Zurich - Chur - Tirano - Milan - Verona - Venice - Trieste - Ljubljana - 593 miles
After that three and half hour sleep and mad dash back to Zurich HB, Week 2 commenced with our longest day's travel, both time and distance wise - thirteen hours door to door, 360 miles. About four of those hours and seventy six of those miles on board the Bernina Express,.. mountains, lakes and rivers either side and ahead of us, and then up and through the mountains, winding in and out of cliff sides with ever changing views of little Alpine villages, further and further below us, vertiginous drops to the side, and at the top of the pass a ten minute stop to walk across the tracks and breathe the mountain air. Changing trains at Tirano, we filled our water bottles at the beautiful public fountain in the square between the two stations before travelling on to Milan. Even without leaving the station we got the sense of a stylish and elegant city... and after 50 minutes of people watching, on to Verona, home town of lovely Anna who briefly lived with us a couple of years ago and was a brilliant virtual tour guide. After a picnic dinner in our tiny apartment, a much needed early night and then off to follow Anna's wonderful tailor made itinerary...St.Zeno's church, the beautiful bridges and squares of old Verona, and the stunning Roman arena which has been in continuous use for public entertainment for 2000 years from Roman circus and gruesome public executions to 18th century opera and now concerts mostly Italian singers. Delicious ice creams (dairy free pistachio, hurrah!) by Ponte Pietra - Verona's oldest bridge, also dating back to Roman times and then up to Castel St.Pietro for a panoramic view of sunset over the city, and then a yummy dinner in one of Anna's favourite trattorias All these beautiful, wonderful things to see and do and taste but both with injuries and little rest - and more than enough of Google maps - day 9 also had it's low moments of bickering and irritation. A pre-breakfast video chat with our grandson Pip got the next day off to a lovely start, and that morning Jefris and I agreed on a new tour motto: "ojo gnono" - a Javanese phrase, literal translation "don't be like that" but with the right intonation it carries a much more soothing, defusing meaning. Onwards for an overnight stop in Venice - a strange sensation to be in a place entirely new to us yet oddly familiar from films and TV - Jefris enjoyed seeking out locations of Bond films. Even this late in the season, the number of tourists was overwhelming - averaging 40,000 a day in a walkable area. Pity the poor Venetian! I spotted a few Nonnas with their shopping trolleys fighting their way through the throng to the few remaining 'normal' shops; apparently the last school in the outskirts is under threat of closure. It was a relief to wander our way to quieter back alleys and shady squares, and a horror to arrive in a partially flooded St. Mark's Square, it was just too packed and too hot for me to be to be able to take in the overwhelmingly ornate surroundings, and this was off season. I'm sort of glad to have seen Venice but have no desire to return. Our next destination was Trieste, home town of our old friend Fulvio. Serendipitously, we only found this out a couple of weeks before our departure, and when we called him to ask for tips, it turned out he would actually be there when we passed through. It was so lovely to be greeted at the station with warm hugs, introduced to Fulvio's brother Valter and driven straight to our rental apartment. On the train we'd had a message from the rental company telling us the place we'd booked had a plumbing problem so they offered us their only available alternative - much more central and twice the size - result! We stopped only to drop our bags before being whisked off for a night on the town with the brothers... sunset spritzes on the pier, a succession of bustling local bars, and tasty local wines - turns out Prosecco is actually a little village in the hills just outside Trieste - accompanied by tapas style bar snacks; polenta with a gorgeous garlicky local sausage was my fave.
The next day we spent a much needed slow and quiet morning 'at home' - for me, catching up with my School of Celebrancy students - in a strange way work now actually feels like a kind of rest! In the afternoon, following Fulvio and Valter's local tips, we took the Delfino Verde boat service across the bay to nearby village of Muggia for ice creams and swimming in the balmy Adriatic, and just before our homeward journey with the setting sun received wonderful news from Ljubljana - our friend Hannah's baby had arrived a week early, just in time for us to meet her! It was lovely to see the brothers again the next morning, and enjoy a farewell spritz at their old friend Alessandro's beach bar on the way to see beautiful Castel Miramare. Thank you Fulvio and Valter for your warm and generous hospitality, we hope to visit Trieste again one day. On Sunday, a short and relatively leisurely journey onwards to Ljubljana, arriving late afternoon. Hannah and Julio had just got home with baby Agar, and much to our surprise and delight, were eager to introduce her to us that very evening. What a rare and delightful privilege it was to be the first friends to greet this precious little human - at around 5lb, the tiniest baby we've ever held; how wonderful to enter the tender bubble of this new family, and to witness little Agar being utterly entranced by the gentle soothing sound of her Papai's voice. More about Ljubljana in Week 3 report which I will endeavour to deliver on time!
Love to all our friends and family xxx