Adriana’s House

It was our last evening in Italia. But we couldn’t leave without visiting our dear cousin, Adriana.

During our rides back and forth with Gianni over the last few days, he had pointed out the way to Adriana’s house in Somma Lombardo. Since we were going by ourselves to visit her this final evening, we needed to remember landmarks. Once again, Rocco took the center stage. The turn-off to Adriana’s house was just past the Church of San Rocco. You can’t miss it.

Maria, Adriana’s granddaughter, works at a pasticceria and she had brought home a mouth-watering tray of sweets (dolci). There were also non-sweet appetizers (salati), fresh fruit, juice, and wine. We sat outside and visited awhile before going in to sit around the table and nibble.

Salati e dolci

Even the fruit is a work of art

Adriana brought out pictures of Dad’s first cousin, Gino (Adriana’s deceased husband) to show us. They all decided that Dad resembles one of the other cousins and brought out another picture to prove it. They were right!

Adriana, Mom, Dad, Claudio, Lella, and Maria

All too soon it was time to say goodbye. Adriana, I noticed, had tears in her eyes. So did we.

Back to Uponne

But for a couple of wrong turns, we made it back to Gianni and Donatella’s without too much problem. It was time for more goodbyes.

Gianni’s mother and sister — Maria Luisa and Maria Giudita —
came up to bid us goodbye

Nakita playfully kisses her grandmother, Maria Giudita

And then it was time to say goodnight.

We’d be off to the airport early in the morning.


Market Day in Arona

It was market day in Arona. Mom and I thought we were going to have to miss market day this trip — the last time we had been here, it happened later in the week. If that was still the case, we’d already be gone. But we were very excited to learn market day was on Tuesday, the day before our departure.

Arona is on the other side of Lago Maggiore from Angera. But a convenient ferry schedule enables easy and frequent hops across.

We arrived at the ferry for an early start, anxious to peruse the market. Gianni and Donatella didn’t have any interest in going, but their daughter, Nakita, did.

Looking back at Angera and its castle, La Rocca, from the other side of Lago Maggiore

Almost at Arona

The day was perfect: blue skies and sunshine, again. After a smooth ride across the lake, we hurried off the boat, making a beeline towards the rows of awning-protected vendors lining the lakeside promenade.

Market vendors nestled in the trees along the Arona promenade

Every imaginable item was available: baked chicken, cheeses, jars of local honey, herbs, clothing clothing clothing, housewares, towels, shoes, purses, scarves. Mom and Dad went one way, Nakita and I another.

A great photo of cugina Nakita, Gianni and Donatella's daughter

Scarves — everywhere we had gone this trip in both Ireland and Italia, people had been wearing scarves. Looking so stylish, wrapped and knotted around necks, I wanted one too. I also found a small sticker with the EUR symbol and the name “Chiara” on it, a perfect addition for my little white Miata which I have named Chiara.

Having finished combing every nook and cranny of the market, we boarded the next ferry back to the other side, pleased with our purchases.

Leaving Arona to return to Angera

As we churned towards the dock, we gazed up at La Rocca, Angera’s imposing 14th century medieval castle overlooking the town and the lake. It has recently been designated one of the ten most beautiful castles in Italy. We have visited it several times in the past, so we did not go up today. But that did not stop us from admiring it from below.

La Rocca

Before we drove the couple of miles back to Ranco, we took turns taking pictures of each other.

Dad, Nakita, and Mom

Dad, me, and Nakita

Nakita, Mom, and me

Mom, Dad, and me in Angera,
where my grandmother was born

Hanging Out at Gianni’s House

By the time we returned from our excursion, it was dark. Donatella had a snack waiting for us. We relaxed around the table and talked about all the things we had seen that day.

The next morning we lucked out again. It dawned a beautiful day. We planned to spend it hanging around Gianni and Donatella’s lovely home.

Sunrise from the upper story bedroom window

From the same window later in the day

Gianni shows off a gigantic candlestick that
survived shipping to Italy from California —
he bought it at one of our local wineries during a previous visit

We could easily spend the day hanging out here

Gianni and Donatella's place is like a park in itself

Even their outside faucet is a work of art

Not only is Donatella a superb cook, she grows much of her own food

We decided to go for a little walk. Not far from their house is this adorable chapel.

Chapel in Uponne (Ranco), Province of Varese

We came upon this characteristic sign

And then we found a dairy. As I mentioned before, Donatella is an animal lover. She extends this affection not only to great danes and dormice, but to turtles, donkeys, and cows, as well.

Dad and Donatella greet these friendly guys

These are not Donatella’s cows,
but she makes sure they can reach their lunch

You can drive through this dairy and buy fresh milk

What a relaxing day! But tomorrow we’ll be ready to go out again.

Nerone and Richard Gere

In between the wonderful drives with Gianni, we relaxed at their house in Ranco.

Donatella is a big animal-lover. Besides Nerone, their friendly Great Dane, they have a pet dormouse (ghiro in Italian). With the typical Italian sense of humor and love of word play, they named their ghiro Richard Gere.

A similar play on words is reflected in Nerone’s name. Nero means black. The suffix one indicates largeness. For example, your nose is a naso, but your big nose is a nasone. Our favorite Great Dane is black and very large: Nerone.

Donatella and Richard Gere, the Dormouse

Despite the mammoth difference in their sizes, Nerone and Richard Gere are great friends. It’s hard to comprehend it unless you see it for yourself.


Nerone intently watches Richard Gere

A closer look

I'm drooling at the peach, not you!

What I do in the name of friendship!

Mom, Dad, and I all have tiny dogs at home. But at Gianni and Donatella’s house, the antics of Nerone never cease to make us howl.

Nerone and me

Now he wants in

Waiting for dinner


Time for a nap -- it's been a hard day

Beware of Dog

Because you might get licked to death!

La Famiglia

In between all this sight-seeing, we also had to see some family. We have many cugini in this area and wanted to say hello to several of them.

As always, when Italian hospitality is involved, so is food. We hopped from house to house, having lunch, dinner, snacks, and drinks.

Carlone and Dad, clowning around as usual

Carlone showing off his amazing giardino

Sweet Angelina

Cugini at Enrica's house

Mom, Enrica, and Dad

Dad with Dirce, who always makes us laugh

Cugino Gabrielle

Dad and Carletto (not to be confused with Carlone)

Carletto with a basket of chestnuts, soon to be roasted

Giuseppina stirring the risotto

Anna Rita gives it a whirl

Andrea grates the Parmigiano Reggiano

Francesco has the right idea —
lounge by the pool and let others do the cooking!

Villa Caproni

The next day, the weather was nice. We took off again in Gianni’s car with only a regional ride in mind. Not many miles down the road, he pulled off at the Villa Caproni in Ticino.

This opulent villa had once been the residence of Count Caproni and his family, pioneers of the aeronautic industry in Italy. These days, the villa is rented out for weddings and other special occasions.

Senza Cozzar Dirocco

Senza Cozzar Dirocco: the motto coined by pilot and poet Gabrielle D’Annunzio about the torpedo bombers built by the Caproni. Loosely, the motto means, Without touching the ground, they hit their objectives from the sky. It sounds so much more poetic in Italian, doesn’t it?

Sitting alongside the road but at the edge of the extensive Ticino Park, this imposing building had just been the site of a wedding and a few people were cleaning up the remnants of flowers and dust. Gianni, as only Gianni does, asked if we could possibly duck in for a quick look. No problem.

One of the ornate halls in Villa Caproni

The architectural detail was as lovely inside as outside; tiles decorated several of the floors and ornate wood panels adorned some of the ceilings.

Gianni explains to Dad the history of the Caproni Family

Dad with yet another wine press

One room contained a huge wine press and wine barrels. As we returned to our car, a luxury car drove up. Gianni wondered if it might be some member of the Caproni family. Continuing our brief outing, we drove through another part of Ticino Park, where hikers were out enjoying the day. So were we.

Umbrellas and Bells

Traveling down the mountain, we arrived in Carpugnino, the town where many of the Brovelli’s of old moved when they migrated from Brovello. Nearby is the town of Gignese which is home to an unusual museum: umbrellas and their makers.


In this area, umbrella peddlers once abounded. Gianni speculated that the name Brovelli may have evolved from the word ombrelli (umbrellas). We all repeated the words — ombrelli, Brovelli, Brovelli, ombrelli…maybe!

A museum devoted entirely to umbrellas sounds pretty quirky, but it would have been fascinating to see. Master umbrella-makers used to live in this area and they produced the finest. Their artful umbrellas and parasols have been exported around the world. The museum displays their tools, their creations, and explains the history of this local industry.

Continuing our afternoon of sightseeing in the province of Varese, we entered the town of Arsago Seprio. Although this town is the site of the World Motocross championships, the sights here for us were the Basilica of San Vittore, the Baptistery of S. Giovanni, and the campanile.

Basilica on the left and Baptistery on the right

The Romanesque Basilica of San Vittore was built between the 8th and 9th century over the remains of a pagan temple (as is often the case) dating back to 800-900 BCE. The baptistery was built in the 10th century and is notable for its octagonal shape; a font sits in the indented center of the building.

Il Battistero di of San Giovanni -- built in the 10th century

The campanile (bell tower) was striking, figuratively as well as literally, and when it does, one can easily watch the machinations of its apparatus since the bells and their workings are not hidden inside the gray and beige stone tower. Instead, they sit atop the tower like birds in a metal nest.

The campanile with bells exposed on the top

Nearby, a peaceful avenue of trees holds several plaques on stakes which memorialize the fallen of WWI, all most likely from the town of Arsago Seprio.

If you look closely, you can see the stakes near each tree trunk

Cap. Magg. Vanoni Mario - Caduto Per La Patria Corporal-Major (Paratrooper) Mario Vanoni - Fallen For His Country Dec. 10, 1915

Past Arsago Seprio, we pulled off at the Santuario Madonna della Ghianda in Mezzana (near Somma Lombardo). Adorned with several beautiful frescoes, this church was built to memorialize the place where, in the 13th century, the Madonna appeared amongst the tree branches to a deaf and mute shepherd girl. After seeing the Madonna, the girl was miraculously cured. Several beautiful frescoes adorn the walls of the church commemorating the event.

Unfortunately, all of my photos of this church turned out blurry.