I always get excited at the prospect of traveling somewhere. It doesn’t matter how short the trip or how close the destination; travel is always something to look forward to.
Especially so, when I have been feeling as travel-deprived as I have in the past year. And especially so, when warm-weather-addict, little Sardinian old me has had to go through one of the coldest winters ever recorded in Swiss history. Brr.
It’s no wonder then, that I had been so looking forward to the Easter weekend, when we planned to return to la zona dei laghi, the area of the lakes in Northern Italy.
And although the weather wasn’t entirely cooperative, although my photos didn’t come out nearly as well as I was hoping, although I didn’t get to see and do as much as I wanted… it was nevertheless a great weekend, and a fun family trip.
I packed ultra-light. I was so bursting with travel fever that I lost all care for being fashionable and resorted to wearing jeans and tennis shoes (yup, you heard that right) for most of the trip. I just wanted to drink in every possible detail of the places we were going to visit, armed with only my camera and a will to explore.
In order to avoid traffic, we decided to drive through San Bernardino; a longer route, but one free of congested traffic and with more lovely views than I could imagine. By the time we got to our hotel on Lake Como it was early evening, but there was still enough light to enjoy the view of the lake from the mountain village.
Let the sightseeing begin!
First stop: Cernobbio. The town itself would be mostly unremarkable, if it wasn’t for all those details that make each of the lakeside towns worth a visit; those bits of history blending in with modern life, that make you feel like this town was once something special.
Our main reason to visit was Villa d’Este. Formerly owned by nobles (including a queen), it was turned into a hotel in 1873.
The hotel is still in operation, and deemed by Forbes to be the best hotel in the world, back in 2009. I don’t know if that is true, as that type of hotel isn’t exactly my cup of tea; but we did sit down at one of the iron tables in the villa’s courtyard for a drink, before taking a peek at the beautiful grounds and the rest of the complex.
The Villa is right on the lake, a great commanding position. It has been renovated but still retains many of the original details typical of its Renaissance style; and while I found the prominent display of a coat of arms and the general atmosphere a bit pretentious, I will say that the grounds are beautifully kept, the Italianate garden impressive, and the view absolutely lovely. Their espresso macchiato wasn’t too bad either
Como was our next stop, and this time I really wanted to take my time and have a proper visit and a leisurely walk around the lake. Unfortunately after a nice lunch at a restaurant on Piazza Alessandro Volta we only managed to take a short walk to the Duomo and then Piazza Cavour before the weather turned uncooperative again, this time with clear signs indicating a storm was gathering and we really should be on our way.
Such a pity, because there is so much to see in Como! Still, a taste is better than nothing. (And will definitely keep me going back for more.)
Encouraged by the meteorologist’s promise that the Lochness-like fog that enveloped the lake in the morning would clear up and give way to blue skies by lunch, we made out way down to Cadenabbia to board the ferry to Bellagio, located at the tip of the peninsula in the middle of Lake Como.
Visiting Bellagio was without a doubt the highlight of our trip. The narrow cobblestone streets, the small silk and antiquity shops, the contrast between the brightly colored houses and the grey stone walls that seemed to want to trap pieces of the hill the town climbs up to. So small, and so beautiful. Almost too much beauty, too much charm and personality for such a small town!
After a little cajoling, Sascha convinced me to drive to Lecco for lunch. The reason why Lecco was less than tempting to me was its main claim to fame: home of Alessandro Manzoni, just hearing about it made me think of the banshee-like voice of my middle-school teacher discussing The Betrothed. I am still sick of that book, despite not having touched it in 20 years. Still, a stop for lunch and a short walk wouldn’t hurt.
It wasn’t long before we got back on the road, on our way to Varenna, which promised to be a beautiful little town; unfortunately a violent bout of hail and rain prevented us from doing much other than stopping for a delicious artisanal gelato before boarding the ferry back to Menaggio, and from there make our way home. I hated to miss out on a proper visit again! But the ferry actually turned out to be a good spot to enjoy a nice view of Varenna, and capture a few shots.
We woke up on Sunday to a gorgeous sunny day. We had breakfast, packed, made a quick stop to stock up on snacks for the road, and we we headed home.
We originally planned on stopping in Lugano for lunch and a walk, but we realized we were exhausted (blame the mountain air?) and decided to just keep on driving. We regretted that a bit when we emerged from the Gotthard tunnel to see a white sky and a snowy panorama! But getting home early was its own reward: we had time to download the pictures (me), take a nap before dinner (Sascha), pour over the new magazines we bough in Italy (Sarah and Stella) and spend some time vegetating on the sofa, cup of Earl Grey in one hand, Kindle in the other (me, again.)
But beautiful places have a way of staying with you – and true to form, as happy as I was to be home, in my head I was already planning our next trip to Lake Como. Next time I will see more and do more. Also see and do more of the same, ’cause beauty is never boring – but also just more, because beauty, like travel, always gives you something to look forward to.
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