I enjoy visiting European cities and exploring their history, food and architecture. This year it was Milan and Lake Como, both Italian destinations, which can not be more different. Milan is a huge bustling metropolis full of life and colour, though it lacks the character you’ll find in cities like Barcelona or Rome, which are set against a backdrop of spectacular historical sights. Milan is more of a commercial centre with lots of traffic, trains and trams (the 3Ts). The city is, as expected, dotted with coffee shops and pizzerias like in any other Italian city. Como on the contrary is a small city set by a huge lake in a mountainous region.
We (with my wife) stayed in the bustling area of Navigli in Milan (named after the Naviglio Grande canal which runs through the northern Italian region of Lombardy). This area is full of bohemian, hipsters and trendy types relaxing after a hard day’s work in the city. Lined with cafes, bars and restaurants, this area comes alive at night with music, chatter and the rattling of wine glasses.
We treated ourselves to a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine outside a hip restaurants one evening, and just watched the night close in on this beautiful area. The weather was warm, the music smooth and the wine was…well, red.
We spent four nights in Milan and during this time we visited The Duomo, the limestone coloured cathedral that sits majestically in the heart of Milan. The Duomo is about the main attraction in Milan and just next to it is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the huge indoor luxury shopping centre. We had a nice time looking into Gucci, Prada and Louis Vuitton shops. Some items in these shops would cost me my whole year’s salary….before tax!
After exploring the sights, sounds and aroma of Milan, we went off on the fast train to Como, further north of Lombardy, close to the Swiss border, to spend three nights. As we approached on the train, we could sense that this area is like no other in Italy. Far into the distance we could see mountains covered in green vegetation and houses perched in the most impossible angles around these mountains. I immediately thought whether any of these belonged to the American actor George Clooney, who is popularly known to own a property around this area.
We spent three nights in Como and it is one of the most spectacular areas I have ever visited.
During our stay in Como, we decided to take a trip to one of the mountain towns and we picked Bellagio, an old town steeped in history of power struggles between affluent Italian families in the middle ages. The villas that we see dotted around the Como mountains were once home to the creme de la creme of Italian society who made these villas statements of their wealth. Bellagio was around an hour by bus from Como but this is a bus journey like no other as you are blessed with the most stunning sites of the lake from high up in the mountains with the road winding through quaint Italian villages. It is not for the faint hearted though as the roads were quite narrow with cars having to stop for each other around bends and corners, and deep cliffs on the road sides into the lake.
Bellagio is a small but beautiful town with cobbled streets and colourful houses. We just milled around the town looking into shops and watching the world go by. We had lunch in a pizzeria overlooking the lake which was relaxing to say the least.
We spent a total of 7 nights in sunny Italy and returned home, stepping out of the plane into a cold, wet and rainy Heathrow. Back to reality I muttered to myself!