Our journey from Venice to Bellagio was uneventful until we boarded the train from Milan to Como. (The entire journey is described here.) Reading our Italian tickets as best we could, we determined we had 45 minutes to get from the Milan train to the Como train, in the same station. Couldn’t be too hard. But an aggressive porter snatched our bags as soon as the train arrived in Milan and ran off (bags in tow) when we showed him our tickets. There wasn’t much for us to do but chase after him.
He sprinted to the Como-bound train and hastily threw our bags aboard. We paid him a seemingly absurd €10 (for ten minutes of work), and joined our bags on the train. As soon as we stepped aboard, the door closed and the train began to move – more than a half hour early!
We had read the tickets wrong of course, misinterpreting our arrival time in Como as our departure time in Milan. Had it not have been for that porter we’d still be standing on the platform, looking for our train. Best ten euros I’ve ever spent.
We took our seats next to a couple that had stashed their bags – BIG bags – in the aisle next to their seats. More people arrived, dragging their bags behind them. They couldn’t get around the bags in the aisle.
In the US, a polite discussion (and probably, an amicable solution) would’ve ensued. This, however, was Italy. Voices were raised. Fists were shaken. Faces turned red with anger. Louise and I cringed in fear of becoming wounded in what was sure to become an ensuing melee. (The Italian language, lyrical and charming under normal conditions, becomes venomous in anger. We’ve seen The Sopranos: these people carry weapons!)
For us, only twenty minutes remained on the train. We figured we could stand in the aisle for that long, safely removed from the fray. We slunk away as inconspicuously as possible. (Which wasn’t very inconspicuous at all: Americans are very tall and very white in Italy.) The scrimmage continued as we watched from a prudent distance, but we saw no bloodshed. Perhaps all that yelling was just the Italian way.
So now we’re in Bellagio on the shores of Lake Como, where pretty boats come and go, flowers bloom outrageously, tony shops and cobblestone streets abound, the sun shines on warm afternoons, and the temperature drops to the low sixties overnight. I visited here on a solo journey in 2001 and vowed to return. Bellagio is that enticing – was then; is now. Our apartment is a tiny studio affair – actually the stable under a converted villa – but it features a large and well-tended garden that’s part of the deal. The garden is ours and ours alone, with a private entrance up a cobbled pathway. Within an hour of our arrival, Louise and I began to discuss returning here next summer.
I’ll post a gallery here (click to enlarge, blah, blah), but there will be more pictures to come.
I had a great laugh at your description of the fight on the Italian train to Bellagio
after almost missing it !! It reminds me of a very similar fight I had on a TGV French train as I was trying to get people seating in our reserved seats ( I was
chaperoning a group of 15 American students) to vacate. I almost got beaten up !!
Your apartment in Bellagio with the private garden looks like a dream
after hot and crowded Venice in the summer (never go there in the summer)
The Como lake is so beautiful. Say hello to Georges Clooney if you see him !!
Mapi — As you would know, reserved seats on a crowded European train are more of a wish than a guarantee. That Milan-to-Como leg was first class, yet because of our late arrival we weren’t able to claim our reserved seats. And yes, this place in Bellagio *is* a dream. Thanks for noticing.
Katharine Doel said:
Sounds and looks heavenly!
Anita Blanchard said:
Ah, wonderful memories. It was our second time in Italy. We flew into Milan and since we had already been there, done that, we took a train in from the airport and took the next train to Verana, I believe. We had a wonderful room with a lake view and we had time to unwind and join the current time (jet lag). We were loath to leave, but adventure and an Italian wedding in the Piedmont awaited.
Anita — Lake Garda, perhaps? I spent one night in Salo at a spectacular hotel on that lake. It was my first Italian experience and an unforgettable one indeed.
Anita Blanchard said:
Nope, Como. I looked it up and I had misspelled. The village was Varenna. We could see Bellagio across the way and took a ferry over there one day. Such a delightful part of the world.
Sorry about the keyboard screwup. Let’s try again.
I have absolutely no sympathy for people with big bags. On our most recent RTW, Terri and I lived for 6 months out of our two, carry-on size, rolling backpacks. It would be different if the big bag folks only made their lives hard, but as your tale relates, they make it miserable for everyone else. Yep, no sympathy from me.
Thanks for the rant, James. Wheeled backpacks — they’re Rick Steves’ preference as well (http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/pack-light.htm). We thought we were smart with a single checked bag and a carry-on (each), and we’re suffering for the decision. (Do you know how many bridges there are in Venice?) When we get to the US in September, we’ll slash our baggage requirement to something more manageable.