Follow my adventures while living in Italy with my husband and our two dogs Moose the whippet and Ruby the Australian Terrier. It's sure to be full of fun, frustration and cultural confusion.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Ski Field Review - Obereggen

Joe and I had our first day skiing of the season on Sunday at Obereggen. I thought I would do a quick review of all the ski fields we ski at to 1) help us keep track and 2) be a useful resource to anyone thinking of skiing in these parts.

So Obereggen.

Where is it?
In Italy, the Dolomites, half an hour from Bolzano (that's right kids, we left Bolzano and drove for only half an hour and were at a ski field).
Joe, at Obereggen, Dolomites behind him (note: this was not taken on Sunday but in March)

Obereggen is massive (48km of ski runs), it sprawls across I think three valleys.  Here is the ski trial map.

It's a great intermediate ski field with lots of blue and red runs, all lovely and wide and groomed regularly. I think there would be some great off piste skiing (especially some lovely tree runs under the lift line) if the snow was good (see snow conditions for what it was like when we were there).

Snow conditions?
It's early in the season still so there wasn't really any powder to speak of. That said the dolomites have an amazing extensive snow making programme making it an excellent early season destination. All the runs were covered and almost all of them were open. However the lack of fresh stuff meant that skiing off-piste was not really worth your while. Joe and I did a small foray into the trees but this was just to have a bit of fun than for the amazing skiing to be had. Note: Joe and I have skied here twice before, once on the last day of last season when it was hard as rock (and very fast, incidentally) and once in March when there was lots of sun and soft, spring snow. We enjoyed it in all the conditions.
Me, skiing on a sunny day in March (not on Sunday)

Overcast but clear in the morning, cloud started coming in in the afternoon killing the visibility in the west (?) side of the ski field, it also got cold then.

Obereggen is like alot of ski fields in Europe in that it has restaurants all over the mountain. There is great coffee to be had and Joe and I shared a delicious "farmers pasta" for lunch. This is a local peasant dish that can be found in pretty much any pub where you get a creamy tomato sauce with a bit of mince/sausage, some mushrooms and maybe some capisicum. Very wholesome and filling. At the end of the day we had a gluhwien at the "Tipi" a bar at the base of the field that's a giant Teepee. Bonus, the gave us mini ritter sport chocolate bars with our ski passes.

Monday, 23 December 2013

The Dogs in Italy

"So which way do you think we go Moose?"
"I don't know Ruby, you have the map"

I am much to close to the water for my liking

Insert inspirational quote of choosing here


I'm coming!

Um, I think I might be lost


"so Ruby did you know the monument behind us is really controversial as it still shows Mussolini's face?"

The view is almost as pretty as I am

"Ruby, I'm scared"
"Moose, you're always scared"

A weekend in.... Prague!

So early in December Joe and I headed to Prague. Joe wanted to see Black Sabbath and as our Wedding Anniversary is at an awkward time just before Christmas when all of our dog sitters are out of town we decided this was a nice opportunity to celebrate a little early.

Been there before?
I had (in the middle of Summer), Joe was a Prague virgin.

Time of Year?
Beginning of December (6-8). Christmas was everywhere which was awesome. It also meant people were everywhere which was slightly less awesome.
See it's cold! It snowed at least half the time we were there. Ps. this is in Winceslas Sq.

How long did we go for?
Two nights, got there Friday evening and left late Sunday afternoon

How did we get there?
By bus actually, that was run by the German rail DBahn. We went on the 6 December which is St Niklaus and they gave us chocolate Santa's when we arrived, very cool. It only took half an hour longer than a direct train and was direct from Munich with no stops.

Surprisingly good - meaty though. We ate from food stalls at the Christmas markets and found a small Czech restaurant that was packed with locals. As the Czech republic don't use the euro the exchange rate meant it was all quite affordable.

What did we see?
We went to the Karel Zeman Special Effects museum which I totally recommend for anyone with any interest in movies, lots of stop motion capture and cool stuff done with perspective. Otherwise we did the standard Prague sights - Winceslas Sq, Old Town Sq, Charles Bridge.

Charles Bridge

Me! with a Christmas market in the backround

Looking up at Prague castle at night

GIANT Christmas Tree in Old Town Sq.

Winceslas Sq. at night

Selfie of Joe and I, Charles Bridge and Prague Castle in the background. The camera reel to get this one sort of OK shot is hilarious.

A weekend in...the Cinque Terre

OK so we didn't choose to go to just the Cinque Terre for a weekend, we were already travelling around Italy but we DID only spend a weekend there. From Bolzano it wouldn't really be possible for us to go to just the Cinque Terre for the weekend as there would be too much travel time (all day on a train) but you could do it from another main European hub by flying into Pisa and then catching the train north to La Spezia and then onward to the Cinque Terre. And it really is the perfect weekend away destination.

Cinque Terre means five lands and is composed of five fishing villages along about 20km of coastline at the southern end of the Italian Riveria. Each of the villages has it's own charm and can be reached by train, ferry or walking tracks. 

We stayed in Riomaggiore, the southern most village. 

My handsome husband, looking kind of italian in his linen shirt and pants

On Saturday we got up discovered which of the walking tracks we closed due to the very bad weather they had had recently. We made a plan and caught the train to the northern most town Monterosso del Mare. This is pretty much the only village with a beach, it was an amazingly hot day and we found a gelato stall selling as much gelato as you wanted for a euro.
unique building at the end of the beach

I so wished it was summer and these were being hired out still - a peddle boat with a slide!!
We hiked for a couple of hours along the little trail that the farmers used to use as the only transport between towns. 

Jonathon, getting his walk on


The family, with Vernazza in the background
As you walked around the coast you caught glimpses on Vernazza the next town in the distance. Then as you got closer it was just idyllic, the stuff postcards are made of.

If you do a google image search for Vernazza you will find various versions of this shot.
Vernazza was an adorable town and we had a great afternoon having lunch by the sea and wondering the winding streets.

There are cats EVERYWHERE in the Cinque Terre, this one was having a nap on a boat cover

On Sunday unfortunately the weather wasn't so kind to us as it was the day before, I was quite under-dressed thinking it was overcast but warm when really it was overcast and kind of chilly. We got back on the train and headed to Corniglia. Corniglia is on top of a rocky cliff so you have to either take a winding road or walk up a zillion stairs from the train station to get there. We took the road up and the stairs down.
This did mean the views from this place were incredible!
Looking back to Manarola

Family admiring the view, Jonathon and I  are very colour coordinated in our clothing choices
The village itself was cute (they all are!) with a Church and winding streets
The statue in front of this church looked kind of like a Zombie so we all pretended we were of the undead

Then we headed to the last village Manarola (last for us to visit, it is the second most southern village). 
Looking down from up the hill, on the right at the terraced gardens. In a lot of the Cinque Terre these were quite derelict but in Manarola they were still tended and producing crops.

Looking up the main street from the Sea

All in all it is a wonderful way to spend a weekend, exploring the 'five lands', and a weekend is just enough time to see them all (although you could definitely spend longer there). It is not too expensive, you pay for the Cinque Terre pass each day (nine euro each I think) which lets you catch the train and walk the trails between the villages. I would suggest going earlier in the year than October to optimise your chance for trials being open and some slightly warmer weather. I cannot imagine hiking along the coast in the middle of summer being particularly pleasant but September or erly June would be nice I'm sure. It is not really the destination where you "do" things in that there are no galleries or museums but it is a great place to go wander around, eat good food and admire the unique, colourful cliff side villages. 

The Kings do Italy

In October my family came to Italy for an epic ten day adventure. We started in Bolzano
Here we are on a bridge

We went to a castle in Trento, it looked like this

Jonathon developed the magic ability to be in two places at once
The castles had great views, was kind of a ruin but had an armory where you could play dress up.

Joe, very pleased with his breastplate

After the castle we met some friends who live in Trento for a mini-tour of the city and dinner. We ordered a keg
Joe is very happy about the keg

We also went to a castle near Merano

Followed by visiting a lake near the Swiss border that used to be a town, until Mussolini in his psychotic wisdom decided that building a dam and flooding it would be best, all that you can see now is the church steeple

Then we hit the road and headed for Venice and Padova, stopping off at Verona on the way where we visited the Roman Theatre (one of the most intact ruins and still used for Opera performances today) followed by lunch.

That evening we headed into Venice - by BOAT.

While visiting Venice we actually stayed in Padova for a much cheaper hotel and better food, I don't have any photos of Padova t but it is a really beautiful town. We went to the Scrovegni Chapel while we there to see the amazing fresco's by Giotto. It was A-MA-ZING!

As you may remember that Joe and I have already been to Venice this year but there is just so much to do in this city that that didn't matter. We went to the Palazza Ducale (the Doge's palace) which we couldn't fit in last time

Jonathon is really good at being in two places at once

by the canal outside the dungeon
After Venice we caught the train to Florence for a quick overnight visit before heading to the Cinque Terre for the weekend. In Florence my parents, Jon and Vix headed up the Duomo but as Joe and I had already done that earlier this year we went to the Bargello which used to be the prison and is now a sculpture gallery with a lot of work by the master Donatello himself. It was a beautiful day and a lovely way to spend the morning before catching a train to the Cinque Terre (for more on that see the next post).