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gapvic

Italy Trip, Part 1 Of 4

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gapvic   

As most of the regulars here know, I've spent the last month in Italy. I thought rather than just putting up some photos, I'd also include the emails we sent home to friends and family as it gives the pics more context. The emails are long and most probably boring so if you just want to skip reading and look at the photos I understand completely :o . I took just the D800 and the sigma 50mm art lens. A heavy combination and at times I really missed having a zoom, but that was all I had room for. Absolutely love the Sigma lens!

Anyway, this is the first email. I've got a billion cards still to edit so it might be a while before the second email and photos are posted lol.

Greetings friends, family and loved ones!

I am sitting typing this email in an Internet cafe in amazing Venice. Next to me is a (very attractive and beautifully dressed) Italian guy who sings quietly to himself as he types away at his computer. Everywhere here in Venice is music - the call of the numerous church bells across the city, the men in the gondolas with their lovely opera songs, the singers in bars that we hear snatches of as we walk past at night, the workman on his barge that drifts beneath our balcony, the little boy sitting behind me in the vaporetto who sung loudly and cheerfully as we crossed the water.

Our flight to Italy was great as (a) we made it here alive and (b) I remember very little of it. We had a slight and unexpected delay in Hong Kong which meant that mum and I, who had timed our drug use carefully (her - sleeping pills, me - xanax), were almost comatose by the time we eventually got back on the plane. Any longer and Dad may have had a little problem on his hands! As it was, we were both fast asleep prior to take off.

We arrived in Italy early Tuesday morning and were met at Milan airport by our driver, Romano, who was to take us to our accommodation on Lake Como. As mum gets car sick Dad and I were relegated to the back seat of his car. This gave me the perfect view of the tachometer. I watched it reach 110, then 120, then 130 before we settled on 140kmph which Romano felt was the perfect cruising speed. Thank god for the xanax still in my system. Despite the drugs, I still felt a surge of joy when we rounded a corner and had our first glimpse of beautiful Lake Como.

The lake is long and narrow and surrounded by steep mountains that run down into the water. Old towns are dotted here and there along the waters edge. Our accommodation was a lovely small

villa (Villa Mirabella) built in 1860. It is located in the town of Cadenabbia which is made up of a small cluster of shops and a couple of old hotels. The villa is right on the lake

and our rooms opened onto a private terrace overlooking the water and mountains beyond. It is quite lovely.

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Our first day here was spent wandering the streets and steep, cobbled lanes around Cadenabbia. Clear blue skies and glorious sunshine.... just wonderful.

There is a small sign in our rooms that very politely asks guests to please refrain from "bringing outside food inside the hotel premises (pizza, ice-creams, or chunk food)". Chunk food. It makes me laugh every time I see it.

Day two at Lake Como found us spending a wonderful morning wandering the amazing house and grounds of Villa Carlotta (built at the end of the 17th century). The gardens cover 70,000 square

metres on the side of a very steep hill and, as we got there early, we had several hours to explore them before the hoards of other tourists arrived late morning.

Observation 1 - bumble bees are fat and fuzzy and utterly enchanting!

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Almost directly opposite from our villa, on the other side of the lake, the town of Bellagio glows invitingly in the sunshine. The Lonely Planet guide advises that "it's impossible not to be charmed by Bellagio's waterfront of bobbing boats, or it's maze of steep stone staircases, dark cypress groves and showy rhodedendron-filled gardens.... if you turn up on a week day you'll have the little village almost to yourself". I'm not sure what Lonely Planet the author was on, but it's sadly not this one. Bellagio was very beautiful when viewed from afar but up close, it lost a lot of it's magic.

We caught a ferry across the lake and disembarked at Bellagio amongst an absolute mass of tourists. They crammed the streets of the town, especially along the waterfront, and the beautiful old buildings had mostly been converted to horrible little souvenir shops designed to cater for them. We found a tiny grocery store and bought bread rolls, cheese and ham and sat and ate our sandwiches with the ducks in a quiet spot on the waters edge.

Observation 2 - Italian ducks sound exactly the same as Australian ducks. Italian seagulls, unlike their Australian cousins, have remarkably little to say.

The highlight of Bellagio was watching a suave Italian gentleman and his beautiful wife park a tiny Lancia into an even tinier car parking space. It took many attempts, much patience and a whole lot of luck but he succeeded in the end and was rewarded with a round of applause from the audience gathered to watch the feat.

Returning to Villa Mirabella late afternoon, a pleasant couple of hours was spent on our terrace with a contraband supply of chunk food (potato chips and white wine) to stave off hunger pains until it was time to go in search of dinner.

Observation 3 - there is a monster, a relative of the one in Loch Ness, living in Lake Como. It may be that I saw it. It may also be that I was hallucinating due to sleep deprivation at the time.

On thursday, our last full day at Lake Como, we caught the ferry to Lenno and then a water taxi to the spectacularly beautiful gardens of Villa Balbianello (built 1787). Perched dramatically on a cliff top, the carefully framed views of the lake through the garden were just so so beautiful.

Observation 4 - the air everywhere at the Lake smells sweet, like boronia flowers.

The afternoon was spent exploring lovely Griante. The landscape was mostly rural with fields full of wildflowers, olive groves, tiny churches, pretty laneways and ancient villas with rambling gardens. And not another tourist to be seen. Even though summer has just ended everything was so green. High above Griante, nestled on what appears to be the side of an almost verticle mountain, was a little old church accessible only be foot. Dad plans on being fit enough to make the climb up to it when they return to the lake in six weeks.

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Observation 5 - pedestrian crossings are nothing more to Italian drivers than some pretty lines painted on the road. To use one is to place yourself at probable likelihood of being mown down by a cheerful driver.

Friday we said goodbye to Lake Como and caught the train from Milan down to Venice. It was a long and arduous journey that we were all glad to see the end of. But what a reward for the pain - it was love at first sight. Venice is simply magical.

Observation 6 - a trip on the 5.1 vaporetto with luggage is to be avoided at all costs. Dad is of the firm belief that there are people on it that have been trapped there for weeks, unable to get off due to the sardine like way people are packed on.

Our tiny apartment is on a tiny street on a tiny canal in a quiet part of the island. It is on the second floor of an ancient building. For mum, it is perhaps a little more shabby than chic. For me, it is charmingly perfect. A nearby church bell sings out constantly throughout the day and is echoed by many others across the town. All I can hear, sitting on our tiny balcony, is the gentle slap of water, the quiet hum of boats, and the church bells.

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We arose in the wee hours of Saturday morning (4.30am to be precise) to get ready to meet Arved, a photo journalist and our private photo tour guide, in St Marks Square at 5.45am. It proved somewhat challenging to find our way to the square through the labyrinthine streets in the dark but we made it there without getting too lost. For the next five hours Arved took us to unique and interesting places in the far corners of Venice for us to photograph, explaining both Venetian history and photography techniques along the way. It was a fantastic morning and we were all exhausted by the end of it. We dragged ourselves back to the apartment where I promptly fell asleep on the couch.

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Observation 7 - the tomatoes really do taste better in Italy!

Much of our time in Venice so far has been taken up with walking, walking, eating gelato, walking, eating pastries, walking, walking, drinking coffee and people watching, walking, and then some more walking! Everywhere you turn here there is another inviting lane way, pretty stone bridge or interesting canal to admire and explore. It is the most wonderful city. Even though the gigantic tour boats disgorge what seems to be billions of tourists each morning, you only have to take a turn down a side alley, turn left and then right, and you are on your own - lost somewhere in the maze of Venetian streets.

Today we navigated the (very confusing) vaporetto system and caught a water bus out to the island of Murano where all the Venetian glass is produced. My back was complaining fiercely about all the walking so I left mum and dad and returned to Venice and went in search of an Internet cafe from which to send this. Mum and dad went on to another island, Burano, where all the houses are brightly painted in all colours of the rainbow.

It was another glorious day full of sunshine - the weather has been around 28c each day.

We've another few days left here to explore before moving on to Florence. We hope everyone is well back home and will send another update when we can :).

Love,

Larissa, Christine & Michael

For anyone interested, the rest of the Como photos are here (not all are taken by me - some are my parents photos):

My link

and the first of the Venice edits here:

My link

Edited by gapvic

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Kirislin   

I WANNA GO BACK TO ITALY!!!!! your writing is as wonderful and descriptive as your photographs. New career as a travel writer perhaps?

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gapvic   

LOL thanks Kirislin! It was my first time there and god I fell in love with Venice. I saw the news item last night about George Clooney getting married and the footage of the city brought tears to my eyes I so badly wanted to be back there. When did you visit?

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Roova   

That was a joy to read, thanks so much for sharing. Lovely photos and description, I feel like I've been there myself! Lol

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Kirislin   

LOL thanks Kirislin! It was my first time there and god I fell in love with Venice. I saw the news item last night about George Clooney getting married and the footage of the city brought tears to my eyes I so badly wanted to be back there. When did you visit?

long long time ago, 1983. I loved it too, so many people said it was dirty and smelly but I was enchanted with it, Florence too.

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teekay   

Thanks Gapvic, I thoroughly enjoyed reading that with my morning cup of tea :) Makes me miss being so close to Europe. All those years in England and I didn't take advantage of seeing so much of it. I guess you never do when it's on your doorstep. I did manage to do a day trip to Venice when I was on a holiday in, what was then, Yugoslavia (shows you how long ago it must have been :laugh: ) But I don't think I saw it at it's best. It was in the height of summer and it was tremendously overcrowded and I think it may well have been the hottest place I have ever been in my life. This was nearly me :flame: :laugh:

Looking forward to the next instalment.

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Dave-o   

I absolutely love the long exposure photo of the boats - that came out surprisingly well :)

I worked in Rome many years ago. Such a beautiful and eventful city, but an absolute dump if you venture out :laugh: Like any big city I suppose... but I worked all over Europe and was impressed with Rome the least. I'd love to go back and see the rest of the country, some day.

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Danois   

Gorgeous and I can't wait to see the rest as I am planning 3 weeks in Italy next year at the moment.

Would welcome a link to your Venice apartment too.

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gapvic   

Thanks guys.

Here you go Danois - I used airbnb for all of the accommodation (except for lake como) and found it great. LOVED the apartment in Venice - location is perfect.

My link

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trifecta   

But I don't think I saw it at it's best. It was in the height of summer and it was tremendously overcrowded and I think it may well have been the hottest place I have ever been in my life. This was nearly me :flame: :laugh:

Looking forward to the next instalment.

teekay, 'Death in Venice' have you read it..... or seen the film? :laugh:

I haven't time to read at the moment, just skimmed over the photos, but I will be back in here to have a closer look! Gapvic, your photos are wonderfully evocative & cature the essence of all things Italian :thumbsup:

You must go back to Venice for Carnivale one February....the swirling fogs, cold, damp air, rustle of cloaks & masked faces of people in period costume..... a photographer's heaven (especially one as accomplished as yourself :thumbsup: ).

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Ozstar   

Wow amazing photos and such beautifully descripted emails that I could almost close my eyes and believe I was there.

Can't wait for more :thumbsup:

Leanne

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Kirislin   

How do you get that dreamy milky effect on some of your photos, I'm assuming it's in the post processing.

Where all these taken with a 50mm?

Edited by Kirislin

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gapvic   

Kirislin, yep, it's all done in Lightroom. 99.9% of the photos were taken with the 50mm. I also took my wide angle but it's not full frame so I can only use it really really wide on the D800. I took a couple of pics with it though. In the Flickr folders some of the photos were taken by my parents with their D7000 and the zoom, or taken by me with their camera and the zoom or wide angle.

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Kirislin   

Thanks for that. I think I have to get me lightroom, I know you can trial it, might have to give it a go.

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gapvic   

I love love love lightroom. So easy to use. Download the free trial, download some free presets and have a play :D

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