Come On, Ride My Brain

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Posted by Jeremy Schultz on January 19, 2007

Ok, take a breath, the trip now continues.

It’s Tuesday, October 3rd. We hop on a mid-day train to Como, Italy. We have 1st class tickets and the train isn’t too shabby. Short moments after we leave the main station we are rolling through open, grassy farmland. The first thing that strikes me is the fact that every little farm building I see has a cluster of solar panels on top. This is one thing that Europe is getting right. I remember home owners’ associations in the Phoenix area that tried to ban solar panels & water heaters because they deemed them an eyesore. Now we’re talking about complacent ignorance! We need to get better about making long-term investments, not only financially, but for the sustainability of our planet. But I’ll save more on that for another post.

We learned another thing shortly into our train ride: our AAA travel agent was not very thorough. When you buy a Eurail pass, you have to specify the countries you will be traveling within, and how many days you will be on the train. Add more to either, and it costs more money. We had 6 days and Germany, Italy, France, and Benelux. The gentleman checking our ticket informed us that this train travels through Switzerland. Arrggh. Twenty-odd euros later, we’re still in our seats.

Le Alps

The train slithers along the landscape, teasing our eyes with majestic towns nestled along the sky islands of the Swiss Alps. I love the Alps. I fell in love in July during the Tour: humid green valleys are the troughs, tight knight communities surf the lower slopes, trees climb near the top, and bare peaks reach 2 miles/3.2 kilometers high. Ah, I’m losing the story again.

We arrive in Como at around 10pm. Travel agent failure number 2: Cernobbio is about 10km from Como, and we have no ride. Lucky for us, there’s a lady in the same predicament, and she speaks both English and Italian. She calls for a taxi and orders another for us! Cheers long lost friend! Ok, this is equally our fault, but it’s the kind of detail you work with a travel agent to figure out. We arrive at the hotel, The Hotel Regina Olga. The agent had picked this one out, and it was pretty nice. It had an old feel to it, almost a bit of a Shining feeling, sort of a tacky elegance. Travel agent failure 3: we check in, and the girl at the desk as for our confirmation papers. Eh? She lets us check in anyway, and I end up being able to get our agent on the phone. Luckily she responds quickly and faxes over everything we need. Time to enjoy Cernobbio.

So where the hell is Cernobbio? When we were planning the trip, we decided that a quiet stay on Lake Como sounded elegant. Comically enough, we had first heard of it while watching Ocean’s 12. I unfortunately didn’t do much research or reading until I cracked open the Lombardia section of Rick Steves’ Italy on the train over. Rick, I came to read, most recommends Varenna among the towns that encircle Lake Como. Rats, but too late for that. We “picked” Cernobbio through the whims of our travel “agent.”

Lake Como

Lake Como is shaped like an inverted Y. The city of Como is situated in the lower left corner and Cernobbio is the adjacent town to the north. Cernobbio was pretty quaint, overall. The city is fairly narrow from south to north, and is bordered by the lake in the east and heads steeply up the adjacent hill to the west. Within Cernobbio, we spent most of our time walking around and enjoying the lake, looking for interesting eats and drinks (didn’t make it to Tom & Jerry’s Pizzeria), and hiking up the surrounding hills. We did have some really fantastic pizze (yes, with an E) at just about every restaurant we went to. The pizze there reminds me of sushi in Tokyo: elegantly simple. There are no Mexican or everything or burger pizzes. At the most, a pizze might have two toppings. They use sauce moderately, and the crust is very thin. Altogether, it’s a much lighter bite than even your foldable New York slice. For a light dinner at one point, we ordered a pizza and a huge salad. We saw a table of old folks who each ordered a pizza as their main dish. Whatever happened to that Mediterranean diet? I guess we are in northern Italy.

Speaking of diets, obesity seems to be a rarity around here. On top of that, people are really well dressed. You’d think they all had their clothes tailored. I suppose it was a fairly affluent area, but you couldn’t deny all the well-fitted clothing going around. Speaking of which, my clothes definitely grew tighter over the course of the trip. I made the mistake of not really planning fitness into the trip. As the person who hates to go a day without at least a short workout, this was not smart. To try and get some exercise, why tried to hike a bit in the surrounding hills. I could not believe how steep it was. I can’t imagine those “trails” get used very often. Going up was kinda fun, but coming down most definitely was not. But as you can see, the view was fantastic.

Still with me? Probably not, but in any case, time to wrap it up. Another cool thing we did around Lake Como was to hop on the water taxi over to Bellagio. Nope, not the Vegas hotel, it’s the 2500+ year-old commune that inspired the hotel. Bellagio sits on the joint of the inverted Y, providing a 270-degree view of the lake. We visited an old church, walked among overpriced jewelry and souvenir shops, and had one of the best meals of the entire trip, straight out of the Rick Steves’ book. Don’t travel without it!


One Response to “Cernobbio”

  1. Rui said

    “The train slithers along the landscape, teasing our eyes with majestic towns nestled along the sky islands of the Swiss Alps” love this phrase… beautiful mental image.

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