Saturday, June 19
With the successful wedding behind us, it was time to move on. There was nothing keeping us in Niederstotzingen -- Asmir and Miriam were off on their two-week honeymoon to Mauritius -- so most of us (i.e. the Canadian contingent) decided to move on (just to be clear again, that consisted of myself, Jenn, Pu, Alanna, and Graham). Bob and Claude had decided to not join us but to instead spend a short bit of time in Paris before heading back to Canada. Seeing that our little group pretty much all liked mountains and Mediterranean food, our plan was to head south into the mountainous part of Northern Italy.
I'd spent many hours researching and reserving a sequence of activities and lodgings for much of the week ahead of us. Of note was the fact that Alanna and Graham were only able to travel with us for the next five days before needing to return back to Canada; as a result, I had tried to pack as many different desired activities as possible: hiking and climbing in the mountains, mountain biking, city visiting and culinary pursuits.
Brief stop in Innsbruck
So, to recap: it was Saturday, June 17, and it was again a rainy day. We headed south and east out of Niederstotzingen, past the outskirts of Munich, then down south, eventually crossing into Austria. Our ultimate destination for the day was the Italian lake town of Riva del Garda, where an apartment rental awaited us. Riva is a modest and attractive town which sits at the northern-most point of Lake Garda - one of the larger Italian Lakes.
Herzog Friedrich Strasse
For now, though, we were hungry and in need of a break. It just so happened that we were passing near Innsbruck -- one of Austria's major cities -- so we stopped for a bit. Despite the rain, it was pleasant to walk through the historic center, stopping for a sandwich and coffee in along Herzog Friedrich Strasse -- one of the city's most notable historic streets.
The rain gradually let up as we continued south, soon crossing the spine of the Alps at Brenner Pass, and on into Italy. From here it was an easy drive down the Autostrada, followed by a short drive west through vineyard-covered hills and past limestone cliffs to the northern end of Lake Garda and the town of Riva del Garda.
I had spent much time trying to find accommodations for the five of us that was an acceptable combination of price, location, and atmosphere. At first, no luck: I had almost given up and was about to go with a decent but un-inspired spot that was not some distance away from the town center, when I stumbled upon a wonderful little spot right in the heart of the old town center of Riva. It was a spot that offered 2, 4, and 6-person apartment rentals in a centuries-old but renovated building. And best of all, after a little back-and-forth with the proprietor, I discovered that they had a block of time available in their 6-person apartment that pretty much fit the bill for us. And, for a price that was not much different than the less-than-inspired choice that I had just been looking at. Needless to say, this was the spot that we chose.
View from Apartment
So, back to the point of our arrival in Riva. We had arranged in advance with the friendly proprietor of the apartments - a very pleasant-sounding lady named Caterina - for her to meet us at one of the medieval gates of the old city (the narrow streets of the old city are pedestrian access only), and she would lead us on foot to the apartments (Just outside these gates was an underground car-park where we were able to leave our cars).
Sure enough, Caterina was there, and in with a soft voice warmly greeted us. We were led down the wonderfully narrow and crooked streets of the old town, soon arriving at an entrance underneath an understated awning with the words 'Appartamenti Leon d'oro' monogrammed on it. We were escorted into a small but modern-looking lobby area, where Caterina kindly explained everything about the apartment, the parking, the internet access, and so on. She then led us upstairs to our unit - number 102 - and showed us around. It was indeed a very nice place. Very clean, recently renovated, and tastefully decorated. Two full bedrooms on the lower floor, a generous living room -- joined open-concept style with the dining room and kitchen -- and a modern, clean bathroom. A steep open staircase led up to an open loft that contained two individual pull-out sofa seat/beds. The view out the living room's shuttered windows was most quaint, giving us a wonderful view down onto the very narrow cobblestone alleyway below.
View from Apartment
All in all, more than capable of handling six occupants, and definitely capable of handling us five. With that, Caterina let us be and returned to the lobby. We spent some time unpacking and getting to know our new home.
Ristorante Leon d'Oro
Thoughts of food -- and especially of wonderful Italian food -- filled our minds as we finished off our un-packing. The apartments are run in conjunction with an old and well-known restaurant, known also as the Leon d'oro. The restaurant is part of the same building that the apartment is in, so it was very close by. And, as guests living in the apartments, we were granted a 10% discount off of the restaurant's prices. Sounded perfect!
Dinner at Leon D'oro
The restaurant is quite large, consisting of several linked rooms underneath heavy, vaulted ceilings. The elderly lady who led us in from the street looked familiar, and, sure enough, it turns out she is Caterina's mother. Her job would seem to be some sort of overseer or director of the restaurant side of things. I wondered how many other family members were in this concern's employ.
We all ate and drank to satisfaction and satiation, then returned upstairs to the apartment for a much-needed and long night's sleep.