Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Day Around Lake Como Italy

After saying goodbye to Shirley's friends at Marseille Provence Airport, we headed toward Nice because we were going to spend a long weekend with our friends Dominic and Diane at their new home in Northern Italy near Lake Como.

We have been best friends since the late 70's when we lived outside of Washington DC and Dominic and I worked at the same community hospital. Although Dominic and I don't see eye to eye on everything, we became and remain to this day best friends. We have vacationed in Florida, Cabo San Lucas Mexico, California before we moved here and of course in Provence.

We were practically neighbors outside Washington DC and our families spent countless hours together. We consider them family and at my father's funeral, I introduced Dominic to my mother as "my brother from another mother." Not having heard that term before, a look of puzzlement/horror came over my mother's face because she thought I was telling her something about my father.

Dominic was born in Ethiopia, his parents were Italians from the small town of Fara San Martino in the Abruzzo region of central Italy. However, rather than buying a house near his home town, Dominic and Diane bought a home near Lake Como where his brother has lived for many years.

Lake Como lies between Milan and Switzerland with its southern tip about 40km north of Milan, about a six hour drive from Marseille Provence Airport. A historical note for history buffs, at the end of World War II, after passing through Como as he tried to escape to nearby Switzerland, Mussolini was captured and then shot by partisans in Giulino di Mezzegra, a small town on the north shores of Lake Como.

Besides the town of Como, there are a number of other small towns in Lombardi and in Switzerland which border Lake Como including Brunate which is where we headed on Saturday morning. The town overlooks Como, which lies on the shore of Lake Como some 500 meters (1,600 ft) below. Como and Brunate are linked by a narrow and steep road, and by the Como to Brunate funicular.

The Como–Brunate funicular is a funicular railway that connects the city of Como with the village of Brunate in Lombardy, Italy. The lower station for the funicular is adjacent to Lake Como north-east of the center of Como seen below.

The funicular was opened in 1894 and was originally operated using a steam engine. In 1911 the traction system was converted to use an electric motor. The line was refurbished in 1934/5 and again in 1951, when new cars were provided

The line is 1,084 meters (3,556 ft) long, of which the lower 130 metres (430 ft) are in tunnel. The remainder of the line is at or above ground level, with extensive views over the lake and city. The upper station is in the center of Brunate, with entrances and exits at both upper and lower levels.

Upon exiting the upper station after our ride up the funicular, we came upon Sant'Andrea Church. This picture shows one of the two facades on this church.

This picture shows facade number two of Sant'Andrea Church.

The next three pictures show some of the interior of Sant'Andrea Church.

I think it is a beautiful church.

Another view of the beautiful interior of Sant'Andrea Church,

The next few pictures are of sights we saw as we strolled around Brunate including this beautiful home.

There are quite a few beautiful homes in this village, most I am sure have great views over Lake Como and the town of Como.

Another one of the beautiful homes in Brunate.

My friend Dominic walks on down the road; thanks for waiting for me Dominic.

Most of the houses in Brunate are built on the edge of the hill so they have views over Lake Como.

There are a number of places on the road where you can see the views over Lake Como yourself.

On the left is Villa d'Este, originally Villa del Garovo, a renaissance patrician residence in the Italian town of Cernobbio on the shores of Lake Como. Both the villa and the 25-acre park which surrounds it have undergone significant changes since their sixteenth-century origins as a summer residence for the Cardinal of Como.

Today, with room rates averaging €1000 a night and top suites averaging €3500 per night, the villa is a luxury hotel for wealthy people.

The Madonna and child.

Shirley between our longtime friends Diane and Dominic. As you can see, we are very close.

Looking down the line on our return trip to Como; Lake Como can be seen below.

The view of the Duomo, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Como and the seat of the Bishop of Como.

The view across Lake Como from near the lower station toward the Duomo (Cathedral) of Como.

A beautiful home in Como that we passed as we walked around the town. It was mostly overcast so there was not a lot of blue sky.

A Como cafe.

The Broletto Arcade which is adjacent to the Duomo. Built in 1215 as the Town Hall, it was later used as a theater and communal archive, it is now used for exhibitions and public events.

A rooftop view of the Duomo.

The ornate northern door of the Duomo is called La Porta della Rana which translates as Door of the Frog. I can't seem to find the origin of that name.

Construction on the Duomo began in 1396 on the site of the previous Romanesque church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The façade was built in 1457, with a rose window and a portal flanked by two statues of Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, natives of Como.

Construction was completed in 1770. It is commonly described as the last Gothic cathedral built in Italy. It has a Latin cross plan with three aisles, separated by pillars, and a Renaissance transept, with an imposing cupola over the crossing.

Houses on the hill across the lake from Como.

A Como street with cafes and shops.

A busy Como street.

Street musicians on a Como street.

I like this old balcony over a modern store.

A view down the street toward the Duomo.

Teatro Sociale is a theater in Como, designed by architect Giuseppe Cusi followng a decision by the local nobility that a new one was needed to replace the existing 1764/65 building which was regarded as outdated.

With its planned neo-classic façade, construction started in early 1812 and in spite of agreement for it to be finished that same year, construction problems ensued, largely the result of a bad winter. The following spring brought additional problems and added work so that the theater was not finished until August 1813.

After a relatively recent major remodeling, Teatro Sociale is a theater with 900 seats with five tiers.

As we left Como to return to their home, we had this view of the Duomo.

A lot has happened since our visit to Como just a couple of months ago. First while we were there, our friends told us about a young lady who lived in Como who dreamed of going to California to improve her English and said we should have her come and live with us and help our kids with our grandkids.

Sara, age 19, has just finished up her second week with us in California. She doesn't know as much English as we thought but she has picked up a lot in two weeks. We all have down loaded a translator app on our mobile phones so we can translate any words that we can't figure out so we are getting along very well.

Second, Diane and Dominic's daughter Jennifer and her husband Greg and baby Julia have put their lives in Maryland on hold and moved to the Lake Como area for a year to experience the culture and learn to speak Italian...they hope. As you can imagine, they are experiencing all kinds of new things and have started a blog called Sipping Espresso. If you are so inclined, you should hop over and check it out.

Bonne journée mes amis et à bientôt.


  1. Michel - wonderful post (and not just because you gave us a "shout-out" :) I don't know how you do it - wonderful pictures and an incredible depth of knowledge about the area. Well done. Since you have seen our "hometown" (Como), we cannot wait to see "yours" (Sablet). I only hope our post about Sablet is nearly as good!

  2. I enjoy reading about your travels. I lived in Switz. for 3 yrs. and enjoyed going to Lugano which is like Como.

  3. What a beautiful place, gorgeous pictures, it's like having a tour of the place, thank you! I am a new follower from Sicily! P.S. did you see George Clooney:)

  4. Greg, Jennifer and Julia - We can't wait for you to come to Sablet. No secrets, I use Google, Wikopedia, Michelin Guides, Fodors, take pictures of plaques on buildings and pick up pamphlets about places we visit so I can refer to them when I post about our visits.

    Mem - Thank you! We went to Lugano the next day so I will share those pictures in a future post.

    Francesca Edesia - Thank you so much for dropping in to check out my blog and for leaving a comment. It is much appreciated. We didn't see George and I asked Sara who is from Como if she has ever seen him and she says no.

  5. Good Job as usual Michele, I love your posts and I am a huge fan. Now I have another one to enjoy,
    If they come close to your blog they will have succeeded. I will follow them with much interest. Now if Francesca Edesia will start one for Sicily that would also be very interesting.

  6. Mimmo - Thanks for coming to visit my blog and for posting a comment. I appreciate this very much.

    Tricia - Thank you so much! I owe my improved writing to your suggestions since I started this blog. Your Master's Degree in English has served me well. :-)

  7. Any Clooney sightings when you were there?! Please tell me you saw him, even if you have to lie to me ;)
    And the look on your mother's face must have been priceless when you said, "brother from another mother"! That's too funny!

  8. I can't believe it - a whole post about Italy and no mention of the food! ;)

  9. Sara - No sightings, I can not tell a lie ;-) It took a few minutes for me to reassure my mother about my father and his offspring.

    Camille - Can you believe it? We ate out at several restaurants in Como and none were all that good until the very last meal when we ate in a simple trattoria where I had osso buco over risotto milanese. That was excellent.

  10. oh I want to go there! How beautiful it looks! Great photos, Michel - thanks for sharing as they say!

  11. Didn't know there was so much about Como aside from its iconic lake. Bordering between Milan and Switzerland, Como is a steady mix of urban living and rural splendour. The Roman Catholic churches are sites to see—its very ornate architecture could amaze any tourist. The weather is also calm, and the air is fresh. Como is one of the reasons why Italy is a very liveable place. Great article, by the way. :)

  12. Enjoyed your blog, particularly as the funicula was closed during our recent visit. Your photos captured the views that we missed. We stayed on Lake Como at a beautiful villa in Curate Urio very near where George Clooney lives but we didn't see him either. We had to climb over 100 steps with our luggage but it was well worth the effort.