A Travellerspoint blog

Colico - Milan - Bellagio - Lerici

Day 23-24

sunny 22 °C
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Up and away early to pick up the rest of Team Thomson (Sarah and Oli) from Milan Linate airport. Got a good park and into the arrival hall with time to spare for two espressos! As check-in at the hotel was still 6 hours away we decided to head up to Bellagio, on Lake Como for lunch and a wander around. It was a beautiful drive up the side of the peninsular to Bellagio, which is just as lovely as we remembered – except there are a trillion more tourists around. So glad we’re not visiting in the height of the season, it would be unbearable. Had difficulty spotting the apartment we stayed in in 2000, but think we got it in the end. But we definitely had lunch at the same spot we enjoyed for our first lunch with Jon and Sarah 16yrs ago! Lovely to relax and chat with Sarah and Oli while enjoying the food, wine and scenery.
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Then back down to Milan to locate our apartment for the next 3 days…………..well, that was the plan and you know what happens to the best laid plans! We finally managed to locate the place – but it definitely wasn’t anything like the photos on Booking.Com and the apartment was appalling and wasn’t anywhere near the rooms we’d sleep in. Soooo disappointing. Had to walk away from that place (and a night’s deposit) after a few choice words………and unfortunately as we’d discovered it was Fashion Week in Milan, we couldn’t get a reasonably priced alternative at short notice.
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Change of plan! We decided to spend the night about 50 mins out of Milan in a wee place just out of Pavia. Hotel Ritz – it had lovely big rooms – dated furnishings, but clean, and quiet and a restaurant next door. So who could ask for more? Oh, and it was breakfast included – this has become our favourite option while travelling.
The plan for the next few days was discussed over breakfast and we decided to go down to the coast and the Cinque Terre, via Parma for lunch. That was an amazing spot – very old church being restored, river through the town and friendly people. It was the first time we’d really become aware of the heightened level of security in towns, with both the carabinerei (not the local police but the regional force) and the army patrolling the streets.
Then, off to Lerici for the night. This is a wee spot at the bottom end of the Cinque Terre. It’s just around the coast from La Spezia which is quite a big port and naval base. Caught the train to Vernazza –the middle town of the five that make up the Cinque Terre. We then hiked for 2 hours up to the next town Monterosso Del Mare, around the coast track. Pretty amazing hike – if you weren’t on top of a stone wall you were walking beside one, with olive trees etc. all around. Very steep terrain, and a huge amount of hikers. It was a superb day yet again – not a breath of wind (lots of swimmers at the beach at Monterosso. Blue azure water and clear blue sky – just stunning. To complete the day we had antipasto lunch beside the sea with a very attentive and fun waitress.
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Caught the train back to La Spezia, and then drove around the docks to our villa accommodation.

Posted by EMTHOMSON 14:13 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Laces to Colio (Lake Como) via Passo dello Stelvio

Day 22-23

overcast 16 °C
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Reasonably early start to try to get over Passo dello Stelvio before all the other tourists – cyclists and motorbikes – but good to head out in the clear morning light. Amazing where they plant apple orchards over here – up slopes I’d think far too steep.
So, how to describe Passo Stelvio – take a look at the pictures and you’ll get an idea of what I’m going on about. 48 hairpins for the uphill and 38 for the downhill to Bormio. Snow at the top again at 2760m. We went from 23C at the B&B to 1C at the pass. What a crazy road, winding back and forth across the mountain slopes on the narrow little road, hoping not to come on too many vehicles coming the other way - concrete trucks (always one of these), buses, diggers as well as the usual assortment of cars, bikes and cyclists. Pretty amazing journey up, then down the other side with a few tunnels thrown in for a bit of variety! JT regards this as one of the highlights of the trip to date.
The views into the surrounding mountains were remarkable – quote from JT.
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Stopped at one point beside 3 cars halted on the side of the road to see if they needed assistance – asked in our best kiwi if they needed anything and a good scots brogue replied no, just hadn’t replaced the radiator cap properly that morning (E type jag) and yes they had water!
We stopped in the thermal spa town of Bormio for a coffee and cake to celebrate our successful navigation of the pass before heading on to Colico on Lake Como, and our rendezvous with the Wallace clan who were staying in an apartment looking over the lake. Great place to be, beside the lake. Looking over the marina, watching the Italians promenading in the early evening.
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Next day, following a misadventure navigating out of Colico, we ended up on the autostrada and couldn’t get off for 16kms (think tunnels with brief gaps for bridges). So our exit was Bellano, and al lovely lakeside town where we decided to explore the old town, found a gorge right in town (Gorge Orrido) that has been used for hydro for many decades. Awesome walking up the torrent in this small gulley. Then back to the waterfront to find a local trattoria “Trattoria Del Ponte” where we had a wonderful antipasto selection and a wine, served by a lovely lady from Thailand!
Then back into the cars to head to where we’d initially planned on the other side of the lake! A good 1.5hr walk along the lakeside to work up an appetite for a gelato before heading back to Colico for the evening promenade and dinner.
Looking forward to the next 3 days shopping in Milan with JT, Sarah and Oli.

Sorry - kids have run us out of internet so photos from today will be added later!!!!!

Posted by EMTHOMSON 10:16 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Refugio Fuciade to Latches (Laces)

Day 20-21

semi-overcast 14 °C
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Awoke to the first snow fall of the autumn – what a fabulous sight, if a little on the chilly side after the amazing temperatures we’d been experiencing.
90_IMG_PassPordoi.jpg Wallaces were heading to Colico on Lake Como, Cattells staying in Arabba another couple of days, and the Milnes and ourselves were heading to a refugio in the hills behind Marmolada. So after a long round of goodbyes over coffee we headed down the mountain, around a lake and up into the hills again towards the S. Pelligrino pass. Not far from the top we dived off onto a ‘local’ road that swiftly turned to gravel and proceeded through pine forest to the most stunning alpine meadow scene where our ‘rustic’ OMG accommodation for the night awaited, accompanied by a 5 star restaurant!
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Had a lovely stroll around the alpine meadows – Phil the horse whisperer charming some local horses (unknown talents), before we moved onto a wine in our little renovated chalet and then headed up to dinner in the main Refugio. Needless to say the evening was a culinary success – venision, chicken, pasta, mushrooms, beef cheek etc. We then waddled back to our beds for the night. Such a wonderful special place, thanks to Mario for pointing us there.
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A late start to the day – but the weather was once again not so pleasant, bit of drizzle and cooler, so we packed up after a long breakfast and headed down the pass towards Moena for a coffee before Phil and Cathy headed off towards Canazei and we started our journey to Colico on Lago Como.
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Well, we happened upon the festival of the return of the cows/sheep/goats from the alpine pastures to the town in Moena. It was magical, all in national/regional costumes – shame the rain was still around but it didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits. Said goodbye until Tuscany to Phil and Cathy and headed off towards Bolzano/Merano to find a wee place for the night. Back down into apple orchard area now, rows and rows of espaliered trees heavy with red or yellow fruit.
Stopped for a break at Laces and ended up staying the night at a B&B. Beautiful area, Italy but German speaking. Took us a bit to catch on, as we were still trying to get into Italian up and running (such as it is) after our 2 weeks in Germany trying to do Danke – Bitte!
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Posted by EMTHOMSON 21:56 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Arabba

Day 15-20

semi-overcast 18 °C
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Had a lovely meal at ‘The Table’ restaurant with Patsy and Kelly (their daughter). Mario was on duty in the kitchen so actually cooked our pastas!
Next day JT and I drove to the lake we’d seen from our walk the previous day – the largo di fedia. It’s an artificial lake that has featured in one of the ”Ocean’s” movies (11 or 12, not sure which) but the dam was blown up in the movie. It was another stunning day and we enjoyed the breeze off the lake as we walked the length, beneath the Marmolada Glacier. Even spotted a fisherman in action – at a distance so not sure what the fish was but they were very dark shapes in the water.
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Then back to Arabba to welcome Phil and Cathy Milne and Rob and Jill Cattell – the first of the NZ travellers to gather before our Tuscan adventure. Also caught up with Lara from our B&B in February, the two girls, Emily and Anna, have grown so much already but it was lovely to see them all.
Enjoyed another lovely meal together, this time at the Hotel Olympia where our other ski guide from February (Deagio) is working. Mario and Patsy joined us for a drink after the meal. So, we’ve now caught up with everyone in Arabba from February and they all know I’m walking around as good as new (well except for steep downhills).
The plan for the next day was a walk up from Passo Pordoi into the Sella Group. It was lovely as we headed up the cable car, but by the time we got to the top (3,000m) the clouds had descended. Still we decided to try for Rifugio Boe which was a 21/2hr walk along the tops. Well, it looked like a lunar landscape – and had actually been a sea bed in aeons past. Shame the visibility wasn’t great as the views would have been stunning. It was a strenuous walk – a few places had wire ropes and foot bars to assist with the route. But we all made it and enjoyed the strudel – made up in the hut. Rob, Jill and I decided to return via the same route, but JT, Phil and Cathy headed off for a round trip 6 hours of strenuous tramping in the really steep stuff, I think Rob, Jill and I had the better idea, especially as it started to rain when we were about a 1/3rd of the way back! But we all made it back safely – some with a few tales to tell of misadventure and wrong turns!!!!!
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Dinner at ‘Table’ again as the Wallace clan had arrived – and it does cater so well for big groups.
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The next day a more relaxed walk was planned. The weather had definitely turned cooler too, so a drive around the Sella Rounda was planned. Up the Passo Pordio, coffee in Canazei and a walk around the old town, then on via Passo di Sello, to Selva di V.Gardena for lunch then on up the Val de Gardena for a walk around the ski area at the top of the pass, and down through Corvara to Arabba.
A last dinner at ‘Table’ to finish the day – with Patsy and Mario joining us again at the end of the evening. So great to be able to talk to them and hear about the history of the area. And also pick their brains on where to walk and which refugio to visit!
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Posted by EMTHOMSON 21:43 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Walking Arabba

Day 13

sunny 20 °C
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After another great breakfast (they do great breakfasts at these B&B’s we’ve been at), we headed over to the “Funivia Portavescovo”, the cable car that we took to the top, to pick up hiking trail 601. We were headed around the back of the Belvedere (2,650m) via Sasso Cappello (2,557m) to the Passo Pordoi (2423m) – took around 2.5hrs and around 15.5kkms and was a lovely hike.
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Saw a herd of the weirdest looking sheep on the last leg to Passo Pordoi, long ears and tails! They were being herded slowly along the alpine pastures.
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There were some beautiful flowers amongst the tussock grass. Any ideas what they are Mollie?
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We stopped into Albergo Col di Lana in Passo Pordoi, for a catch up with Alex Martini – one of our ski instructors from February, and a bite to eat before heading down, down, down to Arabba (1602m). The long downhill was a bit tough on the knee, especially when we found ourselves amongst a herd of cows – complete with bells – who seemed to want to follow us down the trail! Bit unnerving – they are really large up close!
We walked past the slope where I broke my leg – very unexceptional looking piece of meadow! Then down to the road where the ambulance picked me up. It took us about 2hrs to get down – and I’m glad I invested in the walking sticks otherwise it would have been the bus I suspect.
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Posted by EMTHOMSON 13:01 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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