Friday, 30 June 2017

Lake Como

Ah...Italy. There is nothing like being woken in the morning by the church bells. As our little albergo was right in the piazza, we heard it loud and clear! It was nice to be in a place where we speak the same coffee language and where even the simplest of lodgings will offer you choice coffee for breakfast. The offerings for breakfast was simple but fresh and tasty. Cold meat and cheese slices, croissant, bread rolls and spreads, as well as fresh fruit were more than sufficient to sustain us for the rest of our morning. 

Our hotel, Albergo del Sole. The blue shutters immediately above the entrance is our room!

Our room faced the square

The church just to the left of the hotel

The breakfast room

Cheese and cold meats for breakfast

Apricot croissants
We wandered through the very pretty Varenna to get to the ferry stop. Varenna is one of the middle lake towns of Lake Como. Our aim was to visit a few other towns on our 15 one day ticket. To get full value out of the ticket, you would have to make 4 different journeys as each individual leg would only set you back €4. The gentleman at the ferry ticket office was friendly and gave us a timetable. This is also available online if you wish to look at it ahead of time to plan your day. We were happy to report that our experience was that the ferries ran quite close to time. The only minor problem was at Bellagio where there was some confusion as they had several different pontoons which were separated. Otherwise, it was scenic and enjoyable travelling via ferry passing by picture perfect towns along the way.

Our destination was Lenno with the sole purpose of visiting Villa del Balbianello, used for location shooting of several films including Casino Royale and Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones. Once at Lenno, you have the choice of walking to the Villa or catching a taxi transfer. The latter will set you back €7 return. Be warned that it is only a small boat and that it only runs every 20 minutes. We patiently waited for it as we wanted to approach the Villa by the water. The gardens and the views from the property were stunning. As much as we would have loved to tour the Villa as well, we had many other towns to visit and the ferry schedule dictated that we had to keep moving. A walk through the township of Lenno brought us back to the ferry stop where we crossed the lake to the famous Bellagio, called the "Pearl of the Lake".

We ended up seeing many many ducks and even swans on the lake

Perhaps this is why the public taps for water were shaped like this?

The first ferry service from Varenna of the day at the bright and early time of 0923...

Amazing views from the boat

Looking back at the township of Varenna

And passing by one pretty villa after another

At Lenno. To get to Villa del Balbianello, it is another 200m walk where you have to decide if you want to walk further or take the taxi transfer

Not a big boat!

The first glimpse of Villa del Balbianello

Seemingly endless paths of gardens

Gorgeous views of the Lake and its surrounds

One could just imagine being Queen Amidala looking out to the water...

Township of Lenno
We spotted a few of these on buildings

Haven't quite figured out what they were

I had to drag my mother away from Bellagio's shop lined cobble stone lanes up the hill so we can make our way to the lesser known Pescallo, a small fishing village right next to Bellagio. It was an ideal place to escape the crowds of Bellagio to have a relaxing lunch in a beautiful and peaceful setting. We dined at the restaurant attached to the Hotel Pergola. To be completely honest, you do pay for dining with the view and ambience. The food was alright but the price was a touch high compared to other places. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our hour of quiet before making it back up the hill to Bellagio where we perused the shops.

We hopped back on the ferry for Menaggio. By now, the thunderstorms that had been forcast loomed close. We barely had time to quickly walk around the town before the first drops started to fall. By the time we got ourselves back on the ferry back to Varenna, the skies opened up and it poured like no tomorrow. Despite having umbrellas, we were soaked right through down to socks and shoes. We opted to dine at the hotel's small restaurant and end our day. They had a decent choice for dinner and they were open to serve meals at 6pm! We were so grateful to have had temperatures in the low twenties and blue skies for most of the day.. Just happy that it didn't rain for the whole day as was predicted!

Can you spot my mother walking down....

and unfortunately we had to keep going down

until we finally reached the first glimpses of Pescallo

Our view from out table at lunch

Fish of the day

Spaghetti alle vongole


Creme with mou sauce and amaretti (I don't know what it was exactly but it was yummy)


We just made it to the piazza before the first rain drops started to fall

It looked ominous even before we boarded the ferry

Dinner at the albergo

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Off to Italy!

This trip seemed to have crept up on me but I was nonetheless excited that the time had come to revisit Italy NOT during the winter! My mother and I will be travelling around Italy for just over 2 weeks supporting Lara who is part of PLC's chorale and chamber strings groups touring Italy.

Finally! Green green Italy below us

Our 6am flight to Dubai was full but we were blessed with having a friendly and polite young man sitting in our row. The nearly 14 hour trip other being long was thankfully uneventful and I was able to complete 4 movies as well as snooze intermittently. I was worried about regretting not taking up Emirates offer to upgrade our Dubai to Milan leg from economy to business. Fortunately that flight was half empty and we were able to sprawl making it quite a pleasant flight. The $795 that I saved by NOT upgrading to business can now be channeled to my leather goods funds instead.

The only frustration on our travel day turned out to be immigration at Milan Malpensa. The line for non-European passport holders was horrendously long. We looked up in horror at the reason for this. There was only a total of 3 officers processing for immigration. After about 40 minutes, the 2 officers who were processing EU citizens were able to help out. Over an hour later, we finally cleared immigration and collected our bags.

Our transfer to Varenna was organised by the hotel and he was waiting patiently outside for us. We were delighted to see a nice big clean van to transport us the Lake Como region. The journey took 90 minutes and it was a struggle to stay awake. The driver was very friendly and we relieved as the ride cost 30 Euros less than any other transfer that we were able to get quotes for ourselves! 130 euros was a reasonable amount for such a long private transfer.

Our hotel was a small but quaint. Despite arriving at 1130pm, there was someone waiting for us and check in was quick. Our room was basic but clean. Despite the thunderstorm, we crashed from exhaustion.
Our big van for just the 2 of us!

Our room

With windows facing the town's Piazza