Villa Carlotta View from Third Floor Ballroom
This is one of those totally counterintuitive travel surprises. I thought Lake Como would be a feast for the visual and taste senses – gorgeous villas and fresh lake fish. The auditory senses were pretty much overwhelmed by the automobile traffic around the lake but I was in for a surprise. Once relaxed in my lovely B&B near Laglio with a fabulous view of Lake Como, I was eager to explore. George Clooney spends his summers here in the Villa Oleandra and I can easily see why. James Bond recovered here after his torture scene in Casino Royale. This is the perfect spot to recharge.
Yes, it was the auditory sense that made my first night memorable; the evening song of the nightingale. I’m not a bird fan and I’m not particularly gifted when it comes to music appreciation. I had also heard the nightingale in Spain and France. This was different. The song was so intense and passionate, it made the intense and passionate Italian speech I heard all around me seem dull. Maybe by June, the male nightingale is just desperate for a mate, but the little guy made Caruso sound like a bored teenager.
After my harrowing hike against Italian traffic to Laglio where I gaped at George Clooney’s villa and pigged out on lake fish at La Locanda del Cantiere I was ready for a break on the terrace of my B&B soaking up the sunshine and stunning view of the lake. That’s when I snapped to the magnificence of the bird. We read Keat’s “Ode to a Nightingale” in school but we certainly didn’t have an inkling of what he was talking about. I read it again on my ipad and “got it.”
The next day after another fabulous breakfast, my host, Allesandro, at the Ca Spiga B&B in the tiny hamlet of Torriggia Alta, explained the bus system to me and recommended that I visit Villa Carlotta before catching the ferry to Bellagio. Allesondro had thoughtfully picked up bus tickets for me (I had forgotten to do so when I arrived in Como.) In no time I found myself in Caddenabbia looking with dismay at the long line of tourists waiting to get into the Villa Carlotta. I hesitated but joined the crowd and was very glad I did. It was the second day in June, cool and sunny. I would have been nuts to miss it. If you are only going to see one museum/villa/garden on Lake Como, this is the one to go for. On this second day, the sensual experience that most surprised me was the complex mixture of scents. There were so many – roses, jasmine, orange blossoms among many, many others that I felt as if I might swoon. I only wish I had packed a picnic lunch so I could have stayed all day. What’s more, I am certain one couldn’t have a better view of Bellagio across the lake.
Now I understand why Rick Steves makes such a big deal out of local family-run B&Bs. This “country villa” right on the lake has been in Allesandro’s family for generations. He and his family could not have been kinder or more helpful. They had a real stake in me experiencing absolute delight in their home and their hamlet. Needless to say, other than the scary Italian traffic, I experienced nothing but absolute delight during my stay at Lake Como. My only advice is to make sure you buy bus tickets upon arriving and pack a picnic lunch for all of your outings!
Allesandro in the Ca Spiga B&B kitchen