Magic and Pasta — A Travel Diary of Italy


“Life is a combination of magic and pasta,” said Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini. And indeed, over these past weeks in Italy, my life was a blend of magic and pasta.

My excellent guides gave me moments of insight into the past, and I encountered inklings of what I dream to see in the future. That’s what the best travel does – connect you to a larger sense of the past and cultivate hope for the future.

In Italy, the threads of the past and the pull of the future seemed to conspire to magnify the present and expand me. Yes, the scenes, settings, and stories often astonished me, but the many people I met, came to know and befriended affected me the most.

One of the biggest takeaways from my trip was the power of relationships. In an age where service is increasingly depersonalized and frustrating, and travel itself is time-consuming and overwhelming, the ease and care that other kind people provided were immense.

I also realized that travel is better when it’s like good sex – slower, savored, and sensual. Europeans tend to travel that way; I aim to help my clients do so as well. 

First, a story – when I was 17, I bought a beloved hat in Montreal. The boater hat was white with a bright pink ribbon that hung down the back. I carried it carefully across Canada and back over the North American continent for over two weeks. I endured much ribbing and teasing from my family for doing so. 

History rhymes. Or people don’t change.

At my first hotel in Rome, I perused the offerings in the small shop attached to the spa. One in particular drew me in amid a selection of hats and fascinators. I tried it on. And put it back. I tried it again. It made absolutely no sense. I had no room in my suitcase. The hat made me feel like a princess. I slept on the decision for one night.

Reader, I bought it. On day two of my trip, I bought a gorgeous hat in Rome and carried it for weeks all over Italy. 

Here is my travel diary with the rest of the particulars. 

Sunday, March 10th, 2024 — DC

Despite my best efforts to be elegant in my simplicity, I accepted the fact that I would be elegant in my complexity. I succumbed to the classic over-packing pitfall – throwing things into the suitcase because I had room and wanted “options.”

Monday, March 11th, 2024 — Rome

The customs officer had the wrong date, so my passport read 12 – 03 – 24 and the number 85. I don’t normally examine the stamp, but for some reason, I did. I returned to get it corrected, but the 12th would have been my mother’s 85th birthday. I felt she was with me for sure, then. Driving into Rome, I passed the Baths of Caracalla, which were massive, and I learned that they are the dramatic setting for beautiful concerts in the summer months. The ruins of Rome are raw and tall. For example, ancient ruins are below the surface, down, and hidden in England. Rome displayed its heritage gloriously. My arrival at the new Six Senses Rome provided me with much relief. I love this hotel. Just a week after my departure, they received the LEED Gold certification for sustainable design. Wellness is front and center. The Roman baths are a marvel. And the location is outstanding.

Tuesday, March 12th, 2024 — Rome

My first guide on my first day in Italy was delighted to know I’m a fan of Robert Graves’ I, Claudius, and that I knew the stories of the Julian emperors well. He was jealous I still had the sequel to read, and I shared my favorite Graves poem with him. After bonding over books, we toured the Colosseum, walked all over Palatine Hill, explored the Roman Forum, visited the Pantheon, strolled through the Piazza Navona, stood on the Spanish Steps, and threw coins into the Trevi Fountain. I’d started at 9:30 am and finished at 3:45 pm. I immediately relished a foot massage and time in the Roman Baths at the beautiful Six Senses. The crowds in Rome shocked me. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2024 — Rome

After canceling my plans to go to the Capitoline Museum, I took the morning to rest. I didn’t sleep a wink on the flight, and the six hours of touring on my first day exhausted me. In the afternoon, I visited the offices of one of our partners and then enjoyed some time in a used bookstore, Libreria Antiquaria Calligrammes, near the Piazza Navona. What drew me in was a book of poetry by Browning, which my parents shared between them throughout their marriage. My mother collected travelogues from the 19th century, and I would go with her to used book fairs in New England to find them. Friends, I also bought a two-volume travelogue to add to my mother’s collection, which now sits proudly on my shelves.  

Thursday, March 14th, 2024 — Rome

Vatican Day! I had a leisurely start to the morning before heading to the Vatican with much excitement. I could have spent an entire week on Palentine Hill and likewise for the Vatican. My knowledgeable guide helped me understand all I encountered. I learned about porphyry stone, which was highly valued and regarded as royal because of the imperial use of purple to symbolize rank and authority in The Circle Room. I read about the excavations at Tor Marancia in the 19th century, renowned for the two villas belonging to senatorial families from the 2nd century AD. I saw a tapestry from Brussels (ca. 1549) that depicted the assassination of Julius Caesar. And then – more exciting to me than the Sistine Chapel – I entered the Galleria della Carte Geografiche, or The Gallery of Maps. Commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII in 1581, these forty maps painted on the walls depict Italy, laid out in progressive panels from north to south. This gallery captures Italy as a country united by history, culture, and religion, even though Italy was not united politically as a country for another 300 years. Yes, I saw the Sistine Chapel and the Basilica, too. I wish I’d had more time. And more energy.

That night, I met colleagues for our pre-DUCO adventure—all fabulous women who are now dear friends. We also celebrated a birthday that first night at our hotel, Six Senses. I’d been trying to coordinate a date with a dear friend for my days in Rome to no avail. When I said goodnight to Six Senses’s general manager, she told me our mutual friend was there. What a happy meeting!

Friday, March 15th, 2024 — Rome

The Ides of March. I relished being in Rome on the anniversary of Julius Caesar’s assassination, a city in which history is so alive. Our group enjoyed a Vespa sidecar tour of Rome, which I highly recommend! We zipped through the city with engaging commentary from our guide, Luca. We stopped at the Parthenon and then for coffee. Even though I’d just been there a few days earlier, I learned different facets of this landmark from a different guide. A guide excels when he or she can bring history alive (through stories or images), who can provide context (of the art, architecture, geography, etc.), and knows the best photos to take, too!  That night, we dined at Anitica Pesa, one of the best restaurants in Rome, established in 1922.

Saturday, March 16th, 2024 — Rome

On my birthday, we started the day in Rome with a visit to one of the oldest and largest private palaces, Palazzo Colonna. Wow! The family dates back to the 12th century, and this palace dates back to the 14th century. This place is the sort you’d easily miss if you relied only on a guidebook instead of travel experts. It’s said that the gallery is just as marvelous as the great halls of Versailles, and I have to agree. A minutely carved ivory cabinet and another rare-gem encrusted one astonished me, and that’s aside from the impressive art collection. I also realized how ignorant I am of what happened in Rome and Italy in the 1600s and 1700s. I especially want to know more about the fascinating Marie Mancini. I was thrilled to discover that one of my favorite historical biographers, Antonia Fraser, touches on her life in her book Love and Louis XIV.

Then we boarded a train to Florence and arrived at the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever seen – Palazzo Portinari Salviati. They were kind enough to give me a room with a view, a view with a view so incredible I burst into tears. Roman ruins have been preserved in the basement (off the fitness room!) We dined at All’Antico Ristoro di Cambi, relishing delicious, hearty food after our long day.

Sunday, March 17th, 2024 — Florence

Since most of us had been to Florence, we visited a lesser-known site, Orsanmichele. Our guide pointed out the remnants of this building’s use as a grain market. Now, as a church, it’s remarkable in the features – mosaics and sculptures – of women from both the Old and New Testaments. Then we stopped for coffee and pastries at the oldest cafe in Florence – Caffè Gilli located right in the Piazza della Repubblica. We then got a lesson in art at Iguarnieri Art Gallery Studio and indulged our creativity ourselves. We lunched at the amazing Ristorante Frescobaldi in the heart of Florence’s Piazza della Signoria in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. We parted ways to explore independently, and I visited Il Papiro to buy stationery and journals. Dinner back at the hotel lasted over four hours in a stunning setting; none of us wanted the magic to end! We so relished each other’s company, and the ladies included travel advisors, a destination specialist, and a hotel representative – now friends for life. The delicious meal was created by Chef Vito Mollica, whose restaurant in the hotel enjoys 1 Michelin star.

Monday, March 18th, 2024 — Florence

This morning, I signed the guest book to say thank you and goodbye. What a birthday present – a Room With a View. Lucy Honeychurch’s aunt (aka Maggie Smith) would be envious. You made me feel like a principessa, and I will never forget… After breakfast, our group parted ways, and three of us boarded the train to Milan for DUCO, an annual exclusive boutique travel summit. While on the train, we met suppliers who were also headed to the event, and we got a briefing on their property on the Amalfi Coast! I picked up my orientation materials at the beautiful Mandarin Oriental, and then I checked into the Park Hyatt Milano. I was so lucky to stay there, as the location is outstanding! That night at the opening reception, I got to walk through the passenger carriages of La Dolce Vita Orient Express, and wow! They are pure elegance in Art Deco design (which I love!). They embody the golden age of Italian design. The train embarks in 2025!

Tuesday, March 19th, 2024 — Milan

Day one of Duco began with a drink of blood-red orange juice made with oranges from Sicily, which is only available during the spring months. My day started at 9 am with a breakfast meeting to personally thank one of my favorite destination specialists. What a treat! From 10 am to 5:15, I met with partners in 15-minute intervals and learned so much. Lunch that day was at the Hotel Principe di Savoia, which gave me further time to meet and get to know hoteliers and travel suppliers. At the end of the day, I attended a gathering for apertivos at Armani Hotel Milano. After, I attended an intimate dinner at the Mandarin Oriental. One of my best partners included me; the experience was so fun. The best afterparty was held there, and I got to say hello to many friends – old and new, including the Six Senses Rome general manager. It was a long but good day.

Wednesday, March 20th, 2024 — Milan

Another day of meetings was held at the beautiful Palazzo Giureconsulti, which is right by the Duomo in Milan. I headed to the Palazzo Parigi Hotel and Grand Spa for lunch, where opera singers entertained us. I inspected this hotel in October 2022 but toured the hotel again. I also met with one of my favorite representative companies. Small hotels and hidden gems often consult specialists to educate travel advisors about their properties and offerings. The Park Hyatt Milano celebrated its 20th anniversary with a party inspired by the award-winning film, The Great Beauty. A dinner at the new Portrait Milano, owned by the Ferragamo family, was one of the most elegant affairs I’ve ever attended. Our portraits were our place cards! And we got tours of the suites here too. What a beautiful addition to Milan’s hotel options.  

Thursday, March 21st, 2024 — Milan

Our last day of meetings was still strong. Applause broke out at the end. At the beginning of every meeting, I heard how wonderful my host agency, Embark Beyond, is. Oh, do you know Jack? Do you know Anne? I loved that because I love Embark. Lunch at the Four Seasons featured their three properties in Italy – Milan, Florence, and Sicily. Venice, Puglia, and Rome will soon be added! On the last night, apertivos were back at Portrait Milano. I attended but didn’t stay until the end. I retired early to my hotel and took a long, hot bath in a big, deep bathtub before an early night. 

Friday, March 22nd, 2024 — Milan

Before departing for my next destination, one of my favorite destination specialists invited me on three very special tours. The first was of the Royal Pavillion at the Milan train station. Though the area was never used because Italy deposed the king after World War II, these rooms were amazing. The guide even pointed out an escape hatch for the king should an assassin try to kill him. (An anarchist killed his father.) Next was a very moving Shoah Memorial, which told the story of the deportations from the Milan train station to concentration and labor camps. The gentleman who spearheaded the creation of this memorial led our group through this sacred space and shared how it came to be. Finally, I visited one of the best house museums in Europe – Palazzo Bagatti Valsecchi. Created by the heirs of Fausto and Giuseppe Bagatti Valsecchi, the museum preserves the art collections and their placement in the historic apartments on the mansion’s noble (or first) floor. We met one of those heirs who welcomed us personally and shared stories of her family and their home from the pivotal moments of the 20th century.

Then, I headed off to Merano, a small town in northern Italy that Empress Sisi made popular as a health resort among aristocrats and celebrities. 

Saturday, March 23rd, 2024 — Merano

After DUCO, many others were headed off to visit many hotels and do more site inspections. I confess I was relieved to have arrived at the renowned Palace Merano for a detox and a rest. After dining with the leading staff the night before, we had an orientation session this first morning, and then they gave us our schedules for the next four days. I was with a small group of other travel advisors whom I liked very much. We each met with a medical doctor and then put on a specialized diet. I had my first day of daily hydrotherapy, mud therapy, and massage therapy sessions. 

Sunday, March 24th, 2024 — Merano

On this day, I had a full day of appointments from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., including body composition testing, acupuncture, infusions, an “energizing treatment,” and non-invasive facial treatment, plus various mud, water, and massage therapies. I was tired and hungry and slept well. I loved going to the tea parlor and selecting a flavor from the plethora of attractive options. The hotel is over a hundred years old but very well kept up. This hotel was the first one where I didn’t have to request additional hangers. The medical and spa floors were brand new and state-of-the-art. I was pleased to realize that my therapists were the same each day, so we were getting to know each other. They came to know my body’s quirks and what needed to be done.

Monday, March 25th, 2024 — Merano

Today passed much like yesterday. I had a full day of treatments intended to boost my vitality, but I was still feeling exhausted and hungry. Instead of acupuncture, I saw an osteopath who helped me with my frozen shoulder, which was exciting. I also met with a nutritionist and enjoyed a fascinating cooking workshop. I was impressed with the number of men at this wellness resort. I wouldn’t say quite half of the guests were men, but it was close. That’s not generally been the case in similar places based in the United States. Europeans and Middle Easterners stayed longer than Americans typically do, too.  

Tuesday, March 26th, 2024 — Merano

I woke feeling like a new person – the best I had felt for as long as I could remember. A reminder of how critical food is to how we feel.  I even did the outdoor group walk in the village along the river, including many inclines and hills as well as stunning scenery. This part of Italy used to be part of the Austrian Empire, and the village felt Austrian. I also did a postural analysis session, which was illuminating. The other aspect of Palace Merano I loved was how easy it was to change appointments and your schedule. To me, that ease is luxury. I was able to do what I wanted when I wanted without any trouble. They also tracked down a colleague’s luggage without having a luggage tag number. That’s service!

Wednesday, March 27th, 2024 — Merano

My cohorts left before dawn, but I had one last appointment. I met with the osteopath again one last time because I found him so helpful! Then, I headed back into the village to pick up a taxi to check out another wellness property in Merano – Villa Eden. I met the owner at DUCO, and she invited me to come and see what they offered. And her hotel is just beautiful. Merano was a summer resort for many Russian aristocrats in the 19th century, and this neighborhood was filled with beautiful homes. Her hotel is a small boutique hotel with just 25 rooms but with everything that you would wish for. The dining rooms and the lobby felt like an elegant hotel in New York City, and the suites and rooms were perfectly appointed. They also have a doctor on staff and extensive wellness offerings, including delicious, healthy food. I also saw the family’s nearby winery, which included a fascinating wine-making museum and an incredible wine cellar.  

Then, I was off to my next destination in the rain—the COMO Alpina Dolomites. The rain had turned to snow when I arrived on the Alpe di Siusi plain. I felt like I’d landed in a James Bond film! What a stunning location and property. While taking an after-dinner dip in the indoor/outdoor pool, I bumped into a few Embark Beyond colleagues!

Thursday, March 28th, 2024 — Alpe di Siusi

I woke early and stepped outside onto my room’s terrace. After taking a few photos and videos, I stopped to take it all in. A few moments later, my neighbor came out with his camera as the sun rose. We looked at each other and started laughing together, sharing that magical moment of dawn expanding on the mountains before us! I’ve never seen anything like it. 

I felt so good I decided to go skiing for the first time in this millennium. I used to cross-country ski in Vermont all the time, but not since the 1990s. The snow continued to fall. I just had to buy snow pants, and I was set. It wasn’t for long, and it wasn’t elegant, but I did it, and it was such fun! After skiing and hot cocoa, I enjoyed a massage in the Shambhala Spa, where I also checked out the unique hay room. Yes, raw hay is a whole thing there!

Friday, March 29th, 2024 — Alpe di Siusi

I woke at 5:30 a.m. and watched the moon set behind the mountains. This landscape was unlike any I had ever seen. I stood outside for quite a while as the sun rose, wrapped in a blanket, and breathed in the fresh, chilly air while feeling awe. 

I arrived in Venice at about noon. The ride to my hotel via water taxi felt like a dream, a different sort of awe and magic. After a quick lunch, my guide arrived to take me to a workshop so I could paint a Venetian mask at Sogno Veneziano Atelier (which means dream of Venice). I was given a tour of the various campos, canals, and churches. My guide pointed out and bought me pastries from the renowned Rosa Salva, a bakery since 1879. I finished with a delicious dinner at my beautiful hotel, my home for the next eight days, Londra Palace.  

Saturday, March 30th, 2024 — Venice

I have always loved a day that started with a map, and my guide pulled up a map of the city of Venice and asked me what it looked like. I said two fish, giving each other a deep kiss; she suggested two hands shaking each other. She also displayed a map of the Venetian empire at its height, which fascinated me. At the Doge Palace, I learned and saw so much. Ruskin said, “The Palace was the great work of Venice…the principal effort of her imagination.” I walked up the Golden Staircase, explored the rooms, marveled at the clocks, and walked over the Bridge of Sighs. My guide pointed out the last graffiti in the jail, left by one of the last prisoners in the 1920s. Our next stop was St. Mark’s Basilica, which was very crowded on the Saturday before Easter. Thank goodness our skip-the-line tickets saved me well over an hour. I find it hard to describe the wonder I felt inside this church, which is over 1000 years old — the gold mosaics date back to the 11th century. I did take a moment to sit and pray as the day marked the anniversary of my baptism. Then my guide surprised me by taking me to a secret rooftop near the Rialto Bridge, giving me a rare view of Venice. I cried. It was unbelievable. I was tired and was dreading the long walk back to the hotels 

Sunday, March 31st, 2024 — Easter — Venice

A rainy Easter greeted me, and my exhaustion kept me abed. The hotel offered me a different suite because the internet was running slow in my room, which was inhibiting my work. With the holiday, changing rooms was easier. My new suite was just as lovely as the original—and a little larger. I stayed in and stayed cozy. 

Monday, April 1st, 2024 — Venice

I worked in my room in the morning. In Italy, the Monday after Easter was a holiday. At the last minute, I opted to see Merano and Burano despite the cold rain. My guide and boat met me at 2 pm. My effort was rewarded with a private demonstration of glass making. I love that this artistry is preserved. The gentleman who explained the process of his colleague had been there for decades. I loved the intricacies of the hand etching in the glass and bought a small bowl. I realized that a glass sculpture I inherited from my parents likely came from a place like this, if not from this very place. Next up was Burano, where I was on the hunt for some lace. My ancestors’ names kept popping up. On an awing, “Dalla Olga;” Olga was my maternal grandmother’s name. Then, around a few more corners, “Casa Angela” was etched on a bright blue house; Angela was my mother’s name. My interest in lace came from my grandmother, who tatted lace. I have pieces that she made. (A hat, actually.) We found a place where an elderly lady sat and showed us her process. And I bought a shawl trimmed with lace. 

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024 — Venice

I got an official tour of Londra Palace first thing in the morning and then departed for a day of touring. This time, we headed to the less touristy area on the southern side of the Grand Canal. We first went to see the Tintorettos at Scuola Grande di San Rocco. It’s said that the walls here are his “Sistine Chapel.” I absolutely loved seeing this place. Then, we walked to a private home with the largest private garden in Venice. I heard the family’s story and explored the Palazzo Nani Bernardo’s garden and open floors. We next visited the Atelier Bevilacqua, where exquisite velvets are made meticulously and slowly. I discovered they crafted a wall covering for the White House back in DC! They also provide velvets for the top fashion houses such as Dior and Dolce & Gabanna. I watched as a young woman worked the ancient looms. At one point, walking through the maze of Venice, my guide pointed out the Banksy mural, Migrant Child (2019), which is painted on the wall of a building along the Rio Novo canal in the heart of Venice’s Dorsoduro district. I would have missed this remarkable work, and I was so glad I had a guide to make sure I caught it!

That night, we had the opening panel discussion for the Travelux 2024 show and opening reception at the lovely Hotel Monaco e Grand Canal. I met many wonderful new people and delightfully ran into old colleagues from my prior host agency. And with a dear, old one, we grabbed a late-night dinner at the best pizza place in Venice – Ristorante AcquaPazza.

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2024 — Venice

Our meetings were being held at the JW Marriott, which sits on an island in the lagoon, so we had to commute by boat. We had to be ready to go by 8 a.m. in our hotel lobby. Once I arrived, I loved the setup. Carpeting meant that the noise wouldn’t be overwhelming. I loved the people I met because they were unusual and had unusual offerings. Lunch was onsite, and it was a chance to share stories and casually hang out with suppliers. That evening, I toured Palazzo Venart and enjoyed a cocktail reception before heading over to the newly renovated, drop-dead-gorgeous St. Regis hotel, where I was one of twelve for a very special dining experience. What fun! A lot of laughter ensued, and new friendships were made!

Thursday, April 4th, 2024 — Venice

After another early start, we completed our meetings at 1 pm. Afterward, there were five activities for further networking. My exhaustion was such that I canceled. I ended up seeing and touring the JW Marriott, the Gritti Palace, and the Aman Venice instead of resting. I couldn’t resist. They’re each very different and perfect for different types of clients. I loved the history of the Gritti Palace and seeing where Hemingway sat, and Eugene Levy cooked. The Art Deco boat decor of their cocktail lounge on the Grand Canale was pretty neat, too. The Aman Venice was my personal favorite, as I just love the mix of classic and contemporary decor. They also serve cocktails on a mirrored tray so that the frescos on the ceiling are reflected back to you. So clever! I also ran into the host who organized Travelux 2024 at the Aman and was able to thank her personally for the fantastic event. 

Friday, April 5th, 2024 — Venice

On our last day, the meetings were still going strong. My day started at 8 am and went until 6:00 pm. A quick trip back to my room gave me time for work and 10 minutes to dress for the Farewell Gala Dinner party at the San Clemente Palace Kempinski. I was thrilled to have a chance to see this property that, like the Belmond Hotel Cipriani and the JW Marriott, sits on its own island on the lagoon. It’s beautiful. Within an ancient chapel onsite, a string quartet played Vivaldi – a sublime moment that was just magic. I loved spending time and swamping notes with my new acquaintances and made plans to see them again soon. On the walk from the boat dock back to the hotel on my last night, I stopped one last time in St. Mark’s Square and took a few final photos of the Bridge of Sighs, which was beautifully lit. 

Saturday, April 6th, 2024 — Venice

I arrived at the renowned train station to depart for Milan on my next arranged tour with one of our destination specialists. One of my colleagues from the dinner at the St. Regis was also on this trip. There were three of us – one from Brazil, one from Australia, an American living in Barcelona, me, plus our leader. One of the things I loved about Travelux was that there were travel advisors from all over the world. I met advisors from Singapore, Munich, Lima, Great Britain and more. We arrived at the Dorchester’s Hotel Principe di Savoia, where I’d had lunch a few weeks before. We met with the Sales Director and enjoyed a leisurely lunch and tour. This hotel is popular during fashion week because the rooms and suites are large, allowing ample room to spread out. Their top suites are spectacular. After, the group headed to Excelsior Hotel Gallia and enjoyed dinner and another tour.

Sunday, April 7th, 2024 — Milan

I slept 10 hours last night – much needed. Weeks such as Travelux and DUCO are full of long days, and work is done in the early morning or late at night. We drove to Lake Como, boarded a boat, and headed to Bellagio. Our guide pointed out all the sites and renowned villas and entertained us with tidbits and tales, including the costs of renting this or that for the night. He also provided us with delicious sandwiches and poured a perfect dry prosecco for us as well. In Bellagio, we wandered around for a bit and then headed to Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, another historic hotel that fascinated me. Churchill stayed there after World War II, and we saw his desk and the suite. JFK also visited, and George Lucas stayed there while filming the Star Wars prequel. After lunch, we returned to Como, stopped at a cafe for coffee, and headed to Lake Garda, where we checked into Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda. We did another hotel tour (and wow!) and had dinner with the sales staff. 

Monday, April 8th, 2024 — Gargnano, Lake Garda

Mornings at Lake Garda were spectacular. We were above the clouds. Lake Garda is different from Lake Como and beautiful, too. My colleagues went off to tour the lemon groves while I rested at the hotel and availed myself of some of the services. The temperature was warm, and the facilities were quite extensive. But nothing beat the views, so I spent time outside. During our last night together, I heard all about the lemon tradition of Lake Garda, and we shared our love of travel as well as stories from the trenches. 

Tuesday, April 9th, 2024 — Gargnano, Lake Garda

After a morning of goodbyes, we each departed to our different destinations—one to Verona, one to Portugal, one to Naples, and one to Barcelona. As for me, I headed back to Lake Como. 

I finally arrived at my final destination—Grand Hotel Tremezzo. They kindly upgraded me to an incredible suite. I could have spent two weeks there reading the bookcase alone. The selections were clearly carefully curated, and I grabbed one to read during my first lunch. After a massage, I retired early and slept well. 

Wednesday, April 10th, 2024 — Tremezzo, Lake Como

The day was rainy and dim but romantic and cozy. In the morning, I met Giovanni, a long-term waiter at the hotel. I introduced myself, and he informed me that Dave Brubeck had written a song named Cassandra, a fact I did not know. We shared our love of jazz and history, and he told me great stories about the lake, including the traditional boat called a lucia. I indulged in a manicure and pedicure. At lunch, I had two glasses of wine with my meal and then indulged in a three-hour nap. This day was the only day I did no work—no emails, no inspections, no meetings. I was to dine at the top restaurant at the hotel, but I decided I was too exhausted to truly relish the experience. So I ordered a light meal in my room, curled up with a book, and slept early. 

Thursday, April 11th, 2024 — Tremezzo, Lake Como

After a slow morning, I headed down to their lakefront classic-style lido. The water in the pool was too cold, but again, the air was warm. I enjoyed a light lunch and then met my colleague to tour the rooms and suites, which were as lovely as expected. The common areas of Grand Hotel Tremezzo are stylish and chic. And the aroma of roses permeates the air. I spent some time in the shop, selected souvenirs for friends back home, and bought myself a gold charm of a lucia boat for my charm bracelet. I prepared myself for a solo meal at La Terrazza by Italian Chef Gualtiero Marchesi, where I ordered the renowned Riso, oro e zafferano, or risotto with gold and saffron. The waiter presented me with a certificate to mark the occasion. I also ordered Crepes Suzettes for dessert, a rarity I used to enjoy as a girl during special trips to Manhattan restaurants in the 70s. Villa D’Este, also on the lake, is the only other place I know that still offers this sweet. 

Friday, April 12th, 2024 — Tremezzo, Lake Como

On my last day, I ventured to visit Villa Carlotta two doors down. I confess I’m not a fan of gardens. To me, gardens are hills, heat, and bugs. But I loved this Italian garden (an elevator helped) and did explore some of the paths and stopped to read the signs. I also downloaded the app, which I recommend. I spent more time in the Villa Museum and loved it, too. The views of the lake were astonishing, and so was the art. I learned a lot about the early 19th century and the influence of Napolean on northern Italy. In the afternoon, I prepared for a photo shoot the hotel set up for me. We spent just an hour at sunset, but the photos are fantastic and a lovely memento of a fantastic trip filled with magic and pasta! 

Saturday, April 13th, 2024 — Tremezzo, Lake Como

I rose early for a long 22-hour trip home. I chose to connect through Montreal, but that was fortuitous. I could go through US Customs in the Montreal airport, which meant that when I landed in DC, I was out the door and on my way home to bed in less than 30 minutes. And with my hat from Rome which safely made the trip!

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