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Trip Report Vittorio Veneto, Vicenza, Milan, Lake Como

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This is part of a trip that started with four days in Venice, covered in another trip report.

We rented a car at Piazzale Roma and headed for a one-night stay at the Alice Relais Winery in the Veneto region. Two words for this place: Stay there. If you're ever in that region and have a car (you'll need one), this is a great accommodation. The owners, a husband and wife, run the winery and a B&B that's been converted beautifully from a former barn. Big rooms, nice bathrooms, great view of the surrounding hills.

The husband gave us an extended tour of the winery and explained the whole process in detail. It was fascinating. And then they have a wine-tasting happy hour, with hors d'oeuvres, at 5 pm. Excellent breakfast. They don't serve dinner, so you'll need a car to go into Vittorio Veneto for meals. It's a lively town that has several restaurants, all of which were crowded (Sat. night). We ended up at a family-type place, Galium, that served good pizza and grilled chicken at outside tables, along with beer brewed onsite. Very cheap and very enjoyable, but not gourmet.

Next, we drove to Vicenza and stayed at the B'Charme B&B, which is an apartment building a few steps from the city's historical center. Very nice two-bedroom accommodation, modern kitchen, small but serviceable and clean bathroom. I would stay there again, and it would be a nice spot for a family. We really liked Vicenza. Great place to walk around; lots of restaurants and historic sites. Unfortunately, our second day there was a Monday, and a lot of attractions are closed that day.

We drove to Linate Airport to drop the car off and take a taxi into the city. Note about driving to Milan: Lots of people here have warned about the drive, on a busy highway, but I didn't find it a problem. Maybe I've just become accustomed to driving the NJ Turnpike. If you have a car, Linate is a good place to drop it off -- close to the city, easy to get to, plus you don't want to drive into Milan to drop the car off, or for any reason.

We stayed at the Star Hotel, right behind La Scala and very close to the historic center and its attractions. It was a little strange because the entrance to the hotel is in what appears to be an alley, but it turned out to be a great location and a nice hotel. It's small and mid-range in price for Milan. The manager at the desk, Maria, was very helpful with suggestions for sightseeing and meals. Rooms were nice, if not large, and decorated in African animal scenes. Don't ask me why. Breakfast was plentiful and good, and the staff seemed friendly and courteous.

Restaurant recommendation: We ate at the Al Mercanti, which is in a square near the Duomo and Galleria. Some tourists there, but mostly Italians who seemed to be regulars, judging from the conversations they had with waiters and staff. The food was good. The service can be a bit brusque, though not rude, for tourists. For example, our waiter never offered us a wine list as he attempted to take our dinner orders. I then spoke to him in Italian and asked why we weren't offered wine. His demeanor seemed to change after that, and the night went fine. All in all, I'd recommend the place, but don't be surprised if the waiters aren't fawning.

A warning: Around the corner, on a main street, is the Cafe Mercante. It's a typical sidewalk cafe frequented by tourists. Stay away. The waiters, who all speak perfect English, will try to hustle you for drinks and appetizers. The food is institutional. When we were ready to leave, I was told to go inside to pay, using a ticket that had been placed on our table. The manager running the cash register told me what I owed, which seemed high for what we had. So I asked, in Italian, for an itemized list and what we were charged for each item. After much fussing, he showed me a list, and there was a large cover charge. OK, lesson learned, If you're going to make an impromptu stop at a place like this, get ready for the consequences.

We liked Milan, in general. Visited the roof of the Doumo, walked through the upscale Galleria, and generally took in the sites. We hooked up with a city tour which included the Last Supper, Sforza Castle and La Scala. Last about three hours and was worth it. (BTW, about the only way to get tix to the Last Supper is through an organized tour, unless you plan way ahead.)

I'll return with the details about Como and to answer question.

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