Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thursday September 8, 2005

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OC Transpo bus 97 to airport.
1730 Ottawa to Montreal 1811 AC 8956.
2135 Montreal to London 0905 BA 94.

Friday September 9, 2005

1110 London to Milan 1405 BA 576.

In Milan, Colin had great difficulty getting out of the toilet at the airport and had to force his way out. When he did he was amazed to see that our bags had made it through. The Air Canada ticket agent at Ottawa had wrongly checked them to London and the alert BA agent at Montreal had to go down and recheck the bags. As it was, London Heathrow was a disaster and it took a long time to change terminals only to find out that the flight was going to be delayed because of bad weather in the Milan area.

Milan airport was a pleasure to go through and getting into Milan was very easy. The Malpensa Express was well sign posted, we bought our tickets and had to run for the train which is formed of modern double decker electric multiple units, operated by the Milano Nord Railway, which quickly whisked us to Cadorna station. It was only about 10 minutes walk to the hotel (Hotel London, Via Rovello 3. ).

First impression of Milan is wall to wall trams. Old single ones, old articulated ones right up to long five or seven unit ones. One street had a complete line of trams. Not many buses. We walked around a bit but had supper in a Chinese restaurant close to the hotel.

Saturday September 10, 2005

Colin DSCN 6014-6032 – Mary DSCN 5998-6011

The hotel room is quite good although a little small. Everything works. The shower is so small that one doesn't get in it so much as put it on. Walked down the Via Dante to Piazza Duomo and visited the dark and dingy cathedral which is the largest in Europe. Walked through the covered Galleria Vittoria with an interesting aerial photograph on the floor in the centre, past La Scala and on to the public gardens. At Central station we purchased some train tickets and caught the no. 1 tram back to Via Manzoni for lunch, Food was ok but workmanlike - it leaned toward fast food. There were many regulars who went to the serving area and gave their order before finding a table.
- tortelloni al fughi/salad with artichokes and boconccini,
- fruit salad,
- coffee and Charlottes (biscuit with jam in middle).
- bottle of Orvieto,

After lunch we found the La Scala ticket office and managed to get tickets for Rossini’s Barber of Seville on Monday. (Incredible luck)
At the tourist office we bought a one day pass (4 €) for the local transport.
Took 12 tram to Piazza Pirenza and a 14 back through the city centre to Piazza le Cantore for campari & soda. We walked along a student area past a canal with floating restaurants and then caught the 29 tram which does a circle. We took it as far as the amazing interchange at Repubblica with 6 platforms and caught the no. 1 to Cairoli where we had beer, snacks and olives before setting off on the subway for Lambrate where we bought tickets for the train tomorrow to Bergamo. At Lambrate we caught a 54 bus to the Piazza Duomo and walked back to the hotel.

Sunday September 11, 2005

Colin DSCN 6033-6042 – Mary DSCN 6012-6019
1016 Milano Lambrate to Bergamo 1103
1635 Bergamo to Milano Centrale 1730

As we walked through Bergamo we found a brass band giving a concert to an appreciative audience. We took the funicular to the Citta Alta and found Taverna del Colleoni Dell'Angello for lunch. The service was good and the maitre d' was particularly proud of the hand made ravioli which was served with a special ravioli spoon and fork.
- Glass prosecco
- Bottle of local red wine
- Quail leg on potato sauce
- Layered potato with porcini and prosciuto
- Poached egg with potato sauce
- Hand made ravioli stuffed with local cheese and garnished with fried basil leaves and tomato skins. (this was wonderful)
- Rack of veal carved at the table with braised leek, porcini mushrooms, roast potatoes and gravy.
- Bitter chocolate mousse covered in chopped hazelnuts/figs with millefeuille with gelato and spun sugar.
- Coffee and pastries.
After lunch we walked round and made our own way down the hill where there was some sort of road racing going on. The cars made a lot of noise. We had to shelter from the rain for a few minutes.
The train back to Milan was uncomfortable and not very clean. Caught the no. 2 tram (Peter Witt) back to the hotel.

Monday September 12, 2005

Colin DSCN 6043-6052 – Mary DSCN 6020-6022

0910 Milano Centrale to Pavia 0933.
1514 Pavia to Milano Centrale 1545.

We caught the no. 2 tram to Stazione Centrale this morning. There is a massive interchange just south of the station at Republica and it was amazing to be sitting in a Peter Witt and being able to see five other Peter Witts and all of them in regular service.
Pavia has lots of narrow interesting streets but is not really exceptional. Many shops were closed Monday morning and didn't open until 1530.
Hosteria della Madonna is almost hidden in a narrow street.
- Red wine Vespolino slightly petillant.
No menu as such, waitress said to trust her choice..
- Rigatoni and a sauce of tomato, rosemary, finely ground hazelnuts and cream.
- Sliced pork, caramelised, with potatoes slathered in oil or butter.
- Custard and melon tart and coffee.
Walked around the town and then came back earlier than intended to get ready for the opera. The train was late, filthy and had several bad flats, some sounded pretty bad.
On the way back Colin stopped off at Republica tram stop to watch the complicated movements.
Drinks and snacks at the Bar della Scala (beer). La Scala is quite small especially the circulating area. It was amazing to think that it was first opened in the 1780’s. Our seats were on the side in row B. Insufficient leg room, captions in the seat back with your choice of English or Italian. There were six rows of boxes arranged above the one seating area. We had a good view of the orchestra, one woman was playing with her cell phone while waiting for the orchestra to assemble.
The performance was very good and the audience was very appreciative. A couple of women wore big hats and took them off for the performance, one had her escort look after it in his lap during the performance.
The trams go right past the front - routes 1 & 2 both use Peter Witts exclusively.

Tuesday September 13, 2005

DSCN 6053-6062 – Mary DSCN 6023-6050

0815 Milano Centrale to Varenna Esino tren 2590 0918
0940 ferry Varenna to Bellagio 0955.
1431 fast boat Bellagio to Como 1518.
1746 Como Nord Lago to Milano Cadorna 1849

The train was not full but there were several smoking cars so we had to choose carefully where we sat. The toilets were fithy and had no water - even early in the morning. Italian regular trains are pretty grotty and there is no benefit to going first class as these are treated the same as second.
After Lecco we ran along the lake which has very steep sides. Much work is going on at various locations to improve the single track line.
From Varenna to Bellagio, exit the station and turn left and walk down the steps to the road at the bottom. Turn right until you come to a crossroads (there's a bar on the right hand corner). Turn left and cross the road - you are now on the main road. Take the immediate right hand turning and walk down towards the lake. At the bottom, turn left and you'll see the boat ticket office on the right.
There is a choice of either boats or car ferries from Varenna to Bellagio - both are 15 minute crossings and the only difference is the different point of arrival in Bellagio.
I think it took longer to write these instructions than it did to actually walk it. It took us about five minutes to walk to the ferry. Varenna is an attractive village nestled on the edge of the lake and in the light of what we found at Bellagio we would have done well to spend additional time before taking the ferry.
The 15 minute ride was good and the sun was hot.
Bellagio relies entirely on tourism and has lost a lot of its charm. However. The place is clean and well cared for but there is nothing here but tourism. We walked around and over the hill to see the other arm of the lake. However, everything was the same.
We had lunch in a pleasant garden but the food was not memorable.
- Risotto alla parmigiana
- Saltimboca with salad
- Half litre of white veneto wine.
The local specialty is risotto with lake perch (local idea of fish and chips). This didn't appeal - it was just risotto with fried perch fillets on top.
Lots of tourists of many nationalities and the people in the stores all spoke English, French and German, as well as Italian.
Hydrofoil is the quickest means of lake transport. Journey time: 40 minutes. Cost of ticket: €9,20 per person.
The 1429 hydrofoil was just a couple of minutes late. We called in at Tremezzo, Lenno, Lezeno and Argegno on our way to Como. The boat is pretty fast and the stops are very short indeed, in some cases less than a minute.
The villages on the western side of the lake are quite touristy. However, Lezzeno, on the east shore, is pretty isolated and was not a tourist destination.
Bearing in mind the tourist nature of Bellagio we would have done better to have taken the cheaper, regular boat and packed some bread, local cheese and fruit.
Como turned out to be a very interesting place, the most interesting on this trip to date. There is a very large pedestrian area which feels good as there are not too many tourists Como has an economic base which includes industries as well as tourism. There is a university here.
From reading the guide books we thought we would be heading straight to the station. We did do this and bought our tickets but took a look around and found the Basilica with the town arches and balcony and clock tower. We found a prime people watching table looking on to the church and decided to give the god stuff a miss so that we could spend time watching people.
Many people have cell phones and it was amusing watching women on bicycles chattering away on their phones. Italians are at quite a disadvantage with cell phones because they like to use their hands a lot when they are talking.
After this, we spent some time wandering the extensive pedestrian area and made our way to catch the 1746 train. One greengrocer had an impressive selection of porcini. There were some very large ones but these were less expensive than the smaller ones which had not been eaten by maggots.
The Ferrovie Nord Milano uses older electric stock with driving power cars (carrying passengers and bicycles) and trailers on this line. This is quite a contrast to the very modern Malpensa Express equipment which the company also operates into Cadorna station in Milan. There was lots of traction motor noise which was quite exciting as the motorman wound it up on the heavy climb over the single track out of Como. Concrete ties. There is single track out of Como (with siding at the first station) then double track. Some of the stations have wide platforms with tables and chairs set out by a bar.

Wednesday September 14, 2005

Colin DSCN 6063-6092 Mary DSCN 6052-6072

Went to see if any tickets for the Last Supper had been returned but no luck.
Spent some time at the Science and Technology Museum but it was very dry. The DaVinci models are good but we had seen many of them several years ago in Montreal.
The railway exhibit was small but interesting. It included a steam locomotive with Caprotti valve gear but not one with a Franco-Crosti boiler. This was a surprising omission but there is possibly a working example somewhere. The museum also included a complete sailing ship, formerly a sail training ship which was dismantled into 90 pieces and shipped in.
From there we took a 29 tram to Stazione Garibaldi then to lunch. The kids had just been let out and piled on to the tram, some of them for just one stop. The driver used his bell a lot especially when we were stopped by a vehicle in the way. The bell was assisted by several people whistling shrilly.
Lunch was at the Antica Trattoria della Pesa which dates back to 1880. We went there to sample a true risotto and were not disappointed. The waiter was very helpful and spoke good English and tried, unsuccessfully, to get us to share a couple of plates. Trouble was neither of us was prepared to share risotto. The meal and the service were both wonderful.
- Wine was Morellino di Scansano DOC 2003.
- Ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach and cooked with sage (Colin)/Risotto milanese (Mary). The ravioli was superb, home made, fluffy.
- Osso bucco with risotto milanese served with an osso bucco implement/Bocconcini di vitello con funghi porcini. The osso bucco was more like an enormous veal chop. It was delicious and on both plates the gravy was superb.
- Zabaglioni with pastries.
- Grappa de muscato. This was to try grappa which is an eau de vie.
On the way back to the tram we called into a supermercado. It was well stocked with basics and had a good selection of cheeses.
At Repubblica in ten minute period:
1830 (30) 1565 (29) 1754 (1) unid 5 car (9) 1623 (11) 15xx (2) 4602 (9) 1582 1999 (1) 1771 (2) 4613 (9) 1984 (11) 4987 (9) 1625 (30)
We then boarded a no. 1 tram to La Scala and walked through the Galleria Vittoria to the Duomo where we took the elevator to the roof.
The views were not very good, particularly bearing in mind the haze on this hot day but the architecture is superb.
After a rest in our room we went out past La Scala and walked along past the duomo. Had a glass of prosecco and the several plates of snacks that came with it. At the next table a fortune seller was trying to get 10€ each from two women. A nasty little girl wandered past with a violin and scratched it then asked for money. Lots of people walking and riding past on bikes.
Colin bought some roasted chestnuts from a lady who was going on in Italian at us. A man at the stand was laughing and said she was complaining about something. We never found out what she was ranting about. The chestnut bags had two sections, one for the chestnuts and one for the shells. This is a great idea.

Thursday September 15, 2005

Colin DSCN 6093-6101 Mary DSCN 6073-6090

0910 Milan to Genoa 1042 train #649.

The Italian coffee in the morning is quite an experience. You buy a ticket at the cash and take it to where the barristas are working. There is a non-stop procession of grinding coffee, making the coffee and steaming the milk. There is a continual stream of coffee cups and saucers. If you want a pastry you pay for it at the cash and take it out of the tray with a paper doily. There is continual movement around the barristas as people don't stay long, just long enough to knock back the small cups of expresso.
As we were waiting for our train to be prepared we saw a commuter train come into one of the shorter platforms at the side. There was a wide wall of people advancing down the platform at a slow walk. Nobody was running which seems typical of this laid back town. Even though we travelled first class the carriage was filthy.

The Genova station faces east which caused some confusion when we were looking for the hotel, Agnello D’Oro. It has about 17 platforms, some through and some dead ended.
As it was Mary's birthday, we had two glasses of proseco each at a bar across the street while we waited for the hotel to get our room ready. The room is pretty good and is quite big and the shower is quite big enough to use comfortably.

The hotel recommended a bar- ristorante Le Maschere which turned out to have a lot of working men in it - a good sign.
- Wine Golfo del Tigullio Vermentino a local white wine.
- Trofie (long thin gnocci) with pesto sauce, a local speciality - very different.
- Mussels in tomato sauce/mixed grilled fish (several types of fish, squid, gamberi, scampi) mixed salad.
Mary could watch the chef working in the kitchen.
We then walked the short distance to the Genova Aquarium which is the largest in Europe. It was a little confusing at first but there was a strict order in which to go round. They started with a movie about the blue earth, we had to use 3D glasses, the effects were pretty good but we were anxious to get to the fish. There were several very large tanks with lots of fish, eels, rays, seals, dolphins, penguins etc. The tanks were all very clean and the water extremely clear. There were many displays of tropical fish and the Clown Fish were the most popular as people had seen the movie Nemo. Here was also a hummingbird forest where one could walk around with hummingbirds flying over your head. We spent a great amount of time there and thoroughly enjoyed it. We didn't leave until 1815.
We then bought some day passes for the buses which are good also for the funiculars and cablecars. We took the Funicolare Zecca-Righi which is a balanced incline funicular. We rode to the top but there were several intermediate stops. The view from the top was a bit disappointing so we just had a beer at a bar and came back down.
There was quite a bit of washing to be done this evening.

Friday September 16, 2005

Colin DSCN 6113-6127 Mary DSCN 6092-6094

1034 Genova Piazza Manin to Casella 1130 Train #7.
1330 Casella to Genova Piazza Manin 1426 train #14.

The hotel has a very good buffet breakfast with some healthy items such as cereals, yogurt and fruit although the pastries, tarts and rolls looked good as well.
The no. 34 bus runs frequently from the stazione Principe and it has a good bus stop sign so that we knew when to get off. Genova is an interesting place but the streets do not follow any pattern so it would have been awkward to find our way on our own. The bus was pretty full and the entire system seems to be well used.
The Ferrovia Gerona Casella was a little difficult to find even when we had got off at the right stop. It is up a series of steps and the station building is hidden away behind some trees. The one way fare was 2€.
Many of the stations seem to be mere timetable notations. Capuccio has a building but it is set on the side of a hill and nobody lived in the area. There doesn't appear to be a track leading to it. In this case there is a siding but other locations have nothing. The FGC, which was built in 1929, used a single power car on our train.
We crossed a down train (not in timetable) at Campi and the timetabled train at Vicomorasso which also has a great deal of stored equipment, some of it pretty rusty.
We arrived at the first station in Casella and the motorman came back through the train carrying the spoon (reversing lever) and we went back down into Casella by a switchback. There was some roadside running and a reservation on the side of a road bridge over a river. The station in Casella is pretty inconspicuous.
Had a coffee then a drink at a bar where a man had basket of very large mushrooms.
Went to a bake shop and asked for farinata but had to settle for a rice ball with cheese, prosciuto and vegetables. We later saw her preparing farinata using a very large round pan.
The bar at the station was a local sort of a place where we were able to get a glass of prosecco for .70€. The barrista looked after the drinks while a woman made sandwiches.
On the way down the driver missed a stop so he just backed up to let a passenger off. We waited at Vicomorasso for the up train.
Ascensore via contardo - armellini (piazza Manin). This was an elevator that we happened to find by chance.
Funicolare di S. Anna. This is a balanced cable worked funicular. There was a good gelato place at the top. Chocolate and hazelnut.
Ascensore Castelletto - Portello. This is an elevator but with good panoramic views of the lower city and harbour.
Ascensore Castelletto - Galeria Garibaldi.
After a rest in the room we had dinner at the Antico ristorante de Lupo in the same street as the hotel.
- We started by sharing a plate of anchovies. These were excellent and tasted a bit like pickled herring and were not salty. They were served on slices of boiled potato.
- Next Mary had ravioli stuffed with riccotta and a walnut cream sauce while Colin had seafood ravioli in a broth of mussels and clams.
- Apple tart and a light sponge.
- We had a bottle of the house white which was light and lemony.

Saturday September 17, 2005

Colin DSCN 6128-6142 Mary DSCN 6095-6117

Ascensore de Montegalletto this is an integrated horizontal-vertical elevator. The cars run from the lower level horizontally to the bottom of the vertical shaft where a second car can pass. It seems that the car is then picked up bodily and hoisted to the surface in a frame.
We found the rack railway but gave up waiting for it and took the 34 bus to the Municipal Market which was a disappointment being pretty small and not having a great variety of items - missing were fungi and fresh home-made pastas.
We took a look around the harbour to check out boats for tomorrow and then took the small but poor subway. It is not well signed in the cars and some stations have barriers and some are open.
Much of the centre is pedestrian. We walked along the via Garibaldi which has some wonderful, imposing buildings, and had a prosecco with snacks.
We walked to via Vicenza to get farinata but had to go some way out of our way because of the different levels of the streets. Farinata is thin and made in a round pan. It is cooked with lots of olive oil and looks a little like an omelet. I wouldn't want to repeat the experience particularly.
Mary had a dark chocolate and pistacio ice cream and then we checked out the other FS station which contained more low life than the Principe station.
No 28 bus to Ferrari and then Metro to the port where we went on a port tour. The rain held off and we found it interesting. The port is much larger than it at first seemed and there were many large tour, container and bulk carrier ships to be seen.
We then had a long walk through the narrow streets looking for restaurants for later.
We decided to go back to Lupo which was much busier on the Saturday evening. We spoke to the madame who found a table for us.
- Anchovies/raddicchio with gorgonzola sauce and pine nuts and walnuts.
- Shrimps cooked in ginger and zucchini with sphagetti/black rice Venetere.
Once again, with the house wine it made an excellent meal although the portions were very large.

Sunday September 18, 2005

Colin 6143-6150 Mary DSCN 6118-6138

0906 Genova Piazza Principe to Margherita Ligure Portofino 0944 train #1759.
1706 Margherita Ligure Portofino to Genova Piazza Principe 1748 train #2052.

The hotel cat has a good life. He is around to greet guests when they come in in the evening and sleeps on a table in the dining room ready for the breakfast crowd.
We used the FS ticket machine this morning. It is fast and easy to use and will change a large bill. The validating machines invariably need a new ink pad and the conductors invariably make a big deal about it an indistinct validation. The train composition board is amateur and so faded that it is difficult to read. Our train was late arriving and spent 15 minutes at Genova Brignole for no apparent reason. The FS is terrible.
Saw a train at S. Margherita with 4 exit doors locked out of service - a real safety problem.
We caught the 1115 boat to Portofino. Weather was quite warm.
Portofino is awful with tourists. The toilets charged .26€ for some strange reason. The only other money we spent there was €4 for the entry to the castle to get a picture of the village.
We got out of Portofino as soon as possible on the 1300 boat.
Santa Margherita is much more pleasant as there is more room and it has the feel of a place where Italians come to enjoy themselves. There was a kids' beach soccer tournament going on when we arrived and there was also children's basket ball. Kids were rushing around on bikes, roller blades etc., and there was ice cream, cotton candy and drinks. We had lunch at the ristorante Columbo:
- Breaded and fried anchovies/clams steamed in a lot of wine.
- Spaghettini with clams/fish ravioli (one side with squid ink) in a tomato sauce.
- Bottle of Cinque Terre white wine which was not great
It was a good meal and even the bread basket was excellent with some good breadsticks.
The FS managed to get us into Genova Principe within a few minutes of time.

Monday September 19, 2005

Colin DSCN 6151-6172 Mary DSCN 6139-6195

0906 Genova to Levanto 1042 train #2181.
Levanto, Hotel Stella Maris,
1254 Levanto to Riomaggiore 1315
1730 boat Riomaggiore to Levanto 1815

Train windows are filthy. Left on time but we waited 5 minutes to get into Genova Brignole. We arrived at Levanto on time, a British couple had to pay a €15 fine because they had not validated their tickets although the station staff had told them it was alright to get on the train without validating. Pretty sharp practice on the part of the FS. A pretty badly run railway.
The hotel Stella Maris turned out to be located above a bank. We had to climb three flights of marble stairs to a locked door. The room was delightful with an incredible painted ceiling and a canopy above the bed head, a love seat in material which matched the bed cover and a 20 foot high gauzy curtains over the window.
After checking into the hotel we went to the station and bought Cinque Terre tickets which gave us access to the trains and the footpaths.
After taking the train to Riomaggiore we had a quick look around the unattractive part of the village and had a quick lunch of fried mixed fish and pansotti pasta, a local ravioli.
The walk to Manarola was easy, paved all the way, and we found this village more pleasant.
After walking around we decided to walk back to Riomaggiore because the guide books said it was pleasant. We found a rocky path with lots of stairs that went into the village proper and we found it full of very narrow streets and passageways.
We decided to return by boat. We originally intended to go to Monterrosso and use the train but the boat was going through to Levanto and the weather was good so we decided to stay on. By this time of day the sun was shining from the sea into the villages and it made photography very good. The boat called in at Manarola, Vernazza and Monterosso.
Back at Levanto we walked the back streets back to the hotel. It is an interesting town, probably the best we have visited in Italy so far. The kids were out in the park and people were out and about. Not too many tourists.
We had booked for dinner at the hotel:
- Wine Terrazze 2004 Cinque Terra white.
- Antipasto boiled egg, fresh fig, bruschetta, riccotta with radicchio.
- Spagettini with olives, capers, tomato and olive oil.
- Veal with prosciuto, cheese, deep fried sage leaves, potatoes deep fried with rosemary/cuttlefish stewed in a tomato sauce with capers and olives and potatoes.
- Cassata with a chocolate sauce and tiny amaretti.

Tuesday September 20, 2005

Colin DSCN 6174-6187 Mary DSCN 6197-6220

0915 Levanto to Vernazza 0924
1420 Monterosso to Levanto 1425

Train was 20 mins late and we spent 10 minutes waiting in a tunnel. Typical of the railway, if it can go wrong it invariably will.
We had a look around Verazza and bought some parmesan cheese, plums, peaches and a whole wheat roll and set off for Monterossa. It was quite a climb and the views were really good. The trail was very busy and it was difficult to pass at many locations because the path was so narrow. The locals have built a series of monorails to service the steep fields for agriculture. We passed vines, lemons, prickly pear cactus and there were many flowers as well. We made it into Monterosso at about 1245 and had our lunch overlooking the beach. The parmesan was terrific.
The train ran to time, almost. Dirty inside and had a flat wheel.
We returned to the hotel and then went out. Colin checked his e-mail and Mary had a drink at a bar that had a wonderful granite counter top which the owner was convinced was marble from South America but which we were sure was granite. We then walked into the main piazza and watched everyone come out. All the kids in the town must have been there. Quite amazing - a full social gathering. Only the younger kids were in the piazza, the teenagers were off somewhere else.
Marble is a very common building material. Staircases are frequently made of it and all the benches in the park are finished in it.
We had another prosecco which came with deep fried ravioli and other good snacks.
Dinner at the hotel under the lovely painted ceiling.
- Pietraserena Chianti Colli Senesi 2004
- Melon, prosciuto, onions, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke, parmesan, large bread stick.
- Spaghetti with tomato sauce with hot pepper flakes/troffie with pesto sauce.

Wednesday September 21, 2005

Colin 6188-6191

Padova, Hotel Al Cason,

0824 Levanto to La Spezia Centrale 0845 train #2041.
0956 La Spezia Centrale to Parma 1225 train #11912.
1232 Parma to Bologna 1329.
1353 Bologna to Padova 1524 train #2234.

Amazingly we managed to get to Padova at the scheduled time although the trains were running generally about five minutes late. The connections were easy and in most cases a cross platform transfer.
Dinner in Padova.
- Half litre of red
- Bigoli (spaghetti-type pasta only very thick and of a thick consistency) with wild duck sauce/spaghetti with clams.
- Veal with mushroom sauce and vegetables/rabbit cacciotore with mixed salad. Both came with soft polenta.
It could have been very good but was spoilt by far too much salt. Bigoli is a local type of pasta which is coarse and thick, supposed to be good to sop up the sauces made in the area with fish. The Milanese look down upon it and the name is also used to refer to penis.

Thursday September 22, 2005

Colin DSCN 6192-6205 Mary DSCN 6221-6283

0913 Padova to Venice Santa Lucia 0954.
1717 Venice Santa Lucia to Padova 1748.

We caught the train into Venice and quickly found the ticket office where we bought three day transit passes. This turned out to be a smart thing to do as we used it for three trips on the Grand Canal and another trip today - 18.50€ the first day and it cost 22€.
Our first trip was on route number 1 from Ferrovia all the way out to the Lido. This gave us an opportunity to go along the Grand Canal, to orient ourselves and to get the hang of the vaporettos. Amazing, pretty heavy boat traffic past some incredible architecture. At the Lido we had a prosecco and walked across to the beach which was nothing to write home about.
We then caught a number 1 boat back to visit San Marco which was just full of tourists and not particularly enticing. There then followed a good walk to Rialto, stopping on the way for a snack, where we took the opportunity to look at the gondoliers. One of the nice things about Venice is the way one can turn a corner and a completely new and unexpected vista opens up. Many seemingly normal streetscapes have a canal boat stuck somewhere in the middle.
Rialto was a zoo and we eventually took a number 1 to Salute where we admired the church with its domes. A short walk took us to a quieter area where we had prosecci and watched a couple of workmen trying to get out a dump motor which had become stuck. They tried to use a small machine with a front hoe. After that they used a Bobcat. We left them still trying to get the machine out.
We walked along the southern shore of the island and caught a number 82 back to Ferrovia. This went past the cruise ship dock where there were two boats moored, including a particularly huge one.
We were tired and caught an earlier train back to Padova than originally anticipated.
For supper we had a shrimp ball each and a plate of deep fried shrimps and calamari purchased from a stall in the main piazza of Padova. There was nowhere to sit so we ate it sitting in the gutter. That was the low point of our trip (pun intended).

Friday September 23, 2005

Colin DSCN 6206-6224 Mary DSCN 6284-6289

0913 Padova to Venice Santa Lucia 0954.
1702 Venice Santa Lucia to Padova 1734.

The 0913 was an hour late so we had to take the 0926. We were swept into the train and both managed to find standing room between two seats where it is possible to lean up. It was hot but few opened the windows and then, only at stations. At Mestre, the important junction on the mainland, just before the causeway, the train cleared somewhat and we both managed to get seats.
We caught the 1016 number 1 vaporetto to Rialto. The technique used by the drivers is interesting. They crash into the pontoon coming in. When leaving they back up full bore to allow the crew member to free the line, then put it full bore in forward and swing the rudder to force the bow out. They take off hitting the dock with the rear a couple of times to force themselves out further. The stops are very brief and they keep to the timetable very well - to the minute.
The whole vaporetto operation is pretty snappy. The boats on route 1 and some on 82 (and possibly others) are fitted with electronic boards giving the route destination and the next stop in English and Italian - more modern than OC Transpo.
Gondolier was rowing along with one hand and using his cell phone with the other.
An emergency boat came through with siren blaring and creating a great wash.
At Rialto we got off to look at the fish, fruit and vegetable markets. There was a good selection of fish and obviously very fresh. This is the season for fungi and there were many different varieties on sale.
Capuccino/prosecco at a cafe near the fish market.
We went back to the Rialto stop and caught the number 1 to Santa Zacharia where we transferred to the number 5 for the 35 minute trip to Murano. This was a much longer trip and at one point there was spray over the bows. We managed to get seats right in the front so we were splashed a bit.
Murano is much quieter and there are fewer tourists. We went into a couple of the high end glass places. They have many showrooms which are opened with a flourish and then the lights are switched on. Prices are very high.
We had lunch in a pleasant restaurant by the canal. There was an older grumpy waiter and a young guy who was browbeaten by the other.
- Half bottle Chianti.
- Gnoccettini with a salsa de salmone.
- Squids cooked in a black sauce.
We walked around Murano afterwards. It is much quieter than Venice proper but we wondered how the large number of glass factories could all make a living. Much of the glass on display was really garish and not to our liking although some were spectacularly beautiful.
We took the direct vaporetto from Murano (Museo) to Ferrovia. This was, in effect, a commuter boat which got us back to the station in good time for the train.

Saturday September 24, 2005

Colin DSCN 6225-6237 Mary DSCN 6290-6323

0913 Padova to Venice Santa Lucia 0954.
2037 Venice Santa Lucia to Padova 2110.

The train actually ran to time today. We caught the 42 boat to Fondamente Nove and transferred to the LM boat to Burano. This was a much larger boat than normal and it hit the dock pretty hard when it came in. We had to wait while they cleaned the cabin and there was a crew change. The captain shouted at the deckhand because the previous crew had left a wrapping paper on his console.
A local group, possibly the Communist party, had set up an area in the main square where they were grilling fish and seafood and selling wine and drinks.
Lunch at Trattoria al Gato Nero which was away from the tourist strip
- Soave Bertani 2002 this was very good, dry but with a honey aftertaste.
- Antipasto - mussels, clams, shrimp, octopus, scampi, smoked fish, scallops, squid in tomato sauce.
- Fish risotto
- Grilled scampi/grilled eel
- Mixed salad
- Coffee.
The restaurant was very good, the clientele was mainly Italians which was good as it was well patronized, all of the outside tables had been reserved.
A short walk around in the bright sun was very rewarding as the many different colours on the houses showed to their best.
The boat returning to Fondamente Nove was full as was the 41 to Ferrovia. However, it was possible to get a seat by asking people to remove their bags or letting us pass to a central unoccupied seat they were blocking.
From Ferrovia we took a very crowded number 1 to Accademia to photograph the wonderful domes of the church of the Salute in the excellent afternoon sun. We spent some time on the bridge just watching the traffic as well as an enormous cruise liner which was swung around just behind the church of the Salute. Had no idea the large vessels came so close to shore.
Prosecci at Campo de Barnaba.
As we walked towards Rialto the crowds became thicker and it became very unpleasant. The boats were so crowded that we gave up on the idea of going out towards San Marco. We had a spritz at a quieter bar we found towards the fish market and looked at the Grand Canal at night. All the boats had a light, even the gondolas which must have run off a battery. We eventually lined up for a number 82 and although we couldn't get on the first one a second one followed behind which was empty and took us directly to Ferrovia.
The train back had several bad flat wheels which gave a very noisy and very uncomfortable ride.

Sunday September 25, 2005

Mary DSCN 6234-6236

I Solisti Veneti with Claudio Scimone.

Today was a rest and recuperation day. It turned out that I Solisti Veneti was one of the highlights of the trip.

The hall had excellent acoustics and the seats were a very comfortable bright orange leather. It must have been very old - it was decorated with murals of classical figures.
The orchestra shambled in, in very casual dress. The principal violinist had a suit but one of the violinists wore a black tee-shirt and one of the cellists had long straggly hair, a beard and moustache and he wore an open necked blue shirt with a light yellow scarf. He seemed to slump around his instrument when he wasn't playing it.
They looked as if they had had a long night and one of the violinists was playing with his eyes shut most of the time.
The fellow who appeared to be ushering in the orchestra turned out to be Claudio Scimone. He took off his sport jacket and hung it over the back of a chair and then gave a short speech. He smiled a lot and seemed to be a delightful person.
The orchestra may not have looked much but he had them under perfect control and they had a big sound for a small orchestra.
The oboe soloist was Paolo Pollastrini who came bounding on with a huge smile. He communicated frequently with the conductor with smiles, nods, winks and other facial expressions. He almost conducted the orchestra from behind the conductor when he wasn't playing and waved frequently to a friend in the audience. He was very good. After a particularly difficult part he made facial expressions suggesting "that was difficult but I got through it pretty well." He did very well and was well received.
The horn soloist, Antonio Frannina, had a shaven head and an ear ring. He looked as if he had tattoos and a Harley. His playing was impeccable and he did very well indeed.
The third soloist, the clarinetist Giampiero Sobrino, was the straight man who was wearing a suit. However, before he could start one of the flutists had to search for her glasses - she was possibly the conductor's wife.
All in all it was an excellent performance and it was well received. The sophisticated audience clapped hard but nobody stood up to give a standing ovation. There was no clapping between movements except for one small boy near us who clapped once before his parents jumped on him and stopped further noise. The audience was better dressed than the performers.
After this we went for a long walk around the town and discovered some interesting spots - an interesting town with a couple of large basilicas but nothing that jumps out at you like Venice. There are a couple of pedestrian areas but the town has not come to grips with the automobile.

Monday September 26, 2005

Mary DSCN 6337-6355

0947 Padova to Verona Porta Nuova 1058 train 608 car 4, seats 43-44.
1648 Verona Porta Nuova to Padova 1802.

Once again the Italian railways screwed up. We had a seat reservation but there was nothing in the car to say we had one and of course our seats were already taken. The reservation system is a scam. It is just a way of skimming more money out of the unsuspecting passenger. The train was posted as running on time but ran five minutes late.
Somehow the train managed to be 15 minutes late arriving at Vicenza (wrong line working) but only 3 minutes late at Verona.
Great display of various flavoured gelato. This included carved melons, and other fruit.

Lunch was at Trattoria Pane e Vino
- Prosecco
- House Amarone - wonderful, lots of depth, good nose, tannin. Possibly the best wine of the trip.
- Toast with liver pate and smoked goose.
- Ravioli with pumpkin, sage and almonds.
- Trio of pasta - tagliatelli, ravioli and gnocci./Guinea fowl.
A really memorable meal with a quite exceptional wine.
More walking around and admired the Roman soldiers strolling around outside the Forum, spritz with Aperol then train home, which was on time.

Tuesday September 27, 2005

DSCN 6238-6248 Mary DSCN 6356-6422

0947 Padova to Vicenza 1010 train #608.
1636 Vicenza to Padova 1659 train #5503.

Another demonstration of the way the railway is run. The electronic board showed the train as running on time until it was 6 minutes late then it was shown as running 15 late then the train crew announced that it would be 25 late because of work on the line. We then sat for 20 minutes in the platform and went wrong line for the first part of the run. There were at least three doors out of use on the train.
Antico Restaurante agli Schioppi, Contra del Castello 26.
- Bottle of Soave Capitel Foscarino 2004
- Prosciuto with figs/dried mushrooms
- Risotto with black truffle/bigoli with tomato sauce
- Tiramisu/local cheeses - Asiago (2), Gorgonzola, Parmesan, Emmental with two excellent mustard jams.
Vicenza is a sleepy sort of a place which closes down for several hours at lunch. Yet there is some architecture on a grand scale. There is the feeling that it is living on its past. The Teatro Olimpico was pretty interesting. It is supposedly the oldest enclosed theatre in Europe.
Of course, our return train was 15 minutes late - this secret wasn't announced until after the scheduled departure time.

Wednesday September 28, 2005

Colin DSCN 6249-50

Milan, Hotel London, Via Rovello 3.
0854 Padova to Milano Centrale 1105 train #9490 car 4, seats 63-64.

Train was posted as 5 minutes late but we left almost 10 minutes late. Ran at 50 kmph most of the way between Vicenza and Verona and finished up 25 minutes late. Italian train drivers get lots of practice at driving slowly. Once again there was great confusion between those who had reserved and those who had not. For first class the train was pretty dirty, one of the toilets was out of order and the other was filthy.
We took the underground to the hotel London, noting the great line up waiting for taxis at the station. We then caught a number 2 tram towards Repubblica and found ourselves in a massive traffic jam. It turns out it was in connection with a fashion event, Milano Moda. There must have been six or seven Peter Witts together. One passenger started swearing loudly in Quebec French. The tram driver was getting impatient but we enjoyed it - we were still using up the ticket we had validated at Centrale to get to the hotel.
We walked the final several blocks to the restaurant we went to two weeks ago, the Antica Trattoria della Pesa. We had the same table and the same waiter and were again delighted.
- Wine was Morellino di Scansano DOC 2003.
- Ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach and cooked with sage (Colin)/Caprese salad with mozzarella di buffala (tomatoes and bocconcini (Mary).
The ravioli was superb (heavenly), home made, fluffy.
- Osso bucco with risotto milanese served with an osso bucco implement/ravioli (same as first course). The osso bucco was more like an enormous veal chop.
- We shared a tarte tatin which was quite authentic.
After a wonderful meal we took a seven unit tram to Cadorna where we also saw the tourist tram (20€!). We bought tickets for the train to the airport tomorrow then returned to the hotel for a rest.
Walked out in the evening for shopping and a last drink (spritz and prosecco) and walk around. Mary purchased a bright red leather purse and Colin a leather holder for his passport which will fit into the inside pockets in his pants.

Thursday September 29, 2005

1205 Milan to London 1300 BA 573.
1725 London to Montreal 1925 BA 95.
2145 Montreal to Ottawa.

This is the smallest bathroom yet(in the hotel). No room for two people and, if you are in it, it is easier to come out to turn around. There is a motion detector in there to turn the fan on and off.
We caught the Malpensa Express to the airport. It is really quick and efficient. There was plenty of time at the airport as well as at London. We called Pam and Len to arrange a visit at Christmas. Some confusion at Montreal but we eventually made it through to Ottawa where we caught OC Transpo bus 97 home.

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