Monday, May 27, 2013

Bella vistas - Feltre

With a rented car we ventured further north for the third leg of our Italian journey.

To escape from the urban setting we stayed at a b&b in Villaga, a village just outside of Feltre. Villa Rosa nestles into the hillside near the end of a road and up a long steep switchback driveway.
from our Villa Rosa aerie, view of church across the valley
view from the church across the valley; Villa Rosa is the spot in the center
The weather had turned cold and wet the day we arrived
the view on the day of arrival
and only cleared up the day before we left. Just in time to show what we've been missing.
a similar view the day before departure
We didn't let the inclement weather stop us.

A couple hours north is the town of Cortina d'Ampezzo which hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics. It was very quiet between tourist seasons: the ski resorts had recently closed and summer season hadn't started. Even though the encircling Dolomites were obscured by clouds and rain, we could sense their majesty. Imagine what we would've seen on a clear day!

Cortina d'Ampezzo
Cortina d'Ampezzo
Other days, we explored Feltre, visited Grantorto to search for a farm "next to the road with a river on the other side", stopped in Bassano del Grappa for lunch and the grappa museum, 
small bottles at the grappa museum
and looked for distant relatives in Lamon.
With help from our terrific b&b hosts, Andy and Simone, we contacted cousin Angelo and spent a day with his family.
Italian relatives (Angelo in the middle)
We talked and ate lunch; talked and ate dinner; then talked some more. What a great visit: good company, delicious home-cooked Italian food, homemade grappa and good conversation aided by an English-Italian dictionary. We promised to see them again in five years.

On the day before we left, when the weather cleared up. our b&b hosts pointed us to a hike on the green hill in the middle of the photo below (not the mountainous Dolomites in the background). 
clear day for a hike
We hiked up to a reservoir
and followed the beautiful river that fed it.
A good ending to a great time in this area. Rested, we were ready for Venice next. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bella vistas: Padova

A Sunday arrival in Padova - aka Padua - meant the tourist information office was closed. Armed with a 15-year-old map without a scale we trudged to our hotel thinking it was only a short distance and direct route. Walking a mile or so is usually no problem, but between the wayward turns, rough sidewalk, very warm sunny weather and the extra burden of luggage, we I arrived at the hotel exhausted and cranky.

We had a view of Basilico di Sant' Antonio, aka Basilico del Santo, across the street.
view from our hotel room window
Basilico del Santo from street level
After 30 minutes respite and a quick late lunch, we set out to explore the city. Padova is more urban and more Roman than Trieste. We did visit a few churches . . . 
dome in the Duomo
and standard attractions, such as Capella degli Scrovegni for Giotto's frescoes (scoring tickets was insane). Mostly we walked and walked. Part of the fun was exploring the big piazza, discovering the little hidden campos (squares), and window shopping. 
from above: Piazza delle Erbe - an open air fresh produce market
butcher in the market hall
One day we took a train trip to nearby Vicenza, hiked all the way up Mount Berico . . .
view of Vicenza from the hill
on a circuitous route to La Rotunda, aka Villa Capra Valmarena, the epitome of Palladio's architecture.
La Rotunda
It's as beautiful inside as it is out.  The round central hall is covered with beautiful frescos. But, sorry, no photos were allowed of the interiors. I gleaned from the docents that the owners use this place only during warmer weather. Not so much as a summer palace, but as a setting for corporate events and fundraisers. Imagine attending a party there! 

After coming back down the hill we took many wrong turns, got totally disoriented and walked in circles. When we finally got un-lost, we paid the price: gelatos. Reward for walking - ?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Bella vistas: Trieste

Trieste from the waterfront

First stop in Italy was Trieste. Situated right on the Adriatic Sea and surrounded by hills, it's darn gorgeous! And not jammed with tourists either.
pastry shop's front door
I sniffed out our first breakfast right down the street from our B&B: yummy flaky croissant marmalade (apricot jam filling for you non-Italians) with great cup of cappuccino. Learned later they have the best pastries in town. With that ringing endorsement, we opted not to watch our diet while in Italy and indulged there every morning. 
filled brioches
Trieste was part of the Austrian empire for many many years. That influence shows in its stately architecture 

and its pastries. Being home to Illy coffee (the founder invented the first espresso machine), a great cup of coffee is easy to find. Pastries and coffee - a great combo!
artistic protest at Piazza Unita d'Italia
An outdoor cafe (under the awning on the far left of the above photo) at the Piazza is a great place for afternoon coffee, tea or drinks while people watching.
the Grand Canal of Trieste 
A great start to an Italian holiday!