It was dark and raining when we arrived into Milan. Our hotel was a little bit out of the centre of the city, but it was perfect for us as since we still had our rental car. It was a huge complex and surprisingly comfortable. In the morning the wind was pushing the small trees we could see from our balcony sideways. The sky was dark and gray and the rain was pelting down. We took our time getting ready and as we went for breakfast the rain magically stopped. We checked out and stored our luggage, and when we went outside the sun was shining and the sky was blue. We couldn’t believe our luck. The hotel was only a few blocks from the metro station so we walked to it to head into the centre.
We exited from the metro in the main plaza with the magnificent, gothic Milan Cathedral in front of us. They have been doing restoration work on it for years. The last time I saw it the front was covered in scaffolding. This day it was cleaned and looked very impressive. We went inside before climbing the 200+ steps to the roof top. We laughed at the simple climb after doing multiple 400+ step towers elsewhere on our journey. We could see across the city to the snowcapped mountains in the distance. What a view! We really enjoyed our time climbing on top of it and being close to the all the intricate design that went into it.
After leaving the Doumo we walked through one of the oldest, grandest malls in Italy, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. We went next door to a restaurant on the rooftop of a high-end department store. There we ate outside on the terrace with a view of the Cathedral; the food was delicious. After browsing through the departments on the way out we made our way to the Golden Square section. Here all of Milan’s designer shops are located in a four block radius. We window shopped but mostly observed the incredibly well-dressed people walking through the neighbourhood. We were really pleased with our visit to Milan.
We left Milan and drove to Lake Como. We stayed off the main highway on the way there to see a little more of the country. After reaching Lake Como we drove up the eastside of the lake to a little town called Torno. This village of 1200 people is where we stayed for two nights. We rented two apartments just off the lakeshore very close to a ferry stop. Doug and Carol took the split level apartment up above the craft store and wine bar, while Leanne and I had the smaller one off the side alley. The apartments were nice and it was incredibly quiet at night.
The following morning it was still sunny and we caught the ferry towards Bellagio. It stopped at many docks along the way. We disembarked at a town called Lenno. Here we caught a water-taxi to the peninsula where Villa Balbianello is located. It was a terrific way to arrive. These beautiful grounds were very familiar because they were used for filming the romance scenes at the end of Star Wars II, and the grounds where James Bond recovers in Casino Royale. After returning to Lenno we decided to walk along the “green” trail towards the next village and Villa Carlotta. While some of the trail was scenic, particularly through a park along the lake we think we deviated in other areas and had to walk along the road. We arrived at the next dock just before the next ferry was arriving. We passed on going into Carlotta to head straight to Bellagio for lunch and to see it before the rain came in. Clouds were already darkening the sky.
I had high expectations for Bellagio, the inspiration for the famous casino in Las Vegas, and felt a bit let down. It could have been the crowds (we arrived on a public holiday) and it could have been the weather, but I just didn’t find the charm I was hoping for. That’s not to say it wasn’t worth seeing. It is a nice little town in a very scenic location. From there we made the long boat journey back to Torno.
The next morning we left Lake Como and decided to drive into neighboring Switzerland so Doug and Carol could add it as a country and see how Lake Lugano compared. From there we returned to Milan and arrived at the rental agency at the exact minute the car needed to be returned. We went to the train station and booked tickets in first class for the trip to Venice.