Intro  Part I (Elderhostel Tour)    Part II (Liguria & Lake Como)

Part III
Villages & Friends
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Sunday, October 3. We'd had a very pleasant stay at Lake Como in spite of some foul weather. We phoned Rosa from the Albergo Olivedo just before leaving Varenna at 10:15. Because of problems finding our way through Lecco, we didn't get to her apartment until 1:15, an hour later than we'd expected. She served us a huge lunch of pasta. All five of her children (Marco, Sonia, Stephano, Daniele and Emanuele) stopped by to visit. Marco's wife, Federica, and their ten month old son, Andrea, were with him, and Daniele brought his fiancee, Elena.

That evening we all drove to Deco Pizzeria at Bossolengo near Lake Garda. It was a very classy restaurant done in art deco style. We were surprised that it was called a pizzeria. We later learned that pizza has become the most popular dinner, at least around Verona, and all the restaurants call themselves pizzerias. Rosa's estranged husband, Giancarlo, was there, too. He sat at the end of the table, across from Rosa and next to me. Rosa didn't talk to him, and I had a hard time understanding him over all the noise. Randall sat toward the opposite end of the table with all the "youngsters."

Because it was our 46th wedding anniversary, Rosa's family picked up the tab. They even ordered sparkling wine and a special anniversary dessert, a "cake" made from stacked profiterole with chocolate sauce. For our sleeping arrangements, Randall stayed with Rosa, and Jane and I slept at Sonia's new apartment in Dossobuono, ten minutes away.

Sirmione peninsula
as seen from the lake
Monday, 4 October. We all had breakfast at Rosa's. It was a beautiful sunny day, so we readily accepted Emanuele's offer to drive us to Sirmione on Lake Garda. We had taken our four boys there often when we lived in Verona (1959-63), and Randall especially wanted to see it again.

Sirmione is an unbelievably narrow peninsula on the southern shore of Lake Garda, jutting three kilometers (1.8 miles) into the lake. At one point, it is crossed by a small stream, technically making an island of the somewhat wider piece of land to the north. The stream also forms a convenient moat for a 13th Century Scaligere castle built on its north bank. ("Scaligere" refers to Verona's Della Scala family, which ruled a large area of north central Italy from 1262 until 1387 before being supplanted by Venetian rule.)

When we used to bring our little sons to let them play in the castle, there was rarely anyone else there. There was almost no commercial development beyond the castle. Now the entire peninsula is swarming with tourists, even on a Monday in October. There must be a hundred restaurants and tourist shops behind the castle. That's easy to understand because it's a beautiful area.

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Castle at Sirmione
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Jane & flowers
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Us with Randall & Emanule

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Looking back from the north
Emanuele led us beyond the shops to the northern part of the peninsula. In our many previous visits, we had never been there. The boys had always just wanted to play in the castle. This part of Sirmione was very peaceful, with fewer tourists, and the views were spectacular. Unfortunately, Le Grotte di Catullo (Catullus' Caves) were closed Mondays. Despite the name, this is the ruin of a Roman villa from the 1st Century B.C. The name comes from the poet Catullus, who sang the praises of Sirmione in 53 B.C., though he probably had no connection to the villa. A hot sulfur spring in the lake (known as La Boiola), popular in Roman times, still supplies water for thermal baths.

Back in the congested area just behind the castle, the midday crowd had thinned just enough by 2 p.m. that we were able to find a table at a sidewalk cafe. We were amazed at the speed and efficiency of the waiter. He punched our orders into a hand held calculator as we gave them, then left and returned with our food within a few minutes.

We went back to Rosa's for an hour or so, then to Marco's office at the university, arriving about 5:30. He showed us some of his work, drawing anatomy schematics on the computer. Afterwards we all went to Marco's house. Jane and I had invited all of Rosa's family out to dinner, but communicating among so many family members proved an insurmountable obstacle. Sonia was especially hard to contact. Apparently the location of her new apartment was beyond the range of her cell phone service, and she didn't have an ordinary telephone. Emanuele finally drove us back to Rosa's about 9 p.m. Stefano, Marco and Federica joined us there, and Rosa made pasta for everyone. Daniele was there briefly but didn't stay for dinner.

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