Lake Como

Where has a year gone since our amazing trip to Italy in June of 2014?  I’ll be sharing our love affair with Italy in the next several posts.  Enjoy!

I couldn’t imagine a better place to spend my 25th wedding anniversary than in the beautiful region of Lake Como.  My husband Don, and I, visited several towns that line the lake; Varenna, Bellagio, and the actual town of Como. The lake is one of the largest we have ever visited in our many travels. Glacially carved over 10,000 years ago, it is shaped like an upside down “Y”, with several cities spotted along its shore.

We arrive at our first stop on Lake Como, easily accessed within an hour from Milan on the regional Trenitalia high speed train. It didn’t take long for us to figure out there is a color code associated with the tickets purchased for these regional trains. The train’s bigliettaio, (ticket taker), frown upon riders slipping into 1st class seats with 2nd class tickets! Oops, lesson learned!

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Our first stop for the day is the beautiful and quaint village of Varenna. We walk down the well indicated path from the train station through the residential area to the shoreline that reveals a beautiful lakeside setting. The initial view confirms why they call this town the “pearl” of Lake Como. Beautifully quaint, the town is lined with century old sea stones along the narrow alleyways and roads.

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We walk the entire town heading up and down these narrow alleys and occasionally get lost, but it’s a small city and every road eventually leads back to the water. This was by far my favorite of all the cities we visited on Lake Como. There is a beautiful lakeside promenade to stroll past small shops and cafés that line the shore. We easily find waterbus terminal to shuttle visitors and residents to stops at the various towns on either side of this large lake. Our first stop on the water taxi is the popular town of Bellagio.

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Yes. That’s the answer to the question if the waterside promenade is as pretty as the one in Las Vegas or if there are spectacular fountains, (although the “real” Bellagio’s are not set to music…). It is absolutely beautiful and romantic. That’s why it’s the most frequented stop along the waterbus tour of Lake Como. Compared to the other towns situated along the shoreline, Bellagio is more sophisticated and commercialized.

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We enjoy a beautiful lunch at the Hotel Metropole, a historic hotel operated in Bellagio since 1825. We find a waterside table facing Lake Como and see in the distance one of the many towns that stretch across the lake landscape. After a tasty lunch of a caprese salad and locally caught fish, we stroll through a few shops and wander into a town square with an old church inviting us to come inside. It’s remarkable how large and ornate this church is for such a small town.

We load back on the waterbus and traverse side to side of the calm lake, stopping to drop off and pick up passengers from the many small towns along the way. We arrive at the last town at the far south end of the lake, Como. The town is the largest of all on Lake Como, and is the most populated. With a shared border to Switzerland, the gorgeous Alps feel within reach.

Como has a feel of “any town USA,” as it is filled with a lot of people and cars. The waterbus drops off at a large main square lined with shops and restaurants. We sit awhile on a wooden bench under the shade of a towering tree in the square, and eavesdrop on two elderly men speaking Italian.  They are engaged in a passionate talk about something apparently important; hands waving feverishly in the air. Our Italian lessons pay off as we are able to decipher a few words of this conversation. Children scoot by on bikes greeting the two men, and go on their way. It’s apparent, as in other cities, this is the hub for all things in the town.

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Como is known for its silk producing and offers a tour of a silk museum dating back to the 1900’s. There are a few other historic sites to visit but we choose to escape the crowds and cars and take funicular to the hillside village of Brunate, about half a mile up. This trip offers fantastic views of the town and the Alps a little further beyond. There is very little to see in Brunate; a deserted hotel and a very small residential area. The views though of the impressive Duomo and the town of Como, from atop the mountain, are stunning.

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Descending from the mountaintop, we take some time to see a bit more of the main town as we walk towards the train station. We arrive just in time to load and head back to Milan.

The train to Milan skirts the edge of Lake Como for what seems like miles, and the rest of the trip is equally as beautiful, traveling through residential and commercial areas. It’s this trip that determines it time to start up my garden again at home, as I have a front seat view to beautiful and bountiful backyard vegetable gardens throughout the entire ride from Lake Como to Milan!

Our love affair with Italy begins on day one with this beautiful experience in the towns of Lake Como.  We can’t imagine how much better it can get than today, but we have much more to see in Italy in the upcoming weeks.   We are certain there’s enough love to be shared in this country.

Ciao!

Jan