Italy 2006 – 19 Hot Wonderful Days
June 25th, 2006. Day 1 – We fly from Montreal to Frankfurt. The start of a most memorable journey – 19 days in Italy (well actually 17 days if you remove the two travel days). We leave Sunday afternoon on Air Canada from Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport – formerly called Dorval Airport. We arrive in Germany the next day, it’s a 6 hour difference, to get a connecting Lufthansa flight to Italy. It was a long tiring flight – in peasant class – but the beginning of a fantastic Italian vacation: great country, friends, food, and plenty of memories. Each journal entry represents a day, or part of a day, and is accompanied with photographs taken during the trip.

The Nikon Has LandedFrankfurt, Germany
June 26th, 2006.  Day 2 – After a boring but uneventful 7 hour flight, the Italian trip takes a required pitstop in Frankfurt Germany – we couldn’t get a direct flight from Montreal to Milan (Malpensa) Italy. The Frankfurt airport is huge and evidently disorganized – so much confusion. Everyone speaks English but with an attitude – most of the airport personnel are at best rude although some thankfully are helpful. One airport guy, an old dude with a heavy accent screams out “Passport Control” over and over at all the lost and puzzled foreign travelers who come to him for help. He doesn’t even make any eye contact. Could it be the airport staff don’t care for tourists? Well there are presently tons of them in Germany given the 2006 World Cup of Soccer is being held here. Or it could be that I’m just grumpy after a long sleepless flight in peasant class? Probably the latter. One day I would like to visit and photograph Frankfurt – maybe next year? Eventually we make it to Passport Control – they don’t even ask us whether we are bringing in weapons of mass destruction – and we actually manage to make our connecting flight to Milan!

Thought for the day: everyone in Europe is a heavy smoker – I have a feeling they encourage smoking, particularly in public places – like airports. After landing in Milan our next stop will be Lake Como.

Como estas? – Lake Como
June 26th, 2006. Day 2 – Later that day! Hold on, como estas is Spanish and this is Northern Italy – must be the jet lag taking its toll. We are headed for Lake Como near the Swiss border. It was a short hop from Frankfurt to Milan but it’s been about 30 hours since we last slept – unless you count the short naps in the plane, you know the ones where you nod off and moments later your neck snaps viciously and wakes you up much too suddenly. At the airport we meet a wonderful couple from Texas, Steve and Liz. After waiting for what seems like hours we finally get on the bus that takes us to the hotel. Como is postcard beautiful – serene lake, mountain homes, cathedrals, narrow streets. We are caught in the middle of a brutal heat wave – no breeze whatsoever despite the proximity to water – stifling hot even at 9:30 PM. Throughout this trip temperatures will hit record or near record highs – mid-thirties in Celsius (low forties if you factor in the humidity – that’s over 100 Fahrenheit).

For lunch, we eat outdoors in a plaza outside the Hotel, we have our first of many Pizza Margheritas (thin crust, tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and oil) – wonderful. This is the year of the World Cup (football/soccer). Italy defeats Australia that night – 1 to 0 – and this little town goes wild, except for the Ozzie tourists – they are everywhere. With the victory comes noise, lots of noise – car and air horns beep for hours – everyone drives way too fast, especially the scooters – what a menace they are. We stay and eat at the Hotel Barchetta Excelsior that night, nothing special – but we have excellent company, Sean and Marina (a lovely Australian couple) – they need some consoling over the World Cup loss but not that much. Our room has a great view – of a dirty alley – but we are too tired to care – and just so damn pleased to be here! Next Stop: Lugano Switzerland!

Francs or Euros – Swiss Excursion
June 27th, 2006. Day 3 (Tuesday): Lugano and Milan.From Como we take a day trip into Lugano on the other side of the border – a Como clone nestled in the Italian part of Switzerland. This is our fourth country since Monday (Canada, Germany, Italy, and now Switzerland). Lugano must be Italian for expensive – luxury niche boutiques abound, some selling stainless steel watches in excess of 15,000 Swiss francs (that’s muchos deniros in any currency) as well as other merchandise for the very rich or those who like to max out their credit cards. Plenty of Swiss chocolate as you would expect too – and you can pay for your purchase in Swiss Francs or Euros. It’s in Lugano that a certain and often pressing reality sets in – you realize that finding clean toilets will be a holy quest during the balance of the trip. Unlike Canada, in Europe you must pay for the privilege of exercising basic physiological functions such as taking a leak.

Regardless of whether it’s for number 1 or number 2 (uno or due) toilet rates range from half a Euro to a full Euro – or you can just go to a café, order an espresso and enjoy the facilities at the same time. In passing, the espresso was just awful – it looked and felt like mud and tasted worse than battery acid. Footnote: Euro is also European for expensive. The variability of the plumbing and facilities in Europe never ceases to amaze me. On average it would take me 10 minutes to identify the mechanism for flushing a toilet and 5 minutes or more to find out how to turn on the faucet. I was tempted to photograph all the WCs as part of a coffee table book project – The Toilets of Italy.

Interesting tidbit – in Italia the hot water is identified with the letter C (caldo) which explains why you hear lots of American tourists scream in agony as they unwittingly scald their hands under boiling hot water. Note to self, C does not mean “cold”. Next stop: Milan