Great breakfast again at Hotel Margherita. Nan went off for shopping but nothing was open. Checked out and got a cab around 10:30 to catch the 11:05 train to Viareggio to connect to Lucca. Got there just in time but had to hustle the 2 suitcases, 2 carry-ons and our purse/backpacks down the stairs and over to the other track. Got up the stairs just in time to step on the Lucca train just before it left. Nan was barely able to carry the carry ons. Hard for her to manage. Stood at the door with the luggage til we got to Lucca. Cab to the Hotel Iloria, inside the walled part of the city of Lucca. Very nice. Stylish courtyard leading into a well appointed lobby. Checked us in and informed us that there were free bicycles available and that there was a .6km ride along the city walls. Turns out the “suite” was in the residence building across the street and down the block. Porter took the bags and led us to a wonderful room with 2 baths, bedroom loft. Comfortable layout, free snacks and sodas in the min-bar. Jacuzzi tub in the downstairs bath. We dropped the bags and went out and got a couple bikes and did a circuit around the city walls. Started around again and decided to go in to the botanical gardens. Bailed when it started rainging. Went to a walk after it stopped about halfway into the city center. At the hotels suggestion, made a dinner reservation at Buca di Santa Maria for 7;30p. Dinner was fabulous. Quaint restaurant with candles on every table and around the place. Very attentive service. Our waiter spoke very good English with a UK accent. He is married to an English girl. Started with Asparagus soup (Nan) and artichoke pie for me. Then split a square spaghetti pasta with tomatoes, Olive Oil and Basil. Finished with Cod Stew (for her) and Wild Boar for me. Both with polenta. Desert was a pear torte with warm chocolate. Then a lovely walk back to the hotel.
Had a lovely breakfast downstairs. Saw Jeff and Caroline again. They are leaving today for Venice to continue their 7 week Europe travels, by car. We bought some stuff at a local shop and tried to take it to post office. Didn’t have any packing material so we decided to hold it til Florence and DHL it. Took the train to Riamaggiore. Very sedate. Walked up the hill but not much there. Then down to marina and took a bunch of photos. Were looking for a snack and everything was closed. Walked back up the hill and went into a little shop with olive oil, cream de artichoke, and sun dried tomatoes. Had them ship that all to the house via DHL for arrival after 4/4. Trained over to Manarola to try to get that classics shot of the city at magic hour. Too early in the day. Had dinner to kill time and found out the trains back were only every 1 hour. 6:30 or 7:30. Lights don’t come on til 7p’ish and we’d need 15 minutes to get back to the train. Blew it off and caught the 6:30p train. Had desert and espresso in Monterosso when we got back.
Day 3 Travel to Cinque Terra.
Arrived at the Milan train station and got on the 1st class car to Monterosso. 6 seats in a glassed in compartment, three forward, three backward. Nice ride, about 2 hours total to Monterosso. Got off and discovered the hotel was about 800m away, after the tunnel, and up the hill. Called a cab. Hotel is very nice. Spacious and new feeling. Elevator to 2nd floor (3rd for us Americans). Nice room with 2 french doors and balcony wrapping around outside with a couple chairs and a small table outside. Tiled bathroom with stall shower. Took the girl at the desks referral to Restaurant Pozzo. Nan had a pesto pasta and I had a scampi with Langistino. Good but not great. Sat next to Jeff and Caroline Reth. Turns out they are at our hotel, in the room below us. Jeff is shooting a Canon 70d (like me) with the Tamaron 16-300m lens (like me) and uses a Samsung phone (like me) Caroline has an iphone (like nan) They are from Carlsbad. Chatted up with them throughout dinner.
Day 4 Cinque Terra Day 1
Lovely breakfast in the Hotel Margharita. Marco, the GM, bakes cakes each day. Had eggs and bacon and then a slice of his apple cake. Saw Jeff & Caroline at breakfast.
Suggested dinner later together. Took the train over to Venazza around mid-day. Walked the town and took some pictures. Decided to train on to Cornglia. Got off and walked up to the steps. Turns out the town is on the cliff top and there are 365 steps up. Nan was up for it, but I was not. On the way back we spotted a shuttle bus but didn’t take it in to the town. Were going to hike to Manarolo on the coast trial but it was closed. Ended up back in Monterosso. Met Jeff and Caroline and went to Osteria for dinner together. Very nice meal, especially the minestrone soup with pesto, good pastas and great conversation. Took a leisurely walk back to the hotel after.
This was our second day in Milano. We did the TickItaly walking tour/viewing of the Last Supper. Met the guide at 11:15. Got the earpiece radio and started out with a trip to a church we walked by a few times and never noticed. Santa Maria Presso San Satiro Walked several other churches and got lots of history and back stories on Leonardo and Milan’s politics. Background to the painting of the Last Supper and it’s restoration. Secco painting and how it doesn’t last verses fresco. Was about 2 ½ hours overall. Finished at Last Supper. Took a walk back and stopped a few places including a café/bakery. Decided to go back to Nabucco for dinner again and made reservations. Had another lovely meal. Ravioli combination for me and tagliatelli funghi for Nan. Canoli for desert. Walked back to the hotel via the Dumo and took a few night pictures on our phones.
Checked in to The Hotel Spadari Duomo. Centrally located in Milan. About 2 blocks from the Duomo. 10 minute walk to Teatro Scalla, 15 min walk to Brera, a trendy restaurant/bar district. Very friendly and helpful staff. Nice room w/Balcony on the 5th floor (room 51). Terrarium outside bathroom glass block wall on balcony. Decent flat screen tv. Mini bar w/complimentary soda/water, but not alcohol. Nice bathroom w/bidet. Tub w/shower head and hand wand. Good water pressure. Nice towels. Terry cloth Robes and slippers. Very nice breakfast daily from 7a-11a. Buffet w/breads, fruit, yogurt, cold meats, cheese, pastries. Also included is kitchen cooked eggs, bacon, cheese and mushrooms. Hotel staff knowledgeable about what to do and where to go and where to eat. Free wifi in the hotel (Although my laptop couldn’t connect –Win8.1, my phone and my wife’s iphone had no problems.
Did a walk through at the Duomo. Got suggestion on dinner in Brera from Andre at the desk. Ended up at Nabucco on Via Chiani street. Wonderful meal. Zuchinni blossoms, truffle pasta, etc. Nice service. Café Mousse for desert.
Buongiorno Da Italia – Hello from Italy
Well we made it to Italy. Flew out on Tuesday and landed in Milan on Wednesday. Had a nice flight on British Airways, starting with a stay in the oneworld lounge, and then in business class on their A380 jet. Nice lay flat sleeper seats and lovely service. We landed and were met by a car to take us to Hotel Spadari Duomo in Milan. Fantastic service by the desk staff there and a wonderful room with a balcony and even a terrarium outside the bathroom glass brick wall. Did a quick dinner (pasta, of course) and crashed for the night.
Getting ready for the trip we had planned and had to cancel almost 4 years ago. Leaving Tuesday night. More info and pictures forthcoming.
Well after having started out easy, with the photography site, I’m moving on to our personal site. An old Microsoft Frontpage web site. It’s going to take some time to get all that Frontpage stuff over into WordPress. Look for updates in the near future.