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Vern's trip to Italy- Part 1: Bellagio (2nd attempt)

Vern's trip to Italy- Part 1: Bellagio (2nd attempt)

Old Oct 14th, 2000, 02:57 PM
  #1  
Walter
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Vern's trip to Italy- Part 1: Bellagio (2nd attempt)

Hi Vern: 1st off it will appear that this is my post but I'm just replying to Vern's blank post.
Vern your post is too long and that is why it is not posting. So just reply to *this* post rather than starting a new one and try spliting your trip-report in half and posting it in two sections (or 3 if it's really long) here. Good-Luck HTH Regards, Walter
 
Old Oct 14th, 2000, 03:03 PM
  #2  
Walter
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Just adding a reply, so it will show 1 reply and Vern will notice.
 
Old Oct 16th, 2000, 11:44 AM
  #3  
Vern
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Thanks Walter, my post was probably too long so I will attempt again, and break it into sections.
Sept. 3- The day had finally arrived. After over 1 year of planning, my wife and I were finally leaving for our first trip to Italy. It will be the longest vacation we have ever taken- 26 days. We will arrive in Italy on Sept. 4, our 17th wedding anniversary. We have used frequent flyer miles to upgrade to business elite on Delta. We are to fly from Tampa to N.Y. and N.Y. to MIlan. The seats are huge and very comfortable, reclining to almost horizontal. Each seat has it's own private TV screen and several movies to choose from. The service is excellent and the wines and food are very good.
We arrive in Milan, Melpensa Airport, at 8:00 am. We plan to take the bus to Como and then the hydrofoil up the lake to Bellagio. We have about a 60 minute wait for the bus so we have our first espresso in Italy at the airport. You pay the driver as you board, 21,000 lire each, cash only. The ride is 1 hour and you are dropped at Piazza Cavour, right at the lake's edge. We buy 2 tickets for the hydrofoil, 16,000 lire each, and have a 90 minute wait.We check out a small outside market in the Piazza and then just sit on a bench admiring the lake and mountain view and the beautiful weather. By the way, we did not have one drop of rain on the entire trip, beautiful & sunny every day. We board the hydrofoil at 12:15 and discover there is no outside seating. The windows on the boat are very dirty which makes our first views of the lakeside rather restricted. If I did it again I would take the slower ferry with outside seating. Boat makes a couple of stops before arriving at Bellagio, about a 45 minute ride.
 
Old Oct 16th, 2000, 12:08 PM
  #4  
Vern
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Bellagio report cont.:
We take a cab up the hill to the Hotel Belvedere, a 10,000 lire fare. Do not attempt to walk to this hotel with luggage, it is not that far but all uphill. The hotel sits on top of the hill and has great views. We are given a room on the 3rd floor w/ terrace, as requested. The room is very nice and has spectacular views of the lake & mountains. Our room includes mandatory half board (breakfast & dinner) and is 360,000 lire per night. We eat at the hotel the first 2 nights, but are quite disappointed. The food is rather dull & boring. Not at all what we expected. The breakfast buffet is great. All types of cereals, yogurts, breads, rolls, prosciutto, salami, juices, etc. Hint: Bring ziploc bags with you to breakfast and you can make panini sandwiches for your lunch.
The town of Bellagio is beautiful. Not very large, but plenty of shops & restaurants to keep us busy for a few days. The nicest part is that it is so relaxing, especially after all the stress related to preparing to leave our home & business for 1 month.

 
Old Oct 16th, 2000, 12:39 PM
  #5  
Vern
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Bellagio report cont.-
Sept. 5- We decide to take a hike away from town today. The homes all seem so well taken care of, with terraces and lots of plants. We come upon a cemetary and decide to have a look. Lots of monuments and sculptures and photos on almost every grave. We're amazed at how well taken care of everything is compared to in the States. We walk to the little town of San Giovanni, passing a beautiful old church on the way that sat on a hillside. The town seems deserted, it's siesta time. We walk to the waters edge and there is a nice view back towards Bellagio. On our way back to Bellagio we stop at a Bar/Geletaria/Campground and have a drink. It becomes my wifes first experience with a bathroom that has only a porcelain hole in the floor. We will find several more an our trip.
Back in town we stop at Bistro del Ritorno for a late lunch. At an outside table we have bruschetta and a pizza w/ prosciutto & funghi. Very good. Total w beers, 23,000 lire.
Sept. 6- Today we will take the ferry to a couple other towns. The hotels have discounted tickets, 12,500 lire each for a full days use of the ferries. On the way to the ferry we stop at Italian Connection travel agency, Salita Monastero 6/a (031-952059), to arrange for our train tickets for tomorrows trip to Verona. The train station is in Varenna, a short ferry ride away, and the station does not have a ticket office. I was not aware of this, so we were lucky we didn't just go to the station to purchase our tickets. Sally, at the travel agency, is very nice and arranges for our tickets to be at her office later that day. Train tickets must be paid for in cash and can be purchased at train stations, travel agencies and American Express offices.
 
Old Oct 16th, 2000, 12:51 PM
  #6  
Diane
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Wow Vern -- this is wonderful information. We're planning a similar trip next May. I'll be copying all these to text files...
 
Old Oct 16th, 2000, 01:00 PM
  #7  
howard
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Vern, we were just there 10 days ago loved it just as much. We, too, stayed at the Belvedere (also on the third floor, with a magnificent view from the balcony). I'll add one other plus about the Belevedere: Its staff is wonderful!
Diane (and all future travelers there), make sure you take ferries to Verenna and Tremezzo--two wonderful, charming towns--and spend at least a half a day in each.
 
Old Oct 16th, 2000, 01:07 PM
  #8  
Vern
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Bellagio report cont.-
We take the 10 minute ferry ride to Villa Carlotta. It drops us off right at the entrance to the villa. The town of Tremezzo is just down the road, but there are only a few shops and hotels there, not really worth a look IMO. The villa , though, is beautiful. It is on 14 acres of very well manicured hillside. The number of plant & tree species from all over the world is amazing. The mansion has some interesting sculpture and art, mostly from the 18th century. Entry fee is 12,000 lire each. This proved to be an excellent setting to eat the paninis we made from this mornings breakfast.
We take a ferry to Mennagio and land there about 12:30pm. This is where I have my first gelato, tiramisu & caffe. It is delicious. I promise myself to eat many more in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, it is now siesta time and everything is closing until 3:30 or 4:00.
We walk back to the dock and have a 30 minute wait for the next ferry. There is a bar right there called Tana Mana (I think) and we stop for a drink. The walls inside are covered with a mish mash of artwork ranging from several Native American prints to some oriental pieces. It is so tacky looking it was worth the stop just for the laughs.
Back to Bellagio we pick up the train tickets. I ask Sally if she will call Restaurant Bilicus for us, and she finds that they are booked up for tonight. She then calls Restaurant Barchetta and gets us a reservation for 8pm.
Restaurant Barchetta is at Via Mella 15. The upstairs dining area is small with tables squeezed in together, but it is very nice. The menu is in Italian only, but the waitress explains it as well as the specials. She suggests a prima of spaghetti w/ clams & white sauce. We also order grilled swordfish & baked breaded chicken. All the food is excellent, especially the pasta sauce which is heavy with garlic & red chili peppers. Nice & spicy. Meals come with roasted potatoes and zucchini. The service is very good. I highly recommend this restaurant.
Sept. 7- Check out of the hotel and take the ferry to Varenna. It is then about a 10 or 15 minute walk to the train station. At the station I recognize at couple that were also staying at the Belvedere. As we talk about the hotel I discover that they were not required to pay for the half board during their stay as we were required to do. I still have not received an explanatiion from the hotel as to why. I would definetely recommend Hotel Belvedere, but only if you can reserve w/o the half board. The food in town is far better.
Next segment- Verona & Venice
 
Old Oct 16th, 2000, 01:19 PM
  #9  
Paule
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Wonderful report! I'm glad you finally got it posted!

Just wanted to comment on one small thing. When I booked tickets for the train, either at the train station or through a travel agent, I was able to put it on a credit card. I never found it necessary to pay in cash.
 
Old Oct 19th, 2000, 02:32 PM
  #10  
Paulo
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I've very little experience with half boards in Italy, Vern. I only remember having taken it in the Dolomites twice (once in the summer and once over new year, skiing). But this was so long ago that I can't remember any detais at all.

Do you remember if the Belvedere's restaurant was open for the general public (walk in)? What level of choice did you have to order the plates for your dinners? Was it almost a fixed menu or were you allowed to choose practically la carte?

Once, we splurged an stayed for a couple of nights at a very classy hotel. We were offered half board at a quite reasonable price over the normal B&B rate. Though we didn't take it, we ended up having dinner one evening. The hotel had a very reputable restaurant and our dinner was memorable (and expensive). Though the hotel was almost empty (there were only 4 cars in ghe parking lot), there were quite a few tables occupied. The next morning, talking to a couple that was on HB, we learned that they "envied" our dinner (less so when we told them what the check was because their's was pretty flat (complete, yes, but no more than a couple choices for each round).

I wonder if this was an exception or if it's the rule! Anybody else out there?

Paulo

PS. Once again, Vern, welcome back. Nice learning that you've had such a good time. Waiting anxiously for the next installment
 
Old Oct 19th, 2000, 03:06 PM
  #11  
howard
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The mandatory half-board never came up when we stayed at the Belvedere two weeks ago. We happened to have dinner at the hotel one night, not because we had to but because we wanted to.
 
Old Oct 19th, 2000, 06:43 PM
  #12  
Vern
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Hi Paulo-
I booked my reservation at the Belvedere a year in advance and was told by fax and then by phone that the half board was mandatory during the high season. I believe it increased our cost by 60,000 or 80,000 lire per day. The menu was fixed, with 3 to 5 choices of prima and meat dishes. As I stated, IMO the food was dull & boring. The first nights prima choices were good but the meat choices we had, chicken on the spit and ham were both covered with a tasteless gravy sauce. The meals came with limp string beans and potatoes that were cold. For desert we had creme caramel,tasteless, and raspberries w/whipped cream, berries were very tart. Second night one prima dish, pasta w/ mushroom sauce, is very good. Meat courses, veal w/ham & cheese- the veal is very tough, and leg of lamb w/ a gravy sauce- is tasty but the lamb is all in pieces.
I do believe the restaurant is open to the public, because I had them fax me a copy of a menu before our trip.
Now there is a post from Howard and he was also not required to pay the half board. I am going to again request an explanation from the Belvedere and will report any response.
 
Old Oct 20th, 2000, 06:33 AM
  #13  
howard
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Vern, I might add that the dining room was not that busy the night we ate there, meaning that most of the hotel guests were eating elsewhere. It was much more crowded at breakfast.
 
Old Oct 20th, 2000, 09:36 AM
  #14  
Paul J
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For Paulo:
Two years ago we stayed at the Hotel du Lac in Bellagio, and we heard so many nice things about the Belvedere so we walked up the hill to check it out. It was lunchtime, the weather was spectacular so we asked if we could have lunch on their patio,(deck). No problem,... even though we were not staying there. It was one of the highlights of our trip....Paul J
 
Old Oct 20th, 2000, 10:24 AM
  #15  
Paulo
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Thanks, guys. Howard, when you dined at the hotel, did you ordered a la carte or, as Vern, had a fixed menu type of arrangement? Also, how did you like your dinner, compared to others you had in the same rice range?

Paulo
 
Old Oct 20th, 2000, 12:22 PM
  #16  
howard
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Paulo, we ordered off a regular memo. We felt dinner was good, nothing special--better, I assume, than Vern's experience. The cost, including wine, was about $50 a couple. (That's with a great exchange rate, of course!) The next night we ate at a wonderful restaurant in the town called Bilacus which we highly recommend. It's located at Salita Serbelloni, 30/32.
 

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