The trip was not without hiccups. We took a taxi to the train station in Sesto Calende and then the train to Milano Centrale. That was supposed to be just one train, but it stopped one station short at Porto Garibaldi and we had to get off and wait (for a worryingly long time) for another train to take us the rest of the way. When we got to Milano Centrale we had to figure out where to buy tickets (the big red boxes are ticket vending machines, we learned), and then we discovered that the train we were planning to take was sold out! This is not a circumstance I have ever encountered before. But that route runs every hour, so we just got a pair of business-class tickets on the next one. That gave us time to grab some lunch in the station (I had a shockingly good 7-Euro salad) before traveling onward.
Aaron met us at the station in Vicenza and then drove us to his home one town over, where we were introduced to his wife, Ana, who is Romanian, and to their small dogs Jack and Terri, who were very alarmed about these dangerous invaders being let into the house, and had to bark at us for a good twenty minutes, at which point we received our canine security clearances and became their new best friends.
We spent the afternoon socializing and catching up (Aaron and I hadn't seen one another in about twenty years), then ordered pizza for dinner. I got another one with arugula (yay!) plus prosciutto and cream cheese, while Jerry had to get the one with what Google Translate claimed was "nails" (turns out that's a variety of mushroom shaped like big round-headed nails). Ana got gorgonzola-walnut, which is an amazing flavor combo on pizza! Afterwards we played several rounds of a rummy-like game with tiles instead of cards.
The next day we had a low-key morning before Aaron dropped us off to wander around the Vicenza city center. (He would've joined us, but his hip was being gimpy.) We saw a whole bunch of buildings by Palladio, including the Palladian Basilica, plus assorted other nifty old structured, including a facade with no building that now made up part of a wall and of course the old city wall. One interesting point is that we ran across a plaque in Italian for a historical building -- formerly a home for those crippled and mutilated by war -- and I was able to make out all of it except a pair of two-word phrases just by knowing my Latin roots.
The Palladian Basilica in Vicenza:
In additional to grand old buildings all over the place, one thing that struck me about architecture in Northern Italy is that the prototype for "house" is much stronger than it is in the US. Just about every house is two stories tall, blocky, and made of concrete. (Lumber is much more expensive in Europe, Aaron explained.) They all have roofs of curved red tile with eaves that overhang a small amount and a pitch of 22.5 degrees. There are a few rectangular windows in standard proportions, (none on the north side of the house) and they have either full storm shutters or, more commonly, rolling shutters ("rolladen"). And they're all painted a color not too far removed from pinky-orange.
This one (in Ispra) is a little fancy with the tower-like bits and dormer window, but take those away and they pretty much all look not far from this: