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Report 866: Castles, Caves and Cablecars

By wendy lynn from California, U.S.A., Spring 2005

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Page 13 of 16: Venice, Verona and Bergamo

photo by Wendy

Joe with polentina in Bergamo, Italy

The morning brought an acceptable breakfast but unacceptable coffee. It tasted like detergent. Alex liked the fresh cantaloupe (which he referred to as watermelon), and we were surprised to see a lot of other young families eating. I guess the partiers were still sleeping. After making the hike through the fog to our car, we left thinking we would try to see Venice which was only a two hour drive away.

Venice was a mess, but it was our fault for not researching it. Also, Joe who did all the driving (for the entire trip!) had a pounding headache from lack of good coffee. Second, Venice was covered with the same gloomy overcast sky that had socked in Piran. Third, we hit the first really bad traffic of our trip, and before we knew it, we were heading to Venice on a bumper-to-bumper motorway with no opportunity to turn around. We were confronted by two parking options, neither of which we knew anything about. We opted for Tronchetto simply because it did not involve a lane change and we could see it.

Once we got out, it still felt pretty dismal—tons of pushy tourists running about and ugly trinket sellers—and we still had not left the parking structure. The weather was foggy and grim. There seemed to be no signs letting you know how to actually get to Venice. Some people were walking, but who knew where they were headed or how long it would take to walk? When it seemed that we would need to buy a ticket for a boat (where!?), we felt that we should cut our losses and leave. Venice was not a day trip. Lesson learned.

By then we were pretty hungry, so we decided to look for a place to eat. We were pushing 1 pm, but we kept on. The kids, to their credit, didn’t even whimper as we put them back in the car after their brief freedom. No complaints of hunger, even, except that Brother did ask once if we would ever see food again. We thought about eating in Padova, but we missed the turn off and it looked too industrial from the motorway. How about fair Verona? Let’s try!

Good call. Verona was beautiful with lots of nice shops, old buildings and even a coliseum… and straight forward parking! Wendy was in love. A big lunch of pasta, coffee, beer and the best gelato we have ever had. We sat in an outside café and were able to watch a marathon in progress in view of the coliseum. It was expensive (the lunch cost 65 euros), but it felt well worth it after our long drive. We had spent no time researching Northern Italy since we were barely passing through. Verona was a stroke of luck. Wendy decided she could live there.

After we explored Verona for an hour or two, we headed off for Bergamo, just one hour more by car. We had reserved a B&B in the Valle Brembano area called Bed and Breakfast Ca’ Rossa. The area was very nice and natural, although it was a bit hard to navigate, especially in the dark. We accidentally bothered some neighbors when we couldn’t find the place, but they were very pleasant and helpful. BEB Ca’ Rossa is housed in a 17th century home built by a local wine growing family, we later learned. It’s beautifully old on the outside and very upscale modern inside. The owners have a tremendous view of Citta Vecchia from their living room which also included a 15th century museum quality mantel… stunning.

Alfonso, our host, was very nice but didn’t speak any English, and our Italian is pretty bad. Wendy took a year of low key Italian in school to keep her sanity, but it’s hard to change gears after so much German (both in Austria and Slovenia). Our host wanted to take us to the local pizzeria. We went despite our recent large lunch—partially because we could not communicate with him and partially because we were afraid that if we passed up the opportunity to eat, we would be stuck at 10 pm feeling ravenous.

Alfonso led us to the place just down the hill and introduced us to the staff, who seemed to be on good terms with him. Our waiter (owner?) was extremely friendly, and even Alex didn’t shy away. We asked him to bring us the house specialty (mozzarella di buffalo, zucchini and prosciutto) while the kids had cheese pizza. The pizza rocks!—the best so far. The dessert cart looked fantastic. We regretted the big lunch and wished we had been more hungry. If we had been staying there longer, I get the feeling we would have eaten there often. The restaurant is big enough for kids to not disturb other diners, it’s reasonably priced (our dinner with drinks was 30 Euros), and it’s friendly and lowkey—just what we need. (Ristorante Pizzeria Grotta Azzurra on via Pietro Ruggeri da Stabello.)

Back to the house where we give the kids a bath. Alex keeps pointing to the bidet and wondering about that “funny little sink.”

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