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Laura and Steve's Grand Italian Adventure

Laura and Steve's Grand Italian Adventure

Old Oct 5th, 2021, 09:45 AM
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Laura and Steve's Grand Italian Adventure

We are here and that is a grand beginning. We live in Pennsylvania and flew out of JFK so heeding all the dire warnings about needing extra time at the airport we arrived three hours prior to flight. We got the rapid antigen covid test through CVS 2 days prior and that process was efficient and easy. I had followed American Airlines advice and downloaded the verifly app to which you upload all your info (passport number, negative test, proof of vaccine and the EU locator form that Steve had so cleverly figured out a few weeks ago). It worked like a charm. Through check in in less than 20 minutes, no line at TSA so we ended up with 2 hours at the gate but better safe than sorry.
Flight business class on American was comfortable although I never sleep well on airplanes (who does?). I did get to watch half of Dan Brown's Angels and Demons to get in the mood for Rome, and am halfway through a book that takes place in the Veneto during Napoleonic times "Beyond the Ghetto Gates" and Steve is reading a John Grisham book about an American football player who ends up playing for Parma. I had worried about Steve having difficulty on the night time flight due to his health issues which sometimes lead to disorientation and difficulty walking at night, but he was great so I am heaving a huge sigh of relief.

passport control was easy and quick - we were out of the Milan airport in less than an hour. We met the prearranged driver from Milan Limo who was very cheerful and informative and helped me practice my Italian. He deposited us at the Hotel Belvedere on the banks of Lake Como and insisted that he would collect payment in two days when he comes to pick us up (I've never encountered an American company that trusting). We ate a lovely lunch in the hotel restaurant (eggplant appetizer and gluten free penne pasta carbonara for Steve, salad with pear and pine nuts, and pasta with duck and foi gras for me). Luckily it is pouring so we took a long much needed nap with no guilt feelings attached and will eat dinner here at the hotel tonight as well (ok, I admit it - I'm totally wiped). It is beautiful watching the clouds settled over the mountains (I think alps) and the lake and the rain is a lovely comforting sounds.. We are told it should be sunnier tomorrow so hopefully will get out to see more of the area. Here is a picture from our balcony.

View of Lake Como from our balcony
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Old Oct 5th, 2021, 12:37 PM
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Gorgeous view and great start, lauramsgarden. Hope you and your hub have continued good travel karma. I'm coming along.
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Old Oct 5th, 2021, 02:54 PM
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What a beautiful view from your balcony. Glad your flight went well. Love Italy.
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Old Oct 5th, 2021, 02:59 PM
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Nice! Thanks for taking us along!
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Old Oct 5th, 2021, 08:11 PM
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Green with envy...
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Old Oct 5th, 2021, 09:00 PM
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Looking forward to following along!
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Old Oct 6th, 2021, 03:30 AM
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Hotel Belvedere and our first dinner in Italy

We are staying at the Hotel Belveder in Bellagio. While the room is fairly nondescript in decor, it is comfortable, big enough, and functional (has drawers for clothes for example and I do love the rain shower). The staff is very friendly and patient with my attempts at speaking Italian. The grounds look beautiful but so far weather hasn't encouraged exploration. We ate here last night. Steve had ceviche appetizer, duck in blueberry sauce and carrot pie for Dolce. I had scallops for antipasta, amazing carrot gnocchi with swordfish, and my first gelato for dolce. all were extremely good.
Today had aspirations of a boat ride or visit to one of the villas but so far the wind is howling (just knocked over the fence on our not so little balcony) and it's still spitting rain and coldish, so we are waiting to see if it calms down a bit. Will probably at least walk into town for lunch. Even if we don't do anything "touristy" today, I am content to rest, recover from the trip and look at the lake.

scallops with pumpkin puree

carrot gnocchi with swordfish

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Old Oct 6th, 2021, 01:28 PM
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On our very first trip to Italy we stayed at the Hotel Belvedere too. It has such a beautiful setting and hard to find to find parking. Enjoy every minute!
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Old Oct 6th, 2021, 04:06 PM
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I'm following along, too! Love your photos! We hope to visit the Lake Como area some day. I think I used one of your trip reports to plan one of our trips. Did you go to Portugal? I think that's the trip I am thinking of. Or Andalucia?
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Old Oct 7th, 2021, 01:59 AM
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Hi Karen, wow, that trip to Portugal was well over 10 years ago so probably pretty dated in recommendations. I will be curious to hear what you decide to do. Don't miss Evora, Tomar, Bussaco and Sintra. If you make it to Evora check out the standing stones just a mile or so outside of town. enjoy
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Old Oct 7th, 2021, 02:00 AM
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Thanks Happy Trvlr, the staff here are so nice, and the view incredible. sadly we only had 2 nights here, on to Venice.
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Old Oct 7th, 2021, 02:09 AM
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Day two wind and rain

So our plans for a boat trip and visit to a villa were met by the reality of cold rain and wind strong enough to blow balcony chairs about so we gracefully accepted reality and spent most of the day reading and resting which we probably needed anyway. Nice lunch again in hotel dining room (basil risoto with shrimp) When it cleared a bit around 3 pm we walked through the town and the to the beautiful Meltzi gardens (I'll post a picture tonight), but got tired so returned to hotel to rest once more. Then we splurged. We discovered Michelin restaurants in Portugal on our trip there ten years ago or so and ever since have gone to a few every trip to Europe we have managed. When I found there was one in Bellagio we had to try it. We didn't do the tasting menu, too tired, but the a la carte menu at Mistral was incredible. Most fun was watching the people with the tasting menu have ice cream made at the table with liquid nitrogen and cream.! Ended the night much too late with frangelica and 17 year aged whiskey for Steve. Ok, we are off to Venice. More tonight.
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Old Oct 7th, 2021, 09:24 AM
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Originally Posted by lauramsgarden View Post
Hi Karen, wow, that trip to Portugal was well over 10 years ago so probably pretty dated in recommendations. I will be curious to hear what you decide to do. Don't miss Evora, Tomar, Bussaco and Sintra. If you make it to Evora check out the standing stones just a mile or so outside of town. enjoy
We went to Portugal in 2018. We were there for 5 nights. We spent all 5 nights in Lisbon and took a day trip to Sintra. I hope to return some day to see more of Portugal. I know I recognize your name, so it's either from reading your planning threads or some of your trip reports.
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Old Oct 8th, 2021, 02:33 AM
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Day three: Bergamo and on to Venice

We bid a sad farewell to Bellagio and Hotel Belvedere yesterday (sun finally came out) and met our lovely driver from Limo Milan, Stephano who drove us to Venice. We stopped in Bergamo, It dates back to roman times with a (I think) 12th century cathedral). we only got to explore for about an hour and the Cathedral was closed but the outside was exquisite. It was amazing to me to watch the Alps on our left as we drove, so incredible to see these mountains I've read about my whole life.
We'd arranged for a water taxi from the hotel and the transfer was smooth. True confession time. My reputation in my family growing up was that if there was a body of water anywhere near me, I would fall in - which is something given that I grew up in Arizona! So given that all of Venice is water feel free to predict how long it will take me to tumble in.
Last night was our first disappointment with meals. I'd asked for a dinner reservation at the hotel (Metropole) restaurant ahead of time, knowing we would be tired. The concierge said that the restaurant was closed but we could get dinner in the Oriental Bar. That was a bit misleading. The waiter looked at us askance when I ordered what I thought was an appetizer. He said it was just a bite - and he was right. I thought maybe he meant small plates so ordered several, but it really wasn't dinner - just very fancy bar food. It was raining and we were too tired to go out further, and did manage to cobble together a very expensive bar dinner, but I wish the concierge had been clearer to begin with (food was good - just not really meant to be a full meal).
As advertised, the Metropole is very exotic with a museum like collection of Venetian curios (evidently from the collection of the owners- there's a lot of things so they must be quite the collectors). The room is cool, wooded floors, damask wallpaper and stunning marble bathroom. The sun is peaking out so will probably wander out soon.

Bergamo Cathedral

Bergamo

Bellagio street
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Old Oct 8th, 2021, 05:54 AM
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Ahh, Italy. Following along too. How long is your trip? Are you planning to work your way down the peninsula?
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Old Oct 8th, 2021, 12:29 PM
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Following along--love Italy
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Old Oct 8th, 2021, 12:40 PM
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Hi tripplanner, we have a total of 17 nights on the ground. We've learned that we do better without a lot of jumping around so the itinerary is 2 days Bellagio (just to rest up from the flight) 4 nights Venice, 6 nights Tuscany and then five nights Rome. Unfortunately we will have to leave the southern part of the country for another time (and I do wish we had time for a couple of nights in Florence, especially after watching the Medicis.
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Old Oct 8th, 2021, 12:49 PM
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Random thoughts on impact of Covid

Before I get to todays report I thought I'd share some random observations. One sad impact of Covid is that the amazing European breakfast buffets that I have come to love and dream about seem to be on hiatus (at least at the hotels so far). They both have small menus to order from (seem to cater to American expectations ie omelets and pancakes) and then a table with fruit and bread on it that a wait person serves you. I get it - much safer covid wise but

On the other hand, I am so grateful and filled with wonder at the smooth and good natured observance of protocols. Everyone wears masks indoors - no fuss or bother, and at restaurants and museums the process of showing your "green pass" (in our case CDC card) is quick and easy. WORD TO THE WISE, REMEMBER TO BRING PICTURE ID AS WELL. I didn't today at our first stop and had to run back to hotel for it (thought I was being clever leaving it in the safe).

that's all really - just musing that if the rest of the world took precautions seriously and cheerfully as they seem to here we could all get back to life safely a lot sooner.

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Old Oct 8th, 2021, 01:09 PM
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Day Four: Piazza San Marco

We got a slow start this morning but happily discovered that our hotel is just a hop skip and jump from San Marco (luckily for me as mentioned above I had to dash back to the hotel for my id). The line at the Doge's palace wasn't too long so we decided to go for it (wish I'd gotten tickets ahead of time online but oh well, can't get to everything). It was well worth the wait. Awesome in its opulent beauty and heavy sense of history.. Good exercise too after all the eating going up and down stairs lol. Not sure what else to say about it except that I wish I had a better grasp of Venetian history. Realizing that Italian history isn't one story (of course no history ever is) but the separate stories of all the different city-states that flow together and apart. It was late when we left the Palazzo and feeling nervous about finding lunch. Planned to stumble into the first likely looking little place but instead stumbled into very elegant hotel next to the Plaza and instead of a quick lunch had a lovely elegant one (tuna and swordfish tartare and Canneloni with spinach sauce for me, grilled octopus and Cuttlefish Venetian style for Steve). This has happened to us several times in our travels, when we aren't really trying finding amazing lunch places.
We then had time for one more adventure so went to the closer option which was the Museo Corer. Loved the ancient library and arms and armor collection was awesome. Interesting flash of insight moment reading the info about the main exhibit about a military hero who later became Doge and who led the successful conquest of Greece, when I realized that I had read the same story from the Greek perspective a number of years ago when we visited Greece - sort of like a split screen in my mind.
Ambled back to the hotel for a wonderful massage, later ambled down the way for a very mediocre dinner - and now to finish our movie about the Two Popes (excellent if you haven't watched it yet.

Museo Correr

Big Foot

Doge's palace
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Old Oct 8th, 2021, 01:50 PM
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We've been to Bergamo and seen the cathedral, but I never noticed the beautiful "tumbling blocks" pattern on the facade! I've crocheted children's blankets in that pattern, and I suppose that's where the motif came from... Thanks for the photo!!
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