After filling up (and filling out) on pasta, bread, cheese, and wine over the last few days Dan and I were ready to tie up the laces again on the hiking boots we had lugged with us and gain some elevation. A quick ferry ride across the Lecco arm of Lake Como brought us to Varenna, a picturesque fishing village with a lively waterfront market and tiny stone beach.
As we began ambling uphill, we stumbled upon a little farmers market with a Lions Club International fundraiser of wine and cheese boards. It would not have taken me much convincing to ditch our hiking plans and wholeheartedly support the fundraising effort by feasting on more than a few slices of parmesan and gouda. But alas, Dan was the voice of reason and refocused our intentions and so we continued on.
We opted to take a circular route starting with the footpath south toward the neighboring town of Fiumelatte and then returning back to Varenna via an uphill climb to Castello di Vezio, the medieval fortress that overlooks the city. Within minutes of trudging uphill along the footpath we were treated with some incredible views across the lake to Bellagio. It was a hot, humid day and it didn’t take us long to start dreaming of ice cold gelato and cannonballing off the hill into the cool inviting waters of the lake. Why oh why did we think a long afternoon stiff hike uphill was a good idea???
After stopping for a unique and delicious lunch of cocoa ravioli with ricotta and orange zest filling topped with a sage and butter sauce and drinking our weight in cool Aqua Tosca water we continued on, hiking through one of the most northerly located olive groves and admiring the lake views as we trekked upward. Once we reached Castello di Vezio, we rewarded ourselves with tart lemon granitas from the snack bar before wandering the property to catch the falconry show.
Throughout the grounds are several ‘ghost’ sculptures, made from white chalk and gauze courtesy of patient tourists who offer to be cast in place every year. The sculptures remain on the castle grounds until the wet weather and winter snow destroy them. A bit eerie, a bit cool, and definitely haunting!
Falconry is a prehistoric art with the technique of training birds of prey dating back as far as 2000 BC. The Vezio Castle serves as a bird of prey breeding, nursing and training centre with daily exhibitions to allow the public to know, appreciate, and support this ancient art. The bird’s training is held in the castle gardens each day from 10am to 4pm with the opportunity to take photos and hear all about the art of falconry. Birds aren’t really my thing but Dan loved it!
Dan and I had been craving a good authentic lasagna with rich bolognese meat sauce between firm al dente layers of noodles and after what seemed like the longest ferry ride in the world back to Bellagio we finally arrived hot, weary, and famished to Ristorante La Fontana where we plopped into the last available table and immediately tore into a bottle of prosecco, caprese salad, tiramisu, and of course lasagna.
Now that our hunger had been appeased, a cold shower never sounded so good and after rinsing off the day’s exertions I slipped under the cool bedsheets with a big “aaaaahhhh”. Moments later we heard what sounded like fireworks booming outside and remembering that June 2nd was Republic Day in Italy we joined the other silent revelers in watching the celebratory fireworks from our window.
We sadly realized our great scenic rail holiday was beginning to wind down as we packed up a bit of our suitcases in preparation for the last leg of our trip to Venice the next morning. Cologne, Germany where we had started the trip seemed like a distant memory; almost a different trip altogether. Dan and I are truly fortunate to have the opportunity to explore so much of this new part of the world that we call home.