The Mediterranean, Northern Italy

 © 2008 Patrick Moreno, Member #565


Having visited the south of Italy down through Sicily many times, I had anticipated a cooler, more conservative and more industrial north. It was more industrial, perhaps a bit more conservative but with vegetation and a spring climate that was decidedly Mediterranean. Cypress trees, olive, lemon, orange, palm trees and flowers in bloom were everywhere. The lakes of Garda, Como, and Maggiore encircled by the snowcapped foothills of the Alps retain the heat of the sun and restrict the cold winds of the north, preserving a distinct Mediterranean climate for the untold number of towns that hug the coastline and the lower slopes of the surrounding hills.


A bus ride out of Malpensa took us for a short stay at Milan’s Piazza del Duomo where we visited this extraordinary Gothic cathedral as well as the Galleria with the statues of Dante and Leonardo. My first espresso! Our hotel in Limone was high up on the hill and gave out onto a magnificent panorama of Lago di Garda, especially in the early evening illumination.


A very complete dinner buffet, red and white wine from a dispenser (a first, and delicious!), an equally complete breakfast and we traveled to Verona and Padua. Verona, second only to Rome in ruins, has many beautiful churches and an Arena (coliseum) where operatic and musical venues are held throughout the year. Giullietta’s balcony and her bronze statue stand inside a courtyard, the forward walls of which have been desecrated by the too many love messages of tourists.


The Duomo of St. Anthony in Padua is an overwhelming wonder of artistic creation to include statues of Donatello, a magnificent altar, high vaulted art forms, chapels and a crafted entrance.  Donatello’s “Gattamelata” stands just outside. Giotto’s frescoes have been discovered just beneath more current wall paintings.


The following morning we arrived at a damp, overcast, cold Venice where crowds of young people overwhelmed every corner and monument. Unable to gain entry into St. Marks, my wife and I sought out Italy’s second best known opera house, La Fenice. We were not disappointed. Much like La Scala in Milan, La Fenice is constructed of rows of vertical boxes with a large gold-encrusted box directly opposite the stage for the Doge. A ride on the Grand Canal and a photo visit of the Rialto Bridge and we headed home.


Lake Como lies as an inverted letter “Y”. Having visited the Duomo of the Madonna in the city of Como we boarded a hovercraft for Bellagio, our new home, at the tip of the two legs of the “Y”. Rising stone stairwells replete with shops, sculpted gardens, flora everywhere, grand hotels and outdoor cafes along the waterfront were within every blink of the eye.


Early on day seven we traveled to Stresa on Lago Maggiore. The largest of the three lakes, we took two motor launches to Isola Bella where we visited sculpted gardens and climbed steep stone walkways searching out shops of every imaginable product.


Day eight, our final day, was the most stunning. Bergamo is a very old and very beautiful walled city with a Villa Vecchio and a Villa Alta. It was the home of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Duomo and an adjacent chapel built by the Colleoni family in the fifteenth century. The Duomo was in many respects as impressive as St, Peters of Rome. It was also in the Alta Villa that I finally tasted my much sought for culatello. It was a glorious day in a stunning city at the end of a wonderful visit to northern Italy.