Bellagio is a town on the shore of Lake Como in Italy. It is also, as one of the more percipient of our commenters once pointed out, the most Anglicised town on the lake. Nevertheless, shoulder your way through the throngs of Pearly Kings and Queens and ignore the near continuous frontage of pubs selling Watneys Red Barrel and blasting out Chas & Dave’s Greatest Hits on continual loop, for Bellagio is still a charming and pretty place.
Seen on the map, Lake Como resembles an inverted letter ‘y’, and Bellagio sits just below where the short and long strokes required to form the character meet. This means that Bellagio is at the hub of the network of the ferry routes that criss-cross the lake, and is hence very convenient for tootling around on the water and visiting other lacustrine towns. The ferries are reasonably cheap and very frequent, and a ferry journey is a pleasure in and of itself.
Some people also profess to see the figure of a running man in the shape of Lake Como. This would mean that Bellagio, situated at the intersection of the two ‘legs’, forms the chap’s groinal area. Despite considerable correspondence on my part, the Lake Como Tourist Board has so far declined to use this image in its promotion of the place: ‘Bellagio – L’inguine del lago’. A pity, that. Could be something really special.
The church of San Stefano at Lenno, a short ferry ride from Bellagio, isn’t that inspiring. The exterior is typical of the bland, stuccoed Seventeenth Century confections that form the bulk of the ecclesiastical architecture in the region; although the campanile is conspicuously and incongruously much earlier. The interior, too, is much more the wife’s thing than mine. Whilst I can objectively appreciate the louring grandeur of the Baroque, the overall effect is to call to mind those uncomfortable and protracted interviews in the Headmaster’s office which were such a distressingly regular feature of my time at Big Skool. This, upon reflection, is probably precisely the point. We’ve been to the church a few times now, but on this occaision there was a little door open leading to the crypt, and a polite sign inviting you to step down and have a gander.
To be honest, I nearly swooned when I got down there. At some point in the Sixth Century, a Christian chapel was sunk into the foundations of a structure five hundred years older. Some of the pillars are from a Second Century building, and the Lombards conducted a major rebuilding of the fabric sometime around 850 AD. There are early Christian tombstones set into the walls, some Gothic vaulting in the ceiling, and the place is a veritable riot of post-Roman stonework and bodging. Quite the little treasure trove, but it was like an oven down there and Mrs B was waiting upstairs, so after a cursory survey I snapped a few pics and emerged, blinking, into the sunlight in the piazza outside the church.
One morning I woke abruptly, well before sunrise. Further sleep was impossible, so I got dressed and walked down to the lake. At that ungodly hour the streets were deserted, and I had the place to myself. It was so very quiet and peaceful. There was nobody, not a soul around.
In the darkness by the water’s edge, a solitary loon paddled in the shallows and occasionally vented forth a hoarse and plaintive cry. For a moment I wondered if it was somebody that I recognised from off of here but, no, it was just a member of the order Gaviiformes. Nevertheless I bade the little chap a polite ‘Buona Sera‘, and we went our ways amicably enough.
A few hours later, as the dawn broke and the town bustled back to life, I ambled up the hill to the apartment. On the way I bought some bread, cheese and ham. When I got indoors, I put the coffee on to brew and waited for Mrs B to drift gently towards waking.
As somebody who is perfectly capable of looking like a complete prune without the necessity of riding in a public conveyance that looks like an oversized Fisher-Price toy, it took the wife a while to convince me of their virtues. We’ve seen these chaps elsewhere, in Spain, Greece and also Portugal, I think. They actually form quite a useful little part of the local transport nexus. They’re reasonably cheap with a flexible fare system, allowing for multiple breaks in the journey, and they often touch upon places not easily otherwise accessible. Have a look at their route and your itinerary, and you might be pleasantly surprised.
The drivers are, also, an engagingly raffish and piratical crew. I assume that some sort of franchise system is in operation, and a useful phrase to learn in the local lingo in this context is the equivalent of ‘I have just paid for a ticket, so I would like you to actually give me a ticket.’ In Italian: ‘Ho appena pagato per un biglietto, quindi mi piacerebbe che tu mi dia un biglietto, you thieving pikey bastard‘.
Well, my goodness me, any more of this blether and I’ll be writing over the address bit, and then where would we be? Not at the desired postcode, I’ll warrant. Just got time to say the weather’s gorgeous, and we’re enjoying ourselves hugely. Wish you were here,
bobo and Mrs B xxx
PS You won’t forget to feed the cat, will you? Otherwise he’ll go Radio Rental and start dragging the neighbours’ kids down again. Ta.
© Bobo 2018