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Flag of Italy  , Lombardy,
Friday, November 4, 2011

27/10/11 Thursday

Before the sun had even kissed Lucca we were up and getting ready for our trip to Bellagio. Lake Como. We set our alarms and made sure we were packed and on our way to the train station early. The sun had just come up while we were walking on the wall, it was sending the most beautiful light through the trees and streets of Lucca…real photo opportunities all round.

Greg and Jacinta called earlier as they were about to board their earlier train to Firenze and we all wished each other a fond farewell …

We made our way to Lucca Stazione and immediately on boarding  were told that there was a problem on the line ahead and that there were going to be delays…GREAT!!! (Luckily we had an hour to spare in Florence before we were to board our train to Milano...purchasing tickets for the regional trains - eg Lucca to Florence - is never a problem as they can be used for a few months after purchase, hence the need to validate them at the station but when purchasing tickets for the Freccia trains, eg Florence to Milan - you actually book a particular time and also you are allocated a particular seat. If you miss them then its too bad...) We were also now sitting on the quicker train to Florence so we had a bit of time up our sleeves...(The 'travel day', as i call it, is actually a little stressful...cos you are reliant on everything falling into place. Today,  it would not have been the end of the world if  we had missed the connecting train but it just would have made life a little more 'difficult'.) Anyway, we arrived in Florence and were seated on our train to Milan with about 10 mins to spare...

The transfer to the Frecciarossa at Florence was seamless…we even managed to talk a couple into swapping their seats with Mark and Kerry so that we were all sitting together. After 1hr and 40 minutes we arrived at Milano, my favourite train station with its towering ceilings and almost cathedral looking foyers and lounges that have been cleaned and refurbished to make you know that you are one of the busiest cities in the world. We got into Milan with plenty of time to get on the train to Lake Como, as well as buy 4 cups of coffee and a couple of (very dry) panini to take on board the train.

The trip up was exceptional….very comfortable…very fast…very cool… We got off the train and made our way through beautiful Como to the departure area at the lake port and bought 4 tickets to Bellagio, leaving by fast ferry about 5 minutes later. What followed was some of the most picturesque scenery i had ever seen!!! We (Mark and I) were poised outside, in the middle section of the ferry with cameras in hand and ready to take photos by the dozen…thank God for digital photographs… The ferry trip took nearly 1 hour to get from Como to Bellagio…with about 4 stops in between (sorry girls, we never saw George once!!). We must have taken over 50 photos between us…

When we finally arrived at Bellagio we were greeted with a beautiful little town with magnificent scenery all around us. From the moment we stepped off we felt as if we had walked into a postcard…We couldn’t get the smile off Marks face (not to mention the rest of us)…with all the world travels he has been on and still he looked like a kid that had just tumbled into a candy store…it was amazing. We stopped at a local restaurant /bar and ordered some prosciutto/melon/cheese and bread as well as some wine and beer….perfect!!!

After we finished our very late lunch we called the hotel and they advised us that they would send someone down to pick us up…so while waiting, we took in the local scenes including a remote mini-helicopter that had a camera attached to capture all underneath it…again…GREAT!!!

The shuttle dropped us off at the reception where we were met by the Manager (one of the owners) in charge, who booked us in and showed us our rooms…Oh My God!! What a place…huge bed…huge living area…huge bath and bathroom…but above all a view that you would kill for….…Perfect!!! After the receptionist had left and we had booked our restaurant for the evening we just stood outside our rooms looking up to the Swiss Alps and pinching ourselves thinking how lucky we were…(i have to admit, Kerry and I were just a tad overwhelmed by the beauty of what we were seeing and we were quite emotional at this of those moments where you would love all the people who are dear to you to be with you. Descibing it, and the photos, will never do it justice)

We talked for a while...then left each other alone for a couple of hours while we had a shower/bath and got ready for dinner. Later we met up in Mark and Kerrys room for a predinner drink, then we were collected by a car from the restaurant, a complimentary service. (The restaurant is a 5 minute drive from the hotel and is owned by the same people who own the hotel (both are run by the family too)). An open wood fire in a huge fireplace greeted us as we were led through to the dining room. We were given the menu that consisted of mainly seafood and we all ordered accordingly…I don’t think I would be selling the meal short by saying it was one of our best meals yet….we all had fresh succulent fish caught and cooked this afternoon…and all so different and so tasty. We all ordered and swapped our dishes to get a taste of everything we had ordered… food was being eaten with sighs and gasps of appreciation from the four of us after every mouthful. Not only was it all so special we were also given ample amounts to scoff down.!!! Magnificent!!!! The Entrée/Mains/ Coffee and dessert were very special and we spoke about it well into the night. We paid our bill and we were driven back to our hotel  and we said goodnight and went to bed.

What a perfect way to start our holiday within a holiday….I so underestimated Como and Bellagio, I'd heard it was beautiful, but…what a place….

28/10/11 Friday

Every hour from 4.00am I was waking up checking to see if the sun had begun rising…lying back on our bed we had a perfect panorama of the Swiss Alps in the distance…we knew it was going to be a magnificent moment and we didnt want to miss it. We both were awake and it was something very special… still very dark on the lake and going up the mountain but with the new days sunlight hitting the top of the snow covered alps…breathtaking!!!

After witnessing that I quickly tucked myself back into bed for a few more hours of sleep…the temperature was quite nippy but the room was very toasty…even a little too warm but who’s complaining!!!

We were meeting up with Mark and Kerry for breakfast so Mary woke me up in time and looking out of the window was a cloud…at the same height as us …right in the middle of the lake…a picture ready to be taken but by the time I took out the camera …it was gone. . I have already said what a lovely hotel the 'Borgo le terrazze’ is. It is only a 3 star Hotel mainly because there is no restaurant or bar to speak of but they do have a very tasty breakfast available every morning which we took advantage of… (they also are able to sell you bottles of wine or some snacks...we definitely took advantage of the availability of the wine. In the 3 days we were in Bellagio, we were not able to find a supermarket)

During breakfast we decided that we would spend the day walking the 2 kms into the Bellagio centre and then do the touristy things and checked the place out….this we did. The walk down was very pretty with absolutely unbelievable views of mountains, buildings and lake views… even if at times we found ourselves walking down the main road in and only a few centimetres from oncoming buses and cars…we managed to stay alive and most of the walk was downhill so not too tiring. (later, i suggested walking back up and was quickly outvoted!! it was rather steep :))

Once in Bellagio we walked and shopped for a few hours through streets that seemed to be built out of a story book… and then found our way back to the lake front and ordered lunch at the same place that we had eaten yesterday when we first arrived. Did the trick and we then decided to catch the ferry across the lake to another town that looked equally tempting.

We bought tickets on the smaller car ferry that exists to take cars and people to and from Bellagio and Cadenabbia, many times a day, every day of the year… (you wonder whether the Captain of that particular boat sees the view anymore, how sad would that be, if he didnt...We have spoken to many people over these last few months, while telling them what we are doing, and how beautiful Italy is and how lucky they are to live here, with the views, the mountains etc and everyone has come back with 'but you are from Australia, THAT is such a beautiful place, the weather, the beaches...i guess the ole saying comes to light 'the grass is always greener'…)

Once across the other side, we immediately realized there is difference from one side of the lake to the other. From here you werent able to see the Alps and also it was much colder.…we wandered around for awhile then stopped at a Café/Bar that was run by an English woman who had settled in Lake Como many years earlier… It was a lovely afternoon but was getting very cold …very quickly… even though it was only 4.00pm…the sun was already behind the mountains on that side of the lake.

We caught our ferry back to Bellagio and called the Hotel to come and pick us up…we had to wait for awhile this time but eventually we were back in our room, warm and toasty.

After a lovely hot bath we took our time getting ready for dinner…again the restaurant staff picked us up to take us to Silvios Restaurant where we enjoyed another magnificent meal…(we normally enjoy trying out different restaurants but after wandering around Bellagio during the day, we really didnt notice that many that were going to be open and we had enjoyed our meal so much last night, we decided that this is where we will continue to come for dinner. The staff, owners, decor and food were all just too irresistable )

29/10/11 Saturday

Today we decided to make our way to the ferry and visit the two nearest towns to Bellagio. After visiting these towns I must admit that they are all very similar…probably the biggest surprise is that everything closes down for the ‘winter’ season. So many hotels close down for the period between October and April…in other words for 6 months the hotel is closed. Apparently, it is financially better not having any guests and closing the hotel and restaurants rather than to be open, with only a few guests….weird!!! All the places we visited were so geared to summer and summer activities…but they were all very pretty and fantastic to visit.

We also made it a point to find out where the train station is in Varenna and how long to walk there from the ferry drop off…for tomorrow.

The whole of the Lago Como region is truly spectacular …and the four of us have been spoilt with where we are staying…with the food we are eating …and the things we are doing. It has been a very special time…to be remembered, always.

We returned back to Bellagio returning to the hotel to have a couple of hours R&R before dinner.
Once at the restaurant we were taken to our table by Christian and offered menus…we thought we would be smart (well, it was really Kerry and dont forget, this was our 3rd night there in a row, so we were getting to know the staff & Christian, the partowner) so we told him we knew what we wanted to order (as we had all discussed it that afternoon)…at which point he took the menus and said to Kerry 'ok, i will play your game' . So, he asked us roughly what we felt like, how many courses and different questions like that and then he asked if we would leave it up to him. Well, of course, we did.

Well!!! The food that was served was incredible…all fish with some absolutely perfect pasta to start with followed by fish mains and the largest special icecream you have ever seen followed by some serious coffees…magnificent!!!! (it really was an experience, plus we kinda felt a little special)

We finished dinner very late and made our way back to our hotel and waddled to our rooms…another great day and a special last night…

30/10/11 Sunday

We were up early this morning, quick breaky and then down at the ferry terminal by 10.00am…we also had to take into account that daylight savings ended during the night. We took the ferry across to Varenna,  ready for the 10.37am train to Milano.

We will miss Bellagio,  it was everything we had expected (and so much more!)…Thankyou Kerry & Mark...The clouds were still hanging over the lake as we boarded the train and from the one track leading out of Veranno we watched the lake for as long as we could. The train trip was exciting, in and out of mountains, the lake close by and then way below. (Most of the hour trip to Milan was just magical with the views from the train)

We arrived into Milano and left Mark and Kerry to do their own thing while we visited Tatiane and Zio Enrico for a couple of valuable hours…they were both in fine form and it was so good to have been able to see them.

We all met up again to board our train back to Florence and Lucca.

Now, Paul had been keeping us updated on the Comic festival that was on this weekend in Lucca and how amazing and chaotic it was. He also mentioned that there were a lot of people around. (We definitely knew something was going on, as every train between Florence and Lucca, going in the opposite direction, was packed with people all dressed up in different characters etc.) Anyway… we pulled into Lucca to the largest amount of people waiting at the station we had ever seen. (ever!) They were at least 6 deep waiting to jump on the train (at one stage, i didnt think we were going to be able to get off!!, it was like something you would see on a movie) It was a huge effort just to get off the train, then we had to push our way through people. (i never felt nervous though, everyone was in very high spirits, it was a very happy crowd)

The whole town was buzzing with thousands of, predominantly, teenagers wanting to have a good time or ready to go home. There were food tents situated outside the Wall, opposite the train station...there were people huddled in groups sitting on the grass. There was just a HUGE carnival atmosphere to Lucca. It was unbelievable but very exciting.

We quickly walked back along the wall to our Brunella and then unpacked and talked about what we would do for dinner. We decided that Mark and I would go for a walk to the centre and buy some wine and nibblies…which we did and enjoyed thoroughly.

After we had finished I took off again to purchase some nice home-made gnocchi and ragu but unfortunately the store was closed so I decided to buy a couple of pizzas from Mare Meo. I took off to order and when it was ready I was surprised to find out the credit card wouldn’t work…so i needed to get cash.  Believe it or not but I had to walk to 4 ATM’s before I found one that actually had cash. With so many people in Lucca, the ATM's had run out of money. This ‘Festival’ is really boosting the economy…go for it!!! This all took about an hour (we all thought he had been hijacked by Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker!!) but we all finally sat down to tasty pizza.

31/10/11 Monday (Halloween) - 01/11/11 Tuesday

Today was also the second last day of the Comic Festival and we were all hoping that there would still be lots happening. As soon as we had all got ourselves organised and had some breakfast, we took off for a nice walk through the city centre.

The whole of Lucca was still heaving with characters from every comic ever written… we walked all over the main areas bumping into ‘starwars’ characters…’Captain America’…’living dead’…’vampires’…’star trek’…’sexy fairies’…’cowboys and indians’…and many many more. Most have gone through so much trouble to make sure they looked the part…and it’s not as if there is a prize for the best looking or most true to character. They are all just excited to get dressed up and are only too happy to stop and make a pose for anyone who wants to take a photo…and EVERYONE wanted to take photos…it was very surreal!!

To add to all the hype it was…of course…HALLOWEEN. This elevated all the histrionics up a couple of levels with more characters than normal. The whole of Lucca is caught up and the stores and restaurants that may usually be subdued are right into it and it seems everyone is having a good time. I have to mention…yet again… that even with all these people in town we have still yet to see anyone behaving badly or walking the streets drunk or being a nuisance…it’s fantastic and uplifting!

All the marquees that have been set up are full of ‘comic enthusiasts’ …all my concerns about there being so many tents and marquees were unjustified…it was packed. Apparently by the end of the festival there will have been nearly 160,000 visitors to Lucca in the 5 days…

We made sure that we checked out as much as we could all around the city including the main Marquee outside the wall. Most of these areas you needed a pass so we couldn’t get in but they were packed. They also had a large stage set up at Baluardo San Paulino with bands playing to thousands of people every night right through until about midnight …and good bands as well.

Every year they have some famous celebrity that joins up…last year it was Hugh Jackman…(Wolverine!!) this year a certain ‘red head’ from Harry Potter turned up…even though we never saw him. The other amazing thing is the amount of professional photographers that were everywhere…taking photos all the time…all very exciting.

We decided to get ‘Tron’ the movie out for the night as it seemed fitting with what had been happening through the last five days…good movie…great special effects …

Tuesday night was the last night and it all ended with much fanfare with
the concert area going full on with so many people watching…and very
loud…great! Everyone knows that by the next day it would all be over and
totally over…no hangers on …no stalls open an extra day…no more
costumes in the street.

That night we all went out to San Georgio with Michelle and Paul so that Kerry & Mark could meet Michelle (M had been in England). Again another fantastic meal, drinks and night…really looked after by Piero and his team and everyone was over the moon with everything.

We all returned to Brunella for after dinner drinks and more chatting, Kerry & Mark soon retiring to bed, as they had an early start in the morning...they were off to Cinque Terra for the day.

02/11/11 Wednesday

Mark and Kerry took off  for Cinque Terre. Mary and I had discussed with Mark and Kerry about all the great places to go. We were well aware that there had just been a huge  disaster in two of the villages due to the rain. There was a good chance that they may noy be able to walk anywhere or visit all the towns but they decided to go anyway…which ended up being a great decision.

They were gone all day and had a wonderful time. There were a  few restrictions such as the walk being closed and the ferries not taking passengers as they were being used to help with the devastation but they did manage to see the first two towns (Riomaggiore and Manarola) and had a great time. I caught up with them as I took off for my afternoon walk around the wall and they were just coming from the train station…they both looked very happy.

I made a pretty special ‘Osso Buco’ that night and we all enjoyed our second last night together.

The weather has been just fantastic all this week…. No rain to speak of (except for a night) and the sun has been shining brightly. Apparently, there has been a lot of rain all through this side of Italy and we have had telephone calls from Australia and Milan to see if we are OK…but the bad weather has not touched us at all…perfect ‘Tourist’ weather…not too cold …not too hot.

The autumn season is also starting to take its hold with nearly all the trees around the Wall and Lucca all beginning to lose their leaves…(its a lovely sight as you are walking, a calm breeze blows and ahead of you are leaves falling...its beautiful). The Lucca Comune are also right on the ball and have large machines that collect the leaves off the wall everyday…every day it seems clear and ready for more leaves to fall.

03/11/11 Thursday

On our last night with Mark and Kerry we took off for the restauarant on Baluardo San Colombano – we have seen and walked past this certain place a hundred times but we finally decided to go there…(we had had a coffee there with them on Tuesday and thought it would be nice for dinner). We never really knew what to expect from this place as we had never actually been inside it…(but it was very 'warm & cosy' looking. There were fairy lights everywhere and it just seemed the perfect place to have a perfect dinner)

We felt a bit strange when we first walked in as we were the only ones there. We ate well. Kerry and Mary treating themselves to lobster (both reminded me of a scene from ‘Splash’ with Tom Hanks and the mermaid)…(neither of us realized it would be served the way it was...we started to get very nervous when we saw the 'nut cracker' and another little tool served to us before the dish was very nice but a bit too fiddly) The waiter also informed us that the restaurant combines with the main bar after everyone has left the restaurant and it becomes one of the night hot spots after the eating. We will definitely remember that and we will be back .

We got back to Brunella in time for the Hoppys to pack up their bags ready for their train trip to Rome tomorrow.

04/11/11 Friday 

All of a sudden …all those months ago, late last year, when we told the Hoppys that we were going to Italy for the year, and they decided then a there that they would come over for a holiday… all those months of anticipation…has now come to an end!!!

We all woke early with Mark and Kerry using all their travel skills to make sure that everything was safely packed away. We ate our breakfast and I had my last game of ‘Zombie Highway’ on Marks i-pad….it was very teary…knowing I would never play that game again…we had become very close over the last couple of weeks… I had killed so many …it will be hard to part. (you and those games!!! i said, if you want you can get me an Ipad for Christmas and i will let you use it :):))

We were all quite sombre as we came down the stairs (Mark was quite happy about coming down the stairs for the last time!!) and walked our way back up onto the wall and to the train station. We arrived in plenty of time…validated the tickets Mark had purchased the day before and stood in the station coffee/bar (another of my favourites) and all had our last coffee together, then big hugs and a few tears goodbye before boarding the train.  (Thanks guys, we hope you enjoyed trip home & getting back to normal...until your next adventure! :))

We waved the train goodbye and slowly walked back to Brunella…and even as we were leaving the station the weather started to change. The clear blue sky was quickly changing to an overcast sky and by the time we returned to Brunella the heavens opened and Lucca and her streets and houses were being cleaned. Mark and Kerry managed to leave just in time…safe journeys you two.

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Ali & Michael on

Magnificent, thank you
Photographs are beautiful
I hope you have a White Xmas
We love you both

Merry Xmas
Ali & Michaelxxxx

Christopher Rogers on

My goodness the pair of you are really having a ball,the photos are out of this world,a least some of the family are seeing what a beautiful world we live in,but most will never see what both of you are seeing,you are our ambassitors to the world,enjoy enjoy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.
Uncle Christy

makfamilytrust on

Thanks for a great recount of our fabulous holiday with you guys, our BFF's. It does seem that all we did was eat, drink and have fun xoxoxo

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