We just returned from our third trip to Europe within a year. This time was to celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary! Yes, the saying is true: Three Times is a Charm!
We selected the areas in France and Italy we wanted to visit in October. Judy Norman and Deborah Adler at Classy Destinations helped us fine tune the trip and included airfare, private transportation, beautiful hotels and pre-arranged skip-the-line tickets for special venues. This is highly recommended to reduce wait times.
Our 11-day trip started in Paris, The City of Lights. We stayed in the beautiful Hotel Regina right across the street from the Louvre which is the world’s largest museum. It is an incredible building and the art on display fabulous! It is so large they say if you spent one minute at each item, it would take 154 days to see everything.
The Eiffel Tower was truly magnificent and the views of Paris from the second level were breathtaking. We knew its construction in 1887 for the 1889 World’s Fair was controversial among Parisians and was to be torn down after the fair. We were surprised to learn the original color was red! We then took a boat tour on the Seine River that offered many views of the beautiful buildings and bridges in the city. The heart-breaking one was of Notre Dame Cathedral which remains closed since the fire earlier this year. Even now it is majestic.
Our second stop was Avignon, France which we reached by train from Paris. The rail system in Europe is an enjoyable way to travel and reasonably priced. Our apartment was within the walls of this medieval city and in close proximity to restaurants, the Palace of the Popes, and the St. Benedetto Bridge over the Rhone River. The first night there was our anniversary day and we had one of the most beautiful meals we’ve had in our life at the La Mirande Hotel with origins back to 1410.
Quick day trips by train took us to Arles and Nimes and we toured various Roman ruins. Both cities had amphitheaters and the one in Nimes was built in 100 AD and remains in use today for concerts and sports events even without the Gladiators and Lions! The “Musée de l'Arles Antique” in Arles is highly recommended and a significant number of Roman artifacts are incredible.
Our third stop was in Milan, Italy and our primary reason to visit there was to see Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”. It was a breathtaking and moving experience especially knowing the convent where it is located was almost totally destroyed in 1943 from WWII bombings. Clearly it was a miracle it survived! The Milan Cathedral (Duomo) is the 3rd largest in Europe and 5th in world! La Scala Opera House, Castle Sforza and Arch of Peace are other significant points of interest. We were close to the Alps so we took a day-long excursion from Milan on the Bernini Express to Saint Moritz, Switzerland.
Our final stop was Lake Como where we stayed in Bellagio at the exquisite Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. We had a private tour of the lake to see beautiful villas and the towns of Varrena, Menaggio and Lecco. This is one of the most beautiful areas of the world you can imagine!
Villa Serbelloni was built as a private villa around 1850 and 25 years later the wife wanted to move so it was sold and turned into a hotel. Wings were added to both sides and manicured lawns added. At one point it had 200 rooms but in time private bathrooms were added and the hotel now has 95 rooms which includes several “over-the-top” suites named after the famous people who stayed in them: John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Film Star Mary Pickford, the Queen of Sweden, and Clark Gable. Antonio Calzolaro is the General Manager and has been there 30 years and he was kind to give us a private tour. The sense of pride he shows in his Hotel was impressive.
The Hotel is magnificent in its grandeur with 16 foot ceilings, marble flooring, extensive decorative moldings with most walls painted in tromp l’oeil to look like marble. The real stuff is too far from northern Italy to have large amounts transported to Lake Como.
Thank you Classy Destinations for putting together this wonderful anniversary trip we will never forget. Arrivederci and Ciao!
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