Monday, April 8, 2013

Lake Como

We spent Sunday at Lake Como. It's quite unrealistic to "do Lake Como" in one day - but that's what we did anyway - and we had a wonderful day. We left Milano early, catching the 8.20 train from the beautiful Milano Stazione Centrale (just opposite the famous Pirelli Tower) to Varenna, a smallish fishing town on the Eastern shore of Lake Como near where the lake divides into the two arms of its characteristic upside down Y shape. Varenna is only an hour away from Milano.  The town looked to be barely awake at this hour of the day - and it was very cold and damp - so we admired the astonishing views as we walked down from the stazione to the ferry - and left as soon as the ferry arrived.

We'd caught the car ferry which ferries passengers and their cars across to Bellagio throughout the day. At this early hour we were its only passengers.  

The snow covered alps to the North provided a gorgeous backdrop to our ferry ride across this beautiful and massive glacial lake towards Bellagio.

....although in the pic below it was low lying cloud on the mountains that provided the backdrop.  It looks almost like a warm day in Antarctica!

The ferry pulled into Bellagio, a town popular with tourists, no doubt because of its wonderfully scenic location at the pointy end of the land mass that forms the lake's Y shape.  Bellagio is very picturesque and the township today was swarming with British tourists.  We'd hoped to have a bit of a wander around Bellagio and a nice lunch but the restaurants in the township all looked to be very geared to the English visitors. 

However we did enjoy our wander around the charming streets and alleys and pathways of this very picturesque (and hilly) village.

We tried to find a way to get out of the town, up higher on the ridge above, where there were some beautiful Italianate villas and the promise of some gorgeous views across the lake and the mountains surrounding it.  But Bellagio protects its main assets well and you would no doubt need a lot more time and more knowledge to unlock its secrets.

We decided we'd lunch in Como rather than stay longer in Bellagio so we were lucky to just catch the 11.20am ferry that would take us down the lower southwest arm of the lake - the area where a lot of the world's wealthiest people have settled into magnificent lake shore villas with their elaborate gardens, set amongst the pretty terracotta coloured villages and towns lining this part of the lake.  

Of course the most famous villa along this stretch of the lake (just past halfway between Bellagio and Como) is George Clooney's Villa Oleandra at Laglio.  I must confess we didn't know exactly where to look and so missed it today!  I guess if we'd been really keen we could have booked into one of those tourist cruises on the lake that gives you a running commentary on who's villa is whose!  Anyway we enjoyed our 50 minute ferry ride - my only regret being that there was no provision for seating outside.  I know it was a cold windy day but we love the exhilaration (and much better views) of being out in the elements in an amazing environment like this.

We landed in Como on the southernmost tip of the southwest arm of the lake.  It's a good size city (a bit over 100,000 people), only 40klm from Milan and 30klm from Switzerland. So lots of commuters live here enjoying its beautiful setting and proximity to great skiing in winter and fabulous Italian summers with the glitterati on Lake Como.

This was Sunday afternoon so the medieval streets of old Como town were filled with the locals, many of them with their dogs,  following the tradition of la passeggiata, no doubt walking off the effects of their delicious Sunday lunches.

Which reminded us that we still had not eaten.  We ended up finding Pane & Tulipana in Via Lambertenghi which proved to be a wonderful place for a long lunch - very rustic and arty and with great food, wine and artisanal beers.

I took this window shot well after lunches were done so unfortunately most of those wondrous pastries and cakes on offer were sadly depleted.  We didn't have cake ourselves for our dessert, we had to try the housemade icecreams - pistachio for me and licorice for Rob - heavenly!

Como old town is beautiful.  The soaring Gothic-Renaissance Duomo.......

 the many piazzas (reminding us a lot of Nice's old town).....

ancient buildings in various states of renovation and repair...

including this beauty dated 1580, still looking so good!

There was great window shopping in the old town - very upmarket mostly. Como was a centre of silk production in times gone by (before Chinese manufacturers started to undercut them) but silks are still made in Como and supplied to all the top Milano there were lots of silk scarves and ties adorning many of the window displays.

This beautiful villa was well positioned near the waterfront.

We caught the train from Como Stazione San Giovanni back to Milano Stazione Garribaldi at 4.20pm, another hour's ride - so we were back at the apartment by around 6.00pm.

We calculated we'd walked, climbed and run (to the ferry at one stage) around 15-16 klms today, so all we were capable of doing for dinner was a return trip tour our favourite pizza place in Navigli providing us with another chance to admire all the beautiful young (mostly) things animating the passageways, bars and restaurants late on a Sunday evening in this wonderful district of Milano.

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