One day in Verona – or vandalism in the name of love

Moving forward with our story, we took a train from Mantua which took us to our next destination: Verona. This was a longer trip; after spending two and a half hours in the cold train, we arrived in the city of Romeo and Juliet.

At Verona train station, again, a cloudy cold day was spreading its evil arms around us. On top of the grayish ambiance, an annoying rain was “making” my day. After twenty minutes of unpleasant walk we arrived at the hotel. A fast check-in helped my small feet feel warm and dry again 🙂 .

We started our visit at a slow pace, walking under the cover of a fragile umbrella, toward the old town. As we walked on its tight lanes, the smell of old wet buildings overwhelmed us. Soon my warm cold feet became once more cold and soaked. The many flocks of tourists which jammed the main squares made the air hard to breathe and the beautiful architecture impossible to admire. The nervous footsteps touching the wet pavement created a strange sound effect. It was something very curious about that city.

Taken by a strong current of tourists, we found ourselves in the middle of Piazza Bra. Verona Arena was rising with its majestic columns in one of the cold corners of the square. Getting closer, we were able to admire the wide stone arches, which, with hundreds of years experience still host large scale events like opera performances and concerts.

We turned on the left side street – Via Giuseppe Mazzini – and we admired the shops invaded by tourists. Lots of balconies filled with small palm trees and flowers were guiding our walk. All of a sudden the annoying rain stopped. Yay! It was high time to visit the house of the world’s notorious love queen, Juliet Capulet. And yes, in case you wonder, fictional characters do seem to have houses of their own 🙂 . At the end of Mazzini street, we turned right and after few steps, there it was!

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A once upon a time superb 14th century brick house greeted us. At present, Juliet’s house is vandalized in the name of love by the thousands of tourists which prove their love on the fragile walls. At the entrance, not even the house sign has not been spared by the passionate lovers. Stickers, all the letters of the alphabet surrounded by hearts,  and even nasty words are stretched all over the edifice. Well, if this didn’t help you to get a first impression, there’s more to come: as you pass the long corridor the mayhem gets unleashed. Plaster boards (thanks God it’s not the walls this time!) attached to the right and left walls are maimed daily under hundreds of layers of marker. All the names in the world, of all the countries in the world lie there angry, as they get covered over and over again by other heavy layers of pure love. If you try to get closer to those walls – and I do not recommend it – you might get pushed, hit, or even cursed with great passion by the in love vandals which are waiting for their turn to print their declaration. The heavy fighting is for the almost absent free corners on the top of the wall. And trust me, people do get creative and climb the walls, so they could leave, at least till the next brave visitor arrives, a proof of their unprecedented love.

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If you’re lucky and manage to escape alive the horror of the love corridor, I wish you lots of luck and patience with the inner courtyard. But more then that, I hope you have a long strong neck, to make it possible for you to see Juliet’s infamous balcony. Why infamous? Because that beautiful darn balcony had put her into so much trouble! 🙂

Sitting on my toes, I was able to admire for a second the courtyard. There was no hope for us to visit and be able to take a picture impersonating beautiful Juliet sobbing for love. The zombie lovers were getting hungrier for love as they were fighting for a perfect sugar picture. We decided to leave, until we would get intoxicated with the crazy love substance which was floating all around, and would probably turn us into heart-shaped-gremlins 🙂 .

As we were abandoning the courtyard, I heard a desperate cry for help. It was Juliet’s house, asking us not to visit anymore, as she is sinking slowly under the heavy weight of love messages and letters which were written or left even in the places where no one should dare to get.

Feeling sad for the helpless building we continued our visit with Piazza Delle Erbe. Amazing buildings were surrounding  the spacious square. Behind it, as a brave knight, Torre Lamberti was rising.

After walking a bit on the crowded streets, we crossed the bridge over river Adige. On the other side of the river, you can find another another beautiful site, the Ancient Roman Theater of Verona.

Tired, after walking on gorgeous streets and climbing many stairs we began a slow procession toward our temporary home. On the way back, we visited the old walls of Castelvecchio, which I dare say, were quite impressive.

Please visit Verona. But visit the beautiful city as you would visit your favorite grandmother. Do it quiet, gentle and with lots of care, without causing any discomfort, as you’d like to have her in this world for as long as possible.

Now prepare your bags, as our next stop in Padua will be! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

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Visiting Carlotta

We had only one day left to spend at Lake Como. We had the chance to visit calm Menaggio, fancy Bellagio and infamous Varenna. While in Bellagio, at Villa Melzi, I saw the shadow of an imposing building on the other side of the lake. It seemed interesting, even from far away.

I started looking for more info, as the shadowy building intrigued me. This is how I found out that building was called “Villa Carlotta”, and was located in Tremezzo. As we were accommodated in Menaggio, we had to take a short bus ride to our destination. Travelling by bus in Lake Como area an be a real adventure. Narrow roads, timetables which are not followed (if you miss your bus, get ready to wait for the next one around 1-2 hours), even buying a ticket can be a challenge 🙂 . This time we were lucky, as the bus arrived on time. We hopped on, found two seats. As the bus was following its route along Lake Como, we had a nice view of the surroundings. In 10 minutes we reached our destination. The bus stop was in front of an elegant villa.

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I was surprised to find out that the gardens of the villa host an enormous botanical garden filled with hundreds spices of trees and plants. As we entered the garden though the iron gates, I was able to see one of Carlotta’s cheeks. It was white and strong. The next thing  Carlotta revealed were her many, big blue eyes, shaded by long black lashes. Now please, have some patience to let me tell you more about Carlotta. She’s old, but still young, beautiful and full of grace. She’s calm and full of confidence as she was educated in the spirit of the old days. Carlotta is quiet as she is gazing over the Italian garden. I could see her long slim legs touching firmly the alleys… as I got closer, Carlotta‘s fit figure came back to reality as her legs turned into the stairs which welcomed us inside her private kingdom. Her white cheeks turned back to cold walls and the many blue eyes shaded by black lashes came to be large wooden windows. Her silence was disturbed by our first footsteps on the shiny crooked floor.

Carlotta was the only villa in the area which was open to public. We were able to admire her simple but still elegant interiors and to discover bits of  Carlotta’s short life story (her full name was Princess Frederica Louise Wilhelmina Marianne Charlotte of Prussia – quite a long one to remember 🙂 ).

After exiting the villa, we wandered in the botanical garden. Again, we were seduced by the beauty of the trees, flowers and many plants which were inhabiting the garden.

In Tremezzo you can have a nice walk, admire the local architecture and of course enjoy the Italian cuisine in the many restaurants which  surround the small town. This was our last full day at Lake Como, which made me quite sad, as I had to leave so much beauty behind. I love the fact that it left me with such strong memories, that even now, almost 9 months after our trip, I am able to remember everything so vividly.

Now all aboard! Next stop: Milan! 🙂

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Alive gardens live in Varenna

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We spent three days at Lake Como. The first day was dedicated to Menaggio and laziness, the second to Bellagio and Varenna, the third day to Tremezzo and bad weather :P.

As I already wrote an article about Bellagio on my previous post (which was written a long, but very long time ago 🙂 ), today I shall  “sharpen my fingers” and write about the short but beautiful time spent in the heaven-like village  Varenna.

To Varenna you get by boat  – either from Menaggio or Bellagio. To be honest – even all three are famous – Varenna was the one closer to my heart. As you get off the boat in the small port, the Gothic architecture is giving you a cold welcome. In order to get to the main attractions you have  to cross a beautiful bridge which is not suspended, but embraced by the rocky cliffs. From there on, just focus your steps on getting to two magical places – and these are Villa Cipressi – currently a hotel and Villa Monastero.

We discovered Villa Cipressi by accident, on our way to the well known Villa Monastero. It’s an orange hotel, and I know, it does not make it appealing. For some reason, we decided to enter in the hotel and ask the reception if we would be  allowed to visit, at least the gardens – which for a modest fee, was possible. This was probably the most wonderful surprise we had on our trip. From the sumptuous reception we went though a large glass door and…

In a blink we were transferred into a new world! The humid warmth gave me the impression that I am next to the Mediterranean Sea. The palm trees of all sizes were guarding the godless heaven. Flowers of all colors and scents were hypnotizing me as their petals were dancing in the warm air on the lullabies sung by the flying children of the garden. Strong scented lemons were growing big and healthy under the hot caresses of the sun. But it’s more to come. As I was sitting in the shade of a green tree, I was able to see how amazingly the garden was spreading her long, slim arms into the lake in narrow tall steps. The garden – beautiful and calm, was breathing slowly as she was kissing with her rocky lips the unique blue of Lake Como. This Garden was alive!

There is no camera in this world able to capture so much beauty and serenity. If you get the chance to visit this garden, please do not waste your time taking too many videos and selfies. Just find a tree’s shade, sit under it, and try to look around with hunger. Then close your eyes for a moment and let the warm wind give you a hug. This is how you will never forget the best picture which you will able to take with your own eyes.

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With our minds and eyes full of beauty we continued our way to Villa Monastero – another charming place. The garden is quite big – and as well full of the best things which only nature can give. Only at this place, it was not the garden which spoke to me, but the beautiful Villa. Unfortunately, it is not in a very good condition, but this is what gives the place an unique charm, as the cracks in the fragile walls and the moldy fences were able to tell us beautiful stories about the amazing hands of the people which not only had built her, but also protected her from harm.

Now hurry up dear, as we do not want to miss our boat! Next stop: Tremezzo! 🙂

Cheers!

 

 

 

To Bellagio from Menaggio with love

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Seems it’s been  quite a while since my last blog post. Like the most of you, I will blame it on the nasty cold weather which was so unpleasant, not to give me any mood to write. To be honest, I’m still lacking inspiration. The only motivation I had today was the promise I made myself when I started the blog – to write at least an article per month ( I know, I’m quite a disappointment for a “real” blogger 🙂 ). I had no posts in November… and today’s the 30th. Let’s roll!

The last time I wrote was regrading the train trip I took with my hubby in June. OMG… in June! And now it’s November, and I’m still writing about it. And I’m not even half done. The challenge for me will be to end my series till the end of this year. Keeping up my promise regarding one post per month, it’s more than obvious that I won’t be able to make it… as I still want to write about Bellagio, Varenna, Tremezzo, bit of Milan, Turin, Cremona, Mantua, Verona, Padua and Venice. As always… I’ll manage somehow! The reason why I want to finish the series (with the risk of being boring) is that this was one of my dreams which – thanks God – came true. As the years will keep on passing, my memories will start to fade and I do not want to forget a minute of the great time I had together with my husband, during one of the trips of my life. I know… some of you might have higher expectations from the trip of their life – like going on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, or climbing Mount Everest… or swimming with dolphins. Mine was common, overdone, and  even boring, but the fact that I was able to make it come true makes it, at least in my eyes, as precious and fulfilling as going to the Moon and back :P.

After my long and sentimental introduction, let’s go back to business. Or our story. You choose. 😛

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While being accommodated in Menaggio (that’s in beautiful Italy) we visited lots of amazing places. One of them was Bellagio – and no, it’s not the huge casino and hotel, famous for its water fountains dancing on the soft rhythms of  Andrea Bocelli’s  song “Con te partiro” :)). It’s famous for the huge and famous casino which was named after it :)) . Just kidding – it’s famous for Villa Serbelloni (which is a crazy expensive hotel),  Villa Melzi d’Eril with its sumptuous gardens, and of course… (this is a special one for the ladies in the house) George Clooney :))).

How to get from Menaggio to Bellagio? Just cross the lake. On a boat of course – that’s a 15 minutes ride… for more than acceptable price of 4.5 euros. In the morning of our short boat trip to Bellagio I woke up very enthusiastic. The thought of the beautiful places which I was going to visit that day made me enjoy the sunny day to maximum. So we hopped on a boat…

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As we were getting further away from Menaggio, I was able to see how beautiful the little old town was. The light colored houses at the foot of the mountains looked coquette and happy. The glitter reflected by the sun in the clean water of Lake Como made the place look magical till it slowly faded away. We were getting closer to fancy Bellagio. As the boat stopped, we got off and our first activity was to find the  villa we wanted to see – Melzi d’Eril.

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Please do not miss it. It’s a beauty. The entry fee is modest, but the gardens are unbelievably superb. The only misfortune we had, was that the interior of the villa cannot be visited, as it’s  a private property. While in the gardens, the cliche of the picture of the beautiful well dressed ladies running and hiding around kept appearing in my mind. I was asking myself – how it felt like to live in that gorgeous place? The only answer I was able to give myself was “definitely better than Heaven”.

It was very hard to leave the gardens of Villa Melzi d’Eril. Slowly, we took a walk on the narrow streets of Bellagio. What you can find there? Vintage jewelry, amazing gelato, and cold drinks on shady terraces.

The small town is very crowded in summer, so I do recommend, to visit in the morning. Walk slowly on the old streets and watch with attention the crystal clear windows of the elegant small shops in town. For me it was a true delight!

Before leaving Bellagio, we had a short stop at Villa Serbelloni. The sumptuous villa is located near the docks, facing the lake. Currently it is a very famous luxury hotel. I did not fancy the idea of bothering the customers, so I just had a discrete look around and took few pictures.

 

I was really impressed by the beauty and atmosphere in Bellagio. I case you plan to visit, do not forget: your camera (as you’ll take hundreds of pictures) and it is mandatory to have an fruity ice-cold gelato.

Next stop: Varenna! 🙂

P.S.: Bellagio was extremely beautiful, and made me unable to stop from taking great pictures (I guess I took over 400 😛 ). From so many pretty pics it was damn hard to choose only 2-3. Hence the reason today’s post is decorated with so many pictures as a Christmas tree! 🙂 🙂

It’s gonna be a bumpy ride to Menaggio!

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Hope you won’t get disappointed but this time, in order to get from Lugano to Lake Como – to be more specific in Menaggio, we did not take the train. As it ain’t any. We took a bus. And maaaan, that bus ride was something!

The bus had to cross the mountains and a lake, but this time what kept me stunned was not the landscape (which was beautiful indeed),  were the narrow streets, on which two cars could not fit in the same time. The winding roads were so tight, so the driver, before taking a curve had to use the horn, so he could  warn the potential drivers coming from the opposite direction. It was really something. The bus ride was full of adrenaline – as I felt more like in a roller-coaster, and gorgeous scenery – as the landscape was slowly and gently changing from Swiss to Italian.

After approximately 40 minutes the crazy bumpy ride ended. Menaggio is a small Italian town on Lake Como. As you might already know, there are 4 well-known towns on Lake Como – the high-life Bellaggio, mystical Varenna, the shy Menaggio and sunny Tremezzo. All these towns are packed with beautiful villas and out of this world gardens. They are very close to each other – usually 10-15 minutes by boat or bus. If your budget is limited, I recommend to accommodate in Menaggio, as it’s quite affordable and photogenic.

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Coming back to my story, in spite of the bus adventure we arrived safely in Menaggio. We booked a nice small hotel, as we planned to spend here 3 nights. As this trip was planned to be done by train and to move from one place to another we adapted our luggage to our needs – so we had a backpack and a 60 liters hiking rucksack (for my beautiful strong Hubby :P). It was a hot summer day, so we decided to find quickly our hotel so we could cool down in the garden pool. So, we took our our maps, and started the big search. After 15 minutes, our walk turned into a hike. Which kind of took us by surprise. We could not find any bus stop, and we had no idea if there is any stop near our hotel. We got quite angry when we realized that our hotel was located… kind of on top of the mountain! What got us more angry was the fact that in order to get there we had to go on a street without any sidewalks which had lots of traffic and tight curves. And we walked, and walked in the burning sun… uphill… with no water… and my Hubby’s mobile was ringing every 5 minutes as it was his b-day. The crazy hike took us around 40 minutes. When we arrived at the hotel we were so tired as we had just finished a triathlon – in our case carrying heavy rucksacks, hiking with no water,  and avoiding the trucks which were speeding on the sidewalkless street.

After screaming at the landlord (as this info was not mentioned on booking) we decided to calm down, take a shower and start celebrating my hubby’s b-day by the pool with ice-cold beers.

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Looking back now the hike totally worth its pain and anger. Honestly, it’s one of the strongest memories from our beloved train trip. Menaggio is a great town, with quiet narrow streets, surrounded by tall mountains, palm trees, colorful flowers and the lake, oh God the lake!

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Hints: do take a hike (have lots of cold water and no heavy backpacks! 🙂 ), a boat trip, and of course, a taste of the gorgeous Italian cuisine! 🙂

 

It’s a lake! It’s a mountain! It’s Lugano!

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Let me continue the story of our train trip with the next stop: Lugano, Switzerland.

After a rainy cold day in Zürich we were looking forward to a nice warm train trip. So at 13:30 we were at Zurich Hauptbahnhof, waiting patiently for our train, but already tired and wet.

We took another cool and fast train. To be honest (even though might sound freaky 🙂 ) the coolest thing on this train was… the toilet! 🙂 🙂 🙂 Leaving aside the fact that it was incredibly clean, it came with another surprise: it was very spacious and had a cute wallpaper with cool drawings which gave you the felling that it was in fact  an old granny’s home restroom. The wallpaper was looking like a nice window with flowers in pots and stuff. :)) Well done! 🙂

Once more the way to Lugano was spent next to the window, keeping  my eyes and mouth wide open. Just from time to time you could hear me saying : ” Wow!”, “Aaaaaaaa!!!”, “That’s sooooo beautiful”!

The 3 1/2 hours went quickly. Speedy train, tall mountains, turquoise lakes… made the train ride very exhausting  as staring at their beauty consumed the last drops of energy I still had on board :P.

The train stopped in a very small but coquette station situated on the top of the mountain. The first thing which took me by surprise was the heat and high humidity. After two winter like days spent in Zürich, it felt like a true blessing! A breathtaking view towards  Lugano lake made me feel more like being next to the Mediterranean Sea than next to a lake surrounded by mountains. Lots of flowers and hundreds of palm trees gave the landscape an exotic touch.  It was packed with people from all age groups dressed in colorful and eccentric traditional clothing. Lugano was dressed up and had the mood to party!

 

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Honestly, and I hope that saying this will not raise eyebrows, being in Lugano felt like being in Monaco! It had the casino, the beach, good mood and food and of course – the rich people 🙂 !

What to do and where to go while in Lugano? Well, there are lots! You can take a boat trip, a funicular ride, lay in the sun, have lovely meals, enjoy a walk in the park or to waste your money in the casino! But I shall not bore you with these details, as the mighty Internet is already well loaded with this info 🙂 .

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My favorite activity in Lugano was staring at the beautiful sights and people, but the cherry on top was having the most outrageously tasty roast beef sandwich which my taste buds had the chance to taste in 28 years! And my friends,  that’s the place to be in Lugano!

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The name of the beautiful place is Macelleria Salumeria D. Gabbani. It is located in the old town, on via Pessina 12. Hint: go early in the morning, around 08:30 – 09:00 and please be hungry! The sandwiches are still warm and sexy looking :), the only problem will be to choose which one to have, as all of them are sooooo appealing! Also, very important, please take your sandwich to go, and enjoy  it on one of the many benches facing the lake.

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The beautiful view of the lake, the clean blue sky, the tall green mountains sprinkled with tall palm trees and the best roast beef sandwich in the world were the perfect ingredients for a relaxed and out of ordinary vacation!

 

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Now all aboard! Next stop: Lake Como! 🙂