Instead of moving to France from Germany eight years ago, I tried to convince my husband to consider Italy as our future home. It seems such a happy, fun, cheerful place. I love the language, the people, the food, the countryside. But, Bob finds it all a bit too chaotic, so France won and life here is fine (see previous blog post, All about Life in France). But, I still adore Italy and am always thrilled with visits.
On the way home from our recent trip to Germany we spent three joyful days in Bellagio on the shores of Lake Como. Friend Trina, whom we visited later in nearby Comerio, suggested the perfect hotel, Silvio, www.bellagiosilvio.com, just outside of town where we had a room with a balcony overlooking the lake and the distant Alps. We’d been to Bellagio twice before, once with my mother who was also a fan of bella Italia and loved Bellagio.
The ancient village is perched on the shores of this idyllic lake ringed by mountains. Steep steps climb skinny alleys lined with intriguing shops. Sightseeing ships and ferries blow their horns as they pull in and out of the harbor. It’s the perfect place to hang out and enjoy il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing)
Our journey began with a car ferry ride at sunset from Colico on the northern end of the lake to Bellagio which sits on the promontory jutting into the water at the junction between the Como and Lecco legs of the lake. Unfortunately the lens on my Canon Rebel camera froze on our last stop in Germany, so my photos were limited to my Blackberry. I was amazed. Not too bad. And, there were
scenic, spectacular photo opps all around — splashes of coral and orange across a dark sky streaked with wisps of clouds, rays of light dancing on the rippled water, postcard villages hugging the shore — all framed by deep blue silhouettes of mountains.
We did more than lounge on that lovely hotel balcony and ponder the Bellagio scenery. Walk. Down to the shore and through the perfectly manicured gardens of the Villa Melzi along the lake. The English garden is enhanced with
sculptures, small ponds, a stream, exotic plants and ancient trees. The complex, including the neoclassical villa, was built between 1808 and 1816 for Francesco Melzi d’Eril, Duke of Lodi, and vice president of the Italian Republic under Napoleon. www.giardidivillamelzi.it
The garden walk led us to the village where we wandered in and out of the shops and found the perfect souvenir – an olive wood basket. It was pricey, almost beyond our budget. I tried to bargain, but the proprietor and craftsman, who had his workshop on the premises, would not budge. He explained that it was a very time consuming process to create this piece. We splurged – and are happy we did. It’s a sensation on our table.
Bellagio is known for another villa on a hill above the town, the Villa Serbelloni, owned by the Rockefeller Foundation. It is used mainly for conferences. On a previous visit we toured its gardens which are open for guided tours from April to October. In town the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is the address of class where Churchill and John F. Kennedy stayed.
Another day we walked up a hill and along a road to Pescallo which I had remembered as being a quaint fishing village. My memory failed. It was not much. No fishing boats. We did find a lakeside restaurant where we had an expensive but disappointing lunch. The next day we set out by car for a hair raising ride along the all- too-narrow- winding coastal road (well suited to the Honda S2000) to Lezzeno and a fabulous lunch at the restaurant of the Hotel Villa Aurora adjacent to the lake. www.hotelauroralezzeno.com There, as well as at the restaurant in the Hotel Silvio, we enjoyed fresh fish from Lake Como. Twenty-eight different species are said to thrive in its waters. Lavarello is a favorite.
On the way back home to France, we stopped first to visit the major town on the lake, Como, and its majestic cathedral, then to Comerio to visit Trina in her gorgeous apartment overlooking Lake Varese. I met Trina years ago in an Italian class in Germany (she was the star of the class). Her husband Ian, who used to work in Italy, now works in London. Trina, who teaches English, and her faithful companion, Lucky, a precious 16-year-old Bichon Frisé, are holding down the fort in Italy.
We arrived on the evening of Bob’s birthday. Trina prepared a delicious mussels pasta dish for our dinner – and there was a tart with a candle for the birthday boy.
See slideshow below for more photos. For a holiday brunch, try the Puffed Apple Pancake, recipe in column at right. Comments on blog post and recipes are welcome. See “Leave a Reply” below under Comments. Subscribers also welcome. Don’t miss future posts. Click on Email Subscription at top right.