LAKE COMO WEEK THREE
Over the weekend we were mostly around Bellagio, going for long walks and sitting out at the terrace by the pool reading and writing. Our dinner meal on Saturday night at La Barchetta was the best yet in Bellagio along with a fantastic organic local red wine. We finished off the meal in the lounge of the hotel with music from the three piece group that plays every night, Classical Cabaret. The music is good and some of the pieces are actually done quite well.
Sunday was notable for a lunch experience at the pool. Betsy and I were both suffering some mild gastrointestinal upset that seems to be going around Bellagio. We wanted to have something like grilled cheese for lunch. When we asked for plain bread and cheese, the fellow behind the counter said this was something they couldn�t do. Betsy noticed a young girl taking away a ham and cheese sandwich and so she asked if they could do it like that. Again they said no. Finally, remembering Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces, she asked him for ham and cheese, hold the ham and the mayo, and he said that would be fine. We had a great laugh over it as we enjoyed our toasted cheese sandwich. The weather was the clearest we had seen in 2 weeks. For the first time, mountains and towns that were invisible to us became clear as if we could reach out and touch them. Compare this view from our villa to that of last week.
With the changeover for the weekend we got to know our neighbors better after the grandparents left- Julian, Kate, Edward (9) and Sophie (6) from Guilford, England.
They�re just the greatest. We�ve enjoyed spending time with them. Julian is in the business software field and Kate is a retired writer for public television shows. They are wonderful parents and a pleasure to be with. Edward is just a fabulous boy, exceptionally bright and engaging. Sophie is a gem. Bubbly, vivacious, talented with a beautiful singing voice, and she likes pink.
We have delightful morning and evening get-togethers out on our terrace (weather permitting).
After a magnificent weekend, the weather has finally begun to change, as predicted by the receptionist at the hotel who said after Feraugusto (the 15th of August) the weather goes downhill. We�ve had clouds, thunderstorms and rain off and on, but not so much as to prevent us from going out and enjoying ourselves. This picture should give you a sense of what it can look like here when the weather is ominous.
The rest of the week was spent on short trips. We loved being able to use the ferry. This is a picture of one we took frequently, though there are many different types including car ferries, hydrofoils and fast catamarans.
I�ve included a photo of the map of the Lake Bellagio region to hopefully give you some sense of the geography. The left leg goes to Como at the bottom. The right goes down to the city of Lecco and the long top portion extends up to Colico, just below the beginning of the Alps. Bellagio is right in the middle at the top of the point joining the two lower legs. The lake is the deepest in all of Europe second only to Loch Ness at 400 meters (that�s over 1200 feet deep at its deepest point).
On Monday we took the ferry down to Lezzano, a sleepy little village south of Bellagio on the Como leg of the lake. We rented a 16 foot runabout with a 40 horsepower 20 year old Evinrude engine that ran like a charm. We motored over to Isola d Comacina and had coffee sitting on the edge of the lake. Betsy took this picture of me with my usual level of Italian stress.
For three hours we buzzed around the lake up to the northern end to see the beginning of the Alps and down along the beginning of the Lecco end of the lake. The views are just unbelievable. I think by now most of you readers have gotten tired of the pictures of the mountains and the lake, so I�ll include just this last one from the boat looking up at the northern end of Lake Como at the foothills.
The next day, Wednesday, was very quiet. We went for a long walk and visited the local monthly outdoor market. It was kind of washout because of the rain. After a light lunch, we returned to the apartment and I did Betsy�s toenails for her. Later that evening we went out for dinner with Maria Sole. She is one of the receptionists at the villa here at the hotel. We talked her into stopping smoking and promised her that if she stayed off, we would take her out to dinner. She succeeded and we had a delightful dinner with her at Bilacus, a nice family run restaurant in Bellagio.
Mariasole is 30 years old, a sailor who is trying to build her career in the Hotel industry. She speaks several languages and has made quite a lot of a difficult life. We are very proud of her for quitting smoking and she�s happy to be having so much success. Dinner was interrupted by torrential rain, but we simply moved under the awning and continued our meal.
Thursday, August 19, we took the ferry again, this time to Dervio, north on the lake so I could go windsurfing. The place was run by Upali Gunawardena, a Sri Lankan who settled here after his motorcycle broke down 10 years ago and he discovered what a wonderful spot this was for windsurfing. He runs a place called the Fun Surf Center and I had a great time out on the lake until the rain started again and I sailed in.
Upali gave us a ride in his car to Bellano where we stopped for lunch.
We then walked around the town, a peaceful center for sailing that is isolated from the tourist crowd. We loved visiting the local beach where people were out fishing and swimming. It was clear we were the only Americans in this town.
From Bellano, we took the ferry back to Bellagio. Both of us needed some rest, but we managed to rally for dinner with the neighbors and had a great time at Il Ristorante Antico Pozzo.
Friday morning we said goodbye to the Bains who left for England and then went around Bellagio to say goodbye to some of the wonderful people we met here. Of all the places we have visited, Bellagio has presented us with the greatest opportunity to meet and get to know the residents. This has been the best part of our trip here. We see almost all of them everyday and they made us feel welcome. You have already met Maria Sole in an earlier paragraph and photo. Below are the others who made our stay special.
Francesco, the concierge at our hotel kept us entertained with his always comical banter and enabled us to take advantage of the many activities available in the Lake Como region. You probably will notice his striking similarity to a young Johnny Carson.
The woman at the Alimentaria (local small grocery store) cheerfully greeted us each day and helped with all our purchases.
Every few days we would stop at the laundry where we got to meet Sandra, her mother Anne Marie, brother Danielle and her father Franco who cut my hair (the local barber). A wonderful family who could not have been nicer to us. We saw them on our walks several times a day and they were always waving from their shops.
Next door to the Barber Shop and the laundry was the restaurant Baba Yaga, a wonderful source of great food, conversation and entertainment with nightly blues music singing, a hard combination to beat. We were always welcomed by Caterina who runs the restaurant, a cheerful and friendly young woman who sets the tone for what has become one of the most popular eateries and gathering places in Bellagio. She was helped by Thomas, a native of Poland who has been working here for the past 7 months. He has a tremendous amount of energy and is always smiling.
Last of all, but by no means least, Renato and his wife Ida who operate Il Sorbetto, the gelatto store and caf� where we went each day for our internet visits as well as updates on local weather, politics, sports and the Olympics. Renato is often found chatting with his customers or playing and doing drawings with their children. They are truly wonderful people and we will miss them.
After saying goodbye, we went for a last ferry ride to Varenna to see the falconer release the hawks, falcons and owls for their daily exercise and to watch our little friends, Edward and Sophie when they saw this happen. This required hiking up the long trail to the Castello at the top of the hill over the town. We weren�t disappointed. After a lengthy description (all in Italian) of his work with the birds and stories about each one, he finally released the first bird. Here, Betsy and the Brewer family stand with him before the release.
We stayed long enough to watch this graceful bird fly off the edge of the high cliff and sore between the trees below. Each time it was summoned back by a whistle it would alight on the arm of the trainer for a snack and then take off again. It was fascinating.
At the end of the day we sat out with Julian, Kate, Edward and Sophie and had snacks before dinner and watched an enormous storm role in. We played a card game called Slap 6 that is a children�s favorite in England and then went to dinner in the pouring rain. We had a terrific last meal at La Barchetta and returned, again in the rain to finish packing. We will miss the people and the environs of Bellagio, truly one of the great highlights of our adventure. Tomorrow we leave for two days in Milan and then off to Greece for a week, returning to Florence on August 31.
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