Tag Archives: Lake Como

We are Going to Italy!! Won’t you join us?


tour pc final

I am so excited to let you know that, after lots of careful planning, I have planned a trip to Italy for next September (2014)…and would like to bring you along, too! I’ve been working closely with a local travel agent in Italy to arrange for some pretty awesome activities and lodgings! I wanted to go off the beaten track so that we can explore Italy from the inside and really experience what it is all about! From eating at little local restaurants to staying in a working vineyard, the group will experience the best of Italy! See the itinerary below the slide show of this special trip!  I hope you like it!

Please enjoy this slideshow of the many beautiful places we will be visiting!

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Day 1: September 2nd, 2014
Arrival into Milan and check in at the beautiful Westin Palace. Time to settle into your luxurious room before meeting your fellow tour participants at the Welcome Party where we will enjoy some Italian wine and savories, while mingling and getting to know each other. It’s an early night in hopes of catching up on lost sleep to get ready for the exciting days ahead.

Day 2: September 3rd, 2014
After a delicious breakfast on the terrace of the hotel, we will take advantage of our stay in Milan to catch some of the highlights of this intriguing city. Milan was a very wealthy Duchy during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and has many reminders of those powerful days. Our personal guide will begin the tour at the splendid church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where we will get to see the most famous of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpieces, the Last Supper. Painted as a fresco on the walls of the church’s refectory, it was almost lost due to improper painting techniques. After countless restorations, it is carefully protected to preserve it for future generations. Only small groups are allowed to view the masterpiece at one time, therefore we are fortunate to book this special tour for you. Once finished admiring this work of art, we will continue into the historical center of Milan to visit the magnificent Duomo, the symbol of Milan and soul of the city. Begun in 1386, the Duomo took several centuries to be finished – and the end result is nothing but spectacular. Constructed entirely in marble from the shores of Lake Maggiore, it is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the world. From Piazza Duomo, we will walk through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II with its posh shops and glassed ceiling to visit the famed Teatro La Scala, where countless opera giants have graced its stage in numerous productions. Continuing along towards Via Mercanti, we will discover a picturesque corner of Medieval Milan and be transported back in time. Finally we will come to one of Milan’s most famous monuments, the Castello Sforzesco. Constructed in 1360 as a defensive fort by Galeazzo Visconti, it now houses several important museums. Included in its many rooms are masterpieces by Mantegna and Cesare da Sesto, as well as Michelangelo’s last work, the unfinished Pieta Rondanini.
Our guided tour will take a break at this point, in the center of Milan, to give you the opportunity to spend the rest of the afternoon at your leisure. Milan is the one of the fashion capitals of the world – making it a shopper’s paradise. Stroll along the famed Via Montenapoleone to see the fashion houses of all the great designers. Just looking at the window displays is a feast for the eyes!
We will meet up again for our first Italian dinner in a beautiful and characteristic restaurant near the Teatro La Scala before retiring for the night back at the Westin Palace.

Day 3: September 4th, 2014
Breakfast on the terrace of the Westin Palace before packing our bags and heading out by minivan for a day on lovely Lake Como. We will meet our guide as we board the ferry for a tour of the lake. The shores of Lake Como are studded with gorgeous villas surrounded by magnificent gardens which have inspired painters and poets (and Hollywood superstars, such as George Clooney!) Picturesque towns filled with stone homes perched on the shores enchant with the feeling that time has stood still. During the boat tour, the guide will point out the famous villas along the lake such as Villa D’Este and Villa Erbe (among others). We will disembark for a sojourn in Bellagio, the jewel of Lake Como. After strolling along the tiny alleyways and stairways filled with quaint little shops, we will stop for lunch before boarding the ferry once more for Tremezzo and the Villa Carlotta, famous for its botanical garden. Returning to Como, and back on the minivan, we will make our way to that other magical lake, Lago Maggiore, for dinner. A special choral performance awaits us in the ancient abbey of San Donato in Sesto Calende -a perfect end to a very special day! Our lodging tonight will be either in a restored villa or in a modern hotel on the shores of beautiful Lago Maggiore.

Day 4: September 5th, 2014
After breakfast at our hotel, we will set out for a visually stunning day exploring beautiful Lago Maggiore on our private boat. Our first stop will be the ancient hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso perched on a cliff on the eastern shore of the lake. This spectacular monastery boasts frescoes dating back to 300 AD. The buidings and art work have been carefully restored, and it is now both a tourist and religious destination. From here, we will continue onto the gorgeous Borromeo Islands off the coast of Stresa. Our first stop will be Isola Bella – so named because it is truly beautiful. The palace and the gardens, dating from the 1600′s, are simply magnificent! The gardens are a sight for the senses with white peacocks and exotic plant species filling its 10 terraces. We will break for a special lunch on the neighboring island of Isola Superiore dei Pescatori – an island frozen in time. To work off our meal, we will spend an afternoon strolling the beautiful botanical gardens of Isola Madre where we will see more exotic plant species and birds. Upon return to the mainland, we will end our day with a delightful dinner before bed time at our villa or lakeside lodging.

Day 5: September 6th, 2014
After breakfast, we will pack our bags and begin our journey into Piedmont. Our guide will take us to the exquisite Villa Taranto where we will get our morning walk amidst the rare and unusual gardens. And then it’s on to magical Lago d’Orta with its Isola di San Giulio. We will visit this tiny island with its ancient monastery and dine in a unique restaurant before exploring the enormous Romanesque basilica which boasts bas reliefs from the 12th century! Moments of tranquility can be had while taking a stroll along the Via del Silenzio before boarding the ferry back to the historic old center of Orta. We will wander along the cobblestoned alleyways before boarding our minivan for our drive into the heart of Piedmont and its world-renowned Wine Country. Upon arrival at our lodging for the next few nights, we will be greeted with a welcome aperitif as we become acquainted with the location. The Agriturismo Tre Poggi is a working vineyard which boasts an award winning restaurant, spa, and lodging facilities. We will experience their delightful restaurant with dinner before settling in for the night.

Day 6: September 7th, 2014
We will enjoy our breakfast at the Agriturismo before meeting the guide for our trip inside Piedmont’s wine country. Our first stop will be Asti, where we will wander the old town and see the location of the famous Palio d’Asti. Noble palaces, gothic cathedrals, and other architectural delights await us in this antique city. From there, we will find ourselves surrounded by the hills of the Monferrato region of Piedmont where we will visit a winery which produces an excellent DOC wine. We will have the opportunity to taste some of their special wines while enjoying some local delicacies. In the afternoon, we will proceed onto the Via Belbo where we will pay a visit to a winery that produces the famous Spumante wines of this region. The passion and loving care given to the vineyards, with their rolling hills, becomes evident in the production of this delicious dessert wine. This particular winery has been in operation since 1900 and is now being tended by the 3rd generation! Tasting here will include not only the Spumante, but some aromatic olive oils, grappa, and some other local products. A special dinner in a local osteria will end our day before retiring for the night

Day 7: September 8th, 2014
Once more, we will have our breakfast at the Agriturismo before meeting our guide that will take us to La Morra, the starting off point to a day spent in the Langhe region. La Morra sits atop a small hill and is surrounded by miles and miles of vineyards. From the Piazza Castello, in the center of town, we are awarded a gorgeous view of the surrounding countryside. Barolo, the town which has given its name to the famed wine, will be our next stop. Once again, hills and vineyards grace the panorama from this quaint town. We will stop for some wine tasting before heading to a local farm where we will be treated to a luncheon whose menu will be based on typical Piemontese cuisine. In the afternoon, we will leave for Grinzane Cavour and its magnificent castle. More wine tasting and a gander through the museum dedicated to the gastronomic history of this region, including the famed Tartufo (or truffle). By this time, we will have worked up a healthy appetite which we will satisfy at a local osteria!

Day 8: September 9th, 2014
After breakfast at the Agriturismo, we will board the private minivan with our guide to visit a goat cheese factory where the delicious Robbiola di Roccaverano DOP is produced. We will have the opportunity to see the factory in operation and learn their techniques in making this special cheese. Today’s lunch will feature “fritto misto alla Piemontese and Torta alla Nocciole” on a working farm. Then in the afternoon, we will proceed to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Canelli with its underground “cathedrals” that house its historic wine cellars. We will learn some of the secrets of wine-making before making our way to a grappa factory to taste Grappa alla Piemontese and the delicious Amaretti (cookies) of Mombaruzzo. Dinner will be at our Agriturismo before falling into bed.

Day 9: September 10th, 2014
We begin our last day together with a delicious breakfast at our Agriturismo. We will then spend the morning in a cooking class where we will learn to prepare some traditional dishes of the Piemonte. These delicious dishes will be enjoyed together for our final meal as a group. The afternoon can be spent packing up and relaxing at the Agriturismo, continuing with another cooking class, or by taking an optional excursion in the vicinity. Tonight, the minivan will transport the group to the Sheraton Malpensa where we will spend our final night. Dinner will be on your own.

Day 10: September 11th , 2014
Breakfast at the Sheraton Malpensa before proceeding to the airport for the trip back home


Please see the new page on my blog (upper right on the home page) titled “Tour with Us” for more details and the registration form. And let me know if you have any questions – I would be happy to answer any and all questions about my favorite subject – Italy!

Lake Como…A Guest Post


Chiara, from the Italy Lakes website, has written this guest post for me about Lake Como.  Please visit her site if you are planning on staying and playing on and around the Italian Lakes!

Welcome to Lake Como!

Lake Como, one of the most famous Italian lakes, is Italy’s third largest lake.  From above it looks like an upside down “y”.  Lake Como has long been a popular travel destination for both Italians and visitors from northern Europe who find the lake offers a glimpse of the Mediterranean from within the mountains, as well as being a location which assures a relaxing and peaceful stay.
The landscape around Como is varied; the green waters of the lake contrast pleasantly with the surrounding snow-capped mountains.  Then there is the combination of tiny villages and larger towns which dot the mountains surrounding the lake which adds to the character and fascination of the area.
Aside from the natural beauty of the lake, Lake Como’s climate is mild is another one factor which helps attract foreign visitors.  The heat of the summer can be escaped by venturing into the surrounding mountains.  The cold of the winter months is kept at bay by the mountains and the lake which work together to keep winter temperatures surprisingly bearable.

Lake Como offers outdoor sports lovers plenty of opportunities to enjoy water sports such as sailing, diving and water skiing, and mountain sports such as skiing, hiking and climbing, as well as a host of other outdoor and indoor sports.
To reach Lake Como’s main towns, you can land at the Milan airports of Linate and Malpensa or at Bergamo’s Orio al Serio airport.  From Malpensa you can reach the city of Como and the western side of the lake by taking the Malpensa Express which stops in Saronno, or you can take the number 250 bus from the airport directly to the lake. From the Orio al Serio airport at Bergamo, go to the nearby Bergamo railway station of and take a train for Lecco from where you can explore the eastern shore of Lake Como.
From Milan, the city of Como and the western shore of the lake can be reached by train in about an hour using Italy’s national Ferrovie dello Stato (FS) rail service.  Alternatively there are trains that leave from Milan’s Cadorna railway station for Como and Saronno. To reach the town of Lecco and the eastern side of Lake Como you take Ferrovie Nord trains on the Milan-Lecco-Sondrio-Tirano, Sondrio-Brescia-Lecco, Sesto San Giovanni and Monza-Lecco, Como-Lecco-Molteno lines.
To reach Como by car, take the A9 Como-Chiasso highway from Milan.  Como is around 30 miles / 50 km from Milan.
For more information on Lake Como northern Italy’s other spectacular lakes and to find out about festivals, shows, concerts, exhibitions and sporting events in the area, visit the blog Italy  Lakes.net blog (http://www.italylakes.net/).
To book a holiday or a short stay in the Como area, try Vacanze Lago (http://www.vacanzelago.com/en/index.php), a tour operator specialising in organizing holidays around Italy’s northern lakes.

An Unexpected Detour


On my last morning in Milan, as I was heading down the elevator to grab a bite to eat, I noticed a poster inside the elevator talking about terrace dining at the hotel. Curious, I went in search of this peaceful paradise in this busy city. The terrace was on the rooftop and truly an oasis of tranquility. I grabbed a table and ordered my usual capuccino and marmalade filled croissant and sat peacefully taking in the fresh crisp air of the morning.

Refreshed and ready to tackle the city bustle, I headed out to catch the Metro! Feeling like a pro navigating the city, I found myself in Piazza Duomo once more determined to come away with some fashion purchases. This time I headed in the opposite direction from Via Montenapoleone to the “lower rent” district ( if there is such a thing in Milan), and, to my surprise, I found several “normal” stores! I must have been in a shopping mood, so I was VERY successful! In one of the shops, I even met an Italian pianist who will be performing at The Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco later this month – and she invited me to her performance! What a small world we truly live in!

Loaded with packages, I had to quit my shopping expedition to head back to the hotel for my ride back to Ispra. My cousin surprised me with the notice that he had taken the afternoon off from work so that we could do something together. What to do? We had about four hours to explore…so we decided to take a detour to Lake Como! The only other time I had visited Lake Como was in winter – it was beautiful, but not exactly tourist weather. We parked a bit out of the center of Como and began our trek towards the lakefront promenade. We passed my favorite little alleyways that I’m always so attracted to when I visit Italy. Tiny little winding alleys, with cobblestones underfoot and gorgeous old buildings with flowers hanging off the balconies, make me think of all the millions of people over the centuries that have walked these same steps! Explaining this fascination to my cousin, he said that, unfortunately for them, who have always lived surrounded by these ancient environs, they don’t even think twice about the historical beauty that surrounds them. I think I may have opened his eyes!

After passing gorgeous piazzas filled with outdoor eating, we arrived at the lake’s edge.

We found a beautiful little restaurant and enjoyed some wonderful pasta and a cool glass of wine. I couldn’t have been happier – al fresco dining in a gorgeous setting with a spectacular view, great food, and good company! Now this is my idea of La Bella Vita! Even though I didn’t get any George Clooney sitings, it was the perfect day!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Milan, Como

The Defector – A Book Review


Villa dei Fiori, tucked away on a quiet hillside in Umbria, is an idyllic setting for Gabriel, a painter restoring works of art in his quiet studio.  He is surrounded by his Italian staff and his Italian wife..and life couldn’t be calmer or more serene.  Little does anyone know (other than his wife) that he is a high-ranking member of the Israeli Secret Service, and he lives in Italy under an assumed identity.  He is summoned out of hiding and into service when a Russian defector, currently residing in London, is kidnapped by a Soviet thug who is bent on revenge for his  assistance in the escape of his wife and children to the United States and away from his evil ways.  The defector, Grigori, is a friend to Gabriel and Gabriel owes him for saving his life during a dangerous mission in Russia. 

The Defector, by Daniel Silva, is a fast paced story that moves from that quiet little villa in Umbria, to the shores of Lake Como for a summit with other Israeli Secret Service, to London, CIA headquarters in Virginia, St. Tropez, Russia, Paris, and Israel.  The manhunt for the Russian thug leads to moments of high espionage and violence, as well as moments portraying the more emotional ties that hold all the characters together.  It is a well written novel that allows us to follow the lives of the many characters.  I was a bit worried at first, being that this is #9 in the Gabriel Allon series, that I would be lost…but it turned out OK.  Once I remembered who all the characters were and how they were inter-related, I was able to keep up. 

I could highly recommend this book – it kept me hooked until the very end!

This book was part of the Italy in Books Challenge 2011.

Don’t blow up, George!!!


Now, I’m not usually an “Entertainment Tonight” type of person and celebrity gossip doesn’t interest me much, but I have to confess that I make an exception when it comes to George Clooney!  Maybe it’s because he lives in Italy on a lake not far from my home roots.  Or perhaps it’s because he loves everything about Italy like I do… but I have a soft spot in my heart for George!  Therefore, when I heard that there were WWII bombs just feet away from his villa buried deep in the lake, I instantly became interested in this developing news story!  Evidently, a fisherman spotted the bombs lying at the bottom of the lake and alerted authorities to their existence.   Italian soldiers have been surrounding Villa Oleandra and working to bring up the 500 pounds of unexploded bombs, grenades and mortars.  The situation is tense because the bombs are unstable, with a possibility of an explosion.  The entire town of Laglio has been closed off while the Navy removes the bombs and brings them to a cave for detonation.