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Read Italy Stop 1: Rome here!
Read Italy Stop 2: Florence here!
Read Italy Stop 3: Manarola (Cinque Terre) here!

When my husband was 16, he and his friend visited Milan and stayed with his mother’s friend, Giovanna. She showed them Venice and took them around the area touring churches and museums. It was a given that we would visit her during our trip to Italy and we are so thankful for her and her son, Fabrizio, giving us a tour around from a local!

Fabrizio whisked us off when we arrived in Milan and gave us the abbreviated tour of several landmarks. It was raining and cold so it was exceptionally nice of him to brave the weather to drag two wide-eyed Americans through the city. One of our stops, at the mall near Milan’s duomo, was this tiled bull. The tradition is to turn on your heel on the bull’s gonads and you will one day return to Milan. Looks like I’ll be heading back one day!
Milan’s duomo is very ornate, a classic Gothic structure. It underwent a cleaning that was completed in 2009 which becomes more obvious when you see the inside of the church and how years and years of grime have changed the color of the stone. Notice all the umbrellas in the picture below, it was raining quite hard!
Giovanna and Fabrizio took us to a risotteria for dinner and we enjoyed the classic Milan dish. The next day, Giovanna, knowing how much my husband and I appreciate good food and good ingredients, took us to one of the best butcher/meat shops in Milan.
We squished in among the locals on their Saturday morning shopping trips and took in the smells, the sights, the smells, the interesting hair styles, the smells, and all the meat! My husband was happy to be in the presence of so much prosciutto.
Our destination was ultimately Lake Maggiore, but on the way we came across the Lindt chocolate factory. I know they sell this stuff in the states, but it’s still impressive to be at the mothership! Besides, anything with Italian-only packaging somehow tastes better.
Do you think these would fit in our luggage?
This box was as big as my duffel bag!
Naturally I picked up some things for Christmas presents and then spotted the cafe. What better place to order hot chocolate (on a still very cold day)!? This stuff is practically pudding, not that watery Swiss Miss stuff at all. And it was so good.
On our way out this bunny almost lost an eye.
With a full stash of chocolate goodies we made it to the coast of Lake Maggiore. This is looking at the little town, Luino, on a very windy (see the white cap waves!?) and chilly day. While my husband and I were cursing ourselves for packing for cold weather when it was 90-degrees Fahrenheit in Rome, we were thankful to have layers and long sleeves for the rest of our trip.
My beloved and I walked to the centro of Luino for a local glass of prosecco and potato chips. We watched locals and vacationers — who are mostly Italians and Swiss with vacation homes here– go about their day.
We stayed with Giovanna at the family’s condo in Germingnaga (right next to Luino) that had a breathtaking view of Lake Maggiore.
IMG_5065Over night there was a ridiculous amount of wind and temperatures dropped even further. Much of the area got its first dusting of snow while we were there at the end of October. I thought it was fascinating that there was a clear line of snow on the surrounding mountains! I’ve never seen anything like it before.

On a very chilly morning, Giovanna took us to her son’s favorite cafe for breakfast (aka pastries) and something warm to drink. I was over excited to point out to my husband that the little ridged pastries you see on the below right are exactly like a much larger version sold in Boston’s Italian North End at Mike’s Pastries. But they call them lobster tails. I’m sure that’s not the name in Italy.
My husband enjoyed a happy little cappuccino. Get it!? Happy!? Because there’s a smiley face!? You get it.
Most of the Italians skipped these cute and delicious pastries for a croissant with Nutella or jam and their coffee. I was glad to switch up my morning sugar and butter intake from the flaky croissant to the sugar dusted cream puffs. And hey, some had fruit on them. So that obviously makes them healthy.
Guys, it was so cold. Nonetheless, Giovanna encouraged us to walk up to a vista in which we accidentally rambled through some sort of Italian Swiss celebration. I didn’t take any pictures because some of the people were wearing army-type uniforms and I had no idea what they were doing. But we did get another shot of us with the crazy snow line in the background again.
We drove across the border into Switzerland to Lugano. Check out that snow line again! I still can’t believe it.
Last one of that snow line, I promise. Has anyone ever seen something like this before?
We took a mostly-by-car tour of Lugano, Switzerland because it was so very cold but it was an interesting contrast to the Italian towns we had been rambling through. We then headed to Lake Como and saw their church, the lake there, and a few of the shops that attract summer vacationers like George Clooney. I’m sure he wasn’t hanging around on such a brutally cold day.

IMG_5085My husband and I are so thankful to have someone who knew the area show us around and he really enjoyed catching up with Giovanna. She was way above and beyond generous and we were happy to be able to visit her and see so much of the area.

Read Italy Stop 5: Venice here!