Alright, I’m going to go ahead and preface this entry by saying that I famously dislike Italy. I have been to Rome twice, Venice twice, Florence once (for like two hours) and I never found any of them super charming. Everyone has their travel tastes, and my tastes just don’t include Italy.
Let me rephrase that.
I dislike Rome and Venice.
Perhaps Italy deserved another chance.
So on this trip, I gave it one.
We started our day in the Como region with a ride on the bus from the hotel to Como, the city on the western leg of the lake. The lake itself is shaped like an upside-down Y. On the eastern leg sat Lecco, the western leg sat Como, and at the point in the middle was Bellagio, where we’d be visiting later. But for now, Como.
As we pulled into the city we were met by our local guide for a walking tour. Right off the bat, Jen and I realized that this walking tour was going to be…arduous. As teachers of world history, we know a LOT of Italian history. Between Rome and the Renaissance, we’re pretty much on top of it. So, after standing for ten minutes outside of a Renaissance era church with our little whisper headphone in our ear and looking at sculptures of saints, I turned to Jen and said, “Alright, at what point do we go rogue?”
And then we took off our headphones, went to McDonalds, and got sodas.
Already we knew this was the right choice. We took time to walk around and enjoy the scenery. We took better photos of ourselves in front of the lake (the first one’s we’d taken had come out sloppy and rushed, cuz, well, we were sloppy and rushed). We saw some really cool street performers, including a guy who had carved a dog out of sand, some really talented violinists playing movie scores, and a marching band that I swear was following us around the city. Every time we rounded a corner, there they were again! Luckily they were a professional marching band, so they were really talented, unlike some high school bands.
We stumbled across this man sitting right along the main drag of the city painting these tiny prints of regional landmarks. Jen and I, who are both art fiends, pounced upon him immediately and each picked out a tiny print. I was impressed because he was painting all of these landmarks from memory. No photo help. “My brain is like a computer,” he told me after I asked.
We also found a little craft fair displaying some local artisans’ crafts, like jewelry and crocheted bags and leather purses and all kinds of other stuff. I bought a really pretty tree of life pendant while trying to communicate in rudimentary Italian and English respectively with the very patient artisan guy.
We had a very reasonably priced lunch at a little café. Jen got a wrap and I ordered a pizza that was definitely big enough for two people but I ate it myself. I mean, maybe like 2/3rds of it. It was definitely good pizza.
After lunch, we just did a little bit of walking around and taking pictures. We also got a closer look at a weird modern sculpture on the pier. Still not really sure what it is, but here it is.
Next we were off to Villa Carlotta, a lakeside villa that was once passed around between Italian nobility and German nobility and then later became a museum. The gardens were filled with flowers and the house itself was something out of an Italian fairy tale. We walked around for a little while, until we were really sweaty and tired, and then decided to get sodas and swap dog stories with Tara, who really misses her dog. I mean, us too.
After Villa Carlotta we took our lake cruise. For an hour we sailed on the beautiful water past villas and beaches and other boats full of people in bathing suits. This was definitely Italy’s version of Winnipesaukee. Though instead of cheap little lake shacks, this place was lined with Italian palaces.
From the water we sailed to Bellagio, which is beautiful. It was super hot, but still gorgeous. Multicolored buildings, little alleyways, bright red flowers, and of course, the gorgeous water and blue sky. We had a bit of time to wander through some of the shops. Jen and I each got some jewelry. I bought a pair of earrings that have blue flowers in them made of glass mosaic. Now I can add some Italian earrings to my international earring collection.
From there we went to dinner, which was in one of the restaurants along the water, but unfortunately inside. It was HOT. We ate with Tara and Randy, and Nassar and Anna, who are part of the eight-person Georgia continent. We were all very sweaty, but there was plenty of water and wine to keep us cool. The waitresses even came around with a bowl of ice to put in our drinks. That’s like gold in Europe.
I’d say dinner was probably the best meal I’d had in Italy. Well, the meal anyway. First of all, there were like four bottles of wine on the table and only three of us were drinking it, so that was a mathematical win. The first course was this creamy pasta and potato dish with artichokes and TONS of cheese. It was absolutely delicious. I want to learn how to make it, and I’d eat it every day and be a thousand pounds. The second course was a stuffed pork with ham and cheese, a cheese-stuffed tomato, and a fried potato. I typically dislike any tomato that isn’t dried, but this particular tomato was sweet and baked and delicious. The potato was also nice and crispy, and the chicken was decent. The only disappointing course was dessert. It was essentially pureed cantaloupe frozen into a mold and topped with chocolate sauce. I guess if you like cantaloupe, you’d love it. But plenty of us did not like cantaloupe, so it was disappointing. But other than that, the meal was great.
From there we hopped onto the ferry boat for quick ride back to the bus and some gorgeous shots of the lake. Our bus ride back home was forty minutes along the lake, for more pretty views. We also got stuck in a little traffic on the way to the hotel, so Jeurgen let us get off the bus and walk back. This was a convenient gelato stop for Jen and I, to make up for an underwhelming dessert. We each got hazelnut gelato, which is just otherworldly delicious. I don’t know how they do it.
After yet another walk down the streets of Lecco, we traipsed upstairs and again, plopped into bed.