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Published: June 13th 2015
Lake Como is as beautiful as it is reputed to be. We boarded the ferry at 9 AM and for Varrena, but when we got to Bellagio it was a long wait for the next ferry so we decided to go to the Melzi Gardens. I have always said, "seen one tree…seen them all", but this was different. I need to eat my words, since the gardens were spectacularly beautiful and the trees were not like other trees I’ve seen only in a different place. Also, the gardens were pretty much empty so we could enjoy the beauty without fighting other tourists. I know we are also tourists, but I perceive us as better behaved than a lot of our colleagues. We do not cut in line, talk loudly, or yell at clerks when they are less than helpful. It isn't just Americans who are obnoxious, but we are well represented. Teenagers from all countries are often obnoxious but it is because they are teenagers not because they are tourists.
After the Gardens we headed to Varenna and the Villa Monastero. This palazzo started out as a nunnery built in the 12th century , but the view was so good
and the church temporarily short on funds for maintenance it transferred to private hands. From about 1600 until the late 1800's it went through multiple cycles of renovation and in it's current state has rooms representing the best quality furnishes from the 1800's. There is one small corner of the Fermi Conference Room that has a partial fresco from the original chapel. That brings me to Fermi, since virtually every room had a poster on display talking about him. Since they were all in Italian, I couldn't glean too much from them except when I got to the poster where it said he left Italy in 1938 because his wife was had a Jewish heritage even though she didn't practice. I guess the Italians want to un-Jew her as much as possible. In fact, they did leave in 1938 because of Italian racial laws that were similar to those in Germany. As I was about to leave, I asked why there was so much Fermi information throughout the palazzo. The middle aged female guard explained that after WWII, Fermi had returned and taught here so in addition to the posters the conference room was named after him. I then asked
if she knew if Fermi was Jewish and left Italy because of this, she had no idea and in fact had obviously not read the posters because she didn't know that is wife was Jewish. She did gratuitously comment that what was done to the Jews was horrible and she genuinely meant it. On a lighter note, the staircase was partially built in a rust colored marble that is what I'm about to rip out of my bathroom. It works better in Varenna than in Brighton.
After another short boat ride, we ended up at a spectacular palazzo that was closed. Oh well, it simply meant a couple of additional boat rides and that is what you do at Lake Como.
We decided to leave Como in the late afternoon, rather than spending another night without air conditioning. I was really concerned that the hotel that I picked in Milan would be a dump and I didn't want to end the vacation that way. Luckily it was fine. The same day we checked in, I read an article in the NY Times that described a survey that monitored the spending habits of people with single digit million dollar
net worth. Much to the surprise of the researchers, they found that these single digit millionaires are actually very frugal. They “splurge” on things that matter to them, but generally watch their money buying their clothes on sale and driving their cars for 10 years. After the apartment debacle in Como which happened because I opted for a less expensive place to stay, this article gave me insight into why I had cheeped out on the hotel to stick with an overall budget. I now understand that my behavior was consistent with the results of the survey. Most of the time I don’t like to see myself as “average” but in this case it is comforting.
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