La Spezia and Quinqe Terre

After breakfast and hanging up the laundry we walke down to the market. We bought soft Gorgonzola and some sweet Parma ham from a very nice young gentleman. We also bought sausages from a lovely lady. 

We then walked to the Statue of Gatibaldi and down to the marina. Our walk back through the old city included a gelato stop. Black Forest for me and pistachio for Dave. The tourist area is extremely clean. We walked out of it to do some grocery shopping and then went back to the apartment to put the food in the fridge and prepare lunch. We caught a train to Riomaggiore, the first village in Cinque Terra. It was so crowded and very commercialized. We ate our sandwiches, gazed at the view which is stunning and headed back to the station. 

From there we went to Vernazza which was flooded in October 2011. The village was packed with people. Dave and I sat with our feet in the water and finally ate our apples. We walked up to Ristorante Belforte for espressos. They charged us €2 and we could sit down and drink them, and use the bathroom. Absolute bargain. 

On the train back we met a young couple from Pretoria travelling on Bus About. I’m going to look into this as it sounds amazing for young people. We showed them where the market was and then made our way back to the gelateria we found this morning for a second choice. Caramello for Dave and caffè for me. We sat down in the piazza to enjoy our ice cream before heading for the Naval Museum. As our luck would have it, the hall Dave wanted to explore is closed for renovations. No holiday on Italy would be complete without that happening. We walked back to the marina and then into the old city. We had prosecco at Gatto Bleu. Same price as last night but a better quality prosecco and no snacks. After that we went in the lift instead of walking one flight of stairs and back to the apartment. Dave cooked dinner and we played back gammon, enjoying our wine and the cheese. 


Heading to La Spezia

We had a relaxed start to the morning with a fantastic shower and a good breakfast. When we left we discovered we were very close to a small village. We drove to Sabbioneta which is an old walled town. We started with an espresso before walking around the streets. We had gelato for the walk. Pannacotta for me and nocciola for Dave. We discovered a fresco on the ceiling, a Synagogue and a covered walkway. 

We bought home made pasta for dinner and bread rolls typical to the region for lunch. After Mantovani we crossed the river Po and then drove through Parma. We stayed off the main road, travelling the Via Frangencina, a pilgrim route still in use today. We stopped for a picnic lunch and made contact with the owner of the apartment. He was on the road to Genoa and asked us to contact his son. The coordinates on the booking form were incorrect and as we are staying on the side of a staircase, Garmin had no clue where to take us. Dave drove around for half an hour trying to remember the place off street view. We found the stairs, and Giacomo but made a mistake leaving him to wait for us one flight up. An hour later we got to where we needed to park. Mostly to do with not knowing the road name and because the one way roads and road works went against us. We got the keys, paid and went to do grocery shopping. We drove the round about way back and found parking which is at a premium. All the apartments up and down the staircases have people who need to park!  Luckily for us we have a space and the machine is broken. We bought all our stuff into the apartment and walked down two flights of stairs to the piazza.  We had prosecco at Bellavista wine bar and gelato for the walk. Gianduja for me and amarena for Dave. As he liked the cooked cherries in the ice cream I have a great recipe to try when we get home. Dave made dinner while I unpacked. The owners of the apartment gave us a bottle of wine. We enjoyed a few glasses before heading to bed. 

Heading to The Alps

Nothing like fresh air and exercise to encourage sleep! After a shower and breakfast we packed up and walked to the Moto Guzzi shop to get some spares for Dave’s bike. We then headed for the top of Lake Como stopping at Colico for gelato. Biscotto for me and limone for Dave. 

Then to Conad to buy lunch. They had a large sign showing pictures of the fresh produce in season. We drove through Traona where they have terraced grape farming up extremely steep slopes. We drove up into the Italian Alps on a very narrow road, and then back down again. The river water is a stunning clear green colour. We stopped at Tirano for coffee and drove into Switzerland to see the Brusio viaduct that the Bernina Express train goes over. We had a picnic lunch before heading towards Brescia. We stopped at the side of the road to buy apples and the lady kindly gave them to us free of charge. We drove through amazing tunnels under th Alps, one being 5km long. At Aprica we were the highest for the day at an elevation of 1.2km. Our next gelato stop was in Edola. Bacio scuro for me and vaniglia for Dave. Our plan was to head for Lago di Granda but instead we ended up at Lake d’Iseo. In Marone we stopped for Prosecco and then drove past Pilzone where there is a copy of the Statua of David at the train station. We drove through the very narrow streets of the old city of Iseo to try and find a hotel for the night, but both were fully booked. Our next expedition was down narrow roads looking for a hotel using the Garmin as our guide. We ended up at a four star hotel, the Iris Hotel in Franciacorta. We have a garage and private lift to our room. It really is stunning. However, after checking in we discovered that the pizzeria in front of the hotel is closed. We were given the name of another pizzeria and after driving there, narrowingly missing going onto the Autostrada in error, we discovered that it to was closed. We ended up at the local shopping Mall and had dinner at Augustiner Bräu München. Nothing fancy. Just a mixed salad and tagliatelle primavera. 

Watching the Formula 1 Race at Monza

Had a good nights’ sleep on a very soft bed. We both took an allergex which helped for sure. I knocked my espresso over so was not pleased with myself. It landed on my book, and the bed. We got up and showered and Dave told me he wanted to get the 10:07 train from Lecco instead of the 10:30 train from Madello del Lario. The mad rush involved looking for his cap we bought at the airport, packing the back pack and finding where to go in Lecco. We also had to stop at the shops. We parked with no problem but went into the station directly onto the platform, missing the ticket office. We also missed the train by one minute. We decided to go for coffee and a walk and I discovered the battery for the camera was still in the charger. We went back to the station and saw the train we had tickets for but enquired first if it was the right train. The conductor told us no!  He told us to get the direct train for Monza. On the train we met a couple going to the circuit and the let us know about the black bus / bus nera. This takes you straight to the main entrance of the park. 

We walked to where our stand was and had a picnic lunch before making our way to our seats. We could not have asked for better ones. They are allocated as people book and we were right on top next to a couple from America. The race was amazing to watch live!  Leaving however was chaotic. Thousands of people all trying to get back to the station. Taxis were making a killing. I would recommend waiting till the crowds thin out and then getting back to the bus line as we were pushed around like crazy. 

We got back to the B&B and had a shower and then walked down to Lake Como for prosecco. After that we went back to the same pizzeria for supper. We shared calamari fritti to start. Dave had a capricciosa pizza and I had Sicilliana con carciofi. An early night as we were exhausted.  We walked 12.07km! 

Getting to Mandello del Lario

Breakfast on the plane was pancakes with berry compote, croissants and two cups of mediocre coffee. At the airport we had macarons from Ladurêe. The gentleman was none to pleased to serve us being too early in the morning for him. Dave had pistachio and I went for salted caramel. We then had a decent espresso before buying two books for our library. We had croissants and coffee on the plane before landing at Milao Linate. Europcar did us a huge favour consolidating our free rental with our paid for rental. So we’ve got a larger car for an extra €2. What a bargain. We then went to Ikea where the staff were rude and unhelpful. We finally found the two things we were looking for and walked forever to get out of the place. Never again!  

We drove to San Pellogrino Terme, driving through some exquisite villages on the way. We stopped and had ice cream. Pistachio for Dave and specialita cremo for me.  We bought lunch and drove to Taleggio. We drove over a very narrow bridge on the way there. The narrow road was unbelievable with the most amazing vistas and absolutely perfect for motorbikes. We stopped and had a picnic lunch and then drove on to Lecco climbing higher than 1.1 km just after Bergamo. The road had no railings at some places and a seriously steep drop. We headed for our B&B and first things first unpacked and had a shower. Not that you can call it that. We got wet under water. And my cleanser broke so we need to go shopping. Quite a bugger on a Saturday afternoon in Italy. 

Dave, Gianni (the owner of where we are staying) and I sat down in the courtyard to enjoy a bottle of wine. We were reciprocating his hospitality from the last time we were here. We were soon joined by another guest who is from Australia and a local young man. We had a great conversation with my translator app helping with words I don’t know. We then walked to the shops so I could get cleansing wipes and went to Pizzeria Rosalba for supper. We started with antipasto di mare and Dave had spaghetti alle vongole and I had spaghetti al regù. After our meal we went to the local bar to buy our train tickets to get to Monza. We had made sure there’s a direct train on Trenitalia but from here we need to use Trenord and that goes in to Milan which isn’t suitable.  We decided to leave it till the morning and went for gelato for dessert. The pastry shop was just closing but they kindly served us. Pistachio for Dave and hazelnut for me.  We walked back to our accommodation and checked the trains again. After that we both fell into bed and went to sleep. 

Leaving Cape Town

Finally we are at the airport. It feels like forever ago that we booked for this trip. And even longer since we started planning it. First flight is from Cape Town to Johannesburg.   Which was late as the plane in front of us had a technical problem just before turning onto the runway. The lunch was good and we landed just after our expected time. Security was diabolical with them being short staffed. Got through passport control with ease and walked around the shops. Dave bought a cap and then we went to the Diners Lounge to relax. The flight left late as it seems people cannot get their lives organized. Supper was couscous salad, hake curry, cheese and tiramisu. There was lots of turbulence and I didn’t sleep well. Dave only snoozed. 

Our Itinerary

On the 2nd of September we leave for Italy. As usual we are flying Air France and we land in Milan on the 3rd. From there we head straight to Mandello del Lario where we will spend two nights. On the 4th you can look out for us if you watch Formula 1 racing. On Monday the 5th we will head north from Lake Como and spend a night where ever we decide to stop. From there we head South to La Spezia where we will spend 3 nights. Then one night somewhere south of Milan – probably Cremona before heading to Holland. We fly there on the 10th of September and meet up with Dave’s son. Mark is flying in from Newcastle Upon Tyne to join us on the barge. We will barge around Holland for 6 nights before spending one night in Hoofdorp. on the 17th we fly back to Cape Town. This will be the first day time flight I have been on when the time zone doesn’t change. If you want to know what we are up to each day then check back here on the 3rd.