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Along Lake Garda

Along Lake Garda

Thursday May 26, 2016
Lake Garda, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne?

We’ve taken tour clients to superb Sirmione and up along the eastern side of Lake Garda in the past, but have not seen the western shore, so that’s where we’ll explore today. At the coffee shop, we ask the friendly barista for his suggestions, and he jots down a few for us. First we wind around and up to Castello di Moniga del Garda, and find a walled citadel atop the hill.05261601 asked coffee shop guy first stop castello moniga di garda houses inside Parking outside, we walk through the towered gate and discover an entire little village inside the ancient walls!
Beside the gate, a touching sculpture on a balcony makes us wonder – who wants to remember this young girl staring up at the tower?05261601 balcony girlWell-kept homes line the trio of lanes running from the entry to the opposite wall…05261601 from one side to the otherfor how many centuries have people lived inside this hilltop fortress?
Next on the scribbled list is a tiny port, San Felice Porto, and we bring out the sandwiches and fruit we purchased in Desenzano, buy a drink from a beachside kiosk, and enjoy the view while we munch our lunch.05261601 lakeside tiny port for picnicCurving further along the shore, we pull off at a long parking lot to take in the view of Salo, across the water, 05261601 saloand although it’s intriguing, decide to climb up into the hills and return via the inland route to Desenzano. A brilliant field of red pulls us off the road, 05261601 up in hills poppies all pull overand we’re not the only ones finding a spot to stop and grab a photo of this eye-catcher! A nearby goatherd is used to all this beauty, and just relaxes in the shade as the poppies shimmer beside him.05261602 beside field goatherdAfter dinner on our terrace we take one last stroll around this lakeside beauty – 05261602 desenzano dinner and strollwe’ll gladly return to show it off to Music and Markets guests!
As we turn to walk home we hear singing, and as we watch, a parade of worshipers pass through the center of town, 05261602 hear chantingcelebrating Corpus Christi. For how many centuries, we wonder, have the faithful marked this date on these cobbled lanes?

Discovering Desenzano

Discovering Desenzano

Wednesday May 25, 2016
Desenzano, Lake Garda, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne?

After the stressful night and day of travel, all we want to do is relax and explore this charming town we’ve ended up in…05251602 coffee and explorewe’ll drive along the lake to see more tomorrow. We had noticed a cute coffee shop as we walked around last night, and stop by for breakfast this morning. Our two pastries and cappuccinos, relished in a cozy nook, come to a mere 5 euros – we can’t make breakfast at home for that! One of the pleasures of being in a less-discovered town!
Caffeinated, we set out to see the sights, climbing up to the castle to gaze at the lake sparkling beyond.05251602 from castleTempted by the display in Ruffino’s window on the main square, we stock up for the next few days…05251602 supplies from giovanni ruffinohome-made pastas, cheeses, salumi, a vivid bottle of orange Aperol for apertif-time, and for dessert some limoncello and a flat crunchy Sbrisolona, the almond shortbread cake we sampled a few years ago in Mantova, a few miles south of us.
Spreading the map out on the table, we plan our upcoming explorations, take a nap, then nibble some olives and nuts with our Aperol Spritzes on the garden terrace.05251603 apero in the gardenOur lazy day finishes with a lake side stroll – 05251603 lake strollthis is the perfect place to begin our Italy Lake District Ramble!

Lovely Lake Garda

Lovely Lake Garda

Tuesday May 24, 2016
Desenzano, Lake Garda, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
Why not join us on our newest tour in September – Bordeaux and Dordogne?

Arriving in Desenzano, crawling up a narrow cobbled street barely wide enough for the car til we find our apartment, we settle in and take a deep breath, so relieved to be here after what was the worst 24 hours of travel we’ve ever experienced. Our flight from Marseilles to Venice was repeatedly delayed, then cancelled (no emails or notice, we were able to find out only by searching Google flights and asking other exhausted passengers who had been waiting for hours when we arrived at the airport around midnight) and the Monday night departure turned into a Tuesday afternoon departure. After minimal communication (there were NO staff of the airline at the airport, only a company charged with caring for their passengers – each time they attempted to contact someone in the company in Spain it took forever) the airline put us up in an airport hotel  – we got to bed around 2 am.  We certainly can NOT recommend Volotea Airlines!
Picking up a car after finally landing in Venice, we made it to Desenzano, on Lake Garda, in the late afternoon Tuesday. Our spacious apartment is right in the historic center, with everything we need within walking distance. Eagerly we begin figuring out where we are, finding the main piazza, 05241601 Desenzanocrowned with a church and lined with enticing boutiques, then the picturesque port, waterside eateries doing a brisk business.05241601 portOur time-honored trick of finding a restaurant a block off of the main drag works perfectly once again – Osteria Di Vino is a little treasure!05241601 resto one block offFragrant with truffles, 05241601 truffled tartaremy tartare is perfectly accompanied with a local red.
Falling into bed after that excellent dinner, we’re so thankful to be here!

 

Venetian Neighborhoods

Venetian Neighborhoods

Saturday-Sunday, January 2-3, 2016
Venice, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Prague and Budapest, or Venice and the Veneto – join us!

Well not every day of the year can be as exquisite as the first one was yesterday…and Saturday the 2nd was rainy and gray, the kind of day that would be best to just stay inside by a cozy fire. But with only 2 days left in Venice, we venture out, hooded and umbrella-ed, for a bit of exploration nearby, frequently darting inside for a snack or a meal. We’ve never taken time to see the original Ghetto before…where that name was first used in the 1500s for the island on which the Jews of Venice were isolated. The rain was so heavy it was tough to get any photos  – so here’s our lone example, a door with Hebrew lettering,01021601 ghetto hebrew and menorah and a mezuza slot on the doorpost.
The rain finally lessened after dark, and we enjoyed a bit of window-shopping – intriguing antiques and objets d’art here,01021602 decor shop and fantastical wigs for upcoming Carnevale there. 01021601 order carnevale wig hereSunday dawned sunny and beautiful again, and we took a roundabout way, walking along canals where we haven’t been before, 01031601 dorsoduro bound through new to us areassuch as this one with FIVE bridges visible at one intersection, 01031601 bridges 5to the Dorsoduro sestiere. Venice is divided into six neighborhoods, called sestiere, and Dorsoduro, literally “hard back”  – the backbone of Venice along the Giudeca Canal – has always been a favorite of ours.
Looks like we’re not the only ones who like this neighborhood – there’s a traffic jam on that little bridge!01031601 jam traffic on a little canalAnd this harlequin seems to say “welcome to my shop!”01031601 welcome to my shopStopping to peer into artisans’ windows, some crafting paper, others silk scarves, others forcolas, the handsome wooden fulcrum for a gondola oar, we take in the open-air museum of Venice. Across the San Trovaso canal is one of the few squeros, gondola workshops, left in the city. 01031602 hats and gondolasSee the gondoliers hats hung on the wall? Satisfied customers, no doubt!
And on this side Bar Il Squero has just what we’ve been wanting – a mouthwatering selection of cicchetti, snacks, 01031602 il squerojust waiting to be nibbled with a glass of prosecco! In Budapest, we fit in a café stop every afternoon, with decadent pastries and coffee. Here in Venice, we go for cicchetti each afternoon or early evening…delicious bites (such as gorgonzola spread topped with walnuts or artichokes) with a glass of bubbly. LOVE this tradition!
We’ve made it to the Accademia bridge, an ideal perch for views towards San Marco,01031602 top of bridge view one way or, on the other side, the Grande Curva of the Grand Canal, 01031602 top of bridge view the other grande curva and 2 su paddlersthe most coveted palazzo real estate, we’ve been told.
A late lunch at always delicious Taverna San Trovaso01031603 always delish tav san trovasoa Venice institution where the food is still great, the service friendly and knowledgeable, and the prices quite reasonable, even though it’s made it into all the guidebooks.
Then our wander continues, along the Grand Canal, 01031603 canal grande vistasover to the Giudeca side of the neighborhood for a sunset view,01031603 sunset strolland the long way back to our apartment, to catch a view of the prettiest holiday decor in town, by San Barnaba.01031603 walk long way home to see lights by san barnabaVenice – you’re a delight in every season!

A Perfect Beginning in Venice

A Perfect Beginning in Venice

Friday, January 1, 2016
Venice & Murano, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Prague and Budapest, or Venice and the Veneto – join us!

Happy 2016, Venice! It’s a quiet sunny morning on “our” peaceful canal, 01011601 am venice video toothe church bells ringing a New Year welcome. Giovanna, our lovely landlady, left a holiday panettone on the table for us, with which Kirk made some delicious French (Italian??) Toast – yum!01011601 breakfast sizzlingAnd then we’re off exploring – walking by Madonna del’Orto, of the ringing bells. Could the sky be any bluer?!01011601 could sky be any bluerMust be a good omen to start a new year with a day like this!
Crossing the closest bridge (that’s our spot on the third floor across the canal),01011601 floor 3 we take our time walking through lived-in neighborhoods01011601 lived in neighborhood on our way to the vaporetto stop – today we’re visiting a new-to-us island, Murano!
From this part of Venice it’s a quick ride to the glass blowers isle, and we’re soon walking by examples of the art, such as this shimmering blue  “comet”, placed on the square during the holidays.01011601 quick vaporetto to muranoThe factories are closed today, but shops are open –01011602 craft shops how about a glass bustier?01011602 bustier –  and santa’s still leading his reindeer-hauled gondola.01011601 walk all over past santa gondolaAt one side of Murano is the museo vaporetto stop, and at the other the faro (lighthouse).01011601 walk to lighthouseThe glassblowers artistry fills churches as well as shops, elaborate chandeliers in San Pietro Martire,01011602 church murano chandeliers of course and a serene glass nativity in the cathedral,01011602 creche in glass in main church which was designed with this lovely exterior gallery 01011602 church with gallerythat could be seen by those arriving from the sea by boat.
Beside the church, these mourning maidens stand beside a war memorial.01011602 memorial beside churchWe stop for a canal-side snack as the sun sets,01011602 the sun setting and the holiday lights begin to sparkle.01011602 then lights come onDelicate chandeliers are the decor over the main canal,01011603 delicate chandeliers over canalwhere you can park your boat right in front of your home.01011603 parking reservedTinting the city in rose and coral, the sun sets behind Venice as we return,01011603 return and top off a perfect New Years Day with a great dinner at Paradiso Perduto and one of the best guitarists we’ve ever heard – Valter, from Vicenza,01011603 valter and fab dinnerabout 45 minutes inland. We have been listening to a CD of his at home and remembering the wonderful first day of 2016 – may the year continue to be terrific!

To Venice to Celebrate!

To Venice to Celebrate!

Thursday, December 31, 2015
Venice, Italy

Interested in a Music and Markets Tour? We’d love to hear from you!
We’re looking ahead to Spring – Prague and Budapest, or Venice and the Veneto – join us!

I groaned when we decided to set our alarm at 3:45 am…ugh! But we knew our destination would be worth it! First leg of the journey – a flight from Budapest to Milan, then a train to the Central Station, then a leg to Bologna (only thing available was a connection because we couldn’t purchase ahead of time since we weren’t sure when we’d get to the Milan station), 12311501 business car to ourselvesthen FINALLY to Venice…good news was we had business class cars to ourselves!
Enchanting as ever, Venice greets us with a sunny welcome. 12311501 bus vaporetto to aptAlthough we’ve been here many times, this will be the first time we’ve stayed in an apartment rather than a hotel – we’re looking forward to LIVING here for a few days!
Giovanna, owner of Loft Casa Aurora, meets us with a smile at the Madonna del’Orto vaporetto (water bus) stop and walks us to the canal-side apartment. We’re off the beaten track, in a quiet Cannaregio (one of Venice’s 6 districts) neighborhood, and can easily walk to all we want to see. We’re just in time for a late lunch, and Giovanna’s husband has found a nearby place that’s open for us, so we sit down with an “aaaah” and order some delicious pasta and fish.  A few errands, then we unpack and plan our New Years Eve. My wish is some beautiful fireworks, and Giovanna let us know the best place to be to watch them at midnight.
We take the back lanes,12311501 dusk later than in budapest avoiding the crowds heading towards Piazza San Marco, then plunge right in to the revelry.12311501 marks masksLots of people are wearing masks tonight – all part of the fun,12311501 st marks lingering around the Piazza until the midnight show.12311501 st marks loggias We’ve read that the Piazza is the site of a  Bacio di Mezzanote – communal midnight kiss! But we’ll be out by the water, looking up at splendor in the sky. And the crowd gasps as the first explosions light up the water and San Giorgio Maggiore in the background. 12311501 terrific firewords riva schiavoniYes, this is a perfect spot – not far from Vivaldi’s church, along the wide Riva degli Schiavoni. Shimmers of gold fall like raindrops,12311502 gold shimmers then San Giorgio takes on a red hue at the next blast. 12311502 san giorgio changing colorsWe’re pleasantly surprised, after spending several New Years Eves in a rowdier Florence, at the reserved yet delighted crowds. No empty Prosecco bottles tossed in the air, no booming firecrackers in the lanes, just appreciation of the beauty and a seeming spirit of thankfulness for what we all hope will be a better new year. Auguri! Happy 2016!