L'Italia parte due...

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Ah Italy.  You know you have found a very special place when your heart aches because of how much you miss being there.  It crushes me to know that this summer I won't be going back...won't get to walk up that hill and see the beautiful vine covered house.  Say hi to the neighbors.  Take the girls for gelato and wander through town.  Trekking down the steep steps to head to the little grocery stores, happy when the shopkeepers would recognize us, and then back up the steps lugging my groceries behind me. Enjoying the little park or spending a few hours at the pool or watching the girls fly over the ledge and into the lake.  I can't explain how much Menaggio and Italy mean to me...its home.  In a sense.  
Last summer I was blessed to spend a whole month there again...but this time it was just me and my girls.  Matt had to stay and finish up in Saudi, and well, none of my family could make the trip this time.  So, yep, it was just us three.  And you know what?  It was amazing.  Some days we didn't do much of anything...maybe a walk to town for groceries or a snack, then back home to hang out, cook, watch movies.  Other days we'd venture out to some of the towns we didn't visit the previous summer or back to some of our favorites, like Bellagio and Lugano.  There is something magical about Italy that just stays with me always....and I will get back there...at some point.  :)  
Something special we did that summer was get to visit with some friends of ours from Saudi.  My friend is from Italy and her daughter was in the same kinder class as Sara.  They were good buddies and so when she invited us to spend a few days with her...we happily agreed!  :)  I was a little nervous trying to figure out how to get to her though...just me and the girls having to travel by train...4 hours.  But I was able to get it all sorted and we ended up on a fabulous train ride through Tuscany and down to Orvieto.  My friend lives just outside the city, but in the summer her family heads to Montalto...a small beach town that we just loved.  Her family was so amazing and took such good care of us while we were there.  We spent days on the beach, went to see an Italian circus, went into the countryside for some horseback riding, ate AMAZING pizza that her sister and brother in law make at their local restaurant, and basically just had a great time.  It was wonderful.  
Once we got back to Menaggio, I took the girls on one last day trip to Lugano, Switzerland (we had visited there the year before as well) and then Matt finally arrived and we headed off to enjoy the rest of our summer vacation in Prague and Iceland (those posts to come soon!)  :)
I'm going to talk about the rest of the trip through the photos (many many photos) I took.  (remember, this blog is going to eventually be turned into a book for my darling daughters to have...so pix are very important!)  :D  
here we go:
My home away from home.  Our house was the little one in the center there...over the tunnel with the little Juliet balcony.  Top left is the view from the balcony.  Top right is the little market that would take place every other Saturday in the main piazza.  Bottom right...a small local market whose owners were related to my neighbors just down the hill.  The girls and I would stop there often for cheese, meats, wine, and the owners would always give the girls a little sweet.  :)  Bottom left is the little park we would stop at often; the girls had so much fun playing on all the equipment.   

Top left...They would have concerts in the piazza...I took the girls one night, they had fun listening to the orchestra..even getting up and dancing!  :)  Bottom left: the stairs.  The 155 stairs we would climb both ways to get to the grocery store and back (or well, just to get to town if we didn't want to go down the big hill)  Who needs a gym?!  Middle and bottom right:  one of the beautiful little restaurants in the main piazza and another shot of the Saturday market.  Top right:  the girls and their Italian friends...the Italian kids spoke very little English, my girls spoke very, very little Italian...and yet...they played together all the time.  :D

The previous year we never made it out on the lake unless we were taking the ferry somewhere.  This time, I was going to get myself a boat!  We rented one of the little boats and took off for an hour.  We had an absolute blast.  Went up the lake where we hadn't been before and raced back down past Bellagio and over to see the beautiful Villa del Balbianello.  I was a great way to spend an hour!  :)

Some of the amazing scenery we saw while on our boat ride.

The girls LOVED jumping into the lake!  

lazy days in Menaggio

Pasta, pizza, and gelato....oh my!
Bottom left was a dinner at one of our neighbors houses.  So lovely!  Middle pic is the girls and their Italian friends at the lido.  (aka pool)

We spent a day visiting one of the smaller towns we never went to the year before.  Bellano.  We wandered through the streets, stopping at shops, checking out churches and having lunch.  We also went to see a really pretty waterfall with catwalks through the trees.  (a few pix in another collage)

above are more of Bellano.  I love the top right...a bunch of old men were sitting outside sipping wine and playing cards...so Italian!  ;)

More of us just enjoying ourselves with friends and just the three of us.  Bottom left and top left are at the river a friend of ours took us to..a little hike through gorgeous woods and then a dip in the water!  Bottom right is the girls keeping themselves entertained outside our house.

The next few collages are of our trip to Orvieto and Montalto.  We took a train down through Tuscany and past Florence.  It was gorgeous!!  Of course, the girls mostly just watched movies in our private cabin that we had on the train!  :)
Top left and bottom right are the views of Orvieto from afar.  Such an awesome town.  And the church of Orvieto.

Some shots of Tuscany from the train.  Meeting our friends!  

Spending time at the beach, circus, and some outdoor relaxation after horseback riding.  :)

Oh man, the pizza was incredible!  They used huge scissors to cut the slices.  And the toppings were fresh and super tasty!  My friend also shared with me some wine that was 16% alcohol!  Needless to say, we sipped it slowly!    

Bottom right is where we ate dinner most nights in the hotel with my friend and her family.  Her family runs the hotel and so we would have a nice dinner there altogether.  The food was always fantastic.  Other pix of the girls just having a great time.

We had to visit Bellagio one last time before we left (and so I could get a special bottle of wine for my brother and his wife)  I enjoyed a lovely mimosa while Sara took my picture!  :) 

Top left are photos of us by the waterfall in Bellano.  Middle and bottom right are pix of this fabulous little bistro in Bellagio.  Great wines paired with cheese and meats, but the setting was amazing..carved out of stone and wine bottles everywhere.  

Just some fun shots.  We had some great rain storms followed by a gorgeous rainbow one day!  And Lily was happy to get a new doll.

We took the bus back to Lugano for one last day trip before Matt arrived.  Hiked up a ton of stairs to get a beautiful view.  The main piazza has such beautiful buildings.

Some pix of Lake Lugano.

They had a display of horses throughout the town, and of course, the girls wanted their photos taken with every single one.  :)  

Well...that pretty much sums it up!  We had a truly wonderful month and we have memories that will last a lifetime.  I hope to get back to that little house soon...though, there is so much more of the world we still want to see.  But like I said, Menaggio will always have a very, very special place in my heart. :)

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