The trip to Bellagio from Verona on May 19 was a challenge for those who didn’t like winding roads (sorry, Jan!). Nevertheless, with all 20 passengers intact, we disembarked to a scene of incomparable beauty: snow tipped mountains; a gorgeous lake; sunny skies; quaint towns and a hotel right on the water in the pearl of Lake Como – Bellagio.
After lunch, we walked to the elegant Villa Melzi gardens, with its maples and impressive architecture. We were to see many villas over the next week but the general consensus was that none could compare with Villa Melzi. The remainder of the afternoon was given over to exploration, word quickly spreading about the cafe’ at the point with stunning views. Drinks and nibbles were held on the 5th floor terrace of our hotel – we all felt very special! Then, an enjoyable dinner at the hotel.
Tuesday dawned with fine weather again, thank goodness, as we prepared for our 10 km Greenway walk from Colonno to Tremezzo. Before we started, we visited Villa Carlotta – another beautiful 18th Century villa and gardens. The Greenway walk had been described as “leisurely” and we were therefore rather surprised to begin with a hill that would have put fear in the hearts of less sturdy troopers. The group walked at very different speeds but everyone enjoyed the spectacular scenery, although I don’t think many of us ‘enjoyed’ the slog up the hills (apart from our mountain goats: Susie, David, Kerry M & Kerry R, Sally, Sharon). Roles were reversed for the tour leaders – David taking the lead and Anita bringing up the rear…. Everyone reunited for lunch in Lenno, some people deciding to catch the ferry back to Bellagio afterwards, with others continuing their trek. Josie, Greg and Marianne took the low road (by mistake – they say!) thereby avoiding the hills, while the rest were rewarded for their efforts with a wedding in a mountain church (featuring an Australian!). There were many sore muscles that day but it was worth it…..
Wednesday was an early start, in order to catch the fast ferry to Como. Much of the trip there and back was spent searching for George Clooney’s villa on the shores of the lake – congratulations to Sharon for finally spotting it! 14 stalwart souls caught a mini bus to Brunate (above Como) and then attempted to walk to the lighthouse. Well done to Sally, Sharon, Susie, Kerry M, Kit, Josie and David for reaching the top! I don’t think I have ever seen a steeper path in my life…. Then Kit, Josie, Susie, Anita & David walked from Brunate down an old mule path (oh, my aching legs!) and staggered to the main square for a well deserved gelato, before catching the ferry home. We were all very happy to see our small town of Bellagio, after the ‘crowds’ in Como.
After a short ferry trip to Varenna the following day, we gazed with dismay at the castle up the top of a mountain. The original plan had been to walk up (for 15 minutes – ho ho ho! I do wish that they gave accurate timing and description for walks!). Most people elected to take a taxi to the top, with the exception of our obsessive walkers (you can guess who they were), who promised to meet us soon. We had time for a leisurely cup of coffee at the top and were beginning to get concerned that we would never see our adventurers again, when they arrived panting and dishevelled after a number of abortive attempts to reach the castle. They were not given time off for good behaviour, as we were booked to see the Castello di Vezio and view a falconry exhibition. The way down to the town was rated as ‘much easier’ but in fact was quite challenging and appeared to be heading in completely the wrong direction….Luckily, we did end up back in town. Lunch was far more relaxing, overlooking the lake but the weather took a turn for the worse and it started to rain again just as we began our guided tour of Villa Monastero. Most people preferred to wander around the gardens and a visit to Villa Cipressi was cut short by a general desire to return to Bellagio to relax before dinner. We caught the ferry by the skin of our teeth (they turned back for us!)
Friday featured two bridge workshops with David; Bidding Decisions – Italy & Partnership Bidding. The rest of the day was free for wandering; visits to Menaggio (Josie and Susie) or just relaxing – most people! A group went to Pescallo – a fishing village on the other side of the hill for lunch. That night, we ate the best meal of our trip at the Sporting Club, cooked by a young chef – Francesco, who had just spent 6 months in Australia. It was an outstanding meal: antipasto of local delicacies; gnocchi and crespelle; fruit tart. Bellagio was a real highlight of our Italy trip – highly recommended…..
Our last day on tour was spent in Milano. We walked from the hotel to Castello Sforzesco, where we happened to come upon a large market, so a spontaneous break for lunch was called. Later, after a walk via Teatro Scala, we arrived at the Duomo – that is what I call a REAL church! Everyone went their separate ways for the remainder of the afternoon, to regroup that night for the farewell dinner.
Many friendships were made on this trip and there was a real feeling of camaraderie. Photos are in our Northern Italy 2014 gallery.