I played with various options for the title of this post, ranging from “Italy’s Most Hidden Treasure” to “Italy’s Best Kept Secret”. Really, any of those title would be apropos. Bergamo is all of those things and so much more. Ultimately, I went with “most underrated” because it seems that most people would rather bypass this northern Italian city for the sexier Venice, Florence or Rome. Heck, even neighboring Verona pulls more visitors than Bergamo. As a matter of fact, I had never even heard of Bergamo until I moved here and I had visited nearby Como plenty of times leading up to this adventure.
Getting to know Bergamo was truly a blessing, because it is the type of place that we will continue to visit over and over. The distinguishing feature of Bergamo is that it is really two cities in one. There is the older, medieval city at the top of the hill (Città Alta) and the much more modern city (Città Bassa) below. Incidentally, I use the term “modern city” quite loosely… most notable development is still several hundred years old. Continue reading Bergamo – Italy’s Most Underrated City→
If you read the title of this post with your best impression of an Italian accent, then you probably nailed the pronunciation of one of our new favorite Italian towns. Lucca has been on our bucket list to visit for quite some time and now we can happily say we’ve been.
The city is renowned for many things, not the least of which is the giant annual gathering of comic book nerds and fantasy film geeks. Lucca plays host to Europe’s version of Comic-Con, the Fiera Internazionale del Fumetto (International Festival of Comics) or as it’s commonly referred – Lucca Comics and Games.
Most people visit Europe in the spring or summer. Of course, these are great times of year to see such a magical and historical place. But may I suggest to you a unique alternative?
Come in December, when the weather is at it’s coldest and the people are their warmest. When the cobblestone streets are strung with lights and the ancient buildings are trimmed with garland. Imagine your most magical place for the holidays – a winter wonderland, if you will. You will be sure to find something that fits your image here in Europe. There are amazing markets and festivals across the continent. Some countries boast cities that are particularly renowned for their holiday cheer. Finland, Germany and Austria are at the top of the list. Denmark and Switzerland are there as well. And of course, our personal favorite place to be for Christmas is right here in Italy. Before you plan your next Christmas vacation, add Europe into the running.
“Boy, Clark – I think we should go to Europe next year”
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”… and that means so many things! It means snow flakes and Christmas lights. It means cold weather and hot chocolate. It means Santa Claus and stockings stuffed with goodies. When you live in Europe, it also means tremendous Christmas markets and delicious vin brulè (cooked wine, usually sold on the streets). Over the past couple weeks, we have been taking advantage of it all! Because Christmas is only four days away – I will spend the next four days posting about our Christmas fun. In order to do that, I have to bend my “unbreakable rule” and publish blog posts out of order. I’ll fast-forward to Christmas and then flash back to some exciting posts that I have in the pipeline.
Oh bej! Oh bej! No, you don’t have to say “gesundheit”! I didn’t sneeze. That is the name of a festival held each year in Milan, spanning from December 7th through the following Sunday. How did it get that wonderful name, you ask? “Oh bej! Oh bej!” means, “oh so nice! Oh so nice!” in the Milanese dialect. It is by far, the most important Christmas festival held in Milan. December 7th is the day of the Patron Saint of Milano, Santo Ambrogio. The festival is said to date back all the way to 1510.
Cinque Terre… Stunning. Breathtaking. Spectacular.
This often-sought and somewhat difficult place to access is all those things and so much more. The area of Cinque Terre, which translated literally means, five lands – is a section of rugged coastline that is comprised of five small fishing villages; Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The villages, coastline and surrounding hillside are all part of a National Park that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each of the five villages offers something individually different from the others; yet the overall unique beauty of Cinque Terre would be entirely different without any one part of the whole.
Fishing boats tied off in Riomaggiore
Looking up the coast from Riomaggiore
When my parents recently came to visit (HERE and HERE), we knew that we wanted to take a mini-road trip. I had been to Cinque Terre over a decade ago and eager to go back. I had three vague memories of the most wonderful pesto, my favorite seafood dishes and the creamiest gelato I’d ever had. There seemed to be no better opportunity to go back than now. Continue reading Five Villages – One Day→
Our good friends Michel and Shirley have a wonderful home in a small village in the Côtes du Rhône region of France. They invited us to join them for a few days recently, an invitation we were happy to accept. Google maps told me that the journey from our home to theirs was approximately six hours and so we decided a stopover at the beach for a night would break up the drive nicely (read about it HERE). After a relaxing night in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, we headed north to Sablet, France so that we could savor an enjoyable visit with good friends.
We arrived in Sablet as scheduled, late in the afternoon. However, I had misplaced all the phone numbers to reach Michel and so I wasn’t quite sure exactly where to go upon arriving in the village. Michel gave me specific instructions not to attempt a drive directly to his home. “The roads are far too narrow – many cars scrape on either side. Don’t attempt it – park at the local bakery and head by foot”. I only had his home address plugged into the GPS and admittedly, I had the words of Barney Stinson ringing in my head “I shouldn’t attempt the drive… challenge ACCEPTED!” After creeping up, up, up, slowly, slowly, slowly – I made it to their home. Luckily I made it with all car paint intact – but it was close. I had been far too cocky and got lucky – I literally had centimeters on either side of my car at times. We found their home and discovered they were just out at the local market, preparing for our arrival. Continue reading Trois Villages in Une Day→
Two posts about the Dolomites and now four posts about Austria… will the posts about this road trip ever end?! I promise, I’ll wrap it up here… I think I’m spending as much time writing as I did enjoying the trip!
An unfortunate haze covers a beautiful city
You may have gathered (HERE) that we instantly fell in love with Salzburg and extended our trip by an extra day/night to see more. We started day one with a visit to a castle, Hohenwerfen Fortress and so I thought starting our second day with a visit to it’s sister castle, Festung Hohensalzburg would be appropriate. Continue reading How Do You Say, "The End" in German?→
Apparently I’m the only person in the world to forget that, “The Sound of Music” took place in Salzburg, Austria. I base this observation on the countless number of tour operators and tourists we observed visiting and posing at key movie locations. However, thanks to a quick iTunes movie download in the hotel, we were quickly singing our doe-ray-me’s along with the rest of the cheese balls.
Not only was this classic movie set and shot here, but a fairly famous musician was also born and raised in the city. Perhaps you’ve heard of him… Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Salzburg is an amazing city filled with a rich history and jaw-dropping beauty. We left northern Italy for Austria on a whim two days prior. We continued riding that whim and drove further into Austria to see Salzburg on the suggestion of family. Since our expectations of the city were nonexistent, they were easy to surpass – but I would think this city could have easily leapt the most lofty of them all.
Strange… not only do they not say, “g’day mate” in Austria – they speak German! Oh well, what’re you gonna do?!
After we spent four wonderful days in the Dolomiti mountains (which you can read about HERE and HERE), we planned an impromptu trip to Austria. The Dolomites span across the northern end of the Italy, just south of Austria. A quick google search confirmed that we could arrive in Innsbruck in under three hours and the opportunity was too good to pass up. Once we explained our plan to visit Innsbruck to Claudia’s cousin, Angelo – he suggested we also stop by Salzburg. Well, what’s another couple hours drive and another day or two? After all, we didn’t think we’d be back in Austria anytime soon. Continue reading "G’day Mate" from Innsbruck, Austria→
You may have recently read HERE about our trip to the Dolomiti (Dolomite Mountains) to visit Franco and Claudia over Easter weekend. What I wasn’t able to fit into that post, was all the imagery we captured of the most spectacular mountain range we have ever seen.
Hilltop view – I had to trespass to get this shot
Mountain view from “Claudia’s” bridge in Canale D’ Agordo
We extended our trip in Canale D’ Agordo (Claudia’s hometown) by a day, because the three days we planned was barely enough to just scratch the surface in this region of Italy. Claudia wanted to show us not only her town of Canale D’ Agordo, but also the surrounding towns. We would like to now share them with you. Continue reading Dolomiti e Una Macchina Fotografica→