Trip Start Mar 14, 2012
26Trip End Jun 15, 2012
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On the morning of Thursday 19 April, we packed our luggage and went to the Manarola train station to get four trains to Lake Como via Milan. Part of the train ride was through Genoa, which looks like a pretty town :) We had to wait at Milan station for 1.5 hours and had lunch there. I got Burger King, and it was delicious! It was nice to go to a place where I knew exactly what was on the burgers (basically) and knew what to expect :P Dan bought a book (his 3rd of the trip!) and a salad, and we got on the train. The ride to Varenna, a town on Lake Como, was lovely. A lot of the train ride was along the lake. We got off the train at Varenna and went to use the toilets, but they were squatting toilets! That was the last thing I expected at Lake Como! We walked down to the ferry and got the ferry over to Bellagio. We could see some snow-capped mountains surrounding the lake, but it was hard to see them properly because the clouds were very low. We searched for the little street that our apartment was on and found it quite easily :) Our host came to meet us and let us in to the apartment and gave us some maps and information.
We decided to go on the one-hour historical walk of Bellagio (set path). We walked down to the Serbelloni Hotel, which is quite old, and very big. We saw a woman drive by in a mini fiat, and she looked completely 60s with a bob hairdo and 60s clothes and make-up (and car!), it was cool :) We walked around to the Punta (point). Lake Como looks like an upside-down Y, and Bellagio is on the inside point of the Y, looking down towards the stem of the Y. The Punta looks north (towards the stem of the upside-down Y) towards Switzerland. The Punta has a lovely view. We continued on our walk and saw an old church (built in the 10th Century!) and walked along the main street (one car-width wide) and saw the Town Hall next to another old church with the bell tower built over some steps and a passage way, so it sits between two buildings. We saw an old Anglican church that has been converted into apartments (I'd live there, it was beautiful!), and walked through a pretty park with lovely trees and flowers (the azaleas in Italy are beautiful!), and saw an old stone tower that housed the water pump for a nearby large abandoned villa (that should be converted into a hotel!), and we walked back along the waterfront and up to our apartment.
We went to a little supermarket and a greengrocer and a butcher and got some supplies. For dinner, I went to a restaurant next door and got takeaway pizza. I saw the cook flip the base around in the air as he was making it :P It was a bolognese pizza with rocket and parmesan on it. He cooked the pizza with just the bolognese on it in the wood-fired oven and then put the rocket and parmesan on it after. He showed me the pizza before he closed the box, and the cheese wasn't melted. But when I got it back to the apartment, it had melted. The pizza was delicious and I didn't want it to end! :P We've made a bolognese pizza at Wattrio's a few times, but methinks we should put rocket on it next time :) Dan made his dinner (chicken and veggies), which was exactly what he felt like :)
Ultimate cultural experience of the day: doing the historic tour of Bellagio.
On the morning of Friday 20 April, we had breakfast at the apartment. Dan made eggs and salad and I had a potato and green bean frittata we had bought the previous day, which was very tasty :) We started the two-hour suburban walk around Bellagio (set path). We walked through a very pretty suburb and down to the water, and we could see the snow-capped mountains all around the lake much easier than the previous day because the clouds weren't as low. We walked up past an old villa and up along the road, and when we looked back we saw what we first thought was a cloud behind a mountain but then realised it was actually a craggy snow-capped peak, and it took our breaths away :D We continued past some nice old buildings and found our way to an old suburb called San Giovanni, which has a very old church built in the 10th Century. We went down to the water and looked around at the lake and the mountains. We continued on our walk and saw the gate for Villa Melzi. We couldn't see the villa very well, but the grounds looked lovely. But we decided not to go in because Dan "didn't want to pay money to see other people's wealth" :P I agreed :P We continued along the walk and saw some other old buildings, and walked along the promenade and back to the old centre of Bellagio. We had a coffee and Italian hot chocolate at a nearby cafe, and there were Aussies sitting at the next two tables beside ours, so there were three sets of Aussies all in a row :P At the table next to ours was a middle-aged couple and at the next table there was a young family with a little girl about four years old and two twin baby girls about five months old :D
We organised to go up to a farm for lunch which has a stunning view over Bellagio and the lake, at our host Flavio's suggestion. The farm is called Baita Belvedere, and one of the women who works there came down to pick us up, free of charge :) We had planned to perhaps walk up, but it is a 4km walk up, and it is quite steep the whole way. We were driven up to the farm through some really pretty countryside and forest up the mountain. We got to the farm, and the view is stunning! We went inside and looked at the menu. We had seen the menu online and had almost already decided on what we wanted :P We ordered the stewed wild boar with polenta for our mains, and for my entree I got what is called pizzoccheri, which is buckwheat pasta with potatoes, spinach, cheese, butter, garlic and sage. I also ordered an orange juice. When the woman brought the orange juice out, I thought she had misunderstood me and brought out berry juice (which they also had), because it was not orange, it was dark red! I had a sip, and it tasted like the best fresh orange juice I have ever had! I don't know what kind of oranges she used, but it was beautiful! And I don't think she used blood oranges because it didn't taste like that. Dan and I didn't really know what to expect with the pizzoccheri, but when she brought it out it looked beautiful! And it tasted even better!!! I believe that it is a local dish, and I would say that we will be making it for ourselves (and others!) when we get back to Brissie! We also had our stewed wild boar with polenta (there was a lot of polenta on the menu), and that was also delicious. I believe that this meal was the best I have had on the trip so far. Dan got some fruit and natural yoghurt (made on the farm!) for dessert, which was also nice.
We got the directions to walk back down to Bellagio (a lot easier to walk down than up) and we set off. We found our way to the mountain path, and it was beautiful! We were walking through forest that had a few pine trees, but was mainly trees I don't know the name of with black trunks and apple green leaves - stunning! We also passed a few houses that looked very northern Italian, if not Swiss! And they had beautiful overgrown green lawns, some with yellow wildflowers :) We walked down the mountain on the stoney mountain path, and got to a nice spot with a view of the lake. Dan walked near a house to take some photos and I could hear a bell ringing. I went looking for what it was, hoping that it was a cow with a cow bell around its neck! And it was! :D Two cows, in fact! A colleague of mine had told me that when she drove through Switzerland, she had seen lots of cows with cow bells around their necks, and I thought it sounded so sweet! And I didn't need to go to Switzerland to see it :D We continued walking down the mountain and got back to Bellagio. We took some photos of the beautiful snow-capped mountains around the lake and went back to the apartment. Dan had dinner in and I got a pizza (from a different place than the previous night though :P). We went back out to the Punta and the promenade to take pictures of the lake and the mountains during sunset, at about 8.30pm!!!! We went back to the apartment at about 9pm, and the sky was still a little light!
Ultimate cultural experience of the day: eating lunch at the farm (especially the pizzoccheri, a local dish), and seeing the cows with cow bells around their necks :D
On the morning of Saturday 21 April, we had breakfast at the apartment, and then walked down to the pier to get a ferry down to the town of Como :) We saw the young Aussie family with the little girl and twins again, and they went to Como as well :) The (fast) ferry came and we sat inside because it was cold. The ride down the lake was very nice and we passed a lot of towns and big villas! I kept my eye out for George Clooney's, which I had found pictures of online, and I think I saw it but I didn't really think it was it because it seemed too close to the town and I thought it would be a little more secluded. We got to Como after about 50 minutes and walked to the Duomo and then to the train station to get our tickets to Venice for the next day, and our tickets from Venice to the airport for a few days later (you can buy Italian train tickets from any station, not just the one you will be leaving from). We walked back to the lake and walked along the promenade. I saw three Cocker Spaniels! All golden.
We got back to the pier and hopped on the (slow) ferry to go back up the lake. We sat on top this time, and there were stunning views of the snow-capped mountains :) But it also meant that we were very cold! Dan went inside after a while, but I stayed up to keep my eye out for George Clooney's place, and that's when I think I spotted it (I looked at the pictures online again when I got home, and I'm pretty sure I saw it). I didn't film it though, because I wasn't sure if it was it. If you are interested in seeing what it looks like, just google "george clooney lake como" :P I went inside when I knew we were past Laglio (the town his villa is in), and it was nice to be toasty! :P There was a young Italian family on the ferry with a little boy aged about seven years and a little girl aged about five years, and the boy's name was Giuseppe and the girl's name was Angelica :P Those names just seem so Italian, and the little girl was very cute - she had spunk :)
We got off the ferry after about two hours, in Menaggio. It looked like a really pretty town from the ferry, but we didn't have a lot of time to walk around it. We found a place to have lunch and sat outside in the sun because it was a cold day! The weather was stunning, but the climate was not :P We walked back to the pier and got the ferry over to Varenna. We found the path that we needed to walk up the mountain to Vezio Castle! :D (a little 16th Century castle). It was a very steep path, but we were walking through forest some of the time (on the left side of the path), which was beautiful :) We got up to the little old town (hamlet) of Vezio towards the top of the mountain and went inside the old church. It was lovely inside :) The pale yellow walls were faded and peeling and there were some old faded paintings of Jesus and Mary on the walls. The bell tower was very pretty :) We continued up some steps and came to a little cafe and the little place to buy the tickets for the castle, and there was a black-and-white Cocker Spaniel there :) I gave him a good pat and asked the ticket guy his name, and he said "Lucky" :) We continued walking up towards the castle and saw a cage with a large, beautiful brown owl in it! He is a great horned owl named Artu :) We continued up to the castle and saw one of the "ghosts" that they have there. They put gauze over willing tourists standing in different poses and spray them with white chalk and let it dry for 20 minutes, and put the "ghosts" around the castle :) We saw five different birds with their feet tied to perches on a little lawn. They are falconry birds (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falconry). There was Regina the North American Ferruginous Hawk, Parsifal and Linda the Central American Harris Hawks, Semola the European Barn Owl, and Tristan the Mediterranean African Lanner Falcon. They were beautiful. But it was sad because Semola the barn owl kept trying to fly away but it couldn't because it's feet were tied to the perch, and it kept trying to use its beak to untie the knot! We walked up inside the castle walls and saw the steps up to the little drawbridge that goes to the tower of the castle. We walked on the path to the other side of the castle walls and saw some more "ghosts". We walked up some steps that led to a little room that had old weapons and armour in it :) We went over to the castle tower and crossed the little drawbridge, and just inside the tower there was a full suit of armour :) We walked up the steps to one of the higher levels inside the tower, and they had an exhibition about the Lariosaurus, because some fossils of that dinosaur had been found nearby :) We continued up to the roof of the tower, and the views were stunning!
We walked back down the tower and outside the castle walls, and we watched some falconry. The guy was using one of the Harris Hawks. The hawk was flying into the air and then returning to the wall or to the guy's arm. But sometimes when it flew up, a stupid seagull would try to attack it, or it would fly around for too long and the guy would blow a whistle and the hawk would come back :) We walked back down to the cafe and saw Lucky again :) We walked down the mountain and went to the pier. We got the ferry back to Bellagio, and the view of the main part of Varenna (which we didn't have time to visit) was lovely :) We got back to Bellagio and got a coffee and Italian hot chocolate and little sweet (small custard and strawberry tart) from the cafe, but this time I got the hot chocolate with whipped cream so that I could stir it through so it wasn't so chocolatey! :P We got some supplies from the butcher and greengrocer for dinner and had dinner in. We were told by our host that there would be a train strike the next day, from 9am to 9pm.
Ultimate cultural experience of the day: cruising on the lake and visiting Vezio Castle.
- Lake Como is one of the most beautiful and scenic areas of Italy. We were lucky enough to see the snow-capped mountains, breath-taking.
- Taking a ferry up and down the lake is a lovely way to see different towns.
- The walks around the lake are endless. The ones we did were awesome!
- Wild boar stew, hearty and hit the spot.