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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Yr tour guide to a marvelous Italian adventure:

Okay, I’m here to begin a running account of our trip to Italy before its memory fades. I’d hoped to do something thoughtful. But why? The trip was a sort of drive-by vacation cramming in as much as we could, seeing a ton, and having a great time with James and his friends along the way.

Day 1: Arrived in Milano 1am. Slept for 11 hours. If you know me, you know that’s probably the first time in my life. . .

Later that same day: 11 hours! HS! Got up, café and brioched, and trotted across the park, through the castle, to the Duomo to board a tram for Opera, a town outside Milano where our friends from Nevada City, Bill and Sue, are teaching in an English school for 2 more years. Baci e abraccio, then wine and aperitivo in the local bar, then off in Bill and Sue’s Vanagon to intercept James’ train from Bologna in Pacienza. Baci! Abraccio! Baci! Abraccio! Then back into the Vanagon for early dinner reservations at an amazing restaurant in a lovely hillside town…returned to hotel in Milano where we snuck James in to sleep in his sleeping bag on the floor.

Day 2: Café and brioche, and off to the Milano train station to meet James’ Italian friend Nicoló uno, not to be confused later with James’ Italian friend Nicoló due, and board the train to Varese in the lake country where Nicoló uno’s family lives. Baci! Abraccio! 2 hour train ride through remarkable and unremarkable countryside, greeted at the Varese train station by Nicoló’s brothers, swept off to the lovely family home and fed. Pasta, vino, delightful. Then, a hike! Up Sacramonte, the route of pilgrims following the stations of the cross. At the top, vino e apertivo! Come home, out for fabulous pizza, then to the home of Nicoló due, dear family friends of Nicoló uno’s family, for dessert and a wild attempt at conversation, Italian! English! Try some Spanish! James, translating like a gentleman and a madman.

Day 3: Paola and Maurizio, the wonderful parents of Nicoló uno, drive us all to Lago Maggiore where we board a boat to tour Isola Pescatori and Isola Bella, bella bella indeed. A day on the lake, fabulous lunch, home for a quick nap then off to the home of Nicoló due for candlelit dinner on the terrace. Bravo, Micaela e Fabio! They’ve been cooking all day. Che delizioso! Grazie. Grazie mille. I'm sorry the deck caught fire . . .

Day 4: Paola and Maurizio would like to take us to Lago Como, but we are expected in Udine that evening, a 2+ hour drive we think. They insist we take their car to be returned to Nicoló uno in Bologna several days later. But first, café e brioche, baci e abraccio, ciao, ciao, arrivederci! And off across the beautiful countryside into more and more beautiful countryside, to the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, northeast near the Alpi. Here we will be the guests of Pio e Mara, parents of James’ exchange student friend, Alessia. Alessia is very Jane Austen and working in a hotel in Brighton (England), so we will not see her. But we are treated like family, like the royal family, by her parents who apparently are rather fond of James. Baci! Abraccio! They situate us in their hotel, Albergo Costantini, take us out to dinner at a riverside restaurant, a night tour of Udine by foot and arrange to pick us up at 10am in the morning. Udine a notte è bella.

Day 5: Café e brioche! (okay, and some granola and yogurt this time), and off into the beautiful countryside on the autostrada, to the Roman ruins of Aquileia. We tour by foot. It is amazing, it is feckin caldo! Sweat is streaming. We are moving through the ruins, the village, the sanctuario, the amazing ruins, back into the car and off to the seaside town of Gardo for a fantastic seafood. . .lunch? Well, it was big. Back into the car and off to Vino Russi Winery for a personal tour set up by our host, Pio. But first, a hike up a hill owned by the winery’s estate for a nap under the trees surrounded by vineyards, rolling hills, a countryside dotted with the steeple of each village. Then our wine tasting appointment and tour of the winery. Back in the car! Off to Trieste! Yes, more, more! We arrive in Trieste 15 minutes before the castle closes. We circle it on foot, pausing for pics, then off for a car tour of the city, then vino e aperitivo in the plaza maggiore as the sun sets over the sea, then a light supper in a wine bar. Back to Tricesimo, a neighboring town, and gelato in the town square, maybe 10:30pm?

Where are the photos for this portion? Frank informs me they are on his memory stick. fine. I’ll entertain you with useful Italian phrases:

Ha? . . . do you have? (formal)

Come sta? . . . How are you? Bene.

Come va? . . . Howzit going?

Che succeed? . . . What’s happening?

Vorrei . . . I’d like

Dóve? . . . where is?

No parla . . . I don’t speak

Mi chiamo . . . my name is.

That’s all for tonight kiddies. Quiz tomorrow. And off to Venezia. Woot!

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