Lake Como, Italy – Parte Terza

I swear this is my final advertisement – I mean blog post – for Lake Como. Sunday was our last day of vacation with the Pritchards. [We left early Monday morning to drive all the way back to Venice and then fly to Chișinău.] But there was still so much to do! I think we rehashed our plans multiple times between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Should we see a villa? Which one? What about rain? Maybe the war museum in Dongo?

It didn’t help that our Air BnB host was the most gracious one I have ever experienced. Every time we encountered him he was either 1) working in a garden 2) delivering homemade jams or homegrown potatoes 3) delivering firewood for our evening fires 4) offering up an endless stream of amazing activities which included but was not limited to using his kayaks and taking us on a guided mountain tour. Did I mention that he was a retired veterinarian with hipster glasses, white hair, and a very open heart?

I digress. What I mean to say is that thanks to our host’s suggestions, we decided to visit Villa Carlotta.

Villa Carlotta

Villas really seem to be a dime a dozen in Italy. My sister-in-law compared them to McDonald’s in the U.S. We drove by many on our way up and down the Lake Como coast. And in a classic Carolyn move, I’m all like “Well…I mean…we can see the Villa from the road….what else is there to see by going in?” And, of course, I was totally wrong and ended up being quite happy that we paid the entrance fee and went.

I actually think one of my favorite parts of the villa was not the building itself, but rather the extensive gardens surrounding it.

Daniel mimicking a little fountain gnome statue. Do you see that pool along the lake?
This is a very intense sign for a part of the path that was definitely not this intense. My favorite part is where we are told to proceed in an orderly and quiet manner on the steep slopes – leaning in to the side of the mountain

But the villa itself was lovely, too. The first floor was designed more like a museum, with mostly empty rooms featuring statues or pieces of art on the wall. The upstairs – accessed by an old-fashioned elevator – held displays of period piece furniture. And through it all I found my eye catching all the beautiful details – mosaic floors, intricately painted ceilings, the blending of stone and plant life…

Up the elevator to the top floor of the villa

We finished our tour, stopped for some dessert (duh), and then decided to drive back up and past our Air BnB toward a castle that seems to now be maintained as private homes.

Strolling around the neighborhood castle

We did a lot of exploring on foot during this trip and I loved it! The ironic part is that most of our exploration was in tourist-marked areas….so maybe not true exploration in that sense. But when we strolled around the neighborhood castle, I really felt like we were discovering something that not every person in Lake Como does.

For starters, we parked in a random neighborhood parking lot off the main road. Then we just started walking. The neighborhood around the castle was very, very deserted. Whereas in other neighborhoods we saw more people and signs of inhabitance, on this walk we saw just one other family in one of the apartments.

After winding our way down more narrow, cobble-stoned paths, we arrived at the lakes edge. It seems all roads lead to either mountains or water in Lake Como. Here we were able to scramble along some rocks, explore what we think are fishing perches, and the boys again got to partake in Favorite Activity #2 (throwing rocks in water).

We think this is a fishing perch

An evening walk into the hills

We all finally returned to our Air BnB after a full day of exploring. But knowing that this was the last hurrah for Daniel and myself, I really wanted to do just a little more exploring. I set my sights on a walk along some of the inland paths – the ones that wind up from the water and then snake through the houses and villages nestled on the hillsides. Daniel is both nice and legally bound to me, so he came along.

Even after all the beautiful vistas we had seen over the past few days, I was still catching my breath on our walk. It was magical to walk almost right through private property along a narrow, beaten dirt path; to look to the right and see and vegetable garden, and then to look to the left and see a pen of sheep – and all of this with water and mountains off in the distance.

I could have walked for days and days in those hills. And what of bicycling the mountain roads? Or kayaking the glassy lake? Daniel and I felt that we could spend months on end at Lake Como and still barely experience all that this area has to offer.

So I end my post with this final plug. You should seriously consider coming here. Milan is just a 1-2 hour drive away. Fly there, rent a car, and cozy down into an Air BnB (we would recommend our host hands-down). If you are afraid of crazy summer crowds then come in the off-season like we did. Or – just wait until Daniel and I discover some buried treasure and buy a house in this part of the world. Then you all can come visit us whenever you would like.