God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

And—How Was Gardaland?

Not as bad as I anticipated. Although I will let Casey tell most of the story as it was his day, I do want to share that it was a much more delightful excursion than expected. In fact, I actually had a good time. I think because Casey’s excitement was infectious, it was fun to be a part of it with him.

Gardaland is well done, smaller (thank goodness) than Disneyland and has some good mini-shows, not of the Mickey Mouse/dancing bears variety. And…….importantly, the weather bordered on nice with a breeze much of the time, heat that was bearable and humidity that was at least livable. Between water rides and sitting time in the shows, we survived 11 hours with smiles and good humor. I am amazed to find myself saying that I would do it again.

Today was a day to visit the tourist mecca of Sirmione, an area of land that has held history from the first century BC when Catullus, or someone, built a rather large villa with thermal spas on this Lake Garda peninsula,

through the 13th century when a wealthy Verona family built a castle there and then subsequent years when it was lived in and called home by whomever. Now, with its dramatic castle gateway entrance—a moat sculpted from the waters of the lake, charming alleys and streets similar to those in the Cinque Terre, lovely lake views, upscale shops and uncountable gelateries and restaurants and capped with the villa grounds at the tip of the land, it is a fun day’s excursion or…if one wants to spend the money---it would be a great place to spend a night or two, savoring the romance of what it is when the day-trippers leave. But then, since there are many hotels right outside the castle area and then lots and lots inside, maybe night is no different than day. Since we are not staying there, I can’t tell you.

Entrance to Sirmione--Disneyland? No, Real!

Tomorrow we leave for Lake Como. We are hoping that I made a better choice there in terms of location, plus it is an apartment close to the lake which will give us more room and freedom—maybe a lake breeze to enjoy as we sit outside and relax.

I must say though that Anna and Jacques have been delightful hosts. They are warm, friendly, very helpful, including giving Casey a free pass to Gardaland, and just nice people. We would enjoy becoming better acquainted with them but, the location just hasn’t worked well for us.

With that said, we did find pleasure in being in a small Italian town that was not motivated by the tourist trade. The piazza, which is the gathering place both during the day and at night, is delightful with both a large duomo and a small more ancient church. It is quite amazing that every town and village in Italy historically felt a need for a monumental church while also having several smaller churches surrounding it. Our last night as we joined the residents in the piazza, we were surprised when stepping into the smaller church, we found an evangelical service with people singing the same praise songs as we sing in San Diego. This is very unusual in Italy.

The night that Casey came down with a terrible ear infection, one gentleman spent time with us trying to find the doctor or pharmacist as it was after hours. He took us to several doors in the search. Mara, the waitress where we were eating, was gentle and loving with Casey and was intent on taking us to the hospital. The kindness was genuine and so Italian.

And, we found here the Mozart Gelateria which ranks right up with the best we have found in Italy. Florence should be so lucky as to have a place like this! It doesn’t even come close—at least in the centro storico. Minimally there were 30 flavors ranging from ricotta and fig to licorice to other truly unusual ones. This was a place that had each offering in individual, lidded silver containers—the sign of the truest form of gelato artisan. I think it was even better than our favorite in Castellina in Chianti or the K2 in Parma. Yum! Just thinking about it.

So, as with all things, there is no place or nothing that does not have its own special qualities. Here in Montichiari it is Anna, Jacque, Mara, the gentleman who walked door to door with us, the people of the passiagiata and piazza and the fig/ricotta gelato. Maybe we will come back some day.


Anonymous said...

First, may I say "Happy Birthday, to Casey!" What a lucky fella to get to celebrate his 10th birthday in such a special way. Isn't it joy to be a part of a child's fun at these places where, at this stage in life, we most likely wouldn't think to go? It lets us be a kid again for a few hours. ;-)

I certainly am enjoying your pictures. Thank you, again.


Anne said...

Singing familiar songs of praise in Italy? Priceless! That service sounds wonderful.