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Arriving in Bozen/Balzano in the South Tyrol is difficult on a weekend when you want to rent a car. This is a different place for many reasons. Time moves more slowly here and German is predominant, even though this is Italy. Being a weekend, the car rental agencies close by 3:30 on Friday and do not open again until Monday morning. This is a traditional place and weekends are for family. Since we arrived by train, we needed to quickly hop a taxi to the regional airport, since this is the only place where a car can be rented. That meant we needed to find a place to garage the cars (we needed two–no large cars or minivans or SUV’s–for our Sunday drive). Furthermore, since this was the weekend of a large bicycle tour/race, spaces were limited. We managed to get everything done, with some effort.
It was worth it! Our drive into the Dolomites was relaxing, and the scenery was “lovely and dramatic.” The kelly green hills reached up to heavy forests which pushed up against jagged mountain peaks. The Dolomites are noted for these jagged peaks and are a UNESCO world heritage site. Small mountain villages with gabled tile roofs abounding, with yellow and white plaster buildings–some painted with imagery–were situated on sloping hillsides underneath those jagged peaks. But it is the flowers and the church buildings and steeples that steal the attention. Flowers were everywhere, in window boxes, in gardens, in street pottery and hanging from antique light posts. There were bridges with cascading flowers. Round abouts had centers with huge carved wooden imagery and flowers, flowers, flowers. Reds, yellows, purples everywhere. What a refreshing sight! The church steeples were tall and slender or onion-domed. Some had decorative tile roofs. All in all, it was more than the eyes could capture, but the overall effect was magical, especially when the clouds and midsts blew in between those jagged peaks on this cool late summer day. WEG – Sunday, September 13, 2015
Leaving the beautiful Italian lake country behind, we trained to “Fair Verona” for a stroll through the streets to see the Arena, the second largest Roman amphitheater after Rome’s Coliseum. I have seen the arena on television many times since it is featured in musical and theater productions frequently. It is not, therefore, a ruin, since it is in rather good shape after these thousands of years of use. Verona is a very nice city, clean, easy to navigate and with many historical sites. Of course, we had to go by Juliet’s balcony made famous by Shakespeare in his soliloquy for Juliet on that balcony–“Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo.” Naturally, the tourist balcony is not the real one; however, thousands flock to it and leave love messages on the walls around it. While in the city, Charlotte could not pass up a pair of Italian shoes that she spotted in a shop window. Dan thought that she had brought along enough pairs of shoes–totally missing the point, that these were Italian shoes, and this was a special vacation purchase. Everyone cheered Charlotte on to buy the shoes, which she beautifully wore the rest of the day.
We then trained on to Bozen (German) / Bolzano (Italian) in Italy’s South Tyrol, formerly a part of Austria. Most people here still speak German, and the region has a unique atmosphere with distinctive foods and architecture–not Italian and yet, not quite Austrian either. We were surprised that, as we strolled the wonderful streets in the crisp air, we heard the strains of music. Happily, this evening a concert of several bands was playing in the Walther Platz (piazza/square). With South Tyrollean Alps looming overhead and the cathedral bells pealing, we sat to eat in an outdoor cafe where we could both see and hear the bands play. Dressed in native South Tyrollean dress as they marched and played, we experienced a true unexpected travel experience. I approached a band member who spoke English, and he explained that each valley in the region has similar unique traditional clothing with important distinctions that characterize each region; each region also supports a band. How blessed we were for this great evening of fine music! WEG – September 12, 2015