Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A whirlwind trip to Austria, Italy, and probably Switzerland, part 4

Yesterday morning, we got up, again our joints creaky from the mattress and our increasing ages.  We packed up all our stuff and put it in the car.  I was excited about the prospect of visiting Italy again.  Our last visit was in May 2013.  We flew to Venice, then took a train to Florence and Rome before we picked up a weeklong SeaDream cruise in Civitavecchia.

The visit before that one occurred in July 2009, when Bill, his mom, and I literally got stuck in Italy.  I had published the story on two different Web sites that have since gone *poof* or I would link to the story.  Long story short, Bill and I decided to take his mom on a whirlwind trip through five countries.  We ended up getting stuck in Italy after a summer storm flooded the autostrada near Lake Como.  We did manage to get out, but not before we spent the whole night trying to find an opening to the Swiss border.  It was a bit of a disaster.  We still talk about it a lot, though...  It's not often that you can see Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Italy in less than 24 hours.  And on the way home, we went through France and had lunch, just so my mother-in-law could say she'd been there, too.

I think it's safe to say that we like to travel by the seat of our pants.  So I was definitely ready to venture back to Italy and see this place called Vicenza, which I have heard so very much about.  Bill has a conference all week, so I pictured myself wandering around the city and making discoveries.  But first, we needed to stop by the Spar again.  I needed toiletries.

I picked up some toothpaste, lotion, and conditioner and we went to the checkout.  A strikingly pretty and surprisingly chipper young lady with dark brown hair and big expressive eyes was working the register.  We didn't even have to open our mouths before she switched to English, with an apology, no less!  She asked if we were British people on holiday.  We said no, we came from Germany...  Then added that we are Americans.  She smiled, displaying two rows of perfect white teeth and said, "Oh, so you're Americans who live in Germany and have come on holiday to Seefeld?"

"Yes." I said...  That about summed it up, alright.  She wished us a pleasant day as we gathered my toiletries and headed for the door.

Just as Bill was about to climb into the RAV4, he realized that he had forgotten to turn in the hotel key.  He went back to the lobby, where the hotel owner had just arrived.  In German, he said he'd forgotten to give back the key.  The two snickering ladies who had been making fun of us for two days suddenly realized that Bill spoke some German.  I wasn't there to see it, but Bill said their eyes got big and mouths dropped open in shock.  It was probably a fine Kodak moment.  All told, our two nights at Hotel Diana, including beer bath, two bottles of wine, and half board, came to about $450.

We got on the road and I entertained myself taking lots of pictures of the beautiful scenery.  As I mentioned before, Seefeld is up in the Alps, making it great for those who wish to ski.  However, good brakes are an absolute must because they will be taxed coming down the mountain.  There are many emergency escapes on the way down that are no doubt there because people have died or been hurt by brake failures.  I would not want to try driving up there in snowy or icy conditions, though I know people do it.  I can't even imagine what it must be like for truck drivers bringing goods to the two Spars in Seefeld.  Must be a nightmare in the winter!  Anyway, the following pictures were taken on the way down.








One of the more obvious emergency pull offs...



Innsbruck in the distance.


I had to take a photo of this WC.  Back in 2009, I took a couple of tours through Edelweiss Lodge.  One was to Innsbruck and Crystal World and the other was to Bolzano and Vipiteno.  I see they have changed up some of the tours since then.  Anyway, we did stop at the rest area and I did use the bathroom with the big sign.  It was closed yesterday.  I noticed a sign in the restaurant next to it that read that anyone not eating or drinking has to pay 50 cents to pee.  

The area around the rest stop is absolutely stunning.  The mountains are very dramatic and gorgeous. But they do get you with a nine euro toll...



Italian border.


We stopped a little ways into Italy so I could have a pee break and we could both enjoy a cappuccino.  Sud Tyrol is as lovely as its Austrian neighbor.  And I was very impressed to see what was being sold in the convenience store.  There was bacon, ham, wines from the region, and cheeses.  I didn't see any of the usual crap sold in truck stops/convenience stores.  I did get a kick out of the old guy who was collecting money for the freezing cold toilet.  Bill said he even patted him on the back because he managed to get the hand dryer working without assistance.

About an hour or so later, we decided to stop for lunch.  We were in a little town called Avia.  To get to the town, we had to go through a tunnel which allowed traffic to go one way at a time.


We were stuck behind this guy, who waved to a couple of folks passing by.  I figure he probably knows everyone in the town.

We had lunch at a trattoria called Statzione.  It was located right by the train station, hence the name.  We walked into the place and it was clear that it was full of locals.  Everybody stared as we took a seat in the corner.  It turned out it was one of those places where they serve a special and a couple of other choices.


Bill ordered a half liter of house wine... and a bottle of sparkling water.  The wine came in the pretty carafe.


Bill looks handsome as heck.  


I had a plate of penne pasta with bacon cream sauce (hello arteries) and Bill had penne pasta with cheese sauce, kind of like Alfredo...  We could have also had salad, but opted not to.  The cost for lunch was just 18 euros!  Cheap!


I couldn't resist taking a picture of the colorful toilet seat in the ladies room.  The men's room also had one.


A shot of the outside of the trattoria.

We got back on the road and headed further south.  From Austria to Avia, we paid 13 euros in tolls.  We got another ticket for the rest of the way, making only one last pee stop at an Autogrill.  It was free to pee, but they made you walk the gauntlet past all the shit they were selling.  Everything from wine, to chocolates, to dehydrated mushrooms!  I didn't mind, though.  In fact, I was a little tempted.

We arrived at Hotel Victoria in the mid afternoon.  I had already read some disturbing reports about this hotel.  Now that I've been here a night, I see it's basically a big PCS hotel... the kind of place where Americans stay while settling in Vicenza.  It's not far from the US installation.  Still, it's not the kind of place I would have booked.  We are here because it's convenient and what Bill's work will pay for.   


This picture is over our bed.

The furnishings are dated and a bit depressing, but the hotel has a self service laundry, a nice restaurant with good food, decent breakfast which is included and, in the summer, there's a big pool with lifeguards.  More on this in the next post...








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