An invite to Lenno on Lake Como for a wedding made the perfect excuse to explore the region. Lenno was a charming cobbled stone village, complete with original roman road, which made for a picture perfect wedding in a 14th century monastery right on the lake shore. Congratuations Mr and Mrs Cavey!
Before the trip I hadimagined Lake Como as an overhyped Hollywood lakeside resort, not somewhere I had a particular desire to visit. But here is the thing I have learnt about the places the rich and famous have holidayed for generations. They tend to have a point.
We took the train up to the lake from Milan to Varenna and then a ferry across to the Western shore. It was a superb journey up the side of the lake on the train, with cursory glimpses of the lake’s beauty. The buses on the other hand were much less frequent and painfully slow.
Lake Como is jaw-droppingly beautiful, lined with steep green hills which collapse into the deep blue green water. Menaggio is a quaint little town on its shore with no more than a town square and a dock. We rented a house up on the hillside which was superb for lake views. We worked with lakecomohomes who were very professional and made the logistics easy.
The food was superb. Osteria il Pozzo right on the square was delicious but it’s La Baita that’s worthy of special mention. This modest family run place was high up the hill overlooking the lake. There is no menu – just sit back and enjoy the plethora of treats that turn up in endless procession. We had four delicious courses which with wine came to 40 euros per person. Well, well worth the trek.
A boat tour of the lake was another highlight. Forget George Clooney, the lake shore is rich in cultural history whose residents were the source of scandal for generations of European high society. We took a dip in the crystal clear, freezing waters which is not for the faint hearted.
The final stop: Milan
After Florence and Lake Como, Milan was just another big unforgiving city. Persevere as a visit to the Last Supper alone makes it worthwhile.
Even for the art novice The Last Supper was a showstopper. It is worth all the pre-planning. Viewing slots are highly sought after despite the museum being open from 815am-7pm six days a week and viewing restricted to 15 minutes. Book well in advance. Depending on when you book you may only be able to get in with a city tour which includes the Castle Sforzesco and a tour guide. While frustrating to the independent traveler it is still worth it. That being said, even if you have not secured a place in advance, go down to the entrance anyway. It is worth checking if there are any spare places since if anyone turns up late their ticket is resold.
It pays to do your homework beforehand so that once in front of the masterpiece you can just soak it in. Else by the time you have listened to the explanation you are being ushered out again. The painting has gone under a painstaking restoration process over the last 20 years and that it has survived at all is miraculous. To stand before it was an honour. Acutely aware that the 15 minutes was ticking away I got lost in the scene, gazing through the windows which carry you right into that dining hall.
The rest of our afternoon was spent close to the Duomo. The cathedral is a powerful sight, reminiscent of La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. It is gothic in style and whimsically domineering. The best view of the architecture is on the roof, which you reach by elevator or the stairs. Complete your day with a brisk walk through La Galleria which leads you right out to La Scala, the world famous opera house. From there you can jump the #1 tram back up to the castle, or stay on for a full loop of the center.