Italy in March

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Varenna

I haven’t written for awhile because we didn’t have wifi for quite some time. So, the next few blogs will be close together.
Our first stop in Italy was in the beautiful town of Varenna, on Lake Como. Como is a very popular lake location about one hour north of Milan. There are many great towns with lovely villas and gardens, but we chose Varenna because it’s a quick train ride from Milan and there’s a ferry that can get you to many other towns along the lake. The season has not begun yet and many hotels are just getting ready to open. The weather has been brisk—in the mid fifties, but we’ve had some sun almost every day.
Varenna is a great town for walking and enjoying the beauty of the lake and the dramatic mountain ranges nearby. They have a scenic walk along the lake with views across the water to Mennaggio, south to Belaggio or north towards the Swiss Alps. The terraced gardens are lush with evergreen bushes and palms. There are plenty of beautiful stone walls laced with vines that should look spectacular in a month or so. Some of the fruit trees are already starting to bloom. We’ve already decided that we’ll be back in April for a day trip from Reggio so we can see the wisteria in bloom.
We took a few great hikes up the hill to the old castle above the town. The trail reminded us of the Cinque Terre trails the way they climbed past old olive and lemon orchards. The climate here is an interesting mix of Mediterranean and Alpine. Close to the lake, they can grow citrus and olives. Then, the terrain changes dramatically as you climb the steep hills with pine trees and cedars. The castle offers great views of the lake and surrounding mountain ranges. It’s also a center for the preservation of birds of prey. During the season they offer demonstrations. However, they had several birds on display using a sort of leash to keep them from flying away. They had a huge Great Horned Owl, a Barn Owl and several large hawks. It was a great way to see them up close, but it was also sad to see them constrained that way.
Because it was such a slow time, we had a chance to chat a bit with the locals. Lots of people in Varenna are nervous about tourism this year. They think that the economy may force more people to stay home. The seniors, especially are not happy with what’s going on. They think that Monti (Berlusconi’s replacement) is mostly working for the banks and the wealthy. This is because the pension laws have been revised and taxes have gone up. We can’t wait to hear what our friends in Reggio will have to say about all of the changes.
But, on a more positive note, the food is still wonderful and the people are friendly and kind. From the harried barista at the airport to the lively groups of friends meeting at their favorite trattoria, people greet us warmly and make us feel right at home. Maybe this is why we keep coming back to Italy.

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castle view

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About msraaka

I am a writer, ESL teacher and desktop publishing consultant living in the Pacific Northwest. After our first visit to Italy, my husband Bob and I have found ways to spend more and more time there. We love the people, the language, the food, architecture, art and the history of this amazing place.
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