A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: happellfamily12

Observations in una giornata ventosa

Observations on a windy day

sunny 22 °C

A brisk wind off the Adriatic has prevented our daily beach visit, so to fill in the time whilst Lisa home schools Gabi, a few random thoughts :

Cycling - at least in Northern Italy - appears to be very popular amongst the rank-and-file. Any temptation to titter at the Cadel Evans inspired lycra outfits quickly disappears when they achieve Alberto Contador like speeds on the local roads.

A day visit yesterday to the regional capital Lecce confirmed its' very high rating amongst the various tour guides and travel commentators. Beautifully maintained baroque city that should be on everyone's southern Italian itinerary.

bella Lecce

bella Lecce

Dealings with our 3 landlords to date have been very smooth, somewhat to my surprise. In Moltrasio, our flat was handled by Rachel, an expat Pom who married a local many years ago. The gregarious Denni (short for Danielle) looked after Menaggio. When I asked why her email name was Maria Rossi, she said that it made her sound more Italian ... go figure. I organised our current apartment via Google Translate as Pino the owner is a non parli inglese speaker. I thought I'd done a pretty handy job of crossing the language divide, but Pino saw through my ruse and dragged along his very amicable nephew Luca to translate upon arrival!

The language barrier has undoubtedly prevented us from striking up any meaningful relationships to date, but we are getting by with our handy (Lisa) and mangled (Dan) Italian so far. We will improve with classes in Bologna, but it should be said the locals are very forgiving of those willing to give it a dash.

One very pleasant surprise to emerge thus far has been the cost of many products, from the supermarket shelf through to fancy restaurants. Lisa has already mentioned the memorable meal in Como - four people happily fed to a very high standard and watered for under $50. Other obvious examples are the morning cappuccino and 'cornetto con crema' - irresistable at $2.80; six beautifully fresh rolls for $2.20; perfectly drinkable bottle of local white wine for $4.50; and the list goes on.

beautiful beach; $1.90 beers; what's not to smile about ...

beautiful beach; $1.90 beers; what's not to smile about ...

Posted by happellfamily12 14:26 Archived in Italy Tagged beach language cycling cost_of_living landlords lecce Comments (1)

Observations dalla spiaggia

SP 30 Minus

sunny 32 °C

A few days here in hot Otranto (Puglia) have revealed some interesting beach habits by the locals.

Sunscreen appears to be an optional extra, and sun baking quickly becomes sun skewering with the menu running from medium to well done. Pugliese (or they may be the poorly regarded Northerners - it's hard to tell) seem to enjoy one of two beachside activities : sleeping on a sun lounger with possibly a nod to the furnace-like conditions by using the nifty head screening device (it's like an extension to the lounge that flips over at an angle); or standing waste-deep in the beautifully cool water carrying on a lengthy and animated conversation (is there any other sort in Italy?) with 1-4 friends or family members.

We have received more than our fair share of curious glances when donning our water 'rashies', and assiduously applying sunscreen to our exposed extremities. At a guess the locals are probably thinking 'who are these pathetic lily-white Poms that can't cope with a bit of early summer heat?'. Unveiling us as Australians would only add to the confusion I suspect.

Lisa and I have also noted the current season bathing fashion - best described as 'less is more'. The blokes are getting by with standard speedo-like garments; none too flattering but pretty standard for the territory. The chicks however are wearing tiny, tiny bikinis that disappear up various crevices as quickly as gelati is consumed at the beach bar. The shape and size of the wearer seems to be irrelevant ... this is no place for modesty ... 'fashion is as fashion does' is about the best I can do to describe the scene.

Posted by happellfamily12 13:03 Archived in Italy Tagged beach fashion puglia Comments (1)

Photos Moltrasio and Menaggio

A few sights

Compulsory Swimwear

Lots of ferry rides.


View from Nobiallo Apartment


Gelati in Lugano


We love pasta!


Grand Designs - my next house - probably cheap given the current state of the Italian Economy.


Villa Balbianello (seen in a few movies- Star Wars; 007 etc)


Smelling the roses at Villa Carlotta


Torno (where we enjoyed several meals)


Posted by happellfamily12 07:03 Comments (0)


or more like Nobiallo (fortunately a short walk into Menaggio)

Packing up our bags we lugged them down a few steps to wait for the bus to Menaggio declining the kind offer of the Italian owner to take our bags to the stop. No need we said it was only a few steps down. Tickets purchased we eagerly waited in front of the Pharmacy as flash cars passed us by. Where was the bus we wondered? All was revealed when two young Italians come to the bus stop and explained that no the bus needed to be caught at the bottom of the 542 steps bit of lost in translation. Wish we had listened to the Italian owner. Quick conversation in the Tabacci with the Italian owner and soon Frederico picked us up in his taxi and $80 euro latter we arrived in Nobiallo.

A week in Nobiallo only 15 minutes walk (no stairs) into Menaggio. This week our adventures included:

  • Swimming and eating at the local pool - no crowds, lovely and clean, on the lake.
  • A ferry to Verona and a big walk.
  • A bus to Lugano (Switzerland) very narrow and windy roads - kids felt a bit sick.
  • Dan has a day in Bologna to check out future apartments. Girls and I go to pool and find fab gelati shop - best pistachio ice-cream. That night try and find some English TV but only German and Italian.
  • Ferry to the top of the lake and dinner in glitzy Bellagio.
  • Beautiful lunch at 'Albergo Vapore' - vino, spaghetti with clams and mussels. Visit Villa Balbianello beautiful and the scene of several movies including; Casino Royale, Star Wars. Dinner at home and pack for our next destination.

"Le case sono fatte per viverci, non per essere guardate..."
"Life is a journey not a destination and I just can't tell what tomorrow brings"

Posted by happellfamily12 06:41 Archived in Italy Tagged menaggio Comments (0)

Observations sul trasporto

Slow Trains, Fast Boats

overcast 22 °C

Travel teaches you many things. One is that planning is by-and-large a good thing; especially when trying to transport 2 adults and 2 children around a sizeable and busy country. Another lesson - usually learnt when complacency sets in - is that you should take nothing for granted when using public transport.

So it was the other day that I found myself in the cavernous and very impressive Milano Centrale train station. Having negotiated a bus trip around a large part of Lake Como, and then a straightforward train ride from Como to Milan, I now strode towards binario 19 looking to board the 11.20 express to Bologna (aka La Grassa, or 'The Fat One' ... more on that later). Warning bells failed to ring when none of the carriages were numbered. Choosing one at random, I then also ignored the lack of a seat number, the generally shabby nature of the interior, and a lack of air conditioning. Happily enough we departed right on time, and I settled back for the 65 minute ride to Emilia-Romagna's capital.

At around 12.15 the conductor entered our carriage, and when she worked her way down to me, took a double-take at my ticket. 'You are on the wrong train sir' was probably the polite interpretation of what she said. "Oh" was the slightly anxious response. Nevermind she seemed to say, I will allow this ticket, and the train is going to Bologna anyway. "Fantastico" I uttered with rising spirits, and "what time will I arrive signora?". 2.08pm she said. Normally without a pressing timeline this was a manageable circumstance, but I was heading to Bologna to meet an introduced friend named Elizabeth who was going to help with our flat hunting in that city. Three embarrassed phone calls, and a missed lunch later, we amicably dashed around town and viewed what was on offer.

I'm not taking 100% blame for this schoolboy error, as the Milano-Bologna Express was also due to leave at 11.20; it just so happened that the Regionale was departing at the same time. Live and learn ...!

On the flipside of fast travel, we promised the girls we'd catch the hydrofoil around Lake Como one day. The slower ferries are much cheaper, so we had been patronising them for the previous two weeks. Menaggio - in the centre of Lake Como - up to Colico right at the top is quite a long way, so this seemed the sensible time to hop on the speedy version. 42 Euro later for four one-way tickets, we set off on the trip. The problem however, was that there was no outdoor area to sit in, so we were couped up inside in the stuffy cabin with everyone else. This also affected the normally bella vista you get everywhere on the lake.

A quick consultation with our ferry timetable revealed that we could hop off at Gravedona, have time to buy gelati for all, and then catch the slow boat back down the lake without missing much of our sight-seeing. It is amazing the therapeutic affect sitting outside in the fresh air has on your spirits. Travelling slowly also increases the ability to observe the magnificent terrain, marvel at the postcard-perfect villages sailing by, and even fit in a game of Ludo with your kids.

Speed is good, but it ain't everything ...


Posted by happellfamily12 13:05 Archived in Italy Tagged train lake bologna ferry milan como Comments (0)

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