Saturday, 10 September 2016

Swiss Alps and Italian lakes - what a treat!

I finally have a few moments to recount my recent long weekend trip from London City Airport to Zurich, Lake Como and Milan. It was an amazing trip - I'm so glad it wasn't all about shopping but more about the beautiful scenery, good food and the fresh mountain/lake air.

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that my friend and I make a weekend trip to Milan every year to buy some pieces to add to our winter wardrobe. On our trip last year it was obvious that most brands and stores exist in all parts of the world now and the shopping experience is not what it used to be - for me at least. You can buy anything, anytime, anywhere online.

So this year, we decided to enhance our weekend by staying on Lake Como and only going down to Milan on the train for a few hours. Having been there so often, we know where all our favourite shops are so it was a no brainer.

I flew into Zurich where my friend now lives and spent the afternoon walking by the lake. It was a beautiful sunny September day and so relaxing. There's something magical about being by the water, whether it be a lake, a river or the sea. It's always a calming experience.

The next morning we were up and out early and boarded the train (I love a train journey too) to Como which is at the very southern tip of Lake Como. The journey lasts about 3 hours and takes you through beautiful countryside, past lakes and through mountains. The Swiss really know how to do tunnels! 

We arrived in Como around midday and made our way down to the port where the ferries arrive and leave for various towns on the shores of the lake. Our destination was Caddenabia and the best way to get there is by boat unless you want to drive. We boarded the hydrofoil or rapido for a relatively fast ride to Bellagio and from there a short hop across the lake to our hotel. Its a good idea to buy a day pass for €15 which you can use on the regular ferries to go wherever you want. If you decide to take the faster option by hydrofoil you can pay a €4 supplement per trip or you can get a water taxi but this is by far a more expensive option.

After checking into our hotel, the Hotel Britannia Excelsior we were back on the boat going back to Bellagio for a late lunch at Far Out and had some locally caught lake fish pesce del nostro lago - absolutely delicious and recommended if you like fish! After lunch we visited a beautiful little fishing village called Verenna, just north of Bellagio and on the east side of lake. We wandered through the village browsing little artisan shops and found a lovely outdoor terrace overlooking the lake at the Hotel du Lac where we had the best fresh peach bellini's I have ever tasted.

The next day we organised our trip to Milan. It took a bit of jigging to work out which boat would get us to Como on time to get the train that we wanted. In the end we went to Bellagio, from there to Lenno, where we got off and waited for the hydrofoil to Como. 

Como train station is about a 10 minute walk from the port and we bought a ticket for €4.50 which took us to Milano-centrale. For €1.50 we got the subway to the Duomo, the closest stop to all the shops we regularly frequent. 

Surprisingly, this is the first year ever that I didn't buy anything for my wardrobe but managed to get the obligatory make up essentials and a few food items from the Excelsior food hall! The things that I did like were prohibitively expensive so I saved myself some Euros this year! (The exchange rate is not so favourable right now anyway.) We were back on the train around 5pm and back in Como in less than an hour.

The best thing about our hotel was the location. We booked a lakeside with balcony room on the fifth floor and had beautiful views of the lake - the sunrises were pretty spectacular too. The room itself was basic but suited our needs and the price was right.

Sunday morning after breakfast we checked out of the hotel and rather than go back to Bellagio to get the ferry, we decided to walk the one kilometre to the pier at Tremezzo, past the famous Villa Carlotta - built at the end of the 17th century - and caught the ferry back to Como from there. It was a lovely way to end our short holiday, the wind in our hair, sailing past stylish villas tucked away in the hills and on the lake side - not to mention past the most expensive property on the lake. I wonder who lives in a place like that?

The train journey back to Switzerland was split into two - the first leg from Como to Bellinzoni, passing through one of my favourite places Lugano, then from there through to Zurich watching the weather change as we headed north. By the time we arrived early evening, the temperature had dropped and the rain was pelting down - a little reminder that autumn is just around the corner.


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