Days 4, 5 & 6 24th -26th May Bellagio, Italy
“One can’t describe the beauty of the Italian Lakes, nor would one try if one could”. Henry James
Everything you read about the Italian Lakes is true and if, like us, you come in May there are few tourists to spoil the feeling of the ‘Grand Tour’ when generations of travellers would come here to sample a little slice of paradise. The landscape is compelling; the deep narrow glacial lakes are bound entirely by mountains and forests, in the distance the peaks are still snow-capped and little steamers chug the length & breadth transporting tourists from one delightful lakeside village to another.
Having spent one night just off the AutoRoute in France, one night in a pretty poor campsite in Lausanne we are now in our own little paradise: Camping Clarke. Le camping is run by a charming English woman, originally from Market Drayton (!), who married a local Italian 30 years ago. We are in olive groves set up above the little town, the temperature is between 25 & 29 degrees, the breeze is in the trees and the view stretches out in front of us: Bellagio & both lakes
either side of the peninsular. In the distance are the mountains and behind us is the forest road we came over. It is bliss. An added bonus is that there is no one here but us. Everywhere is a Mediterranean vision of palms, bougainvillea, geraniums, azaleas, figs, olives and so much more with every evening bringing the pervading smell of honeysuckle and jasmine (surely a new Jo Malone perfume?).
We spend our three days resting and strolling the narrow streets with their beautiful cream, peach and pale pink buildings, shuttered against the searing sun. We walk down the lake from Bellagio to the little harbours that service small fishing boats and pleasure craft. Vast villas with Italianate gardens running down to the shore remind us of bygone days. But, apparently, not so bygone as Bellagio claims to have more famous visitors than the average Italian town. They, together with the wealthy families that come out from Milan give Bellagio an air of restrained elegance.
Retrained elegance maybe but at le camping things are pretty much ‘back to normal’. Elizabeth, the owner, has a problem horse which, having sought our advice, Duncan offers to ride one evening to help with a
diagnosis. Co-pilot has immediate visions of being upgraded to Pilot as Duncan sets off on the strange horse. I’m delighted to report that promotion has not taken place, diagnosis did take place and Big Bess and I are still in safe hands
Belaggio offers much to the traveller who is prepared to walk out of the central square. One place worth a mention here in the blog is Villa Melzi. Although you cannot go inside this neo classical Villa, built by Melzi (a friend & political associate of Napoleon Bonaparte) you can visit the surrounding gardens which run, as so many do, down to Lake Como. Apparently one of the three ages of woman is ‘horticulture’ (the other two being hormones and horses!) and so as not to disappoint (for I certainly fall into the other two categories) I would like to recommend the Villa Melzi to all gardeners reading this blog. A visit to be taken in early May when the azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias must be spectacular. Sadly these abundant delights were just passing over as we took to the shade of the beautiful gardens. Also worth mentioning is the east side of the peninsular; quieter but
no less elegant with a little fishing village and private villas spilling down to Lake Lecco.
A trip to the Lakes would not be complete without venturing onto the water. We took the ferry to Varenna, a small village, on the eastern side of Lake Como. Having had another extortionate coffee lakeside – for Italy is certainly expensive – we decide to set off uphill to the Castle which is perched cragside way above the village. The theory being that the view would be panoramic taking in both lakes, the peninsular and beyond. The steep and stony path wound its way up the mountain as the heat of the day increased. Yours truly, having her own climate (I refer you back to the 3 ages of woman), found her temperature rising dramatically but the situation was soon resolved as we passed an old stone communal washing place where the cold mountain water ran into the trough. Quick as a flash my wrists were in the water with the instant effect of cooling my whole circulatory system. Did my blood not reach my head, I wondered (refer back to crossword clues…possibly the answer to this question is ……..no?!), as my head
seared with heat. There was nothing for it but to plunge my hair into the cold clear water – no need for a hairdryer, within minutes my hair was dry although it did lack a certain amount of style! The view was worth the climb.
One thing we have noticed while here is the amount of cycling – there are lycra clad cyclists everywhere. I am pleased to confirm that our bikes have remained firmly tied to the lorry; apart from the obvious…. I forgot to pack my lycra!
Tomorrow we cross the lake (by ferry), drive through the mountains, pass into Switzerland, skirt round Lugano, back into Italy and head across to Lake Orta.
Tot: 3.054s; Tpl: 0.018s; cc: 10; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0277s; 3; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb