28.05.2015 - 28.05.2015
We leave today for Como in the Italian Lake District. It will be interesting to compare it with the English Lake District – although such comparisons are often like comparing apples with oranges. I said good bye to our hosts and we left at 9.00am. We are getting good at driving on the windy road (or at least Andrew is) so it is a pity we are leaving. The drive north took us through very mountainous forested country which was exceptionally scenic – the mountain peaks were very sharp. Italy is quite a mountainous country which means it is well watered – the mountains attract rain. We then came to the fertile Po valley where we skirted Milan and drove to Como. We are staying in the old part of Como – so it has narrow streets where cars, pedestrians and cyclists all use the same road. Again the tom-tom help us – but we weaved through narrow streets, missed a few turns, avoided hitting pedestrians who believe they have absolute right of way and cars are a dashed nuisance. We finally arrived and our host Irene was there to meet us. She was very friendly and promptly picked up Bill’s case and led us up two flights of narrow steps. Bill felt guilty so he took mine – so I was the beneficiary of her helpfulness. The apartment overlooks one of the narrow streets and is made up of a dining/sitting room, bedroom, bathroom and a very small kitchen. One of the first things I did was open the window and look down on the street – that is so Italian. Bikes are also provided free of charge with the apartment. The car is housed in a locked garage about 2 kilometres away. Irene took Andrew to park the car and Bill and I settled in.
We then decided to see Como – especially the lake which is very famous (Lake Como). We walked through the narrow streets to the old tower which was once a gate to the old city and stands beside part of the roman wall. We had lunch at a little pizza place just outside the old city – it was recommended by our host. We ordered pizza. I quite enjoyed mine (although it had too much cheese), Andrew thought his was ordinary and Bill didn’t enjoy his at all (raw ham apparently). We continued our journey, however we took a wrong turn and so had an extra-long walk – good exercise. We finally came to the lake. It is a very deep lake – it is up to 400 meters deep – at its deepest point it is 200 meters below sea level. It was a mainly sunny day – but quite hazy – which spoiled the views somewhat. The lake is surrounded by steep mountains generally covered in trees. Houses, villas and hotels etc. line the shore line and you see buildings and villages higher up in the midst of the forest clinging to the steep slope. At the very top you can see the substantial buildings of the town of Brunate. A cable car (actually called a funicular) runs up the mountain from Como to service Brunate. There are walkways alongside the lake and we followed the walkway on the eastern side for a few kilometres. You could see carp (about a foot or so long) swimming in the clear water. There are a lot of tourists – but not as packed as Siena – probably because it is a much bigger area spread around the lake. There is a very relaxed atmosphere which is enjoyable. We walked back to the apartment past Como Cathedral. It is another impressive Church. We went in and the pipe organ was being played. We were at the end of the recital – but it was majestic. The powerful and beautiful sound filled the cathedral which had great acoustics for the organ.
We relaxed a bit in the apartment and then went out again. A busker was playing a grand piano in the street. He was pretty good – we came along as he brought a piano piece to a grand climax and then stood to receive applause.
We walked along the western side of the lake. We went through nice parks and passed some grand buildings. Some of them were once the homes of wealthy families. It is an area where there is a lot of wealth. We passed one palatial dwelling in which apparently Napoleon once stayed. There was still a bit of haze but the softer light of the late evening made the place more photogenic. I lost count of the photos Bill was taking.
So is the Italian Lake District better than the English. Well, they are quite different. The Italian Lake District is much grander and filled with interesting buildings. The English Lake District is softer and gentler. We will be doing a walk tomorrow and I will have a better idea then.
We stopped at a square and had dinner at a restaurant – we sat at a table on the street. That is always interesting. Andrew and Bill were still getting over their pizza lunch so they had salads. I had another pizza which was very nice.
And so the day ended – it was getting dark when we got back to the apartment.