A Travellerspoint blog

Lake Como and Milan

Day 50, 51, 52, & 53: Italy's Northern Lake Region, Falconry, and Turning 29

Thursday, September 22

Trains make mainland Italy delightfully easy to get around. We caught a 10am train from Florence, and arrived at our bed and breakfast in Varenna on Lake Como by 2pm. The train reached a maximum speed of 295km/hour (about 180mph)! The ride was very smooth and comfortable.
When we arrived our host, Simone, was waiting for us in the Bar on the ground floor of the bed and breakfast. He showed us into our rooms, two apartments on separate sides of a staircase with balconies looking over the water. He is quite the entrepreneur, and owns the bar, bed and breakfast, gelateria, spa, and restaurant on the cove. We met downstairs at the table Simone had reserved for us, and enjoyed welcome beverages while he gave us an overview of the area and shared his recommendations of things to do and places to eat. He spent at least 20 minutes with us, and in every way made us feel VIP. We asked if we could have lunch, and he arranged with his staff to give us priority for the next table available by the water. We had a nice lunch and were totally mesmerized by the view and the sound of the water lapping on shore.
We went for a short passeggiata through town, and scoped out some of the restaurants recommended. We had some down time to relax on the balconies, enjoy the view, and then went early for our dinner reservation at La Vista.
Part of why we went early was to enjoy the privileged view from the terrace at La Vista, and sip on negronis as the sun set. We were all very impressed by the menu at the restaurant, and ended up ordering the 3- or 4-course menu because there were so many interesting dishes to try! Duck ham with caramelized apples, foie gras ice cream, cingale (wild boar) ragu, lamb shank, and more! The desserts were also delicious and creative, like limoncello baba, chocolate mousse in the shape of a cocoa bean, ricotta cake, and cheese shaved to look like carnations. It was delicious food, a magical view, and great service! We has such a lovely evening, we made reservations to celebrate my birthday there on Saturday!

Friday, September 23

We treated ourselves to a slow morning, and set our breakfast meet-up at 9:30 at our special table reserved by the water. It was our best breakfast of the trip, with eggs made to order, fresh squeezed orange juice, specialty coffee like cappuccino and macchiato, and a marvelous view. We discussed options for how to spend our day, and aligned on venturing out on the ferry.
Our town, Varenna, is one of the many cute little towns in the mid-lake area. Each ride on the ferry is 4.60 euros, or you can get an all-day 15-euro pass. We knew we'd ride it at least 3 times, so we went ahead and got the all day pass to keep our options open. There are at least 4 boats the pass through Varenna, and the one that we hopped on first happened to be the most beautiful of the fleet! It was called the "Milano," and looked like it could have once been powered by steam. We rode it all the way to Lenno, after about 50-minute ride and stops in lots of cute towns along the way. We disembarked in Lenno, and took the next boat heading back toward Varenna and stepped off the boat in Bellagio.
Bellagio has 3 times as many hotel rooms as Varenna, and the feel of the town is more touristy. We walked along the waterfront, and popped into the historic Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni to snoop around. Whereas a nearby hotel was favored by well-heeled Englishfolk, the Grand Hotel was preferred by elite Russians visiting the area. The hotel had great facilities, and, from what I could gather from the little time we spent there, intolerable guests.
We walked around to the far point of Bellagio, and had a great lunch with a view of the lake. We had fun watching the boat traffic on the lake, and admiring a particularly hard-working car ferry by the name "Splooga" that seemed to pass every 20 minutes. After lunch we sauntered back to the ferry, popped into the church in town, and road along to Menagio.
Our mission in Menagio was to find gelato, and since it seemed like you could stumble into a gelateria every 5 feet in Bellagio we were a little surprised we had to walk a bit to find some tourist infrastructure. The port for the ferry is about a 5-minute walk from the city center, but once we found the main thoroughfare we were well-rewarded. The was a gelateria that served homemade, artisanal ice cream. We enjoyed our ice cream by the lake front, and then caught the 4:00 ferry back to Varenna.
We had a little down time and then went for a sunset beverage at the Hotel du Lac. They have a great open patio and delicious, large negronis. We settled in to our beverages, and enjoyed chatting with other folks enjoying the evening light. A family from Australia took this lovely family photo of us, and we chatted with another couple from Colorado that had just come off a 3-day trek in the Alps. Maybe it was partly the negronis, but it seems like Lake Como attracts nice, friendly people!
After our second round we made our way to dinner at Quatro Pass. This restaurant came highly recommended by our host and other travelers we'd compared notes with. The food was exceptional, with the venison dishes really standing out. We'd had such good luck lately with phenomenal service, so were were a little disappointed by some awkwardness in our dining experience like our online reservation not making it into their manual system, our food not showing up at the same time, our trading tables to no longer interact with us, and then subsequently spilling water on us (presumably on accident, but it didn't help!).
We salvaged the evening with a night cap on my folks balcony, and we got to enjoy a great fireworks show!

Saturday, September 24

Birthdays are a little strange, particularly as years pass. When I was younger, there were all these special privileges that came with being the birthday girl - breakfast in bed, uncontested rights to the front seat of the car, bringing donuts to celebrate at school, and picking what we had for dinner to name a few. As the years go on, it seems like making birthdays special has gotten harder - until #29.

From the moment I woke up, I felt like a princess. Stephen made coffee and brought it to my bedside. Shortly before our agreed upon meeting time for breakfast, I heard calls from across the balcony where my parents were waiting to serenade me. When we did go downstairs for breakfast, the women serving table brought me a blueberry muffin with a candle. My folks went our specially to get sparkling wine for our picnic, to celebrate my birthday with a little bubbly. This takes us to about 3 in the afternoon, and I already had felt like it was indisputably my birthday!
The picnic that we enjoyed was on the way to the castle above Varenna, which had a falconer that puts on a little show a couple times a week. He works with 2 harris hawks, a barn owl, and a falcon in the show, and in captivity they also care for an eagle owl (which was HUGE!), and a vulture. As we explored the castle we kept leapfrogging a pair of newlyweds getting photos taken, who were understandably giddy.
After the falconry show we walked back to town, and got ready for our big dinner at La Vista. We arrived early to get maximum enjoyment out of the sunset, which we enjoyed with - negronis! We made friends with the other people on the terrace, including the sweet couple from Colorado we'd met the night before. The staff of the restaurant really went above and beyond in making my birthday a special celebration, and after we'd had a full 3-course meal with dessert brought out a whole chocolate cake with a sparkler! The *entire* terrace sang me happy birthday, and it very special to be the birthday girl.


Sunday, September 25

We took the morning train from Lake Como to Milan, and arrived after a smooth ride to Milan's train station. We had hoped to check our bags at the train station, but the line was so long we decided it made more sense to just go to the duomo with our luggage. So we got on the crowded metro with all our bags, and made our way to the 4th biggest church in Europe.
We took a lap around the duomo, through the galeria, passed the poor torino bull who's testicles people spin on for good luck, and got sandwiches to eat in a plaza. After we ate, my parents started their journey on public transportation to their hotel near the international airport and we took a bus to the local airport. We had a wonderful time traveling with the family, with my parents, and now we go off on our own again.

Posted by GenovevaLewis 14:22 Archived in Italy Tagged duomo milan como varenna galéria lakecomo

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