Come to Italy with me!

A few years ago, my colleague Laura Garrison formed a club for WXXI listeners who are passionate about travel.  She and former morning host Simon Pontin led a trip to Austria in 2008. Last year, a small group went to Costa Rica with WRUR’s Scott Regan. When Laura asked me to co-host a trip to northern Italy in 2011, I was thrilled.

On Saturday, June 18th, we’ll take an overnight flight and begin the journey in the resort town of Stresa on the shore of Lake Maggiore, a lovely town that provided one of the settings for Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms. We’ll take a boat to one of the Isle Borromee (Borromean Islands) for a welcome dinner on the tiny Isola dei Pescatori (Island of the Fisherman), a picturesque spot strung with fishing nets and dotted with shrines to the Madonna.  (Stresa is not far from Lake Como, a spectacular pairing of nature and artifice which inspired American composer Dominick Argento’s 2004 work, "Four Seascapes," honoring the Sibley library at the Eastman School of Music.)

Cinque TerreCinque TerreFrom there we’ll depart for the Italian Riviera on the Ligurian coast, stopping in Portofino, a harbor town founded as a Roman colony and taken over by Genoa in 1229.  We’ll stroll by pastel buildings and cliff-side gardens nestled against the turquoise Ligurian Sea.  If fellow travelers are up to it, I would love to do some hiking through the Cinq Terre, five nearly inaccessible fishing villages hugging the cliffs.  For centuries, the terrain was so rugged that one could only get from village to village on footpaths.  Today those trails lure backpackers from all over the world.

We’ll stay for four nights in an Italian villa near the beautiful city of Florence. We’ll stop in Lucca, the birthplace of Giacomo Puccini, one of Italy's most famous operatic composers. (If time allows, perhaps we’ll visit the house he was born in in 1858, now a museum.)  We’ll explore the Tuscan countryside, take a cooking class, and tour a winery.  We’ll move on to Venice. On nearby Murano Island, we’ll watch a glass-blowing demonstration.  On the last night of the trip (June 28th), we’ll celebrate with a farewell dinner in Venice and return to Rochester the next day.

I’ve never been to Italy, and I’m eager to explore “the top of the boot.” Friends who’ve been there tell me the weather in northern Italy is delightful in mid-June, and this trip promises to be breathtaking, offering a nice balance of rest and activity, town and countryside.  I hope you'll consider coming, too.

 The cost of the trip includes 17 meals and roundtrip air from the Rochester International Airport to Malpensa Airport in Milan, returning from Venice’s Marco Polo Airport back to Rochester.  It also includes hotel transfers and a contribution to WXXI.   Space is limited.  For a detailed brochure, please call Laura Garrison at (585)258-0309, or e-mail