After two nights without sleep (+/- time changes) and 18 hours jetting eastward we landed in Milan, Italy. This was our first time on Italian soil since the study abroad tip of 2005 we so fondly remember. We got off to a late start due to two airport delays. The first at our connection in Philadelphia and the second upon landing in Milan, where despite the captain’s self proclaimed “textbook landing” we blew a tire and had to be taxied to the gate. By the time we got to the car rental counter we were already two hours late, slicing off two hours of our already limited Lake Como time. We set off in our Lancia rental car with only hours to go before we were scheduled to meet Bryan’s distant family at 3pm in a village about an hour away.
At 9AM we headed from Milan’s airport toward Lake Como. Megan was behind the wheel with her trusty navigator Bryan at her side. The reason for this arrangement is that the Lancia is a manual and Bryan has yet to hone his cultch skills. In addition, our last European driving adventure where Bryan was driving and Megan was navigating resulted in some rather heated exchanges, so we decided to take our chances with this arrangement.
The drive started off good and it felt great to be back. As we passed our first tollbooth only paying a modest toll (for European roads) of €2 we appeared to be making good time. Just after the toll booth, our directions instructed us to take the first exit which lead to a roundabout. Confusion about which way to exit led us out the roundabout the same way we had come in. Normally, this could have been corrected by a harmless U-turn, but here we had to pay 2 extra tolls before we were on the right road to Mennagio. We quickly rebounded from the ding of the unnecessary extra tolls once we saw our first view of the beautiful Lake Como from the road.
Como: A love story
The road meandered along the lake, peached high on the hills as we passed through tiny towns on the way to our destination. Taking in the “bellisimo” view, we couldn’t help but think that George Clooney must be a genius. In Como we visited two towns: Mennagio and Bellagio, running out of time for Vernazza, where we had heard was considered the 3rd jewel on the lake. After some gelato and a lakeside stroll we drove onto the ferry headed for Bellagio, the tiny town that the sadly more famous mega-Vegas hotel is named after (we can’t tell why). The waterfront town was tiny, but still challenging to explore due to the tiny hilly streets.
We spent as much time as possible in Lake Como before it was high time to head over to Ghisalba, but Lake Como wouldn’t let us go so easy. The way back was a treacherous one, only magnified by a exhausted driver and a stick shift. You see, the road we took from Bellagio to the highway was as windy as they come, as high up on cliffs as they come, as one lane with two way traffic as they come and seemed like as long as they come. Adding to that was the lack of railings that added to the danger of it all. Megan handled them like a champ. Miles and miles of very narrow and very windy roads on the edge of very steep cliffs on very little sleep in the past 72 hours is a terrible combination.