Monday, March 18, 2019


My airline of choice (Air France) and its partners no longer have a direct flight from Warsaw to Milan. The fares are great -- competitive with the discount airlines -- but in flying with them, I have to always first go to Amsterdam or Paris. And that means that I have to fly out very very early, or else I may as well write off the day completely to travel, which is ridiculous because in Europe, no destination should call for that much of a time suck. So I fly out very very early. I'm up before 4, I tidy up myself and the apartment, and I leave.

(A photo of my tiny bedroom: goodbye comfy bed -- I've slept far too little on you this trip!)


Cab's there at 4:30...


Airport breakfast number 1 (Warsaw)...


Take off...


Airport breakfast number 2... (Paris)


But why Milan? Well, perhaps you've noticed that I've become glued to an itinerary on my Europe trips: a few days in Warsaw, a night somewhere outside Paris, a few days in Paris. Insofar as I only want to be away for a week, this makes sense -- it satisfies my need to be in Warsaw and Paris and, too, it indulges my craving to at least take one long, leisurely walk outside the big cities of Europe.

Still, I feel I have sucked dry all the places within an hour or two of Paris. Even after studying carefully the definitive text on good walks within an hour or so of the city, I come up with nothing new or especially exciting. (Consider, too, that I am traveling in March -- a very unpredictable month in northern Europe.)

But if I throw in just one more day to the mix, just one more, then I'm golden! There are a lot of destinations that pop up for me that would satisfy that craving for a new and peaceful walk! And some are in slightly less iffy climates. Italy comes to mind.

Still, you cannot (or at least you should not) fit in a two day trip to Italy, unless you pick a place that is not too far from a major airport. But that's okay! I love the lakes and mountains of northern Italy and there is one lake that I still have not seen and it is, in fact, the one closest to Milan (and its airports).

That is a very long explanation as to why today I find myself in Como.

At 85,000 people, it's not exactly a small village, but its location is exquisite: right at the tip of Lake Como. (You can actually stroll over to Switzerland -- it's that close to it, but you wouldn't want to: the scenic lake is entirely in Italy.)

I am full of hope and excited about all the sunshine all around me! [They say that Como verges on the tropical. You know these people exaggerate, but still, there are any number of palm trees, so there may be some truth to it.]

The flight to Milan is an easy hour and in good weather it has you believing you're a majestic mountain goat, scaling the heights of Alpine peaks.


Well, at least it looks like good flying weather. I admit to having had a bit of drama coming down: about an inch before touchdown, the pilot aborted the landing, pushing the nose up, then flying low for quite a while before speaking to us from the cockpit. No one understood what he said (he spoke rapidly), but the word le vent certainly stood out so I'm guessing (after a safe and successful second attempt) that he got a little blown about unexpectedly. In all my flights, I've had now a handful of aborted landings. They're always very dramatic because you know it comes from a split second decision: abort or crash. At least that's what it seems like from the passenger's perspective.

From the airport, I had planned on taking a train to Milan, switching there to one that would take me to Como. That's what you're supposed to do. But having had drama in the skies makes you bolder on the ground and so I do some train hopping among towns and villages outside the city, betting that a conductor wouldn't mind that I have the wrong ticket and betting, too, that ultimately, avoiding Milan altogether is a good thing.

I disembark at the lake.


I'm staying at the Palazzo Albricci Peregrini, which is in the old town. I have high expectations, because Bruno (the desk clerk? office manager?) called me just a few days ago, apologizing for the fact that someone accidentally double booked my small room. Would I mind terribly switching? To a far far better room, he tells me. If he were staying at the hotel with his girl friend, it's the room he'd pick. I trust Bruno. He always signed off on his emails by wishing me a splendid day, with an exclamation point. You gotta love a person who does that.

It should take about a dozen minutes to walk there from the lake-side station to the hotel, but I get lost. Deeply lost in streets that seem not to conform to my memorized layout of the old town.


Well, no matter. Como is bordered by water, mountains and a train track. However dumb you are about finding your way, you can always use these as your guideposts.

It would also have helped if I had memorized the number of the street where the hotel is located. It has no name plastered anywhere, so it's tough to figure out which courtyard is the one that will be your home for a night or two. Turns out it's this one.


(And this is my very sunny room. With a view toward a palm tree, but don't let it fool you -- by evening, my nose is cold from the walk outside.)


If you don't come here for the lake, or the mountains, or the good life (Como once saw itself as catering to those in search of indulgence), then perhaps you're here for the churches and the architecture. I'll just put up two representative shots of the Duomo. It's quite the church!


See the moon? Right there!


In the hotel, Bruno offers advice for tomorrow's excursions. And tonight's bar scene.  He can't tell me where some nice kids' clothes stores can be found, but he lists at least three bars where I can get an exquisite evening aperitif. I'm so very fine with that. Window shopping can wait. I walk over to a place called "Brothers" and nurse a drink called "An American in Como" forever! Who knew Campari could be infused with rosemary to stellar result??

In the evening, I have dinner at the Ristorante da Rino. It's Tuscan food. Somewhat meat based of course, but honestly I am hungry enough to eat a hawk should you be so foolish as to serve me one.

The food is uncomplicated but good. Very very good. But it is also one of those places where you are not allowed to be in a rush. Everything moves at its own pace. You have to accept that, or you will suffer. (I watch a two year old come in with her grandparents at around 8:30. She is there still when I myself leave at 10:30. Even her age doesn't warrant a quickened pace. )

I order only two courses and still, the whole process of ordering, eating, paying, etc takes three hours. And after I leave, I get lost again. How could this be???

There is a nip in the air tonight. It tells me that the sunshine tomorrow will be good and strong!

Right now, the moon is bright, I am satiated and I am completely wiped out from too little sleep. Ask me what day of the week we're on and I honestly cannot tell you. At least not within any short set of minutes.

Tomorrow, I do hope I will stick to my plan to explore the lake. Today? My eyes are closed even as I write this.