambrusco wine for which the region is known. Turns out it is frizzante so we get a cabernet in case we don’t care for bubbly red wine! Also buy some nuts.

    Continue our stroll and working down our list by going to Piazza Cavour (very old) which has beautiful arcades with frescoed ceilings. Window shop our way back to hotel as we decide it isn’t too far to walk. As in Turin, lots of shops and activity going on. The Lambrusco is good but not a fave. We are both too tired to eat dinner so watch some tv (Al Jazirah actually-JR says well-produced and calm) and sleep through the night for the third time this trip!

    Tuesday March 22

    Wonderful shower and nice fluffy towels. Shampoo with conditioner (DR is losing her hair color!) Today our goal is laundry, main art gallery, University and old Jewish area and tickets for Bellagio (we want to beat the holiday rush).

    Breakfast room on a garden terrace and has more to choose from. No coffee machine here (unless it’s in the back room!). As in one of the Venice hotels, they have these very yellow/orange eggs. Also some raw bacon! We had our usual and DR added a piece of lemon pound cake.

    We found the laundry and spoke with 2 folks there who have worked in U.S. and seen more of it than we. One guy worked on herb farm for 14 months in California; gal worked in NYC for 7 years! Found out that college tuition is about 1400 E-more for science and medicine.

    After returning our laundry, we set out for the old ghetto first. We hope to see the original wooden ceilings on the oldest porticoes. We stop by Caffe Almetti for vino russo and 2 empanadas which are turnovers containing hamburger, olives, carrots and are very tasty.

    We find the wooden ceilings and the street of Europe’s oldest university. We get to the huge art museum (Pinoteca) and decide we want to stay outside instead so walk toward another smaller museum of old arms. We get cioccolata and noccio gelati to help us. Once we reached the second museum, the weather was still nice so we nixed that also. Walked back to main square and bought some post cards (not as many stands in this town) and window shopped some more. Cute t-shirts with sequined puppies and flamingos. Back to room to rest before dinner.


    We are pooped again so decide to try a nearby place and find one in Ristorante Bolognese. It truly is just around the corner and in the basement. We had one bad tourist trap scare as a table of Asian tourists came in. An another when an English speaker sits nearby.

    We order Garganelli al proscuitto e radicchio (pasta with ham and onions-we couldn’t locate the radicchio-but it was very good)

    Straccetti di filetto al rosmarino (very good but it didn’t look like rosemary!) and Filetto all’aceto balsamico (steak with balsamic sauce-good)

    DR takes a quick couple of shots and the English speaker offers to take our picture. We chat and invite him to join us and we have a good time with him. Turns out he is Tom from Medford New Jersey (wife is Diane, 2 grown kids, one grandchild in CT) working as an expert witness for a dental company case.

    Back to hotel bar and have a scotch and a Tia Maria. They give us potato chips, mixed nuts and some bland mix with red and green stuff in it. Back to room and slept pretty well.

    Wednesday March 23

    Chocolate-stuffed croissants were on the breakfast bar today. We will go to Ravenna this morning to see several churches with mosaics inside. The “partenza” sheet says binario 8 so we go to wait for our train. Just before train time, DR takes a stroll and notices electronic sign that our train is on binario 10-so we hot foot it down the stairs, under the tracks and up the stairs to catch the correct train. And hot dog it’s a double-decker! From our second story we re-view the grape and olive growth and from the pretty pink buds, possibly cherry trees. Anyway, it was a trip without train changes that took about 1½ hours.

    Ravenna is a “sunny” town (maybe by comparison to all the sun-blocking arcades in Bologna?) and we first view quite a few tour busses parked around a vast square. We ask a taxi to take us to information and he says it’s just 200 meters and points us on our way. 200 meters later, we ask a guy on the street and he says we are on the right trail-it’s only 1 kilometer!

    Anyway, we keep strolling and do find it but not before passing wonderful shops, a beautiful Piazza del Popolo, and a beautiful market building. A few cycles, but more folks on bikes than we’ve seen so far. A very attractive town.

    We get a map and comprehensive ticket at info place and proceed to San Vitale. The tiles are magnificent. Gold and green predominate. Floors also mosaics. Mausoleo on the same grounds is also incredible. See the book for more info.

    We stroll to Duomo but it is closed for lunch. The baptistry is open (the guide there says there are no mosaics in the duomo so not to worry) and had mosaic of the baptism of Jesus. It was originally a Roman bath though. The square nearby is a huge parking lot.

    We return to a restaurant passed earlier (L’Arcangelo) and get so much food we cancel some of it! JR has Pizza Diavola-tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and hot salami which covers a large plate; DR has Tagliolini al ragu-a yellow pasta with meat sauce. We had order a side of grilled veggies but forewent it because of the size of the pizza. Good breadsticks (Fagolosi croccanti and stuzzicanti) and bread! ¼ house wine and Santa Croce acqua. Pfew!

    After lunch we go to another mosaics place, Nuova Appolinaire. It was very long and had mosaics on each side. A feat of concentration! Haven’t read how long it took to produce this stuff. We pass the Dante theatre and many nice buildings along the way. Another church is closed, Dante’s burial site does not move us but a third baptistry, Arian Baptistry, is beautiful and next to a very old church (also closed). We think the mosaics in Sicily might “top” those in Varenna.

    We stroll back to fs and enjoy this town’s atmosphere. JR bought cashews from a vendor (2.10E/100 grams). Once we are on the train, it begins to rain but stops when we return to Bologna. We are not prepared for the mob scene at Bologna fs. Wall to wall people everywhere. Plus, a supply truck of good size is in the passageway below the tracks so we grab hold of our belongs and push like good Italians!

    We get back to room after negotiating another mob waiting for busses on the sidewalk in from of the hotel. We will find out later that the world gets out of town for the Easter weekend. We are glad we bought our Varenna-Esina tickets early. Anyway, we drop off our purchases and decide to try McDonalds. 2 big Macs and one fries later we are done for the day. Less salt on the fries btw.

    Thursday March 24

    Overcast and a bit cool this a.m. We decide to visit Basilica San Luca today and take the 3.5 km walk with over 600 porticoes back to town. We taxied to the top of yet another hill to find a really beautiful church. It takes an hour to walk down! We actually pass a couple of people jogging up! Oh, taxi driver says many streets are block off today but we can’t understand his answer to per que?

    Once we reach the town portal, DR starts to worry about running out of chip space on the camera. [Please remember that this is our first trip with this digital camera.] We then (magically) pass a photo shop (Foto Robby, Via Saragozza 55/B, Bologna 10123, 051-585265, stefitim@libero.it, regoli.roberto@fastwebnet.it). Robby cheerfully burns a cd of the first chip and we manage, with his English-speaking (somewhat) wife Stef on the speaker phone to arrange for them to e-mail the pictures should anything happen to the cd! Nice people to go to so much trouble. Robby tells us that people go up the hill to San Luca on their knees. We aren’t sure if it takes a week or during Holy Week!

    We then hussle again (it’s going on noon) it to the Basilica San Franceso and find the place open and busy with pre-Easter folks praying for bunnies. Nice inside. No one manning the locked post card box.

    We stroll along streets with pretty pink, yellow and gold buildings in search of Via delle Grada and a restaurant DR got from Net. An American student spent 10 months at the Bologna University and strongly recommend this place as where the natives go. Well, it not only was closed, it was closed down! So we stop at Caffe Palasport nearby and get more pasta! Tortellini with proscuitto and same with green sauce. Good even though we think it might have been frozen and warmed up in a microwave.

    This is our last afternoon. DR had wanted to visit the town of Faenza with its ceramics museum but we are concerned about getting tickets with all the mobs and the museum even being open. So we get pannacotte and cioccolate gelati and walk to the big square and a Primaticcio at the Louvre exhibit. It had lots of sketches and red-pencil plans that were difficult to see. But the tapestries and paintings were good. This guy the official architect/designer for a couple of French kings Fontainebleau.

    We took an alternate route back toward hotel and strolled. Passed an outdoor clothes market-looked like better prices than in stores where we saw jeans for 110E! We stop at bar for coffee and beer. DR goes to room to rest and JR searches for a bank machine.

    It rained while DR rested and stopped at 7 when we left hotel with directions from a desk clerk for Bertina’s-about a 15-minute walk away.

    This is a family place with granddad, a glass of water in had, slowly shuffling the 50 feet from the front of the place to the kitchen. You could see each person he passed get ready to catch him, or the glass, if his next totter was unsuccessful. Everyone else there waiting on us at one time or another and look what we had for our last meal in lovely Bologna.

    ¼ Lambrusco (still fizzy) and Cerelin acqua, and a plate of olives to start.

    Waiter suggests sampling from the boiled and grilled meat trolley (we had seen this in Turin also). We are brought a green sauce “for the boiled”. Boiled is veal tongue, beef, cotecchino (?), pork and veal cheek. This was served with potatoes, fagioli, onions and stewed tomatoes. The grilled is proscuitto, veal, pork and galantine. It was served with potatoes, fritters (apple and cream) and a cauliflower that tasted like scalloped potatoes.

    While we laughed uproariously at the thought of dessert, an Italian group near us had a plate of candied fruit the size of apples in addition to their meats! Another group had the meats and pasta and dessert!

    We need the walk back to the hotel! Stop at bar for scotch and Tia where bar tender says streets were closed off because of a demonstration. Then we go to the room to pack and crash.

    Tomorrow, our final stop; Bellagio.

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    I've enjoyed tagging along with you, TDudette!

    Your descriptions of Spoleto do take me back when we visited there for just a morning. DH & I braved the steep walk up Corso Garibaldi to the Duomo and then up to the Rocca. Lunch came next along with a severe thunder storm! We cut our visit short & headed back to Bevagna. We hoped to return to Spoleto another day but never did. After reading about your stay, I'd say that it warrants another visit ... some day!

    I look forward to more!

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    Thanks, 2010 and Carolain.

    The mechanics of returning from Bellagio to the Milan airport first brought me to Fodor's. Learning that Varenna-Esina was the actual name of the train station saved me a lot of stress.

    Beautiful Bellagio:


    Friday March 25

    We are up and about early and have eaten and final packed so early we think we can get an earlier train. So off to the fs as we think kind thoughts of Bologna. Great place. The hordes are not so great today but still quite a few folks on the sidewalk and at fs. The ticket person says no way to change our tickets-all reserved cars filled and we don’t want to risk standing. Shows our age-we stood for 2 hours on our first trip when we were learning the vagaries of reserved seating on Italian trains.

    Our train is 10 minutes late and we only have 15 minutes between trains in Milan. Hopefully, everyone will be late today. Several people approach DR for information and we can’t figure out why until JR takes a picture of her. Hair color faded out by the Italian water, long dark coat and an unapproachable manner! Definitely Italian!

    We are too excited about Lake Como to sleep. DR nags JR into getting bags down and being first at the exit door. We arrive in Milan at track 10 and need to get to 17 toot sweet so we hustle once again but make the train with several minutes to spare. Unfortunately, we forget to validate the tickets! After the trip begins along comes the conductor. He says “yellow machine” and writes the date on the ticket and doesn’t fine us. Phfew!

    We pass a golf course (a first for us) then stop at Carnate and DR realizes we don’t know the name of the stop before Varenna. We ask around and find a nice man and woman are getting off there. Lecco area seems rather industrial but we are getting glimpses of gorgeous lake views as we speed along the east side of Lake Como. Is track at a slant or is it the buildings we are passing??

    We arrive and follow our new friends with DR trying to take pix and not lose the people! This place is stunning! The fs has only a ticket machine and Net info says go to local travel agency for info. We are still pondering the most efficient way back to the airport on Monday and are sorry to see the agency closed for lunch. Oh well. We reach the ferry and get tickets and schedules and say “wow” to the beauty around us. We get on the car ferry with only one car and off to Bellagio!

    Bellagio is as pretty as Varenna-more touristy perhaps? Hotels, restaurants and shops abound along the water. We taxi to our hotel Pergola (up the hill and down the hill!) and start saying “wow” again when Livio Gatti, son of proprietor Magdalene (Marilena per Internet person) Gatti, shows us our room. It is perfectly funky. Antique furniture and closet shower and a balcony almost as big as the room! Great views! Table for 2, bench and folding sun chairs! There is a big dark cloud across the lake. There is an outdoor, vine-covered restaurant for summer below us.

    We are ready to boogie and meet Mrs. Gotti who shows us the short cut to town and gives us brochures. We make reservations for dinner at the hotel and head for town. And the steps are steep and many. This calls for gelato! Ciccolato and lemon, and stracciotella. We stroll along Via Garibaldi-scads of shops and about the width of the cars we dodge. We find a little art gallery with water colorist from Poland and her partner from England both of whom came to visit and stayed!

    Down to the water front with more shops. The big dark cloud is really a mountain! As the fog lifts a bit, we can see the Alps! Just beautiful. We stop for coffee and Nero Rosso at waterfront Bar Pasticceria. They also bring us doritos, green olives and an anchovy cunningly concealed in a red pepper roll-eaten before JR realizes.

    We decided serpentine was the way to go back to the stairs and the hotel. We stopped for snacks and drinks for pre-dinner on the balcony. While looking at brochures we find the unwelcome news that Monday is a holiday and the ferry's first run is after our train is due to leave. This is a problem which we discuss with Mrs. Gotti who says she will look into it for us.

    Dinner is Chianti Classico-Isassi 2002 by Melini and Chiarella water (there are so many different brands over there!). We tried smoked trout (Trota affumicata) first and it is delicious. It is served on a bed of lettuce with red cabbage, red pepper and lemon slices around. JR has scalloped veal marsala (better than DR’s) and DR has lake white fish (Lavarello spinato alla Piastra) which is dry and bony. JR also get Insalata Paesana which is a huge salad with parm cheese slices and olive and that’s very good. Dessert is Tartufo and is choc/vanilla ice-cream with fudge inside-not like what we remember having in Rome.

    To room to crash!

    Saturday March 26

    We are an hour early for breakfast (8 not 7). Our shower is wonderful and we have the best hair dryer yet (2 speeds). Back to unfluffy towels though! It is so foggy, one can’t see the mountains or Varenna across the lake! We decide it’s a lot like Sorrento but with more mountains and no volcano (we hope).

    Pretty buffet plus pitchers of juice and coffee at the table. Usual suspects for breakfast. We see ducks out the breakfast window. We meet Mrs. Gotti who gives us 3 suggestions: pay 120E for private water taxi Monday a.m.; pay 60E for taxi to Como and then bus to airport from there; or move to another hotel in Varenna that last night. We don’t want to leave here but are leaning toward door number 3. We say we’ll think it over and let her know noonish. Our plan to go back to Varenna and double check at travel place.

    We find another set of stairs, possibly steeper but fewer of them (they “land” us higher over town) and take them to Bellagio through a cute little park. We have 20 minutes to wait so watch fishermen and see an exhibit of wooden crafts and melted beer bottles.


    The ferry to Varenna comes and we go up the hill to find the travel agency but it is shut for the weekend says lady at bar next door! So we go up the hill and look at train schedule, then down the hill to visit the hotel Olivedo Mrs. Gotti has recommended and book a room for Sunday night. We explain our dilemma to owner Laura and pet her dog. We go back to Bellagio and take a large serpentine walk back to Pergola. The fates hand us a flower shop so we get Mrs. G. an Easter plant. We tell her of our decision to reluctantly leave Pergola a day early and she concurs and understands.

    So back up the hill in a misty rain (we need our umbrellas now) and we take the ferry to Caddenabbia to visit the Villa Carlotta (JR had gotten ferry tickets already). We walked down Salita Serbelloni in search of shopping game. Got noccio and another chocolate and lemon cone then stopped at a coffee shop and split a proscuitto/mozzarella/tomato sandwich. It looks like an 8” sub and the bread is warm and semi crunchy. JR spots a vitrine with shots of Alfred Hitchcock, Van Heflin, JFK, Berlusconi and a bunch of Italian glitterati unknown to us.

    Ferry to Cadenabbio takes 10 minutes and it was about a 15-minute walk to Villa Carlotta. Huge, gorgeous place and we opted to tour inside rather than in gardens (come in April they say to appreciate azaleas). We do spot hibiscus, winter camellias (looking like peonies), lemons and oranges. No heat in this place as it was a summer place only. Very interesting and beautiful and a nice gift shop!

    Back to the ferry and Bellagio with intent of seeing Villa Melzi. The ferry ticket guy says it’s open so we walk another ¼ mile only to find that just gardens are open. We decide it’s too rainy and too early in the season to pay the freight so go back up the hill and land at the Pergola’s little bar around 4. We have drinks and look at “Io Donna” and its nutty women’s clothes, then rest for dinner.

    Tonight we will try Trattoria Giacoma (Villa Melzi ticket lady suggested it) and it is on the same street we walked earlier today. As Rhody says, the towns kept getting smaller! We cabbed it (Fabbio is our driver) as DR is tired of going up the hill and down the hill!

    Giacoma is great. We get house wine and prosecca, JR a rocket salad (Insalata di Rucola, grana e pomodorini) which DR shares a little; JR’s Occo Buco e Polenta is excellent and DR’s Filetto di Trotta alla Griglia con insalata is delicious, moist and looks like salmon not trout. JR orders some parm cheese and it comes with walnuts and 2 honey drizzled cookies; DR gets Tiramisu and it is light and great! Recommend this place.

    Walked back up the hill via the first steps we had taken on Friday and had a drink at the bar before crashing. Time to set clocks ahead tonight! That would have been a terrible mistake, eh?


    Sunday March 27
    Happy Easter

    It is really raining this a.m. Not ready for breakfast until 8:30. Our flowers are on the buffet table along with chocolate eggs! A fancy bread today also. Our plan is to take a last walk around Bellagio, eat Easter lunch at Pergola (they emailed us and we booked this special meal before the trip), then go to our last hotel of the trip.

    Rain slows as we take our final serpentine strolls. The church bells are ringing like mad. We are surprised at the number of people at and about. Before or after church we are not certain. Most of the stores are also open. Another surprise! We walk back to the summit and take photos of the interesting cemetery we passed a previous day.

    We get back to the hotel and, taking Mrs. Gotti’s advice, order a 2:30 taxi (Fabbio again) for the 2:40 ferry. She thinks 2 hours should be enough for lunch. So off we go to eat. By the way, we have seen salt and toothpicks on the tables but no pepper! There is white wine for the first courses and red for the meat but the see the photos of what we ate--too much food to write down! At 2:00 we are just a little beyond half way through so we postpone the taxi!

    Taxi time and we are rushing about madly. Back to Varenna and Signora says we are in room 21 which is on the 3rd floor (no lifts) and “dinner at 7:30”. We climb. This room is very large and has beautiful old furniture and a brand new bath. Two windows and great views. There are beautiful parquet floors which squeak like mad. We hope no one is below us since we’ll be up early tomorrow! The rain has stopped for good.

    JR wants to get tickets today so back up the hill we go but it only takes 5 minutes and isn’t much of a hill by Bellagio standards, so we decide we can easily walk it. Suddenly, DR feels something alien in her coat pocket-it is the room key for Pergola! Back down the hill to the ferry back to Bellagio and the cab stand and there is Fabbio who kindly offers to return the key next time he goes up the hill!

    On one of our ferry trips today, a tourist tells us that the lake rises about a meter after the spring thaw. Back to Varenna and the hotel where we ask Laura if she’ll call Mrs. Gotti and let them know about the key and she does. We set out again to walk around Varenna. We walk along the water on a pedestrian promenade-wide enough for 2 across. We think it is prettier in a way than Bellagio. We have to pass up their gelateria as dinner looms. We serpentine up charming streets with less of a touristy feel. There are hotels, for certain, but there is a different atmosphere here.

    We see a sign for the Monastery Villa which the folks we met on the train said to see so we climb some steps to get to it. Unfortunately, they are getting ready to close but guy lets DR peek in and take a couple of pix. We wonder if guests of the contiguous Hotel Cipressi get free access.

    Work our way back through the main town square, Piazza San Giorgio. We see Royal Victoria Hotel (DR had tried to book but they weren’t yet open), a town poster board with announcements about upcoming elections and a funeral.

    Stopped so DR could get a coffee and little rest then headed back to hotel for, gulp, dinner. We find that Laura is also chief waiter and she recites our choices and rather bullies us into eating more than we wanted! Mezzo vino russo della casa is light, acqua is Fonte San Luigi. We beg for small portions and JR gets pumpkin gnocchi and DR get ravioli with spinach and cheese. Both excellent! Grilled beef and grilled veal finish us off and they are also good. But wait, dessert is wine-poached pears with Bavarian Cream and lemon sorbet.

    We chat a bit with Laura. She is the third generation at the hotel. Her grandmother built it and Laura was born there. She speaks Italian, English, French and German fluently and loves doing what she’s doing. Mostly Americans in Fall and Spring; Germans in March and Italians on weekends.

    Stepped out to try for shots of lights on the water. JR off to find another bank machine as Laura doesn’t take credit cards! She also turns of the water heater after midnight so suggests showers tonight! Some loud person outside keeps us from falling right to sleep but we are up and 4 and 5 and on our way at the appointed time. Oh, JR got lessons the night before about unlocking the hotel’s front door and lifting the metal screen! Also, our room lock wouldn’t work-Laura warned us about it and said don’t worry! We locked our stuff in the armoire.

    We aren’t too early for the train but so hopeful that it will come on this holiday and it does! Yes! We get to Milano Centrale at around 7:30 and find the Malpense Express bus stand. They run every 20 minutes and we have just missed one but leave by 8 and at the airport just before 9. We try to ignore the signs for Como and the mountains in the distance as the bus takes us away.

    We have 45 minutes to spare by the time we check in and get to our gate. Scads of people going home. At departure time, they put us, sardine-like, into two busses and we go all around the airport to our plane and walk up the steps.

    Good flight. Another little dinner but good and with lots of things. DR has an Italian beer and it’s good-not quite as light as a Bud but ok. We both sleep during this 9 hour flight. Arrive at 1:20 but our flight’s suitcases don’t come up for almost an hour so we are surly because now that we are so close, we just want to go home. It’s rainy and beltway around Wilson Bridge a little slow but all is fine at home and the kitties are glad to see us.

    Another wonderful trip. Will it be our last to Italy? DR less patient about the times we waited for trains or schlepped for tickets this time and is suggesting a guided tour next time for a change of pace. Turin nice, Umbrian hill towns incredible and Como area gorgeous! And, we were so impressed with Bologna! How about Southern France with a stop in San Remo?

    [Thanks for your patience. I'll post some of the highlight photos asap. That train trip from Varenna to Malpense really depended upon good timing and luck-I don't recommend it to everyone. BTW, we did get to Southern France 2 times before JR lost his battle with cancer-the first time when he was in remission and the 2nd when it had returned and he wanted one more trip-I did TR's for both of those.]

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    Thank you again for posting this report. We must have similar tastes. I, too, was taken with Bologna when I visited a few years ago, and found Turin delightful, as well.

    Spoleto is on the list for next year, but your positive impression was nice to read. I'm happy to see how successfully you were able to manage with public transportation. That's how I intend to do it!

    I hope you enjoyed revisiting this trip with your JR as much as I enjoyed reading about it. I'm sorry about your loss, but glad to know you were able to enjoy two more trips together.

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    Thanks jmct714. I enjoyed your Bologna report and will re-read it as I forgotten details.

    I do hope you enjoy Spoleto as much as we did. If you do stay or eat at Clitunno, please tell them that the Rhodys recommended them. Please, also say hi to Marco if he's still there. He looks like Tony Shalhoub (Monk).

    Our little cottage is filled with trip reports and it always delights me to "return". I strongly recommend good memories.

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    Thanks, sundriedpachino!

    We were told in Venice that students just getting their doctorates make a big chart of their lives. Some illustrate it as well. They must then dress strangely and, in front of friends and family, recount the chart without omissions. Should an error occur, the new dottore is doused with something. We've seen water, champagne and, in this photo, flour! A song is song "Dottore, dottore...." is how it starts.

    We saw this in Venice twice and again in Bologna. Anyone know the full lyrics?!

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    I remember that walk 'up the hill and down the hill' to the Hotel Pergola where we stopped for lunch & gazed at the view! What a pretty spot!

    Thanks for sharing your stories! Your food descriptions were delectable! :-)

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    Thanks, 2010. Because we were there in March, a couple of the hotels on the hill were not yet open for the season.

    I peeked at your profile and see 2 TRs for Italy that I read and need, along with jmct714's, to read once again.

    What is it about Italy?

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    What is it about Italy?

    There is a certain charm & energy which is difficult to put into words. Here DH & I are set to leave for France in a few weeks and yet we are talking about the next trip ... back to Italy! There is definitely a pull to return!

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    Hi TDudette:

    We are going to Paris, Honfleur (Normandy) & Bermicourt (Somme). We are ending our trip in London. Our last trip to France was in 2006. We are getting more excited as the departure date approaches!

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    Hi, again!

    We've been to Bayeux on a previous trip to Normandy. Isn't the tapestry amazing & the town charming? This time we hope to visit Rouen & Mont St Michel and snoop along the coast east of Honfleur.

    France is beautiful but it's not Italy! ;)

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