Today I decided to take a day trip to Lake Como in Northern Italy. I thought that since it is Sunday and not much is open on Sundays, Como wouldn’t be too crowded. However it’s still the middle of the summer and all of Europe is crowded; Como was no exception. I got there a little after 1 since it took me about 3 hours to ride the bike to the metro station, take the metro into Milan, take a train from Milan to Monza and from Monza to Como. I ate my ob and j and apple and chocolate on the way. My plan was to walk around Como for a bit and then to take a boat to Bellagio and Mennagio. Shortly after I arrived I decided to change my plans. The line to buy a ticket for the hydrofoil was about an hour long and the hydrofoils themselves were packed with none other than small children, retirees, and Spanish and Chinese tourists. Oh, did I mention that the major mode of transportation around the lake is not a boat bug a hydrofoil? Combine all of those factors and I think not. I first went to see the lakefront promenade in Como, which is beautiful. Then I walked across the Plaza Cavour to get to the Como Duomo, which is impressive from the outside with sculptures on the facade and several large teal domes. It’s also located along the main shopping street in Como but after yesterday in Milan I was not at all interested.
I was interested in taking to funicular from Como up to Brumante, at the top of the mountain overlooking Como. The funicular was crowded as well, but not nearly as bad as the line for the hydrofoil. I got to the front of the line in about 10 minutes, then it took 7 minutes for the funicular to scale the mountain. Once I’m Brumante, I headed for a panoramic viewpoint, because right when you get off of the funicular a lot of trees block your view and you aren’t able to see very much. From the viewpoint, I was able to see down towards Como and out over the lake. I could also see all the way to Turin and to the snow capped Swiss Alps even further in the distance. To get to the viewpoint, you have to walk by a variety of fantastic villas owned by very wealthy Italian elites who enjoy breathtaking views day and night. You basically take the view from a Tuscan hilltop town and magnify the scope and height and you get an idea of what this view was like. I wasn’t satisfied with just walking to the viewpoint though, I wanted to get up to the highest point on the mountain, which is the Volta Lighthouse. Getting to the Volta Lighthouse was much more challenging than getting to the viewpoint. They tell you that it is 2 kilometers away but they don’t mention that those 2 kilometers are essentially a straight uphill hike. At least there was some cloud cover as I made my way up. It was the kind of steep hike where if it didn’t raise your heart rate, I really have no idea what would. Only crazy people tried to drag along grandma and grandpa and the kids. They were struggling. I struggled but I made it up to the lighthouse. I had thought the views from the viewpoint were impressive but wow – from up there they were even better. I could see in every direction, I could see a big part of Lake Como and clear over the Italian/ Swiss border. I paid a euro to climb up to the top of the lighthouse and from there felt like I was on top of the world. You know how it looks when you are in an airplane and you can see for miles around below you? That’s what the view was like from the top of this lighthouse. Pictures and words couldn’t capture the beauty on all sides.
The lighthouse was definitely my favorite attraction for the day. I hiked back down the half an hour from there to the funicular station, where I had to wait in line for about half an hour until I could get on the funicular – it was crowded! When I got back down, I sat on the lake front by the boats for a while to take advantage of the free wi fi. Then I was getting really hungry from my hiking and exploring so I decided to have a delicious dinner to commemorate my last night in Italy. I first stumbled upon the Loft at Coin department store. The Loft is up on the fifth floor of the famous department store and it boasted a bar, a restaurant, a view, and the opportunity to relax. After being around screaming tourists, I decided that sounded pretty good. I went up to the top floor and was excited to find it fairly empty. Since the place where I wanted to go wasn’t open until 7:30, I decided to order a glass of Chianti and a small Oder of trophie pasta with pesto. I really enjoy trophie with pesto, but this one was especially good because the chef added texture and flavor to the dish by mixing in green beans and potatoes.
The food and wine was good, but the view from the terrace was amazing. The fifth floor of Coin faces out towards the Duomo and the center of town. I got to really inspect the sculptures and the spires of the cathedral at the same level that most of then were at. Beyond the cathedral, the town of Como spread out like a carpet up to the base of the mountain and I could see the mansions of Brumante up at the top. The view alone felt like I stumbled upon a secret treasure, but the quite, relaxing atmosphere really made me feel like I had.
I wasn’t full after my small trophie and pesto dish, so I headed to the restaurant which my Fodor’s Guide had recommended, but it opened for 7:30. There, I had spaghetti with clams and a Soave white wine. The home made pasta and creamy clam sauce melted in my mouth! The restaurant was right along the lake front so I watched people move by and the sun go down between the high mountains. After some coffee panna cotta (sweet Italian pudding) I went back to the train station and made the long journey back to Gorgonzola. I would have liked to see more of the lake towns, but not with such a large crowd; I think July is quite possibly the worst month for touristy places – its hot and it’s crowded. I would want to return to Como in the off season so I could experience its true charm.