Inland from the Grand Canal

Inland from the Grand Canal

Friday, May 30, 2014
The Veneto, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour on the Amalfi Coast, in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium

We leave Venice in an unexpectedly classy way – via taxi! Our carefully purchased and registered transport passes, scheduled to last just long enough to get us down the Grand Canal and to Piazzale Roma (where we’ll pick up our rental car) this morning, are useless. Why? That dreaded Italian word “scopero”  – the public transport is on strike today.

The alternative would have been walking to Piazzale Roma, an easy task if we were unencumbered, but leaving town with luggage, trundling it up, over, and down multiple bridges, is NOT the way we want our Music and Markets guests to depart Venice! So we’ve bitten the bullet, and the sleek taxi pulls up at the water entrance of the hotel right on time. The 15 minute ride down the Grand Canal rings in at a grand 70€  – just a mere $100 or so.

The causeway connecting Venice to the mainland is bumper to bumper – no quick escape for us!
But we’re finally on the autoroute heading for Montegrotto Terme. Remember that wonderful spa hotel we discovered earlier this year? The Miramonti welcomes us with a smile, but we wait to check in, just drop our luggage, and head for Padova, where ancient beauties await us.
First, lunch, then we’re ready to spend a bit of time in the historic center, pointing out the grand market squares,

before our appointment at the Scrovegni Chapel. A scattering of modern and ancient Roman sculpture outside (the Chapel is beside the ruins of a Roman arena) ,

but inside are Giotto’s marvelous frescoes of the life of Christ and other Bible stories, meticulously restored most recently in this millenium, the colors as vivid as when they were painted in the early 1300s.

Back at Miramonti, we walk our guests through the spa area….and they want to make sure to fit in a visit or two to the warm pools!

This Venice/Veneto tour is designed around the International Encounter of Chamber Music, now in its 7th year, presented by the Auryn Quartet. Each year they invite other musicians to join them for a series of concerts in the 12th century church of St. Martin in Este.
The long piazza is lined with people enjoying an aperitif, and we’ve got what we think is the best café chosen for a light dinner before the concert.

Mozart’s Quintets are the focus of this series,

and the intimate and simple St. Martins, with excellent acoustics (as is normal for small solid Romanesque structures), is a perfect place to listen to some of the best works of this young genius.

From the Mud to the City

From the Mud to the City

Montegrotto Terme, Italy
Thursday, 13 February, 2014
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  We’re looking ahead to Spring – May in Venice, Barcelona, or Prague, and our newest  – Aix en Provence for the Easter Festival.

Oh muddy muddy…. there’s plenty of it around here! But before they slather it on you, they have to dig it up,

steep it in algae,

 then in thermal water for sixty days. 

Only then will it be ready for anti-inflammatory and muscle-relaxing treatments prescribed by the medical staff.
After the mud tour we’re shown other treatment rooms and Kirk takes our hostess up on an inhalant treatment offer… couldn’t hurt that cold he’s fighting off!

Then we’re off on quick trip to Padova, more preparation for the upcoming May tour,

and a walk through the vibrant daily market.

Our recently updated GPS has no clue about the expressway we’re on coming and going… it shows us out in the middle of a field! We’ll have to get that corrected before we return… these run-throughs, including the driving and parking (always a challenge in Italy’s cities), are a crucial part of our preparation. Not as fun as when we try out new hotels and restaurants, but necessary!
While I’m packing up for our departure tomorrow, Kirk samples the spa, and comes back cozy and relaxed in his standard-issue robe. Have I mentioned that we’re just about the only ones who descend to breakfast each morning in street clothes? Nearly everyone else is in their Miramonti Terme robe and flipflops.

One last dinner in the elegant apricot dining room… the table we chose the first evening has been “ours” from then on, and our wine and water bottles await us, along with tonight’s menu of delicious choices.

Can’t resist adding a few tempting tidbits from the appetizer buffet,

and the perfect Valentine’s finish from the dessert selection,

before relaxing in the lounge to the tune of a jazz combo –

what a lovely time we’ve had at Miramonti Relilax Resort, and we’ll be back in May!

On Dry Land from Venice

On Dry Land from Venice

Friday, May 23, 2013 
from Venice to Padova, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on a summer tour in Provence, or in Amsterdam/Belgium

The piazza’s dry this morning – barely a trace of last night’s lake in front of the Basilica – and we walk across dry land to the water bus, first leg of our journey to Padova, about 30 minutes inland from Venice.  Then we’re all aboard a train, arriving in the midst of a heavy thunderstorm to our destination – we can’t escape the water!

Our hotel, the lovely Majestic Toscanelli, is in the old Ghetto, steps away from an historic synagogue, and in an area with lots of arcaded sidewalks which we sure appreciate as we walk to lunch after checking in.

Kirk and I discovered Osteria dal Capo when we checked out the city in January, and once again we have a delicious meal of local specialties such as this tasty gnocchi.

Padova’s highlight is the Scrovegni Chapel, with its stunning frescoes of the life of Christ by Giotto – our must- see in the city before heading further inland to the city of Este, nestled in the Eugenean Hills.

The Auryn Quartet’s annual Chamber Music Festival begins tonight with a marvelous program of quintets with the addition of pianist Peter Orth. We enjoy chatting with the performers, who have also played at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, after the performance,
and stop across the street from the intimate church of Saint Martin, the home of the festival,  for a whipped cream lavished hot chocolate before the trip back to Padova.

All the Way to Venice? Not quite!

All the Way to Venice? Not quite!

To “Venice” the loooong way, via Zurich & Istanbul
Thursday – Friday, November 15-16, 2012

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Why not join us in Italy for New Year’s Jazz?  
Our long journey to northern Italy feels like I imagine a trip to Australia would… we left our Virginia home around 3 pm Wednesday, and arrived at our hotel in Abano Terme, west of Venice, at 7 pm Thursday -around 24 hours of travel! No really long flights, though, just a lot of connections – first Zurich, where we relaxed courtesy of Swiss Air before catching our flight to Istanbul, where we lounged like royalty in the amazing Turkish Air club. WOW was my thought as we approached the majestic entrance – and the feeling continued as we wandered through one area such as this intimate theater, after another.

If I weren’t so jetlagged I’d play a tune on this piano,

or shoot some pool in the library.

But I’m hungry… and this Pide, hot- from- the oven Turkish flatbread, hits the spot, followed by a selection of Meze from one buffet, then pastries from another.
We really enjoyed our visit to Istanbul a couple of years ago, but this trip, the only glimpse we get of the city is from the lounge windows before boarding a Turkish Air flight to Venice. The flight’s nearly as impressive as the lounge, with comfortable seats and a full hot meal, our choice of chicken or salmon, served with wine. When did we last get such a meal, complimentary, on a US airline two hour flight?!
This cultural travel conference is publicized as being in Venice, but once again we’ll get only a brief glimpse of the lagoon islands when we fly out on Sunday – it’s dark by the time we land tonight,

and we’re whisked off to a high rise hotel in the spa town of Abano Terme, headquarters for this year’s Viaggiandum Est conference.
Friday’s a day of meetings for Kirk, while I check out the hot pools of the hotel

and walk through the town,

noting other steaming pools (the town’s loaded with them!) as I go, to catch a bus to Padova for the day.

Years  ago we exchanged La Belle Cour for a Padova apartment for a few days, so I see several familiar sights, such as the grand market hall

with its frescoed arches above.

Padova’s University is the second oldest in Italy, begun in 1222, and is still renowned today. As I’m on my way to visit a hotel we’re considering for a future Music and Markets Tour, I hear teasing, taunts, and laughter coming from one of the piazzas, and there, lined up one after another, are this year’s doctoral candidates, fielding questions from their classmates,

being sprayed with shaving cream or silly string – part of the graduation ritual.
Every once in a while a ditty rings out ” Dottore, dottore…” as they’re congratulated on a wise response.

A colorful chapel anchors one corner,

and here’s one of those elevated tombs we’ve seen in other Veneto cities, such as Verona.

I have a few hotels and restaurants on my list to check out, and enjoy the views

as I walk through this canal-laced city,

before enjoying a terrific plate of pasta topped with fresh mozzarella for lunch.

I’m reminded of how much we enjoyed this lively town, one of the many lovelies in Italy that are over- shadowed by more popular neighbors – Padova is a good candidate for a base for the springtime Este Music Festival trip that’s in the works.


La Rocca on the Mount – Monselice

La Rocca on the Mount – Monselice

Sunday, July 22, 2012
Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!  Join us on our featured (and expanded!) summer Amsterdam/Belgium tour!

A Sunday drive in the country today, north to Padova, west of Venice.We take the long way out of Tuscany, driving up through the mountains towards Bologna before getting on the expressway for the rest of our journey.
Why Padova? Although it’s an interesting city in itself (we spent a winter week there a few years ago) the reason we’re stopping there today is to explore the nearby villages of Monselice and Este, since we’re planning a tour based around the Este Chamber Music Festival next spring.
Monselice’s easily identifiable as we approach – a natural citadel on the southern slopes of the Euganean Hills (which, by the way, are dotted with thermal waters and hot mud – we’ll have to try out a spa or two someday!) La Rocca crowns the pointy hill, and the walled city huddles beneath.The row of white chapels leading up the hill are a few of Scarmozzi’s Via Sacra delle Siete Chiese, seven chapels built in the early 1600’s.

The church of San Paolo, now an exhibition center is on the left and the Tourist Information office, with a graceful loggia, is on the right  of the lane leading to the Castello Monselice.

San Paolo church is the fourth on this site, and the ruins below shelter an ancient fresco of Saint Francis of Assisi, as well as a friendly cat.

A partially salvaged fresco shows the town patron, Saint Sabino, with Saint Catherine.

Ca’Marcello, a beautifully restored medieval palace, is part of the walled Castello Monselice, and can be visited on a guided tour. Just down the lane is Villa Nanni, a splendid Renaissance mansion and gardens.

Next stop – Este… to be continued.