Northern Italy 2017

May 1, 2017

We are in the month of May and beginning our final days before we fly to Italy...May 16, 2017.
Please follow us on our journey to Northern Italy to begin on the east in Venice and traveling across to the west and ending in Cinque Terra.

Our first day will be on Charming Venice Islands with it's picturesque and famous gondolas. Venice Islands consists of 118 islands all connected by bridges.

St. Mark's Square in front of the famous and beautiful St. Mark's Basilica

The Lavish Doges' Palace

May 16, 2017
The day has finally arrived and we departed for Italy, leaving O'Hare at 7:10 p.m. Chicago time. We hope all of our new followers stay with us for the entire trip through the 25th. It promises to be full of pictures and key sites in Northern Italy. 

May 17, 2017

We arrived in sunny Venice (78 degree or about 20 degrees above normal), about 2 p.m. (they are 7 hours ahead of Midwest time).  We were met by our guide, Vincenzo (English version Vincent), and were close enough to the Venice Grand Canal that we walked from the airport to our awaiting water taxis. 

Our tour Escort Vincent goes over needed trip information to
Valerie Graczyk, Sue Furness and Jill Lila.

Our awaiting water taxi's - 3 boats with 7 travelers in each

Jill Lila, Laurie Wagner and Jeanne Nordstrom

All aboard!!!

Richard Packer making the leap into the awaiting taxi

No sweat for Bob Stogsdill

Camille & Jim Meyers along with Elaine Dischaw
in the rear of the taxi

We ride our water taxis to the quaint Bonvecchiati Hotel, just a short walk
from the famous St. Marcus Square. On the way we passed an art piece addressing global warning.

Sue Furness & Jill Lila anticipating getting out of the taxi which dropped us off the rear entrance of our hotel,

Valerie Graczyk exiting in style

Ray Wifler showing off his musical dance step as he got off

Carla Wifler watching her husband get safely off the taxi

Elaine Stogsdill getting off with just a bit of assistance.

Not to be outdone, Bob Stogsdill exits alone!

Joni Greenfield is almost safely off, with grace and dignity.

Our hotel from the street side...hotel's outside restaurant on left.

Gondola's passing by just outside from our hotel

Valerie Graczyk in front of St Mark's bell tower the Campanile in St Marcus Square.

Carla & Ray Wifler, with Ray being the silly one. However, the Bridge of Sighs, seen in the background, is anything but silly. The bridge connects the Doges' Palace with the prison.  It is said that prisoners would be escorted across the bridge to be executed.  They would pause briefly in the middle of the bridge, look out the small windows and "sigh" as they see the outside world for the last time alive.

Bonnie Lueck and Dan Fee

Sue and Heather Furness

Jill Lila and her cousin Laurie Wagner

Wayne and Valerie Graczyk

Our group in front of St Mark's Basilica

Camille Meyers, Valerie Graczyk and Mary Jo Keating

We ended the day with dinner at an outdoor restaurant
recommended by our guide 

What a fantastic first day!!!

Thursday, May 18

What was determined to be a free morning turned into what might be the "gem" of the trip.


We all decided to take a gondola ride through the canals of Venice together as our parting memory of beautiful Venice so we did with the assistance of our tour escort.
Only pictures can do this day justice so here they are:

We had our own singing gondolier as we traversed the canals (standing)

After our memorable gondola rides, all could spend their final morning as free time. Some went shopping, some ate and about half went to a glass blowing presentation by a world renowned establishment.

In less than 5 minutes the craftsman created a 6" horse.  Simply fantastic!

We departed Venice with tons of memories and headed NW to beautiful Bellagio. We arrived and were awestruck as we entered our 5-star deluxe hotel on the shores of Lake Como: the
Grand  Hotel Villa Serbelloni

And as we so often do, we ended the day with a group dinner
filled with laughter and relaxing as a travel group.

A rosy good night from Lake Como as we see the lake and rose bushes from outside of the hotel.

Tomorrow we are off to Varenna plus a tour of Bellagio

May 19 - Varenna & Bellagio

We are up at a reasonable hour,  meet our licensed guide Rita, and take a water taxi across Lake Come to Varenna. Varenna offered the awe of Switzerland with the leisurely charm of Tuscany.

We met outside the hotel as a group bright eyed and bushy tailed even with
the chance of rain. It held off thru the entire morning tour and then dumped on us but only as we finished the tour with most travelers safe and dry before the rain hit...except Dan & Bonnie who took an extended tour of their own. You got to love their adventureness

Jill Lila and Alan Nordstrom along with Elaine & Bob Stogsdill about to get on the water taxi.

Dan Fee, Bonnie Lueck, Carla & Ray Wifler, Camille & Jim Meyers

Richard Packer, Elaine Dishaw, Sue & Heather Furness and Mary Jo Keating enjoying the water taxi ride which took about 20 minutes

Our Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni as seen from our water taxi

Almost there. Richard Packer, Elaine Dishaw, Sue & Heather Furness,
Mary Jo Keating & Elaine Stogsdill

Beautiful Port Village of Varenna

Where could you ever find a purple bike but in Varenna, right Valerie?

A beautiful path along Lake Como on the way to the village, We always believe it won't rain during one of our tours, and while cloudy with 70% chance I of rain, it held off.

Heather & Sue Furness

Bonnie Lueck & Dan Fee

Our destination is almost upon us. 
There was beauty with almost every step we took. 

The path was to be mostly flat but became a little hilly.
Ray & Carla Wifler, along with Richard Packer, were up to the task.

Alan Nordstrom posed foe a picture as  a reminder of Fond du Lac,
Foot of the Lake (Lake Como in this case)

Beautiful ladies with beautiful flowers.
Jill Lila and Bonnie Lueck 

Beauty abounded all over the gardens of the Giardini Botanical Gardens and Heather & Sue Furness certainly added to the scenery

A flower amongst beauty; Mary Jo Keating

A group picture n the gardens on the way to the House Museum.

So nice to see flowers so colorful that we won't see in Wisconsin, nor Minnesota, for several weeks. We know that Valerie agrees.

We toured and enjoyed the House Museum in the Botanical Gardens.

A ceiling painted to comfort you in the dull and cloudy days of winter, blue skies and all.

Mary Jo Keating & Camille Meyers in the Music Room

I dubbed this beautiful handmade table "The Knights of the Oval Table"

The House Museum which had been the Villa Monastero

Carla & Ray Wifler taking a short break on the way back to the water taxi (you can see it off to the left.....and before the rain hit but after the tour was completed.

It rained but we were safely inside the taxi. Of course Bob Stogsdill (next to his wife Elaine)  kept his umbrella up just in case, Joni & Gary Greenfield, Jim Meyers, Ray & Carla Wifler and someone that joined our group and looking like he wanted to escape the camera, but couldn't.

Sitting in front of a café in Ballegio trying to be "artsy" with my camera.

Elaine Dishaw with the the Pre Alp mountains in the background

Jill Lila - camera ready as always

St James, one of the 19 churches in Ballagio. Only three are active
every Sunday. The other 16 have mass said only on that church's Feast Day. Ž

Our guide Rita closed our tour of Bellagio with the story of President Kennedy staying at the same hotel we did just a couple of months before his assassination. He left the hotel one day unbeknownst to his body guards. He strolled the streets unrecognized. When his body guards discovered his absence police and everyone went on full scale alert with sirens sounding. When they found Kennedy, all the people thought this surely was some dangerous character as the police and body guard descended around him.

Our guide taking a nap during our guide Rita's presentation.
Just pretending of course.

May 20 - Como and Stresa

May 21 - Lake Maggiore (Isola of Dei Pescatori & Isola Bella)

Lake Maggiore is a long thin lake on the south side of the Alps shared by Italy and Switzerland. It is about 40 miles long and 10 miles wide with an average depth of 582 foot and max depth of 1,220 feet.

We checked into the Grand Dino hotel located just beyond Stresa.

The Dino from seen the front and from Lake Maggiore.
Valerie in the hotel lobby

Wayne caught being silly
There were beautiful views from our rooms plus a wedding. It seems that every trip we take we encounter a wedding in progress or about to begin.

Val, we got you with a view from our window in Stresa

Arrival dinner in our hotel in Stresa

Heading for the Islands of Isola Bella and Isola Dei Pescatori

Mary Jo Keating & Valerie Graczyk in the hotel lobby.

A couple from France, friends of both the Graczyk's and Jim & Camille Meyers are pictured with Elaine Dishaw. James & Lucy Boucher are 2nd & third from the left. They have joined Wayne & Valerie on 5 different trips before again joining us at our hotel in Baveno (where our hoel was located).

Bob & Elaine Stogsdill, Dan Fee &  Ray Wifler marvel at the hotel amenities.

Boarding the boat to go to the first island: Bella

Carla & Ray Wifler with Bob Stogsdill waiting until the photo shoot is over.

Proudly stepping to the front are Valerie Gracayk, Joni & Gary Greenfield & Richard Packer

Safely aboard are Jim & Camille Meyers, Lucy & James Boucher, Dan Fee & Bonnie Lueck.

At the back of our boat are the anchors. Laurie Wagner, Jill Lila, Valerie Graczyk,
Sue Furness & Mary Jo Keating

Beautiful white peacock on the island of Bella
Jim and Camille Meyers in the garden at the Villa of the family Borromeo on Island Bella

10 of us rented a boat to explore Lake Maggiore. The lake is about 40 miles long and has depth down to 1200 feet.

Jim and Camille Meyers

Valerie Graczyk and Sue Furness on Lake Maggiore

We apologize because we had an International software complication so the following parts of the blog are meant to be informative and temporary. Thank you for following along so far. The blog will be totally updated with pictures and comments after we return home. We do have some pictures to give you an idea of where we went after the last entry above. 
Wayne & Valerie

May 22 - La Spezia

These are pictures of a winery we stopped and visited on the way to La Spezia. The owner spoke to us in perfect English because he was from Wisconsin! He was born about 6 km from his winery but his son and daughter were born in Madison, WI.  He was an international lawyer before retiring to Italy. He said we were the very first Wisconsin group ever to show up at his winery. 

Winery owner, Azienda Agricola Tomasetti, and Mary Jo Keating

Sue Furness and Valerie Graczyk

Group picture in front of the winery with the owner Azienda Agricola Tomasetti

Cathedral in Milan. It is the third largest church in the world behind only St. Peter's in Rome and the Seville Cathedral.  It has a interesting history. It took about 600 years to complete. During the second world war the Vatican got the Allies and Nazis to agree not to bomb the cathedral. As a result no soldiers could enter the cathedral. The Vatican then used the cathedral the house Jewish people during the war. While no bombs struck the cathedral, the impact of so many bombs broke many or most of the stained-glass windows which had to be restored.

May 23 - Cinque Terra

Colorful entry into first port on Cinque Terra but this first stop was not on the Cinque Terra coastline.

Cinque Terra is noted for its brightly colored buildings built right into the rocky cliffs

We enjoyed lunch in the village, free time, a walking tour and then took a train back to La Speiza for an evening of relaxing and of course eating excellent Italian cuisine at a local restaurant.

Panoramic view of the beach and harbor of the largest village, Monterosso

Our final day is a free day and while some are going back to the Five Fishing Villages of Cinque Terra in one way or another, many are going to another less traveled village called the Lerici.

May 24 - Lerici

Thank you for following us and look for the updated version of this blog to be completed by the end of May.

The following is a contribution from Sue Furness:

Wednesday May 24  -  Free Day

On our last full day in Italy, our free day, Susan and Heather Furness wanted to return to the villages of the Cinque Terre to see the ones not on yesterday's itinerary.  We bought the 35 euro each round trip boat ticket to Porto Venere and the 4 Cinque Terre villages that have boat access.  The boat ride shows the beautiful scenery of the coast but is slower than the train, where most of the ride is inside tunnels without the view.
The boat stopped at beautiful Porto Venere first.  We stayed on the boat because we had visited there yesterday, and got off at the southern most village, Riomaggiore.  A small stony beach was to the right of the dock then to the left, narrow, stone steps and a long walkway led to the main street.  There were lots of quaint shops and restaurants lining the colorful street as we walked higher past homes and churches.  We ended up on the very high walkway, Via dell' Amore, leading to the next village, Manorola.  We could walk on the wide paved path with a railing for just part of the way, past homes on the steep hillside, then the path was closed due to repair work from a rock slide.  Beautiful sea views!  Back to the crowded harbor and on to Manorola.

Manorola is often depicted in pictures of Cinque Terre so we went right up to the vantage point to take our photos of the fantastic view of the town and the harbor.  We walked the very long winding streets to look at shops and homes again on the steep hillsides.  We stopped and had great focaccia, the area's specialty.  The swimming area at the harbor is clear and a beautiful blue.  Small boats are covered and parked on the pavement along the harbor.

We watched the boat schedule and met the boat again to go to the next village, Vernazza.  The boat passed by Corniglia, the third village, without a harbor for large boats.  We had been to Vernazza yesterday with the group but we spent almost the entire time at the high and low vantage points looking across at the pastel town and harbor.  Today we visited the shops and the church right at the harbor.  There was a nice beach with swimming and kayaking just below the large square.

We boarded the boat going south instead of visiting Montorosso, the fifth village.  We spent time there in the old town yesterday with the group, but stayed later to see all of the old town and the new town where the resort hotels and big beaches are. Yesterday we took the train back to La Spezia.  Today, we took the one and a half hour boat ride with the fantastic views back to La Spezia in perfect weather and calm sea.  A glorious day!

1 comment:

  1. Tell Jill to keep that camera ready.....we're waiting to see the pictures.....Jean H