Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The treno tour - Part 3

Part Three: Italy
The contrast with Switzerland is jaw-dropping. We ride the scruffy local train to Monza (say it Mont-za) amid dereliction and decay. We flee the railway station where undesirables lurk. The first night in Italy, 31st July, we check-in at Locanda San Paolo, Piazza San Paolo 3, Monza, 20900, Italy, +39039325994.
Birthday supper outdoors in considerably warmer weather: Trattoria Caprese, Piazza Roma, 10. Chain restaurant. Overordered at Euro 48.80 for two.
Next morning transfer to: The Penthouse, Via Italia, 44 Monza, 20900, Italy, Tel: 393939119439. Good digs with self catering. Drop off luggage for two nights. Take the bus to Missaglia, meeting friend Rosita at the bus stop. After brief tour, by car to Montevecchia, climbing the 174 steps to the Shrine of our Lady of Mount Carmel, splendid walk and views, then delightful lunch and kind hospitality at Albergo Ristorante Maggioni. The bus goes via Arcore where Silvio Berlusconi has a house. However he was not using his bus pass when we visited and there was no sign of a bunga bunga party.
Luna Cafe, Via Italia, for breakfast, 3 x brioche, 2 x capucci, Euro 7.30, deal. To the station to buy our train tickets for Padua. Then walk to the bike rental location in the massive Royal Park, to tour the autodromo monza. Two bikes, two hours, Euro 12. The park is much run down in places, largely deserted early morning. We pick up beer cans and bin them. Fantastic views of the old banked motor racing circuit, which they are in the process of restoring. They raced on this track in Indy front-engined roadsters in the fifties - outrageous. Cycled round the paddock where there is a cheerful lack of security. At the bike hire place they recommend lunch outdoors at Cascina del Sole, in the park. Good service and value at Euro 30 for two, including tip.
Next day take local train to the magnificent Milan Centrale station, where we change for Padua, boarding the Trenitalia Frecciabianca. The train is five munutes late in arriving and we take a taxi to the hotel: Hotel Albergo Verdi, Via Dondi Dall'Orologio, 7 Padova, 35139 for four nights. Soon we are in "Piazzaworld" lunching in the Piazza Dei Signori, where a storm is brewing and the staff are hurrying to clear the outdoor tables.
This splendid country does grow on you despite beggars, hookers, con artists, etc. We have dodged any depradations so far. All transactions here are strictly cash - "My machine is not working - I do not know why." Gets a bit like a stuck record for the umpteenth time. The real economy here is probably twice the size of government figures. When you have a dysfunctional government you get on with life by other means. The Euro has done nothing but add to Italy's troubles, much industry being shuttered and emigration the chosen option for many.
Hereabouts is the land of the no-gears bicycle - shoppers and roadsters - all ages aboard and in all states of repair. Many derailleurs but hub gears virtually unknown. I did see a few remnants of Sachs and Sturmey Archer days, and the red local hire-scheme bikes had Shimano three speeds. Everybody on parade in the evenings - lights an unlikely optional extra. Electric bikes spotted including with Bosch drivetrain.
Visit to Botanical Gardens, founded 1545, part of the Università degli Studi di Padova. Wonderful oasis away from the crowds, contemplating scientific endeavour over such a sustained period. Spotted Physalis plant, which may explain the name of the charmless bar in Spay, France.
Early start for half-day trip to Venice, travelling by 07:21 train, a journey of about twenty miles. Walked to the Rialto Bridge, St Marks Square, Bridge of Sighs etc. We are amused by the sight of a gondolier glued to his mobile phone. By mid-morning everywhere is bedlam with waves of tourists in grupo tours. So many people overwhelming the place when they could visit Montevecchia in peace. By midday we can take no more and head for the station, taking the 12:05 to Padua.
Lunch at Cafè Il Padovano, Via Martiri della Libertà, 17, 35137 Padua. Sampled local Lugana wine. Supper at Osteria dei Fabbri, Via dei fabbri, Padua. Notable for black pasta. Annette says:

The orecchiette servite con code di gamberi e broccoli (ear-shaped pasta with shrimp and broccoli) and tagliolini neri serviti con vongole veraci e funghi porcini (black noodles with clams and mushrooms) are heavenly! Add excellent ambiance and service and you've got a meal to remember.

Our last full day is spent promenading and shopping. Pizza in the Piazza dei Signori followed by gelato. Also frequented Bar Caffe' Missaglia, Via Santa Lucia, 47 Padova.
Next day Busitalia from Padova to Venice Marco Polo Airport, Euro 8.50 x 2. Air Transat home.
Pleasing to see cultural exports on TV: Top Gear in German, Wheeler Dealers in Italian.

Coffee spoons x 12. Euro 2.50. The cheap variety that make french cafes irresistible. La Vaisselerie, 80 Boulevard Haussmann, Paris, Tel: 0145 22 32 47. Bodum bistro spoons (6 x 14cm Sfr 3.90; 6 x 20cm Sfr 4.90) Bodum 70th Anniversary book, gratis. Bodum Store Luzern, Weinmarkt 7, 6000 Luzern 5, Tel: 041 412 38 38. Bargain bin cycling vest in outlet store, 63 Sfr. Discounted 60%. Outlet Sport by Balmelli, Via Maderno 16, Lugano, Tel: 091 922 67 77. Bodum bistro coffee mug (Sfr 2.40, reduced from Sfr 4.90). Coop St Moritz Bellevue, Via dal Bagn 20, 7500 St. Moritz, Tel: 41 81 837 56 60. Duralex Lys Coupelle or Coppetta x 2, Total Euro 1.80. laRinascente, piazza giuseppe garibaldi, 35122, Padua, Tel: 39 049 8760166.

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