For the longest time, we thought this vacation would never come! But it did and we had a wonderful time exploring northern Italy. As we head into our last full year here in Germany, we knew this could possibly be our only trip to Italy, so we wanted to see as much as we could. So we packed up the girls and jumped in the car!
Our first stop: Liechtenstein. This is the castle, located in the capital city of Vaduz. The prince and princess (head of the country) still live there. And, true to form, we had to stop at the McDonald's there. Liechtenstein is a .beautiful (and small) country, and the girls loved knowing the actual royalty lived in the palace. They were disappointed that we didn't see them. :)
Once through Leichtenstein, we drove into Switzerland. I just can not get enough of the beautiful scenery of that country. If it weren't so darn expensive to visit there, we'd go a lot more. But Swiss francs have a worse exchange rate with the dollar then the Euro, so we only go when necessary.
|Ahh, don't we wish this was the San Bernadino in CA! Plantes and Mausers, here we come.|
We drove through the Bernina pass into Italy. What we didn't expect was all the snow! The road was fine--our van did great--but it actually snowed while we drove over the pass.
|Yes, LOTS of snow!|
Up over the pass and down into a finger of Switzerland that juts into Italy. Poschiavo, the little town from which Jon's great-grandfather emigrated back in the early 20th century. It's situated in a beautiful valley with snowy mountains on all sides, and Italy just 20 km (12.5 miles) to the south.
We didn't stay in Poschiavo (as mentioned before, Switzerland is expensive) because (shocker) there aren't many places for a family of five to stay in a small town! So we went over the border to Italy and stayed in Tirano. The next morning, we drove back up to Poschiavo to look around. Unfortunately, it was a holiday so just about everything was closed, but we enjoyed walking around town.
|E and K both wanted to be "imprisoned" on this staircase that hugged the church. Jon had to "rescue" them from evil mommy several times.|
|Kate, hanging out near the stairs from the above picture. We loved the look of this wrought-iron...until we had a closer look...|
|...and saw it was some sort of graveyard? It was filled with skulls on all three sides. Hmmm. The girls loved it.|
|Ellie wanted to give a sermon from the pulpit of the reformed church. (She's pointing her finger at her congregation.)|
And as we walked around the town, our "I Spy" game was to see who could find where the Luminatis lived. We found some!! We even rang the bell at one, but no one answered. That was probably best, as it might be a bit awkward to explain what we were doing there to perfect strangers, even though we share the same last name. It was fun anyway.
|A street in Poschiavo|
|The girls checking out a fountain in one square, not far from where we had lunch. Thank goodness they didn't fall in.|
As our day was ending, we found a playarea for the girls to enjoy. It turned out to be a double blessing because it actually started raining pretty hard, so Jon ran back to the car while the girls and I took cover under the play equipment. Well, I should emphasize I TRIED to keep the girls undercover. They kept running out, playing in the rain.
Our apartment in Tirano was enormous! It had three bedrooms, two full baths, kitchen, living room, and two balconies--one was a wrap-around. You can see our balcony in the picture below. It's the one on top.
We spent a little bit of time walking around Tirano as well, realizing Italians don't start eating dinner until after 7. That's a bit late for a family of small kids who have been touring all day, so we went to a grocery store and had a picnic dinner at home. But Tirano is a beautiful town as well, and we enjoyed seeing a little bit of it. Our van, Cooper, however, didn't really enjoy Tirano--he had a run-in with an iron windowsill that left a big dent in the passenger-side rear quarter panel. However, considering Cooper is even bigger in Italy than he is in Germany, he handled the small roads and tiny, zippy cars pretty well. (That and Jon was driving when it happened, so Jen is in the clear. Whew! :)
Our hosts directed us to the best gelato in Tirano. They said people drive from St. Moritz (1 hr away, over the Bernina Pass) just to get this gelato. It was delicious. Everyone say "Gelato!"
This is the view of Tirano as we drive away, headed to our next destination. It was so beautiful, tucked into the alps. The road we followed out of Tirano was crazier and twistier than the Bernina pass, but the views were amazing. Onward!
Next stop: Lake Garda and Verona.