September 4, 2011

Some of these spots will be my all time Italian favorites

Road trip; visiting lake Como, Dolomites (Brunick/Pusterthal) and Veneto. In Veneto, Bassano del Grappa (above), is one of my favorite places ever.

Starting and ending point was the Milan/Malpensa airport. When we arrived we rented a car and drove straight from the airport to Varenna, on the eastern shore of lake Como. This trip was for one week in July.

Varenna/lake Como
Lake Como is breathtakingly beautiful, and Varenna, a picture perfect town; looks like its coming straight out of a painting. Narrow boardwalk along the rugged shoreline. A piazza close to the lake shore, and a small beach in the midst of town. I would like to come back and stay for a while.
Varenna - picture perfect lake town

We took the ferry over to the town known to be the most beautiful on the lake, Bellagio. But compared to Bellagio, Varenna is much nicer and not so touristy. The only reason to choose Bellagio over Varenna is if you're wealthy enough to stay at the Grand Hotel in Bellagio, which is gorgeous, in an old "villa" (as the very wealthy called their summer castles back in the days).

Bellagio - nice, but too crowded

Above Varenna is the Castello di Vezio. A nice climb gets you up there. Reaching the top, the landscape opens up to an amazing view of lake Como. The castle is pritty cool. You can climb the stairs to the top of the tower, and ghost-like figures have been placed around to complete the medieval mood. It would be a great place for kids to visit.

Castello di Vezio - complete with ghost (in the middle).

We stayed at the hotel Olivedo:
The hotel is very well located opposite the ferry terminal. It is a bit like going back in time - atmosphereic and quaint. Only accepted cash for payment. Breakfast was limited, and the owner, Laura, is very rude! I would stay somewhere else next time.

Hotel Olivedo is at the center of the photo, behind the trees. Great location, but grumpy owner.

We had dinner at Ristorante Vecchio in Varenna; beautiful setting on the lake shore, with a perfect view to the sunset. I had tasty raviolis filled with fish from the lake - which tasted great.

Sunset dinner at Ristorante Vecchio in Varenna

Driving from lake Como to Brunico/Brunick in the Dolomites
We drove through the Stelvio-pass, close to the Swiss boarder, where countless cyclists struggled to get to the highest stretch of road in the Eastern Alps. Then we continued on to Glorenza, a small medieval town. Along the way we had to watch out for cows crossing the narrow, curvy road. (Reminder to self: we drove a tiny bit through Switzerland, and the beautiful little town called Sta Maria).

After curvy roads, and cows blocking the road, we reached the town of Glorenza (above) where we stopped for gelato.
Further, we passed Merano, where I would like to visit on another occasion; it looked really pretty. Than passing Bolzano on the highway and to Brunico/Brunick in Sud-Tirol (all names of places in Sud-Tirol are written in German and Italian, and people are bilingual in this very Austrian part of Italy).

Dolomites and Brunico/Brunick
A beautiful sunny day in the Dolomites. We too the bus to Kronplatz, and the cable car to the top of the mountain. We did the Panoramaweg 2, a nice 2 hour walk. Had lunch at the modern restaurant on the top. There were som nice log type restaurants further down, but non of them were open for the season. Seems this place caters more to the skiing tourists.

From the top we walked all the way down to the valley (run no 8 and 4), stopping at the very Tyrolean Heidenberg Inn, where we were served beers from a lady in a traditional Tyrolean dress,  and listened to a harmonica player.  It was quiet a stretch down the hill, walking through different kinds of terrain, from high mountain to lower valley meadows.

At the very Tyrolean Heidenberg Inn - is this Italy?

The town of Brunico/Brunick was surprisingly nice. Beautiful candy colored buildings, some decorated with frescoes, and in the back a nice castle and a pritty Tyrolean church. At the end of the pedestrian street lined by the candy colored buildings is a graveyard - don't miss it!

The town of Brunico/Brunick was surprisingly beautiful.

It was very relaxing and friendly, with big modern rooms. We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, served in the nice garden (with pool), as we had a hard time finding a restaurant in the town center.

On our way to Veneto
We drove through Alta Badia on our way down to Veneto (through the ski/sport resort La Villa). I have never seen so many cyclists in my life! This must be the bicycler's paradise. We passed the great Dolomites road, and drove past Colle di Santa Lucia to Alleghe to Algordo to Belluno and to Feltre. The view along the way is nothing short of spectacular.

Belluno has the mountains in the back and a view down to the Veneto plains in front. The drive from Feltre to Bassano del Grappa is another scenic drive, along the river.

Near Bassano del Grappa we stayed at a conference hotel in the middle of nowhere - wouldnt recommend it - and regretted not staying closer to Bassano del Grappa.

All time favorite town - Bassano del Grappa
This town has such a great atmosphere, and it is gorgeous. It was my second time there, and I just want to go back. Relaxed atmosphere, and this might be one of the most beautiful towns I have ever visited in Italy. The river runs straight through town which is nestled on both sides of the wide and airy bridge, Ponte Alpini (ponte is bridge in Italian).

Me and my man in Bassano del Grappa

Soave, then Verona
We drove from Bassano del Grappa via Valdagna and Montecchio Maggiore (we could have dropped the detour - after having seen the views of the Dolomites, this doesn't impress us at all).

Stopped for lunch in Soave, which was very pretty, but quiet, lunched on the terrace of an old atmospheric monestary, and drank Soave wine, of course. Lots of Enotecas around, and the landscape reminded me of Piemonte.

Great place to have lunch in tiny, but famous Soave.

Our last stop was the nice town of Verona, with its pritty piazzas, beautifull river, castle and the roman colosseum.

Verona has it all
During the opera festival there are different opera performances each night in the grand outdoor arena. We watched the Barber of Sevilla.

The opera festival in Verona is in the old, Roman, outdoor Arena. We watched the Barber of Sevilla.

I can truly recommend this place, especially if travelling 2 coupples (or four people) together. Panorama is not an ordinary B&B, this is more of a loft apartment with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a large living/dining space, kitchen, and the best feature: a roof terrace with beautiful views of Verona, where Rosetta, our very kind host, was serving breakfast. Very central location as well.

B&B Panorama in Verona - one of my favourite places to stay ever.

I am lucky who gets to travel to all these pretty places. Grazie.

Dante - at the Piazza Dante in Verona