Friday, November 11, 2011

Italian Adventure 2011, Part II

            I was feeling really sad about having to say good-bye to Giorgio and Patrizia and the 5 Chimneys B&B until I switched my focus to our next destination, Bellagio, at beautiful Lake Como. Giorgio drove us back to Milan where we picked up a rental car and headed north to the lake country. Once we navigated ourselves through the town of Como we found the narrow, windy road leading to Bellagio. After an hour of hugging the mountainside and dodging the aggressive Italian drivers we arrived at our B&B exhausted and grateful to have survived the drive.
            Bellagio is an elegant, timeless village, with old villas nestled in meticulously manicured gardens, with stunning views of Lake Como, and the Alps that surround the lake.  We walked and walked exploring the gardens and shops, climbing the many stairs that are the streets in this hillside town. After nightfall the lake glowed in the light of a full moon. Romantic Lake Como, I am glad I got to know you.
            After 2 nights it was time to get back in the car. Luckily we were leaving by a different route, which was much less traveled and less stressful. Next stop Verona, the city of love. Actually we were staying at another hilltop town above Verona, San Giorgio, which sits in the middle of the Valpolicella wine growing area. The view from our room of the endless vineyards, turning yellow and gold, and Lake Garda in the distance, was peaceful and inviting. Each of these areas grows different types of grapes and makes their own varieties of wine unique to the area. Valpolicella produces red, rosé, and white. The rosés are often sparkling, and oh so refreshing. I really enjoyed the wine here.
             Verona itself has many medieval structures very much intact including a massive coliseum older then the one in Rome. It is still in use today as a venue for concerts and plays. The main attraction though is Juliet’s home and the famous balcony that Romeo used to visit Juliet in secret. Love is definitely in the air in Verona.

            Day 12 of our trip finds us once again in the car, heading to Parma, the city of food. Parmesan cheese, prosciutto as well as other types of ham are produced, and consumed in Parma. The locals seem to live on these foods. Breakfast, lunch and dinner all start with ham and cheese. The quality and freshness of the cheeses I especially appreciated, being the cheese lover that I am. I was in cheese heaven the entire trip. We visited a family who produce Parmesan and watched the entire process and sampled the finished product. This cheese is like nothing I had ever tasted. Like I said, Italy is cheese heaven.
            Next stop Florence, where we will meet up with our tour group and head to Castello Delle Serre, a medieval castle in Tuscany, and the highlight of our trip. Check back for Part III.

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