Saturday, 29 September 2007

Lombardy Lakes

Okay, so this is just a quick post to get back up to date. It has been a while since I posted anything significant since we're in an internet blackout at home at the moment which, I'm sure you'll understand, is stressful for both of us.

View Larger Map

A couple of weeks ago we went to the Lombardy Lakes in Italy. It may seem strange that we chose our first big outing since arriving in Switzerland to go to Italy, but it was a long weekend in Switzerland so we figured most things would be closed or, at the very least, very busy with vacationing Swiss.

This was a very last-minute bit of organising for us. Originally we were going to meet up with my sister in Ireland but the convoluted, overpriced flights to Ireland forced us to change plans and meet up a week later in England. In the end we (okay, it was Linda since I was at work) organised the train tickets, car rental and first night of accommodation on Friday, and caught the train into Italy that night.

We started at Stresa on Lago Maggiore which is the first major town on the Lakes after leaving Switzerland. Unfortunately it seemed to be something of a retreat for aging German tourists so moved on pretty quickly the next day to the nearby Lago d'Orta, which was a beautiful place to spend an afternoon and quickly made us feel like we were truly back in Italy.

In the evening we drove to Como and stayed in a place above the town where we watched the sun set over Lago Como and the lights come on in town before eating an enormous dinner in the hotel and passing verdict over the Tirimasu for desert (we'd had better, but have so many now we couldn't pinpoint where, exactly).

We ventured into Como itself the following morning, but were a little underwhelmed so continued up the winding, highly treacherous (due to the other drivers, more than the road itself) road to Bellagio. This is one of those towns that the guide books describe as over touristed, but really it is a lovely town with just the right amount of restaurants, tourist kitsch, and interesting history (its 'defensive ditch' was a pleasant change from the usual defensive walls).

We spent a very pleasant night in Bellagio, having aperitif at a local wine bar while we waited for our table at the trattoria across other side of the defensive ditch (these days just another street in the town).

The following day we spent some more time in Bellagio before catching the ferry across to lake to Varenna where I had the best cappuccino in all history (I had spent most of my time since arriving in Italy searching for a decent cup of coffee (the coffee in Switzerland is mysteriously bad)). We overheard someone talking about the Villa Monastero, so we wandered off in search of its botanical gardens and were suitably impressed, taking about a billion photos of flowers and trees with the mountains and lake in the background.

I risked us missing the ferry by ordering another cappuccino on the way out, and in the end we had to run for the ferry (which, of course, then did not leave for some time after we had gotten on).

Then followed a somewhat frantic trip home as we had decided going back down the road to Como was to risk certain death. Instead we took the car ferry across the lake to Cadenabbia, drove north around Lago Lugano (yes, that's Switzerland), back into Italy at Luino, and tried to find a car ferry across Lago Maggiore to return our car to Stresa and catch our train home.

We made it in the end, but more by lucky timing with the ferries than by good planning. We ran for our train home (yes, of course it ended up running late anyway) and had a minor disagreement with the women sitting in our seats on the train (apparently this was the last leg of a chaotic trip home for them) before settling in for the trip home.

We were very happy with our trip, not just because the Lakes were beautiful and the food was excellent, but also because it showed us just how feasible it was to organise a trip in a whole other country at such short notice. Now all we need to do is see some of the country we actually live in!


Mnementh said...

Those pics are simply this moment I am trying to work out ways of getting our collective derrieres to Switzerland and/or Italy!! Fancy some houseguests??

Mark said...

Our new apartment is so big you can bring your whole family if you like!

Mnementh said...

whoa! trust me, that would be pushing the friendship;) You'll be pleased to know that won't be happening ... hehe. But I'd love to visit Europe again...

Anonymous said...

Mark...those pics are absolutely amazing. Did you manage to make it to Villa Balbianello? There's a cool pic of it at