Back to Italy – Take 4



Happy Feet! International First Class SeatI love first class. So, I knew I was in for a treat going into this trip to Italy. But, international first class is a whole different animal.

The layout seat makes such a difference. I felt like I was cheating (did I really get my points worth) since I actually slept for four of the eight hours. Ha, that’s the beauty. I slept, no head wobbling to and fro only half asleep because my neck is all jacked up.

My seat mate coming to Dulles was also Frankfurt-bound. He was heading to Dusseldorf (I just love saying that – Dusseldorf Dusseldorf Dusseldorf) for a blind date! How cool is that!? I can’t wait to hear how Glen fares! We made a quick stop at the international first class lounge for a quick drink. I made a beeline for the gate when they made the boarding call. I settled into my airplane suite (it was SUH-WEET!), equipped with a toiletries bag, my own private entertainment center, a power outlet, and my favorite? The drink menu. Yep, in addition to a food menu, I got a drink menu. With my spring roll app and tomato bisque I enjoyed a white burgundy and with my fab short ribs I sipped a lovely Bordeaux. I opted to forego the ice cream sundae for the cheese plate served with a late vintage port. It didn’t suck. Nope, not one little bit.

So, here’s the deal. Flying international with miles is 70k for coach (when I checked today, that’s about a $1200 ticket). For first class, I cashed in 100k miles and today the cost would be about $3400. Yeah, I think I did good. I’m not completely wiped out on miles, but I don’t have enough to ride shotgun again next year unless I shell out some dough (I’m thinking I might buy my ticket and upgrade with miles. I’ve got time to plan).

Yep, it’s Italy time-o-year. Once again I start with another double connection: Denver to Dulles > Dulles to Frankfurt > Frankfurt to Milano. But, I’m cautiously optimistic the travel will be manageable given my supreme digs. And, I was far from disappointed.

This will be my fourth time to Italy – third in the last three years. As you may recall from my prior travels (if you followed ’em – and if you did, grazie!), I did my first trip solo (my maiden voyage was in ’99 on a study abroad program all over Europe; Italian stops included Venice, Florence, and Rome). On my 2010 adventure I hit Venice, wine toured in Verona, hiked the Cinque Terre, more wine in Siena, and enjoyed my first five star hotel in Roma. In Roma I met “Cooking Lisa”, who became my 2011 travel companion. We planned an Italian vacation on crack. We were like two kids in a candy store mapping out our itinerary. As a result, we hit seven (could ’em seven) destinations in two weeks, all by car: Roma > Bari > Lecce > Sorrento > Florence > San Gimignano > Piemonte > Roma.  It was quite the haul, driving nearly every other day. I was worn out by the end. I’m so glad we did as it was truly amazing having that contrast of the southern, central and northern lifestyle, food, and culture. But, let me be very clear: I WILL NEVER do a trip like that again. Talk about being beat.

That said, this year I decided to take it easy. My travel includes just a few destinations.

I resume my tour of Italian Hilton properties in Milano for my first night, then it’s off to Varenna in


Lake Como for four nights. Next, I return to Piemonte (sigh, oh double sigh) where I hunker down for a full week. I do one night in Parma and finish up in Roma before flying home (sniff sniff).

No major snafus, except leaving my fave pink NorthFace fleece on the shuttle bus from the Milan airport to the train station – my hotel was nearby. I realized my faux pas upon arrival at the Hilton. Drat! How could I be so relaxed? I never do that! That fleece has been with me all over. Purchased in Telluride, ventured thru Bordeaux, London, all over Italy, stops in Mexico, Canada and adventures throughout the United States. Yep, this thing has some miles on it. And, I want it back!

On Sunday I returned to the scene of the crime to learn that the fab little bus service was well aware of my abandoned prized pink fleece (it’s bright). Currently, it is riding around the city of Milano in a bus of lost and found items. My only hope for its safe return is if I synch up with the right people on Thursday, en route to Piemonte (everyone, please think good thoughts! I love that fleece!).

So, back to my night in Milano. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the city. Too industrial, dirty, etc. etc. Well, I for one love it. It has a great energy, a modern city where the history lingers in the architecture. It’s youthfulness exudes the appropriate edge – kids dancing in the allies, fashionistas coloring the streets. Yep, I like Milano. My pal Andrea Frizzi, owner of my favorite little restaurant in Denver, Il Posto, is from Milano. He recommended a restaurant in an adorable part of town called El Brellin. It was along a canal style street dotted with trattorias, ristorantes, shops, and art sellers.

Risotto Milanese at El Brellin in Milano

Dinner was amazing. It started with an apéritif of prosecco (Il Posto does the same!). I took a risotto cooking class with Chef Frizzi (my blog post shows me wearing the fabled pink fleece), so I simply had to try the traditional Risotto Milanese with saffron and a beef marrow. Yum. Next, I had a delish cut of steak topped with goose foie gras and black truffles. Um, yeah. That rocked. The sommelier paired it with a half bottle of red from Lombardy made from the nebbiolo grape. Perfect. I love a place that offers a half bottle so loners like me can still enjoy a bottle.

Great restaurant, highly recommend it.

Now, it’s off to Lake Como. I’m staying in the town of Varenna. I will be on George watch. Catch me on Twitter for sightings, @valeriekq! Ciao Ciao!


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