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Back Across the Pond

October 3, 2022

After returning home from Athens I was grateful for a few nights in my own bed and the chance to do my laundry the right way, not in my hotel room sink. But my next adventure came up fast, and after three days at home off I went to Italy, for a walking trip in the Lakes District. My window seat on the flight from Zurich to Milan treated me to these views of the Alps.

The drive to Bellagio, on the shores of Lake Como was, first of all, hair-raising — fortunately, I wasn’t driving. But it was one of the most scenic drives I ever experienced. Consider that these shots were taken from a moving car… It’s no wonder George and Amal Clooney chose to have a home here.

I met up with my group and our leader, Alessandro, at our home for the next three nights, the Belvedere Hotel, and we went into the town for a guided walk of the gardens of the Villa Serbelloni. This park is accessible only by guided tour and covers about 50 acres at the top of the promontory on which Bellagio sits. As beautiful as it was on this early October day, it takes little imagination to picture what it must be like in the spring and summer when the azaleas and rhododendrons are in riotous bloom. The path climbs steadily upward to afford expansive views of the two forks of the lake.

The villa pictured above was built at the end of the 19th century, and after changing hands a few times was acquired by American Ella Walker (daughter of the distiller Hiram Walker), who donated it to the Rockefeller Foundation in 1959, which manages it to this day. It continues to serve as a retreat for artists, writers and scholars, who apply for grants to live and study/work there for short periods; and conferences sponsored by the UN and various NGOs are held there as well.

The next day (Monday) Alessandro guided us through the town and the Basilica San Giacomo, with its 16th century golden altar and frescoed apses.

Another garden, the Melzi, was even more stunning than the Serbelloni. Francesco Melzi d’Eril was vice president of the Italian Republic under Napoleon, and constructed a villa and gardens as his summer home on Lake Como between 1808 and 1813, after he retired from public life. There are many species of trees and plants from around the world, including sequoias from California, palms from Chile, cypress trees from Florida and stately cedars from Lebanon. Japanese maples bend gracefully over a koi pond, and plane trees trained like bonsai form a green roof over the path. Neoclassical statues are found along the paths that wind along the lake, including the one below of Dante and his lover.

We wound up our day with a wine tasting accompanied by local hams, salami, cheese and buckwheat pasta and potatoes, a toothsome local specialty sort of like fettuccine Alfredo. It was a fun day, and I was glad to start getting to know my nine fellow walkers, a collegial group from Dallas, New Orleans and South Carolina.

From → Italy, Uncategorized

One Comment
  1. Amy E. Thompson permalink

    Diana you are my hero!! Never stop traveling or posting!!

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