A blustery day on the LakeM

A blustery day on the LakeM
A blustery day on the Lake

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Home to Vermont

We arrived home just in time for Halloween. Here are Ava and Griffin dressed up as a Fall Fairy and Charlie Chipmunk. Maia worked for days on these costumes! Oh my, it was great to hug our kids and grandkids again.

The weather has been beautiful, cool and crisp days on the lake with the last of the fall colors sparkeling in the sun. We have been busy with fall chores, cleaning out my gardens and stacking wood.

It is wonderful to sleep in our own bed ....but we were getting pretty good at living out of a suitcase. As we slip back into our normal routines, we find ourselves missing our daily adventures and life in our little Italian village. We will be in Vermont for the next few months hoping to find an Italian language instructor so that next year, when we return, we might even be able to carry on a conversation with our Italain neighbors.

Our next adventure begins in January when we begin our travels west to Utah to spend time with Sarah and her family. Imagine driving west in the middle of winter! We are sure to have many adventures to add to this blog. Then in March, we plan to head south through Arizona, New Mexico, along the Gulf Coast through Texas, Louisiana, and finally end up in the Florida Keys. Our plan is to be back in Vermont around May 1st, just in time to plant my garden. I'm thinking we might become gypsies! So check back towards the end of January when I might be blogging from a snowdrift in South Dakota.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Last blog post from Italy

We are back in Gallarate,near Milan. Tonight we have been invited by Francesco's family to have a typical Piedmontese dinner......wild boar, polenta, and assorted cheeses and cured meats. Monday we fly back to the US. Yesterday in Varenna we hiked up a small mountain/ hill behind Varenna to the local castle. The hike was a steep and winding cobbled path leading up from the village to the 11th century castle. The views of the lake were spectacular looking north and south, clearly an advantage if you were in the business of defending this area of Lake Como. The castle walls are crumbling but we could still see the impossibly steep approach to the castle. Inside the curtain wall was a single tower/ keep accessed by a stairway, leading to a drawbridge. If the enemy were to get inside the wall, it would be quite difficult to enter the keep. There were arrow holes everywhere along the curtain walls and up the walls of the keep. We also noticed holes in the tower that were meant to throw things out of....hot oil, rocks, dead animals etc.
Looking down from the keep to the curtain wall.

Looking up to the castle walls.

The casle boasts a raptor recovery, breeding and training program. Imagine an actual falconer who breeds and trains falcons, hawks and even owls. While we were there, the falconer gave us a wonderful demonstration of a training session. He brought out a beautiful falcon and sent her into the sky....then whistled to bring her soaring back for a yummy treat of.... possibly part of a pigeon. She would soar out over the castle walls, high above Lake Como and swoop back, just skimming the air above our heads.
It was a fascinating treat.

This has been an incredible adventure for us. We have learned so much about the history of Italy, its wonderful people and fascinating culture along with some essentials such as riding local buses, taking the trains and not mixing up the words fico and fica. Fico is a delicious fruit and fica is a.....private part...uummmmm! We are very grateful to our Italian friends who guided us in so many ways, corrected our pitiful Italian, gave us free cooking classes, offered advice and in general wrapped their arms around us. Grazie mille,,,,arrivederci all' anno prossimo !

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mountains Fall to the Lake

Yesterday we arrived in Varenna....a little village perched halfway up the east side of Lake Como. Imagine a lake about the size of Lake Champlain, shaped like a child. The southern part, two legs, the northern part, the body. Varenna is just above where the legs join the body. The cobbled paths run parallel and perpendicular to the lake....steep, steep and very steep, but well
Iit at night. Yesterday was our first rainy day since arriving in September, but a little rain didn't stop us from heading out to explore the village. Today we woke to crisp and sunny conditions. The wind was howling down the lake from the north. It reminded us of home! We spent the morning at the Villa Cipressa Botanical Garden. Terraced paths wind around and down the cliff below the villa. The plantings date back to the early 1800s and include magnolia, wisteria, hisbiscus, bamboo, pomegranate, agave and much more.

Mid day we bought some salami, bread and cookies and hopped the fast ferry to the northern most part of the lake.... a little town called Colico. The town has had a rough time surviving.....a crossroads for invading armies, and often decimated by malaria or the plague. Now it is a great place to camp, hike and sail. The views from the ferry were nothing less than spectacular. Here we are looking into Switzerland.

Later in the day we met a very interesting couple from Western Australia. They have been traveling for a few months....they began in North America and then in Europe. They are spending three weeks in Varenna....so very lucky. We, of course, exchanged emails and addresses....just in case we ever get to Australia...... Here is a picture of Varenna from the water.

And the high speed ferry.....

Did I mention that this is the place to see beautiful villas? Tomorrow we are taking the ferry to Bellagio......famous home of the rich and famous. We are also hoping to hike the mountain behind Varenna to visit the village castle where they raise and train raptors. We are hoping to be there for the flight demonstration late in the day.

Location:Varenna, Italy

Monday, October 17, 2011

Breathless at 11000 feet

We passed through the Sea of Clouds at 2,600 meters and continued our journey to the top of the gondola lift...Punta Helbronner, at 3,462 meters or 11000 feet above sea level. We were all a little dizzy as we walked around the viewing platform but the view was spectacular. The sky...the bluest of blues. The sun...bright and sparkling off the summits. To the north, a glacier descending into Chamonix, France. To the east, the summits of Monte Bianco and to the south, Gran Paradiso in Italy. Half of the paltform was in Italy and the other half in France. Skiers and riders left from here to ski down to La Palud at the bottom of the gondola or down the glacier into Chamonix. Mountaineers left from here to make the ascent to the summit of Monto Bianco. Sarah Colombo's boyfriend, Francesco and his brother made the ascent to the summit just last year. It was literally breathtaking! In the Valle d' Aosta area, there is along history of mountain climbing. From the gondola platform we could see tne Matterhorn or Cervino as well as Monta Rosa, which is second to Monte Bianco.

It's difficult to imagine the magnitude of these peaks but down in the village of Courmayeur, the mountains seemed to surround us.

This beautiful valley is long and narrow, vineyards stretch up the sides and the steep slopes are heavily wooded with many fir and balsam trees. Most houses are made of wood with flat, roocks on the roofs....all very quaint and picturesque.

With castles situated at strategic points throughout the valley.

We spent the night in a beautiful, little B&B and the next day headed back to Novara to watch a series A, professional soccer match....Novara vs. Bologna. The security was tight but the passion was palpable. The Bologna fans kept up the chanting, shouting and singing for the entire game. The hometown Novara fans shouted insults at the Bologna fans and pleaded with their team. What a fun experience ! Next stop.....Lake Como.

Location:Valle d' Aosta, Monte Bianco, Courmayeur, and Aosta

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Adventure Waits in the North

Tomorrow we are off to Aosta, Courmayer and Monto Bianco. Last night we flew from Sardegna to Milan......bbbbrrrrrrrrrr....it was cold when we stepped off the plane. Tomorrow I will be wearing jeans, wool socks and a warm fleece. It was 80 when we left Sardegna and about 45 when we arrived in Milan. We are staying with Sarah Colombo and her mother in Gallarate, outside of Milan. Today we visited a collection of contempory art housed in a beautiful, old villa in Varese. Most of the artists were Americans with pieces from the mid 1900s to the turn of the century. The most interesting medium was the use of neon lights.......joined in a variety of ways and colors, each in its own room. More on our adventure when we return.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Ancient Roads and Ancient Rocks

We have come to appreciate the word ancient, while traveling around Sardegna(Sardinia).. This island was formed 500 million years ago when two tectonic plates crashed into each other. The island of Sardegna as well as the island of Corsica were pushed up out of the sea. The island is very mountainous and rocky. Most of the rocks are granite and over the millions of years have been shaped by the wind and salt water. We passed by the "Elephant" on our way south and the "Orso" or bear is here in Palau.


On our way through the central part of Sardegna we stopped to spend the night at a B&B in the little village of Santu Lussurgiu. This little village seemed to hang precariously from the side of a mountain. As we entered the village, we could look down on the red tile rooftops of the house. After that, every street seemed to go straight down and around blind corners. Our car was, at times, scraping against the walls of the houses. These were ancient streets and ancient walls. The B&B was a typical village house...renovated and modernized to an extent....but the vaulted, stone ceilings as well as the stone walls and floors were all original. It was a lovely experience.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Into the Wild.....of Sardegna

Paolo informed us this morning that he is taking us to all of places he loves in Sardegna. We have seen the most spectacular coastline, beautiful aqua water and lovely villages perched on cliffs. Sardegna is a rugged, mountainous island with an incredible assortment of environments.. From steep rocky mountains, fertile valleys, beautiful harbors and even vast wetlands.

Today though, we went into a truely wild area. If you have a map of Sardegna, look for a town on the east side called Tortoli. Then look north for a headland called Capo di M. Santu. The adventure really began north of a little village nearby called Baunei. We drove up a winding, switchback road until we saw a breathtaking view of the sea far below. We picniced in the yard of a little church called Chiesa de Santo Pietro, next to ancient olive trees. Take a look at our companions.

After lunch, the real fun began. Our goal......15 kilometers or 10 miles down a washed out road.....to a beautiful bay called Cala Sisine. This was off road travel at its finest, steep and winding switchbacks, ancient olive and oak trees, as well as surprising bursts of oleander bushes, wild pigs, donkeys and goats grazing along side the road. The top edges of the canyon seemed to touch the sky and we could see many caves and holes worn into the cliffs. Trees grew seemingly out of the steep cliffsides and we even saw a wild mooton or mountain goat. The track crossed back and forth over a dry streambed and we kept going. No cell service in this place for sure ! Finally the road ended and we parked our suv alongside 2 other off road rigs. We hiked the rest of the way, perhaps 3 kilometers along the streambed. A falcon soared overhead and the canyon disappeared around the next bend. Then, around the next corner, the sea appeared, beautifully blue and inviting.

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