Sunday, May 27, 2012

Italia (Milan) " The Church of San Maurizio"

"Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life." --Anna Akhmatova

Today Milan was a huge bicycle race ( akin to New York City shutting down for the marathon). There were no taxis to the city center. The hotel's complimentary shuttle was not running. The only good thing was that the local government allowed unlimited use of the metro (subway) for 1.50 Euro for the day. Since we are only 3 stops and about 5 minutes from the Duomo stop, we ventured out to see something which I had wanted to see- La Chiesa di San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore (the Church of Saint Maurice in the Great Monastery). This Catholic Church is on one of Milan's most famous and elegant streets "Corso Magenta" (old Milan) and if you were not looking for it you could easily pass it by since it is in a non descript, gray, drab building (albeit using some parts of buildings from Roman times). It is not large and has a small Church in the front and a building in the back (Monastery) which was once one of the most important Benedictine convents in the world. But you do not visit this Church for its size nor exterior. You visit it for what is on the inside-and when you enter not expecting too much it hits you- a blast of colors like a kaleidoscope of some of the most beautiful frescoes (floor to ceiling) that you will ever see anywhere. When we entered, there was a two string quartet playing on a harp and flute in the Monastery and people were seated in some of the most beautiful and intricacy carved wooden pews that I have ever seen. The long daily Mass had just ended about an hour before. It was a very soothing experience. My daughter Ashley asked me why we didn't have a Church like this back home!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Italia - Lake Como

 "You may have the universe if I may have Italy." --Giuseppe Verdi

Yesterday, we took a trip from Milan to the Lake Region of Italy (between Milan and Switzerland). We went to Lake Como. I had checked out the forecast and read that it was going to be beautiful for one day in the next four, so even though we were tired, we took advantage of the nice weather and went. And without a doubt, it was the most beautiful scenery I have seen on my entire trip! Lake Como is a large lake dotted with tiny picturesque villages which are accessed by ferry or water taxi (think Venice). With the beautiful, pristine, tranquil lake, the villages with Churches along the shore and homes rising above the cliffs and the backdrop of faraway snow-capped Swiss mountains, the scenery is simply surreal. The train ride from Milan to the town of Como took one hour. We then took a high speed hydrofoil to the town of Bellaggio, the famous town at the end of the lake. We walked around the village, had some delicious lemon sorbetto (since it was hot out) and then took a slow ferry back to Como which stopped in several villages along the way (Tremezzo, Cernobbio, Nesso, Lenno, Isola di Comacino, Tavernola, Moltrasio and Argegno) before arriving back to Como. We walked a short distance to the funicular (cable car) and took the ride up the mountain to the village of Brunate, from where the whole town of Como could be viewed. We then went back down in the cable car and had a delicious dinner (linguine with whole clams) in a restaurant along the lake in Como. We finished this off with a delicious gelato while we waited for our train back to Milan and overall, had a perfect day (And no we did not see George Clooney but did pass by his house along the lake).

Locals relaxing on a boat in the lake (the Italian saying "E dolce far niente"( "it is sweet to do nothing") is certainly practiced on Lake Como
The center of every town on the lake was a beautiful Church

The town of Cernobbio
Look at the snow capped mountains in the upper left
The town of Lenno

The green covered cliffs 
The beautiful waters

The town of Bellaggio

The town of Moltrasio

The seaside promenade in Bellaggio

The village of Bellagio above

The town of Tremezzo

A floating pool in the famous hotel, Villa D'este

The town of Como as seen from the village of Brunate above

The seaside promenade in Como

The view from Lake Como from the cable car on the way down

The town of Como

The Lake Como view from Brunate

The fast boat

The village of Brunate
One cable car was coming down when we were going up
The sunset from Brunate
The entrance to the cable car
The cable car ride up
This cable car has been working since 1894 (surely better engineering than my 2011 vehicle!)
Isola Comacina - an island along Lake Como with a house, restaurant and snack bar

A waterfall cascading down from the mountain into the lake
The town of Argegno

This duck in Bellaggio became the mascot of our trip (Ashley wanted to return the next day and feed him some Italian bread)
Ashley on the high speed hydrofoil

A seaplane starting its....

descent and landing on the lake (only to take off again)

The town of Nesso

Houses dot the cliffs