For our final week in Italy we headed back north to Lake Como and the lovely, unspoilt village of Torno. Set on the hillside overlooking the lake is Villa Matilda (or ‘The Castle” as it’s known locally) which has been restored with infinite care and attention to detail by its American owners, Tony and Shirley, who live there with their young son. On arrival we were invited by our hosts for early evening drinks by the pool and we were still there at midnight having enjoyed fabulous food, wine and company. It was a wonderful start to our week in Lake Como.
A wrought-iron gate in the garden of Villa Matilda opens onto the Via Regia, an ancient Roman road which leads to the centre of Torno and on down to the lakeside ferry stop. We struggled a little with the ferry timetable which didn’t seem to deliver quite as promised. It was no hardship to sit in the shade and wait and watch the world go by. Marco the ever-smiling ferryman uses the time between the boats coming and going to sort out his fishing gear or to nip over to the Bar Italia for a quick espresso. The twenty minute ride to Como was wonderful, out on the water surrounded on all sides by the most breathtaking scenery. Como was all I expected – busy but not crowded – with elegant shops, cafes and of course, gelato bars.
The following day we took a ferry which zigzagged across the lake for two and a half hours to Varenna. It was a great chance to sit in the sun, chat and to see the picturesque towns and the sumptuous lakeside villas from the water. No sign though of Gorgeous George waving at us from his garden…
Varenna is an old fishing village overlooking the three branches of the lake. The Passeggiata degli Innamorati (Lovers Walk) leads from the ferry stop along the lakeside to the old town with its bars and restaurants. After a lazy lunch we walked on through the old town to Villa Monastero to visit the Botanic Garden. Very narrow and smaller than most of the more famous gardens of Como, this little piece of heaven stretches over two kilometres along the lakeside with stunning views across the water. The tiny garden cafe didn’t have any cake left, but who could complain about tea and biscuits taken in such a beautiful setting?
The week flew by with a visit to the market at Cernobbio (still no sign of George): lazing by the pool, chats with more new friends, Tilly and Whitney, wandering down to Lucca’s for supplies, followed by a cooling gelato. So many wonderful memories. The incredible scenery. Drinking tea and eating Torta Pere e Cioccolato whilst enjoying the views from the windows of our little apartment. Ferry rides. The elderly Torno gentleman who surprised me in the street with two freshly cut roses – much to Mr Me’s amusement. Wonderful food at Hotel Vapore and Hotel GLAVJC.
But perhaps most memorable was the wonderfully generous hospitality of Tony and Shirley, happy to share their love for and knowledge of Italy and for whom nothing was too much trouble.