VISIT TO ESTE 1 ST – 6 TH NOVEMBER 2012
REMEMBRANCE DAY COMMEMORATIONS (Click here to see photos)
Thursday 1 st Nov
Having set off from the UK at silly o'clock this morning, our very weary delegation from Leek (Pam & Phil Wood, Linda & Ray Malyon, Maria & Beverley– a small group it's true, but select and perfectly formed!) was met around 11am at Marco Polo airport by Renato, Christiano and Carlo, and was whisked off to lunch at the Garden restaurant, somewhere en route to Este, before anyone had time to say ‘spaghetti bolognese'.
It was a lovely way to start off our visit and we were joined for lunch by our friends Stefano and Sylvia, however, as with many things Italian, lunch was a lengthy affair so heads and eyes were drooping long before the end was in sight!
We arrived in Este late afternoon and arranged to meet up early the following morning for our visit to the Venetian islands of Murano, Burano, and Torcello. I don't know about Pam & Phil and Linda & Ray, but by now the only thought in my head was to get to bed as quickly as manners would allow!
Friday 2 nd Nov
We met up with our Italian hosts and friends at 8.45am in Chioggia (a fishing port in the south of Venice's lagoon) and at 9am set sail for the islands. The sun shone, the skies were blue, and our private clipper was hearty - no grog though!
Our first port of call was Murano, famous worldwide for its glass making. We spent just under an hour here, in which time we managed to grab a coffee, tour a small glass making factory, and buy some beautiful glass, of course. No time to linger unfortunately so off we ploughed on the sparkling sea to Burano, an island famous for its lace making.
Here we stopped for a traditional fish lunch, after which we had lots of time (hurrah!) to wander around this beautifull town, whose buildings are painted in blisteringly vivid colours. We were told that the idea behind this was so that the fishermen could recognise their houses when they were coming back from their fishing expeditions and would know that they were on the right course for home.
Naturally we couldn't stroll around Burano without popping into the vast array of shops selling lace products – what temptations! The hand-made lace was superb but products made in China and the like had crept in, such a shame. Always check the label!
A couple of hours later we were off again, this time to the tiny island of Torcello, famous for its Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta which, according to an ancient inscription, was founded in 639 AD, and which is a notable example of Byzantine-Venetian architecture.
Opposite the Cathedral is an ancient stone chair, known as Attila the Hun's Throne, which we just had to test for size, didn't we? However the chair has nothing to do with Attila, more likely it was originally used as a bishop's chair.
Torcello also boasts some very lovely canal-side restaurants and a bridge spanning the canal known as the Devil's Bridge. The origin of the name is uncertain, some think the name comes from a local family called Diavoli (meaning devils) but some believe that the name goes back to the legend spread throughout Italy during the Middle Ages, according to which many bridges were the work of the Devil, who was building them in exchange for souls. (This Google thing is great!)
The beautiful light began to fade, sunset was teasing us and we had perforce to start making our way back to Chioggia and onward to our evening commitments.
Now, you might think we'd have a leisurely Saturday lined up – not at all! Our hosts had other plans and proposed a trip to Lake Garda. Well, the answer was obvious – of course we'd like to visit Garda, though it would mean another early start ………… hmmm ……….. Lake Garda it was.
Saturday 3 rd November
Our intrepid party set off in a 3-car convoy early in the morning, headed for Lazise, a very pretty Medieval walled town on the Veronese (S Eastern) shore of Lake Garda, dating back to around 888 AD. Originally Lazise consisted of a group of stilt house on the lake; the piles of these stilts can still be seen so for me it could well mean a return visit.
Upon arrival at Lazise we made for the nearest café-bar and settled in for coffee and cakes, then spent an hour or so pootling around the old piazza and promenade. It wasn't the best day for weather; drizzly, cold and blowy, but the silver lining to this was that the atmosphere was peaceful and laid back.
On with the tour! Our next stop was Bardolino, on the Veronese (eastern) shore of Lake Garda, behind which are the hills on which the grapes are grown for Bardolino wine. Yum!
Bardolino is another very pretty town running alongside a picture postcard shoreline; cafes and restaurants nestled in amongst the narrow streets and main piazza. Naturally we had to stop for lunch – a quick one for me, Lorena and Bev, as we wanted to get out and explore a little. Which we did – using the lakeside tourist train as time was limited. Weather – sadly, very wet.
Our happy band of travellers, replete and having had un piccolo post-prandial tour of Bardolino, retraced their steps back to our chauffeured cars for the return journey to Este, so that we could arrive in good time to prepare for the buffet supper which awaited us that evening, at the Centro Formazione Professionale Manfredini; it's no good turning up tired and dusty at a ‘do', is it?
The Manfredini is a private college, founded by the Salesian, Don Bosco, which today provides training in electrics, mechanics, graphics, and the restaurant trade.
PM – Manfredini Buffet and Entertainment
This evening was organised by the National Association of the Carabinieri and the entertainment was provided by the Band of the Bersaglieri.
The evening was formally opened by the mayor of Este's representative, consigliere Sartori, and by the mayor of Leek, Pam Wood, both of whose speeches which were translated into English by Christiano.
It was disappointing that Giancarlo Piva, Este's mayor, did not attend the event this evening, as was also the fact that he has not yet made any effort to officially (or unofficially!) welcome Pam Wood and the Leek guests to the Remembrance Day commemoration events.
Be that as it may, lots of other Italian friends attended tonight and there was a lively ‘buzz' in the room, especially when the Band struck up, commencing their performance with first the British and then the Italian national anthem. The Band performed for much of the evening, with plenty of gusto and enthusiasm, practically raised the roof in fact, and was much applauded by the guests.
The evening drew to a close around 11pm – but not for me and Bev, oh no! Our hosts Renato and Lorena added an extra treat to the day by taking us to a DISCO – yes, that's what I thought when it was suggested! But this is not a Disco as you know it, Leek Twinning Committee.
To begin with it wasn't just for those of us under 25 (!); there were plenty of dancers raring to go who were at the older end of the scale –some probably well into their 70s. I felt young – that's how good it was!
There was live music as well chart CD music, and it didn't make me want to hit my head against the wall – it actually made me want to dance. What a revelation! There was lots of really comfortable seating and we were able to hold a conversation without the use of mad gestures and screeching vocal chords. Two other dance floors catered for the head-bangy stuff and for hip-swivelling Latino dancing.
I therefore propose that on our next trip to Este we include a Disco Fever Night!
Sunday 4 th November
Today was really the focus of the weekend and began with a Remembrance Day Mass at the Duomo d'Este. As well as our Leek delegation, attendees included representatives from the Alpini, the Bersaglieri, the Bomb Disposal Unit, the Carabinieri, the Financial Fraud Police, the Fire Brigade, the Scouts, and accompanying Bands.
From the Duomo we all paraded through Este to the main piazza, where the ceremony of the raising of the flag was performed and from there the parade took us to the Monument of the Fallen, where wreaths were laid by the Alpini and by Pam Wood.
Giancarlo Piva and Pam Wood both delivered Remembrance Day speeches (translated by Christiano) and it was with solemnity that we acknowledged the reason for our being in Este today.
Having spent a large part of the morning either marching through, or standing under fine rain, we had begun to feel the need to warm up therefore it was necessary to re-group for the ubiquitous tazza di caffè before joining our friends from the National Association of the Carabinieri in their Este offices for a buffet lunch.
Originally the plan had been to have lunch at the premises of the Alpini, but there had been a little ‘argy-bargy' with the Alpini about timings so the Carabinieri were our hosts that day.
The Carabinieri sanctum houses a collection of historial documents, uniforms and head gear – we had it all. Inevitably, a girl just has to try on a few hats doesn't she?!
The buffet looked very tempting and everyone settled down to tuck in except for me and Bev – all I managed to eat was a pickled gherkin! We were under strict orders to accompany Renato home for lunch with his family and friends.
Our final get together with Pam et al was arranged for later that evening at the Strie restaurant in Este.
The evening at the Strie was great fun and was a brilliant way of saying ‘good bye' to our friends from Este and Leek. We played Charades in Italian/English as well as a version of '20 questions', well, more like ‘innumerable questions'! Good food, good fun, good friendships. Ahhh.
Pam & Phil, Linda & Ray stayed on until 8 th November, so who knows what they got up to whilst we were back at work!
We had a splendid time with our Este friends and hosts.
Long live Twinning!