From Rome, we take trains north to Milan and then Como, on the southern shore of Lake Como. From there it is a one hour bus ride on a winding, narrow – sometimes one lane – road to Menaggio, where we have made vague plans to meet friends in the main square around 4 PM. We arrive at 3:30, a bit ragged from a day of travel and more than a bit jangled from the bus ride. There are Seonag & Geoff! Yay!! They have a rental van and after drinks on the square we pile in with their friends Susan & Bruce and Kirsty & Frank for a short drive up the hill to Villa Lumbini. It is Seonag’s 60th birthday and this is the party.
The house, the patios, the pool, the view, the surrounding countryside … all are spectacular. The lake is dotted with villages that spill down the hills to quaint piazzas and cozy harbours. Geographically, it reminds us of the Shuswap. A few more thousand years of habitation and a few more thousand people would be all it would take to replicate Lake Como in our neck of the woods. Yeah, right!
We walk up the hill for views one morning. The next afternoon we walk along the lake on a walkway called The Greenway. It is billed as being a bit over 10 km, but by the end we are sure we have walked a lot farther. Seonag’s phone tells us we’ve done 20,000 steps and 12 km. The extra milage is because we miss the bus we are to take back to where we started and rather than wait an hour for the next bus, we decide to walk partway back, along a narrow road with no sidewalks in the late day sun, having run out of water. By the time we get to the next bus stop we are tired, dehydrated and overheated. But glad to not have been in a pedestrian vs vehicle accident. The pedestrian always loses!
A ferry ride to get us to the start of the trail stops at Varenna and Bellagio, two picturesque villages, and past George Clooney’s house. Is that Amal we see with a mop on one of the terraces? Likely not. We’ve been told by locals that they are in Venice for the film festival.
From Lake Como we take another of the fabulously punctual (you get about 5 minutes to get on or off before the train pulls out, always on time) Italian trains to Milan. I’ve booked the Hotel Berna – https://hotelberna.com/en/ – for one night only, on our way to Venice. It is close to the train station, allowing us to jump off, walk the 200 meters to the hotel, check in, jump on the tourist bus and head straight to the Milan Cathedral.
With a capacity of 40,000 worshipers, the cathedral is the largest in Italy and third largest in the world. Construction began in the 14th century and continued for 600 years. The 135 spires reach to 350 feet. It is colossal and preposterous. The intricate carvings that cover every square inch are mind-bending. Who designs something so colossally preposterous. So preposterously colossal? A couple of crazy Italians named Simone di Orsenigo & Marco de Campione.
We take an elevator to the roof and, along with hundreds of others, walk on the stone tiles, admiring the views, and trying to capture the splendour of the cathedral. Can’t be done! The photos are a pathetic representation of one of the most dazzling feats of architecture we’ve ever seen.
The Milan Galleria is another remarkable building. A shopping centre shaped like a cross with a glass domed roof, it was built in the late 19th century and is said to have been very futuristic for the time. Unfortunately, with less than 24 hours in Milan, we don’t have time to sample the shops. As it is mostly high end, our budget is happy. Maybe next time. For now we are off to Venice. Maybe we’ll see George and Amal?
To start the slide show single click on the first photo.