Lake Como is a lovely lake resort area. Notable human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin recently married George Clooney there, and the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas is named after one of the small towns that dot the lake. We stayed in a charming apartment overlooking a castle and the lakeside town of Varenna....or more accurately, overlooking a dense cloud bank that periodically thinned enough to reveal said view. Rainy, chilly weather made our brief stay on the lake a little different than we´d expected, but we made the most of it.
Simon chose our apartment (via AirB&B) for the romantic hilltop location and views. Roberto, the owner, picked us up at the train station, and as he drove us up the steep, winding hillside road to the apartment, he pointed out the entrance to a rocky footpath: "you walk 10 minutes to Varenna." That evening, the rain dried up, and we decided to head down the trail for dinner in downtown Varenna. I decided it would be a good idea to wear ballet flats....how tricky could a 10-minute walk be?
The path was comprised of stone and dirt stairs roughly carved into the steep hillside, interrupted by stretches of gravelly trail. Since it had been raining all day long, the trail was slippery with mud and wet moss. Thank God we thought to bring along our headlamps (didn´t think we´d be using those until Nepal...). Simon walked ahead of me, and nearly gave me a heart attack as he slipped several times, his arms flying up as he regained balance each time without falling. Since my shoes didn´t have much traction, I picked along carefully, clutching at the mossy stone walls of the hillside residences that bordered sections of the trail. Neither of us fell, but it took us about 25 minutes to get down to the town, where we found a small cafe near the trail base.
We later found out that we hadn´t quite made it to downtown Varenna, but rather to Olivedo, a cluster of businesses on the town´s outskirts. In any case, dinner was tasty, despite holding back on the wine in anticipation of our homeward hike. It was actually much easier going up than down in terms of footing, and though we emerged at the top breathless and sweating, it only took 10 minutes. We noticed several large slugs in the trail on the way up, and I teased Simon that he´d probably been slipping on them on the way down.
It rained hard all night, and the wonderfully accommodating Roberto offered to drive us down to Varenna in the morning (the trail was probably more like a waterfall at that point), and we braved sheets of windy rain on the ferry to check out the towns of Bellagio and Menaggio. The area reminded me of Sausalito in the Bay Area - intentionally picturesque, with cute cafes and shops. The towns are built on hillsides, and we climbed stairs to reach each successive level of shop-lined streets. Our stubborn resolve to tour Lake Como in the rain left us drenched by the end of the day, but the silver lining was discovering a gem of a market in Varenna where we purchased fresh homemade raviolis for dinner that night, which we cooked in our apartment. We also picked up some grappa, which made us feel like Hemingway characters. In San Francisco, there´s an Italian deli called Lucca on 24th and Valencia that sells delicious raviolis that they make from scratch in the shop. When we go home and resume our ravioli shopping at Lucca, we´ll probably always be reminded of the ones we ate in Italy.