2019 Italy – Part 8 Stresa

10 August 2019

Pirjo and I walked to downtown Stresa for some shopping where I revisited shops I’ve been to other years, and got some compliments on my improvement in understanding and speaking Italian.   I make sure to learn the vocabulary about shopping, food and drink very well.  It  is  always  nice  to  see  Francesca  sewing  personal  names  on  gifts for me to  take  home.  











We had lunch outdoors as always at a new place for me, Osteria Mercato.  It quickly became another favorite spot for me, wishing we had time to come back for more items on the menu.   We had Prosecco, 3 different antipasti and one shared secondo. Plus dessert and a wonderful conversation with a family at the next table with a well-behaved boy and girl.












More shopping at the Supermercato where I bought Amaretto cookies for 1.40 Euros (the next day I saw them in the duty free shops at Milan Airport for over 6 Euros).

We picked up some items for dinner on the terrace that evening.  Tony, a close friend of Reijo and Pirjo’s, joined us for dinner and he brought a lovely pasta dish, served with grated fresh lemon.  Delicious.



The weather was perfect for my final evening of this trip.   After hugs with a few of my tears – a combination of joy for the visit and a little sad to leave Stresa – Pirjo and I shared on last serving of wine on the terrace.  We talked until past midnight I think.  Just lovely hours together.



Below are some assorted memories of good times during this visit.  Special thanks to Reijo and Pirjo for their hospitality and all the adventures we have together.

A boat ride on Lago Maggiore with Captain Reijo.  You can see Pirjo’s reflection in my sunglasses as she took the photos. 

Reijo’s photos of us at the Arena in Verona.








A view of their home from out on the lake, and then from the train station down the hill.  Theirs is near the top right, green plants showing, with the very best view from the entire building.











And a chilly but lovely evening on their terrace playing Quirkle!









My dear friends enjoying life in Stresa every day! 

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2019 Italy – Part 7 More of Milan

9 August 2019             Ready for lunch, we looked down a small street and saw a pretty awning.   When we investigated, we found DeRos – beautifully stylish, and we were the only patrons at the time.  We discovered that they were starting vacation the following day and expected a large crowd at dinner, but we had the Chef and everyone’s attention for our lunch.   Interesting decor including starfish!








Delicious  food on the menu. I had Risotto Milano alla Pescatora (Milanese risotto with seafood) and Pirjo had Linguine con vongole veraci e friggitelli (Linguine with clams and peppers).     It was what I consider “white glove” service.  Tasty appetizer arrived as a surprise to accompany our Prosecco.  The seafood was amazing, and we did not resist dessert.













In the afternoon, we visited Poldi Pezzoli Museo.  Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli was born in Milan on 27 July 1822.     His father Giuseppe in 1818 had inherited a considerable estate from the Pezzoli Family, who had been in charge of the tax collecting for the Austrian government.    He married the heir of the most famous Milanese private museum.    Gian Giacomo was only eleven when his father died, and his mother Rosa took charge of his education, while continuing her friendship with artists and literates.

In his 20’s, Gian Giacomo began his purchases of antique arms, his first passion, creating an Armoury. Then he started buying paintings of the Lombard, Venetian and Tuscan Renaissance, some of them of extraordinary value. After watching a video about his life, we found a vast display of intricate Venetian lace and embroidery beautifully presented behind glass.












In 1879, Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli suddendly died, only 57 years old and without an heir.   At age 34 he already made his will stating he wanted his apartment and all the art works which it contained to become an Artistic Foundation “…for public use and benefit in perpetuity…”. The administration and the direction of the foundation were entrusted to his friend and collaborator Giuseppe Bertini.  The museum opened to the public on 25 April 1881, during the Milan National Exhibition. In a few days, it got thousands of visitors.  It contains many rooms of a great variety of artwork and collections (watches, armor, Murano glass, statues).     There are several floors and each room brings more surprises!


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2019 Italy – Part 6 – Milan, The Last Supper

9 August 2019   Pirjo kindly obtained a single tour ticket for me to see The Last Supper, L’Ultima Cena, by Leonardo da Vinci, started in 1495. It is in a small monastery away from the busy center of Milan.  Prijo saw this iconic treasure many years ago and all tickets were previously sold out for this date.  However, at the last minute, a group came with one member missing, so I ran across the street to the cafe where she was getting espresso, and Pirjo was able to get that ticket and join me for the tour.  Our guide gave lots of information before we entered the building, then we went through a special climate-controlled room.  Each small group is allowed only 15 minutes inside, before the air in the chamber is cleaned again.  Our guide explained the expression on the face of each Apostle, including hand gestures that represent their emotions. 

There is so much history and mystery about this work.    Restorations have sometimes done more damage, and the monks needed a way to get to the kitchen, so they cut a doorway into the wall, removing the feet of Jesus from under the table!

The entire area was bombed and much of Milan destroyed.  But good preparation in advance saved this masterpiece.   Sandbags were installed to completely cover the wall.

On the opposite wall is Donato Montorfano’s Crucifixion that was miraculously unharmed.   It  can  be  seen on  the  last  black  and  white  photo  below.

The Royal Collection Trust  has extensive information about the Last Supper and important reproductions have helped with restoration over the years.


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2019 Italy – Part 5 – Stresa and Milan

7 August 2019     After a stormy night (which is exciting to watch over Lago Maggiore),








Pirjo and I went shopping, each making a purchase in a boutique.   Dinner at home was on my “wish list” and one of my very favorites:   smoked fish prepared by Reijo.  The  fish  looked  happy!










8 August 2019   Pirjo and I traveled from Stresa by train to Milan.  The The Apple Made Whole Again is a symbolic work opening itself up to the world, in the same way as the train station, also symbolically, opens the city up to the world.  It  weighs  11  tons.  Now  that’s a BIG  apple!













After a brief walk to Hotel Berna (Swiss hotels are known for fantastic breakfast buffets),  we then walked many streets of Milan.  Pirjo worked in Milan for several years and is an excellent guide!


We had a wonderful visit to La Scala, one of the leading houses for opera and ballet in the word, which was inaugurated in August, 1776.  We were able to view the theater from box seats while it was undergoing some maintenance.  Inside is Museo Teatrale alla Scala , accessible from the theatre’s foyer and  contains a collection of paintings, drafts, statues, costumes, and other documents regarding La Scala’s and opera history.









Pirjo asked if I wanted to see the canals of Milan.  Of course – her ideas are always wonderful.  And we were there at a beautiful time of day with the moon showing in a clear sky.








Dinner next to the canal was great at the King’s Pub – we saw lots of local people there, and it was a good choice.   We both had Beer Can Chicken, a specialty item on the menu and it was delicious! 

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2019 Italy – Part 4 – Modena

Pirjo chose a wonderful place for us to stay in Modena.  Salotto delle Arti – the salon of the arts.   Each of the 6  rooms has a specific name and ours was appropriately called MUSICA.  Every room, including the bathroom, has a chandelier.








The Great Room, where breakfast is served, coffee and tea all day, was ours alone several times to relax, have Prosecco, and talk about what we saw in Modena. 
















Here is Pirjo with the owner and designer of the B&B.  Our residence was inside Palazzo Montagnani, an ancient building of the city.  The entrance shows where a horse and carriage would enter the courtyard.

We enjoyed The Galleria Estense, centered around the collection of the d’Este family: rulers of Modena, Ferrara and Reggio from 1289 to 1796.  There are 16 rooms featuring works by famous and local artists, ranging from fresco and oil painting to marble,  terracotta sculpture; musical instruments; coin and clock collections, Murano glasss and decorative antiques.  Again, we were fortunate to often be the only two people in a room with plenty of time to appreciate and enjoy the collections.








It was a pleasure to walk through Modena, seeing historic buildings, quaint bistros and even special treats for the dogs!


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2019 Italy – Part 3 – Verona (Placido Domingo) and Modena (Luciano Pavarotti) –

4 August 2019

Another day enjoying the walk and sights of Verona.  Then a VERY SPECIAL EVENT in the Arena:  Placido Domingo 50 – the anniversary of his 50 year career.  He began his illustrious career in Italy precisely at the Arena di Verona in the summer of 1969.     His career continues  as a tenor, baritone, orchestra conductor, general manager and mentor of young talents.  On this night he performed Acts from 3 operas, with a full cast, costumes and orchestra.

The evening ended with a fire display of his name and fireworks above the arena.








5 August 2019

Reijo kindly drove Pirjo and me to Modena.  In 2016 we visited Acetaia Pedroni nearby to meet the entire family and spend a Sunday afternoon having multiple courses of delicious food accompanied by their famous balsamic vinegar – in the family tradition since 1862.  But on that trip we did not visit nearby Modena.   My Italian teacher at home  grew up in Modena.  She suggested we visit Casa Museo Luciano Pavarotti, and we were extremely glad we did!  He was born in Modena, and his house holds photographs, videos, costumes and rooms just as he had before his untimely death there, surrounded by family, in 2007.   One of Italy’s greatest tenors, he also crossed over into popular music.  Duets with Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Andrea Bocelli, Eric Clapton, Celine Dion, Bono and so many more.  From the tributes and photos on display, he was surely loved by all.  Along with videos playing in several rooms, the audio description gave us a good sense of what his life was like there and in his career.  He always had a smile on his face and loved his bright flowered shirts.







Beautiful bright kitchen which was certainly a center for entertaining.




Costumes on display as well as photos and personal greetings from people he met all over the world. 














After portraying a painter in one opera, Pavarotti took up painting using all bright colors and scenes from his life.  The first one below is the view from his NYC apartment.   Here  signed  them  LuPa,  first  two  letters  of  his  first and last name.  












This last image shows more of his fun-loving spirit – shoveling snow at the Metropolitan Opera House before a performance. 







Pirjo and I visited Bar Pavarotti later that day in downtown Modena.

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2019 Italy – Part 2 – Verona

2 August 2019      Reijo drove us to Verona, where we checked into our B&B and had lunch at a tiny Osteria with a Michelin star, and it did not disappoint!  By 5 PM I had walked over 15,000 steps. 

In the evening, we experienced the opera CARMEN in the Arena of Verona. The cast included hundreds of actors/singers/dancers plus real horses.   Reijo and Pirjo helped me learn about Sarasota Opera House and how excellent performances are there.  But seeing an opera in a Roman amphitheater  is most amazing. 






The opera starts after 9 PM.  Besides  the  scenery  that  appears  seamlessly,  scenes  are  also  projected  onto  the  walls  of  the  arena.






Carmen and one of the men she brings to tears……







The Toreador song from Carmen is so exciting!  If you look it up and listen,  you may actually recognize it even if you never saw the opera.  Listen past the 1 minute mark, and you will surely know!   The scene was so exciting live in the arena.

3 August 2019  Another funivia ride took us to the castle on San Pietro Hill, with a 3 km walk back down, enjoying Giardino Giusti along the way. 

The reward for a nice walk is food of course!  Later you might see a post entirely about food and the Shakerato in Italy.  The other reward:  Italian men!

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