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Published: October 28th 2009
This is Jackie's head, just inches from the rock face of the mountain as we wiz by.
We planned our visit to a bike race around Lake Como. For those who know my husband and youngest son, this makes perfect sense.
The Tour of Lombardy, as this race is called, Is the last race of the season for pro cyclists. But the rest of us - me, my friend Jackie and Ari - We were happily just along for the ride to see Como and relax in the lakeside town of Bellagio.
Bellagio is often referred to as "the prettiest town in Europe." I know there is plenty of competition for that title, but I do believe this place is in the running. Immaculate Bellagio has winding cobblestone streets, lovely old churches, charming buildings in pale earth tones, flower boxes at every window and not a chain store in sight. Not surprising for a small European town. But most are not towns perched on the shores of Lake Como and Lake Como is spectacular.
I was totally unprepared for this. I knew the Como area was beautiful and everyone had nice things to about the lakes of Northern Italy. I did not realize how large Lake Como is, nor how visually spectacular, with the surrounding mountains
and the tiny towns that go straight up, up and up from the lake into the clouds.
Arriving into the town of Como from the train station, I found that it took an hour just to bus from Como to Bellagio, Which is only Halfway up the lake. Such a bus and ride! Jackie and I thought it terrifyingly similar to a bus ride into central Mexico in which the twist and turns of the road mountain were punctuated by white crosses marking where the victims of car crashes had met their ends. This was hairy, too - twist and turns and mountain roads with a cell-phone talking Italian bus driver (who, yes, also gesticulated while driving) - But for some reason we found it hilarious. Jackie was sitting in front of me and as we speeded along, I could see just a thin glass window of between her skull and the rocky side of the mountain - had the window been open, she would not have been able to extend her hand out. Scary, But we could not stop laughing. Ari however, is prone to carsickness, even on short rides, and his response was quite different. After feeling nauseated,
then cranky, he fell into hysteria. At one point, he reached for the "Stop Requested" button and screamed that he HAD to "get off, now, now, now!" I physically restrained him and tried to get him to breathe into a paper bag. My efforts were not entirely successful, as I was laughing the entire time, adding insult to his perceived injury. I made him promised not to push buttons or go for the emergency latch. He made me promise that there would be no bus ride on the way back. That promise I made, if only to keep him from launching himself out of the moving bus, and figured that even if it was a lie, it would save his life (and perhaps ours as well).
We made it to Bellagio and got off the bus with shaking legs. From the bus stop it was just a short walk to our appointed place in the center, where the proprietor, Flavio, rents apartments. Flavio is one of those guys who is legend with travelers. Unbelievably nice and personable, bending over backwards to be helpful, Flavio runs a building is pretty much booked all the time. This was one of the cheapest
places we've stayed in, but with no sacrifice in quality or location. We loved our little apartment with sleeping loft and skylights. At just a half block from the Lake, smack in the center of Bellagio, there may be no better place to stay in town. We met several Flavio fans while there - one couple from upstate New York had stayed there ten times!
We spent most of the weekend looking for fabulous views and going on long walks. Well, three of us did. Dean and Gabriel spent SAturday following the bike race. Gabriel saw the first climb of the race and was apoplectic at seeing the real thing up close, including a good look at Damiano Cunego, one of his heroes. Gabriel said, "I felt like I could not walk Because I Was So Excited" and "Were my legs shaking." They ended up at the finish line watching Both on the big screen and on the road and when to the two front runners through flesh "it felt like They Were popping out of the screen." Things just got better after that. Gabriel got autographs from Italian cycling star star Fillipo Pozzato and American Chris Horner. Chris Horner
was personable and spent some time chatting with the guys. For Dean and Gabriel, who bike, talk, watch and think cycling every day, this was a peak life experience. Dean followed up on this by taking a famous (to cyclists) route up the mountain to the Chapel of the Madonna of Ghisallo, who is the patron of cyclists. Who knew?
While D and G Were chasing off the bike race, Jackie, Ari and I went wandering in and around Bellagio. We took a hike designed to take us to the "little known hamlets of eastern Bellagio" and some great cemeteries and saw a lovely house and got lost. And got more lost. But we had great views of lakes and mountains and stumbled upon the Gardens of the Villa Melzi. This is a series of beautiful botanical gardens that wander out along the lake, and several buildings, mostly in neoclassical style. There is a chapel with what is possibly the strangest, sexiest depiction of Jesus on the altar (as a Roman God, holding his cross Would he like a woman) and the Melzi family crypt. We had fun posing among the statuary all over the grounds and looking at the
stunning vistas of the lake.
We ate fabulous food and wonderful wine and drank cold Martinis at a restaurant Called "Far Out" and spent the rest of the time sitting in cafes by the lake and chilling. We strolled around town and Ari got scolded for handling souveniers and toys, which, I pointed out, were sitting outside the shop in basketball at a three year-old's eye level.
The morning of our departure, I kept my promise to Ari and we took a boat back to Como. At the risk of being repetitive, it was beautiful. We were able to see the various towns that dot the shores of this vast lake. Once in Como, we took a funicular up the hill to Brunate where we could see all the way to the Alps - again, beautiful. In Brunate Ari got scolded for handling of souvenirs. He has decided that Italians like to scold little boys (it has happened many, many times) and that it isn't always easy to know the rules in an unfamiliar place. A good lesson, I suppose.
We loved Lake Como and discussed the possibility of returning another year, for more swimming and cycling. We have
many more photos of this weekend, as Jackie was photographer for most of this, and I am hoping for more photos to add.
Tot: 2.843s; Tpl: 0.054s; cc: 11; qc: 59; dbt: 0.042s; 2; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb