Category Archives: Italy

Lakes and Peaks-Euro Style!

At the end of the summer, I ventured off on my last road trip of the season, this time to visit the lakes and mountains of Italy that I hadn’t explored in the past and a revisit of the German Alps.  When I did my Italy country tour in 2014, I was too tired at the end  of the trip to properly visit the lakes region in northern Italy, so this was my first stop and I was not disappointed with the stories I heard of mountains spilling into beautiful lakes. 

Part 1- Italian Lakes and Mountains

Lake Orta

Lake Orta with the San Giulio island glowing at sunset.

 

San Giulio

A lone fisherman works in the early morning next to San Giulio Island.

 

Orta San Giulio

The town of Orta San Giulio with small alleys and a beautiful lakeside plaza.

 

The lakes region is comprised of several much larger lakes including Lake Maggiore and the famous Lake Como. While I visited these lakes, I didn’t get the same intimate feeling as I did at Lake Orta. I did however get to experience a very nice sunset at Lake Maggiore while camping for the night. This photo is un-retouched so you can imagine the intense colors. 

 

Maggiore

A glowing sunset on Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy

 

After a visit to Lake Como and Bellagio (beautiful town but too commercialized and crowded with tourists for my taste), I ventured on to the mountains of the Valle d’Aosta region and the Gran Paradiso National Park near Cogne, Italy. This is one of my favorite locations in Italy, right next to the French border behind Mont Blanc. It really is a great location for hiking and monumental views. 

 

Paradiso

A huge bolder sits beside a stream in Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy.

 

Sunrise

The morning light hits the mountains and glaciers in Gran Paradiso National Park, Cogne, Italy.

 

After a couple of days hiking in Gran Paradiso National Park, I still couldn’t leave Valle d’Aosta without a couple more stops. I went over to Gressoney, which was located in another small valley shooting off from the Aosta valley. 

Gressoney

A tranquil setting in Gressoney, Italy.

 

Gressoney

A castle near Gressoney, Italy appears to sprout out from the pine trees.

 

D'Aosta

A small village seems to be clinging to the mountainside in Valle D’Aosta, Italy.

Then it was time to head out and work my way to Hungary. I got this surprise in the morning after driving in to a camping area at night. 

Bleiburg

Steeples appear out of the trees near Bleiburg, Austria.

 

After spending 5 days in the lakes and mountains of Northern Italy, I raced off to Sopron Hungary for a weekend of running with some friends. Sopron was a very nice town and will be included in the future when I visit Hungary more extensively. Following this, I quickly stopped in Vienna and then off the Alps of Germany

 

Part 2-Bavarian Alps

Having lived in Munich for a couple of years when I was in college, I was familiar with Bavaria’s beautiful mountain region. I used to go skiing there and felt I needed to return to discover some sights I hadn’t seen before. The area has some striking mountain scenery and some famous locations as well.  First stop on my visit was to the town of Berchtesgaden. It was above this town that Hitler had a special mountain top home built as a gift from his staff. Being a fan of history, I wanted to visit this former home, now turned restaurant and visitor’s center. While it was beautiful, I constantly had the reminder of the evil that it contained. At least now it is being used for a more peaceful purpose in a beautiful setting. 

Berchtesgaden

Hitler’s mountaintop home called Eagle’s Nest near Berchtesgaden, Germany.

 

While it was interesting to see this famous house, I am always distracted by mountains and ended up doing a 1 hour hike above the home and discovered some beautiful mountain landscapes. 

 

Berchtesgaden

Some sharp mountain peaks above Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgaden, Germany.

 

Berchtesgaden

A storm appears to be brewing in the clouds above the mountains.

 

After this quick visit to Berchtesgaden, it was off to my next stop, Germany’s highest mountain, Zugspitze, located near the town of Garmisch. It was here that I used to ski while in college in Munich so I was looking forward to some fond memories.

 

Garmisch

The endless mountain scenery above Garmisch, Germany.

 

Zugspitze

A panoramic view from the top of Zugspitze mountain.

 

For my final stop on this trip, I ended up meeting up with 25 other VW California owners for a weekend of camping and drinking champagne in the Champagne region of France. It was great to visit with these folks from several other countries, all with the same fondness for our VW’s and champagne!

 

VW

This photo (by another VW owner) shows our campground in the town of Valdieres, France.

 

Champagne

Champagne vines next to a plowed field appear surreal.

 

That wraps up this mini trip that I did in September. It was going to be longer but was cut short by one solid week of rain, which is not much fun when you are living in a van and running out of dry clothes. Overall, the trip ended up being almost 4,000 kms (2,485 miles) with lots of great scenery, delicious food and new friends. Now it’s time to work on 6 months of photos and start planning next year’s trips.

Happy Trails to all!

 

Trip

A Google Earth view of the route taken on this trip.

 

 

 

Also posted in Alps, Germany, Mountains, VW Tagged , , , , |

Falling for Italy

The last stop that I hit in Italy before coming back into France was in the northwest region called Valle D’Aosta, a beautiful mountainous region on the border with France.  I drove way up into a valley to go see the Gran Paradiso National Park and stopped in a village called Lilliaz. There was a beautiful waterfall outside of the village and I felt it would be appropriate to end my Italy trip with a visit to this waterfall. Being there alone and watching the waterfall gave me a sense of a snapshot of my trip to Italy

The Journey

The Journey

The top of the falls with the water gushing over with force felt like the start of my Italy trip, full of enthusiasm and wonder of the unknown…

The Beginning

The Beginning

 

and the bottom of the falls where the water landed and serenely carries on downstream, having experienced the thrill of the journey from top to bottom.

The landing

The landing

A lot of change happens during the trip from top to bottom, while not noticeable on the outside, the inside is now in a different place than it was from the start. I feel I’m the same way from all the nice people I met, the places that I saw and the events that I was able to participate in.  Grazie Italia!

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To the Heel and Beyond

Since I have a strong internet connection (and will be in Germany for the next few days), I’m going to post another update which covers the last few days of traveling down south in Italy all the way down to what some call the tip of the heel of the boot !

Italy has some very  nice roads but I guess an earthquake got a hold of this one. I decided to turn around and try a little detour!

This road would probably be called impassable, at least in a campervan

This road would probably be called impassable, at least in a VW campervan

As I was driving down the Ionian Coast (the coast on the west side of the stiletto heel), I noticed these colorful beach umbrellas ready for duty. For some reason, I liked their style!

Beach umbrellas ready for duty on the Ionian Sea.

Beach umbrellas ready for duty on the Ionian Sea.

I finally reach my destination of the end of Italy’s heel, in the town called Santa Maria Di Leuca.  It was beautiful and windy!

A super huge lighthouse on the stiletto heel of Italia!

A super huge lighthouse at the end of Italia!

The village of Sant Maria De Leuca, at the very end of the stiletto heel.

The village of Santa Maria Di Leuca, at the very end of the heel, with a bit of wind!

I took a selfie in the reflection of my car window here 🙂

End of Italy Selfie!

End of Italy Selfie!

Driving back up the Adriatic seaside, I passed through an area called Alberobello, know for their distinct houses called Trullo (plural Trulli). I think the pointy hat gnomes live in these.

giant-gnome

 

A batch of Trulli houses near Alberobello, Italy

A batch of Trulli houses near Alberobello, Italy

Driving further north, as I was coming to my overnight location in Ostuni, Italy, a beautiful sunset awaited me.  I knew this would be a nice place to spend the night!

Nice sunset over the village of Ostuni, Italy

Nice sunset over the village of Ostuni, Italy

 

Well that’s a wrap for now as I’m flying to Hanover Germany for a reunion with some hash (drinking club with a running problem) friends.  Next week will be Bologna and then the Dolomites! Ciao!

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Tuscany Dreamin’

Greets all,

Fun few days and now finally back with wifi! In this post, I’ve got some shots of one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever traveled to, Tuscany. I had heard the hype about how beautiful it was and I have to say, it lived up to it.  The rolling green hills, cypress trees, and colors of the homes all create a very gorgeous area. So here are a few pix!

Rolling hills and beautiful light at Tuscany

Rolling hills and beautiful light at Tuscany

More beautiful light in Tuscany

More beautiful light in Tuscany

A panorama of some Tuscan hills

A panorama of some Tuscan hills

 

In addition to the countryside, I did get to visit a couple cities. First was Siena, where they hold the famous horse race in the city and end up in this square. I can imagine the excitement based on the size of the square.

Panorama of Sienna Piezza Del Campo

Panorama of Sienna Piezza Del Campo

I also visited this church in Orvieto. It was built in the 14th Century. From what I hear the inside was nothing compared to the outside so I stayed outside (saved 6 euro!).  Was great just to sit outside and look at each section.

Beautiful Facade at Ovieto

Beautiful Facade at Orvieto

 

Well, it’s Friday night at 6pm and the bells just started ringing. I think they are signaling happy hour to start! Cheers and Ciao!

 

Also posted in Orvieto, Tuscany Tagged |

LTOP!

Well, now that Easter week in Rome is over, time to get back to my normally scheduled blog updates.

Last week, just before Rome and Tuscany, I stopped by the Leaning Tower of Pisa (LTOP). While I was in Florence, I talked to a local Italian guy who swore I should skip Pisa and go straight to Tuscany. I couldn’t do it, it would be like going to Italy and not eating Italian food. So I went for a couple of hours and very happy I did. It really is amazing the first time you see it, just makes you wonder how it is still standing after all these years.  In addition, the Piazza dei Miracoli (Plaza of Miracles) is quite a site with the tower, baptistry and Duomo all together. Here are a couple of images of those monuments and the plaza.

A panorama of the Piazza die Miracoli

A panorama of the Piazza die Miracoli

 

The Duomo di Pisa and Tower

The Duomo di Pisa and Tower

 

Pisa Tower Section

Pisa Tower Section

It is really funny to watch people posing trying to push, keep up, kiss, kick, etc the Leaning Tower. If you look at it without looking at the tower in background, it is even more funny.

A girl posing as if holding the tower up only missing a little

A girl posing as if holding the tower up only missing a little

Next up will be the Tuscany pictures. Hopefully will have wifi access in a few days as these were my favorite shots thus far.  Ciao!

Also posted in Pisa Tagged , |

Easter Mass

I spent a couple of more days in Rome wrapping up with attendance at Easter Mass in St Peter’s square. The crowd was estimated at well over 150,000  and at times it felt like it.

Here is a shot of the steps of the Basilica where the ceremony took place. (Please click on pictures for larger view)

St Peter's Square

St Peter’s Square\

So how do you provide communion to 150,000 people? With an army of priests. They spread out throughout all the crowds  but still not enough as many couldn’t get close to them.

Here come the priests

Here come the priests

At the end of the mass, Pope Francis rode in the Popemobile to see the crowds. In this image, I believe he recognizes me and my photo skills from earlier in the week! 🙂

Pope Francis waving to the crowd from the Pope Mobile

Pope Francis waving to the crowd from the Pope Mobile

Here is a fellow French citizen waving the flag to the Pope! Allez les bleus!

Go France!

Go France!

At the end, Pope Francis came out to the balcony to give some parting words to the crowds, to much applause.

Pope at the Window

Pope at the Window

 

Headed off tomorrow further south down the Italian coast. Happy Easter!

 

 

Also posted in Vatican

Pope Francis and Good Friday

Kinda posting a blog update out of order but it is so timely thought it was important to post today. Was very fortunate that a friend had a spare ticket to attend Good Friday mass at St Peters Basilica led by Pope Francis (thanks again Margie!!). It really was quite an experience, very moving and beautiful from the mass being totally spoken in Latin to the beautiful choir.  Happy Easter everyone!

This is St Peter’s Basilica before the start of the mass

St Peter's Basilica

St Peter’s Basilica

Pope Francis passed by about 10 feet away

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis conducting the Via Crucis next to the Roman Coliseum

Via Crucis, also known as Stations of the Cross, at the Roman Coliseum

Via Crucis, also known as Stations of the Cross, at the Roman Coliseum

 

Also posted in Vatican

Florence

It’s been a few days since I left Cinque Terre. During that time, I went to visit the beautiful city of Florence and spent several days visiting the museums and buildings. Disappointingly, I didn’t get into several sites because the lines were just too long and not moving. I did go to the Uffizi museum which had some spectacular art. Now a few images (please click on the image for a larger view)….

In this first image, it is a panorama of the city of Florence from Giotto’s Campanile.  Fortunately this one had no lines and well worth the climb up the multiple stairs.

Florence Pano

Florence Pano

In the next image, I shot down from the tower into the crowd. It was late afternoon and the shadows were long. Remembering a photo I had seen from NatGeo in the past of some camel shadows, I shot a few pix and got this.  Try and figure the orientation after viewing a second.

People Shadows

People Shadows

In the next image, it is a reflection of  the clock tower at Palazzo Vecchio.  I wanted a little different viewpoint and found this puddle. What is even more interesting is that now I can see the outline of a bald headed man with his mouth open looking at the tower. Do you see it?

Clock Tower at Palazzo Vecchio

Clock Tower at Palazzo Vecchio

Lastly, while walking around, I noticed the police officers were working very distinctive coats. I only hope they don’t have to wear them in the summer as they looked very warm. I asked this officer if I could take his photo and after a sigh of exasperation, he straightened up to pose. I especially like the policeman and gentleman in the background getting directions.

Florence Police Officer

Florence Police Officer

Next up very soon, will be Pisa. Ciao!

Also posted in Florence

Cinque Terre aka Cinque Beere!

Well, finally some wifi so I can update the blog. I was at Cinque Terre, Italy, on Monday and Tuesday, arriving in the afternoon Monday, in time to find a parking location on the Med for my VW and catch some dinner. I decided to do the hike backwards from Monteresso to Riomaggiore.

Tuesday, I checked in with the tourist info where they told me that all the coastal Cinque Terre routes were closed due to landslide and not being very safe. So, I decided I had to see this for myself (along with many other non-believers). The routes were fine except for one section that really should have been closed. This one involved about going across a landslide slope that was very steep and slippery. All good with slow movements. The reason I called this Cinque Beere is that I decided to have a beer at each village. It was pretty hot and it was about 1 hour between each leg so I definitely earned them. Made it more fun as well!  I also took the boat back to Monterosso as a way to get more views on this beautiful area.Here are a few photos.

The hills of Cinque Terre at dawn

The hills of Cinque Terre at dawn

The town of Vernazza in Cinque Terre

The town of Vernazza in Cinque Terre

The town of Vernazza in Cinque Terre

Leaving the town of Vernazza in Cinque Terre

The villages of Corniglia  and Manarola

The villages of Corniglia and Manarola

The village of Manarola in Cinque Terre

The village of Manarola in Cinque Terre

The village of Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre

The village of Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre

The village of Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre
The village of Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre

 

Also posted in Cinque Terre