Lake Como - Bellagio is not just a casino in Vegas

Trip Start Sep 13, 2006
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Trip End May 25, 2007


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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Lake Como was our next destination, a minor stop on Italian tourist trail. Lake Como is a lovely spot with adorable villas and towering mountains. George Clooney has a vacation home here though he was absent from the streets during our short visit.
     We stayed in the town of Como which gave us access to a funicular that takes riders up to a village with sweeping views of the alps. In the area around the lake, mountain climbing appears to be a way of life. When we left Mass on Sunday we were met with a square full of volunteer Mountaineer Rescuers who were getting blessed at the next service. Also the funicular was full of people well into their 70's with large packs on their backs and the fabulous ski pole walking sticks we have seen all over Europe. The only person we know in the states with the walking sticks is Mae at church, but we should find a pair when we return. People here can't get enough of them.
    Our main day trip on the lake was to Bellagio, a town made more famous by the Vegas casino that stole it's name. It was very quiet when we were there but Mom and Carolyn still managed to do some shopping. One bar we enjoyed a lot was owned by three friendly brothers. We tasted lemoncello and ate some good gellato there. Bars in Italy, much like the rest of Europe, are combined bar and coffee shops. People were surprised when we told them that in the states, bars and coffee shops were two very different entities and that people under 21 were not even allowed in bars. It is actually pretty convenient to have it all in one place.
     One phenomenon that we need to comment on is the absolute obsession with soccer (football for all you non-Americans) that grips this country. While the whole continent is crazy about the game, this is the first place we have seen real time play by plays on networks without rights to the games.
      Rupert Murdoch, the largest broadcasting figure in the world and the man who brings you Fox News, owns Sky Sports here in Europe. Sky Sports has done its best to buy up rights to many of the football leagues here, most notably English Premiere League and Italian Serie A (Italy's top club league). Sky Sports is an expensive cable channel that most people do not have in  their homes, so most people either go to bars to watch the game or watch the play by play done on the local Italian national stations. This play by play show was very entertaining to both of us. Basically the national station has a show that includes a studio, a press box at the stadium holding the important game and a camera pointed at the crowds at the stadium. In the studio there are two or so commentators watching the important game and yelling play by play commentary on the game. There are four other men watching four of the less important games (all the teams seem to play at once), interjecting whenever something of interest happens. There is one man who is manning a huge felt board marked like half a field, with circles in two colors representing the two teams and a soccer ball. Whenever a goal attempt is made the man runs to the board, starts repositioning all the circles like crazy while describing who was where and how the ball was kicked at the goal. Last are two women who sit in front of computers in very revealing outfits and say nothing. Our Italian friends told us they serve no purpose but to smile and look pretty. Anyway, between the announcers yelling play by play at the stadium, the commentators yelling play by play in the studio and the others watching the lesser teams it is a very chaotic scene. And yet, you never actually see the game itself. Once the game is over they have another show where they can show the highlights (an Italian Sportcenter, if you will) where they pick apart each play of the game. There is a woman on this show who dresses in revealing outfits, but she is a ex-girlfriend of a footballer so she is able to give good analysis of the game. When we reached Bologna to visit some friends we made in Munich we watched this show with them and they made sense of it all. I think what impressed us the most, though is that it isn't just one national network doing this, it is three! There are enough Italians watching these shows to support it on three different channels. Italians share the opinion of the British - it is terrible to have to pay so much extra to watch a football match on television. I am sure American sports fans can relate. Imagine having to subscribe to HBO to watch your favorite sport.
     We couldn't spend too many days in Como, as we were on our way to Biella. Biella is the birthplace of Grandma Esther Olson's mother. I visited our family here when I was in college, but this would be the first time for mom to be there. Many treats were in store for us.
    For all of our photos of Lake Como, including mom's, visit our Smugmug Page!
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