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.
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.
I’ll be honest.The first day of every overseas trip is always a wipe out, which is exactly why wetry to arrive before a tour begins.So, not too many photos from day one, but a couple of tips.
The train from the airport to Milan’s central station is an easy and inexpensive option.Just be sure to buy your ticket in advance.We were feeling pretty smug when we walked by the long line at the ticket window.Although you select a particular time, fortunately you don’t have to get it right.You can take any train within a three hour window of the time on your ticket.Our flight arrived early (how often does THAT happen?), so we were able to board an earlier trainthan the one we were ticketed for.
We stayed at the Hotel Sanpi, which is within walking distance of the train station, although we opted to take a taxi.Those €6 were well spent! We were TIRED. The Hotel Sanpi was recommended by one of the posters on the OAT Forum (thank you, Ted).It was a great choice.
After a quick nap and lunch, we headed to the nearby public gardens.We walked past an art museum, a planetarium, and the Museum of Natural History, whose exterior reminded me of a Muslim mosque we’d seen in Spain. We didn’t have the energy to go inside ANY of those places.In fact, a good part of the afternoon was spent on a park bench, staring glassy eyed at I can’t remember what.
There are lots of restaurants close to Hotel Sanpi. We didn’t like Il Carpaccio, where we had our first bad meal in Italy (I make better risotto), but the Azzurra Grill more than made up for our lousy lunch.The veal chop with white wine and artichoke sauce was amazing, as were the profiteroles.
Mike was up and out early, headed to Cremona to spend the next three days hanging out with his violin buddies.As for me, I planned on going wild in Milano.
Step 1: purchase the €4.50 24 hour metro pass, and head for Milan’s hot spot—the Duomo. Hey, you go wild YOUR way, and I’ll go wild mine.
With my iPhone in hand, eyes fixed on my downloaded google map, I was able to find my way to the metro station a few blocks away.For a normal person, it would have been an easy task, but I have always been directionally challenged.
As I was headed toward the Duomo’s ticket window, a young woman representing Gladiator Tours, wearing killer palazzo pants (I really should have gotten a photo of them) sold me a package tour, including “skip the line” for the terraces, the cathedral and the museum, all for €30.Was that a good deal?Initially I didn’t think so, after I saw the prices at the ticket window, AND learned that my ticket didn’t include the elevator.(180 steps to the top).BUT, I was mistakenly sent to the wrong door, so as an apology, Gladiator Tours gave me the elevator ride for free. All good, so far.
But wait, there’s more.“Skip the line”doesn’t mean that you actually don’t wait in ANY line.You still have to go through security, being wanded, one by one, AND then you wait for the elevator, which fits ten people at a time (one of the ten being a staff member). THAT took almost 20 minutes.
Here’s what I saw when I exited the elevator.
Yep, lots of repairs.After walking as far as I could, I encountered yet ANOTHER line.This one was for the elevator down.Well, I backtracked, and when I did, I discovered you could walk through a passage to get to the Duomo’s OTHER side, which was FAR more interesting. If you took the stairs up, that is the side you would have initially encountered.
If you are so inclined, you can climb 80 more steps to get to the rooftop.(Yes, I have a thing about counting steps.I can’t help it.It’s what I do.)
Ready for the GOOD photos?
What’s HIS story?
okay, here’s a religious statue.
I decided to REALLY skip the line, and walk down the steps to meet the Gladiator guide for the tour of the interior of the Duomo.She was FANTASTIC, even though she wasn’t wearing gorgeous palazzo pants. Of course, our OAT trip will include a Duomo tour, (but not the roof), so I can do an instant replay. I’ll wait till then to share my interior photo, even if I decide to skip the tour and go to the mall for gelato and people watching.It never gets old.
Anyway, after the interior tour (with “whisperers”, so we could easily hear the guide), I figured that the €30 was not such a bad deal.I skipped the Duomo museum, opting instead to take advantage of my metro pass to cruise around Milan on the tram and underground.
I THOUGHT I’d prefer the tram.Nope.You can’t really see THAT much. It is impossible to understand what the conductor is saying, plus there are no maps on the trams, AND the stops are not clearly marked.So yes, I got lost.But no big deal. I hopped off, crossed the tracks, and kept walking till I found another stop.I had MUCH better luck with the subway, which WAS clearly marked AND had maps.
Rick Steves suggested visiting Naviglio Grande, which he described as “Milan’s old canal port — once a working-class zone, now an atmospheric nightspot for dinner or drinks”. Who am I to ignore a recommendation from Rick?So, off I went.
The canal was interesting, for about five minutes. I admired the “love locks” that European cities seem to fancy.
Not so sure about the nightlife. Maybe I was too early.
Here’s the only other patron at my sidewalk cafe. Looks like he is also drinking an aperol spritzer.
Check out the buildings across the way. Don’t you want to do unspeakable violence to the inventor of spray paint? (And I’m a pacifist at heart.) What possesses someone to mark up buildings and other random surfaces? Makes me think of dogs, trees, and fire hydrants. But I digress.
Including my little jaunt to the canal, I ended up getting 5 trips out of my 24 hour pass.That’s much better than paying€1.5 per trip, wouldn’t you say? Bet you didn’t expect math would be in this post.
I’ll leave you to ponder graffiti, sidewalk cafes and metro passes. On to Tremezzo…