Greece/Italy OdysseyAuthor: Monte K.
Date of Trip: October 2006
Our Greece/Lake Como/Venice trip was a bit of a compromise. We initially wanted to charter a yacht and take a cruise through the Greek Isles, a long time fantasy of mine. Unfortunately, it was not to be. We decided to visit our friends on the island of Tinos then go on to Milan, Lake Como and Venice. Mid September was the only time slot available to both couples.
We took the Delta night flight from JFK and arrived in Athens the following AM. We had previously stayed at the Athens Hilton and we were familiar with the Club floor, so we decided to try it again. We found the hotel has been completely refurbished, and they did a great job. The staff is still well trained and quite attentive to our needs and wants. The room was large, airy and overlooked the city.
The only criticism we had was regarding the "club". The last time the club was essentially the equivalent of any private club. It was a very comfortable place to have a drink and a few dozen munchies. In fact on our last trip, I became ill and the hostess went out to a local pharmacy and brought back some medicine for me. Tough to beat that. This time around it was skimpy. Hostess was not quite up to the same standard, but not bad either. The fare was only mediocre, instead of excellent as had been previously. On a scale of 1-10...probably a 6.5 now as opposed to a 9.5 on our previous trip. Still worth the extra price.
We had only one night in Athens and dined at an unknown restaurant in the "Prada" so called. It was outdoors and lovely. All the food in all the restaurants at the Prada is similar...almost like it has been prepared in the same kitchen. Who knows, maybe it was. In any event it was lovely.
Next AM we were off on our journey to the lovely Island of Tinos. We took the fast ferry on a windy day. Probably, here in the states, small craft warnings would be up and the service would be curtailed...not there, it was business as usual...bumpy on the water, but nevertheless, fun. Tinos is lovely. Our friends' home is sensational, overlooking the Mediterranean. We dined outdoors every night, sometimes at home often in local restaurants which were superb...Be forewarned...NO CREDIT CARDS accepted in any of the restaurants on Tinos. Cash only.
More fun was lunch, daily at a different location, either at a beautiful vacant beach; alongside a lovely fishing village; hidden in an old village. It was very informal and truly fun, fun fun. An excursion, by fast ferry to Mykonos, which we had done before, was again, a great adventure, especially for the women seeking bargains...there were none. Lunch at a harborside cafe,although touristy in Mykonos, was fun for the men. Something about Greek women walking along the beach.
Our next stop was Milan and then on to Lake Como. We made arrangements to be picked up at the Milan airport and driven up to our hotel. It was one of our better ideas. We were all tired after the trip from Tinos to Athens to Milan and were able to relax in the luxury of the Mercedes van for the hour and a half trip up to the lake. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo is truly grand. The grounds are beautiful and expertly manicured. We had given thought to staying at the world renowned Villa d'este down the road and were even booked there. After reading some recent critical reviews, we cancelled our reservation and went instead to the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, and we have no regrets. The staff is well trained, attentive, English speaking and more importantly, they do little things to show they really care, something we see very little of here in the U.S.
Restaurants at Como were beautiful, but mediocre at best. The most beautiful restaurant was high on a hill overlooking the lake, called Veluu. It was out of a fairy tale until the bill arrived and we saw that they had made several "mistakes"...all in their favor. When we questioned them,the owner admitted that he charged us more than the menu prices. Left a very bad taste. The place was so beautiful, he didn't need to cheat. He could have legitimately charged the higher prices and there would have been no objection.
Another great restaurant was La Darcena, directly on the lake. Food was the best. We took the ferry everywhere. For 10 euros you have run of the lake. Every stop revealed new adventures. Lake Como is beautiful. We tried to see everything. Most memorable was the funicular ride in Como. What a neat adventure.
After 5 fun days it was on to Venice. Rather than take the train, we opted to hire a car and again, it was a great move. The driver spoke English and give us a tour of the countryside. We stopped for lunch in Verona which proved to be a not to be missed treat. Verona is Romeo and Juliet country and a trip to Juliet's balcony is a must. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a tourist trap...huge disappointment, but it was necessary to see.
On to Venice which proved to be exciting as predicted. We stayed at the San Clemente Palace on the Island of San Clemente, a 10 minute boat ride to St. Mark's square. Everything in Venice starts and ends at St. Mark's Square. It was mobbed, but, a mere two streets (canals) away, it was like a completely different city. Very attractive, fewer tourists, slower pace, a lovely square with a neat cafe in which to sit and drink wine and watch the world pass by. We became Venetians.
The Accademia is not to be missed. Unfortunately, the Guggenheim was closed, so the time allotted for it was devoted to cafe sitting and wine consumption and people watching...just as good. Biggest disappointment...bumper to bumper gondolas on most of the canals. It was a very busy time. The glass factory at Murano is a must. It is a bit overdone, but the works are exceptional and ask to be purchased and brought back home. The San Clemente Palace is luxurious. Staff is extremely well trained and professional. We all agreed we would return there in a heartbeat.
Alas, all good things must end and it was time to leave and how would one expect to get to the Venice airport...water taxi of course. We were able to get onto one of the 2 non stop flights per week from Venice to JFK. Saved hours for us. Trip was great...we would all do it again.
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