Italia and the sun

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May 3rd 2019
Published: May 15th 2019
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We drove through the rain and the mountains in France popping in and out of various tunnels through the alps until eventually we came into sunshine and Italia. As we headed for our first destination Sue called them and persuaded them to change our booking from Tuesday night to Sunday so we could stop there that night.

We arrived late afternoon to agriturismo La Torricella in bright sunshine and at least 10 degrees warmer than when we left Annecy a few hours earlier. Fantastic spot above the town of Monfort D’alba this hilltop setting was perfect, with vineyard & restaurant, a favourite of Shelagh & Chris.

We sat outside with a glass of their wine looking over the numerous hilltop towns. There was also a christening party which added to the ambience.

After checking out we had a tour of the vineyard. They specialise in Barolo & a sparkling wine similar to Prosecco.

We stopped at the town of Monfort D’Alba and walked up the hill to the main church before walking around the top of the town. Again magnificent views all round. Next into Castiliglione falletto where we stopped at a Cantina comunale and Sue tried to order a coke. But no, as a communal wine establishment they can only sell wine related drinks so she was forced to drink wine instead - horror of horrors!

We also went into the Costello de Grinzane which houses the Cavour wine museum. Very interesting set up and a lot of info on the local Mayor Count Camillo Benso of Cavour. A prominent politician and important figure in viticulture in Piedmont. Impressive building and worth a visit.

We managed to get to 3 or 4 hilltop towns a day as we moved from Monfort D’Alba to Ca del Lupo (another stunning setting & a favourite of Peter & Susie Merry) and onto Alba itself. Each time staying for one night only but getting a feel for the area and enjoying both the wine, food and the weather.

Soon enough though we were moving on to Lake Garda and on the way we stopped briefly at Asti for coffee and a wander round the town. Having been followed by various bands around S America and Asia we were pleased to find another here. It was supporting the Labour day parade in the main square.

Once we got to Lake Garda we decided to head to Porto Di Moderno and spend some time there rather than go straight to the hotel - particularly as the forecast for the rest of the week wasn’t great. We spotted a boat hire company and thought why not!

We just booked an hour and shot off around the lake passing Portese, where we were going to be staying on the other side, Salò the main town there and around a small island before heading back. Great fun playing captain for a little while and with very little traffic on the water.

Hotel Casimiro village near Portese was our next port of call. Alot of folk there and it was apparent we had lowered the average age as we arrived. Dinner felt like being on a German cruise with a sea of grey around the room as everyone (including us) had taken advantage of off peak pricing! Food was good and later we walked through the brightly lit bar with the resident DJ playing and singing ‘That’s Amore’ while the German contingent joined in.

Moving on and out we found a quiet traditional bar near the water and stayed there till the hotel music stopped!

Next day was our first full day at Lake Garda and the weather was supposed to be cloudy and wet - great surprise to wake up to beautiful sunshine, so we walked round the lake to Salo (50 mins away) before catching a two hour ferry to Limone. Criss crossing the lake for 2 hours before we got there, in bright sunshine, looking at the villages and towns along the way, as well as the snow topped mountains above.We only had a stop of a couple of hours in Limone before we caught the last ferry back but a very nice place to visit and have our first pizza, and as we waited for the ferry our first Italian ice cream.

What astounded me were the mountain ranges and hills so close to the lake. Everything is built on a slope into the hills and look fantastic from the water.

On the way back a quick game of cards which I won massively before Sue decided she didn’t want to play anymore and went upstairs to take more pics- hehe.

We also found out that we needn’t have walked to Salò to catch the ferry that morning as there was one 5 minutes away in Portese- Doh!

After the morning in Salo, Sue hit the pool and Spa and I hit those, preceded by the gym. Think Sue got a fright in the spa with a large amount of nakedness being thrown around!

Next day we went in to Salò again and hired a couple of bikes then caught the ferry across to Lazize. We had about 4 hours to cycle from Lazize to the town of Garda, via Bardolino - a very pleasant easy ride along the lake side interspersed with a wander around each of the towns. The water was like a millpond as we crossed the lake back to Salò to hand the bikes back.

While there we saw a wedding and then rather than catch the ferry back to Portese, we walked around the edge of the water while the sun was still shining on the righteous ( and us).

Last night at the hotel then off to Pove del Grappa to meet up with Scatzi the Alsatian we will be looking after for the next week.

That night it poured down & it was so windy that there were waves on the edge of the Lake & trees were down on our morning journey.

Next morning as we had breakfast overlooking Lake Garda it was blowing a gale and the rain was hammering down. A good day to be travelling to somewhere else. This time it was Pove del Grappa where we met Schatzi a 7 year old female Alsatian and her owners Anna and Galen who were off cycling for a week.

Schatzi turned out to have a wonderful temperament and after a a few minutes seemed well at ease with us. Once Anna and Galen had left and we had been to the supermarket we took the dog and walked into Bassona del Grappa - the nearest big town c 60 mins walk along the road and then the river.

Bassano is a good sized town and we walked in and out a few times during the week to check it out as well as the local markets. Another day we decided to drive into the mountains behind us and visit a war memorial and cemetery on Mount Grappa. After driving up and round hairpin bends for the best part of an hour we suddenly started to see snow on the side of the road - not what we were expecting. I even saw my first red squirrel in the wild on the way up. The Sacrario Militaire del Monte Grappa memorial was well laid out high on the hillside and generally quiet - not too surprising given the snow and the cold. Parts of it we couldn’t quite get to but pleased we went.

Next day we visited Marostica a town with not one but two castles- the ‘inferior’ castle in the town itself and the ‘superior’ castle above the town with the walls climbing the hills to join the two. We had taken Schatzi with us and she was good company as we climbed to the top and down again on centuries old pathways either side of the castle entrance. She travelled well in the car too which was good.
Apparently there was some football game on this evening so after dinner I managed to watch the Barcelona v Liverpool game - best 90 odd minutes I have spent watching a game since 1999.

The following evening we went with Schatzi down to the local pizzeria Ca Forest, (a favourite of Ann & Galan’s) where they recognised the dog and welcomed us with open arms!

Then we found that Spurs had done a Liverpool! wow again - brilliant performance and full of heart from both teams- problem is I don’t now know who not to support in the final!

On the train to Venice the next day we chatted to a couple & their daughter from Liverpool & then met up with Shelagh, her sister Pauline and Pauline’s husband Dave (all from Liverpool). Even though we’ve visited Venice a few times before you forget how different and lively it is. We went to a rooftop terrace to check out a panoramic view of the city right next to the Rialto Bridge. We caught up over lunch wandered around the city in the sunshine, along and over the canals. We could see various gatherings of arty folk preparing for the Biennial art exhibition, on from May until November. I’m sure we’ll be back!

Another day another city beginning with V. This time Verona. Using insight we gained from the couple on the train yesterday we parked at Arsenale and walked across the impressive brick bridge through and into the Castelvechio. Great entrance into the city. After walking through the old town and grabbing an ice cream in the park we visited the Arena amphitheatre. Built in 1st century, it is is the 4th largest amphitheater in Italy and used to house over 30,000 people for its events. Now used during the summer opera season it seats about 15,000 people. They were setting the stage for the summer opera - what a fantastic setting it is - almost makes me want to watch opera!

We had to go to see Juliet’s balcony, (Shakespeare) & then to the impressive Cathedral which looks good on the outside & tremendous on the inside. It was really extensive with roman mosaics & Titian paintings.

Our final day, Sunday had arrived and so had the rain. But rather than stay in we drove to the ‘Prosecco Road’ and visited a couple of vineyards near the town of Valdobbiadene. In Ca’ Salina S s a and Col Vetoraz we tasted and bought a couple of bottles of Prosecco (ready for Sue’s birthday). Next door to Vetoraz was a smaller vineyard - Garbara. Unfortunately it was closed but when open it looked a really interesting place to visit with amazing views.

Proseccoed up we passed a restaurant Vignetto Vecio, which looked full, so it must have been good. We managed to get a table and be the only folk there that weren’t part of the very large family groups celebrating their child’s communion. Great family atmosphere.

Then back to the house , still raining and cleaning before we set off to Ferrara to meet up with Shelagh at their new place. Looking forward to it and to the kids & Rosi coming out for Sue’s birthday in a couple of weeks.


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20th May 2019

So many wonderful little towns to stop along the way. Good food and architecture.

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