Since we didn't have the headphones, we were relying on others to tell us about the sights we were passing. Luckily, a family of four from Minnesota or Wisconsin or some other friendly midwestern state, excitedly relayed everything. We gradually came to realize that we all took the slow ferry for the same reason: George Clooney. From the beginning, before we even pulled out of the dock at Como, some middle-aged women behind us were daydreaming about the possibility of seeing him.
"Do you think he'll be home, Shirley?"
"Well, I don't know. It's summer time and this is where I'd be if I had a villa in Italy. I'm sure the chances are good, Evelyn."
"I can't wait to meet him!!"
I freely admit that I had my camera poised and ready to capture George at Villa Oleandra. Perhaps his girlfriend and maybe even his good friends Cindy Crawford and Brad Pitt would be sipping wine with him on a veranda. They would wave happily at our ferry, filled with throngs of tourists snapping photos like paparazzi. And then, miraculously, George would signal to me. He would hold up a sign reading, "I know it's your birthday! We're having a party for you! Please, come over!" And I would jump off the ferry and swim across Lake Como gracefully, like Esther Williams. George, Cindy, and Brad would pull me up from the water and envelop me in a luxurious robe with my initials stitched onto the front. Then they would give me presents and we would have dinner at Villa d'Este.
I'm not crazy like all the other women on the ferry; I didn't put too much thought into a chance meeting with George.
|Villa de Clooney|
Alas, we never saw George. I think some of the women convinced themselves that he was home but maybe he was just in the shower or grocery store. Otherwise he surely would've invited a gaggle of Canadian, American, Australian, and various European admirers into his estate. It's amazing how far-reaching his celebrity is.
Next up was Villa La Cassinella in Lenno. It's the property of Virgin mogul Sir Richard Branson and reportedly rents for a cool 80,000 Euros per WEEK. But it comes with all the fancy trimmings one would expect for that price tag: a chef, concierge, English-trained butler, a hidden infinity pool, and state-of-the-art cinema. I'm considering staying there next time, if George & Co. are out of town of course.
|Villa La Cassinella|
One of my favorite properties was the Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Tremezzo. It's a 5-star property dating back to the early 1900's. Meticulously-landscaped gardens surround the palace and the lake views must be stunning. I'd love to take a dip in the floating pool!
|Grand Hotel Tremezzo|
After the architecture-overload, we finally arrived in Bellagio. We had several hours to spend in town before catching another ferry back to Como. It was already after noon and we were starving, so we decided to find a good place for lunch. We walked away from the tourist-lined streets and vendors selling postcards and ended up on a charming side street. As we made our way up the cobbled steps, a low-hanging wooden sign caught our attention. We glanced inside Enoteca Cava Turacciolo and immediately decided we'd found our spot.
It felt as if we were walking into a private wine cellar. The damp air smelled ancient but the dark atmosphere was lit by glowing candles and festooned with fresh flowers-- cozy and welcoming. Another reason we decided to stay was the boisterous laughter emanating from a room deep in the cellar. A large party was having a wine tasting and also, from the sounds of their mirth, the time of their lives. We sat down at a high-top for two near the entrance and were immediately waited on by a friendly woman. We decided to have a tasting of 3 reds and 3 whites, along with some champagne to start. We paired it with local cheeses, pastas, and olives.
Bellagio is a small resort so we kept running into them after we'd all left Enoteca Cava Turacciolo. We heard them before we saw them, their voices always animated and cheerful with lots of, "Ooooooh! Did y'all see that?!" and, "Wow, I ain't never seen a place like this in my life!" They reminded me of home, and made me miss it.
We spent a long time at the wine tasting so we ended the last hour in Bellagio with a walk around the waterfront. We cooled down with some tasty gelato as we watched ferries and boats come in and out of the harbor. The highlight of our harbor-watching was seeing a bride and groom in a taxi-boat on the way to Varenna.
We took the fast ferry back to Como. It cut the travel time down to 40 minutes so we were there in time for dinner. The concierge at our hotel recommended a restaurant close by called The Market Place. We didn't have reservations but the staff found a spot for us in the small dining room. The kitchen was open and we watched the chef carefully and lovingly prepare and inspect each dish before it went out to patrons. We chose the 50 Euros tasting menu, paired with international and Italian wines. It was amazing! The dishes were original and inventive. The lasagnette with potato and leeks was particularly delicious. All of the staff were incredible and it was a great value. All in all, a remarkable meal and one of my favorites in recent memory.
I was sad to leave the sunny shores of Lake Como. The wine, food, sights, and people made for an unforgettable vacation and birthday. Though we didn't meet George Clooney, running into all of the Americans in Bellagio was just as exciting. Who needs George and James Bond when you're already in a dream world of inexpensive wine, creamy gelato, delectable pasta, mountains, a deep blue lake, and sunny skies.
Molte grazie, Lake Como! And give my regards to George.