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Lago di Como, Italia - 15 September 2011


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Lake Como

 Damiana and Sienna shuffled into the pre-dawn security maze at Linate after hugs and thanks, and we dragged our luggage downstairs and caught the bus to Stazione Centrale, where we caught the train to Como and the C-10 bus along the western shore through pretty little villages to our Hotel Villa Marie in Tremezzo, just in the heart of Lake Como. We arrived early, but our sweet host Elizabetta found tea and croissants, and we sat on the terrace and soaked in the beauty of a lake trapped amongst mountains, then settles for nearly two millennia by the privileged.

All day long and into the night, we kept thinking, "they're in the air … they've landed at Heathrow … they're in the air again … over Hudson Bay … " and, well after we went to our early beds, they were still flying.

 


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After all the excitement packed into the first two weeks of this adventure, Lake Como was intended to be a few days of relatively peaceful reflection and regeneration. Apart from escaping Milan, the first day, we did pretty much nothing.

 Not a bad place to do nothing in! We walked up to the center of Tremezzo for lunch, walked home, swam a little and lay in the sun, took a nap, then walked up to the center of Tremezzo for dinner. Luckily for us, there were two good restaurants – not stellar, but better than Mendo average.

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Tremezzo and environs is much favored by vacationing Brits, who are a source of constant amusement for their stubborn insistence on speaking English, louder when not understood, and behaving as if foreigners (including the people of whatever host country they are presently invading) are some sort of inferiors there meant to care for them. Como is also just downhill from Switzerland – if I had an internet connection I'd make you a map – and so there are also plenty of Swiss and Germans down for the warmth. And of course we Americans are everywhere in awkward broadshouldered abundance.   

Quiet days are great for leisurely contemplation of the curious state we are in – I don't mean Lombardy or even Como, but the state of statelessness, of being far away from home ground, in the realm of others where customs, language, food, and experiences are so different from the familiar. I, for one, like it. Rochelle, bless her heart, tolerates it because I like it so much, and a good share of the time my liking is sufficiently infectious that she, too, enjoys herself. Being just the two of us for the first time in two intense weeks, we were able to explore and rejoice in this togetherness in a strange place with good wine, lovely food, and plenty of time to revel in it. Delicious having our daughters with us for two weeks; a remnant of ache with them gone; a new adventure, to be together with ten weeks on unknown-ness ahead.

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A Walk Along the Greenway

 Our sleep in Tremezzo was moderated by the modern road that runs right along the shore. Remember what I said about Italians doing more faster in less space? Well, they do it at night in front of the Villa Marie – a principal reason why most tour books recommend the slower, quieter east side of Lago di Como. But we made up with it with a buffet breakfast, and soon were off on our day's adventure: could we put together a loop that walked us back up the hill through the quiet towns above, then back down to find lunch, and then somehow make our way home without being run over by a tour bus or whizzing berserker in a Ferrari? Worth a try...

After a short distance along the narrow waterfront sidewalk, the Greenway plunges into a narrow canyon between houses and walls and heads straight uphill, laundry hanging above, gardens through grillwork, a cat, a dog, the tennis court and unused pool of a luxury hotel, then suddenly opens up into a subalpine scene, reminding us that this we are in the foothills of the Swiss Alps. The path runs now up a gentle slope, then level, opening into the tiny piazza between the church and city hall of the town above.


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 Continuing along the same elevation, green more predominant than the ochre and pink plaster buildings, a mix of very old and fairly new, we find an old gentleman tending his garden. Rochelle asks him about a strange fruit hanging on the garden fence, and he tells her it's passion fruit and plucks two for her. They are incredibly red inside, but not as luscious as Pacific tropical ones. He is very courtly.

Past four horses and a burro much bothered by flies, and then down steeply past barking dogs behind fences. One, unfenced, comes out to greet us, suspicious at first, but soon bending double in delighted greeting. These paths, called here contrade, have obviously been the lifelines of these communities time out of mind. Many are made a small rocks carefully set in cement, showing years of wear. Italian houses like this turn their uninteresting backsides to the public, but from time to time an open window or gate reveals a sunny, planted, gracious courtyard. Here, on this east facing slope, eastern and southern windows are fitted with shutters to keep the heat from building up inside. The weather has begun to moderate, but the sun is still strong.

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 The narrow contrada debouches right onto the shingle at the lakeshore, and we turn right and pass through the grounds of a hotel before walking out onto the passarella in Lenno, a waterfront road that is not part of the main highway. Trees line the road, boats nuzzle against the sea wall, and graceful houses look out over them. Here we see the Lenno Navagazione station where the ferries come and go. The church tower clock tells us there's plenty of time for a slow food lunch, and so we choose the best looking of the ristoranti, where penne amatriciana and insalata del stagione are offered.  


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 We finish lunch with time to stroll along the lakefront, resist the temptation to explore a noble garden and home open (at a price) to visitors, admire a very old stone baptistry, and appreciate the amenities provided on a pretty little wooden boat tied up near the ferry pier. The ferry comes and takes us back to Tremezzo and our afternoon siesta. What a nice little adventure!

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