Engulfed in sweaty crowds in mid-summer Florence more than 30 years ago, one has never gone back, but has always felt cheated.
So, since there's no winter in Switzerland anymore anyway, we'll try a February visit.
Mantua and Milan on the way home, February 2011
Kristin sneaking into the Palazzo Te. It's a very nice, big getaway for the Gonzagas set up for them by Giulio Romano in the 1530s in what would then have been the rustic countryside outside the city.
Satyrs' parties always look like more fun than ours.
Gardens out the back of the Palazzo Te, through the Loggia Grande. The palace itself is filled with great stuff, like the Satyrs' Party above, but . . . no photos allowed.
A fish-stocked moat (the "Peschiere") in the surrounds of the palace, the "Excedra" at the far end, with a very loud children's fun fair in the hippodrome on the other side of it.
Kristin discussing things with all the fish (one of them is albino)
The Loggia Grande, also called the Loggia di Davide
The view through the courtyard to the outside world
A fine walk back, past Mantegna's house, Giuliano Romano's house, and, above, the pescherie along the Rio, built in 1536 by Giulio Romano.
The San Lorenzo rotonde at night, with the Basilica Sant' Andrea behind
The dome of the Sant' Andrea
Via Broletto in the off hours, with the Palace of the Podestà
Mantua night scenes
The Rio Sottoriva, or just 'the Rio', which bisects the city's little peninsula
Giulio Romano's fish market, or pescherie, from 1536
The view of the Rio from Giulio Romano's bridge over it, with the Saturday markets all along the way
The church of S. Barnaba (can't get in, but Giulio Romano's house is just across the street)
The dome of Sant' Andrea
In the Piazza Matilda di Canossa, people selling vegetables just as they probably did when Matilda di Canossa put Mantua on the map in the late 11th century.
Kristin lost somewhere northwest of the Big Dome
The belltower of Sant' Andrea from the Piazza Leon Battista Alberti just out the back door of it.
The Clock Tower and San Lorenzo Rotonda
On the Via Broletto, looking through the arch to the Piazza Sordello
And now we're back to the Piazza Sordello for another fine lunch (pizza slices)
The front of the Ducal Palace again
The belltower of the Basilica of Sant' Andrea
The Piazza Erbe
A last stop-in at the Rotonda di San Lorenzo before we have to leave
A satisfying sense of antiquity
Our last day in Mantua, already nostalgic
Another demonstration -- perhaps about Berlusconi again, but most of the marchers were carrying guitars, so maybe a more specialized complaint.
Guitars and amplified exhortations . . .
. . . and a discrete police presence.
Goodbye, Mantua -- tomorrow we're starting for home. Via Milan.
Lovely Italian doubledecker trains
We're in Milan now, from Stazione Centrale by the metro to the Cadorna stop and a short walk to the King Mokinba Hotel (just over the House of Curiosities).
Nicely appointed, not expensive (in the off season, anyway), and very central (but no nearby restaurants)
We've built a day into our homeward journey for looking in at the Brera, but so far all we've got is a daylong downpour and 200,000 people marching against Berlusconi.
It's billed as Women Against Berlusconi, but actually Everybody has come out for this.
Inside the Brera Museum, one of our favorites
Unfortunately, the Brera is famous and prosperous enough that it can afford several anti-photo guards in every room, so that's it photo-wise for today.
Two hundred thousand Antiberlusconistas still out marching around in the rain
Dripping demonstrators, with the Sforza Castle looming
We're packing up and heading home now.
The train station well covered by police and military, but no jihadis yet.
Milan Centrale. Now we're headed over the Simplon Pass and down the Rhône to home.