We will be meeting with Jim today. As he will arrive about 10:30 Tina and I will have a slow breakfast, check out of our apartment and meet him in the main plaza. The apartment we rented for the night is ultra modern, electronics for everything. I am not able to figure out how to lower the blinds. It did take me two days to figure out how to lower the ones in Innsbruck. But the place in Innsbruck had a switch. This place has an electronic screen attached to the wall with instructions in Italian.
This is a holiday in Italy – Republic Day – commemorating the day they abolished the monarchy in 1946. Looks like the king went out with the Fascists. This is the second holiday that we have encountered on this trip. Although the fresh air market will be buttoned up, we are hoping that some of the restaurants and shops will be open. We also hope to see Ortzi – the guy that thawed out of a glacier in 1991. He had been frozen in place for over 5000 years. A copper age man.
Met up with Jim. Walked through a park, went to the Ortzi museum and had a great lunch.
The Otzi museum was more interesting than I had anticipated. He lived some 5,000 years ago and was preserved with all his stuff (copper axe, long bow, arrows, clothes) . To put the timeframe in perspective, this was over a thousand years before Stonehenge. Evidently he was in a fight then bushwhacked a day later. Probably a crime of passion since none of his stuff was taken. I have added a link about Otzi below.
After lunch we caught a train to MezzoLombardo, the village where Jim is working and staying. We checked in at our B+B, a small eclectic place where every room has a Jacuzzi. The proprietor is a fun and very enthusiastic individual who speaks no English, good thing we have Jim in tow.
Our first order of business was to break into the Foradori winery where Jim works and treat ourselves to a glass of their finest.
We went to dinner at a great small restaurant across the valley and part way up the mountain in a small village. We were joined by Eleza, a coworker of Jim’s from Germany.
This afternoon we will be traveling back to Italy. Our next stop is the town of Bolzano where we will be meeting Jim later. We are spending some time in Bolzano as it is a larger place than MezzoLombardo where Jim is working. Later we will travel to MezzoLombardo and visit the vineyard where Jim is working. But, today we will spend our last few hours in Innsbruck. Innsbruck has really grown on us; it is a truly lovely place to visit. So close to Italy yet so very different from Italy. Where there is an air of chaos to Verona there is an air of orderliness to Innsbruck. One just has to make a gesture that you are stepping toward a crosswalk and the traffic comes to a stop. One thing that both Austria and Italy have in common are the numbers of smokers. This is especially surprising for Austria due to the apparent outdoorsy and healthy nature of the population.
Made it to Balzano. The train was easy and we were able to upgrade to more comfortable seats. Balzano appears to be a delightful small city. Found our apartment and the codes to get inside, very modern in a more open way than the hotel in Innsbruck. There is a larger patio as well. As Jim had to work today, he will not be joining us tonight; however, he will meet up with us tomorrow. He has suggested a number of restaurants and will aid in a wine selection via Internet.
There is an open air market a few hundred yards from our apartment. The flowers and vegetables are beautiful.
We had an Aperol Spritz at a cafe on the main town square. The best we have had on this trip.
The town square is alive with activity and flowers. There is a statue in the town square. I do not know who the statue is dedicated to but he looks like Christopher Columbus, it isn’t Columbus.
We had dinner at a place Jim suggested. But we didn’t have Internet at the restaurant so he couldn’t help with wine selection. I think we did OK on our own.
Getting a late start to the day today, this will be a kick back day. Started with a light breakfast at a pastry shop that was recommended by the hotel. Pastries were beautiful but the croissants were not as good as Italy’s.
There is definitely a different vibe to this city. Not as friendly and open as across the border in Italy. My non political comment was that they forgot that they lost the war. This is of course not fair of me to say. They gave us a pass for free rides on the bus system and everyone is helpful when asked. We went to a castle on a hill overlooking the city.
I believe that I may be misrepresenting the people here by suggesting that they are not friendly. It may be that they are not as outwardly friendly. I do note that there are not as many English speakers. That is somewhat of a handicap for me but, that being said, one can get along OK. We had dinner last night at an Italian place and spent hours talking with a couple from West of Reno Nevada. They had just finished a hike in Slovenia. They were on their way to the French Open in Paris with no tickets. Good luck with that.
Another thing about Innsbruck is that this is an active culture. Many people with backpacks coming into town from long hikes in the Alps. Innsbruck, being a site of several winter Olympics, has ski jumps and ski lifts in abundance .
Verona was a great place to visit. The stay was especially nice since Jim was with us for part of the stay as he helped with language and food/wine selection. So far we have been blessed with great weather.
We checked out of our B+B and had a light breakfast on the way to the train station. We made it to the train and are now on our way to Innsbruck on an Austrian train. One of the differences between an Austrian train and an Italian train is that they check your ticket on an Austrian train.
The train passed near the town where Jim is working, MezzoLombardo
I thought we packed too much stuff for this trip. But, we were put to shame by some of our fellow travelers. The prize goes to a guy that looked like he brought his disassembled hang glider on the train. I would not want to be this guy hanging from a kite that was jostled around a train. Maybe there is a club of guys with puka beeds who jump off high places. The conductor made puka beeds move his hang glider. This is turning out to be an entertaining train ride.
Arrived in Innsbruck. Turns out today is a national holiday, most restaurants are closed. Found our hotel, very nice, very modern. Don’t quite know about the mural overlooking the bed.
Although much was closed, we found a lot of activity in the old section of town. Had a great meal.
I am going to start a new feature on this blog. Tina has expressed an interest in adding comments in the dialogue. I think it will be fun. She can correct some of the more bizarre stories I tell. We are going to have to come up with some kind of identification to separate her comments from mine.
So far this has been a full day in Verona. It is great having Jim with us today, he can navigate the language and the way of doing things. We had a light breakfast then went on a bike tour of the city. Riding a bicycle in a crowded city that has cars driven by Italians who think they are on the last lap of LeMans on medieval streets.
Jim went back to Trento as he has to be at work in the morning. We will meet up with him again later in the week.
I looked it up, “Romeo and Juliet” is based on a true happening. I will find out more when we get there. In the meantime, we need to get there. Taxi to the bottom of the hill then figure out whether to take the bus or the ferry. Although this part of the trip will be a challenge, I am certain that it will make a good story.
There is more to the story: According to our guide on the bicycle tour of Verona, the original story was a fabrication. A second version of the story was used by Shakespeare for the play. There was a family with a name like Capulet that lived in Verona. Their house is the one that is identified as Juliet’s. The balcony was added later. Originally the play didn’t have a balcony; a later set added the balcony for greater dramatic effect. – Oh well, it’s still a good story.
There is a statue of Juliet under the balcony of the Capulet house. We were universally disgusted that people were lining up for a photo with their hand on Juliet’s boob. Our guide on the bicycle tour said that it is considered good luck to touch Juliet’s boob.
And a good story it is. The taxi that picked us up at the Varenna B+B was going to pick up a couple going to Lecco, our destination. So, we decided to tag along as the taxi was a van. Good thing we did. The ferry that we were going to take was cancelled; likewise the bus that was the alternative. We would have had to take an alternative ferry across the lake and change trains twice to get to Lecco. We would have been very late.
We changed trains in Milan, so I took a photo of the train station as promised.
We took the high speed train to Verona and met Jim.
Verona is a lovely city.
Walked around the Roman Coliseum, the one here is older than the one in Rome but, smaller. They do a lot of concerts and operas here.
Note: This is not a Coliseum, there is only one and it is in Rome. This is an arena.
Went to the Juliet house to see the balcony.
We had dinner at a typical Italian place that Jim picked out. Tina and I had a regional favorite, cod in a cream sauce with polenta. Jim had horse with polenta. Over two hours to eat dinner – really Italian in all respects.
Yesterday was supposed to be rainy but didn’t rain until late in the afternoon. Today is supposed to be sunny. The plan is to take a ferry to Bellagio.
Tomorrow will be a challenge. As we are at the top of a hill, we are going to have to navigate down to catch a ferry: there are few taxis as they are as all are booked to get people around the landslide that took out the train (thus the ferry). The alternative was to take the steep cobblestone path, not a good alternative with luggage. The villa staff was little help. Finally got a taxi to come at 7:44 am. So we will take the ferry to meet the train at Liarna, change in Lecco onto a train to Milan, change to the high speed train to Verona. Traveling used to be fun.
Our lunch was great, we went to the Villa Serbioni, a really fancy place. Turned out to be the highlight of the trip to Bellagio. Although beautiful, it was crowded. It is probably on the “Bucket List” of most all old geezers. Finally made it back to Varenna on an overcrowded ferry. The trek up to our rental was a challenge after a long day. Went to the pool for a short time, then had a light dinner at the little place (the only place) near our rental.
We will meet Jim in Verona. Jim will stay with us while we are there. We have reservations at a restaurant that Jim picked out; it will be fun to see Jim and get caught up on what he is doing in Italy. It seems as though we are eating our way across Italy.
I am puzzled about Verona. Romeo and Juliet is a big theme there. I always thought that the Shakespeare play, though based in Verona, was not based on a factual event. I guess I will find out.
I want to apologize for yesterday’s blog. It was not very focused. The excuse I have is that I was really travel weary.
It turns out that the place we are staying is a guest house on a large villa overlooking Varenna. It is next to Castello di Vesio, some kind of medieval looking old fort. Waking up this morning was a real throw back in time for me. There were roosters crowing in the chicken coop. The sound took me back to my grandmothers farm in Skagit Valley. On the odd occasion when I would spend the night in uncle Jess’s old room, I would be awakened by Grandma’s roosters.
We may not be far from one of the locations in an historical novel I recently read, “Beneath a Scarlet Sky”. It may be near here that Peno Lella guided groups of Jewish refugees over the mountains to Switzerland in World War II. I will not research this because I don’t want a fact get in the way of a good story.
Although it is a long trek to town, Tina and I made the effort. More fun than taking a cab.
First we went to the castle near our place.
We had a great day and a wonderful lunch.
We had a great first day. Ate dinner in our guest house as there were thunderstorms in the evening.