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Italy thru new eyes / Chasing the sun in March

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Italy thru new eyes / Chasing the sun in March

Old May 8th, 2017, 03:02 AM
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I'm glad the information is useful. Can't tell you how many times I've dug up trip reports even years after they were written that proved invaluable to me when planning a trip.

I didn't think are around Termini is seedy except the streets immediately bordering the station itself. Just a couple blocks away are several 5 star luxury hotels. The Hotel Floris is my favorite and it's on Via Nazionale which is a busy street but the hotel is wonderful. It's Rome, it doesn't have 'nice' outdoor space (it's on the 4th floor of a building with other hotels) but certainly not seedy in the area. I like to be able to walk to my hotel upon arrival and it's only a ten minute walk but still close to the 'heart of Rome' area. The Julia that I stayed in this time is on a quieter street further from the station but closer to other things. When you stay in Trastevere how do you get there upon arrival?
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Old May 8th, 2017, 03:11 AM
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Friday, March 24, 2017 - , 75 - We repeated the beginning of yesterday’s walk, this time getting to the Pantheon before the crowds. But from Piazza Navona we went in the other direction to Campo di Fiori.

In ancient times the square was used as grazing land for cattle, hence the name, which means field of flowers. Today the campo hosts a morning open-air food market (Mon.-Sat. 8 AM-1 PM), Except for the pizzerias and gelaterias, it still looks much as it did in the early 1800s.

Next we stopped at the Torre Argentina / ‘Area Sacra’, site of the remains of four temples from 200-300 BC. A cat sanctuary, run by volunteers is in one corner and cats roam the area.

A few blocks further on is Piazza Venezia, sort of the central ‘hub’ of Rome – a very busy, traffic filled square in front of the Vittorio Emanule II Monument. The monument, to the first king of Italy (I think there is a monument and/or street named after him in absolutely every town in Italy) is a huge white building, with an enormous flight of stairs leading up to it. Totally covered in statues, and fountains and columns. Inside the building are museums, but on both sides are terraces with great views in all directions and those are free.

Across the street is Trajan’s Column sitting at the beginning of the Via dei Fori Imperiali, the boulevard linking Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. The vistas over the ruins of Rome's Imperial Forums from the northern side of the street and the Roman Forum on the south side make this half mile one of the most fascinating walks in Rome. And it’s mostly pedestrianized.

A good section of The “Roman Forum” can also be viewed from this street, and recently signs have been erected telling people what they’re looking at, and with drawings showing what the ruins would have looked like. The Roman Forum was the center of life in Rome, evidenced by the many remains of triumphal arches, temples and basilicas. Although fascinating just to look at, having a map or guidebook telling you what each ruin was is a good idea, although the new signs really do help. You also get a different feeling and perspective from walking around in the Forum and from viewing it from above (both on this street, and even better from behind Capitoline Hill.)

The Colosseum sits at the end of Via dei Fori Imperiali. I think it's most impressive from the outside. Not that the inside isn’t also really interesting, but if time is limited, walking around the outside I think is better.


Tickets (which include the Forum, the Colosseum and Palatine Hill) can be bought at any of the three and lines are always shorter at the other two. Even with a ticket, lines to get into the Colosseum can be crazy. We walked all the way around the Colosseum which I recommend. It really does look different from the ‘back’ as well as the ‘front’.

We stopped for cappuccinos and a snack at a café – horribly overpriced but worth it for the view.

Between the Colosseum and Palatine Hill the biggest of the triumphal arches, the Arch of Constantine, 315 AD, spans the via Triumphalis, the way taken by the emperors when they entered the city in triumph. Today it’s lined with tour busses. We walked all the way down and around to the back of Palatine Hill through the Circus Maximus which was where chariot races were held. Today it just looks like an empty park. But seeing the Palatine Hill from the different angles is interesting. Palatine Hill is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is the ancient most part of the city. Imperial palaces were built here and it is from the name “Palatine” that the word palace/palazzo come from.

At the far end of Circus Maximus is the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, with a Romanesque campanile (11th century), best known as the home of the “Mouth of Truth” (bocca della Verita), made famous in the movie “Roman Holiday” where Gregory Peck demonstrates to Audrey Hepburn that the mouth is supposed to chomp down on the hands of liars who insert their hands. Ninety percent of the tourists who come here stand in the long line to get their photo taken and never even venture into the church, one of the most unusual in Rome. The church, with a haunting, almost exotic interior is free, and for €2 you can go down into the crypt which is even more intriguing. Outside, on the Piazza della Bocca della Verita are two Roman era temples, the Temple of Hercules Victor (the round one) and the Temple of Portunus, a diety related to the ancient river harbor just across the street. There’s also the Fountain of the Tritons (1715) and around the corner from this piazza is another large arch, the Arch of Janus.

From the Piazza della Bocca della Verita we detoured across the street to have a look at Isola Tiberina (the island in the Tiber). The oldest bridge in Rome, the Ponte Fabricio (62 BC) connects the island to the Tiber’s eastern bank.

Continuing on to Via del Teatro di Marcello you pass by the church of San Nicola in Carcere (St Nicolas in Prison), a typical example of Roman 11th C construction which was built within the ruins of three republican era temples. The columns that once held these temples up can still be found embedded into the walls of the church and are easily seen just by walking by. This church also has a crypt that you can go down into, although we didn’t do that this tirp.)

Another block or so is Teatro di Marcello, a small corner of the 2000 year old arcade has been restored to what presumably was the original look. Next to it are three Columns of Apollo and a smattering of other, smaller ruins.
Another block or so brings you to the base of the steps leading up to Capitoline Hill (Campidogilo), the most sacred of Rome’s seven hills.

Michelangelo created the piazza with it’s slightly convex pavement, the staircase ramp, the buildings and facades on three sides, and the pedestal for the bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius. On the other two sides of the piazza, Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuoveo, have been incorporated into the Capitoline Museums, one of the oldest museums in the world. These museums house some of the greatest pieces of classical sculpture in the world including the renowned symbol of Rome, the Capitoline Wolf, a 6th C BC Etruscan bronze (the suckling twins were added during the Renaissance to adapt the statue to the legend of Romulus and Remus – there is a copy outside). From behind the Palazzo Senatorio, a stairway leads down, offering the best overview of the Roman Forum. The front of the piazza looks out over the Piazza Venezia.

The loop I just described (from Piazza Venezia and back) is about three miles (plus detours of course). From the Hotel and back we walked about six miles.
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Old May 9th, 2017, 08:46 PM
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After a bit of siesta at the hotel we headed to St Peter’s. The first stop was Ponte Sant'Angelo, pedestrianized and lined with ten stone angels it joins ‘the heart of Rome’ with the Vatican side and leads directly to Castel Sant’Angelo - During its many years of existence, the building functioned as a mausoleum, became part of the city wall and later was turned into a fortress before it functioned as a papal residence and finally as a barracks and military prison. From the top is one of the best views of Rome.
St Peter’s Basilica looks close from Castel Sant’Angelo but it’s actually more than half a mile. Piazza San Pietro is huge, with a massive Egyptian obelisk supported by bronze lions and two fountains in the center and surrounded by the ‘Tuscan Colonnades’, four columns deep which curve around the sides of the square from the Basilica. Bernini designed the piazza and the colonnades to be “the maternal arms of the mother church”. The whole ensemble is gorgeous and a definite ‘must see’ even if you have no interest in the catholic religion. The place is packed with tourists most of the day, some just taking it all in, the rest waiting in the long security line to get into the church. Given our limited time on this trip we didn’t go in but it is a really amazing space and worth the hour or so wait on line. Around the side of the piazza is the city wall, through which a gate leads to the entrance to the Vatican Museums (which always has an enormous line – every time I’ve been there – July, March, November, early in the morning, mid day, rain, shine).

We took the Metro back, got a pizza to eat in room and took a short siesta before heading out for a drink and to see Rome lit up. The Piazzas are all beautifully lit – my favorite for evening ambiance are Trevi (if the crowds aren’t too bad), Rotunda and Narvona. We started the evening with a drink near Piazza di Pietra, strolled around the streets and piazzas as the sky turned dark blue and the buildings became beautifully gold colored, and finished the evening with a gelato at a café in Piazza Rotunda next to my favorite site in Rome – the Fontana della Rotunda backed by the Pantheon.

Saturday, March 25, 2017 , 78 Not a cloud in the sky. Best day yet and we had nothing really to do. We had condensed what we planned to do in two full days down to a day and a half since we discovered that there were demonstrations planned in Rome for the 60th anniversary of the European Union so stores were to be closed and they made it sound like pedestrian access to the center was going to be curtailed - they were expecting possible violence. We tried to get our train tickets changed to an earlier one but couldn’t (special price). So we went to S. Maria Maggiore (with our bags) and took turns going in and sitting in the sun. Then went to a café and sat in the sun there and age gelato. Had lunch at the train station, then comfortable 3-hour train trip to Milan.

After check in took metro (1.5 per ticket) to the Duomo. Unfortunately cloudy but still we walked around exterior of Duomo, through Galleria, down Via Dante to the Sforzesco Castello. Had dinner of risotto and Prosecco for Crista's last night.
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Old May 9th, 2017, 10:30 PM
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To get to Tratstevere, I took the bus. Cannot recommend that experience. Pretty much had to fight my way to the door. To get to airport, I called a taxi.
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Old May 9th, 2017, 10:33 PM
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Ah. Let me rewrite that. Bus from Termini to Trastevere (basically my lodging was a few blocks from the stop directly after the bus crosses the bridge.)

at least there was an impromptu sing along on the bus. Feliz navidad!
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Old May 10th, 2017, 03:36 AM
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An impromptu sing along sounds like fun. Those are the kind of experiences I love about traveling. Would almost make the crowded bus seem worthwhile.

But that's why I usually book hotels close to (but not next to) train stations or where ever the airport bus drops you. I hate having to figure out public transportation when I first arrive, with luggage (and I travel very light, just one rolling 20" plus my purse/tote) etc. And even more I hate taxis. But I know I'm weird that way. Right now I'm planning the logistics of my trip this summer (Northern Spain) and am finding I booked hotels that are probably more than walking distance from where I'll be arriving in the city and it's a pain trying to figure out the tram/metro/bus systems. Will probably be fine, but it's just easier if I can just walk.
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Old May 10th, 2017, 03:45 AM
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Part 2: March in Northern Italy – Milan and Day Trips to Pavia, Genoa, Lake Como, and Lake Lugano

Although the first week we were looking at cool rainy weather in Milan and areas around it – especially the lakes – and thus made a last minute switch to Rome (where we had 70 and sunny), by the second week Milan had great weather. After one morning of drizzle the sun came out and stayed out for five days, temps climbing from the low 60s to over 80.

All over Lombardy and the Veneto – green grass, tons of pink and white flowering fruit trees, other trees just starting to bud out, dandelions, little white wild flowers, jasmine, forsythia, daffodils, tulips, wisteria.

This was my third visit to Milan, a city I didn’t even deem worthy of seeing until my 6th trip to Italy. And I still don’t think it’s on a par – from a tourist standpoint – with Rome with it’s ancient ruins and Baroque piazzas, or Renaissance Florence, or ‘like-no-where-else-Venice’. But it’s a nice city. The Duomo and Galleria and surrounding piazza is incredible and most certainly ‘worth’ seeing. And it’s got some nice shopping/strolling streets, a pretty decent center city castle whose courtyards you can wander around for free, and a pretty park.

And Milano Centrale is one of the ‘best’ train stations in Europe. A huge Fascist era building that itself is worth seeing is you like train stations. But I think the best reason to plan a few days in Milan is that it’s transportation connections are so good. It’s got two airports and if you’re traveling from anywhere south to the rest of Europe, or going from one coast to the other in Italy, you most likely will go through Milan. And it’s so central there are numerous really worthwhile day trips possible. On this trip I did Pavia (½ hour by frequent trains), Lake Como and Lake Lugano (both less than an hour), and Genoa, which at 1½ hours is close to my limit for a day trip, and now that I’ve been there I know next time I will plan to stay a few days, but it was a totally enjoyable day trip from Milan. Other day-trips easily done from Milan include Bergamo, Cremona, Brescia and Parma.

Sunday, March 26, 2017 rain in the morning but sunny and 63 rest of day.

Spent a lovely six hours exploring Pavia. Loved it!
Pavia is a university city with Romanesque and medieval buildings and an interesting historic center set on a river. Pavia barely gets mentioned in guidebooks and travel forums, and when it does it’s because it’s only 8 km from the Certosa di Pavia, a huge monastery complex, which I ended up not getting to as I so enjoyed the city itself I spent all my time there.

At first Pavia seemed to me a bit like Vicenza – quiet, prosperous, pretty - but not very interesting. The Duomo was impressive but not particularly pretty from the outside and looked closed. Most of the stores were closed (it was Sunday). I found the covered bridge – Ponte Coperto - and that was quite nice. It’s a reproduction of a 14th century bridge destroyed during the war, which itself was built near the site of a Roman bridge over the Ticino river. I sat on a bench in the sun for half an hour and watched locals walk their dogs and kids.

Then explored the center – I found a TI Office which looked closed but there was a guy in there who let me in and gave me maps and was extremely helpful telling me where to go. Having the map really helped (left my relatively lousy guidebook map in the hotel). There are posted maps all over town but without having one in my hand I kept forgetting where to turn. With the map and his instructions I easily found the main square, Piazza della Vittoria (really nice, lots of outdoor cafes and pretty buildings). The University, one of the oldest in Europe (founded 1361 but possibly based on a school here from 825). There are at least 12 different courtyards and gardens, all arcaded, beautiful. The architecture is a mix of baroque and neo-classic. Three of the medieval towers (there were once 100, now only about 5 left, but they are quite striking) are in a park like setting behind the University.

The Castello Visconteo, (1360s) looks like a small fortified castle but was actually used as a private residence, set in a lovely park with people, kids, and dogs and everything green and with wildflowers blooming. There are plenty of churches – none terribly beautiful on the outside, but all were huge and gorgeous on the inside. San Michele (between the bridge and main part of town) had extensive carvings on the sandstone façade including griffins, dragons and other beasts locked in a struggle with people representing the fight between good and evil. Inside was huge and impressive but my favorite was the lower level crypt/chapel – very Romanesque. Another, Basilica of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro, (close to the castle) 1132 is similar but of brick instead of sandstone but also has a lower level chapel that feels very old (and that strange feeling I get in some very old churches that is a combination of spooky and religious). In both churches there was singing/chanting coming from unseen voices. A third church, Santa Maria del Carmine (towards the main piazza), also of brick was less interesting but it did have frescoes featuring the town’s bridge and other sites and some secular scenes. All were free to enter, and none had more than a handful of tourists.

I went past the Duomo a second and this time it was open and gigantic –and very white inside (different from the others which were all much darker). There was a mass just starting which actually added to the effect. Outside was a band performance and little festival. Earlier I’d passed the band leading a parade of people (many of them children) holding signs. Not sure what they were celebrating but everyone seemed very happy. Outside the Duomo the band was playing “YMCA” – then to walk into this incredible church with a mass (in Italian obviously but to me it sounded like Latin) – quite the contrast.

The whole town was out shopping/walking/eating gelato. Huge difference from the sedate feeling in the early afternoon (it was now after 5pm). Tons of dogs of all kinds, lively atmosphere, birds singing in back streets/along the river, some street performers, the band (parade), the singing in the churches, wisteria, forsythia, trees just budding out, warm sun, cool breeze. Lovely day. Streets paved with small rocks though so my feet were killing me.
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Old May 10th, 2017, 11:56 AM
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Monday, March 27, 2017 - sunny , 65 –

Took 8:10 train to Genoa, arrived just before 10. Took 4:09 train back.

I liked Genoa a lot more than I thought I would. I had figured it would be sort of like Palermo, maybe not even as nice, kind of gritty, rather dark. But it was lovely. Sprawled behind the port area (Italy's biggest) is a dense and fascinating warren of medieval caruggi (tiny alleyways) – and these are kind of dark. But the rest of the city is bright and clean and there are some incredible buildings, including several 16th and 17th century palazzos along Via Garibaldi which are a UNESCO site, and the 19th Century city along arcaded Via XX September which is the main shopping street – with all the usual international chains.

The main Piazza – Piazza Ferrari – separates the old town from the more modern 19th century city, and has a huge fountain which was incredible. 19th century neo Baroque buildings surround it including the ‘Borsa’ and the Teatro Carlo Fellice.

A couple blocks south from Piazza Ferrari brings you to Piazza Dante off which is the ancient main gate to the city, Porta Soprano, still very imposing with two huge towers. Right next to that is the tiniest cloister – no church, just a perfect square little arcaded stone cloister from the 12th century. It is the Cloister of Sant’Andrea. Christopher Columbus’s house is supposedly right around here but I didn’t see it.

Southwest of Piazza Ferrari is the Chiesa dei Sant Ambrogio e Andrea (big, pretty and yellow, late 1500s) and Piazza Matteotti, home to Palazzo Ducale, the historic location of the Genova Republic' s Government and today is the center of all Genova' s cultural activities.

In the other direction from Piazza Ferrari is tiny Piazza Matteo with a cute little black and white striped church. This beautiful little square is the domain of the city’s most acclaimed family, the seagoing Dorias, who ruled Genoa until the end of the 18th century. The church is 12th century and contains the crypt of the Dorias’ most illustrious son, Andrea. Several of the buildings surround the piazza are also black and white striped (like many others in the city) which denotes homes of the most honored citizens.

Just around the corner from Piazza Matteo is the larger San Lorenzo Cathedral – also black and white stripes with a pair of nice lions guarding the stairs leading to it. It’s Romanesque-Gothic, begun in 1160, remodeled in 1307 with a Renaissance dome added in 1557.

From here Via San Lorenzo is the ‘main’ street leading down to the port. On the map it looks like a big busy street but in reality it’s narrow and pedestrianized, not all that much wider than the narrow, atmospheric alleys all around it.
It opens out onto the area just behind the Harbor. Via di Sottoripa is a covered street with lots of eateries. The back of Palazzo San Giorgio is here. The back of the building looks like a medieval castle, but the front (and side) is bright, beautifully painted with pastel colors including a huge depiction of Saint George slaying the dragon. The place is absolutely gorgeous, only slightly diminished by being right across from the large highway overpass.

There is a relatively busy street even under the highway, but there are lights and crosswalks and it’s easy to see the harbor from the main side of the road. Porto Antico, totally revitalized over the past two decades, it’s old warehouses converted into exhibition spaces, concert halls, museums and waterfront cafes. It’s Italy’s biggest port, but the industrial shipping and cruise ship areas are way off to one side so the area directly in front of the city area I just described is all open and inviting. There is what is supposedly the ‘best’ aquarium in Europe (I was really sorry not to have time for it) which includes a huge round Biosphere which stretched out into the harbor. The Galeone Neptune is certainly an eye catching addition to the harbor. It’s a replica of a 17th century Spanish galleon. It was built in 1985 for Roman Polanski’s film Pirates. But it sure is pretty.

Another eye catching thing on the other side of the aquarium is Il Bigo – a ride in a capsule strung from what is supposed to look like a ships crane, that gets lifted high over the port. Next to this is an old warehouse renovated to house a huge ‘Eatly’ and numerous other shops and restaurants. There are sailboats, yachts, sightseeing boats. Modern art sculptures, renovated old cranes. The whole area is delightful (especially on a blindingly bright day with temperatures in the high 60s) and I walked quite a ways just taking it all in.

I could have stayed down by the waterfront for the rest of the day but I wanted to see the street which is a UNESCO world heritage site so I made my way back inland and up through the narrow caruggi. The streets here are indeed dark and narrow and the few piazzas are so tiny you can hardly call them piazzas. But Piazza San Luca has a pretty little church and Piazzi Banchi is a tiny but busy little square with an interesting kind of elevated church.

There are over a hundred Renaissance and Baroque palaces on the Strade Nuove (‘New Streets’), built between the 16th and 17th centuries and 46 of them are collectively listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, the main ones on Via Garibaldi, a few blocks inland from Piazza Ferrari. Descriptions of Via Garibaldi make it sound like a grand boulevard but it is actually a narrow pedestrianized street which feels even more hemmed in by the large palazzos on both sides. Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Tursi are the most well known.

Just a block past Via Garibaldi is Piazza del Portello, a busy traffic square, which has the entrance to the Art Noveau lift up to a belvedere with great views of the lower city, the water and the hillsides which are the ‘suburbs’ of Genoa, with pastel colored buildings as far as the eye can see.
Everything was a lot closer together than I expected it would be. From the maps and what I read I figured the hills would be worse and the distances much farther. Genoa is a large city (Italy’s 6th largest I think) but the historic core and the waterfront are close together and it’s very walkable. There is a lot I didn’t get to and I definitely plan to come back. Still, I walked a ton (though never considered taking the metro which I though I would have to). The route I took is only about 5 miles, though of course I double around a lot so did at least twice that.
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Old May 10th, 2017, 02:09 PM
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In Pavia, many of the buildings and walkways of the university complex are quite handsome & harmoniously laid out. Also worth a stop is the historic caffe & bakery, Vigoni, which was one of the first bakeries in Italy to learn the secret of making a rich cake with eggs & butter that keeps for a long time, therefore suitable for shipping as a gift in days gone by, before FedEx. It is a Torta Paradiso, and it became a popular restaurant dessert. Still is in some places. This is the original

http://www.tortavigoni.com/la-torta-paradiso/

A nice place to stay in Pavia is the B&B Galleria Arnaboldi, set inside a restored glass-domed mini-galleria like one would find in Milan or Napoli, but on a much, much smaller scale. It's smashingly beautiful boutique lodgings.

https://galleria-arnaboldi.com
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Old May 12th, 2017, 03:52 AM
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The Lakes in March

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 - sunny and 65/70 –

It’s just about exactly an hour from Milano Centrale to Varenna on Lake Como. I bought my return ticket before I left Milano as I had heard the Varenna station is unmanned – which it is, but there is a café at the station and they do sell train tickets there, plus there is a ticket machine. I bought a ‘mid-lake’ ferry pass and took the ferry first to Menaggio for an hour or so, then to Bellagio for another hour or so, and spent the rest of the day in Varenna.

Lake Como in March. Snow on the higher peaks in the distance. Wisteria, forsythia, dogwood, tulips, daffodils, pansies. Empty boats. A few tour groups in Bellagio but Varenna and Mennagio were empty except for the locals and a handful of independent tourists. Less than half the stores were open but that was enough – not much to buy except overpriced clothes. Plenty of places to get lunch, a drink, gelato.

Bellagio had lots of ‘pre-season’ construction going on, reminded me of Positano in March. In fact, just in general it reminds me of Positano. Almost every shop is a tourist store or eatery, nothing I want to buy. Bellagio is supposed to be the ‘prettiest’ town on Lake Como (a designation which is deserved in the case of Positano) but isn’t. Varenna is far more attractive and interesting with a long lakeside walk with breathtaking views, tons of little steeply stepped stone lanes (most of which are not lined with stores) going up to an attractive little town center with cute church and some real stores scattered in among the tourist ones. I liked it best 13 years ago, and still feel that way. I have no idea why people prefer Bellagio, and probably it’s fame has made it even worse as there appears to be virtually no ‘real’ houses or stores. Mennagio is even less touristy than Varenna. Long wide lakeside promenade and a tiny town center with two attractive churches but overall somewhat less pretty than Varenna.

However, overall, as beautiful as Lake Como is, I really prefer Lake Garda. The mountains are higher and closer (which might be the case with the top half of Lake Como, I have not been there) and the three northern towns on Lake Garda are more interesting and scenic than the Lake Como towns, the lower towns are larger and prettier and then there is Sirmironie.

But the birds were singing, the sun shinning, cool breeze, warm temps. It was lovely. In another month there would be more flowers blooming, more things open – so a more lively atmosphere – but there would be more people too. Other than the chance of clouds/rain being higher in March I think planning a trip to the lakes in early spring is a great idea. As long as you can choose a sunny day (eg plan to stay in Milan and do other things if the weather is bad).


Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - sunny and 75 - Lugano, Switzerland – OMG what a gorgeous day – 75 and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. Lugano has a magnificent setting, much better even than Lakes Como or Garda. Lugano itself is a medium size city (71,000/140,00 urban area), mostly pretty modern. There’s been a town there for thousands of years but most of the buildings are from the late 1800s and later. The ‘center’ seems to be 1880-1920, some nice arcaded buildings and streets but nothing that feels especially old. And lots of 20th century building – that’s the majority. So not quaint, not especially atmospheric, but what a setting. There is a long promenade (at least 2 miles) part of which is a very nice park. Lots of things in bloom – pink and white flowering trees, dogwood, tulips, daffodils, willows just budding out, palm trees! I love that there you can see palm trees and snow covered Alps at the same time (which is also true of Lake Como). Delightful to walk along the water through the park. Lots of swans (and very tame). Hardly any boats in the water (most still have their winter covers on and pulled up on the shore) so that looks different than summer but otherwise it could have been June (probably more in bloom even than in than in June).

I walked all over – the ‘center’ is tiny, one main square and a few minor ones – lots of chain and designer stores, but nothing terribly interesting (and virtually nothing touristy). Italian is the main language though some signs are in French and German as well (not much in English). I took the funicular up to Monte San Salvatore (26 Swiss francs, took credit cards). Fabulous views. The view is definitely better if you walk the five minutes from the top of the funicular station to the top of the church (there’s a viewpoint up there). The views from the ‘terrace’ at the restaurant at the funicular station are nothing compared to those five minutes further up. They had an interesting display of Swiss Tourist Posters from the last hundred years all along the walk up to the viewpoint.

I was unable to get anything to eat as I had no Swiss francs. I could have gone to an actual restaurant which took credit cards but I had my ham and swiss croissants and water so all I really wanted was a smoothie or something but that was not worth taking money out of an ATM for since I was there just for the day.

The train situation was interesting. On the way there I had to buy a ticket with seat assignment and it was just like all the other train trips I’d been taking in Italy. Very orderly. At the border some immigration and border control guards got on the train and walked through checking random passports (a nice looking blond –e.g. they were not profiling potential immigrants - across the aisle was checked but no one else in our row). On the way back it was just a ‘ticket’ (no seat assignment). Much more crowded and kind of chaotic – the exact opposite from previous train trips in which Swiss trains were super orderly and on time and the Italian trains not so much. They announced they would be checking identity cards but I didn’t every see anyone.
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Old May 13th, 2017, 04:49 AM
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Great report Isabel! I LOVE your photos. You have just lost me two hours out of my day as I perused your photos
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Old May 13th, 2017, 03:03 PM
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OReilly - I'm so glad you enjoyed the photos. Thanks for saying so. Hopefully the report and pics will help people planning trips.
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Old May 13th, 2017, 03:20 PM
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It sounds like a lovely trip.
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