Historic and scenic – waterfront of Lake (lago) Como
Bellagio,a beautiful historic and scenic spot on the waterfront of Lake Como in the Lombardy region of Italy. Bellagio sits at the intersection of the three branches of the Y-shaped Lake Como (Lago di Como in Italian). It is the third largest lake in Italy and one of the deepest in Europe.
Once the rich and famous came to holiday and entertain or be entertained in magnificent villas overlooking the waterfront. History repeats itself many times throughout the centuries with aristocracy,dukes,duchesses,royals,poets,musicians and artists visiting Bellagio on Lago di Como. There is evidence of its popularity as far back as Roman times.There exists an ancient epigraph unearthed not far from Roman ruins on the promontory of Bellagio about the Pliny family. A letter Pliny the Elder wrote to a friend also exists, describing his two favorite waterfront Villas on the lake in some detail.
Bellagio was not only known for its scenic beauty and warm Mediterranean climate, but also for its strategic position in the Lombardy region. Throughout its history, Bellagio was often the scene of many fierce battles on land and on the waters of Lago di Como.
Lombardy Region – hazards of narrow streets and alleyways
A train trip from Milan through the snow peaked Italian Alps, followed by a ferry from Como, brought us to this beautiful spot in the Lombardy region of Italy. Bellagio I soon discovered is also a great place to get fit. Our guest house was at the top of all those steps, but we did have a view across the rooftops to the mountains.
Going for an early morning walk in the cobbled streets of Bellagio, I found myself pasted against a doorway to avoid being crushed as a street cleaning machine came powering down the narrow alley (it was only a small street cleaning machine). However the streets are very narrow and not originally designed for heavy traffic, so there is just enough room for one vehicle; a doorway offers a measure of reassurance to pedestrians. Plenty of doorways thank goodness!
Steps and stairs to the waterfront
Descending the steps to the waterfront boulevard, I couldn’t resist stopping for a few souvenirs from the enticing craft shops,and a cappuccino and a pastry at one of the eateries on my way down. Wide grey cobbled steps enhanced with welcoming pots of brightly colored Azaleas on the stairs; above the shops hanging pots and balconies entwined with bright pink and mauve geraniums. Ultimately the alluring silken blue surface of Lago di Como drew me down to the waterfront boulevard to meet with friends.
Abandoned waterfront Villas
Amazing villas sprung up in the 1800’s built by important Italian families, who entertained in lavish style the ‘who’s who’ in society at that time. Many of these Villas still remain, while others on the waterfront look abandoned, their interiors stripped of all the finery. Once beautiful gardens overgrown and neglected, but still a symbol of the affluence that existed in bygone years.
Nobility of Lombardy
In the latter half of the 18oo’s after a period of war and unrest Bellagio began to recover. Following Maria Theresa’s accession to the Austrian throne,after the death of her father, Emperor Charles VI, stability returned to the Lombardy region and it began to prosper. The Lombardy nobility once again flocked to the Villas on the waterfront at Bellagio to enjoy its beauty. Eminent guest like the Empress of Russia, Austrian Emperor Francis I, and composer Franz Liszt were just some of the visitors to the waterfront Villas on Lake Como.
Picturesque porticoes on the waterfront boulevard
Strolling along the waterfront boulevard we entered into one of the upmarket jewellery shops. The proprietor of the shop, a kindly and enthusiastic lady filled us in on some of the more recent history of Bellagio and Lake (Lago) Como, her family having owned the business for generations.
In the early 20th century glamorous film stars such as Rita Hayworth and Clark Gable, also the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, were visitors to famous Villas on the waterfront at Lago di Como. From the 1940’s wonderful stories emerge about such stars as Marlene Dietrich who visited in 1949. Apparently she would only appear on the lake incognito, in a big hat to hide her identity. Alfred Hitchcock and Winston Churchill, also spent time at Lago di Como. This of course was a very prosperous time for Bellagio; jewellery, silks, and fashion items in high demand, in keeping with the status of visitors to the Lake region of Lombardy.
The Lombardy region has increased in popularity over recent times as it has become more accessible to tourists. Ten-fifteen years ago Bellagio was much quieter and more reliant on the not so wealthy tourists, who trickled in from all over the world to enjoy this beautiful spot. Today tourism is booming with a much wealthier clientele in view. Actor, George Clooney has a Villa on the waterfront on Lake Como and visits regularly. Rumors abound of other equally rich and famous who aspire to have a holiday Villa on Lago di Como. History repeats itself.
Italian cuisine at a delightful Italian restaurant
Most cafe’s and restaurants in Bellagio specialize in local Italian cuisine, fresh fish a must on the menu. We enjoyed a number of traditional Italian dishes at a different Italian restaurant each time we dined in Bellagio, or a nearby hamlet. Delicious food and great service. Enjoy an early morning espresso or cappuccino at an outdoor cafe on the cobbled streets and admire the beautiful azaleas; or dine under the purple wisteria on the waterfront. Visit one of the bakeries for fresh rolls and tasty pastries; don’t forget delicious Italian Gelato.
There are some lovely walks around Bellagio along walled and cobbled walkways between hamlets, interesting old cemeteries, fenced properties with enticing cherry trees. Luscious dark, red, ripe, cherries so tempting, even a ladder – temptation – then we heard the barking of dogs in the distance…..
Hair raising bus trip down the mountainside to Como on Lake (Lago) Como
If you come across on the ferry from Como township, don’t miss out on a hair-raising bus trip down the mountainside from Bellagio back to Como. It may have improved since I were there; then it was very narrow road with only a few place where a vehicle coming in the opposite direction could pass. Otherwise one vehicle has to back, back along the narrow road with a precarious drop-off on the edge, to a wider patch and wait till the bus passes. A bit ‘kamikaze’ but an adventure in itself. If you suffer severely from travel sickness, then I couldn’t recommend this bus trip down the mountain road. Originally these roads were for donkeys to carry goods from lake to village and back. Although upgraded over the years, the roads are still narrow and precarious in the Lombardy region.
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