Journey to Italy (October 2009)

Autumn in Italy

Historical MilanMilan, all about fashion and finance, right? Not lots to see as far as historic sites and art, right? Fabio Testa, a native of Milan, gets testy if you say that. He LOVES his home town and spent two days proving to HHT travels just how much it has to offer. If we’d had more time we’d have lunched on the canal, spent a day at the Brera art museum, shopped at outlets, taken a day trip to the nearby lake district, and Fabio would have continued to drill us on basic Italian phrases while he coached us on using the underground, buying train tickets, avoiding dangerous situations, ordering in neighborhood restaurants unaccustomed to tourists, kind of a how to go local in Italy boot

camp – all the while sharing the history of the city he so loves with us as we savored food, wine and sights. He was fabulous and you too can hire him to expose you to Milan by emailing him at Even though we were jet lagged dinner among Italians at a neighborhood restaurant near our B&B sounded too good to pass up; and that proved to be true. Next morning we feasted our eyes on Leonardo’s famous fresco “The Last Supper” which graces the refectory wall of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The museum guide made us carefully study the work by asking such question as “what’s in Peter’s hand?” And when we answered she revealed the significance and symbolism. After 20 years of work Pinin Brambilla Barcilon a renowned restoration artist completed the restoration of this master piece in 1999. Controversy created by Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code has brought throngs of tourists to Milan expressly to view “The Last Supper” much to the consternation of the guide and devout Catholics who refute the legend that Jesus and Mary Magdelaine were lovers, had a child and their descendants supposedly walk among us today. Historical MilanSuch is the stuff of best selling novels, but could it be true? Our female guide emphasized “This story by Dan Brown is a fiction. Mary is NOT depicted here.” Next stop Castello Sforzesco. Time didn’t allow us to explore the many in-house museums but walked the grounds. The day’s main attraction was the Duomo. Built between 1300 and 1700 hundred this Gothic marvel is the 3rd largest cathedral in the world, out sized by St. Peter and St Paul. Outside the Carrere marble cobbled together by concrete rises into delicate pillars and spires. Inside light showers through towering stain glass windows. We climbed the spiral staircase to the rooftop and walked amongst ornate arches, pillars and spires. Do it. Look down from here, where the angels live, at the racing metropolis. Look up at the gold leaf adorned “Madonnina” perched on the highest pinnacle as if she’s soaring up to heaven. An evening at Teatro Alla Scala topped off the day. We sat with the locals in seats with a bird’s eye view of orchestra and stage. Even though we didn’t understand too much we loved the experience of a night of opera at La Scala.. Next day, after window shopping on the via Monte Napoleone and via della Spiga lined with showrooms of designers like Armani, Versace, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Pucci, Gucci, we headed for our week in the Piedmont countryside, famed for great wine and priceless white truffles.

Touring in Italy

The Poppy Farmhouse

Robyn and John Sims, hosts at the Argiturismo Cascina Papaveri ‘The Poppy Farmhouse’ share their beautifully restored villa with groups for what they call week long “house parties.” On the premises a fully equipped Pilates studio, splendid indoor swimming pool, steam and sauna and state of the art training kitchen, where Chef Gino conducts fun nightly cooking classes. The result, lots of opportunities to practice Pilates and also create and savor delicious organic Italian meals made from scratch. Add unlimited wine, tasteful décor, fun excursions to markets and festivals where you mix with locals and you have yourself a very enjoyable Italian holiday. I’m returning November 1-8, 2010 and invite you to come along.. October and November are truffle season in Piedmont, making it an ideal time for a visit. Truffle hunting is big business, with hunting territory and skills passed on from generation to generation. Dogs, not pigs, aid Italian hunters. They’re worth their weight in gold, and have been poisoned by rival hunters when they get too good at what they do. Next November we’ll both truffle hunt and attend the international truffle festival in Alba. 2009 it was an all gal trip, but guys are welcome, with hiking, biking, golf and horseback riding available. Visit for more about The Farmhouse and the itinerary and contact me to sign up for the 2010 week.

Last day in Piedmont officially ended the group program, but I went on with a friend to Cinque Terre. Considered a hiker’s paradise these 5 villages on the Italian
Riviera are painfully picturesque. Both views and hikes are literally breathtaking. We stayed at tranquil L’eremo sul mare,, a villa up the hill from Vernazza and en route to the cliff top village of Corneglia. One day we hiked
south, stopping in villages along the way for lunch, gelato and shopping. Day two we hiked north, and again indulged in lunch and several samplings of Gelato – a handmade rose water scoop being a fave. Seafood, pesto, gelato and cats rule here. Yes, cats. Tame and cared for by villagers and tourists, they frequent restaurants and trails and grace post cards and t-shirts. The purrfect paradise for a cat lover like me, and a great place to put my Pilates training to the test. Trails between villages tend toward steep and narrow. Avid hikers do the full trek starting at sunrise and finishing at sunset, with no time to stop and smell the garlic along the way. If you’re not a hiker and want to visit Cinque Terre trains and a ferry provide easy, affordable transport. I did trails, trains and ferry and comfortably experienced the villages.

Hiking in Cinque Terre

Next year’s Italian visit includes the farmhouse week, with optional add-ons of two nights in Torino and 4 nights in Venice. There’s only room for 10, and some spaces are already taken. Hope you can come along – Ciao – Tannis

Sunset in Italy

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