Slow Travelers love traveling. They love planning it, they love talking about it and they love doing it, now it seems especially together.. Who would have known that 10 years ago, when Pauline Kenny started the website, www.slowtrav.com it would become a social phenomena, initiating the creation of many lasting friendships along the way? Yet, that's what happened, and when two years ago, this discussion started on the Slow Travel Talk forums, Italy October 2010 it never occurred to me to pop in and participate, only because I didn't think I would be able to travel back to Italy then.
But I have itchy feet. And they want to go, go, go!
So in May I started to look at airfares, just to see if I could get something cheap (and my cheap is less than $500) but not much luck. But you see, I'm the queen of rationalizations, I had a very good teacher (Hi Rain), and it occurred to me, with GrapeHops taking off, and the potential for some major bookings for the beer tour coming in (in the form of a customized tour), there was more work to be done, nailing down some details, checking on some accommodations, visiting some breweries, not to mention some other details I'd like to check into for our Venice Tour in May, so it would probably smart, yeah, good business, to travel over in October, and perhaps work in some time with my SlowTrav Peeps while I'm there.
So I did it - I booked a trip and here's the preliminary plan:
October 5th: Depart EWR (aka Newark)
October 6th: Arrive Milan, bus into the city, meet Shannon, visit our friends at Birrificio Lambrate, check out the home brew store we visited last time (perhaps purchase some ingredients)
October 7th: Head up toward Lake Como. We have two breweries to check out in the vicinity as well as accommodations
October 8th: Hook up with friends, Jen and Chris and visit Sondrio Italy (still having trouble getting accommodations here - need to get my act in gear on this)
October 10th: Head to Venice (I've rented an apartment in Cannaregio (more on that later) and hang with the SlowTrav gang
October 15th: Head back to Milan (I'll probably just stay at a hotel near the airport)
October 16th: return to EWR
So what do you think? Any of my local friends and/or family want to join in? Any suggestions?
I don't even know where to begin, or if I should start. I'm three days into this trip and already two days behind in my notes!
I'm going to give you a brief rundown of the trip so far and then hopefully come back and fill in the blanks (maybe in the morning as the hotel has WiFi breakfast isn't until 9 and I'm usually up by 7 or so).
Anyway, I arrived in Milan on Wednesday about an hour late (90 minute late departure but I'll get into that story in a separate entry).
It was easy finding the Malpensa express bus (paying my €7.50) and riding into the Centrale station. I actually even read on the bus for the first time ever! Caught a cab at the station and although I forgot to write down the address of the hotel, when I told the cabby the name (Lugano) and where it was near, he knew and got me there for another €7. I'll write more about the Lugano in another entry.
By now it was maybe 10:30 - 11:00 and of course, my room wasn't ready but I sat in the lobby and the nice desk clerk made me a cappuccino and I got some work done.
Shannon arrived about 2, we dropped her stuff in her room (I'd already gotten into my room at that point) and we stopped by Birrifcio Lambrate to visit with Alessandra.
From there until we returned at 6 it was really just a series of bar hopping, to keep me awake and to get a snack (lunch service stopped at Lambrate at 2:00).
6:00 back to Lambrate for some beer and happy hour munchies then a walk around the neighborhood before we settled into the New Moby Dick (Yes you read that correctly) for a dinner of grilled vegies and shared pizza. I was in my room by 9:30 and probably asleep by 10.
Got up, had breakfast, checked emails, walked to the Lambrate metro right around the corner and took a the green line to the Cadorna station where we caught a train (took about 65 minutes) to the town of Como.
First View of Lake Como
Visited the information office, bought bus tickets, dropped our bags at our hotel, walked through their weekly market (Shannon got socks) - lots of clothes and household items, didn't find much food (well, except roasted chickens that looked amazing), then found the #1 bus stop and headed up to Birrificio Como.
Yes, that was us missing the stop (hmm... maybe we're not doing so well transportation wise) but we got off down the road, walked back and found the brewery. I'll write more about that later too. Needless to say, we did some tastings, had some lunch and headed back down to Como.
Outside of Rose Window of the Como Duomo
Inside View of Rose Window at Como Duomo (say that 5 times fast)
In Como, we walked around the town, visited an Internet cafe, spent some time in the Duomo, really stunning from the outside, can use a bit of better lighting inside, and eventually found ourselves sitting in a very local bar on the lake. We'd tried to sit outside but Shannon is a mosquito magnet so we moved in.
After a while we went in search of dinner.
Stumbled into a local place - one large party in the back room (where we also sat) celebrating a one year-old's birthday (all adults, one teen, one baby and the guest of honor). I felt like we may have intruded a bit, but this was really just a bar, with a room that they served fresh salads and pasta so there was no where else to sit. It was fun though, the food was good (though for the life of me at the moment I have no clue what I had), and by the end of the meal, we knew the guest of honor's name (Ricky - though probably spelled ricchi or something) and had a piece of birthday cake.
Back to the hotel to watch Rocky in Italian and chat with the kids via skype and IM.
Up about 7:15. Checked emails. Showered, dressed, in a local bar by 9 for a quick cappuccino before we hopped back on the train to Milan (we just missed the 9:17 so took the 9:38 diretto).
Arrived Cadorna station went to the Green line metro and rode it 5 stops to the Centrale station. Where we found the market, bar and waited for Chris and Jen.
Long story short, let's just say the term basement bar is subjective and I now know exactly how to describe to someone how/where to meet in Milano Centrale.
And because it's 11:24pm and I've had much wine and am tired, I'm going to save the entire train story (which I think will forever make me smile) for tomorrow (hopefully).
Anyway, at 2:20pm we all rolled into the town of Sondrio which is wedged between these humongous mountains on both sides. I wouldn't be surprised if today, we filled their yearly quota of Americans (all in this single day).
I'm also going to skip the march to the hotel and the confusion over our rooms and for now just say, after a bedroom picnic, walking through the town, visiting a couple of bars, and dinner, my companions are all snug in their rooms and I'm here writing and I'm looking forward to just chilling tomorrow in the area, hoping I get to see this town in some sunlight before we leave.
I'll leave you with some more pictures.
Welcome to Sondrio (Chris and Jen)
Mountains around Sondrio - my camera doesn't do the view justice