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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Switzerland with a Pinch of Italy

During my last weekend visiting Brad we decided to try out Ticino and dip into Italy for a day. As always the pictures seem to speak for themselves!

We stayed in the lakeside town of Lugano, which is in Switzerland's Ticino canton. Right by the border of Italy, they speak, eat and act Italian, all with a clean, precise Swiss presentation. Pretty much a perfect place!

Wandering around the night we got there. The old town of Lugano is very pretty, clean and compact. Easy to wander in.

Walking along the lake in Lugano. It was a bit chilly, but a beautiful morning!

Love this picture with the father and son playing by the water

We ate at one of the many restaurants around the square. Our choices were Italian, Italian or Italian! No arguements here.
Again, massive portions, which I polished off no problem. Maybe there was a grandmother in the kitchen trying to fatten us up? (Thank God for all the walking!) One of our favorite things they do with pizza over there is serve it with a bottle of oil infused with red chili's. Mmmmm.

We took a day trip into Italy to visit one of my favorite towns, Lucca, and the neighboring Pisa (yes, THAT Pisa). Lucca is where Giacomo Puccini, who wrote La bohème, Madame Butterfly, etc., was born.

I ate at Ristorante Puccini when I was in college after touring his birthplace thirteen years ago. Looks exactly the same!

The actual building where Puccini was born

Posing with Puccini.

The home 20 minutes away where Puccini spent the rest of his life. They had it set up almost just as he left it - even his pills in a glass bottle and pens laying on a table. Very cool..

The views from Puccini's house where he did his composing. No wonder he wrote such beautiful melodies! Unfortunately, the marsh around his house has been turned into a somewhat rundown, suburban town. But when you see these views you can imagine what it must have been like around the turn of the last century.

Wandering around the tiny, ancient streets of Lucca. I thought I took a picture of it, but we found the most wonderful little restaurant on a side street. It was owned by an Italian man who lived in L.A. for 20 years and had a restaurant on 3rd street there! We had the place to ourselves and ordered from their prix fixe menu. Once again, someone had to roll me out the door, but it was amazingly good: massive pieces of homemade bread soaked in my giant crock of veggie soup, a huge bowl of polenta covered in wild mushrooms. I thought I couldn't fit it all in, but I managed to eat every bite.

The main square in Lucca

The requisite pictures of Pisa! Gotta be sure you hold the camera straight or you kinda miss the point with the tower. The tower and cathedral are kinda fun to see, but the area around Pisa is very dirty and touristy. Actually, I notice a difference just crossing into Italy. It's still beautiful, but not quite as, um, precise are Switzerland.

Before heading home on Sunday we toured the amazing forts that guarded the passage between Italy and Switzerland in the Ticino capitol of Bellinzona. This small hill in the middle of this pass has had someone guarding it for 5,000 years! There was amazing history here. We loved seeing the artifacts found over the years and learning about how Ticino became part of Switzerland instead of the Roman Empire. Fascinating.

Standing at the lower and larger of the three forts you can see the second and third forts perched on the hills in the distance, the town spread around them.

Hard to capture how large the lower fort is

The town squeezes right up against he ancient walls.

Brad pointing back to the rest of Switzerland. In the other direction would be Italy. You can literally see all of Ticino from up there!

Standing on the huge walls

Brad making fun of my timer picture efforts. This is a regular theme in our marriage.

The smaller, highest fort. You can't imagine the windy road we took up this mountain. Talk about hairpin turns!

It cracked me up that there were grape vines squeezed in every available space, right up the the fortress walls and church doors.

We also passed through Locarno and grabbed lunch. It was fun to walk around the marina. I can only imagine how great this place must be in the summer!

Yes, another timer picture.

Incase we forgot that Fasnacht was still going on (check out our last post if you missed this classic experience), sights like this and streets closed for parades were a constant reminder.

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