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July 17, 2007

weekend in Coccaglio

One of the highlights of my visit to Italy every year is time spent with my friends in Italy. Unfortunately, it did not work out to meet up with Francesco & Irene this year, but I did get to spend another wonderful weekend with Katia & Guido in Coccaglio. They recently married and are living in a wonderful little apartment nearby Katia's parents' house.

Saturday, June 16th
After finishing up my last minute packing, I grabbed a quick coffee and then headed to the Ca' Doro vaporetto stop. I was a little nervous about how packed the vaporetto would be as there were many other people also waiting with their bags to head to the train station. The vaporetto was pretty full, but at least we were not packed in like sardines. I have heard of having to pay extra when taking luggage onboard. So far, I have never had to pay.

I took a Eurostar train to Brescia where Katia met me. We headed back to her apartment and had lunch.

View of a monastery above Coccaglio:
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After lunch, we went to Guido's shop to see if he could fix my suitcase. I was hoping that he could get it to go all the way up and down but at the very least, I needed for it to close or the airline, which by the way damaged my handle, would not let me check the bag and it was too big to carry on. Guido took the handle apart. It was pretty interesting seeing the inside of a luggage handle. Even with a little oil, it was not going to budge. He finally found the problem. There was a huge dent in the metal halfway down one of the handles. My bag must have been dropped from pretty high up and had to have landed on something hard for it to dent like that. Guido was able to get the handle to close but we could not make it go up any higher.

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March 28, 2008

a few photos of Coccaglio

Coccaglio (my last stop) is a tiny little town where my friends Katia and Guido live. Coccaglio is located in the Franciacorta area of Lombardy (Lombardia) between Bergamo & Brescia, and when using more familiar landmarks, between Milan & Verona:

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Closer view of Coccaglio:
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The center of Coccaglio:
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May 18, 2008

cotton candy

Continuing with the candy theme...

I was reminded of a cotton candy photo I took a few years ago while checking out June's "candy" photohunt post on her blog, Spatter.

This is a photo of Katia (on the right) and her brother's girlfriend eating cotton candy at a festival event in Coccaglio (taken in 2003).
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July 16, 2008

travel day to Coccaglio

Friday, July 11th

After finishing up some last minute packing, I brought my bags down to the lobby. One of the things I liked about Hotel Porta San Mamolo was the family type atmosphere there. When I walked into the breakfast room each morning, I was greeted kindly, usually by name, and by Friday they even knew what type of coffee I prefered. After finishing up my last wonderful breakfast at the hotel, I thanked everyone working in the breakfast room, and then went back to the lobby to wait for my taxi. I thought about taking the bus to save a few euros but then decided that the taxi would be much less stressful.

By Friday, I knew most of the people working there. One of the guys working that day asked me where I was going next. When I said "Coccaglio", he gave me a blank stare. He, as many Italians, had never heard of this little town. I told him it was located between Bergamo and Brescia. He was so curious about this town that he went on the hotel computer and searched on google maps. While he was on the computer, I went onto my blog on the computer for the guests and showed him the Coccaglio photos I had posted. We talked a little bit about Coccaglio and then the taxi driver (I think it was a driver the hotel used since he was not driving a regular taxi car) arrived. I said goodbye to everyone in the lobby area that worked at the hotel and thanked them all for a wonderful stay. The driver was very nice. The ride to the station was quick and cost 12 euros.

I arrived at the station a little bit early for my 10:16 train because I wanted to buy a ticket for my last journey (Rovato, the town next to Coccaglio, to Milan). I forgot to buy this ticket earlier. The ticket window at the train station in Rovato is closed on Sundays and it would be easier to have the ticket in advance rather than to try to buy the ticket on the train.

When I walked into the train station, the partenza board said that the Eurostar train I was taking was on time. I bought my ticket for my train ride on Sunday at one of the automatic ticket machines and validated my two tickets for the train ride from Bologna to Rovato in the automatic ticket machine instead of the regular little yellow validation box. The tickets were stamped in the middle instead of at the end of each ticket.

As I waited for my train, the dreaded "in ritardo" category had a 5 under it, meaning that the train was now arriving 5 minutes late. I was thrilled that the train was arriving on binario (track) 1 because that meant no stairs, but stressed that the train was now arriving late. I originally had 15 minutes and now only 10 minutes to make the connection in Milan. If I missed the connection, I would have to wait 2 hours for another train to Rovato OR buy a ticket to Brescia and pay 20 more euros.

I tried to find the board that showed the train makeup to figure out where my car would arrive. I couldn't find the train makeup board but did notice that there were little yellow signs with the carrozza (train car) and an arrow pointing to that area of the binario up and down the binario. That was a big help since the Eurostar is a pretty long train and if you are at the wrong end, it is a long run to get to your assigned train car or a difficult walk through each train with your luggage.

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July 17, 2008

weekend in Coccaglio and bike ride around Monte Isola

Saturday & Sunday, July 12th & 13th

After eating breakfast outside on the veranda at Katia's mother's house Saturday morning, we stopped to see the progress on Katia & Guido's new house. We weren't able to peek inside because the guy that was going to show us around was called away on business at the last minute. Our plan for the day after seeing their new place was to head to the town of Iseo on Lake Iseo. We go there every year when I visit. I love this visiting this lake.

A special outdoor market of handmade goods was going on when we arrived. There were lots of little tables set up in the town. We walked through the town browsing through the market and then headed to the boat area.

We arrived just in time to catch the boat to Monte Isola. The boat made one stop in Sulzano to pick up more passengers and then headed to Peschiera on Monte Isola. We went to the bike rental place and rented 3 bikes. We did this ride together many years ago and had so much fun laughing and enjoying the views that we decided to do it again this year.

It took us about 90 minutes to ride around the island (mainly because I made lots of stops along the way to take photos). Both Katia and I got off our bikes at one point to walk when we reached the steep hill. The second half of the ride was down hill. Besides the steep hill, the biggest challenge was to keep to the side when the little motor bikes and cars went by. We rode up and down narrow paths, through little towns, and by the water. We saw grape vines and olive trees and two little islands along the way.

After returning, we had lunch and then waited to take the boat back to Iseo. I got soaked while trying to take a photo on the dock as the boat arrived. I was crouched down when the water came splashing up and soaked me. It made it look like I peed my pants.

Album of our trip to Monte Isola on Lake Iseo:

Monte Isola bike ride

Once back in Iseo, we had some gelato. Yum!! Then we headed back to Coccaglio. The ride back through the Franciacorta area was beautiful. I noticed a lot of corn fields this year. We stopped at a grocery store along the way so that I could pick up a few emergency food items in case the food was unedible on the plane. It was a good thing I did! This grocery store had these cool carts. They were the regular little hand carts we have but with wheels and a long handle to pull them. I meant to take a photo but never did.

When we returned to Katia's parents house, it was hot and muggy. We watched some TV (American sitcoms in Italian) while I wrote some posts on Katia's computer. We decided on pizza for dinner. Katia's dad got the menu out. It was a 3 page menu of various pizza combinations. We each ordered a pizza. I ordered the pizza choice that came with tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, mozarella cheese and grana padano cheese. I also added peppers to my pizza. We had a wonderful dinner together, chatting and laughing with Katia translating either English when I didn't understand her parents or Italian when I couldn't communicate on my own. For dessert, we ate some of the pastries and cookies I brought from Lagagna in Bologna.

After dinner, we sat outside enjoying the cooler air. The weather was changing and a thunder and lightening storm was heading our way. Those of you who know me know that I am not so brave during thunder and lightening storms. I let out a few little screams as the thunder got closer. Katia's neighbors also stopped by for a visit. I have known them since my first visit to Coccaglio many years ago. We had a wonderful evening together. I said goodbye to Guido before heading to bed. He was driving to Recco on Sunday to participate in a mini tin man event.

Sunday morning, I packed my bags after enjoying another breakfast out by Katia's mother's garden. Katia's grandmother and her older brother and his family were coming over for lunch. While Katia's mother cooked in the kitchen, Katia and I played with her 2 neices, Marta (age 4) and Emma (age 2). We looked at a big picture book naming and counting animals and dressed them up in princess jewelry, a present from Katia's grandmother. I was touched when Marta requested that I sit next to her at lunch. Everyone enjoyed a delicious lunch (chicken cooked in a tomato sauce, polenta, a tomato and pepper dish, bread, french fries, and some sort of meat). For dessert, we had gelato. We had a choice of 4 fruit flavors including "big bubble", which tasted like bubble gum, and 5 or 6 cream flavors. No one could decide so we all had a little of each.

After lunch, we went to Katia's work place so that I could post my last few posts on my blog that I wrote on her laptop over the weekend and so that I could check in with Continental. In case anyone else tries to check in when flying out of Malpensa, don't bother! I was able to go through all the steps until print. At that point, a page came up saying that the Malpensa airport does not allow you to check in early.

At this point, we realized that we had 10 minutes until the train arrived. We raced home to grab my bags and then Katia drove like a speed queen to the train station. We arrived with a few minutes to spare. I validated my ticket and then we waited for the train. Saying goodbye is always the hardest part every year. Katia helped me on the train and we each waved as the train departed. Until next year (I hope!).

My last pizza of the trip:
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March 15, 2009

orbs

Both Annie's post on Orbs from last week and Brenda's post with photos of Orbs from last summer reminded me of the photos I have taken with Orbs.

I used to think that Orbs were water spots or dirt on the lens of the camera. Wikipedia describes them as light reflections off normally sub-visible particles when using digital cameras. I have also read the theory that they might be ghosts or spirits or something else mystical in nature. I found this interesting website called What are Orbs which talks about some of these possibilities. After reading more about Orbs, it makes me wonder if they could be something more than just dust or light reflections.

I took this photo of the little church near Katia’s house in Coccaglio back in 2003. We stopped by this church on the way to the yearly festival event taking place nearby. When I returned home from Italy that summer, I almost dumped the photo thinking it was ruined. I saved it though since it was the only photo I had of the outside of this cute little church. I also thought about trying to clean up the photo in photoshop but never got around to it.
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If you look carefully, you will see one Orb in this photo up above the light on the right and a few Orbs, which are more difficult to see on the floor.
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There is just one Orb that I can find in this photo on the wooden bench on the right.
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I don't think it could have been dust on the camera though because I took the second and third photos right after taking the photo of the outside of the church. If it was dust or spots on my lens, I would assume the Orbs would be in the same spots on all three photos. I am sure I did not clean my camera in between shots. I also took other outside photos that night without any Orbs in them.

Here is a link to a story I saw on the news the other night (Friday the 13th) about Ghost tours and Orbs. Check out the cool shirt! *The video is no longer available.

It makes you wonder...

June 19, 2011

train ride and weekend with friends in Coccaglio

Saturday, June 4th & Sunday June 5th:
Saturday morning, after eating one more wonderful breakfast at Hotel Canada, I finished up my last bit of packing and asked the hotel to call me a taxi. I had an interesting ride to the Milano Centrale train station. The taxi driver, who was very nice, spoke rapidly in Italian with a very distinct lisp. It was pretty difficult understanding him. He talked on and on asking me question after question. I was glad that the ride was not too long.

When I arrived at the station, I headed for the automated ticket machines. I had read that US credit cards no longer work, or at least the majority of them, as a chip is now needed in the credit card, which I guess the US banks do not include in their cards. I have not tried to purchase a ticket using my credit card and so I cannot confirm this.

The Milano Centrale train station is huge. There are a bunch of automated ticket machines on the first floor. I cued up to wait for a machine to become available. While I was waiting, I noticed two strange men hanging around the machines. One of the men was writing down things as people purchased their tickets. Next thing I noticed was the screens on all of the machines one by one turning red with a notice in Italian that the machine was out of order. It seemed to happen when one of the men started punching buttons on a machine next to the machine going out of order.

I left the area and searched for either a ticket window or more ticket machines. I found another row inside a big room that I think also had ticket windows. I cued up for a machine. The strange men then appeared in this room. One of them asked if he could help me. I told him, "NO" and proceeded to purchase my ticket.

I was very careful to keep an eye on all of my belongings while purchasing my ticket. Just after I purchased my ticket, I noticed more of the screens turning red. STRANGE! Never figured out what was going on.

I looked for the escalator and headed upstairs to the train arrival/departure area. There, I saw more ticket machines. Good to know for next time I am at the Milan train station. The last time I was there, they were still doing renovations and the ticket machines were moved downstairs.

I purchased a first class ticket (interregional train/cheap upgrade) so that hopefully I would have more room for my bags. The train was already sitting at the binario (platform). I headed down looking for the first class car. It seemed to be pretty full already. The second class car at the very end (front of the train) was empty, so I decided to sit there instead. After the train left the station and then stopped at the first stop, tons and tons of people board the train. It was almost standing room only! A very nice young Italian couple traveling to Venice sat in the two seats across from me. I sat in a single seat next to the door. They offered to lift my bags up onto the baggage racks. I told them that I was getting off in a few stops if it was ok with them. They were fine with that and we ended up having a very nice conversation.

At one point during the train ride, there was an announcement about a sciopero (strike) on Monday! Just what I needed. I was planning to take the train to Venice on Monday. The couple was very kind to ask the train ticket guy info about the strike for me. They ended up being more affected by the strike than I did. The strike (which did happen) was a regional Veneto strike. Since I was taking one of the fast trains, which started out in another region, my train would not be affected. The couple would have to buy a more expensive ticket to return to Milan on Monday instead of taking the slower, cheaper train.

I almost got off at the wrong stop (Chiari instead of Rovato). I somehow counted the stops incorrectly. I did not realize that the train was delayed. It arrived in Chiari, which was the stop before Rovato, when it was supposed arrive in Rovato. Fortunately I saw the sign. It would not have been a huge problem however, since Chiari is not too far from Rovato and Katia could have driven there to pick me up.

After hugs and then dragging my bags down and up a bunch of stairs, we headed back to Katia's house, where we made a delicious pasta dish for lunch.

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Later in the day, after Guido returned home, we drove to Brescia to visit the Museo di Santa Giulia to see the Matisse exhibit. We had to park the car a ways from the museum. It was a nice walk until the sky opened up and and it started to pour. Fortunately for me, I had my handy little plastic fold up into a little square raincoat with me. Poor Katia and Guido were soaked. We all thought the Matisse exhibit was just ok.

The fun part though was revisiting the Roman ruins of two Roman Villas.
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The museum guy asked us if we would like to go outside to take a look at some of the ruins in the garden (sorry it is late and I am tired/I know there is a better name that museum guy).

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