Tuesday, April 20:  Venezia to Bellagio, Padova

A good food day, especially after scrimping our way through expensive Venice. After breakfast, we packed up and went outside and around the corner to check out the fish market (which had not operated Sunday and Monday mornings). Plenty of oddities to entertain the boys. I forgot to revisit the cheese market on our way out of town.

Chatted some with the young owner of the hotel when we finally departed, and he mentioned that we had Rick’s room from when he travels with his family on his tours. Hustled our bags over the Rialto Bridge and bought tickets for the ferry back to the parking garage. A local senior citizen manged to cut the line on me, but I had position on her at the window and didn’t make it too easy for her. The clerk seemed to get a chuckle out of it -- maybe that’s why she decided not to charge me for baggage (while we had been charged on the way in).

Ransomed the car at the parking garage (70 euro after hotel discount) and got out of town fairly easily, though we ended up on the scenic route to Padova, rather than the autostrada, which was fine since it was only about thirty kilometers. Our destination was the Scrovegni Chapel, numero uno on Pat’s “must-see” list. We were plenty early and parked near the train station, which we knew was within a few minutes’ walk of the chapel. The parking attendant had fun deciphering my accent. First US, then California, came the guesses. He felt pretty good about getting within 600 miles. With some route-finding help from a very helpful woman, we made our way to the ticket office, thinking perhaps we could get in a few slots earlier than our reserved time. The only response we got to this question was that our reservation was only good for one person at 2 PM, and the other three could go in at 4:30 PM. After much demonstrating on Pat’s part, we finally pointed out the email in our hand that said we had paid 26 euro for a family card. A sticky-note was attached to our reservation saying three more of us could enter.

With two hours to kill we took Rick’s recommendation and lunched at the “easy” Brek Ristorante in the corner of a nearby plaza. Easy it was. Spacious, clean, a wide variety of foods, prepared as you watched, and reasonably priced. We loaded up and all had filling, satisfying meals. It was marred only by a couple of young women who cut the line on me at the coffee bar.

Back at the chapel, Pat got in line early, fearing our sticky note wouldn’t be sufficient to admit three more. Only one group cut the line on her. Our tickets were honored at the door, though after we were seated another woman came round to inspect them again. She must have seen it on our faces, for she didn’t stay long.

The Scrovegni Chapel was built by Junior, to atone for Dad’s usurious money-lending practices, as Dad had been denied a Christian burial for this sinful practice. The frescoes were painted by Giotto. The system of protections now in place is the most elaborate we’ve seen. Twenty-five people at a time, fifteen minutes for each group. You enter through what is basically an airlock, where you watch an introductory video and the “bad” air from outside gets replaced by dehumidified air. The frescoes were indeed very beautiful and interesting to see, though I would not rate them as equal to the hype.

Photo 55  Lake Como
Photo 56  Bellagio
Back in the car. Onto the autostrada towards Milan, with many trucks and many Audis and many Swiss Mercedes. We left the autostrada at Bergamo and traveled smaller roads towards Lake Como. Many, many cyclists in evidence, including an older gentleman powering his way up the curves on an old bike, and riding the center-line, like the Vespas, through the congested stretches. Somewhere, we followed a sign to Lecco that took us up the congested eastern shore of Lake Como, rather than coming up the peninsula that sits between the western and eastern arms of the southern half of the lake. Big mistake, as it seemed that the two-lane road was jam-packed for kilometers. Eventually we reached Lecco, crossed the lake at a constriction via a bridge, then guessed a right-hand turn north for clear sailing as everybody else headed towards Milan. However, quickly, the road reduce to a lane and a half for more tough driving. I was told later that the views along the drive were spectacular.

We found our hotel easily, Nuovo Miralago Hotel, just a kilometer shy of Bellagio proper. After some discussion about whether or not we’d requested a parking space (settled when I produced email evidence on my laptop screen), we settled into a comfortable room for four, with bunkbeds that fold out of the wall. Then we hoofed it into central Bellagio, along small lanes, and over the spine of the peninsula’s tip on a long, walled, gently-sloped stone staircase. Everywhere were water, hill and icy mountain views. We enjoyed picturesque, and uncrowded, Bellagio as the sun set, then followed Rick’s suggestion to a restaurant nearby, Ristorante Grotto. Great menu, ample portions, good service and reasonable prices completed a day of great eating. And the waiter even helped us out some with directions to the “Church of the Bicycle.” After dinner we returned to the shore to see the first stars, and the twilight illuminating the ridges of the foothills of the Italian Alps. It was about twenty degrees today (seventy Fahrenheit) and I doubt they get too many nice spring days like this at this time of the year. We felt like staying longer but there are no historic churches or art museums to keep the boys occupied, so we’ll move on in the morning.