Our first day of our "lake region and Greek isle" tour began with the typical trial by airplane. Our flights were from Albuquerque to Atlanta, Atlanta to the the Netherlands and Netherlands to Milan. We left on Friday at mid day and arrived tired and blurry on Saturday evening due to some sort of time warp and 20 hours of flying. I wasn't particularly comforted by Sandra's remark that at least we weren't flying to Australia.
We were met at the airport and whisked to the lake region about an hour north of Milan. Our hotel sat right on Lake Magegori. I can't even begin to describe the hotel. It was huge and done up in some sort of grand style that I have yet to name. It was covered in mirrors, gold and marble. Even the elevators were marble covered. I think we shared the place with at least four other tours and one wedding party. Feeding was done in three dining rooms all hung with dozens of crystal chandeliers and serving hundreds of folks all at once. Our bathroom had a tub and a shower all in marble. A small glass of wine cost 6E's (and I spilled half of mine).
After diner, we crashed out. Woke up late for breakfast and nearly missing our first sojourn via bus to Lake Como. In fact Sandra nearly was left at the hotel. "We have to leave now." Why? I am not sure, perhaps so we would hit our first rest stop on time.
Italy has the feel of a country that's been used. It's worn. The area we were is the main industrial hub of Italy north of Milan. It is also the wealthiest. So there are factories and warehouses surrounded by fields still being farmed and old abandon farmhouses. We were up close to Switzerland. The mountains were visable both to the north and south (Alps and Dolomites).
Our bus ran along the lake and then into a pretty heavily industrial area between our hotel near the town of Stressa and Lake Como. Along the lake shore hung large vacation houses, villas. Both Magegori and Como are Italian vacation spots and are heavily visited even at this time of year. Como is composed of a wonderful small old town surrounded on three sides by a more modern town. The fourth side is Lake Como. Alexander Volta lived here. A street and a square are named for him and the square has a nice statue of the father of electricity. We spent the better part of the morning and some of the afternoon wandering about, taking many photos, and shopping. Lunch was alfresco in a square near one of the cathedrals (actually everywhere was near at least one church or another). I had spaghetti carbonara and a nice red wine.
On the way back to the Hotel we stopped at Stressa for some more wandering and shopping. The high point was a wine tasting in one of the local shops. It was actually a wine tasting food seminar. The shop owner's wife doled out wine and showed off a wonderful olive oil and a very special balsamic vinegar.