Monday, April 1, 2013

Grand Tour of Italy Day 3 Lake Como, Tremezzo and Bellagio

Day 3 Monday March 18, 2013
The alarm woke us up at 6:30 AM; shower and breakfast at 7 AM. Coffee with warm milk, ACE orange drink (very yummy), various breads (pane), meats, and cheeses. Quite filling but nothing really special. The talk in the breakfast room was of the fog, rain and snow.

We're hearing that this is very unusual weather for March. Oh well. Umbrellas-YES, warm clothes-MAYBE, did you pack them? Boots-I wish.

All aboard for our ride to Como. Where's Gregory??
Today we bus from Lecco to Como, then Como to Tremezzo to visit the Villa Carlotta, then some of us will board a water taxi for a boat ride around Lake Como.

On the bus, tour director Misia Massa starts to give us a little history about the area. Lake Como was found by Caesar in 46 BC. It became very famous for its silk trade. The Duomo was built in the 14th century and the stone cutters became very famous for their skills. Como is a walled city and in the middle ages the gates were closed at sunset to protect the folks inside the mighty wall.

From Wikipedia
It is commonly described as the last Gothic cathedral built in Italy: construction on it, on the site of the earlier Romanesque cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Maggiore, began in 1396, 10 years after the foundation of Milan Cathedral. The construction works, started under the supervision of Lorenzo degli Spazzi di Laino, did not finish until 1770 with the raising of the Rococo cupola by Filippo Juvarra. The imposing west front was built between 1457 and 1498 and features a rose window and a portal between two statues of Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, natives of Como.

It is 87 metres long, from 36 to 56 metres wide, and 75 metres high into the top of the cupola. It has a Latin Cross floor plan with a central nave and two side aisles, separated by pillars, and a Renaissance transept, with the imposing cupola over the crossing. The apses and the choir are from the 16th century. The interior has some important tapestries from cartoons by Arcimboldo, and others of the 16th and 17th centuries, made in Ferrara, Florence and Antwerp. There are also a number of 16th century paintings by Bernardino Luini and Gaudenzio Ferrari.


After visiting the Duomo we walked around the town. The architecture was stunning, even in the rain.
More town images

We stopped at La Nouvelle Galerie at Piazza Duomo 19 for Pizza quattro formaggi and panini caprese. And of course some espresso and cafe americano. We paid about 16 euros for lunch. Then back on the bus for the ride up to Tremezzo. 
Tremezzo is a comune (or municipality) of some 1300 people in the Province of Como, in the Italian region Lombardy. We are heading to Villa Carlotta.
More Images of Villa Carlotta
The architect who designed the villa is unknown. It was completed in 1745 and remained in the hands of Marquis Clerici until 1795, when it passed by marriage to the banker and Napoleonic politician Giambattista Sommariva, who added a pediment and clock. In 1843, it was given as a wedding present by Princess Marianna of Prussia to her daughter Charlotte, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen, after whom the villa is named.

The snow in the botanical gardens was impressive but sad. The oranges and lemons were not happy.
After a walk around the museum (no photos allowed) and a very cold walk around the gardens our group split up. Some returned to Lecco and some of us boarded a water taxi for a tour of Lake Como.
The villas along the lake are just amazing. It is the summer playground of the SUPER rich and famous. Including one alleged owned by Richard Branson (Virgin Atlantic) that you can rent if you can come up with the dough!

Villa La Cassinella--Built at the end of the 19th century, the original owners were the Comasco industrialist family who created magnificent gardens around the property. There is a stunning 3 hectares of cypress trees, boxwood hedges, vines of wisteria and jasmine, flowering dogwoods, azaleas, plus tree peonies and roses.  This villa can only be accessed by boat or helicopter. There is a central courtyard, an upper terrace, a teak-decked infinity pool, lined in glass tiles, a tennis court, home cinema and magnificent Lake views.

Bond, James Bond...And Star Wars...
Villa del BalbianelloIn the spring of 2006, the movie Casino Royale was filmed in front of the villa. The villa doubles as a hospital where James Bond (Daniel Craig) is recovering, together with Vesper (Eva Green) and where the Swiss banker comes to get the code to transfer the money.

Built for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini at the end of the XVIII century, the Villa stands on the tip of a steep promontory overlooking Lake Como, almost opposite Bellagio. Today, the villa has the appearance desired by its last owner, the explorer Guido Monzino, with a rich collection of Chinese, African and pre-Colombian art, precious English and French furniture of the 1700s and the small museum with documents and mementoes of his expeditions. Yet the true masterpiece is the panoramic terraced garden dominated by the elegant "loggia" with three arches rising on the highest point of the promontory.

The same villa can also be seen in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones.

The Villa is now owned by Fondo per l'Ambiente Italiano (FAI). A private, non-profit trust, FAI receives sites of historic, artistic and naturalist value through donations, bequests or loans for use, restores them, opens them to the public and ensures that everyone can enjoy them.

After the lake cruise we walked around Bellagio for a while. Images can be seen here. We stopped for espresso and beer at the Bar Pasticceria Sanremo. Two beers, espresso and tea came to about 17 euros.

Then off to a group dinner at the Hotel Suisse Bellagio. Dinner was pasta with cabbage, potato and taleggio cheese sauce. Followed by beef in a barolo gravy. Dessert was fresh fruit.

The drive back to Lecco was a little harrowing! The roads are so narrow, I'm really not sure how buses get around during hi-season. Several times our AMAZING bus driver Alfonso would pull over in the most narrow of pull offs and let other buses/trucks pass. Or he would "beep" at other cars in the opposite lane and these people would back up for the bus...and not slowly, around curves, in the dark...these drivers were insane.

We also saw a donkey eating grass in someone's yard just outside of Bellagio.
Back to Lecco and our hotel. Luggage outside the door and 7 AM, breakfast at 7 AM, bus at 8AM.

Our next stop is Verona on our way to Venice!
Pubblicare domani!!! (Post tomorrow)
Lake Como March 18 Day 3
Grand Tour of Italy
Go Ahead Tours 
March 16-30, 2013
Copyright ©2013 Nancy Nutile-McMenemy
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