Last updated on October 9th, 2021
Featured Image: Views of Cernobbio on Lake Como, Italy / Photo by StevanZZ on Envato
Finding Italy and our love for one another virtually unchanged
By Diana Eden, Contributing Writer
As the occasion of my 75th birthday and our 25th wedding anniversary approached, my husband suggested that we re-create our honeymoon trip. I was married on my birthday, thereby doing myself out of an extra set of gifts, so all the more reason for making these celebrations meaningful!
Staying at a hotel we’d only had one drink in
We spent the first night of our honeymoon at the Vista Palace Hotel, perched high on the Grand Corniche. From our balcony, we looked down upon the buildings of Monte Carlo. Windsurfers drifted down past our window as they made their six-minute flight from the cliff above to a small beach way below.
Diana and her husband Dominic on their honeymoon in 1990
From the hotel, it was a short drive to the village of Èze, which we immediately fell madly in love with. This 9th-century village is perched high atop the rocky cliffs and has spectacular views of Cap Ferrat and the magnificent coastline of the Côte d’Azur. Uneven cobblestones lead up through ancient arches into the tiny village and through narrow paths where climbing roses and brilliant bougainvillea flourish. At the top is the famed 400-year-old Chateau Eza. We had a single drink in the bar to earn our right to snap photos off the balcony, and promised ourselves that one day we would return.
Twenty-five years later, we did! We went for broke and booked our anniversary nights at Chateau Eza! Not a single thing seemed to have changed, though this time we were greeted like royalty. We were welcomed with lavender cocktails before being escorted to our room up some ancient stone stairs into a castle wing. Out our side window, we could see the “Jardin Botanique” cactus garden and the same magnificent view we remembered stretching out beyond it. We had arrived, seniors, old-marrieds, but just as thrilled as newlyweds.
Dominic and Diana at Chateau Eza in 2015
A lavender welcome cocktail at Chateau Eza
When I need travel advice I go to the experts I meet online. For this travel tip article, I consulted with females (and one delightful guy) on Twitter who have an Italian connection.
Being greeted as old friends at a family hotspot and seeing the growth
Our next adventure to Alba was also part of an unfolding story. Twenty-five years ago, I had read in “Travel and Leisure” magazine about an up-and-coming new restaurant, the Osteria del Vicoletto, a top-level establishment south of Milan in the truffle region.
ALBA, home of the OCTOBER TRUFFLE FESTIVAL. The event attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the city. It commands the attention and money of both locals and visitors from around the world who are hungry to buy or taste them.
We made it our mission to find this place. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive from Èze through a segment of France, through Monaco, then north into Italy. We got a little lost but arrived at Osteria del Vicoletto at 2 pm only to find a big wooden door closed shut. Oh no! We banged on the door, and in a few minutes, a chef peered out, looking a little annoyed. I shoved the article into his hands and said in rather bad Italian: “We are on our honeymoon and have come to dine in your restaurant!” He had not seen the article and was excited to show it to his wife in the kitchen. We were ushered in and treated to the most divine three-course lunch, with wines for every course.
Perhaps we could return on our anniversary trip. Could it still be there? True to form, the restaurant was still there – same owner, same wife, and their “baby daughter.” She had been in a crib when last we visited and was now an attractive young woman, managing the restaurant with Papa. Again, we were welcomed and given a fantastic meal, with many photographs taken and big smiles all around!
The family at Il Vicoletto
Cernobbio and Harry’s Bar
From Alba, we drove north to Lake Como. We never booked accommodation in advance in our younger days but stopped when we felt like it, even on our honeymoon. We had arrived at the town of Cernobbio and checked into a nice hotel right on the lake (no, not the Villa d’Este!). There was a modest Harry’s Bar in the square across from us where we had dinner. That night, there was a huge storm, and we watched the rain and lightning from under the awning at the bar, laughing as we got a little wet and windblown.
Harry’s Bar in Cernobbio
Twenty-five years later, we return to Cernobbio, also arriving in a rainstorm. I have a penchant for rooms with a view, and the place I had found on VRBO was way up the mountain. The narrow winding road was not for the faint of heart! But the apartment was a charming two-story place with a view to die for, whether watching the storm over the lake or the brilliant sunshine a few hours later. “Is Harry’s Bar still there?” we asked our host. Yes, it was, and yes, we did return for a meal. It had been enlarged quite a bit since we were there 25 years ago. We shared our story with our waiter, who brought us some after-dinner drinks, on the house.
From Lake Como on to Venice, where we found an agreeable gondolier who was willing to find the same spot on the Grand Canal with the Rialto Bridge in the background to take our photo, matching it to our honeymoon gondola photo. Naturally we had brought the 25- year-old photo along with us!
Our last stop was in Rome. Twenty-five years ago, we had stayed at a reasonable hotel called the Sant’Angelo near the Piazza Cavour. I had come down with a migraine but asked Dominic if he could bring me back some food when he went out to our little neighbouring restaurant. “How will I ask?” he wondered, not being conversant in Italian, so I wrote a little note. Of course, being Italians, the owners were so concerned about me and sent soup, pasta, sweets, and a little note back, hoping I would feel better. I was half expecting the mama would bring me tea in the morning!
On our return, we stayed near the Piazza del Popolo and thought about all the people in Italy who had been so good to us over the years. Always the extra kindness, the warm welcome, the smiles, and the food. And nearly everything we remembered from 25 years before, still there!
My husband has since passed away. Six years after that second trip to Italy, where we retraced the our honeymoon steps, the memories are still warm and vivid. The love is, too.
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