‘Leave me here with a glass of pink blush, a deep plate of pasta and the view of perfection.’
If hiding were an option from the busy world, it is the lakes that will wrap their mist softly about you, till the ferry horns and feint lights in the distance, are your only companions. Until you are ready to be found again. Only when the mist rises, the view will have have you spellbound forever.
I return again and again. Have stayed in Bellagio, Lenno and this time, in Varenna. The latter is where to alight from when you train from Milan, only long before the quaint station comes into view, your eyes have feasted on the lake, the train curling along her edge for some distance. It’s intoxicating.
Like most of the towns along the mid-lake, Varenna is carved from cliff, smartie coloured houses clinging till they reach the bluest waters below. She is one of the more known towns, cradling beside and opposite Mennagio, Tremezzo, Lenno and Bellagio. Staying at the Hotel Olivedo could not have been more fitting. More perfect. Family run, I felt as if I were staying in a grand home, stylish, grand, my corner room with windows flung open to views of the Lake, I was on a film set about The Grand Tour. Hard to drag myself away in the mornings and delighted to return. In repose I was, sipping coffee in the morning, watching the ferry arrive, and repose again at night, sipping wine and watching the ferry leave. In repose I was, in repose.
Time stands still in Como. Days are passed by wistfully with slow boat rides from town to town, Villa to Villa, Garden to Garden and of course, pasta to pasta. You submerge yourself in the tranquility of Como. Steep the walks may be, these are taken with gentle walking. A past era of golden money, lavish parties, unsurpassed views. Bellagio is the largest of these towns, complete with couture shops and distinct deli’s. Also in Bellagio, my haunting The Grand Hotel Bretagne. This is a novel waiting to happen, abandoned majesty that cries of a bygone era.
So, early mornings, post breakfast and a chat to the friendly staff, a Mid-lake ferry ticket and nothing in particular planned. Get off where you wish, board again when done. Lenno holds a special place in my heart, a wedding it was that could not have transpired in a more romantic setting. The Villa Bulbiano, now famous as a film location for ‘Casino Royale’ presents a wedding venue we all dreamed of as little girls. The walk along the water’s edge has one dreaming of lotto’s and estate agents.
The Grand Tremezzo Hotel is a short walk from the Villa Carlotta. Looking up is the beginning, to look down over views and garden designs, classical and magnificent. Love and loss story. An afternoon of cultural beauty. Of course I am going to create a garden just like this back home.
Swear I could hear the music playing in another room.
Another must see is the Villa Monastero in Varenna. If you are a garden lover, the tiered walkways and spectacular views into the deepest water, hidden statues and lyrical swathes of flowers will not disappoint. Once a convent, a villa for a wealthy German entrepreneur pre the 1st World War and confiscated, as were many of the villas along these shores, seem frozen in time. And time is what you need when you explore them, and time is what you have when you visit Lake Como.
Each characteristically infused town leads to a square, and of course, a church. I light my candles there and read the notifications to young folk who went to war, and never returned. What peace must have turned to such loss then, how to understand the futility of it all? I light my candles and one for them too.
Dining on the edge of Lake Como. Perhaps I should have tried the many options, each worthy and enticing, but I found this little place, right beside the hotel, and for me, I was in no hurry to go anywhere else. End of the day repose again. Tranquil setting, deep conversations, life and love and all that happens in between bowls of piping hot spaghetti and chilled wine. Where they know you name kind of place. The Cavallino Ristorante was my chapter place.
On my last morning, feeling really tearful in the leaving, I waked once more along the edge of the lake. The painter was there again, as was the man who plays the accordion, and the lady who sits everyday in the shade, right beside the water, knitting. And I also wonder: do they think of it as another day, another opportunity to make a little money from the tourists, or do they realise just how fortunate they are to live there? It must be difficult during the winter months, when all is shut against the cold and the lake falls silent. I do not live there but I think they are blessed, they must think I am and I guess, we all are for having touched this piece of heaven on earth.
Oh, and if you have booked into The Hotel du Lac, make sure you know which one … they have one in every town. Love it.