LAKE COMO WEEK TWO BELLAGIO Saturday morning, August 7 we went for our last hike up the mountain over Moltrasio, stopping to say hello to the various store owners we had met. We loaded up the car for our trip to Bellagio, but first stopped at the Villa d’Este to see the gardens. The vast grounds of the exclusive resort are beautifully landscaped, but the flowers were long past and it was mostly shrubs and trees. At the top of the gardens were some interesting statues.

We then climbed up the castle on the side of the hill overlooking the villa. The view down gives one a real sense of the size and character of the Villa.

After climbing back down, we drove along the west side of the lake to Cadenabbia and took the ferry across to Bellagio. At the ferry station was a wedding party leaving for Bellagio for a celebration. We assumed it was a second marriage since the bride was pushing a baby in a carriage. We were so excited to be arriving at Bellagio. We had looked forward to this for so long. It looked like a make believe village as the ferry sailed to the dock. The large building on the left is the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni.

We were happy to arrive at our apartment in Bellagio at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. The apartments are in the back above the fitness center, a real plus. Betsy was happy to be able to get back to her exercise routine. We have a great one bedroom unit with a large living room/dining room, kitchenette and full bathroom. It opens out onto a large terrace that we share with 5 other apartments that have 3 British families, one American and one Italian family, all with children ages 7 to 13. They’re all good neighbors and we chat with them from time to time. We visited the cleaners and left out accumulated laundry, then Betsy went to the gym and I went for a haircut with Francesco who happened to be the husband of the woman who runs the laundry. I got to meet the entire family (son and daughter work in the business as well) and discussed with Franco who is 58 his plans for retirement. All in Italian. What a treat for me. The view from our balcony out onto the lake is very peaceful. This is the view on the first morning across the lake at the morning clouds before they burned off.

On Sunday, our first full day in Bellagio we made breakfast and then went for a walk to visit the Villa Melzi, a beautiful Villa with spectacular grounds open to the public (for a fee. Hey this is Italy).

We hiked around the entire property, then through to the fishing village of Loppia where we came upon some old lake transport boats that looked particularly photogenic.

We also stopped for cappuccino at a well known local restaurant. Here’s Betsy with some of the local fisherman.

That night we had dinner at the hotel. It was great. Here is a view of the hotel from the reception area across the pool to the dining rooms.

The next day went to Menaggio by ferry. This is one of the larger towns on the upper lake and is the gateway to Lugano, Switzerland for this region. The town is quaint and small. We stopped for cappuccino at the local Grand Hotel (they all seem to be Grand Hotels), then walked around the town for a bit. There were two large campgrounds where families from all over Europe seemed to spend their summer vacations. We than caught a bus for Tremezzo to visit the Villa Carlotta, a magnificent structure built by one of Napoleon’s technocrats that eventually passed to the daughter of the Queen of Prussia who received it as a gift from her mother on her wedding. Sadly, after having three children, she died in childbirth after living here for only 5 years and delivering three children. It’s hard to describe the magnitude of this structure, but it the interiors are at least 20 foot ceiling rooms with either marble or silk covered walls, long wide corridors and the first suspended spiral stair case of its day. This view is looking up from the entrance gate and the second view is looking down from the top.

The grounds cover 14 acres and include vegetation for tropical, Asian, California and northern European forests as well as myriad other types. We trecked around for at least an hour, then left to have lunch at a local trattoria. We returned to Bellagio for dinner and had a restful evening.

On Tuesday, we walked up the trail above the town on a guided tour to the Villa Serbelloni, a Rockefeller Foundation retreat for academics and writers from around the world. It dates back to the 7th or 8th century, though the present structures are only from the 19th century. The views were amazing. For the first time we were able to see all three arms of the Lake Como. This view is looking down the east or Lecco end of the lake across the town of Pescallo.

After the tour we returned to our apartment. Betsy went for a stone massage and I worked on my manuscript. Then we sat at the terrace of the main hotel and watched the mountains fade into darkness as the sun set and the lights of the towns came on. After that we returned to our apartment and Betsy made a great dinner of pasta and salad.

On Wednesday we had a lazy day, sitting at the pool and going for a walk. We went for dinner by ferry to Varenna, a very small town up the lake.

This is really the central point of the lake. From our spot for drinks at the Hotel du Lac, we were able to see all three legs of the lake at once.

We had a great meal at Vecchio Varenna, a Rick Steve recommendation. A very good meal with mediocre wine. We met a family from Cold Springs Harbor on Long Island. He’s a gi doctor who went to medical school in Rome and was returning for the first time in 25 years with his family. The daughter is a junior at Cornell and in Lesley’s sorority, SDT. It was fun arriving back in Bellagio late on the ferry. It felt like we were returning home. The following day was very layed back. We went to the gym early, had a great breakfast, did some local shopping, stopping to say hello to our friends at all the various stores. We walked over the hill of Bellagio to the adjacent town of Pescallo where we stopped for a nice lunch of Lavarello, the local white fish, for me and a delicious veal chop for Betsy. The food was great but it was a less than friendly environment. Too bad because the location was beautiful. Boats anchored just off the dock and a more peaceful side of the lake.

The rest of the time was spent with me working on my manuscript and Betsy reading and relaxing. Dinner was at a local restaurant just 50 yards from our apartment with great food, low prices and great music. We stayed and listened until late and retired for the night.

Friday morning we awoke to the most beautiful day of the past 10 days. Clear blue sky and 68 degrees, but warming fast. After breakfast, we hopped on a ferry to Varenna, a town further north on the lake on another side. The ride was refreshing and we disembarked to hike to the top of the town to a Middle Age castle (Vezio) that towers over the lakes region, enabling us to have a 360 degree view of the lake and its three legs. Betsy had an encounter with a knight in armor.

The views from the Castle top were just beyond imagination. We felt as if we were in a postcard. For the first time, because of the very clear skies, we were able to clearly see the full length of the lake and its three branches as well as the beginning of the Alps at the northern end.

We hiked down to the town afterwards and had a nice lunch at the waters edge. It was a warm and pleasant setting.

We then ferried back to Bellagio to relax for the afternoon at the pool of our hotel. Then, after shower and change of clothes, we went to Tremezzo/Cadenabbia for dinner and then to hear a piano concert at the elegant mansion, the Villa Carlotta. The room was lined with marble sculpture and the chairs were all filled with Italians from the area with just a handful of American, British and German tourists. The start of the concert was briefly delayed by a bat that came in and flew around, but apparently didn’t want to stay for the show and flew out the giant doors, to the applause of all in attendance. The music, a program of Beethoven, Schumann, Mozart and Chopin, was good. Unfortunately, the artist chose to add in a contemporary piece that only a few of the gathered appreciated. We returned on the ferry quite late, after 11 pm, and were delighted to see fireworks for over a half hour coming from Menaggio as we crossed the lake. They were quite spectacular, equivalent to July 4 at the Esplanade. Tomorrow should be a slowed down day again. Then we begin our last week at Lake Como before going on to Salonika, Greece.