Tuesday June 13: Day 1 - VercelliWe arrive in Milan in the late morning...our plane is 2.5 hours late and the travel day has been a bit difficult. There was heavy rain on the road to Newark, our plane was delayed, the United Club was mobbed, and there was a lot of chaos at the gate. Once the flight takes off, it is uneventful...we get a little sleep and are glad to be on our way.
We are so happy to be back in Italy....the luggage arrives promptly, our leased car pickup goes smoothly, and we are on the road again. Vercelli is about an hour south of the airport and we take local roads rather than the autostrada. This part of Italy (the Po Valley) is not the most scenic area but we are content seeing the Italian road signs and the Italian towns as we drive by. This part of Italy is known for its rice and as we approach Vercelli, rice paddies filled with water and bright green shoots stretch off in all directions.
Vercelli is mid-sized city and, since the center is a traffic limited zone (ZTL), we are directed (by Waze) to circle the city and drive through some less attractive business and housing districts. We find our hotel (La Terrazza--really a big B&B), park the car, and, with some false starts, get inside. The owner, a charming young woman named Cristina, gets us settled and we are happy to have reached our destination.
We do minimal unpacking...Diana is ready for a nap and I head out for a first look at the town. The "centro storico" is quite well preserved and attractive. The main piazza--Piazza Cavour--is large and surrounded by handsome buildings and numerous restaurants and bars...it is a great place to sit and people watch.
The statue is Count Camillo Cavour, one of key figures of the Italian unification movement.
Continuing around the back streets, I find the 19th century synagogue that we will visit on Thursday.
and an intriguing store window displaying wooden models of local buildings.
I stop for my first gelato of the trip...my favorite flavors--fior di latte and stracciatella--which taste terrific.
Back in the room, the lack of sleep hits me and I take an uncharacteristic nap. Before dinner, we take a short walk together in the centro and have dinner at La Vineria, the restaurant in the same building as La Terrazza. We are the first diners at 8 pm...the waiter is charming and the food is very good. We share a plate of assorted local salume, then Diana has an excellent dish of small agnolotti with butter, sage, and lemon and I have the tagliatelle with a meat sauce. Diana's apple cake is very good as are the two glasses of Barbera di Monferrato that we enjoy. A very good first meal....
Two Americans come in while we are eating and, when they have difficulty communicating with the waiter and understanding the hand-written Italian menu, he looks at us for help in translation. The man of the couple had been born in Vercelli sixty years ago and had gone (or been sent) to America as a child. This was his first trip back and they were going to search for some family connections in town. We help them with the menu and have a nice conversation. Coincidentally, they live in Virginia and had also just arrived in Italy.
Now we are ready to go upstairs and collapse....
Jim and Diana