Monday, May 28, 2012


Bolzano to Varenna – Day 53 – Monday

It isn’t easy to get ready, pack your gear, and unmake your bed without awakening your three roommates, but I did my best.  At least one of them snored through the whole process.  Maybe they had earplugs.  Eventually, I just threw everything out into the hall and finished out there.  I caught the beginning of breakfast at 7:30, checked out and made it to my 8:37 train with plenty of time to spare.  Fortunately, the train was virtually empty, so it was easy to stow my luggage.  Bolzano is the most handicapped (and arthritic old lady with heavy luggage) accessible of all the places I have been in Italy.  There were even ramps into the station and lifts up to the platforms.  Unfortunately, there is still the matter of the three steep steps into the train to overcome.  The ADA has yet to reach Italy.

The ride to Verona took a couple of hours, stopping what seemed like every 50 yards along the track.  It was raining and the clouds were sitting on the ground, obscuring the view.  I sat like a lump and stared out the window, thinking about my garden and how profoundly the agriculture, and lately the food, in Northern California were influenced by the Italians who settled there.  Italy truly is a land of abundance.  Food sprouts everywhere and Italians nurture gardens and orchards in window boxes and on the sides of cliffs.  It was no wonder they knew exactly what to do with the fertile valleys of California.  Add a few more trains and motor scooters and even San Francisco would not seem out of place here.

I huddled with the other damp travelers in the station in Verona for an hour and then boarded my train to Milan.  Ah … first class coach.  My assigned seat was even free.  Big wide seats with plenty of legroom and even a tray table for my computer.  Too bad it’s only an hour or so to Milan.

It continued to rain while I waited for my train in Milan and rained all the way to Varenna.  Outside of Milan, we headed up another valley between steep mountains much like the one we had descended from Bolzano.  The clouds were still hanging low in the valley, so there wasn’t much to see.  At first we passed a number of industrial looking towns and then, after passing through a long tunnel, I could finally see the lake.  The towns at the bottom end of the lake weren’t very attractive but, after another tunnel, the apartment blocks thinned out and it got prettier.  I finally arrived in Varenna about 3:30.

Hotel Montecodeno

The hotel is a boring modern building a block or so in from the lake.  I dragged my bag over there from the station, which was only slightly life threatening.  I couldn’t use the sidewalk because there were motorbikes parked in the middle of it.  It was cold and wet and I wasn’t encouraged to go out and explore.  At least there is a strong Wi-Fi signal.  Unfortunately, I can’t connect my phone to it, so there will be no new pictures for the blog while I am here.

Varenna Harbor

I finally got so cold and hungry that I put on extra clothes and went out in search of food.  The town was pretty deserted.  I walked down to the ferry dock and along the shore of the lake to the old town.  There were a few sailboats moored in the harbor and lots of restaurants along the promenade.  I wasn’t in the mood to spend a lot to eat in an empty restaurant, so I ducked into a little pizzeria.  It seemed that everyone else in town had the same idea.  Maybe it was just that we were all using Rick Steves’ guidebook.  I had a provolone pizza and a small carafe of red wine.  Believe it or not, I was still hungry after that, so I had crepes stuffed with applesauce for desert.  The crepes were garnished with three different colors of apples, whipped cream and chocolate sauce.  They went nicely with the last of my wine.

The weather had warmed up a bit when I left the restaurant and I had a nice walk back to the hotel.  Varenna consists of one major street, one waterfront promenade and lots of stairways up the hill between the two.  Everything is paved with river rocks, making walking somewhat hazardous and hard on my poor bruised feet.  I was looking for a bank, but didn’t find one.  I may have to get on a ferry and go to Bellagio to get more cash.  Varenna is a small place.

Lake Como – Day 54 – Tuesday

I let myself sleep until I woke up, this morning, so didn’t get to breakfast until 9:30.  The weather was much improved and the sky was mostly blue, although there were dark clouds hanging around the mountain peaks and I wasn’t sure how long it would last.  I decided to hop on a ferry and see how many towns I could visit before it started to rain again.

Bellagio From the Water
Punta Spartivento
I rode the ferry from Varenna to Bellagio.  Lake Como is shaped like a man (without arms) walking.  His head and body stretch up towards Switzerland.  His right foot is standing on Lecco and his left foot is stepping on Como.  Varenna is near his right hip.  Bellagio is his crotch.  It’s a lovely spot for a crotch.  There is a park on the point that divides the two legs of the lake.  It is called Punta Spartivento (the point that splits the wind.)  I walked out there and enjoyed the view for a little while, ducked into the church on my way back, and then took the ferry down the lake to Lenno.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo

Floating Pool

On the way to Lenno, we stopped at Villa Carlotta, an old villa that is now a museum and botanical garden.  We also stopped in Tremezzo where the Grand Hotel Tremezzo has a floating swimming pool.  Lenno may just be the prettiest spot on a very pretty lake.  There is a cute little harbor with a number of sailboats moored there and a lot of private houses on the lake front.  There was one cute wooden rowboat with an Asian looking parasol hanging amidships.  I later saw it in use and there was a yellow lab resting in the seat shaded by the parasol.  I had intended to take the ferry from stop to stop on the way back, exploring each town in turn, but I discovered that there was a path called the Greenway del Lago that connects the cities on the west side of the lake.  I decided to walk a few kilometers to better appreciate the architecture and gardens. 

During a more graceful age, the lake was lined with fabulous villas, each of which had beautiful gardens reaching down to the water and a private boat landing.  High taxes have resulted in most of these buildings being converted into hotels, restaurants or museums.  Gardens have been converted to parks and boat landings to private beaches and cafes.  When a road was built around the lake, many villas were separated from their gardens, furthering the process of degentrification.  It is still a beautiful place to walk. 

Church in Mezzegra

WWI Memorial

Fountain in Cadenabbia
Horses Above Lenno
The path follows the lake out of Lenno and then climbs a steep hill above Mezzegra to a church and World War One memorial.  It then descends to the town of Tremezzo.  Tremezzo is dominated by the Grand Hotel Tremezzo with its fountains and swimming pool floating in the lake.  North of Tremezzo is the Villa Carlotta whose gardens have been turned into a botanical garden.  Tremezzo runs into Cadenabbia.  I had intended to get back on the ferry at Cadenabbia, but ended up continuing my walk all the way to Menaggio because it was so pretty.

Menaggio Harbor
View from Cafe in Menaggio

Park in Menaggio
Menaggio is the largest of the towns I visited.  It has real businesses not connected to the tourist trade.  It also has a pretty little marina and its share of hotels and restaurants, including a youth hostel.  I was sweaty and in need of a restroom, so I stopped at a café near the marina and had a beer.  The weather was holding fine and had grown quite warm.  I walked out to the north end of Menaggio and then headed back and caught a ferry to Varenna.

Varenna from Menaggio Ferry

Not satisfied with having walked the west shore of the lake, I then set out to walk from Varenna to Fiume Latte (Milk River), the next town to the south on the east shore.  The Fiume Latte is the shortest river in Italy.  It gushes out of a cave a couple of hundred feet above lake level and plunges to the lake in just 800 feet of white water.  It is not quite a waterfall, but darn close.  The town is tiny and offers nothing to the traveler.  The grounds of the Villa Monastero stretch almost, but not quite, all the way from Varenna to Fiume Latte.  The gardens are beautiful and full of statues and fountains.  I enjoyed peering down on them from above.  I may visit tomorrow if I can find somewhere to stow my baggage for a few hours.
Fiume Latte

I was pooped when I got back to Varenna, so I rested for a couple of hours and then went in search of dinner.  I ate on the porch of the Hotel Olvedo, overlooking the ferry landing.  The hotel was run by a family who must be Swiss, since they speak Italian like they’d really rather be speaking German.  The food, however, was very good.  I had pumpkin gnocchi with butter, sage and parmesan cheese.  It was warm and filling and really hit the spot.  I sat there enjoying the view until the sun set about 9:00 and then headed back to my room.

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