Monday, April 7, 2014

Lumignano

Sunday we did some exploring around Lumingnano, a beautiful area for hiking, biking, and rock climbing. While there, we stopped for lunch at a street fair, looked for new trails, and generally soaked up some spring sunshine.

This chapel was built in 1716.

Sirmione

A few days ago we drove to nearby Lake Garda to see the tiny town of Sirmione. It's situated on the south end of the lake on a narrow peninsula, protected by a storybook 13th century castle, the vast lake itself, and...swans. Ferocious swans. We had a fun time running around the castle grounds, eating awful pizza, and chasing Emily through the cobblestone lanes as she shouted "Be careful people, I'mmmm runnnning! Coming through!" (Okay maybe that last part wasn't as fun for me).

It was a quick trip and extremely windy, but a nice place to check out. I can't wait to explore more of Lake Garda next time.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Milan

Friday morning we drove to Milan for the weekend. It is the fashion and business capital of Italy, and also home to Leonardo's "The Last Supper" and Michelangelo's final pieta. If you see those and do some damage shopping along Corso Buenos Aires, you have pretty much done Milan. It's not known for being a major tourist destination. Every guide I saw seemed to have the same opinion: Maybe fly in and head north to Lake Como or use it as a jumping of point for a road trip, but don't spend too much of your travel time in the city. Unless you have a reason to be there, a day should cover it.

We planned for two nights to give us breathing room with Emily. It turned out we needed it, because hoo-boy was she whiny and cranky. It was probably the toughest trip we've done in that regard. Both days though, as the tantrums got worse and worse, we found fun things that allowed a break so she could burn off energy.

Friday afternoon we took the metro to Duomo di Milano. It's one of the most interesting cathedrals I've seen so far. Henry James called it "grandly curious and superbly rich" which I think sums it up pretty well. Beautiful yet gaudy, it's never going to be mistaken for any other church. Construction began in the 1300s and was not completed until the 1960s. The interior is undergoing heavy renovation and isn't much to look at. Floodlights reveal centuries of dark grime on every surface. The project will restore it to the gleaming white of the exterior facade.

I probably should have picked an outfit that didn't blend in, but there's Em and I, front and center.

A detail of the work to transform the Duomo.

From there we wandered over to Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. It opened in 1877. I could practically picture fashionable society types strolling the arcades in hats and gloves, as it doesn't look much different than it did then.

I took a picture next to Prada, because I was scared if I went in they'd be like, "I don't think we have anything for you. You're obviously in the wrong place. Please leave."

Emily was getting antsy after a long car ride by that point and within a matter of minutes an epic meltdown was upon us. Eyes from every design student in better clothes than me glared as Emily screamed bloody murder. We raced back to the hotel with the best intention of a nap. She wouldn't settle down, so we finally gave up, plopped her in the stroller, and headed out for a long, long walk instead. Along the way we found a busy playground for her to run around in. A few turns on the slide, a few kicks of a soccer ball, and girl was out.

We walked and walked and walked down through the shopping district along Corso Buenos Aires, Via della Spiga and other streets known for high fashion as well as more affordable shops. After a gross dinner of McDonald's, we dragged the stroller down to the metro, headed back to the hotel, and crashed out for a good night's rest.

The next morning we made our way to Santa Maria delle Grazie to see "The Last Supper." The fresco is painted in the refectory, opposite a scene of the crucifixion done around the same time by another artist. No photos were allowed, we had to make a reservation ahead of time in order to ensure a ticket, and each group was only allowed 15 minutes. It was very, very cool to talk about the painting with Emily, and have her try to figure out who the "meanie" was by his expression. We are extremely lucky. The church is pictured on the left. It was badly damaged in 1943--The Last Supper however was left intact following an air raid.

We spent the rest of the afternoon on the grounds of a huge castle that houses several museums and a rambling park. After being so good at The Last Supper, Emily begged us to look for a playground before we went to see the pieta at Museum of Ancient Art. Are you sure you don't want to see the castle? I bet a princess lives there. No! Playground! Okay, we'll find a playground *real quick* and get on with the day, because that works with a determined two year old. As we turned a corner, Emily gasped and ran down a hill shouting "riiiiiiiddddes!" We spent a good hour at a carnival, on bumper boats, roller coasters, and trains. I don't think it could have been timed any better. Eventually we made it through the museum, twice even, then dashed back to the room with an overtired and overcranky little one.

With a long nap and a hearty dinner, the Whiny One was gone and Emily had returned. We made one more quick trip to see the duomo and galleria at night. It's so tempting to stand in the piazza and gaze at the lights, but as we found out, it also makes you a prime target for scammers. A man will walk up to you with a bracelet made out of colorful threads and strike up a conversation. When you wave away the bracelet or raise a hand to say no, the scammer quickly ties it to your wrist tight enough to be hard to remove then asks for payment. He even has change! You can pay him anything! Dude got about 40 cents, scowled, and wandered off to find someone else.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Bassano del Grappa

I'm a little backlogged. There's a lot of "stuff" I've been attending to recently, but while Emily is napping I can at least tell you about Bassano del Grappa. After I got home from the race, it was pretty clear it was going to be a beautiful day and we were anxious to make the most of it. We hopped in the car after lunch and drove up to Bassano del Grappa to see a dinosaur exhibit recommended on the Living in Vicenza events calendar. I couldn't find an exact address anywhere, so we figured if we happened to find it, it would be something fun for Emily, but if not we'd still be experiencing a new city. Me being me, I didn't look up any images of Bassano because we were in such a hurry. We parked at the first lot we found and crossed the road into the city walls to see what we could find.

It was beautiful.

We arrived near the end of the riposo and had all the narrow cobblestone streets practically to ourselves. The city was still cleaning up after Carnivale-the ground was still littered with confetti and bright banners waved in the breeze. We wandered around until we found a sign for the exhibit and followed our little gps through little piazzas until we came to a giant brontosaurus overlooking the river, pointing the way to the footbridge we needed to get to the museum. From the wide covered wooden bridge we stopped to watch fishermen throw lines into the rushing blue-green river.

The exhibit was held in an old palazzo. Emily loves scary creatures so it was a hit with her. The best part was going into the courtyard outside and playing with the gravel. I don't know why she loves that so much, but if that was all she did all day, she would have been happy. In all it was a pretty perfect day with our little principessa.

"Where's the castle?" asks Princess Emily.