I am intensely curious, with a spirit of adventure that is tempered by my very strong aversion to anything with potential to cause pain. I love travel, photography, reading, gardening, yoga, music and propelling myself through space (biking, dancing, walking, dancing while walking). I've never considered a lack of proficiency in any of the previous activities to be a hindrance, counting on abundant enthusiasm to make up for my shortcomings.
Why visit Torino, a charming little town close to the Swiss border?How about vineyards, apple farms, lakes, mountains, a beautiful cathedral, archaeological sites, cobbled streets and a train station from which you can board a single gauge train?Are those reasons enough?
Enroute from Milan, we stopped at Orrido di Bellano, to view the gorge and waterfall,then headed to Varenna for lunch alongside Lake Como. Dinner was in the wine cellar of a restored old Torino villa.
The first two days were great and action packed, but the BEST day was the third, when we boarded the Bernina Express. Theoretically, we could have ridden it all the way to St. Mortitz, but instead we disembarked in Diavolezza to take a cable car part way up the mountain to a terrace and restaurant.
The view was spectacular from there, but some of us wanted an even better glimpse of the glacier, so off we went. I was very glad I had packed my hiking boots, because we had to get past a couple of icy patches to reach the summit.
We’ve all been told you have to dress appropriately if you want to tour the Duomo. That isn’t entirely true. If you happen to be wearing something a bit too revealing, no worries. The Duomo staff will give you a lovely, suitable outfit to wear. Best of all, you get to keep it when you leave. Take a look.
If you have been following this blog, you’ll recall that I toured the Duomo a few days ago, while in Milan on my own. I am now on the OAT trip, which started with a walking tour of Milan, including a guided tour of the Duomo. I’m glad I did both, because different tour guides emphasize different things, so YOU, dear reader, get the benefit of both, without having to endure an overnight flight.
Both guides cited identical facts and figures: when construction started (1386), how long it was under construction (centuries), and on and on. The main fact I retained was the Duomo has 52 columns. Bet you can figure out why.
As you can see, each column is topped with statues of saints, but I have no idea who is who, and neither guide (quite wisely) bothered to tell us.
Only one called our attention to the beautiful marble floor’s embedded sun dial, with figures of the zodiac appropriately placed. Check out Aries the Ram.
As usual, the Duomo showcases art representing saints that died horrific deaths. Catholics seem to have a deep appreciation for pain and suffering.
I missed the portrait of St Agatha on the first tour. We had seen many portraits of her in Sicily, in the process of having her breasts chopped off. In Milan, the painting isn’t quite so graphic. St Agatha is shown being healed by St. Peter, who visited her in prison. As you can see from her bloody garment, he is just starting to work his miracle.
BOTH guides made sure we saw the statue of St. Bartholomew. HE was skinned alive and HIS statue leaves little to the imagination.
In case you’re wondering, that’s his skin draped over his shoulder. Look to the right of his elbow. His face managed to stay intact, and every hair on his head and beard is still in place. Pretty terrifying for young Catholic children, wouldn’t you say. No wonder we grew up so twisted.
Those Romans certainly dreamed up creative ways to launch Christians into the afterlife!
While touring the Duomo terraces a few days ago, I noticed what looked like a rooftop restaurant. I figured it was probably super expensive and rather exclusive.
What a nice surprise when our OAT guide brought us over there for a drink and cookies. We enjoyed yet another view of the Duomo, while sipping our cappuccinos. Here’s Elisa, our guide, explaining where we are going next. Check out the chocolate shoes for sale at gourmet chocolate shop inside.
Time to stop blogging and start experiencing…so I leave you with some Milan highlights.
I LOVE Italy’s mass transit system. Functional AND beautiful, Milan’s train station mixes old architecture with modern technology. How appropriate to have an Apple sculpture in front of that classic building!
This was my starting point for my two day solo adventure to Tremezzo. Never heard of it? Neither had I, prior to planning this trip, but Rick Steves recommended it, and I figured he knew what he was talking about. The Hotel Villa Marie was reasonably priced, highly rated by Trip Advisor, within walking distance of the ferry and bus line. It sounded like the perfect spot to, as they say in Italy “fare niente”, do nothing.
Well, I didn’t exactly do nothing, but I DID take it slower than usual.
This lakeside park is located between the Villa Marie and the center of Tremezzo. I didn’t stop at the cafe in the park—there were too many other choices, but had I stayed in Tremezzo a few more days, I would have savored a Bellini by the shore.
Had I known there were going to be fireworks, I would have climbed to the terrace to watch the show. Instead I leaned out my window and tried out the fireworks setting on my new point and shoot Canon.
The Grand Hotel is indeed quite grand. At €600 per night, I decided I could do without the grandeur. I DID, however, have lunch there. Soup, one Bellini and a bottle of water came to €52, but the view and the music were free. A high point was when the pianist looked at me, played “New York, New York” then waved. How did he know? I hung around to watch him play the sax, but left before he got to the guitar.
My favorite spot was the majestic Villa Carlotta. According to guide books, most people spend 45 minutes there. For me, it was two and a half hours, wandering along the trails, ogling the flowers and exotic plants, and visiting the mansion.
Lucky for me, there was a free concert, with different orchestras, playing very different music—from the Beatles to the William Tell Overture—during my visit.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Tremezzo, I much prefer traveling with a buddy (or buddies). It just is more fun making memories with someone else by your side. And, I will confess, after navigating the train, ferry and metro with back pack and wheeled carry on, I very much like having someone else handle my luggage and logistics. It was a great two days, but I was quite ready to meet up with my man in Milano!
I’ll end this post with a few random photos of lovely Tremezzo.