Roadtrip to Northern Italy

Trip Start Aug 03, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Italy  , Aosta Valley,
Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hi again,

Finally finished shuffling through all of our 600+ photos. We really love our new camera. Hope you have enjoyed the photos as well. Our last week in Italy left us with mixed emotions. On the one hand we were soaking up every last bit of culture and civility and, well, let's be honest, cuisine, before our flight back to the crazy place we call home. But on the other hand, we were feeling tired of walking, tired of searching for the next meal, tired of sleeping in hotel beds, and just tired in general. We actually said to ourselves, are we getting too old for long trips? Pretty pathetic, right? Well, I know you're not feeling too sorry for us, so I'll just get on with the story. Don't worry, there was lots of fun left to be had!

After saying goodbye to Mike and Carmen (and the GPS) we drove north to Bracciano. Before arriving  we had no idea what to expect. We only chose it for it's proximity to the airport and because it was in the general direction we were headed. Turns out, it's a lovely little town just next to a large lake, but the best thing about it is a wonderful castle that dominates the city high up on a hilltop right in the center of town. We were amazed to come around the last corner on the drive and be confronted with a perfect view of the castle that we didn't even know would be there. The "hotel" we reserved online ended up to be a bed and breakfast in the basement in somebody's condo. It was nice enough, but a little strange. Evidently, Gatti del Castello means Castle of Cats, and the owners had 27 of them! That wasn't counting the ones that weren't allowed inside the gates, but that she fed anyway. When you have that many cats one thing is for certain - it's going to stink like cats.

The next morning we drove through the countryside for a few hours before meeting up with the freeway and it was really beautiful. The sun was shining on fields and hills of all different colors, and a few fall leaves still hung in the trees. We were treated to gorgeous views the entire day, actually, and spotted castle after castle. Each one sat on a hilltop, guarding some ancient village that was built up around it. We saw so many castles that we got sick of pointing them out to each other. Almost. That afternoon we stopped in Pisa to see the famous leaning tower. It really does lean! Like, a lot. It's pretty amazing actually and looks like it might just topple over at any second. The architecture is so strange, even the real thing looks like one of those fake little miniatures that you buy from the guy on the street. The area of the city that the tower is in is very sketchy. We felt kind of weird leaving the car in the car-park and witnessed a drug exchanges within about 30 seconds of leaving the vehicle. Some areas of Italy we found to be full of North Africans selling knock off bags and artwork (and drugs), but in other areas they were scarce. Not sure why...

It was less than an hour to our destination of the night, Lucca, named one of the most romantic cities in Italy. The old town is still surrounded by historic walls, and we stayed in a nice place just outside of them. We had some really, really good gnocchi and pizza in this city on a recommendation from a local, but did not have too much time here because we were on mission north to turn in the rental car. The next day's drive didn't involve any castles, but it did involve driving through 73 tunnels! How did they build all those??!! We stayed that night in Alba, which is in some amazing wine country. I think we'll have to make a trip back there in the summer or fall sometime. More great food...blah, blah, blah, and the next day we made it to Torino.

We dropped off the car and found our hotel that we were happy to settle into for three nights in a row. It felt good to relax and just enjoy the city, without any real plans or time restraints. There is tons of shopping and a lot of restaurants. We found some great cafeteria-type places where you can get super fresh Italian food of all kinds. Wish they had those back home! Eating lunch or dinner is always a ritual for the Italians and I LOVE it. Bread sticks, primero, secondi, don't forget your dessert...they just do it right, and it doesn't matter where they are.

On the third day we took a train up to the Valle d'Aosta to satisfy our snow cravings. It was beautiful. Sigh. The mountains are tall and jagged, rising up one after the other. The first night it was cloudy and raining, but we checked in quickly and jumped on the Pila cable car which goes right from the center of town up to the ski resort. We were braced for the worst, and when it started snowing half way up we were practically jumping for joy! Well, not jumping, we were in a cable car and jumping could be dangerous you know. But we were moving all around to pose for pictures as we rode up (luckily we were alone in the car). It was super cute up at the top. The cable car lets you off right near one or two of the lifts and a bunch of different condos and little shops. We grabbed lunch in a ski shack and sat outside with our sandwiches, enviously watching the skiers and boarders go by.

The next morning was amazing when we woke up to clear, blue skies. We felt like it was the best of both worlds - see the snow falling one day and views of the whole valley the next. The mountains seemed to go on forever. We took a bus to Courmayeur, a Christmas card little village about an hour away, and on the bus ride we were awarded with stunning views of Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Western Europe. Courmayeur is just nestled in amongst all of these snowy peaks, with more cable cars running people right up the tops of them. Mt. Bachelor has got to get on that. Cable car straight from the westside....that would be nice. There is also a lot of heli-skiing in the area we were in. We would have loved to have had our gear with us, but, sadly, we could not. We were able to temporarily satisfy our snow withdrawals, but as I write
this I know that the winter storm of the season is blanketing Bend
tonight. We miss the fun, but Thailand will have to do. Get ready for
some beach shots next!

Our trip came to a close with a five and a half hour train ride that got us back to Rome for our last night. We didn't check in to our hotel until 8:30, but that didn't stop us from taking a bus and a street car across town to eat our favorite pizza one last time. The next day our flight wasn't until 8 at night, so we had the chance to stuff ourselves with as much pasta and prosciutto as we could manage. It was an epic journey that involved 3 lunches and took us to the four corners of Rome. Let's just say that the meal served on Air China on the way home that night was not eaten.

With Love,
Melissa and Peter

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jlogerwell on

Petey and Mel, loved reading about your holiday adventure! Can't wait to get the scoop from you about Thailand too. Love, love!

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