Lake Como, Italy for a good mate’s 70th

Saturday 22 September 2018
A couple of hours before we were due to depart for Milan, via Frankfurt, on Lufthansa, I received a call from Singapore Airlines saying Lufthansa was overbooked and would we mind flying direct to Milan on Singapore Airlines. “Yes please!” We landed in Milan at 7am and headed to Sixt, the car rental company, The car wasn’t ready so we had some breakfast then headed back to Sixt. These guys in their bright orange and black uniforms would have to be the best rental car company we have ever dealt with. As they didn’t have the car we wanted ready they upgraded us to an E Class Mercedes, a bit under powered and a challenge to drive on the narrow roads around Lake Como but they didn’t know where we were going.

We headed to Como then up the east side of the lake to Torno. We scouted Villa Torno and then drove up the narrow roads to Bellagio, where Sylvia had found, on the net, a good shoe shop. The place was packed so I dropped her off and drove out of town and waited in the car until the shoe purchase was done as there was no where to park. Two pairs of Italian shoes in hand I picked her up and we headed back along the narrow windy road to Torno, often having to pull over to let cars, trucks and the odd bus past.

Arriving back at Torno my long time and great friends, John and Lesley, had arrived at the Villa. We parked in a car park off the main road and headed, baggage in hand, to the Villa we had scouted earlier. Ringing the bell, a lady in a bikini informed is there was no John here. Bugger! wrong Villa Torno! John sent a google location and we headed up steep paths and alleys to the correct location, high on the hill with stunning views. We arrived covered in sweat to find we could have driven up. It’s John’s 70th tomorrow and they have booked this place to celebrate after a cruse in the Adriatic. John’s son Gair, wife Amy and their two well-behaved daughters, Piper and Phoebe, are also here.

Lesley and Amy cooked a great meal and we enjoyed an evening catching up and recalling funny events from the past.

Sunday 23 September 2018
Sylvia had to fly out to France for a meeting so we set off early to Bergamo airport. The round trip was over four hours. On returning I wandered the narrow streets of Torno before settling down at a bar by the lake to wait for John’s crew to return by ferry from Como where they had been shopping.

We spent the evening again eating great food, reminding John that he is now officially old and having a good time.

Monday 24 September 2018
Lesley and the rest of the crew headed to Como, this time for some real shopping – as in not just food etc. John and I took a stroll down into Torno, checking out the amazing way a town like this is put together with its narrow alleys, steep steps, and buildings, which all seem to stand on every bit of land no matter what it’s shape.

After a leisurely lunch by the lake we strolled back up the hill finding some steps near the villa which we thought may be a short cut. They ran up the hill to an old, unoccupied stone house on a small field. Long ago it would have supported a family living mainly off the land.

It was close to the villa so we cut through the woods and over a few stone walls to get home. Villa Torno is owned by a local art dealer and is built around an old stone watch tower, of which there are many in the area. It took 4 years to build. With stunning views, sauna, spa pool and lots of rock around the back it’s a great place to stay.

Tuesday 25 September 2018
After a leisurely breakfast we headed in convoys up to Bellagio so Lesley and Amy could explore the shops. It wasn’t as busy today so we found a park easily. While the others shopped John and I looked at interesting things like the car ferry berthing in a strong wind and a choppy lake, architecture and a few other things.

Around noon we all met for lunch at a nice restaurant half way up the hill in one of the many staircase alleys.

At lunch Lesley informed us she had found this wonderful family-owned jewellery shop. After a stop at the gastronomie for some supplies we wandered down some steps, stopping at a silk shop. This area is known for its silk as it has been harvested in northern Italy for over a thousand years. After a lot of guidance from Lesley, Sylvia now has a nice silk scarf.

Next stop, at the bottom of the steps on the flat, was Corner Shop Bellagio. In we went and like in the silk shop the staff were really friendly and helpful – to the point of removing all pain as I slid my card across the counter. Once again with a little help and a lot of encouragement from Lesley, Sylvia now has a nice necklace with matching bracelet. John also slipped out his card and bought a very nice necklace for Lesley as his birthday was also their 20th wedding anniversary. “Great way not to forget the wedding anniversary”

That evening we dined at a local Torno restaurant by the lake.

Wednesday 26 September 2018
We are up early to say goodbye to Gair, Amy, Piper and Phoebe who are heading to Milan to catch the train to Paris, where they will finish their holiday before returning to Sydney. After breakfast we headed into Como and around the bottom of the lake to head up the west side. The road started off quite good here with wide lanes and tunnels to cut out the windy roads around the hill. All went well until we got just south of Argegno. Here the traffic just stopped. As we waited for the best part of an hour many cars in the line turned around and headed back down the lake. Eventually we got moving and then stopped again. This time there were some police directing the traffic. What had happened is that two or three big trucks and a bus going in both directions had met in the narrow town streets. I mentioned this to a waiter at a restaurant later – he just shrugged his shoulders “it’s just normal here”.

We eventually arrived at Dongo, the place where the partisans had captured Mussolini in 1944. They also executed him a bit further down the lake with a French-made 7.65 MAS-38. Only 1900-odd of these were made in France after the German occupation but somehow many got into the hands of the local partisans. The museum took us through how Mussolini was captured along with 16 of his ministers, disguised as German soldiers. Many of the partisans worked at the local steel mill, which then employed 1500 people. They organised a strike that day so they could go out and attack a German convoy as there was a rumour Mussolini was moving through the area. They let the Germans go, not a shot fired, once they had their prisoners, who were held in what is now the museum for a short time. The 16 ministers were shot on the local beach. Mussolini and his mistress were taken further down the lake, executed and then their bodies  were taken to Milan and hung up by their feet while people threw objects and shot at them. Must have saved the country a fortune in a long expensive trial.

After lunch we headed to Griante, where a car ferry took us across the lake to Bellagio. There was no way we were going to risk another hour waiting for a truck jam to clear. Lesley did ask if I wanted to pay another visit to the Corner Shop – I politely declined.

We spent a relaxing evening at the villa, again with great food and tasty wine. I was heading to Malta early the next morning, John and Lesley back to Sydney.
Life is busy and short so it’s always great to spend time with great friends.

5 thoughts on “Lake Como, Italy for a good mate’s 70th

  1. Chrissie B. says:

    Wow! Stunning view from Villa Torno. Beautiful jewellery Sylvia. What a trip!

  2. Jo-Anne Hitchcock says:

    Looks awesome, we loved Lake Como. We went up to Brunate which is up the cablecar from Como. Looks similar to Torno

  3. Stuart Hayman says:

    Finally I have been to one of your many visit locations! We also got stuck on west side road, which actaully peters out at the end.

  4. Rosie says:

    Great purchases Roger – Sylvia looks fabulous.
    Thank you again for a great account of your travels. Hope the steep slopes haven’t put too much strain on your knees.
    Would have liked to see a photo of your car. Xx

  5. judy says:

    hope it wasnt you driving up those steps…your have been known to do that before!!
    love to john and lesley..and to Sylvia (love yr jewellery Sylvia!!)
    have a fabulous time away!!
    Judy & Billy xx

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