Be Charmed: Milan

It was with a decided mixture of sadness and delight that the group greeted the last day of Be Charmed, 2015. After another nice Italian continental breakfast around that lovely table, it was time to board the bus for Milan.

 

The driver dropped the group off near the Santa Maria delle Grazie church, where they met their guide for the day, Francesca. She told us about the masterpiece we were about to see, the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. It is a remarkable work of art and it is a miracle that is has survived (roughly since the time Columbus sailed to America!). Photos are not allowed to be taken inside, so see the link for some photos and fascinating history, including of the original technique used to paint the fresco, the many restorations attempted over the centuries and the astonishing survival of the fresco after the bombing of the church and convent during World War II.

 

After the allotted 15 minutes visiting the sublime fresco (be sure to walk to the back of the room for the best perspective!), the group walked around to see the inside of the church and then the beautiful cloister.

 

From the church they walked along a street toward the Piazza Duomo that has some of the oldest archaeological sites in Milan.

 

There was a  stop at the surprising little San Satiro church with the marvelous trompe l’oeil choir by Brunelleschi (he only had a depth of 3 feet to work with)…

 

… and then the group continued on to the Ristorante Arengario at the top of the Novecento Museum (museum of 20th century art) on the Piazza Duomo, where some typical Italian dishes were thoroughly enjoyed in a dining room with an extraordinary view, including of the truffle being shaved at the next table!

 

The ladies left the Museo Novecento and crossed the Piazza Duomo in front of the magnificent Duomo (cathedral) of Milan, walked through the Galleria (one of the world’s first and most beautiful covered shopping centers). They continued to the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, a former palazzo that houses a private collection of art, and then on to the famous Montenapoleone shopping street for some window-shopping.

 

The bus picked up the ladies near the Piazza della Scala and took them to the brand new Piazza Gae Aulenti near the Porto Garibaldi train station to see the once-in-a-lifetime 360-degree, 16-screen video of the extraordinary beauty of Italy from its geography to the arts and design, and even its cuisine, over the millennia. The video link we’ve provided is not official but it’s the best example we found of what it was like to stand in the room and watch and listen to the 15-minute presentation. It was a profoundly beautiful and moving experience. The group then walked up the block or two to the pedestrian walking street, Corso di Como, and popped into Number 10, an eclectic small mix of shops and restaurant. Just before boarding the bus back to the villa, the group got to observe a photoshoot in process!

 

On arrival at the villa, the ladies went up to pack and take a pause before celebrating a wonderful last evening. They began with a celebratory bubbly (Franciacorta, of course!) and hors d’oeuvres, and a toast to the wonderful Riza whose cooking and general assistance and very sweet spirit they had enjoyed all week. Gretchen and Luigi, the villa hosts and owners were also toasted, then the group adjourned to the dining room for their final dinner together. Favorite moments from the week were shared, questions about the villa and its history were asked and answered, and general merriment ensued, extending the evening as long as possible.


The next morning, the early risers came down for their final cup of Italian coffee and Fumagalli pastries and everyone boarded the bus for Malpensa Airport. As of this writing, two of the ladies are returning for a Be Charmed trip in October of 2016 and other groups are in the planning stages. We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly during this week and look forward to hosting guests for Be Charmed, Painters Retreat, Golf/Gourmet, Food/Wine, Italian Gourmet Cooking or other custom-designed trips.

Be Charmed: Bergamo and Franciacorta

After breakfast, the group boarded the bus for the hour or so drive to Bergamo, one of the lovely hilltop towns in Lombardy. The group met up with the wonderful tour guide, Elena, and the tour began in the main piazza.

 

The beautiful Bergamo Cathedral was next.


After the cathedral visit it was time for lunch. On the way, the group passed some witches filming a vacuum commercial and a couple of interesting shop windows.


Lunch included such taste treats as polenta with rabbit, ravioli stuffed with bacon and ricotta, pasta with mushrooms, risotto and finished with an introduction to the excellent “affogato” or ice cream with espresso coffee poured over the top.


The group passed a particularly nice-looking pasticceria (bakery) and one of the ladies purchased some lovely meringues to take home for dessert later that evening.

The ladies left Bergamo and were driven the 40 minutes or so to Franciacorta, with the beautiful view of the foothills of the Alps in the distance. There had been rain in Bergamo but it cleared up as Castelveder Winery came within sight. The adorable Camilla (who runs the winery with her brother and her grandmother) provided an excellent tour of the winery and the classical methods used there to produce a particularly high quality sparkling wine. The grandmother came by to say hello, which was a lovely treat for the group. The favorite of the day was the Satin, and several bottles were procured to enjoy at the villa the rest of the week.


After the tour and tasting, there was time to walk in the stunning vineyards and see the pinot nero and chardonnay grapes that are grown there. There’s a cycling path in Franciacorta and perhaps someday it would lovely to try that… 


Dinner that night at the villa was preceded by a sip of the Casteveder rose and included veal meatballs and artichokes and a salad, and, of course, the meringues.

Chattanooga in Poggio Verde

IMG_1478In a country villa up a hillside from little Barzanò, Italy, less than an hour north of Milan, final preparations are underway to receive visitors for a week of exploring the beauty of northern Italy. Rooms are being given a final cleaning, the refrigerator is being stocked, the grounds are being tended to and windows are being shined so nothing obstructs the gorgeous views.

In Chattanooga, Tennessee, eight women are finishing up their packing, taking care of last minute details and saying their good-byes before heading to the airport to catch their flight for Milan, arriving Saturday morning.

Things may change due to weather, but their itinerary is as follows:

DAY 1: Saturday, 3 October 2015. Arrival, Organic Luncheon and Montevecchia. Exiting Malpensa airport’s baggage area, look for our driver who will be holding a large POGGIO VERDE sign. He will accompany you to the Villa where you will have time to unpack, make yourself comfortable and take a relaxed walk in the park. We will have lunch at the organic farm,”Galbusera Bianca” followed by a short walk in scenic Montevecchia Alto with its quaint church and stations of the cross. The day ends with a delicious meal at the Villa with home-made tagliolini pasta and fresh vegetables and herbs, followed by Italian cheeses and a dolce.

turismo-enogastronomico-strada-vino-franciacorta-wineDAY 2: Sunday, 4 October. Bergamo Alto and Franciacorta. After breakfast, our driver will take us the lovely hill town of Bergamo. We’ll take the funicular to Bergamo “Alta”, one of the most beautiful hill towns in Italy. After wandering around the medieval town we will take the funicular back to the lower city and our driver will take us to lunch at a nearby vineyard to taste the delicious sparkling wine of the region and then back to Poggio Verde. We’ll have dinner at the Villa prepared by Cicchi (pronounced Cheeky), a great chef and friend.

mendrisioDAY 3: Monday, 5 October. Switzerland, Outlet shopping, Wine Tasting. After breakfast, put your passport in your purse because we’re heading up to Switzerland! Our driver will take us for a short visit to the house museum Vincenzo Vela in Ligornetto and we will have lunch at the nearby family restaurant “Grotto Balduna” featuring Ticinese local cuisine. After lunch we will visit Foxtown for outlet shopping. Return to Poggio Verde and relax until our wine tasting session with the sommelier Penati of Oggiono and delicious home-cooked meal of Northern Italian specialties.

IMG_3452DAY 4: Tuesday, 6 October. Como, Silk outlet, painting exhibit, Tea at Villa d’Este. After breakfast, our driver will take us to Como, where we will enjoy a bit of the Old Town and visit Mantero, a luscious Italian silk outlet. We will have lunch at a sweet Osteria featuring local specialties, then visit a painting exhibit at Villa Olmo in Como followed by tea at the Villa d’Este, one of the most beautiful romantic and neoclassical villas in Italy. Our driver will return us to Poggio Verde in time for dinner prepared for us at the Villa.

isola bellaDAY 5: Wednesday, 7 October. Lago Maggiore, Stresa, Isola Bella, Linens outlet. After breakfast our driver will take us to the charming town of Stresa on Lake Maggiore. We will take a walk along the lakefront and then take a boat from Stresa to the magnificent Isola Bella, the most lavish of the three Borromean Islands. Here we’ll have lunch in a charming restaurant and we will visit the princely Borromeo Palace and its grandiose baroque Italian Gardens built on ten terraces. We return to Stresa by boat where our driver awaits us to accompany us to the linens outlet Bellora and then back to the Villa for a delicious meal at Poggio Verde. (Rain alternative: Go to Milan and visit EXPO! The world exhibition has been receiving excellent reviews and exhibits from 70 countries are said to be amazing.)

Duomo PicDAY 6: Thursday, 8 October. Milano: The Last Supper, Duomo, La Scala, Via Montenapoleone. After breakfast, our driver will take us to Milan where we will begin with a guided tour that includes Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper. Lunch will be in a restaurant overlooking the roof of the Duomo. From the restaurant we will walk through the Galleria to the La Scala opera house for a behind-the-scenes visit, followed by shopping and strolling down Via Montenapoleone and Via Spiga. Our driver returns us to the Villa for a short rest and then we will dine at the nearby “Giovanna Passeri” Agriturismo with its refined and fresh Brianzola specialties.

DAY 7: Friday, 912174253054_ca094e3b17_n October. Royal Monza After breakfast our driver will accompany us to the royal city of Monza we will visit one of the most beautiful Romanesque cathedrals in Northern Italy, the Duomo of Monza, for a look at the famed “Iron crown” – said to have been made with the melted-down nails of the Cross and the crown which Napoleon crowned himself in 1805. After a stroll around the old center of this pretty town, we’ll have lunch at a delightful Osteria featuring local specialties. Then we’ll visit the newly renovated Royal   Villa of Monza, a truly spectacular visit. That evening we will celebrate a scrumptious good-bye dinner prepared by Cicchi at what has become by now your new Italian “home.”

DAY 8: Saturday 10 October Departure. After breakfast at the Villa our driver will take you (and your packages and your great memories!) to the airport.

Wine tasting in Franciacorta

332_332_franciacorta_vinoFranciacorta, the wine country near the lovely Lake Iseo, is one of Italy’s best kept secrets for wine lovers. Franciacorta´s bubblies are considered to be the crème de la crème of sparkling wines in Italy: In 1995 Franciacorta was given D.O.C.G. (Denomination of Origin Controlled and Guaranteed) status, a significant testimonial to its winemakers’ continuing commitment to excellent work and to further improving the quality of Franciacorta wines.

Not only is this region the perfect wine tasting excursion from Poggio Verde as it is just about an hour drive: it is also a natural and cultural enclave where all your tastes for art, history and the outdoor life can be gratified. The lures of the place are indeed many and varied: as much spectacular nature as anyone could ever want, Lake Iseo and its marvelous island, castles  and much more.

Here you can find some hints to orient yourself in the kingdom of wine.

 

Ca’ del Bosco opens its cellars for tours designed to give wineFranciacorta - CadelBosco enthusiasts first-hand knowledge of how Franciacorta is made and to guide them around the vineyards at the winery. A walk through the Ca’ del Bosco barrique cellars, historic repositories of art and innovation, takes visitors to the Cupola. Here, at the heart of the estate, a glass of wine awaits to reveal the secrets behind a great passion. Via Albano Zanella, 13 – Erbusco (BS) Phone: +39 030 7766111  Email: cadelbosco@cadelbosco.com

 

 

franciacorta - la montinaLa Montina has always been an open cellar:  wine lovers who come on guided tours with ‘degustazione’ (wine tasting) are welcomed. You will be told about the Franciacorta’s complex journey from vineyard to bottle and you will discover the passion, history and hard work that goes into every elegant and persistent bubble of our sapid and wonderfully fresh Franciacorta. Moreover, La Montina has been recognised  as having the highest standards for welcoming and accommodating visitors of all the estates In Franciacorta. Via Baiana, 17 – 25040 Monticelli Brusati (BS) Phone: +39030653278

 

 

Contadi Castaldi, a winery which originally was a brickyard, icontadi castladis highly specialized company in the art of innovation, which searched the Franciacorta region to find the most evocative vineyards and the most passionate winegrowers.  Its large spaces and long tunnels where the bricks were fired proved to be the perfect place for ageing Franciacorta vintages and welcoming wine lovers. Via Colzano, 32, 25030 Adro, Franciacorta (Brescia) Phone: +39 030 745 0126 Email: contadicastaldi@contadicastaldi.it

 

 

 

franciacorta - il mosnelOne of the loveliest historic wineries in the Franciacorta appellation, Il Mosnel Winery produces a range of excellent still wines and Bollicine (“Bubbles”). it’s a beautiful historic estate located near the medieval village of Rodengo.This winery could be one of your favorite wineries in Franciacorta for the quality of the wines, the beauty of the estate and the hospitality. Via Barboglio, 14 – 25040 Camignone – Brescia (BS) Phone: +39.030.653117

 

 

Another top-quality winery is Berlucchi, where a professionafranciacorta - berlucchil guide will accompany you as you discoverall of the places where Franciacorta’s history was written, those halls, alcoves, and underground passages where tradition and innovation meet and shake hands. Of course, to fully enjoy this moment of relax you can taste and savour Berucchi’s fine selection of Franciacorta. Piazza Duranti, 4, 25040, Corte Franca (BS), Phone:  +39 030 984381 Email: info@berlucchi.it

 

 

Bersi Serlinifranciacorta - bersi selini is one of the oldest wineries in Franciacorta. The location is stunning, close to Lake Iseo and set amid picturesque vineyards, where you can’t miss the chance to taste an excellent glass of wine. The winery and hospitality area has been renovated by Italian designer Flavio Albanese, giving the impressive property a modern and luminous appearance through the use of glass and wood that is striking and contemporary. Via Cerreto 4 and 7 , Provaglio d’Iseo (Bs) 25050, Italy. Phone: +39 0309823338 Email: info@bersiserlini.it