Friday, September 16, 2016

Tourist Time! From Santa Caterina to Tirano-Varenna-Belaggio-Como



Near the end of our weekend together, Carlo and Alessandra helped us strategize the best route from their mountain home in Santa Caterina to our overnight destination, the small city of Como.

It meant starting out on a 9:30am bus to Tirano, driven by a kind man who I thought bore a striking resemblance to the late, great actor, Alan Rickman. I didn’t tell him so, but I thought it was a rare likeness.

From Tirano we rode a train to Varenna, and then boarded a ferry boat to the famous destination town of Belaggio across the Lake Como. The reason for the fame? Architecture? Romance? Yes, but most notably that celebrity actor George Clooney has a house there. I was told so a number of times; my favourite was by a middle-aged woman seated beside me on the plane in to Milano…she was quite swoon-y about it, too. In Belaggio, we were aware of a high concentration of North American tourists, but George was nowhere to be seen. 

We spent a few hours walking around a route that led us past gated houses, a few open fields, and through the high street of shops. Early on we thought we were lost until a large group of older French tourists passed us with a guide.  We started following them up a brick path that we never would have spotted, hoping they weren't taking an extended tour. They were clearly hot and tired, and soon stopped to rest. When they noticed us wanting to pass them, they began calling out “Jeune! Jeune!” (Young! Young!), and as Donovan and Weston jogged by they cheered us on like we were riders on the Tour de France!

By 5pm we were on a second boat that must have made 15 stops at lakeside towns during our two-hour ride. We saw many opulent resorts, and some more run-down towns with local children jumping into the water and waving at us. I wondered if staying at one of those lesser-known places would have proved a more authentic experience. When we reached Como, we realized this southern-most town was the biggest of all.

We made our way to our first Air BnB stay of the trip, hosted by Eva just two blocks from the lake. We found it down a lane past a piazza with a statue of Alesandro Volta, the inventor of the battery from the 17th century (during our visit, Carlo told me of many significant inventors and manufacturers based in northern Italy). The place was amazing—an elegant apartment with ceilings high enough that our room had a loft bed space high enough for the boys to stand in. Eva was gracious, and welcomed us warmly in her broken English. She is originally from eastern Europe and speaks Czech. 
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After checking in we walked down the lakeside and had a special anniversary dinner—yep, Sunday the 12th marked 23 years of marriage for Jeany and I! 

We ate at the Funiculare Ristorante next to the funicular tram that runs up and down the mountainside. We enjoyed interesting dishes like penne with smoked salmon, spaghetti with eggs and bacon (carbonara), and gnocchi with saffron.
The next day we spent mainly exploring the churches of Como, and enjoyed a picnic lunch next to the lake of treats from a bakery.  


Eva kindly let us keep our luggage at her place, and even have a mid-day rest—that was more than we hoped for in an Air BnB experience!
The adventure of the day came when it was time to catch the train back to Milano. After dallying at Eva’s place to finish our final pack-up, we had only left ourselves about 12 minutes to walk to the station and purchase tickets. I led us a bit of the long-way round, and we picked up the pace with our carry on cases bouncing along the cobblestone streets. We arrived at the station and Weston and I ran for the ticket office. The man at the counter continued his easy-going banter with a co-worker as he processed payment. I saw we were one-minute to the scheduled departure. We ran out on to the platform, seeing Jeany and Donovan waving their arms at us. We stepped on the train with 20 seconds to spare. Then I realized I hadn’t validated our tickets before getting on, so at the first stop I hopped off, popped the tickets into the machine, and was back in my seat just in time again. Sheesh that was close. 

When we got back to Milano, I discovered I left my jacket and Donovan’s in a wardrobe back at Eva’s. So far I’m the one who has lost a 2-day transit ticket on the first bus ride, lost my sunglasses hiking to a glacier, and left the coats, which may cost quite a lot to ship to us in Switzerland. Yep, I spend a lot of time coaching my family to remember their belongings….


3 comments:

Jeanettee Snider said...

Thanks for sharing your family's adventures. Be safe love you

Jeanettee Snider said...

Thanks for sharing your family's adventures. Be safe love you

Katie said...

Wow! What an adventure! I'm glad you didn't miss your train... I'm sorry that Donovan's coat did though!

I miss you guys!

Katie