Sunday, November 01, 2015

Villa del Balbianello and Bellagio

Luckily I brought my own alarm clock. I need it more to wake up from naps than morning calls. Call me old fashion but I find the smartphone or tablet alarm sound somewhat too weak to my liking.

My classmate and his wife arrived on Oct 16 from Milan and paid a hefty taxi fare of €160 for a 90 minutes trip. Perhaps it is normal in Italy but I shouldn't convert to ringgit which has weakened to 4.7-4.8 to a Euro. I thought they ought to have negotiated with the travel agency to board the tour from the airport instead of traveling directly to the hotel themselves as they paid the full ground package fare.

After a nice continental breakfast together we came down to the lobby. The weather was downcast and gloomy with a slight overhang of mist. I thought what a bad start to our holiday. The forecast didn't say it will be like this. It had rained a few hours ago and may drizzle later. We wore our scarf and cap and brought along an umbrella just in case. At 9.45am our tour manager Andrew walked us to the Villa Carlotta Jetty about 400m away to take a boat ride to the Villa del Balbianello to tour this Italian heritage site. According to Wikipedia, the Villa del Balbianello is a villa in the comune of Lenno (province of Como), Italy, overlooking Lake Como. It is located on the tip of a small wooded peninsula on the western shore of the south-west branch of Lake Como, not far from the Isola Comacina and is famous for its elaborate terraced gardens. The villa was first built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery for the Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini. It changed hands twice until 1974 when it was bought by the explorer Guido Monzino (leader of the first Italian expedition to climb Mount Everest), who filled it with rich collections, including artifacts acquired on his expeditions. Monzino, who died in 1988, left the villa to the Fondo per l'Ambiente Italiano, the National Trust of Italy. According to guide Alexandro, Guido never marry but have many female companions. He loved his mother to build her a special place in the villa to stay during the summer. Although I like the collections inside the villa I prefer the gardens more and in the following days discover how rewarding this holiday will be in terms of the many natural beauties we get to see.

While waiting for the 11.40am boat I accidentally knocked my Canon S100 camera on a stone wall denting the body and scratching LCD screen. For a moment I froze in horror thinking the camera was damaged beyond use. Its lense was only changed a fortnight ago after the original failed in our recent Hokkaido holiday. Thankfully the camera worked fine.

The boat carried us to Bellagio which is situated on the cape dividing Lake Como into two. Andrew earlier gave us return boat tickets valued at €4.60 each and showed us how to return to the hotel anytime we want to. The four of us moved together. We were the only Asians among the tour comprising English couples. We took the train ride round the Bellagio costing €5 each for the 28 minutes ride. We decide to skip lunch after a heavy breakfast, hang around the lake area until it's time to take the 2.40pm ride back to the Villa Carlotta jetty where we walked back to our hotel. Skipping lunch would be our routine over the next few days. The weather didn't change and thankfully didn't rain. The day went by rather leisurely which was what I wanted in a holiday at a pace we pick.

Tonight's food are much better than last night's and I finished all my portion, maybe I was hungry from the walks. A fellow tour member fell off his chair next to our table. My classmate and his wife, both medical doctors, hurried over to assist. Fortunately he just lost control of himself and recovered. Most of the dining tables were set for couples so table #25 overlooking the lake became our table because it was bigger.

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