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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

CDC - Day 1

A bit of drama after checking-in, when the water heater in Curtis and Leigh's apartment fails, repairs are attempted but they prove unsuccessful so they end up moving to another apartment.

We happen to be in the same apartment as two years ago and the view hasn't really changed


though there does seem to be quite a bit of work going on in town.

On our last visit the circular Campanile beside us was under scaffolding but now that is gone and we can enjoy its rather unique appearance.


I'm not one for heights and rather than stick my head out I've just stuck the camera out!

The reason we are here is a specfic one and this is just a little clue


It's most unfortunate but there aren't any photos of our dinner. The room is just too dark for the autofocus to work on any of our cameras, which is a pity as the food was just fabulous.

The place is called Vineria del Vasaio and we have already decided that we will be making another visit to it before we leave.

We left the selection up to our genial host.

To begin we had the carpaccio of swordfish and the "tuna" with cannelini beans

The tuna is really pork but on the plate is looks just looks like shards of canned tuna - the dish is a classic of the Chianti region where it is called "Il tonno di Chianti". I've read about and read the recipes and it's something that I've been interested in but never made, but after eating it, I will certainly be trying this back home.

This was matched to an excellent Umbrian wine, Montefalco Rosso Reserva made from a blend of Sangiovese and Sagrantino.

Our next course was the Cappeletti which was matched with a 100% Sangiovese Nobile di Montepulciano.

Dessert was the amusingly named "not the usual desserts" which consisted of four items

a poached pear in red wine, white chocolate mousse with cinnamon, mascarpone with saffron and a highly indulgence pieces of chocolate fondante.

This was served with a liqueur

With that, our first day is over - it was long but enjoyable and good things should lie ahead.

Bus: Arezzo to CDC

It's a 30 minute wait to catch the bus that will take us to our final destination - a rather picturesque town in Umbria where we will be spending the next week.

The trip takes about an hour and if you happen to be on the tall side you are going to find it rather uncomfortable as there's virtually no legroom to speak of.


It was with a mix of amusement and trepidation that we watched the bus driver take and make about 4 calls as he drove, he also had one of the most relaxed driving attitudes I've ever seen as he steered us through the narrow curving roads.

We arrived unscathed and once on land, Paalo lead us through the lanes to our abode.

Train: Milan - Arezzo


I really should have taken a few more photos of Milan Station but I really didn't have time. I just managed to snap this on the way to catch to our train - the 9am Eurostar to Florence.

Inside you'll find that quite a bit of the station is under scaffolding but the parts that you can see where they have finished their restoration and cleaning works just look fabulous. It will be a true joy to see this jewel sparkling again.

The trip to Florence is uneventful, the train is as full as I had suspected considering that tomorrow is a holiday and people will be taking Friday off to make it an extra long weekend.

At Florence we swap to a regional train for the 1 hour trip to Arezzo.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Milan - Day 1

We've arrived in Milan to a light drizzle so when it comes to doing much today it's going to be limited to a revisit of a couple of places. Most importantly today we meet up with our travelling companions, Curtis and Leigh who will be joining us for the next week and a bit. It's great to be able to spend some time with them as we live so far apart.

Our target for today is the Duomo and the Galleria and it's good to see that the top half of the main facade on the Duomo is now uncovered.

As we did last time we go to the Gucci cafe in the Galleria for coffee


even the chocolates have the Gucci emblem


It is still disheartening to see that Mcdonalds is still in one the prime positions inside the Galleria - diagonally opposite Prada!

I skipped taking photos this time as it was a bit too crowded and I've got plenty of photos from my last visit - so for your enjoyment, here's a couple of photos from 2 years ago


This next photo is the wallpaper on my mac



For Dinner, after being advised by the hotel's bartender we went to a place called Pane e Tulipani


We started with the Special Antipasto - a mix of cured meats, carpaccio, calamari salad, marinated anchovies and octupus

Curtis and Leigh opted for the special - Rombo (turbot) with potatoes and artichokes, which when cooked was presented to the table and then portioned



Paalo had the Orecchiette with Vongole and Cozze


I was boring and had the Cotolette Milanese


Paalo also managed this generous serving of Tiramisu.

Train: Varenna to Milano

For the short ride to the station it's an €8 fare - but worth it as we don't have to walk in the rain or tote our bags up the hill.


Varenna-Esino station is quite basic and even more so off-season. In summer you will find it houses the tourist office but now there is no-one not even a station master. You might be lucky and get a recorded message informing you of the next train but don't rely on that.


There is a ticket machine but by the notice on the wall and by the graffiti on the machine it seems that this machine is frequently not working and in fact wasn't working today. It also only sells regional tickets so my advice would be to make sure you already have your tickets purchased before you get here, which is exactly what I've done.

If the machine isn't working you can buy train tickets from a couple of stores close by, they are both shown on the diagram above the machine or you could take the advice written if desperate and buy the ticket as soon as you board the train. I really do stress that you do that as a last resort and as soon as you board go find the conductor.


There are actually two platforms here - platform 2 is that rather narrow sliver of asphalt between the tracks. Both coming and going you'll usually find yourself having to use it.


This is the first class carriage of the regional train to Milano and the difference between it and second is only that it is less crowded. The seats are exactly the same.

We were a little late into Milan as our train was delayed at Varenna by the train going in the opposite direction arriving 5 minutes late. As there is only one line through the tunnel we had to wait.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Varenna - Day 4


With a peek out of the window this morning our plans for today changed. We had thought of taking the ferry to Como but with the amount of haze it didn't really seem worth it.


So, we're going to hang around and do as little as possible which is fair enough as we are leaving tomorrow and the day after that, we have another long trip ahead of us.


Doing as little as possible unfortunately does involve doing some work related things but this is the type of office we'd both be very happy with spending time in.


We did have a mid-morning stroll for a coffee and took the opportunity to visit inside the Church of San Giorgio



I thought this poster was interesting - you can go collecting mushrooms and if you are a local it will cost you €5 for the license otherwise it's €25. If you knew what you were doing, it's not that much to pay.


For Lunch we went back to Quatro Pass


Our appetiser was a herb and cheese vol-au-vent


Paalo liked my entree so much that he had it this time and I had the Ravioli in a sage burnt butter sauce. They had a delicious cheese and spinach filling.


Paalo's main was the Mixed Grill of Lake Fish - the large fish is the local Laverello.


I had the Veal Escalopes with porcini.

As with our previous meal, the food was excellent and it's a place we'd recommend you visit if you have the chance.

For dinner we ate at the hotel again and being the boring types we ordered the same things.


The starter - asparagus and chardonnay soup


For main - porchetta with a mustard and apple sauce with roasted potatoes.


Paalo managed to also fit in the dessert - a mixed berry gelato.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Varenna - Day 3

It's a most pleasant Sunday morning, the church bells ringing in the distance and a lovely view from our balcony


A bit of morning haze but it should clear up as the day progresses.


Right across the waters from us is the town called Menaggio


and high in the hills if you look carefully you'll see a little white church perched on the edge


That is the Church of San Martino and no, we're aren't hiking to visit it. It was built to house a wooden statue of the Madonna and Child. The story goes that the statue was hidden in a mountain cave to protect it when the town was destroyed. It was found 200 years later and brought back down but it disappeared once again, returning to this spot. The residents saw this as a sign and ultimately built the church to house it.

Today we're taking the ferry and heading for Bellagio


The ferry stop isn't far from where we are staying and you'll find a couple of hotels and restaurants there as well, though we've never tried any of the places here

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While we were waiting this gull happily posed for me


It takes between 10 and 15 minutes to reach Bellagio and gives you a chance to enjoy a different view of Varenna and the Lake




That basically is the whole town.



This is the Castle of Vezio peeking out from the top of the mountain.

All too soon we are approaching Bellagio


Belaggio is a much bigger version of Varenna but still you'll have to climb stairs to get to the differing levels of the town.

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We found a nice place for lunch - out of the way and away from most of the tourists who seem to be all down at lake level


After the last few big meals we just wanted something simple and this place specialises in wood-fired pizza



I had the Pugliese which was an onion, parmesan and mozzarella pizza - the crust was super thin, it was just perfect. Simple but full of flavour.


Paalo had the house special, La Grotta - tomato, porcini and prosciutto. He was one happy camper.

We finished off with a chilled glass of Mirto (Mirtillo Liqueur) and coffee


After lunch we wandering around looking at the various shops before eventually heading back to Varenna

leaving Bellagio



I have no idea what that little rocky outcrop with the trees on it is - if anyone does please let me know


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The sun sets on another day


For dinner we return to another favourite spot Il Cavatappi


We begin with an assortment of local cured meats - cut to order these really spoil us. Our local australian product just can't compare and the imports are just not worth the money as they are, most of the time, too dried out from the travel.


For mains, Paalo has the special steak with fresh porcini mushrooms


and I have the duck with orange sauce


with a bowl of salad to share on the side


For dessert, Paalo has the Fennel Mousse


and I have the Nut Cake.

We end the evening with two glasses of Aged Marsala and coffee.