It is the middle of May and I’m full of feelings of elation and anticipation upon debarking from the train at Varenna Italy’s tiny but lovely and characteristically Italian train station. It is a short downhill walk to Lake Como’s waterfront and the ferry boat landing. A brief wait for the next ferry boat across the lake is an opportune time for taking in the clean, pristine air, and the visual delights of the lake, and the enticing view across the lake to my destination. There, looking like a jewel floating serendipitously along the long blue and green shoreline lies the friendly and enchanting village of Menaggio where I will spend the next four weeks with a main focus on discovering what it is like to live and thrive happily in a small town on the lake. Menaggio, I hope, might be a good place for me to set up a more permanent residence on the European continent, an endeavor I have been pondering for quite a long time. I have traveled around western Europe for many of the last forty years, and, have often nurtured compelling thoughts of taking up residence in a place where I can take part in the life and culture in Europe which captured my heart and soul beginning with my first visit to the continent as a college student back in the late 70’s.
This is my fourth visit to Lake Como. Something here keeps calling me back It’s like the sirens’ song that drove the intrepid Ulysses crazy. Certainly, I am captivated by the many charming villages that dot the long and lazy shoreline. The lake is quite narrow along most of its length, affording alluring and eye-catching views from one side to the other. From Menaggio, I can see the outlines of at least three other lake villages, each projecting an alluring and picturesque image of lakefront life Or, maybe it is the clean and crisp air. Or, maybe it’s the lush green mountain slopes that are peppered with a multitude of hiking trails and paths that range from the Via Antica Strada Regina, the ancient Roman road that connected Milan with Cremona, to the more challenging mountain trails which pass through lush natural wilderness areas and through small bucolic mountain villages, some barely inhabited, as well as up the mountainsides where the views are breathtaking. At some point, to be sure, just viewing the mountains is just not enough. The solution: Hiking up and down and around these sleepy giants brings a satisfying degree of intimacy with them. Then again, there are the white lacey clouds which embrace and cling to the steep mountain slopes in the mornings. I love the restless and fun ferry boats that happily plow the cool, clear water and provide a quick and pleasant connection to the numerous lake villages. One of the must-do experiences on the lake is to view the siren-like waterfront villages as you approach them from the lake. Their seductive skylines of pastel shades of pink, orange, and ochre produce a pleasant and appealing baseline for the ubiquitous mountain slopes that dominate the scene. Oh, and not to forget, there is the food, the wine, the people. And the gelato! It’s all so nice!