Thursday, April 28, 2011

April 28th Vernazza, Varenna, and Milano

It has been several days since we have had any internet service at the hotel we were staying at.  Today's post will catch you up on the places we have been in the last few days.

From Tuscany we went to a little town, on the northwest coast of Italy, on the Mediterranean, called Vernazza.  Vernazza is one of 5 little towns that make up what is called the Cinque Terre, in the area of Italy called Liguria.  There are more tourists now than a few years ago but it is still a beautiful place.

 This is the port at Vernazza.  We stayed in the reddish building on the far right above the boats.
You can see how high I was when I took this picture and I am still waiting for my butt to come down off that hill.  We went to a Easter service Saturday night and Sunday morning in the church on the left. 

This is the main street of Vernazza before the tourist got there.  We learned that Easter weekend is a big holiday time in Italy.  The Monday after Easter is a national holiday for independence, like the 4th of July.  Lots and lots of people.

The hills around Vernazza are filled with wine vineyards and lemon trees.  This the area of Italy where Pesto was invented.  They respect the land and use every inch of usable space and a lot of space we would say was not useable.

Our room in Vernazza was real little, but it had it's own private balcony.  How about this for a door.  You should have seen the bathroom.  It was so little you had to step outside to change your mind.  We had to walk up 4 flights of stairs to get to our room.  The lady that rented us the room was a sweet little lady that spoke no English.

After leaving Vernazza we took the train to a little town on Lake Como called Varenna where we spent 3 nights.   The first full day in Varenna, Nonette took a cooking class from about 10:00 to about 5:00.  In the cooking class the Chef showed her and the other students how to prepare 3 Italian dishes.  These people don't even have canned vegetables and fruit in their grocery stores.  They only cook with fresh food period.  Most of the people have gardens where they grow much of what they eat.

 Here Nonette is learning how to roll gnocci off a fork.  A gnocci is a potato dumpling.

While Nonette was taking the cooking lesson I spent the day riding the ferry from town  to town on Lake Como.  This lake is about 1200 feet deep and is surrounded by the Dolomite Mountains.  If you move just a little north of the lake the Dolomites become the Italian and Swiss Alps.  I took about 300 pictures from which I picked the following.

This is Varenna where we stayed on Lake Como.

This is Menaggio just across the lake from Varenna.  I would say it's about a mile and a half across the lake from Varenna.

The second day we took the train about an hour or so southwest to Milan.  Milan is like Italy's New York City and Hollywood rolled into one.  It is the fashion, business, and media center of Italy.

This the first Galleria Mall on planet earth.  It is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.  It was built in 1870 with a    vaulted glass roof.  It was the first indoor shopping mall and the first place in Milan to have electric lighting

They had this cool private jet in the middle of the Galleria.

This is the Duomo in Milan.  It is the 4th largest church in all Europe.  Everything you see in this picture is white marble.  The inside of the church is about 100 yards long and 60 yards wide.  This is the most beautiful building Nonette and I have ever seen.  The inside of this building is indescribably beautiful.  For me so far on this trip it was one of the most awe inspiring sights.

This is just one small beautiful picture of the church.

While in Milan we also went to the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazzie.  This is where 
Leonardo da Vinci painted The Last Supper.  We made our reservations to see The Last Supper back in the middle of February and I was glad we did.  Lots of people come to see this painting.  You are only allowed 15 minutes in this climate controlled room.  The painting isn't on the wall of the church it is on the wall of the Monk's Dining Hall.  It was painted in 1494 and a 21 year restoration was completed in 1999.  A few hundred years ago they needed a new door in the room, so they cut it just below the painting, and cut off the feed of Jesus.  What were they thinking.  During WWII Milan was bombed and the church and the dining hall were hit.  It was a miracle but the wall that had the painting were not damaged.  We would have pictures but none were allowed.

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