To the North of Lake Como there are a number of small villages made of stone. Well actually, nearly all the villages are made of stone. One "deli" was particularly fascinating because after walking in, there was a stairway down for three levels. At the lowest level there was a large wine "cave" carved out of the stone. It was wonderful to walk through the caves and see, smell, and feel the ambiance.
If you visit Lago di Como at autumm, as we did, you will discover some of the most beautiful colours that nature could show us. Consider it when you choose the best season to travel to Lago di Como.
Si visitas el Lago de Como en otonho, como lo hicimos nosotros, descubriras algunos de los colores mas hermosos que la naturaleza nos pueda mostrar. Tenlo en cuenta a la hora de elegir la mejor estacion para viajar alli
Easily reachable from Como is another interesting point above lake Lugano, it is so called Balcone d'Italia (the balcony of Italy), near Lanzo d'Intelvi. It's a wonderful viewpoint at over 1300m overlooking the valley of Lugano, and entire Lugano lake, the Swiss Alps, and it's the last piece of soil of Italy, under the balcony there is Switzerlnd already! :)
The view from there and the sunsets are stunning.
There is a nice bar/restaurant, so go in the afternoon, enjoy the day light view and stay for the sunset, taking something in the bar, or even having a dinner.
The mountain you can see in the back as a sort of a "hunch" is Monte Rosa, over 4000m high!!!
Lugano is veeeeeeery near Como, I'm not sure exactly (you can check that out), but definitely between 15 and 25km away, not more! However, you'll have to cross the border, since Switzerland is not in the EU. If you have an adequate passport, you might not even need it, only an ID card, like Italians for instance. My minority needs not only the passport, but a Swiss visa as well.
Lugano is on the namesake lake, Lago di Lugano, that is shared between Switzerland and Italy.
Bellagio is a more sizeable town than Varenna, but I was surprised to find a magnificent 11th-12th century basilica there. It is described as Romanesque Lombard architecture and is beautiful. What caught our eye is the acona above the tabernacle, a 10th C work of gilded wood by a local sculptor, Domenico Pini.
Chiavenna is a lovely town in the mountains above the lake Como, in Valchiavenna (Chiavenna valley), very near Swiss border. It's a very characteristical town on the small river that runs through and it is built on the cliffs above the river. The cuisine is also very typical and unique for the area. Downtown is very charming, with the usual Italian narrow streets and cute shops.
You have to pay attention to get to Lenno. Like so many of the interesting little towns around Lake Como, Lenno is reached by way of an obscure side road off the main road. Located on a secluded shoreline overlooking the Gulgo di Venere (Gulf of Venus), Lenno has all the requisites...villas, churches and a long history. But the real charm, in my mind, is the curving promenade which follows the shore. This is obviously a favorite place for the local residents to walk their dogs, meet the neighbors and enjoy a caffè. The tree lined walkway has wonderful views with benches and plantings designed to be pedestrian friendly. At the northern end of the promenade there is a ferry boat stop which seemed less crowded than most.
Our visit to Isola Comacina was perhaps the most relaxing portion of our trip. Probably because there is so little to do on the island and once you're there you're not leaving until the next boat arrives (which will be a while).
There are no cars and in fact, as best as we could tell, no roads. We took our time around the island and encountered only two other couples the whole time...one British, one Asian. Carol sketched and I explored.
When we finally returned to the boat dock we were early but fortunately there was a snack bar there and of course ...cappuccino! I know, I know, Italians don't drink cappuccino after 11:00 am. Phewy...we like it and we are on vacation!
A pretty, young girl ran the snack bar. Her company seemed to be the employee of the ferry boat company. His job seemed to be limited to sliding the gang plank to and from the arriving boats. As this didn't happen that often he had a lot of time to sit and joke with the obvious main character. This fellow, we surmised, was a local fisherman who had arrived by private boat. His real job seemed to be to provide a steady stream of boisterous, animated entertainment to all. We loved it even though we didn't understand a word!
When you explore Isola Comacina you have to wonder why the ancient Byzantines of the area thought it was such a great idea to build seven churches on this tiny island. I'm sure there's an historical scholar out there who could explain it but while we were there I just keep wondering, "What were they thinking?". Apparently the conquering people of Como weren't too hot on the idea either as they destroyed all the churches in 1169. Oddly there are ruins of churches and little other evidence that anyone actually lived there.
In any event, the Church of San Giovanni was built in about the 17th century. Still there didn't seem to be any immediate parishioners and hence it too was abandoned. There were several plaques posted amongst the graffiti referring to restoration efforts but work appears slow. And what a shame. The little church is wonderfully charming on the exterior and the interior. The doors were locked but I was able to capture it's faded beauty through the barred windows. If you look closely you can see the construction materials left inside waiting for efforts to resume.
During our seven day visit to Lake Como we explored more than a dozen towns and climbed a hundred cobble stone walkways. But without question this secluded lane in Rezzonico stands out as the quintessential Lago di Como path. Entirely residential except for the Ristorante Lauro located about a third of the way down, the stone work of the walls and the patina of the cobbles exhibited the the kind of character that only time can create and the love of people who live there can maintain.
I suppose we all fantasize about were we would love to live if we could or if we could summon the courage. This to Carol and me seemed to be the place. We know nothing of the people or their life style or their politics or ...anything. And maybe that's best. For now, back home in Buffalo, we can be sure it's perfect.
Isola Comacina has been inhabited since Roman times though there's not much easy evidence of this. There are, however, plenty of ruins. It seems the Byzantines found the island the perfect place build churches...lots of churches. In fact, they built a total of seven. This was great until 1169 when the State of Como decided to conquer the island and destroy nearly all of them. The ruins are spread all over the island but this one seemed the easiest for us to explore. The photo is of the apse of the Basilica di Sant' Eufemia which was built on the ruin of a Roman structure.
At first it seemed confusing because of the windows. Generally, an apse is pretty solid down low with windows only above. Now comes the speculation: I think what can be interpreted as windows are really penetrations in the niches to afford a view of the lake beyond. In any event, it's easy to imagine statuary located in each niche now long lost. For an archeological want-a-be like myself, this is pretty good stuff.
As we continued to climb the backstreets of Argegno we came across this creative and beautifully maintained terraced garden. Clearly a kitchen garden, we saw all manner of herbs such as sage and rosemary and a wide variety of vegetables. One of the interesting techniques was their watering strategy. Rather than having 100' of garden hose to drag about (as do I), the gardeners had placed one liter water bottles about for a quick and precisely targeted drink. The house, barely visible above the garden, was really spectacular, particularly in view of the impossible terrain on which it was built.
How old is Argegno? I don't really know (google probably has the answer). What we did discover was that this bridge over the Telo Stream was built by the Romans. Now there's nothing else Roman that we could see, so it makes me wonder (in poor grammar), "What exactly were they building a bridge to?".
The Telo stream has apparently cut a rather deep ravine in its path. It appears that over the years some of the land has seen attempts at reclamation. This building has obviously seen better days. Perhaps this was one of Frank Lloyd Wright's less successful attempts at "Falling Water". I'm sure someone knows the true history of the ruin but you don't really have to know it to appreciate it.
The Basilica of St. Fedele was unfortunately closed when we arrived but the structure is worth a look. It is called the "Lombard-style" although I not sure what that means. I have to admit that what I found most interesting was how a relatively plain and ordinary building had been attached to its front facade. Seems as though someone might have objected.