On our way to Rubens’ small town, we ran into a lady who needed help navigating her way to Venice by train.  Rubens was so helpful to her and helped her figure out that the train to Venice was sold out.  He helped her arrange to go elsewhere by train and she rode with us for a bit on the train until she arrive in Lecco.  Turns out her name is Denine LeBlanc and she is an award-winning concert pianist playing concerts all over Italy.  She’s from Kentucky!  We talked for a while and she was simply delightful and I truly enjoyed our chance encounter.

We arrived from Milan to Sondrio on July 5th.  We were graciously picked up by Andrea, Rubens mother, and whisked away to a yummy little breakfast of pastries and coffee!  We also got to meet two of her 4 dogs (Randy and Alisa).  They are both tiny Chihuahuas and so darn cute. Her boyfriend John Carlo joined us and we went on a sightseeing adventure!  We drove through the mountains of Italy and Switzerland, stopping in Livigno and all I can say is that I truly have never seen anything like it!  It is stunning!  Huge mountains, icy cold glaciers, and valleys as beautiful as anything you’ve ever seen.  Small towns and vineyards pop out of the side of the mountains, accompanied by water falls, rivers and lakes.  Rubens took me to one of his favorite places, his waterfalls!  I don’t remember the name right now, which is not important right this moment.  What is important is that the kids blindfolded me and walked me up to them and when they took the blindfold off I was so overwhelmed with the beauty I had witnessed throughout the day culminating with the views of these falls, I cried. THEY are still making fun of me today!  Still, all of this beauty was overshadowed by the fact that I also got to meet Rubens’ grandmother who has been an integral part of his life and is the one that first put him to work in the kitchen!  Thank you grandma!!!

We ended our evening by having dinner and wine at the grotto Rubens had described to me many times before.  It was wonderful to be dining with them in this place that used to only live in my dreams! We dropped by Andrea’s home to see it and meet the other animals, 2 more dogs, 2 cats, 3 turtles!  I think she loves animals even more than I do.  She offered to send Emily home with her very own tiny Chihuahua, but we had to decline as we “cannot have any more animals”, says Bob!

When we returned from our sightseeing tour, we came to our home for the next few days, a lovely little B & B owned by friends of Rubens’ father and step-mom.  A two bedroom unit bathed in lavendar finishings and touched with love from Adele in the form of fresh cut flowers and a note saying “Welcome To Home Crystal and Emily!”

We spent the next day sleeping in a little and then taking another scenic ride down the coast of Lake Como.  We took at ferry over from Verena to Bellagio (please don’t judge my spellings)!  This area has to be one of the most insanely beautiful places on the planet!  Judge for yourselves when you take a peek at the photos!

After our day of lake fun and shopping, we joined Rubens’ extended family for dinner.  Dinner started about 9:30 and ended at midnight!!!  I guess this is normal in Italy, as no one seemed fazed by it, not even the 4-year-old.  I got to meet his other grandmother and his grandfather, his girlfriend, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  His cousin Andrea was my favorite.  You see, I can say that because Andrea is the baby of the family at 4-years-old.  He didn’t seem to understand, or care really, that Emily and I didn’t speak Italian and just kept right on talking to us, unfazed by the fact that we clearly didn’t understand him. He was so adorable.  Everyone made us feel so welcomed and loved and like a big part of something very important, their family!

Today, we were back in Milan for the Expo, a festival of agriculture featuring many countries from around the world and how they are adding to sustainable resource for our future!  Very cool indeed!  We came home and had a lovely, quiet meal prepared by Adele, who also had washed all of our laundry and mailed my post cards for me.  How awesome is she.  Now we are packed up and ready to say BONJOUR tomorrow to Samuelle and the City of Lights, Paris!

One last sign off from Italy! More pictures to come soon!

Ciao Ciao . . . until next time.

The kids with concert pianist, Denine LeBlanc

The babies, Alisa and Randy!

Vineyards!

Breakfast of champions!