Lake Como – Villas on the Lake

Did you know Lake Como is only about an hour’s ride from Milan? There are numerous grand villas that line Lake Como.  Taking the slow ferry gives you a glimpse at a few!

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Villa on the lake
Lake Como villa
This screams Italy to me!

Villa Balbianello in Lenno is one of the most scenic residences on the lake and is famous for its terraced gardens.  It was originally built for Cardinal Angelo Durini and sits high up on a hill overlooking Bellagio and the lake. The Loggia Durini is a popular wedding venue. This location has made its way into a variety of movies like Casino Royale and Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones.

Villa Balbianello, Lenno
Lenno
Loggia Durini

Grand Hotel Tremezzo besides being a magnificent hotel has a floating pool! This historic property was recently renovated and very popular on the Lake. Enjoy the restaurants or the spa.  Terrace dining has you looking over to Bellagio. While here be sure to stop next door and visit Villa Carlotta. Built in 1690 it features a lovely Italian garden. Again, if you are taking the ferry to Bellagio or Varenna you can hop off in Tremezzo to visit here.

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Grand Hotel Tremezzo, floating pool

Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is another lovely spot to stay, just lunch or grab a drink. The Villa was built back in the 15th century. The park is not part of the property and the Gardens at Villa Melzi are time better spent.

Villa Serbelloni

Villa D’Este originally had a female convent on this site but it was later demolished to make way for a private residence.  It too has beautiful gardens.  In 1873 it was converted into a hotel and it has seen the likes of many celebs!

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Villa D’Este in Cernobbia

Did you miss the beginning of this series on Lake Como? Here is a link to Part One- Lago di Como – a series

Bellagio- the “pearl” of Lake Como

This lovely village on Lake Como is known for its steep, narrow, stair lined cobbled streets with insane views of the lake. It is one of the most popular stops for tourists visiting the area along with the towns of Varenna and Como.

Bellagio is located at the junction where the “Y” shaped lake divides into two branches. Take it slow, walk around the lanes, stop for a spritz, check out the shops. Don’t miss Villa Melzi gardens or Villa Serbelloni or just walk out of town and explore. Be prepared though!!!! We did this and GPS didn’t work to well to get back into town and we really walked and walked and walked!  Dead end after dead end.

Bellagio road to Villa Melzi

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The old town center faces the west branch of the lake and is lined with cafes and shops at one end is Villa Serbelloni.

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Villa Serbelloni

Warning!!! Wear comfortable shoes as there are lots of stairs to access the higher part of the town.

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In the center of town you’ll find Piazza della Chiesa and the bell tower of the Basilica of San Giacomo, a Romanesque church that can be seen from everywhere.

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Harbor and Bell Tower from Villa Melzi

Even if you aren’t staying overnight you can have a very special lunch at many hotels.  We walked out of town and stopped in at Hotel Belvedere with breathtaking views of the east branch. Lunch was incredible!!!! Hotel Belvedere overlooks the eastern branch of Lake Como and the views here are towards Lierna to the south and towards Fiumellate to its north. Either the dining room or the adjacent patio provide breathtaking views. Hard to believe we had the patio to ourselves while a few guests enjoyed the pool and sun deck. Many hotels welcome non-guests for meals. It is a way I have found to experience a locale I might not be able to afford. Also I don’t know about you but I hate hotel hopping! This kills two birds with one stone!

We took a day trip from Como via the ferries that run daily from Como.  Bellagio is an easy day trip.  The slow ferry takes 2 hours and makes multiple stops along the way and you can hop on and off to explore. There is also a fast ferry.  We took the fast ferry back to Como late afternoon. Get to the docks early and make sure you are at the right one!!! Just sayin’! You might want to stop in Tremezzo to see Villa Carlotta or in Lenno to visit Villa Balbianello. There are many small lovely towns to explore.

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Studio Tecnico Architetto Stefano Catti
Studio Tecnico Architetto Stefano Catti

While in Como check out the silk! Como is one of the best places to buy silk in all of Europe!

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In upcoming blogs I will show you some other sights like Villa Melzi’s gardens and Villa Balbianello.

Did you miss the last 5 blogs on Lake Como? Here is a link to Lago di Como – a series, part One

Portofino, Italy

Well Portofino is probably the most photographed fishing village on the Italian Riviera! Whatever you have in mind, relaxing is in store since there is not much to actually DO here! Be prepared to just stroll around the boutiques, the harbor and walk up to Castello Brown maybe and of course, don’t forget people watch!

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The yachts that grace this picturesque harbor are luxurious to say the least but it is also full of small fishing boats.  Don’t forget this was always a fishing village!

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It is worth the short hike up to Chiesa di San Giorgio and Castello Brown.  The views from both spots will not disappoint you!

Chiesa di San Giorgio has had a commanding presence over Portofino and the Ligurian Sea since it was constructed in 1154 or perhaps even earlier.  This Romanesque church was sadly bombed during WWII and then reconstructed in 1950.

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Chiesa di San Giorgio
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Chiesa di San Giorgio

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Castello Brown was well suited as a defensive site and was used as such since the 15th century. There are 2 methods to ascent to the Castle. You can walk up the steep staircase or take the winding path up.  We walked up the stairs and down the path which opens up the best panoramic views of this town.

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Castello Brown

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Don’t miss a chance to walk around this picture perfect town!  The brightly colored buildings just beckon you in. Sit and sip in the Piazzetta or at a seaside bar in the U-shaped harbor or grab some gelato, always a favorite.

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Don’t miss the Chiesa di San Martino in town with its beautiful bronze doors is just up the hill off the Piazza.  Note the mosaic on the landing made from rocks gathered on the shore.

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Portofino is a very convenient day trip from Genoa, Milan, the Cinque Terre or the towns just above it of Santa Margherita Ligure and Rapallo.  We made Santa Margherita Ligure our home base to travel the Riviera heading to The Cinque Terre, Portofino and exploring the wonderful town of Santa Margherita Ligure.

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See Santa Margherita in the distance

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If you are looking for luxury; look no further in Portofino than the Belmond Hotel Splendido.  This is a luxury hotel built in the 1920’s and sits on a hill overlooking the sea and its lovely gardens.

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Day tripping in CT at Lavender Pond Farm

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In their effort to make the world a more beautiful place the owners of Lavender Pond Farm have created a little slice of heaven right here in Connecticut on 25 acres now filled with all sorts of lavender varieties.

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Located in Killingworth, CT the Farm caters to lavender and garden lovers alike.  Lavender typically blooms from June into August but can last later depending on the weather.  With almost 10,000 plants in the fields there are 12 varieties including: Grosso, Munstead, Edelweiss, Hidcote Giant and Provence.

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Children old and young enjoy walking thru the fields, taking their family photos and just enjoying the outdoors. Check out the Rooster and his harem or play some chess on the life size board.

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To help with the necessary pollination they have honey bees which play an important role.

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Honey bees hard at work!

Recently they built an authentic covered bridge on the property and there is a lovely gazebo to sit and just surround yourself in this sea of lavender! Stay tuned as they are planning to open a bed and breakfast!

Want to take some home? No problem, they sell lavender plants and a variety of lavender based products in their on-site shop, including sachets, soaps, scrubs, linen sprays, oils and lavender lemonade to name a few.

 

A Day in the Country- Trade Secrets

With Trade Secrets being this weekend in CT I thought you might be interested in this blog I wrote several years ago on the Saturday event which is always a widely anticipated event by plant geeks everywhere.  People come from far and wide to attend, booking their hotel rooms a year in advance!  Many of the vendors come every year so although this blog is from several years ago the information is very relevant to this weekends show in Sharon!

Trade Secrets is a two-day event which started 18 years ago in Bunny Williams backyard. This event is the foremost fundraiser for Women’s Support Services which offers crisis intervention, counseling and education, as well as legal, medical, and housing assistance to fulfill its mission of creating a community free of domestic violence.  Women’s Support Services is a nonprofit organization that provides free and confidential aid to victims of domestic violence and abuse. WSS provides a 24 hour hotline, (860) 364.1900 short-term emergency shelter, counseling, legal advocacy, education and emergency support for those in need.

The proceeds from Trade Secrets 2018 will help WSS fund programs that teach children about healthy relationships and conflict resolution and will help fund operation of their 24-hour hotline. If you missed it this year mark your calendar for next year like Martha Stewart.

“Sadly 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence in their lives” (National Violence Against Women Survey, 2000)

The mission of WSS is to create a community free of domestic violence and abuse through intervention, prevention and education.

Trade Secrets is the premiere Rare Plant & Garden Antique Sale of the season on Saturday with Private Garden tours on Sunday! Today I will take you on a tour of the Rare Plant & Garden Antique Sale.

The plant and antique sale is held yearly at Lion Rock Farm in Sharon, CT.  This is a stunning property overlooking Amenia, NY located in one of the most scenic areas in northwest CT. There were antiques of every variety, rare plants that you can only find here as well as perennials, vegetables and annuals for sale.  There are trees and shrubs, containers and planters, statuary and towers, peonies, roses, and lavender.  You name it and I am sure you can find it here.

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Lion Rock Farm
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Plant towers

Plants in every shape and color to buy

 

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Lion Rock Farm
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Pool at Lion Rock
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Lion Rock
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Pots from Campo de’ Fiori, Sheffield, MA
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Topiaries in all shapes and sizes

 

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Ready for take off

 

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Every garden needs one of these

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Need backyard furniture?

 

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Splish, splash!

 

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I want this gate!

 

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Antiques

 

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Lilacs

Bye till next year!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Churches of Verona

Duomo Di Verona is the city’s cathedral and can easily be reached from the Ponte Pietra. It was constructed on the remains of two earlier churches that were destroyed in the earthquake of 1117. An absolutely beautiful church in the historic medieval center. The Basilica has striped brick and stone walls not unlike other churches I have seen throughout Italy.

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Verona’s Cathedral

Basilica di Santa Anastasia is the most important religious monument in the Gothic style in Verona. Funded by the Scaligeri family it was built around 1290.

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Basilica di Santa Anastasia
Verona’s majestic Basilica Di San Zeno dates from the 12th century in Piazza San Zeno. The Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore is a striking landmark especially when viewed from the across the river. This Romanesque church’s bronze doors have 48 carved panel Bible Scenes and beautiful frescoes inside from the 12th – 15th centuries.
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Basilica di San Zeno from Ponte Scaligero
Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli, is an ancient Roman Catholic church built in the early 12th century on a pre-exiting Roman cemetery. Located right near the Porta dei Borsari mentioned in the previous blog on the Corso Cavour. A striking Veronese Romanesque bell tower stands apart from the church.
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Chiesa dei Santi Apostoli

 

Did you miss the last 2 blogs on Verona? Romeo, Romeo and Verona’s Bridges? Link to them to read more about this lovely city.

Also travel to Asiago near the Swiss Alps.  Looking for more Italy?  There are blogs on many different areas.  Here are links: Amalfi Coast; Puglia, including Lecce, Matera, Alberobello, Borgo Egnazia; Florence; Venice (stay tuned for some new Venice ones also); Tuscany including: Siena, San Gimignano, Montepulciano, Lucca, Pienza, Pisa, Arezzo. Montalcino, Montefioralle, Greve and Montechiello.  Whew!  That’s a lot of trips to Italy in the last few years!

Can’t wait to return!!!!

The Magic of Venice

This city is abundant with art and architecture.  Millions of people arrive daily to take in it’s atmosphere and wander its narrow streets. Hopefully, there will soon be a ban on those mega cruise ships that are destroying the lagoon!
Venice at night
The Grand Canal from The Rialto Bridge
Surprisingly, although there are no cars and everything is delivered via boat, there are surprisingly few accidents. How they navigate around is crazy!
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Venice
Venice
The Grand Canal at The Rialto Bridge
The gondoliers are a special bunch.  Did you know they must know the city’s history? They don’t just serenade you! Whether via gondola or vaporetto (water taxi) be sure to explore the city from the water.  You will see it from a completely different perspective than just walking around.
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Gondola rides
The city’s history is fascinating and the Grand Canal is lined with more than 170 13th – 18th centuries old Palazzos.  These buildings appear to sit on the water but their construction goes way back when they were constructed on pilings set into layers of sand and clay. (See my blog on Venice from 2017)
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The smaller side waterways are called Rio’s and are crossed by over 400 small bridges. Over time the canals were deepened and widened to accommodate traffic.
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There are only a few ‘Canals’ in the city: The Grand Canal- a giant “S” curve that winds its way through the center of the city; the Cannaragio Canal and Guidecca Canal.  The Grand Canal has four bridges that cross it: The Rialto Bridge; The Ponte degli Scalzi; the Ponte dell’ Accademia and the Ponte della Costituzione. Who can believe the Rialto bridge has stood for 400 years.
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The Rialto Bridge
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Ponte degli Scalzi
Accademia Bridge
Ponte dell’ Accademia
Venice is an amazing city in every way. Every piazza features another magnificent church. These are works of amazing art and extraordinary masterpieces of architecture.  We will explore these in another blog. Stay tuned!
Did you miss my recent trip to Asiago? As always, if you are traveling to Italy I am glad to recommend experienced Travel Agents who can make you trip memorable and tailored to your needs and desires. Of course, if you are traveling with a larger party and would like a photographer to document your adventures so you can just enjoy your trip, I’m your girl!

Val d’Orcia – Montalcino

Montalcino sits on top of a steep hill with acres of olive groves and vineyards surrounding it. It was heavily fortified behind defensive walls and an imposing 14th century fortress topped with tall lookout towers built in 1361 to a pentagonal plan.  It is famous for the production of Brunello di Montalcino.  My favorite!

Fields of Sunflowers cover the breathtaking countryside from Siena to Monte Amiata called the Val d’Orcia.  Sunflowers often appeared in the background of Renaissance art works. This area has flat chalky plains with fortified medieval settlements on top of hills. Everywhere you look there are rows of those iconic cypress trees.

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Sunflowers in the Val d’Orcia
Cypress trees
Cypress trees

Chiesa della Madonna del Soccorso is a Roman Catholic church located on the Via Spagni.

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Chiesa della Madonna del Soccorso

As with other Tuscan towns there are a multitude of Catholic churches.

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Chiesa di Sant’Agostino
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Sun setting over Montalcino

Some history on Brunello:

“Tuscany is one of the best wine destinations around the world, with its triangular shape it seems made for cultivating vineyards. In fact, wine is produced in all ten of the region’s provinces. There are more than 70 DOCG wines in Italy, 11 of which are produced in Tuscany. DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or controlled designation of origin guaranteed) is the highest recognition that can be awarded to a wine.”

Brunello di Montalcino (normal and riserva) is obtained from Sangiovese grapes. Did I say enough it is my favorite wine ever!!!

“The Brunello di Montalcino is a visually clear, brilliant wine with a lively garnet color. It has intense, persistent, wide and ethereal scent. We recognize scents of undergrowth, aromatic wood, small fruits, light vanilla and composite jam. The taste is elegant and harmonious body, nerbo and breed, it is dry with long aromatic persistence. Due to its characteristics, Brunello di Montalcino has long aging, improving over time. Hard to say how many years this wine improves in the bottle. This, in fact, depends on vintage. It ranges from a minimum of 10 years to 30, but can be kept even longer. Of course, it must be kept in the right way: in a fresh cellar, but above all at constant, dark, noisy and no odor; the sealed bottles.”

Matching food with Brunello di Montalcino

The elegance and the harmonious body of the wine make it possible to combine with very structured and composite dishes such as red meats, feather and coat, possibly accompanied by mushrooms and truffles. It also finds optimal match with international meat dishes or sauces.

Brunello is also an excellent wine with cheese: seasoned tomatoes, Tuscan pecorino cheese, structured cheeses. Moreover, because of its characteristics, it is also enjoyable as meditation wine.

The Brunello di Montalcino wine should be served in glass-shaped glasses with a wide, stitched shape, in order to be able to grasp the composite and harmonious bouquet. It should be served at a temperature of about 18 ° C-20 ° C. For very aged bottles it is advisable to decant in crystal carafe, in order to better oxygenate it and propose it in its total purity.”

Characteristics and requirements for Brunello di Montalcino 

The Brunello di Montalcino – Below are the rules laid down in the current Disciplinary Code as provided by Decree 19/5/1998.

– Production area: Montalcino commune – Vineyard
: Sangiovese (named, in Montalcino, “Brunello”)……
– Minimal wood finishing: 2 years in oak
– Minimum bottle aging: 4 months (6 months for Riserva type)
– Color: intense ruby ​​red tending to garnet for aging
– Smell: characteristic and intense aroma
– Taste: dry, warm, slightly tannic , robust and harmonic
– Minimum alcohol content: 12.5% ​​Vol. ……
– Bottling: only in the production area
– Consumption: after 5 years from the vintage (6 years for Riserva type)
– Packaging: Montalcino Brunello can be marketed only if packed in Bordeaux bottles.”

 

Source: http://www.consorziobrunellodimontalcino.it/index.php?p=5&lg=it

Looking for more on Italy? Check out Florence, Venice, Siena, Amalfi Coast

You get the idea there are tons of towns to explore here!

Val d’Orcia – Montichiello

The entrance to this village is through the Porta Sant’Agata (know as the ‘city gate’) and offers absolutely stunning views across the valley to Pienza from its perch high on a hill overlooking a magnificent valley. This extraordinarily beautiful region of Tuscany, the Val d’Orcia, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.

Pienza blog-3Montichiello is a perfectly restored village set among the 15th century landscape with its dotted cypress trees and farms and in the shadow of Pienza and Montepulciano.  It is a small village and easy to explore.

Montechiello

The Church of Santi Leonardo and Christoforo, is Roman-Gothic in style and dates back to the 13th century and can be found in the center of Monticchiello and is the principal historic monument containing ancient frescoes.

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Pieve dei Santi Leonardo e Cristoforo

 

The remaining towers were originally fortifications to defend the village. As with many towns throughout the Val D’Orcia one can imagine these towns have changed very little over the years.

As you wander around you can’t help but notice the pride these towns’ people take in their homes. Lovely flowers overhang the balconies and surrounding the doorways.    Just like in Siena the laundry hanging overhead tells the story of the residents within and invites you to explore further.

 

Montechiello

Montechiello

Montechiello

The view from the Porta Sant’Agata looking over the Val d’Orcia toward Pienza.

Montechiello towards Pienza
Pienza from Montechiello

Montechiello

Did you miss Montepulciano, Pienza or Siena in the Val D’Orcia region of Tuscany?  Here are links to the those blogs.  From there you can also find Blogs not he Amalfi Coast, Venice, Florence, Lucca, Pisa and the Puglia region.  Next up is Montalcino.

I am off to Italy in January so stay tuned.  Headed back to Venice, Vicenza and Verona.

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