Saturday, April 18, 2015

Lake Como, The Bernina Express and Torino

(Varenna's central plaza with 16th century church on the back ground)
(12th century remains of an abbey in the village of Varenna)
(Varenna view from the ferry)

Back in Amsterdam I am getting used again to the Amsterdam lifestyle, meaning: a lot of walking around the city with occasional stops at a terrace drinking a beer, while people watching; daily shopping for food; living the "fishbowl lifestyle", meaning never closing the drapes. I am gradually getting to that stage, that writing a blog about our Italy trip has a more reflective tone. It feels more like story telling.

(3 views of the town streets)

A one hour train trip brought us to Varenna, where the weather was overcast and windy. Not the ideal weather to enjoy a beautiful lake, that shines when basking in sunshine, but under cloudy skies it looks and feels cold and doom-like, if there is such a word.

(On the day we left the weather cleared, views from our hotel room verandah)

We tried to sit on our verandah for a while, but fled back into the warmer confines of our hotel bedroom. The days in Varenna brought us a trip by ferry up and down to Bellagio, a real tourist town with lots of shops and restaurants, narrow stairway alleys and a cutesy feel, but the rest of our time we spent walking around our less visited more authentic town as it sits perched against a mountain, overshadowed by the remnants of the feudal castle that in long gone days protected Varenna.

("Greek" temple on the museum villa grounds)
(Villa Monastero views and gardens)
(roman boy at the villa grounds)

Beautiful gardens and a villa turned museum were our pastime, besides reading and eating out. I hope the pictures will show our "misfortune" best.

( above and below more garden views)
( inside the villa above the bathroom, below the grand staircase)
( grand staircase ceiling in villa Monastero)

Returning by train to Milano we pickup our cute Fiat 500 convertible and travelled to Brescia for the night, from where we drove to the town of Tirano, from where we took the Swiss Bernina Express high up into the alps to the well known town of St Moritz, where famous people may have a vacation home.

(St Moritz village view - 5 star grand hotel tower on the right)
(Kids from Club Med vacationers and two employees waiting for the Club Med bus)
(St Moritz high school downtown)

The prices in the stores there indicated, that at least the shopkeepers felt they could survive catering to men or women who will spend 1300 euro for a cashmere sweater.

(Central plaza Brescia, below the inside of the church above)
(Golden statue of Pope Pius XII in the Brescia Church placed after a visit)
(Below a series of pictures taken from the Bernina Express)
(Lake at the beginning of the climb)
(Lake at 3/4 up the mountain to the pass)
(View of Tirano the start of the train trip)

We had a cabin section in the train all to ourselves and marveled about the trip of this train climbing 7% slopes while doing multiple switchbacks, that brought us to 2328m/7638 ft heights, where eye blinding white snow and a manifold of skiers and ice sailers greeted us (some literally).

(View of Tirano from halfway up)
(Churning its way up to the top)
(Above and below winter vacationers)
(Nearing a station often stopping on request only)
(we have reached the pass)
(Views of the return trip as the bottom gets closer and closer)
(Highest station located in Eastern Switzerland - 8th highest overall)

Returning the next day by same route to our little car brought different views that charmed the eyes.

From there we travelled over byways to Turino, finding ricefields on our way which startles you and makes you wonder how we could have mistakingly taken a turn to Asia, until one realizes that somebody has to grow Arborio rice in Italy.

(Traveling the byways to Turino)

Turino was the big surprise on this trip. Although I knew that the kingdom of Savoy had its capital here, preceded by dukes and other overlords, the splendor of this city, showing centuries of wealth and the fact that even the suburbs were showing consistently buildings from the 19th century and before, made Turino a city worth revisiting.

We visited Palazzo Madama on the picture below, named after two Queens of the House of Savoy, most notable was Margherita of Austria an illegitimate daughter of Emperor Charles V, who married an illegitimate son of the Medici family. The ornate facade was not of her doing, but she did order quite some interior decorating work.

(Front of palace above and much older rear side built on old Roman baths)

We lodged on the outside of town near the single 8 mile long metro that was completed in stages between 2006 and 2011. This metro is a jewel and heavily travelled as well as being profitable and it made our efforts to see as much as possible in a short time so much easier.

(Margherita must have loved ceilings, I had neck pain for the remainder of the day)
( grand ball room)
(Chockfull of art objects)
(Ceilings and more ceilings)
(Not to forget the wooden floors)

Our only regret was that the Duomo, housing the famous Shroud of Turin, was closed because of renovations, which makes us more determined to return one day.

(Mole Antonelliana cinematic museum, but by elevator also the tallest museum in the world for great city views - the line were too long for us)
(Multiple sights of 1500 to 1900 buildings and plazas)

(Above and below 3 pictures of the entrance to the royal palace of the house of Savoy)
(But we also saw modern art objects)
(All in all Turino a city of cobblestone alleys and archeological digs, surrounding astonishingly beautiful buildings inside as well as outside)