Springtime in the City of Como

•April 3, 2014 • 3 Comments

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Como city is situated at the south end of the western leg of the upside down “Y” that is the shape of Lake Como. It is undeniably the very best time to visit the lake’s most populated city.

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I love visiting the Villa Olmo (which often has an art show featuring the work of masters) and it’s lakefront garden of sculptures, gum-dropped shaped greenery and fantastic show of flowers.

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From the villa, situated a little north of the city, there is a long promenade that passes by other historic villas, beautiful views of the lake, the opposite mountain where the funicular takes visitors to the village of Brunate above, and past the seaplane school.

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The crowds & traffic have not arrived yet.

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The monuments at the park along the waterfront are spectacular, and the brilliance of the new growth takes my breath away.Image

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ImageThe Alesandro Volta Museum (Volta best known for his invention in 1800 of the first device to produce a continuous electric current) – is especially beautiful to me and the scientific instruments on display inside are fascinating and obviously very unique.

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The old city itself is inside ancient Roman walls and Como can brag about it’s elegant cathedral, which took about 300 years to complete. Loaded with art, tapestries, stained glass & numerous sculptures, – it is a must see.

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My Mountain: Monte Grona & the Hamlet of Breglia

•January 24, 2014 • 1 Comment

ImageThis is my mountain, Monte Grona, with it’s jagged peak above the hamlet of Breglia.

ImageMt. Grona rises up behind Menaggio at 1736 metres and is officially classified as residing in the Lugano Prealps section of the Western Alps.

ImageMt. Grona is always dramatic & feels ancient and mysterious with it’s series of spurs, towers and other formations that stretch from the Lugano area to Lake Como.  This view of the southern edge was taken from somewhere in the Val Senagra Park, with a piece of the tiny hamlet of Barna, middle right.

ImageA local resident of Breglia, told me that the mountain is frequented by geologists as this is where the tectonic plates of Northern Africa meet up with those of Southern Europe.  And so – my mountain is still growing.  This photo was taken from the next mountain to the south over-looking the village of Croce.

ImageWater literally oozes out of this mountain and that must be why Chiarella water makes its home here (http://www.chiarella.it/en/spring.html).  This is truly great water.  Drink it if you get a chance.  (Photo taken from more-or-less the north west, in the very early spring, looking down on Breglia.)

ImageSo, why “My Mountain?” Easy – I live on this mountain and that is my apartment below.

ImageThis morning, the view is fantastic.  Looking south-east I can see the Lecco leg of the lake and have a great view of Bellagio and the suburbs to the south.

ImageThe day is too beautiful to stay indoors and I decide to walk up the mountain.  Excellent bus service is available all the way to Breglia, but today I am walking as getting out to walk is one reason I live here.

ImageLooking north as I walk up the mountain, the day it is spectacular.  The air is clean, fresh and warm and the colors, bright and vivid, blow me away.

ImageWalking around you will run into plenty of signs to let you know where you are.

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ImageToday the Iris are in bloom all up and down the road.

These views of the village are two of my favorites and Breglia looks fantastic this morning.

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ImageThe Albergo Breglia, at the south end of the piazza, is popular with locals as a good chunk of the men gather daily to see what Enzo, hotel owner and chef, has cooked up for the lunch special.  The hotel is also popular with tourists who flock there from around the world to hike the mountain.

ImageThe Chiesa S. Gregorio is situated at the north end and is across from the soccer field.  Trailheads to San Domenico & to other mountain villages begin here.

ImageThe trail to the Santuario begins across from the Albergo Breglia and is an easy walk with a mixture of stones and terrain.

ImageHere is a little piece of information from the web about where we now are – The Shrine of Our Lady of Breglia (also called the Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Rosary).   Located on the hilltop Gordola, white and visible from far away, the shrine “dominates the center of the lake like a beacon on the hill, offering a panoramic view of rare beauty.”

ImageLeaving the Santuario, the trail to San Domenico is another easy one. This time of year, Lake Como, and all of it’s surroundings, are absolutely magnificent.

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ImageSurrounded by all this gorgeous nature, seeing these horses at this moment was perfection.

Why make the walk out to the tiny San Domenico monument?

ImageBecause from this point is one of the most beautiful views of Lake Como that you will ever see.  That is Menaggio down there on the protruding triangle, with Nobiallo (with the boat docks), a little north of Menaggio.

ImageThe walk around the hilltop continues to blow my mind with as no matter where I look, the beauty just takes ones breath away.

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ImageAnother local recommended these hiking tips:  Always carry your cell phone, a knife and some adhesive tape, and if you are walking without poles, pick up a suitable stick along the way.

At the end of the loop around the point, I enter the south end of the village, behind the church where the trail to the hillside villages above San Siro begins.

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ImageI have noticed there is a particular affinity for Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs (yes – there will be more popping up in the blog).

I am not taking the walk north today, but took this shot from that trailhead.

ImageIt is time to walk back down. The view below was taken from above the village of Plesio, across from the Chiarella water works.

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Stopping on the way down for a drink, I am treated to yet another fabulous view.

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Let’s Get Off This Island: Isola Comacina – Part Three

•January 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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Hello again.  I want to apologize for leaving us for so long on the island.  Time drifts away easily out here around the lake.   But we must get off this island and back to our walk around the lake.  Before that, a little promo – I want to recommend that all visitors to the island eventually make their way to the museum in Ossuccio.

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The finds from digs are on display here and are very impressive as they illustrate the diversity of culture & importance of this tiny little island dating back to around 200 BC.

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The museum is one of the best opportunities to let the locals know that their efforts are appreciated to keep this precious piece of Italian history natural.  My apologies if I sound too preachy.  Just my way of saying the donations are well spent.

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If you can make it to the popular ancient celebration of the Feast of St. John on 24 June, you will not be disappointed.

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Back to finishing up our island walk.  As we started at the southern route we eventually come to one of my very favorite settings around the lake.  The first views of the Chiesa di S. Giovanni Battista at the north end and the north facing view from that point.

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The digs continue to make progress.  These photos of the area next to Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista were taken 3 years apart.

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Finishing the walk back to the pick up spot, we go along the eastern shore where the campanile of the Chiesa di S. Maddelena is visible with the orange museum building in front.  By the way, the staff in the museum will open up the locked doors of this ancient church for you.

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The seemingly always good looking & friendly Italian driver, picks us up, and we are back in Ossuccio.  I always enjoy a look back.

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Let’s Go: Isola Comacina – Part Two

•October 1, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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Described as among the most interesting archaeological sites in northern Italy in the early middle ages, the island held an important political, economic, and military position from its founding to its destruction in 1169, after siding with Milan in a 10 year war against Como (1118-1127), that they lost.

The island was also one of the most important religious centers and that probably helps to explain why the number of churches built on this tiny island seem out of proportion to its population during the middle ages.

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Our walk through over 2000 years of history is on a variety of trails and terrains.  Around the perimeter the paths are mostly some kind of stone.  Up & down the stairs can be stone or dirt held in place by staked lumber with either metal or wooden rails.  And there are plenty of simple, natural paths.

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The few trails seem appropriately identified:

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Along the Sentiero archeologico one finds the Chiesa di Santa Maria col portico, a church mentioned in documents dating back to the 12th century, along with the walls of an earlier building from the Early Christian era (5th century) that also were discovered during excavations.

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DSCN8756Information signpost are at each point of interest & are printed in Italian and English.  Succinct data regarding the ruin as to the discovery, description, basic information about the site and more, along with architectural drawings & overhead photo are provided.  (See narrow stand left of ruin.)  Continuing along, one then comes to the Chiesa di San Pietro in castello.
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This is the highest point on the island and is referred to in old documents as the castle.  The digs here also revealed an older structure from the 5th century, as indicated by the areas colored yellow in the drawing.
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The views all around are spectacular:
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Going down along the west side of the island on the Sentiero degli artisti, the contrast is dramatic when first confronted with the sight of the houses designed by Pietro Lingeri for artists in the rationalistic style.  The locals, a little while ago, determined that the island should also be a home of fine art & the building of these 3 homes was commissioned they are occupied from time to time by artists.

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Let’s Go: Isola Comacina – Part One

•September 29, 2013 • 1 Comment

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Isola Comacina is the only island on the lake and whose origins can be placed roughly around 400 B.C.  It is located off the west shore villages of Sala Comacina and Ossuccio.

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Our journey to the island begins in Menaggio as all trips do, as that is where I live.  The boat ride south is truly the most beautiful on the lake due its staying close to the shore with the many stops it makes before we reach our destination, providing excellent views of the numerous elegant villas and other bright & colorful buildings and villages one passes along the way.  The boat we are on today is the gorgeous Milano – a ship of beautiful wood, large open-air decks (some covered), kitchen, bar and a maximum capacity of 350.

Villa Carlotta

One gets an elevated look at the Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo described as “a place of rare beauty where masterpieces of nature and art live together in perfect harmony in over 70,000 square metres of gardens & museums”.  I cannot argue with that & the spring flowering of the rhododendrens and azaleas is astonishing and not to be missed.

The next lakefront standout is the vibrant Hotel La Darsena also in Tremezzo, followed by Tremezzo’s large Parco Civico, an outrageously gorgeous public park with a cafe, beaches, volleyball court & probably the most beautiful sculptured foutain and staircase combo I have seen.

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Tremezzo Parco Civico

Next, the boat passes by the prominent parochial church of St. Lorenzo at the south end of Parco Civico,  followed by one of Lake Como’s true gems, the elaborate Villa Serbelloni Sola Cabiati “La Quiete” with curving boat ramps, elegant rod iron gates, sculptured gardens and numerous other delicate decorations.

Chiesa di San Lorenzo

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As the Milano moves away from shore heading for the next stop in Lenno, one gets a good view of the Sede Dell’Amila (2-story, white lakefront building to the right of center) designed by Pietro Lingeri (a leading figure of Lake Como’s Rationalism (1920-30s) and built in the shape of a ship for the Italian Speedboat Racing Association, now privately owned, followed by Lenno’s Hotel San Giorgio (built in the 1920s) and the beautiful Bay of Lenno.

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Hotel San Giorgio - Lenno

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Nearing our destination, the boat rounds the wooded promotory of Lavedo overlooking the lake with the exquisite Villa del Balbianello (a “place of delights”) and “panoramic terrace gardens where everything appears in perfect harmony with the shoreline and enchantment of the water”.

Villa del Balbianello

Villa del Balbianello

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Close to docking, we get a good look at the Isola Comacina archaeological site of SS Faustine & Giovita (more on that later) and the island’s only restaurant (and truly gorgeous), the Locanda dell’Isola.

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The Milano docks,  you disembark & head out on the island trails, and the boat departs for the village of Sala Comacina.

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Meet Some of the Crew – Then Moving On

•September 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

DSCN0562It is time to be moving on to other areas around the lake, but first a quick look at some of the employees that do a fantastic job (often in howling gales, pounding rain & hail, and truly freezing weather), of moving thousands of locals and tourists safely to their destinations.  In future posts the boats will be looked at again when they fit, until then more info is available at:  www.navigazionelaghi.it.

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This is Vittorio and you will find him on a ship with a bar (Orione, Volta, Manzoni, Milano, etc.).  Always friendly and chatty, he makes a great cappucino or mixed drink & is a perfect bartender.


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Admiring their ship, the captain invited me up to the deck for a look.

IMGP2521  The crew (when not too busy) seem to accommodate all photo requests.

The Old Work Horses – Servizio Autotraghetto, 1960s

•September 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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IMGP0583Built in the sixties in Venice by the “Cantieri Navali de Breda” the Spluga, Stelvio and Ghisallo are the first (5:50) and the last (23:30) boats on the lake.  Day in and day out, these car-ferries are busy transporting cars, trucks, all forms of cycles and up to 185 passengers (inside, outside & standing), between Bellagio, Menaggio, Varenna & Cadenabbia.  Stormy seas occur in all seasons and these old boats just keep going.