We had decided long ago lake como was going to be our day two goal. We had finally bought train tickets the night before and were now committed to an early rise for the hour ride north.
The weather was terrible. Overcast and grey, it poured on us walking to the station. Damp on the train, we weren’t very optimistic when we got our first glimpse of lake, mountaintops dancing in and out of clouds. Stepping off the train into a rain rapidly turning to downpour, and ten degrees cooler than the Milan we had left, did not bode well.
The town of Varrena was picturesque even in these conditions. We steeled ourselves with a snack from a local market amongst the small list open at such an early time. A small loop around town saw the rain ease up, a million photos taken of the lake and narrow streets. We felt optimistic enough to try and find the Castello di Vezio, an old fortification dating back centuries, possibly to Roman times.
Having only read that a path takes you up out of town, we kept walking until we saw our first sign for the castle. Leading up smaller and smaller roads, twisting up the hillside, it eventually pointed into the brush at the top of a set of stairs. Having come as far as we did, we ascended into the greenery. A steep, narrow path awaited, wet shrubbery dampening our clothes the whole way up. Tremendous views persisted as we wound through olive tree groves dotting the steep terrain.
The sudden widening, and cobble paving, of the path let us know we were close. A few signs and a gravel path led us to the castles grounds, well maintained and showing off interesting sculptures, including eerie white ghostly figures made by draping plaster sheets over volunteers in a festival every year.
The tower had an amazing 360 degree view that was met with slowly clearing skies. We inspected a neat WWI bunker carved into the stone beneath the grounds, and then started our descent. We saw a sign with a much shorter time estimate pointing in the opposite direction we had come up. Turns out we had gone too far, missing one small sign in town, and had come up the hard way. Oops.
Back in Varenna, we bought tickets and boarded the ferry to Bellagio. It was just as beautiful as we had read and been told, and was full of tourists, both from local and afar, frequently of the upper end of society, dressed in wonderful designer outfits. A quick lunch with great people watching, and a bottle of rosé, rounded out our afternoon there.
Another ferry took us to the opposite, eastern shore of the lake. It was now mostly sunny and warming up, really a beautiful day. We admired a collection of gorgeous villas that had been built in the town of Cadenabbia. We decided to attempt walking to the next town along the lake since it had direct ferries back to Varrena, instead of going back to Bellagio and having to wait for a transfer.
A long and harrowing walk, often along the narrow road, saw us to Menaggio, where we made our rounds through town before a brief rest waiting for the ferry. Another photogenic crossing of the lake and we were back where we started. We hiked back up to the train station and grabbed refreshments for a brief wait for our train.
We had worked up quite an appetite, and had already decided to return to the same quaint restaurant as the night before, a large menu of items we had yet to try. We were not disappointed, trying both staff recommendations that were unique, and fantastic traditional dishes done simply and well. Full of great food and a few liters of wine, we retired for the evening.