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2019
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Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
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Frank Bernheisel
Posted 11.10.12
Just Outside Washington

FRANK BERNHEISEL

ITALY: THE GRAND TOUR PART TWO

The Adventure Continues | Again, up early and bussed down the hill to the dock at St. Agnello to catch the ferry to Capri. The bus was left behind so we toured Isola de Capri by small boat and walked around the town of Capri. The town is up on the big rock reached by the funicular -- a balanced two-car cable system; as one goes up, the other goes down.

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Kathy and Frank on their Grand Tour

After the touring some quaint streets and the Krupp trail (yes, those Krupps), a leisurely lunch overlooking the harbor with Naples in the distance. Then back to the hotel and some free time before dinner at a lemon farm.

This was a small family establishment with a traditional stone house set on the hillside. Dinner was served on a patio under a lemon arbor -- terrific. Highlights were the shredded zucchini with a light lemon dressing and local wines.

Another early morning. A five-hour drive to Assisi, which is directly north of Rome. We stopped for lunch at an Autogrill, which are all along the Autostrada. The food is very good, and there is a large variety of foods including pizza. The espresso and cappuccino are also quite good.

Italian law required Antonio to make pit stops on a periodic basis; this was also good for us travelers. Our local guide (I must admit that I don't remember all their names), took us through the town of Assisi and the Basilica di San Francesco. He was very much a devotee of St. Francis wishing peace and harmony for all.

The hotel for the evening was nearby in a converted monastery set in a park, in Gualdo Tadino. It had recently been restored and it was fantastic. We had dinner there and were joined by a friend of a friend, who lives nearby. We had our first rain that night.

There was fog in the hills the next morning as we set out for Venice, which was a five-hour drive. We crossed the Apennines and stopped for breaks at the Romanesque Basilica of Pomposa and a US Military cemetery, which was very well maintained.

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Sorrento

The road ran close to the Adriatic, which we glimpsed from time to time. Lots of small towns and farms, larger than those south of Rome. As we approached Venice the area became very industrial with larger and larger industries until we reached Mestre where we disembarked and caught the people mover (a Metro like subway) to Venice.

Meanwhile, Antonio put the bus on a ferry to take our stuff to the hotel. Our hotel was on Lido, which the Michelin Guide says has a "slightly decant air." Upon arrival in Venice, we were treated a gondola tour compete with troubadours and prosecco in plastic cups, not flutes -- bummer. Eight gondolas were required for all of us.

It was all right out of the movies and fun and no rain. After settling into our hotel, old and traditional but a Best Western, we walked through the town to dinner; however I missed Michelin's decadence. Did I mention the churches?

After a heavy rain during the night, the morning was cloudy and but raining for our boat ride to the glass-blowing exhibition and opportunity to buy Murano glass on Isola de la Guidecca. The pitchman was terrific and I was reminded of the QVC channel.

We bought a bunch for Christmas presents. The product price range was from small key chains to chandeliers costing 5000 Euros, and up. All our gifts were in the lower range! Then back on the boat to see San Marco with our local guide, Sara.

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In St. Peter's Basilica

We had to wait before going into the Basilica. San Marco's square was flooded for part of the morning -- when the tide is high, the drains in the middle of the square run backward. Some people waded through even though our guide indicated the water was not very clean. After the Basilica we had the walking tour, which ended in the rain where we got very wet.

The tour took us past Vivaldi's birthplace and the school where he taught music to the orphan girls. Like most of the tour members, we opted for the special seafood lunch on Burano, which meant a boat ride. The restaurant warmed us up with good food and plenty of wine. Burano was the fourth island we visited, which provided another shopping opportunity and then a rainy water taxi trip back to the hotel and time to relax.

In the morning, we had a water taxi ride to the cruise ship terminal where we were met by Antonio and our bus. Off to Verona for a walking tour including Juliet's balcony, the Piazza delle Erbe (16th century), and the Roman ruins.

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The Roman Forum

Near the amphitheater, people dressed in Roman garb and were available to pose with us for pictures, but we declined. I wondered how much of the Italian economy is dependent on tourists. I checked when we got home -- according to the Economist, two percent of GNP.

Every one of the towns have upscale shops and shopping opportunities on the streets and in the old areas; shops for example include Prada, Versace, Armani, Ferragmo, and many I never heard of. They all had cutting edge stuff -- the leather lingerie was a nice touch and some of the sales staff's outfits were way out there.

In Verona we had a light lunch and a glass of wine on the square and watched the passing scene. OK, back on the bus to cross the plains of Lombardy for a stop in Milan. We had a guided walking tour to La Scala, the Duomo, and the Galleria -- an early glass roofed shopping mall -- where I bought a new hat. Again, back on the bus to Lake Maggiore and the Grand Hotel Bristol, which is located right on the lake in Stresa. The view from our room was islands in the foreground and the Alps in the back. It was truly a picture postcard.

Final installment: More rain falls but high spirits continue

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