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2011/09/29 2nd Coworker Organized Track Day at Thunderhill
π 2011-09-29 00:00 in Cars
This was the day that wasn't meant to be more than once. First, I had gotten sick with a pretty bad cold and it didn't look like I was going to recover in time, then there wsa the issue of my car that was still being worked on since last track day (among other things, it had a cylinder 5 misfire which they couldn't figure out).
I wasn't quite sure if I'd be recovered enough from my cold that day, or rested enough, but in the end, against all odds, Ferrari SF fixed my engine that morning, shipped the car to Los Gatos where they put the last pieces together, and a coworker nicely drove it to TH that night. The next morning, I was feeling well enough (with a little help of caffeine) to fly to TH and do the track day.

My first student was a first timer, and hadn't quite grasped the fact that you had to brake before turns. I saw several turns where I felt "you're not going to make it", and sure enough he braked way too late and we were only saved by the traction control :)
My personal laps were ok, but not stellar, my new tires are just not worth the money and hassle, as my times have gone down despite better brakes and more consistent driving from me (best times were around 2:10 when I've done 2:08 before).


another coworker took his 360
another coworker took his 360

and Andy's 430
and Andy's 430


The more fun part was at the end of the day when I coached Hugo in his borrowed 458, and was able to give him the one tip that unlocked more than 10 seconds per lap in the one session we did together: if your foot is not already on the gas by the turn cone, you braked too late and you'll be slower. That was easy for me since were driving pretty similar cars, and he became so much faster when applying this. At the same time, I was very impressed how we got down to 2:14 in just a few laps and he was driving the car in street mode and automatic mode (i.e. the car was doing gear shifts). The computer in that car is pretty impressive.

I then got to drive the 458 for the last session, and while I had already driven them on the track, I was just so wanting to know what lap time I'd do in it at TH. I started in the 2:09-2:08 range with traction control on street, and 2:05 (best of 3 laps) with traction control in race mode. I'm pretty sure I could have gone down to 2:04 or 2:03, especially with fresher tires. This is to say that the new car does a lot better than mine (5-6 seconds faster a lap, which is huge). Oh well...

It was fun, great times were had, especially for a day that I never thought would actually happen. Thanks Attila, Marcin, Dave, and everyone else!

Here's my session in the 458 (sorry, filming from inside works better in my car since it's convertible):

I had a coworker try to follow me (I didn't know at the time), and once I went from street mode to race mode, he couldn't keep up anymore, even though he was quite fast :)

To compare, that's a session in my 430:

2011/09/17 End of our Visit in Italy Days 18-20: Rome
π 2011-09-17 00:00 in Italy2011, Trips
After Pompei and Herculaneum, we ended our Italy tour with 3 days in Rome, which was barely enough (a bit like Paris in 3 days), but we got to see the highlights.

We started with the Colliseum, Palatine Hill, and the Forum, which took a good part of the first day. I booked the fancy tour of Cooliseum, including underground and the 3rd floor others can't get to. Thanks to the Roma Pass we bought at the train station the previous evening, we didn't have to stand in the super long line to get to Colliseum. Yeah!







the underground was used for staging performers or slaves, and they had platforms that could be elevated to the stage level
the underground was used for staging performers or slaves, and they had platforms that could be elevated to the stage level



From the end of that tour, we got some great views from the 3rd floor, including Palatine Hill, which we went to visit next:



bottom of the arch was quite fancier than the Paris Arc du Triomphe
bottom of the arch was quite fancier than the Paris Arc du Triomphe










Next, we went took the Victor Emmanuel II sky elevator for some more great pictures:










And I finished at Capitoline Museum while Jennifer rest and enjoyed the concert that was happening there:










This was a pretty packed day. The next morning we started with the Borghese Gallery where I had morning reservations. Unfortunately it was a no pictures zone and it looked like they were actually serious about it, so I played along and just once didn't take any pictures. Pitty though because it was very pretty. We also visited the park it was in.



Next, we went to the Spanish steps, and a nearby church:




Next, was Castel Sant' Angelo, from which we got great surrounding views, including the nearby Vatican, as well as the passeto/corridor from the Vatican 's St Peter's to Castel Sant' Angelo:



this is the passeto/corridor from the Vatican's St Peter's to Castel Sant' Angelo
this is the passeto/corridor from the Vatican's St Peter's to Castel Sant' Angelo

St Peter's Cathedral
St Peter's Cathedral






After that we went to the Priscilla catacombs, which likely was my only bad call. We had to wait almost an hour for our tour, no pictures were allowed, and all we got to see where a few tunnels with no bones or skulls, because that would be disrespectful. Go see the catacombs in Paris, those are much more interesting.
This left us with just enough time to go to the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi by Bernini and the plaza it's in, and we finished by the nearby Pantheon which we only got to go inside the next day:



The 3rd and last day was a monday, which meant no museums for the most part, but a good time to go see the Vatican. I had reservations for that too, but I upgraded that for a guided tour when we got there.

The special Vatican Guards
The special Vatican Guards




The tour guide showed us a better picture of what we would see in the Sistine Chapel on pictures easier to see than the actual dome:



And we then went for the tour. The art collection and wall/ceiling paintings is just amazing:








nice floor :)
nice floor :)



fantastic ceilings
fantastic ceilings

it does beat versailles
it does beat versailles

old maps
old maps




more nice ceilings
more nice ceilings






and then more random art:


Who knew James Hodges was displayed in the Vatican? :)
Who knew James Hodges was displayed in the Vatican? :)

After that, we finally got to the Sistine Chapel, another 'no pictures' zone (well no one seemed to care)






and we went for another loop around to see the rest of the art:







And the 2nd time around we took the 'secret' exit bypass to St Peter's Cathedral:









Unfortunately, part of St Peter's closed earlier than they were supposed to, so we didn't get to see all of it, but oh well. We finished the tour by going through St Peter's Square and then we walked all the way to the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi plaza, and then to the Pantheon before it closed this time:













And that was it, this time for real, our time in Rome, and in turn Italy, was over. Even if we had 18 days on the ground, we sure saw a lot for that amount of time.

I hadn't done a lot of research on Italy before preparing for the trip, and I have to say that I was very positively impressed by Italy. We really saw a lot of cool stuff, the best cathedrals in the world, and fantastic combined history that I'm not sure other European countries still have.

2011/09/16 Visiting Italy Day 15: Pompei and Herculaneum
π 2011-09-16 00:00 in Italy2011, Trips
We got an almost ok night in the sleeping car of the slow train that took us from Cinque Terre to Naples. After what we read on Naples, I opted not skip it since we had limited time and it was still not a super safe town. So, we went from the train directly to the local train that took us to Pompei.

Pompei was a great visit, it is pretty cool to see it in person. Thinking that you're walking on roman land from 2000+ years ago.



















whorehouse :)
whorehouse :)







After Pompei, we took a train back to Herculaneum, which is quite different since it's in the middle of a neighborhood:













This was a really interesting day. It felt quite humbling to be in the middle civilization from two millenia ago. We then had just enough time to catch an early train to Rome, for our last stop in Italy (and despite having virtually no Italian, managed to talk ourselves onto an earlier and faster train to Rome. It's just like France, everything is negotiable after talking to the right person and saying the right things :)

2011/09/13 Visiting Italy Day 12: Pisa
π 2011-09-13 00:00 in Italy2011, Trips
The next morning from 2.4 days in Florence, we had reservations for climbing the leaning tower, so we took an early train to get there.
We walked across town from the train station, and the town is indeed an uneventful little town that happens to mostly get traffic of people going to the field of dreams and the leaning tower.



gelato, pour moi? :)
gelato, pour moi? :)

And we got there:


this is the most leaning angle, not bad :)
this is the most leaning angle, not bad :)

the marble stairs actually caved under the weight of all the tourists
the marble stairs actually caved under the weight of all the tourists


nice church and baptistery
nice church and baptistery


the field of dreams is enclaved inside a wall
the field of dreams is enclaved inside a wall



The baptistery is gorgeous and had the great property of echoing sound for up to 10 seconds, allowing for multi harmonies from a single voice, very cool.



We also went to see the cemetary, with very old ruins and wall painting left from roman times:




The church itself is also extremely nice:







And before leaving, a few obligatory pictures:



Pisa isn't worth a lot more than half a day, but I'm happy we didn't skip it.

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2011/09/13 Visiting Italy Day 13-14: Riomaggiore and Cinque Terre
π 2011-09-13 00:00 in Italy2011, Trips
After being done with Pisa, we took a train to La Spezia and connected to Cinque Terre's Riomaggiore where we had a room for a couple of nights. They have 5 nice little towns connected with hiking trails and stunning views of the coast, ocean, towns, while going through wineries. Doesn't get better than that :)

Maps:



The first day, we had enough time for a quick look and getting dinner to eat by our patio:



taking the luggage up was fun :)
taking the luggage up was fun :)


The next morning, we went for the hike going to Manarola (town #2)






In Manarola, because the hiking trail connecting to the next town was damaged, we took a bus up the hill to a local winery, which of course made Jennifer happy :)







And from there, we hiked to Corniglia (town #3) through some nice trails and across wineries. Due to the lower route being damaged by a slide, we got to take the scenic high route:






View of Corniglia from the top
View of Corniglia from the top










Eventually, we arrived to town #3: Corniglia and we finished the hike by taking the trail to Vernazza:






Vernazza
Vernazza

We didn't finish the ride to Monterosso because the last bit of trail was said to be very rugged towards Monterosso and Jennifer had already done a great job hiking all the way there with a bad ankle (which we foudn out later will need surgery). That said, it was more than enough hiking and scenery for the first day.

back for a sunset
back for a sunset


The next morning, we took the Ferry to Monterosso, town #5, and visitted it as well as enjoyed the beach. We then worked our way back up from there by train.

Departing Riomaggiore
Departing Riomaggiore


Down to the boat dock
Down to the boat dock





Via dell' Amore
Via dell' Amore


Arriving in Monterosso
Arriving in Monterosso




Second half of Monterosso, with the beaches, we took the scenic/high route there
Second half of Monterosso, with the beaches, we took the scenic/high route there




After we were done with Monterosso, we took the train back to Vernazza (town #4) which we went through a bit too quickly the first day.



Vernazza seen from the tower
Vernazza seen from the tower

After some nice views around Vernazza, we took the train back to Manarola (town #2) which we also went through too quickly the first day. We hiked around for some nice views (we weren't able to hike the bottom part of it since the trail was damaged in that direction, so we had taken a bus back to the winery higher up and hiked from there).


nice view of Manarola
nice view of Manarola


And from there, we took a nice sunset walk back down Via dell' Amore to Riomaggiore:







After a dinner, we had some adventure where we took a train North in the wrong direction so that we could catch the train going South to Naples before 01:00 so that we'd be allowed to enter the sleeping car and sleep while being taken down to Napples for a visit of Pompei and Herculeum.

2011/09/10 Visiting Italy Day 9-11: Florence
π 2011-09-10 00:00 in Italy2011, Trips
We were actually done early in Venice on the 9th day, but getting a train to Florence was actually more challenging than we thought. We couldn't get on the next one, the following one was also full, and I had to buy a ticket for 2 trains later. Thankfully I was able to negotiate with the train conductor and get us on an an earlier train with the wrong ticket.
This got us to Florence later than planned (checked in the hotel at 15:00) but just in time to hit a few museums that day before everything started closing. Actually we did really good because we saw 3 museums, that day thanks to one that closed late, and one that was open at night that day: Bargello before they closed at 17:00, then Pitti Palace and Palatine Gallery, plus the gardens before they closed at 18:50, and then a night visit of Palazzo Vecchio.








We then crossed the bridge south to Palazzo Pitti and its beautiful galleries and Boboli Gardens:














After dinner, we went back across to Palazzo Vecchio, which was open during night hours. It wasn't first on the list of museums to see, but we had the Firenze card that gave us access to all museums, and we figured, why not? It was good for a quick tour before going back to the hotel to get some sleep:





and we swung by the cathedral for a few night pictures:


That was a very full half day, but it made sense because we arrived on a saturday afternoon, and most museums were going to close on monday, so we only had a day and a half to see most of the museums (and there were plenty).

The next morning we went to the famous Accademia that hosts a lot of sculptures, including Michelangelo's David.




We then went toward the Galileo Museum on the way to Uffizi:






And finally made it to Uffizi to see their famous paintings:




And after a dinner we went up the last floor of Palazzo Vecchio for night pictures:





The following morning, Monday, our last day in Florence, we went to see more churches that were not available for visiting on sunday, but were good on monday when most museums were closed.
We started with the Medici Chapel Museum:



Next, we got a guided tour of beautiful Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, which allowed us to bypass the horrendous line to get to the top.
















narrow stairs to the top
narrow stairs to the top

Once at the top, we had some great 360 degree views:






then the fun stairs down
then the fun stairs down

After that, we went to the nearby museum of the church:







The nearby baptisery:







The Brandici Chappel:



And we finished the day by walking up to Piazzale Michelangelo for a nice view of the city:









Florence was a beautiful city. Seeing it in 2.4 days was a bit compressed (a lot of things in not a lot of time), but it worked out quite well.

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2011/09/06 Visit of Pagani Factory
π 2011-09-06 00:00 in Cars
The next morning, on our way out of Maranello and Modena, I had made an appointment at the Pagani Factory. It was by far the smallest of the 3 of course, they hand build a few cars every year (to this date, only about 120 Zondas have been built, they take 9 months each, many parts each relying on a single person to get done).

They don't officially do tours, but I was able to get one through some sheer luck and asking. The receptionist (who is actually much more than that, she probably had 5 jobs combined and was a jack of all trades), gave us a very nice 1H presentation and history of the company, and backstage tour.

On top of obviously being cars with impressive performance, admittedly the fastest barely road legal car out there (around a track that is, it's not built for ultimate speed in a straight line), and they do have stunning looks, especially the blue titanium lined carbon fibre body.

nice reception, of course, it's better just behind you :)
nice reception, of course, it's better just behind you :)





blue and gold does it for me.
blue and gold does it for me.



the lining is a beautiful work of art
the lining is a beautiful work of art



the track only nurburing champion car
the track only nurburing champion car

it means business :)
it means business :)


grr!
grr!

We caught a car outside, going for a test drive. It was idling outside with no one inside. Soooo tempting ;-)



Inside, we got to see how they were making their unique titanium laced carbon fibre. It is super strong and the entire frame of the car only weighs 200kg. That's super light for a car that size (it is no elise in size, even if it also only takes 2 people).

This was an awesome way to finish our visit of the area before leaving Bologna.

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2011/09/06 Visiting Italy Day 5-9: Venice
π 2011-09-06 00:00 in Italy2011, Trips
We arrived in Venice a little late the first day due to a strike from public workers, but thankfully Italy added a law that prevented them from striking during rush hours, so we were able to get a train after 17:00 from Bologna, and get to Venice.

We had a few hours of daylight after arriving:

Getting to Venice was quick with 300kph trains like in France
Getting to Venice was quick with 300kph trains like in France

Fresh off the train, to the Vaporetto to Piazza St Marco close to where our condo was
Fresh off the train, to the Vaporetto to Piazza St Marco close to where our condo was

There we are
There we are



The next morning, we went out for sighseeing and started with Piazza San Marco and its beautiful Basillica:



one of many many churches
one of many many churches


Venice has lots of small plazas
Venice has lots of small plazas

Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco

Basillica Di San Marco
Basillica Di San Marco















Across the Plazza, we started with the less busy Correr Museum before Doge's Palace which we did the next day





Then, we went up the Campanile (clock tower) for a nice panoramic view:

Doge's Palace
Doge's Palace









For the rest of the day, we went to see the Accademia Gallery:


from a random art museum
from a random art museum








view from Accademia Bridge
view from Accademia Bridge



The following morning, we went back to Piazza San Marco to see Doge's Palace with the Bridge of Sighs that yields to the underground prison across the canal:





crossing the bridge on the way to their cell, prisonners got a last view of venice, and Sighed
crossing the bridge on the way to their cell, prisonners got a last view of venice, and Sighed



From there, we went towards the huge Frari Church past the Rialto bridge.



Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge




Frari Church
Frari Church





time for a little wine and snacks
time for a little wine and snacks



nice house :)
nice house :)


The next morning, we went to another random church and the market by Rialto Bridge, and headed towards the train station to take the full grand canal cruise with a front view:






I love those mini strawberries
I love those mini strawberries


DHL, delivering day and night :)
DHL, delivering day and night :)



It was weird to see streets and cars at the limit of Venice
It was weird to see streets and cars at the limit of Venice

Once we were at the first Vaporetto station, we ran in to score a couple of front seats to do the grand canal cruise as per the Rick Steve book (and its audiobook we had on our phones):





Rialto Bridge
Rialto Bridge


there are only a few seats in the front of a Vaporetto
there are only a few seats in the front of a Vaporetto





Gondolla traffic jam
Gondolla traffic jam

At the end, we hopped off at a random art museum and the nearby Church




Eisher would be proud :)
Eisher would be proud :)

Nice view of Piazza San Marco
Nice view of Piazza San Marco

Once we were back, we took another Ferry to Murano (glass blowing) and Burano (nice colored houses and lace-making). We went to Murano first, and checked out some glass blowing places and a local museum on glass:







how the hell do you get a horse off a blog of glass?
how the hell do you get a horse off a blog of glass?




Then, we went to Burano:









And it was time to head back for the main island and the church of San Giorgio Maggiore and the great view from its top:

cool 'boat' :)
cool 'boat' :)








Doge Palace again
Doge Palace again




After that, we were pretty much done with what we wanted to see, outside of a Gondola Ride on the todo list. The next and last morning, we went for that, and here are a few random picture:

moving equipment from boats looks interesting...
moving equipment from boats looks interesting...



not so good for the first floor...
not so good for the first floor...


high waters that day
high waters that day





almost looks like rush hour :)
almost looks like rush hour :)

And just like this, it was time to move to our next city, Florence. We're lucky because 4 nights in Venice turned out being just right for seeing everything.

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2011/09/05 Morning Visit of Lamborghini Museum n Factory
π 2011-09-05 00:00 in Cars
Planning the car factory part of our Italy tour took a while. Lining up a visit of the local factories and museums was challenging, especially when the Italian labour force decided to have a strike on the second day, which caused the Lamborghini Factory to close (but not the other 2), and a bunch of trains to be cancelled.

Anyway, after arriving bright and early in Bologna and picking our rental car (it's a slightly longer drive than Maranello, but there are many more fast trains going to Bologna, so it was actually faster stopping there and getting a rental car).

The bull bar across the street is where the engineers eat and where you can rent cars for a fun drive.


We started with the factory tour, which was a bit rushed (busy day), but still quite interesting. The factory actually wasn't that big (I was surprised to see how much smaller Lamborghini was compared to Ferrari, the difference wasn't even funny). I did like the part where since they don't have their own racetrack, they just test drive their cars in the neighbouring streets with the police turning a blind eye of course, since it is Italy :)

I was nice to see a smaller factory though because you got to see the entire line, including the people who were processing cow leather, and trying to fit all the parts necessary for each car around the imperfections in each leather piece (10 cows for a car by the way).
They had two assembly lines, one for their "cheaper car", and one for the newer 700HP aventador. The newer car is actually sitting on a plate that is moved in the line using magnetic induction. They can get 3 cars out per day with 3 days for a car from beginning to end (not bad).

We then visited the fairly complete museum they have, nice collector pieces there.





this would fit nicely as a drop-in in a prelude, right? :)
this would fit nicely as a drop-in in a prelude, right? :)

3.5: 710HP V12 from 1991, impressive power for then
3.5: 710HP V12 from 1991, impressive power for then


sucks when you get that one in your rear view mirror :)
sucks when you get that one in your rear view mirror :)

that makes a nice wall ornament :)
that makes a nice wall ornament :)


they had some rare cars
they had some rare cars












I feel inadequate with my 300s when they have 335s :)
I feel inadequate with my 300s when they have 335s :)


It was a nice visit, plenty of supercar p0rn and rare models that I never got to see elsewhere.

2011/09/05 Visit of Ferrari Museum n Fact
π 2011-09-05 00:00 in Cars
After the Lamborghini Factory, we headed to Maranello aka Ferrari-town. Boy, what a contrast it is in size. Ferrari is not a building down some road like Lamborghini, it is almost an entire town (at least city blocks' worth).


nice company car :)
nice company car :)



The factory is not a couple of buildings, it's an entire city block. Then you have the store, the museum, and let's not forget the entire racetrack, and nearby racecar handling buildings and race team with huge semis that can take your very own racecar and crew anywhere you'd like to go (for a few dollars that is :)


Several places next to the museum rented ferraris for short drives:





We then went to the museum to sign in for and wait for our tours:



All the ferrari staff wears work uniforms, red for builders and white for engineers
All the ferrari staff wears work uniforms, red for builders and white for engineers


Ferrari cafe has lambrusco you can buy
Ferrari cafe has lambrusco you can buy

We were lucky to get a long tour of the Ferrari factory (something otherwise not open to the public), and while it was as thorough a tour as they could give us, I feel like there was so much we didn't see (including the then secret 458 spyder), merely because of how big the factory is. Of course, they have to weigh how much they can show us vs not losing company trade secrets.

We started by a guided tour of the museum:





the 458 has a beautiful mean look :)
the 458 has a beautiful mean look :)











Interesting factoids I learned at the factory: workers all wear the same red uniform and the engineers wear white. Each car is made on its own building/floor. Contrary to Lamborghini, you can only chose from a few approved colors (Lamborghini will paint it pink or hello kitty if you pay for it :).
I saw engine pieces being fit together with a robot that dipped metal pieces in liquid nitrogen to shrink them just a bit so that they fit nicely without a hammer :)

Once the long tour was over, we saw the race team and a lap of their track, of which I got a lap but unfortunately in a van that I wasn't driving :)





I want to get paid to do donuts on their skidpad :)
I want to get paid to do donuts on their skidpad :)

It was a busy day and a great visit.

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2011/09/05 Visiting Italy Day 4-5: Bologna, Modena, and Maranello
π 2011-09-05 00:00 in Italy2011, Trips
It was difficult for me to go across Italy without stopping at the Lamborghini and Ferrari factories by Modena and Maranello (and went to see Pagani while I was at it). Jennife was a good sport and tagged along :)

So, after seeing Milan, we took a fast train to Bologna and I have a different page on the supercar factories and museums.



However, Maranello and Modena had plenty of other things to see. Thanks to the fantastic folks from Hotel Locanda del Mulino who set us up with a visit of Parmigino Parmesan Factory, Da Clara Balsamic Vinegar, and the Castle Rocca Di Vignola.

On the 2nd day, after seeing car factories all day, we started the with a thorough visit of the Parmigino Parmesan Factory, and learned everything about how they make Parmesan from milk:








impressive!
impressive!

We then got a tour of the very small Da Clara Balsamic Vinegar producer. Vinegar is moved to every smaller containers when it becomes denser:





and since we still had some time left, we went to see Castle Rocca Di Vignola:





2011/09/04 Visiting Italy Day 3: Milan
π 2011-09-04 00:00 in Italy2011, Trips
We spent our 3rd day in Milan. One day was barely enough, but we got to see most of the sights, starting with the very impressive Duomo di Milano which roof you can climb to and visit:














the crypt
the crypt


We then went around a bit, and saw the Teatro Alla Scala:







and since the weather turned to worse after that, we saw the Da Vinci Museum:



the last supper
the last supper








and we finished the day to visit the main pedestrian shopping street and Castello Sforzesco:








and we grabbed a night picture of the Duomo:


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2011/09/02 Visiting Italy Day 1 and 2: Lake Como: Bellagio, Varenna, Lenno
π 2011-09-02 00:00 in Italy2011, Trips
As soon as we arrived, we got our "grand" rental car, I used my old trusty garmin and tried offline routing with navdroyd, and it got us there :)


just to be safe, I used double routing :)
just to be safe, I used double routing :)




After a pretty drive next to the lake, we got to the panoramic hotel I found. It wsa not walking distance from downtown (but ok since we had a car), and it had a fantastic view.

nice view from our hotel room :)
nice view from our hotel room :)



After checking in, we drove down to a parking lot (easier said than done) and walked to downtown, where we grabbed a boat to Varenna. We grabbed some lunch and hiked to the top castle.





it was more than time for lunch
it was more than time for lunch

yum...
yum...












We then went back to Bellagio for more touring, and had dinner by a nice vista point:






The next morning, we had a nice breakfast on the "porch" :) and we took a Ferry to go to Villa Balbianello:












After lunch, we headed back to Bellagio for some hiking around the top of the island (it unfortunately was not that great a trail with so-so views compared to the trail length and difficulty in places.







When we were done, we drove back to Milan where we spent the night.


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