Thursday, June 29, 2017

Italy and Switzerland...Day 4: Lake Como...

Sunday started with another run for me.  I really do enjoy running in this areas when we are on vacation.  Plus, it allows run for extra lattes and pastries!

Running around Varenna.  Hotel Du Lac from the other side.

Good morning beautiful Varenna!

After my run it was time for breakfast.  We both deemed that our hotel, Del Sole had the best orange juice we have ever tasted.  We discussed our plans for the day and decided that we would take the ferry over to Bellagio to see what all of the fuss was about.  

We bought our ferry tickets and were soon on our way to Bellagio.  We arrived and immediately did not understand why everyone loves this place.  It was very crowded.  We walked around for a bit and stopped for lunch off the beaten path by the water.  After lunch, we walked back to the ferry dock still questioning why everyone loves it so much.  Perhaps it is because of the Bellagio hotel in Vegas?  Anyways, we were grateful that we were staying in quiet Varenna.  

Bellagio from the ferry

We ended up on one of the car ferries from Bellagio to Varenna.  Ken always likes to offer me money to do odd things.  Get your mind out of the gutter.  It is things like $5 for sticking my tongue on a dirty hand rail or something like that.  So it should be no surprise that he offered me $10 if I would get a running start and jump off the back of the ferry.

Photo for reference.  Clearly, I did not accept the challenge.  

We arrived back in Varenna and relaxed in our room for a bit before heading out for a bottle of wine.  We found a nice little spot by the ferry dock that had outdoor seating with some shade.  We saw a husky and listened to some 20 somethings behind us talk about how huskies are just one step away from being a wolf.  Yeah, sure they are.  We had a good laugh about it and enjoyed our wine.  

We grabbed a gelato and walked back to our hotel and I had the hotel make us a dinner reservation for the evening, which we were super excited about.  We walked over to a place across from our hotel that had seemed popular and ordered another bottle of wine.  This place had a small little buffet of snacks set up that consisted of chips and salsa and flatbread.  If we were not going out for dinner, we definitely could have eaten enough here to skip dinner.  Some of these places put on quite the spread for aperitif!  

Ready for more vino!

Ken enjoyed the vino (and the snacks!)

A view from our seats.  Our hotel is on the left.  We had a great location in the town square.  

Now about our dinner reservations.  I had read in my Rick Steves travel book about a place called Ristorante il Caminetto that is located in the mountains above Varenna.  A reservation is necessary because the restaurant will pick you up in the town square.  Chef Moreno puts on quite a spread for his guests and we were super excited to get to experience it!

Waiting in the town square for our transportation to il Caminetto

The view of the church in the town square

A lot of motorcyclists ride into Varenna and take the ferry across the lake to different villages.  I imagine it is a beautiful drive around the lake.

Soon enough, a van arrived and picked us and a British couple up to drive us up the mountain.  It was an interesting ride.  We arrived at the restaurant and Chef Moreno greeted us and took care of everything for us.  We went with the four course meal which to us ended up being more like seven courses.  Everything was delicious!

A small portion of one of our appetizers.  I absolutely love the peppers stuffed with cream cheese.

Ken ordered veal as his main course and I ordered fish.  The funniest moment of the entire night was when I was enjoying my fish and Ken asked me what kind of fish I was eating.  Without hesitation I responded with "Lake Fish."  I said it with such confidence that Ken about peed his pants from laughing so hard.  Because of all the delicious fish out there, lake fish tops them all.  My fish was very yummy.  

We wrapped up the dinner with limoncello, which was pretty amazing.  I am definitely a fan.

A view of one of the dining rooms in the restaurant

As we were leaving I spotted this picture on the wall.  That there is my buddy Rick Steves with Chef Moreno.  Ken made funny of me for taking a picture of it, but hey, Rick Steves is how we learned of this place, so thanks Rick!

One of the best parts of the night is that Chef Moreno drove us back to Varena in the van.  Ken and I sat up front with him and enjoyed chatting with him the entire way down the mountain.  I cannot think of a better way to end our time around Lake Como.

Having a blast with wonderful Chef Moreno.  It was one of our favorite parts of our time in Varenna.

Ken grabbed a cocktail for the road and we packed up our backpacks in anticipation of our 7:30 am train the next morning.  

We absolutely loved Lake Como.  Varenna was a great place to stay and we received wonderful service everywhere we went.  Albergo Del Sole was the perfect place for us and I do not have enough nice things to say about this hotel.  I definitely would recommend it to anyone.  

Up next, we travel to the Italian Riviera and get our first ever view of the Mediterranean Sea!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Italy and Switzerland...Day 3: The Greenway Trail...

Before I get to day 3, I wanted to include this video I forgot to include in my post about day 2.  On our walk back to our hotel after walking around the lake, we heard some music coming from a boat and saw this:

These guys were having a blast out on the water!

We woke up on day 3, which was Saturday morning and I went for a run around Varenna.  Let me tell you this, Varenna is h-i-l-l-y!  Oh my!  As usual, when I am in a beautiful place, I like to take pictures while I am out running.  It is so enjoyable to see many of the sites and scenery with no one else around.  

I found a doggie beach!  I know our girl would despise it, but I saw a dog that was leaving and he looked like he had a good time.


This was one of the busiest spots in Varenna in the evenings, so it was interesting to see it without a soul in site.

Varenna from a different view

I ran around the windy-cobblestone streets which included lots of hills!

After my run, we stuffed ourselves with breakfast at our hotel.  Breakfast was included and we enjoyed a variety of meats and cheeses and some delicious pastries and yogurt.  I enjoyed the jam stuffed croissants the most along with my cappuccino!  

One of the things I was most looking forward to around Lake Como was "hiking" the Greenway Trail  around Lake Como.  I use the term hiking very loosely as we deemed this an urban hike.  The trail starts in Colonno, but the ferry does not currently stop in Colonno.  We purchased tickets to the next closest stop to the beginning, Comacina.

After purchasing our tickets, we had a little time to kill before boarding the ferry so we did one of my favorite things and stopped for a latte.

I love how beautiful the lattes are in Europe.  Ken loves how strong an Americana is in Italy.  

Soon enough, we boarded the ferry and were treated to beautiful scenery on the lake while sailing to Comacina.

So excited about the day ahead!

Good morning from Lake Como!  The ferry stopped in Bellagio to let many people off to tour the most well known (to Americans at least) village on the lake.

Cruising away from Bellagio

Griante, with its many pools around the lake.  This looked like a darling place to stay to enjoy some sunshine.

After about an hour ride, we reached our stop, Isla Comacina.  We departed the ferry and quickly realized we were on an island.  We should have gone to Sala Comacina, which was the next stop and on the mainland.  

We were both feeling a little irritable about the mistake, our tickets said Isla Comacina and we were unaware that there were two Comacina stops, so we stopped at the restaurant and had a drink and Lays potato trips, obviously.  After our drinks, we learned that we could take a little taxi boat for 10 Euros over to the mainland.  We chose to do this instead of waiting on the larger ferry.

The view looking back at the restaurant on Isla Comacina.  What a view!

One of the many boats waiting in the small harbor on Isla Comacina.

We arrived to Sala Comacina and quickly found the Greenway trail to start our hike.  We picked the trail up along the water near the church of San Giacomo and were on our way.  The trail/path is very easy to follow with signs and markers along the way.

Signs to follow along the trail

The path takes you through different villages with beautiful views along the water.  We enjoyed meandering through the villages and taking pictures of the different churches and villages along the way.

One of the churches between Comacina and Ossuccio

Scenery around Lenno

We stopped for a bottle of wine and a snack in Lenno on the harbor,  We enjoyed a bottle of white wine and some toast, which is a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.  It was just the stop that we needed, since it was quite warm out on the walk.  After our break, we were on our way through the rest of Lenno and heading towards Tremezzo.

Villa Giovio Balbiano, isn't it gorgeous?!

The path winding through Lenno

Passing though the countryside around Lake Como.  The village across the lake is Bellagio.  

Enjoying the bright-sunny day around Lake Como.  We were completely alone on the path.

This was the scenery that we were greeted with when we were not in a village

Coming upon the Church of Sant’Abbondio,  I believe you would call those soccer fields with a view.

The Church of Sant’Abbondio

Enjoying wandering through the villages around Lake Como on the Greenway Trail.   (similar tank)

Just when you thought you were completely out in the middle of nowhere, you would stumble through these windy-narrow streets.

I love cobblestone streets

Approaching Tremezzo

We walked through Tremezzo and into Griante where we stopped at a darling little place on the water to enjoy a bottle of rose.  The owner of the place came over and talked with us and was intrigued by my accent.  When I say intrigued, I should probably say more like he could barely understand me.  I guess it is my high pitched voice along with my Southwestern Missouri accent that threw him for a loop.  Anyways, he was very nice and informed us that we chose well by staying in Varenna and not Bellagio.  He said that Americans go ape shit for Bellagio and the people from England prefer the Tremezzo/Menaggio side of the lake.  I guess it makes since why the name of the place was Bar Victoria.  Everyone around us was British and ordering tea.  

Ken enjoying his rose.  This is my favorite picture of him from the trip.  Oh look, more Lay's potato chips.  We ate all of them, obviously.

Enjoying my rose and obviously I enjoyed the potato chips as well.  (similar tank)

The view from Bar Victoria looking over to Bellagio

We enjoyed our wine and made our way back to the trail.  The Greenway Trail ends in Griante, but we wanted to go ahead and walk to Menaggio to take the ferry back from there.  

Stopping to say hello to the gigantic swans

All smiles finishing up the Greenway Trail

There is a small section after you finish the trail where you have to walk on the road to get to Menaggio.  There is a shoulder for most of it and it was not dangerous.  We were ready to jump out of the way if there was ever a crazy Italian driver.

Menaggio bound through the tunnel

We arrived in Menaggio, bought our ferry tickets and had a little time to kill.  Time to kill on vacation equals stop for a drink.

Our delicious drinks and snacks.  We had so many snacks that we ended up skipping dinner and just eating gelato once we were back in Varenna.  This meat, cheese, and bread was delicious.

On the ferry leaving Menaggio going back to Varenna

I have no idea why I am pointing.  Perhaps I am pointed toward Menaggio.  I would have to say, I did like Menaggio as well, but Varenna was my favorite.

The view of Varenna from the ferry

Once we arrived in Varenna, we walked back to our hotel via the promenade around the lake.  This is a much more flat way to get back to the city center, versus the way we walked when we first arrived.  Clearly we enjoy walking up hill while tired while carrying our backpacks.  The promenade = flat.

Walking along the promenade.  

Enjoying the view of Varenna  (tank)

Wrapping up an amazing day around Lake Como!  

My favorite windy street looking down at the water

We were so tired and stuffed from all of our snacks that we got gelato and called it an early night, relaxing in our room.  This was one of those days that you always look back at and smile, a great time in Italy with Ken.