Saturday, September 2, 2017

Europe - Day 11, From Mürren to Levanto

We got up at 5 am to be ready to meet our landlady and her husband on the porch at 6:30 am. They were kind to offer to take us and our luggage to the train station. As we were riding along, I was thinking two things:

1. There are very few cars in Mürren. And we get to ride in one! Not many people get to do that!

2. I am so glad they are driving us! Our little chalet is on the opposite side of the town and it was 33 degrees and raining. Lugging our stuff and ourselves all that way would not have been fun.

We rode the little rickety train to Grutschalp for the last time.

We saw this funny little train out the window. What in the world do they use that for?

This was the last time I would go through the process of leaving the Alps...train, cable car, train...and then train, train and one more train. The very second we left Switzerland and we entered Italy, my phone sprang back to life!

There were more differences between the Swiss and the Italians were immediately noticeable. The Italians don't have their train schedules listed out until a few minutes before the train arrives. So everyone stands about and watches the board until their destination finally lists a platform and then you run for it! I'm pretty certain the Swiss could tell me which platform I will need to be at a year from now.

This is the Milan train station. I love the glass ceiling. The green glass is so striking! Mom says it was built while Mussolini was in power.

Nine hours after we left the cold, snowy Alps, we arrived in Levanto and we set out of the station to find our hotel. This is one of the ones I picked, so of course, it was about a half mile away. That doesn't sound very far until you are dragging your luggage all that way over cobblestones.

 Thuh-thunk, thuh-thunk, thuh-thunk

New cobblestone pattern! Thunkity, thunkity, thunkity....

Sorry, Mom. I'm a rookie.

When we arrived at the spot where my phone said the hotel was supposed to be, we noticed that there wasn't anything like unto a hotel nearby. All we could see was a park and then a big stone wall that went up a hill and led away from the address we were looking for.

We stood there a little flabbergasted and then I spotted an open wrought-iron gate with a little sign:

Palazo Da Passano! We found it! Yeah! So we walked in.... and we couldn't quite figure out where the actual hotel was.

We found another gate and walked through that and around into a courtyard.

There was nobody about. Mom stayed in the courtyard while I followed these beautiful stairs up and went into the....back? I really had no idea what was going on. But I did recognize everything from pictures on the booking app. 

I went inside and couldn't find a soul. I couldn't even seem to find a front desk or a front door. I called out, "hello?" and opened a few doors, one of them revealed an empty shaft of some kind. It made a very dungeony sound when I closed it. I went out to mom and we wondered what to do.

Just then a smiley woman came hustling down the stairs to help us. She had heard me close the dungeon door and came to investigate. Her name was Inoka and she was so kind. She showed us to the "front desk" which was located behind a door with a '2' on it. ???

She gave us our keys and showed us to our beautiful room. It was light and sunny and had a balcony that looked out over the courtyard and we could access it from the outer stairs.

I love these old courtyard walls. I learned that this land was once the property of the Passano family. They held power in Levanto until 1226. It seems that the hotel and the all the neighbors homes are build within this old structure. See the pink stucco attached to the stone? 

Here are the keys. I love them.

One for our room and another for the iron gate to the courtyard. Someone had accidentally left that one open and that's how we got in without having to ring the "front desk". ha ha!

We were spending 2 days in Levanto, so we put our things in the closets and got our bearings....I couldn't help but take a photo of the "two toilets" for the kids. Now, I know this isn't a second toilet. But I truly have no idea how to use it. And the more I think about it, the less it makes sense to me. How in the world does the water make contact with your bottom. No...don't tell me. I'd rather not have that information.

In Switzerland, I discovered that the outlet adapter I brought wasn't the right one. Luckily, there were spares in the chalet. That wasn't the case here. So...I rigged this little contraption up. We got lucky and didn't start any actual fires.

We ventured out to explore Levanto and find some food. We crossed back through an outdoor stage area and a beautiful park. There was a whole group of young boys playing a pickup soccer game. Fun!

There were booths set up and people selling purses and books. We found a little place to eat (it had pictures of the food) and Mom ordered a delicious looking spaghetti. I chose vegetarian pizza because there were no English translations on the menu and I was afraid I would accidentally get something with fish on it. Fish is big here.

We grabbed some gelato on our way out and followed the sound of the waves. We soon found a public access area for the beach. At first it appeared that most of the beach was owned by various hotels and only the guests were allowed to use it. We eventually figured out that it was owned by people who rent you a beach chair and sell food. So it's still costs money, but anyone can pay

We were happy with our little patch of free beach.

We noticed that there were red stones scattered among the others. When we looked closer, we realized they are terracotta pieces from the street or rooftops that have ended up in the ocean and tumbled about until they are smooth and round. They made such a beautiful contrast to the grey.

We headed back to the hotel and Mom pointed out this shop for kids clothes....pretty sure "Super Bimbo" would need to be renamed if it comes to the United States.

Before we made it back to the hotel, we noticed that someone was setting up for a performance in the outdoor stage area. We thought we might grab a park bench and wait around to see what happens. As the performance got closer, so did the clouds. When they really started rumbling, they decided they better save their equipment and called everything off. Oh well! We didn't even know what we were missing.

The rain wasn't actually materializing, so we walked up the hill instead of going to our room. There are so many beautiful passages and doorways here. In Italy, they call these narrow streets 'carrugio'. They are too small for cars, but perfect for people and bicycles.

We came to a stone wall and looked up to see this fantastic face:

And just beyond it was the Cathedral of Sant' Andrea.

We wandered up these steps knowing that we have a special gift for eventually running into the place we are looking for...

And ta-da! We did it again!

It was too late to go in, but the outside is so cool! It is made with white Carrara Marble and the dark green Serpentine to make that striped effect. Built in 1222.

As we were leaving, we looked up these stairs and saw the medieval castle!! But then the clouds really started moving and it was getting darker, so we decided to come back the next day. See you soon, cool medieval castle!

Oooh! There's a storm a'brewin....

Switzerland was so lovely and charming. The people are reserved and organized, their homes and gardens well cared for and "just so". I really loved it there.

Italy is colorful and lively.  The people are loud and their homes are worn and show their years. I love it here too!

It feels like everywhere you turn there is something wild and growing....

So much drama!

At last we made it back to our room and let ourselves in through the balcony doors. Just this morning we were shivering in our puffy coats. Tonight we need the fan to cool us down in the evening.

I love this photo of Mom. Its so light and warm and reminds me of all the times I watched her fold laundry as a child or go about her work taking care of us all. Those are great memories.

Goodnight from Italy!

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