Friday, April 29, 2011

La mia bellissima avventura Italiana

We are back from our fantastic voyage to Italy! Along the way we snapped photos, drank great wine, enjoyed the most incredible food and collected memories that will last a lifetime. As I told my dear readers in a previous post, I, along with four other parents, were chaperones for my daughter’s choral group – The Silvertones – and although keeping track of 34 teenagers was sometimes a challenge, the kids were wonderful…respectful, deferential, and just a joy to be around. We were assisted in our endeavor by the most amazing guide, Stefania, who toured, translated, advised and advocated for us.

After many hours in the air we landed in Rome and boarded yet another plane to Milan. A bus picked us up in Milan and we were off to Bergamo where our home for the next three days would to a lovely seminary in the center of this delightful little town. We strolled through Bergamo and had a wonderful dinner at a local Trattoria where we devoured the most amazing ravioli ever.

On Saturday afternoon, we headed to Milan and visited the magnificent Duomo, which included a roof top tour and panoramic views of Milan...stunning. We toured Teatro alla Scala and the kids were fortunate enough to sing in this important and historic foundation of musical history. We sipped espresso in The Galleria, where we encountered the only rude waiter of the trip….you see, in Italy, it is considered an insult for the waiter to present the “conto” (bill) before the guest asks for it. We did not ask for it!

On Sunday, it was off to the Lake Como town of Varenna where we visited the beautiful gardens of Villa Carlotta and strolled through the charming streets of Bellagio. During these visits, The Silvertones delighted tourists and local residents with impromptu concerts....very special. Their little arias were always greeted with grateful and enthusiastic applause. The kids officially performed for the first time on Sunday evening in Bergamo at the Basilica of Santa Maris Maggiore....the programs were stranded with some other diverted travelers, but their beautiful voices did not really require the written details.

On Monday, we left the seminary and headed off to Lake Garda where we stayed at Villa Maria Elisabetta, a beautiful convent that offered the most amazing waterfront views. After getting settled, we headed off to Limone where we blissfully sipped Limoncello (by we I mean the chaperones)! This little town offered breathtaking views of the Alps, the Lake, and the quaint little (and palatial) villas that dotted the shore.

Tuesday brought us to magnificent Malcesine, the honeymoon spot of one of our fellow chaperones…. it was fun to listen to fond memories unfold. Then, off to Verona, the picturesque hometown of “Romeo and Juliet”…the girls all wrote letters to slip into the crevasses of Juliet’s wall but were later disappointed to learn that the wall was a fictional wishing well, created for the movie “Letters to Juliet.” At dinner that evening at Taverna di Via Stella, we had the most incredible risotto made with Amarone wine. I weaseled the recipe out of the waiter and will make the same soon (don’t worry, I’ll post the recipe!). Amarone is a concentrated, rich, dark and dry wine with full bodied-flavors and is made in Veneto, the same region that makes Valpolicella. We also had the most delicious rabbit stew and, as trite as this may sound, it really does taste like chicken. Later, The Silvertones wowed everyone with their second planned concert in Sant’ Anastasia’s Church. The acoustics were so amazing that their voices lingered for seven seconds after they stopped singing…can you say goose pumps?

Words cannot begin to describe the splendor of Lake Garda, our Wednesday destination. Absolutely spectacular views….I will let the photos tell the story! We cruised the lake and docked in Sirmione. Before visiting Rocca Scaligera castle and The Grotte Di Catullo, we took a break and had a cappuccino in a charming little waterfront café that served our treats in the cutest little bicycle-clad cups! Later that evening, The Silvertones performed their third planned concert at the Church of San Francesco after which we returned to the convent. The kids wanted to have a little party but the curfew the nuns imposed put the kybosh on that idea! Pity.

We departed for Vincenza on Thursday where we took in the incredible views of a Palladio’s famous street-scape stage at Theatro Olimpico, then we boarded a bus to tour Padova. While there, we visited the famous frescos created by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel, including the beautiful (but disturbing) The Last Judgment. We were, at last, heading to Venice where we visited the Doge’s Palace and the Basilica of San Marco, crossed the Rialto Bridge, and strolled along the streets of Dorsoduro, a picturesque Venetian neighborhood unlike any “hood” I’ve ever lived in! Did you know that Venice is built on a series of wooden logs? Over the years, the minerals in the water petrified the wood and the logs are now as hard as stone. Now you know! And oh, there are no dryers in Italy....everyone hangs their wash out to dry!

While in Venice, The Silvertones sang Easter mass at the Basilica of SS Giovannii & Paolo and, later that evening performed their final concert at the Church of San Salvador. It was special, but even more moving was the spontaneous concert outside the church afterwards…a huge crowd gathered, everyone was snapping pictures, taking videos and cheering “bravo”…what an indelible experience!

Click here to hear the Silvertones singing .

Click here to hear the Silvertones singing

I hope you enjoy my little photo journey. I apologize for the length of this post, but I wanted you to enjoy the trip as much as I did, albeit vicariously. This was my second trip to my (half) ancestral homeland and it will not be my last…I can promise my dear readers that!


Anonymous said...

beautiful pictures, looks like you had a wonderful time....Welcome back!

Cathy said...

What an incredible trip and wonderful memories!!! Your post made me feel as if I were there with you. I absolutely loved that the Silvertones did impromptu concerts. Happy that you were able to join them and be a part of all of it.