Locarno and Milano

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On June 23, 2016 we said a fond farewell to our Tuscan home and drove north toward Locarno, spending one night just outside Parma on the way.

It was an interesting Bed & Breakfast in a rural farmhouse with chickens running around outside and beautiful linens inside.

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We were on our way to visit our former neighbours from Singapore.  Driving along the western side of Lake Maggiore, the hydrangeas were in full bloom.  I don’t think I have ever seen such a concentration of this magnificent flowerdsc_1948-1

We had not seen Silvana (Swiss) and Paul (English) in 19 years.  Where does the time go?  After a very warm welcome, we caught up with each others’ news and commented on how it seemed “just like yesterday” since we had been together.  We have always enjoyed good laughs together.dsc_1819-1

Over the next two days they kindly drove us around, showing us the abundance of beauty in which they live.  Locarno, situated in the southeast corner of Switzerland, enjoys a semi- tropical climate.  One goes from palm trees down by the lake, to Alpine vegetation up in the mountain areas.

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The first day we drove up into Valle Maggia.  Here, visiting a beautiful chapel overlooking the valley.

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Unfortunately it was raining, but that didn’t stop us, nor did it diminish the beauty of the villages and mountains all around us.dsc_1838

Civio Town Hall, decorated with crests, is listed as a Swiss Heritage Site of Significant National Importance.

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One piece of architecture they wanted to show us was this unusual church, Chiesa de San Giovanni Battista.  Along with some homes, the former c. 1626 church was destroyed in the avalanche of 1986.  We could see why it had caused so much controversy, because from the outside it does not look like a church and is almost ugly!

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But once inside, one is silenced by the majestic simplicity of the design and complexity of the patterns.

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Local marble and granite were used in it’s construction.  I was so glad to have seen it.

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Gradually the clouds melted away under the warm sun.

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The village colors just popped out under the rays of sunshine.

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I have to include this photo.  On our way up the valley, Paul had spotted several donkeys sheltering in this barn, “they looked so cute peaking out, waiting for the rain to stop”.  On our way back down, they were out enjoying the sun!

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And here is a charming holiday cottage for rent.  Any takers?

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Along the way they pointed out old dry stone cottages where the extremely poor, peasant farmers used to live – before the more wealthy from Locarno moved into the valley.  Many of the cottages have now been renovated and sell for millions of Swiss Francs.

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The next day we toured closer to home……

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…in particular the church of Madonna del Sasso, situated on the Cammino di Santiago.

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The church, which sits high up on the hill above Locarno, commands a prominent position over the city and lake.

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Silvana’s parents were married here and her mother used to worship here regularly.  Unfortunately she is no longer able to, so Silvana lit a candle on her behalf.

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Within the past few years, the church was beautifully renovated.

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 What a superb job!

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The walls of the church are decorated with gifts from grateful parishioners.

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Outside, showing the dominant position it quite rightly holds.

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All the streets in the old city lead to the lovely Piazza Grande.  The Locarno International Film Festival & the “Moon & Stars” Festival take place here every year.

Too soon it was time to say Adieu to our dear friends.  Fortunately today we can stay in touch via social media, so that we don’t feel so far away from them.

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So we made our way to Milan for 2 days and 3 nights before flying to Finland.

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The Airbnb was quite nice and in an interesting area.

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The living room.  But oh my goodness, someone had turned up the heat!  Fortunately we had a floor fan which helped to keep us cool.

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These buildings were just a couple of blocks away.  Such a contrast with the traditional suburb we were staying in.

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With only a couple of days to explore the sites, we focused on the most important.

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I was fascinated to observe people of other faiths coming to see our great symbols of Christianity – and why not?  I loved exploring the Hindu Temples and Islamic Mosques while in Asia.dsc_2074

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The interior was indeed beautiful.  However, what I was really interested in going on the roof and seeing the exterior.

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How fantastic to be able to climb up among the exquisite carvings and statuary and see them up close.

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What forethought in designing the cathedral.

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And right next to the cathedral is this magnificent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.

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Full of expensive designer shops.

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I did make sure that we purchased advance tickets to see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper”.   Only a certain number of people are allowed into the climate controlled room at a time and only for 15 mins.

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I felt very humbled to have seen the masterpiece.

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We walked around enjoying the shade of magnificent trees and enjoying the feel of Milan. Eventually coming to La Scala Opera House.  Always a thrill to see something one has heard about for decades.

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We had driven 3,246 miles, 5,224 kms during the past couple of months and now it was time to change direction completely and fly to Finland.

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At the Milan airport, an Italian mother giving her daughter an important lesson.

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