Trip to Italy

Mike and Judy Henderson
September 16 to October 2, 2015

We were asked by Jim and Diana Burgwyn, friends of ours from Philadelphia, to join them in Italy this year, at Lake Como.  Jim is participating in a conference in Rome so we're going separately and meeting in Milan on September 26.  From there we'll go to Lake Como.  Even though we had taken a trip to Germany, and Poland earlier in the year, we decided to join them.

Judy and I are going to Italy prior to our meeting with Jim and Diana and will be doing some sightseeing in Cremona, Venice, Milan and possibly other places.  We'll see what we decide as the days unfold.

9/16/2015 and 9/17/2015 We're off.  "All our bags are packed and we're ready to go," to paraphrase John Denver (Leaving on a Jet Plane).

The limo arrived on time and our trip to the airport was without any problems.

However, when we went to check in, we found that the flight was delayed about two hours because the aircraft would be late arriving at LAX.  This was not a problem for us because we had a long layover in Dusseldorf before our flight to Milan.  The people at Air Berlin were very nice in handling the delay. Here's Judy at the counter as we were working with the Air Berlin agent.

We were able to wait in the OneWorld club for our flight, which was more comfortable then sitting at the gate.  Here's Judy preparing for our trip by studying some Italian.

The flight over was long - a bit over 10 hours - but we had lie-flat seats so we were able to get some sleep.  And that helped to pass the time. (It's now the next day, 9/17/2015)

But even under the best of conditions, it's a tiring flight.  Here's Judy when we arrived in Dusseldorf.

Air Berlin allowed us to wait in their lounge in Dusseldorf, which was nice because we had a three-hour layover before our flight to Milan.  That flight was only about an hour and was uneventful.

We arrived in Milan about 8pm local time, and were met by our driver Giulio Cipelletti, who took us to Cremona.  By this time it was about 16 hours since we had arrived at LAX, and at least 24 hours since we had started the day in Villa Park.

Judy and Giulio in Milan/Cremona.

The trip to Cremona took about an hour.  After checking into the hotel we decided to get something to eat before turning in.  We only wanted something light so we went to a gelato shop and had a late night gelato.

Jet lag interfered with our sleep and we were up early the next morning.

9/18/2015 The hotel had a nice breakfast - and a personable breakfast attendant.

Oue hotel, the Astoria, is situated in the old town of Cremona.  The streets are narrow and they are off-limits to auto traffic.  This is the street in front of the hotel

You may be wondering, "Why Cremona?".  Before I go any further, let me say a few things about Cremona.

Cremona is where modern stringed instruments, especially the violin, were first made.   The predecessor of the violin was probably developed by the Arabs and came to Italy in the 16th century.  There, the Stradivari, Guerneri and Amati families developed the violin into (mostly) what we know today.  Since that time, the violin has spread to all parts of the world.

Since Judy plays the cello professionally, going to Cremona was like making a pilgrimage back to where it all began.  We began by walking around the city, including the Stradivari plaza where you see this statue of Antonio Stradivari. 

We visited the Piazza del Commune which has the Cattedrale di Cremona on one side and the city hall on the other side.  Here's the cathedral.

The city hall and a restaurant.

Judy wanted to visit some of the violin and cello makers in Cremona.  We first visited Bruce Carlson, an American who trained in Cremona, then went back to the United States to work for a while, and then returned to Cremona and started his own business doing restoration and production of new instruments.

Note his left hand in the next picture - he had a jointer accident shortly before we arrived.  I cringed when he told us.  As a woodworker myself, that's too close to home.  He assured us that the stiches would be removed the next day, and no other damage had been done. 

He was very welcoming to us, spending quite a bit of time talking about instrument making in Cremona and answering my woodworking questions.

Next we went to a maker who specializes in cellos - Russ Edgar.  Russ was also very kind to us and spent quite a bit of time with us.  Judy played a couple of his cellos and one or two of other makers which he had in the shop.  Sorry, no pictures.

I was interested in the tools used to make stringed instruments, so we visited Cremona Tools which supplies the makers in Cremona.  Although I love browsing tool stores, I didn't buy any tools to take home.

The big event of the day was dinner at Dal Pescatore Restaurant in a small town outside of Cremona.  My cousin Phil, who lives in New Orleans, recommended the restaurant to us, and since it was so near we had to try it. (Reservations were made well in advance).

The restaurant has been run by the Santini family continuously since the 1920's.  We had their Menu d'Estate, eight courses selected by the family.  Each course was small but contained many different flavors and textures that required time to appreciate.  We arrived at the restaurant about 7:30 in the evening and did not leave until about 11.

Here's the entrance to the restaurant.

Judy and me at our table.

Three members of the Santini family posed with us at the completion of the meal.  From left to tight, Alberto Santini, Nadia Santini (who is the chef), Judy, me, and Antonio Santini.  Judy is holding a copy of their menu, which was signed by each person in the photo, and presented to us.  It was a stunning evening. 

We took a taxi back to the hotel and collapsed into bed.  

 

Our trip continues here.