Monday, July 22, 2013

Some of our travels...

 This is why we came to Italy...

  I love some of the day trips we've taken. We decided not to take any trips that required an over-night stay until we get out of the hotel. It just doesn't make sense to leave one hotel (that's already paid for) to stay in another so all of our trips have been one day excursions. The nice thing about our location is that we live very near some really nice places. Since I've already posted about our trips into Milan and Pisa I'll talk about our most recent visits.

 I'll start with Verona, not because it was the most recent but because honestly, it was my least favorite so far and I feel like I've already used this blog to complain too much. I'd rather end this one on a high note!  Some will recognize the name as the setting for "Two Gentlemen of Verona" and "Romeo and Juliet". It's possible that at one time it was a very beautiful and romantic place and maybe that's what inspired Shakespeare but honestly, as a modern city I wasn't very impressed. Maybe because they've modernized it a little too much. There were some interesting sites there. Among them a colosseum that is still standing and is still used for performances. The problem is since they use it today, they've converted it into a modern day stadium complete with rows of theater type seats. The only parts that even look ancient are the outside (if you can look past the banners and lights) and the very top. I was completely disappointed.

  There were some areas of the city they've left alone, an ancient wall and some statues but with so many merchants (mostly peddling "Romeo and Juliet" souvenirs) it's hard to see the town square that still has marble streets and an ancient fountain.

 It wasn't all a complete loss. We did visit a church and a duomo that were almost stunning in their beauty. It's funny to walk up to an almost non-descript, plain looking church only to have your breath taken away by the incredible detail of the inside. I've heard that the reason for this is that the Catholic church wanted the poor people in these communities to have a place to worship that gave them a glimpse into Heaven. Most of the interiors of these churches have marble floors and columns and some of the most exquisite paintings I have ever seen! I'm thankful that most of them allow photography so I can revisit them. The churches are what made the trip worth it.

 Then there were the visits to Lake Como...

  Oh my! Talk about beauty! We've actually been twice because there is a lot to do there but I'm sure we will be going back. It's just north of Milan so it's a very close trip for us. During the summer months it's pretty packed with tourists so we've found it best to take the train since there's very little space to park a car. Even with the tourists it's one of the most peaceful, picturesque places I've ever been. The lake itself is glacier fed so it's always cold and fairly clear in the shallow ends. It also doesn't have that fishy, lake smell that I'm so used to.

  The villages surrounding the lake are all quaint and so interesting to walk around. They have been there for centuries and all of them have cobblestone streets and beautiful little churches. They are built into the sides of the mountains so there are a lot of steps and steep hills to climb, reminding me just how out of shape I am! There are a few large villas with lush gardens and views of the mountains and lake. We visited two, Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello, both built at the end of the 17th century. Villa Carlotta is a huge estate type home with some of the most incredible gardens I have ever seen. It was so big we didn't even have time to see all of it. Just walking through the flowers with the heat of the sun warming the blossoms makes for an incredible sensation not only for the eyes but for the nose as well! There were trees of just about every type, amazing arbors with grapes and lemons growing overhead and I can't even count the variety of flowers. I may have to go back just to see the rest of the garden.

  Villa Balbianello is more sprawling than Carlotta with it's own chapel and a shaded, flower-laced terrace overlooking the lake. The terrace is where they filmed the wedding scene of Star Wars, Episode 2 and they used the estate and grounds to film Casino Royale. I probably went overboard with the pictures but with all the statues, trees and flowers with the lake and mountains in the background I couldn't help myself.

  Lake Como is so big we still haven't seen all of it and I'm not sure we'll ever have the time to. It's one of those places that you dream about long after you've left and it's one memory I'll cherish forever.

 I'm sure once we get moved into our house we'll be taking a lot more trips. We're planning one to Switzerland in August since Mark has several days off then. I keep hearing how beautiful it is there so expect to see more blogs and pictures in the future.

  Once again I'm reminded of just how blessed I am to be able to have and share this opportunity. I hope that people don't get sick of hearing that from me but I'm convinced that God lead us here. I have had my frustrations with this place but I'm doing my best to focus on the positive things. I'm here with my best friend, every day we find something new to laugh about, and we've met some really great people, most of whom are happy to talk to us (even with our broken Italian and their broken English). I am being cared for, clothed, fed and sheltered so really, what is there to complain about? I'm thankful for each new experience, even the ones that don't seem positive at the time.

 Speaking of new experiences...we're supposed to be moving into our house in about a week and a half. I'm getting quite anxious about it and will post a new blog and pictures when it happens. In the mean time I covet your prayers for the process to go smoothly. Thank you again to everyone who takes the time to read the thoughts that come out of my mostly-functioning brain! I miss all my family and friends so much but knowing I can share my experiences brings me a lot of comfort!

Love to you all,

                                                        The top of the colosseum in

                                          One of the many beautiful ceilings in the church.

                                            A beautiful piece of art in the ceiling in the duomo.

                                                                     Villa Carlotta

                                                  one small section of the garden.

                                              One of the lovely views from the house.

                                                         The terrace at Villa Balbianello.

                                                      More of the terrace...and Mark!

                             Varenna, (not to be confused with Verona) a small fishing village
                                                            on Lake Como.

                                                         Just another gorgeous view!

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