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Northern Italy Road Trip Part I

Author: Jim and Donna C. (More Trip Reviews by Jim and Donna C.)
Date of Trip: October 2010



The castle had ample living quarters, a dungeon with torture devices, fortress areas and when all else failed, miles and miles of caves within the mountain to build fortresses and/or escape.  We could see that there were easy areas through the caves where someone could get out and get food and water for the castle without anyone out front ever knowing. 

There were staircases that led up and up into the castle and then up and up into the caves.  On the way back down we found another room that was full of spirits (the drinking kind).  Donna tried the traditional Slovenian drink -- honey brandy.  Had to buy some, it was really good.  Outside the castle were a couple of gift shops where we picked up some Slovenia pins.   When we entered the castle we had our picture taken.  We bought the picture for six Euros.

On the way back to Venice, Donna spots a church steeple.  It was really cool - one of those with onion top steeples.  Jim found it.  Took our pictures and headed back down the road.  Seemed like a long drive back.   Driving so far, though, hasn't been too bad.

After unloading the car for the day, Jim realizes that one of his three wallets is missing.  A bit of explanation on the three wallets is due here.  Jim carries a small wallet for day use with a few Euros and a credit card in a zippered pocket.  He carries a second wallet attached with a light chain to the inside of his travel vest for the majority of our travel money and a different credit card.  The third wallet is a dummy wallet carried in his back pocket.  It is empty except for blank paper and fake credit cards received as promotions in the mail.  We also have money pouches and belts we wear under our clothing when necessary.  Sounds silly but unfortunately Europe is famous for pickpockets. 

We tore things apart, checked all coats and turned the car upside down.  It only had 60 Euros and one credit card in it.  If we can't find it by morning, we'll call the credit card to notify them.  Jim tried to call the castle to see if he left it there, but they were closed.

We wanted to do laundry before starting our road trip. Our hotel said that we could go to the Panorama Plaza down the street to do laundry.  We loaded up all the laundry and headed to the Panorama for dinner and washing.  It is Sunday...everything is closed.  Driving around we found a Chinese buffet that was opened.  We stopped there for dinner, not too bad.  Had no idea of how the place worked so we just followed a few folks through the line.

Back at the room Donna does some laundry in the sink and Jim catches up on the log.  Hopefully we can get somewhat of an early start tomorrow morning.

Monday, October 11, 2010 -- Clear and sunny

This is what Jim would call another DD (Donna Day).  I've been very fortunate to have great weather during most of my travels.  This morning is no exception.  We were hoping to have good weather, as we will be driving through the Dolomites (Italy's portion of the Alps) today.  Good news!  Jim found his slim wallet in the car!!  It had slid between the seats. Black wallet, black car interior, dusk...no wonder we couldn't find it yesterday.  Must have dropped it when getting money out for tolls.

We had our breakfast at the hotel.  Visited with a couple from the UK for a while.  We loaded up the car and hit the road about 0830.  We stopped at the Penny Mart (like our U.S. dollar store) and picked up some cheese, meat and we think crackers for lunch.  Funny, same type of people work at the Penny Mart as work at the Dollar stores at home...most not too friendly.  We topped off the gas in the car after Donna helped Jim open the gas cap, and we're off. Never did figure out what that second key is for on the key fob.  Oh well a mystery in the making and another adventure to be had.

It didn't take us long get to our first destination -- Cortina, which is at the foot of the Dolomites.  Beautiful drive.  We originally were going to spend the night in Cortina, but we blew straight through it.  We've been stopping to take pictures when we can, but there aren't many places to stop.  We usually hit a small village or ski resort town before we can stop.  It is such beautiful scenery! 

dolomites dolomite mountains italyThe Dolomites are tall, jutting, ragged mountains.  The lower parts are covered in pines and firs and a tree that looks like a fir, but is changing colors for fall.  Most of the time we saw splotches of colors, however, the higher we drove, the more splendid the color.  Eventually the mountainsides were bright yellow with splotches of green.  Little towns were scattered along the mountainsides and nestled in most of the valleys. 

We stopped at Valle di Cadore for lunch.  We found a little area with a bench on which to sit and have our lunch.  It overlooked the valley with some homes and a little church set up on a hill with the great Dolomites as a background.  After lunch I had to find a potty stop.  We found a place in the next “town” that had gelato store.  We've been getting our daily fix of gelato, so this worked well, and they had a WC.

Back on the road and heading for Bolzano.  We missed a couple of turns that our trusted Garmin GPS, Lola, was telling us about, but she kept us going.  I think we ended up driving through more of the Dolomites then we would have if we followed her original plan.  Jim hasn't lost his touch for driving a stick shift; he was working it hard today.  We kept going up and up and would start back down only to go back up and up again.  We were over 2000 meters up when we stopped at Padero Pass. 

We found a shop that had Passo di Padero pins.  We felt we deserved a couple pins after all the hair pin turns and being stuck behind a tour bus full of old folks that you could see were “white knuckling” it by grabbing the seat in front of them.  We had a good laugh at that.  Named it the “Bolzano Brace”.

After getting our pins we went next door and had a cappuccino and split a piece of apple strudel.  Everybody is getting ready for the winter season.  Snow markers are being set up along the road, shops are stocking up and chair lifts are being checked out.  Right now we have sunshine, cool weather and fall colors on the trees...absolutely gorgeous!! 

At this point we are only about 45 minutes from Austria.  Got to pick and choose what we see.  Can't do everything or go everywhere.  We are also only about one hour from Bolzano where we had planned to spend the night. 

About 1630 we decided that any hotel that looked good and would be fun to stay; we didn't have necessarily have to go to Bolzano.  We passed a few three star hotels (the number of stars are on their signs) that either didn't look like they were open, were under some type of construction, or we couldn't find the parking.  We ended up stopping at Hotel Savoy in Passo Carezza, about 15 miles from Bolzano.  It is a three star hotel, with HUGE rooms. 



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