Varese, Northern Italy

The narrow pedestrian streets of Varese

We spent a glorious day in the picturesque city of Varese, which lies at the foot of Sacro Monte di Varese, part of the Campo dei Fiori mountain range. This charming city is small enough to tour on foot, especially as many of the streets are pedestrian-only.

Entrance Archway

I was fascinated to see that many of the older buildings could only be accessed through an archway into a beautifully preserved courtyard.

The fountain in the courtyard seen above.

The Basilica S. Vittore, with its neoclassical architecture, is the main church of the town

Next to the Basilica is the imposing Bell Tower, Torre Campanaria, 1616-1774. 
This bell tower is nearly 80 feet high.

Battistero di S. Giovanni Battista
(The Baptistery of St John the Baptist) 

This is the most ancient monument of Varese; built between the 12th and 13th centuries. It can be found behind the Basilica, at the foot of the Bell Tower. Unfortunately, when we were there it was closed, and we were unable to see the famous series of frescos, that have been carefully preserved, inside.

Piazza del Podestà

In the centre of the Piazza del Podestà stands the monument to the Battle of Varese, a bronze statue of the the "Garibaldino", which is a copy of the original grey stone one by the artist Leone Buzzi from Viggiù.

Many of the buildings are beautifully decorated,
like this window...

...or this whole building

Some of the buildings date back centuries. I particularly liked this beautiful Gothic terracotta window, below...

 Casa Perabò, Varese.

...and this door

 Casa Perabò, Varese.

Of course, before returning home, we just had to sit in one of the delightful squares to muse on our day, and drink an Aperol Spritz or two. This is definitely somewhere I would like to visit again.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Bistro Laguna Blu, Reno, Leggiuno, Italy

Bistro Laguna Blu

Whenever we are visiting our daughter in Italy, we always go to our favourite restaurant, Bistro Laguna Blu, in Reno, Leggiuno. Perched on the edge of Lake Maggiore, with the most stunning view, this restaurant serves the most amazing food in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere.

The view from the restaurant

Reg likes to relax, and enjoy a cocktail or two in the evening, at Bistro Laguna Blu

One of our favourite aperitif cocktails is the Aperol Spritz,
made with Aperol and Prosecco

Jessica and I often like to lunch at Bistro Laguna Blu.
Here she is eating one of their delicious pizzas

The meals are always presented beautifully...

...with perfectly cooked ingredients

My beautiful daughter. Clare, loves Laguna Blu, too,
and is a regular customer

The storm clouds gather over the lake

We did have a few good days on this trip, but there was a lot of rain and overcast days too. Fortunately, we were in Italy to spend time with family, so we didn't allow the weather to dampen our spirits, or stop us from enjoying Bistro Laguna Blu!


Turkish Mezze Cooking Class, Kuzguncuk, Istanbul

The wonderful view from the apartment

Claudia, who blogs as A Seasonal Cook in Turkey, gave a small group of us a really fun class on how to cook, and prepare, a selection of Turkish Mezzes. The venue was perfect. It was a professional kitchen in Kuzguncuk, with an amazing view of the Bosphorus.

There was a wonderful array of pots, hanging from the ceiling

Claudia, addressing the class

Turkish mezzes are the starters and appetisers brought out at the beginning of the meal. It is usual to start with cold mezzes and then continue on to hot mezzes. They are often so varied, and so delicious, that I find it difficult to manage the main meal afterwards!

We diligently followed Claudia's instructions

Claudia, with her finished dishes,

Of course, we couldn't resist taking photos, before eating them all!

Here are the mezzes we made:

Zeytinyagli Barbunya - Borlotti Beans in Olive Oil

Cevizli Sarimsakli - Courgettes with walnuts in a garlic yoghurt sauce

Zeytinyagli Yaprak Sarma (Yalanci) - Vine Leaves Stuffed with Rice, Pine Nuts, and Currants

Cacik - Yoghurt with Cucumber and Garlic

Semizotu - Purslane in a garlic and youghurt sauce

Patlican Biber Tavasi Yogurtlu Sarimsakli ve Domataes Sauslu - 
Fried Aubergine and Green Peppers with Garlic Yoghurt and Tomato Sauce

Gavurdgi Salatasi - Turkish Tomato Salad with Walnuts and Cumin

Thank you, Claudia for helping us to prepare such a delicious lunch.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Photography Trek to Ortaköy Mosque, Istanbul


The square beside the Ortaköy Mosque, is a popular destination for Istanbulu at the weekend.

For the past three years, the Büyük Mecidiye Camii (Grand Imperial Mosque of Sultan Abdülmecid I), more commonly known as the Ortaköy Mosque, has been undergoing an extensive renovation. In all that time, we were unable to take any photographs, as the building was shrouded in plastic sheeting. So, once the Prime Minister had formally opened the mosque, on Friday June 6, our photography club arranged a trek to see the finished result.

The mosque is right on the edge of the Bosphorus, beside the Bosphorus Bridge

This Mosque was commissioned by Ottoman Sultan Abdülmecid, and built in 1853 by architects Garabet Amira, and Nigoğayos Balyan, who also designed the near-by Dolmabahçe Palace, and Mosque. This is not the first renovation of this picturesque mosque. The original minarets collapsed in 1908, and its dome was later damaged, and replaced with a reinforced concrete one. Fortunately, the Mosque's Neo-Baroque style has been preserved.

One of the ornately decorated grills on the windows of the mosque

Inside, the mosque is quite small. This is the main entrance into the mosque.

Huge chandeliers hang from the ceiling of the mosque

The dome is richly decorated

Here is a detail from the beautifully patterned dome

The outside of the mosque is covered in intricate stonework

The flag seller outside the mosque

Thank you to all my lovely friends in the Photography Club of Istanbul, for yet another successful trek. We always have such fun!

Elizabeth Coughlan

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I couldn't resist this one!