After spending five weeks in Europe, I have been struggling on deciding what to write. How do I capture five weeks in words? How do I express the feelings of joy, happiness, pure bliss, but also worry, stress, confusion, and sadness? I am not a journalist and I do not consider myself a writer, but I am someone who has some stories to tell or, at the very least, someone who wants to remember the stories. I’m a bi-coastal ad exec who loves to invest in experiences. I may not buy fancy clothes or bags, but I do love to travel and that’s pretty much where every extra dime I have outside of student loans, rent, and basic living expenses goes. I love meeting new people and experiencing life outside of my “9-5” day job (and its never really 9-5). So I guess that’s where I will start. I can tell you (or my future self reading this) what I did in each special place. I will share my experiences and capture my memories – that is the reason why I started this so called blog :). Life tends to pass us by and great memories get buried under new great memories. And one day, I want to look back and relive these experiences.
Lago di Como
May 24 – June 1, 2015
After traveling for almost 24 hours, I arrived in Como exhausted and starving! While waiting for the ferry to take me Hotel Villa Aurora, I sat down in the main town square and ordered a bowl of bolognese pasta. Yummmm… Excited to feed my hungry belly, I took one bite and thought to myself, “I am finally back in heaven” until a little bird landed right in the middle of my pasta bowl! With its big black eyes looking up at me, it did a little birdy dance and then flew away. I was pissed, for about 30 seconds, and instead of getting angry, I just accepted it and laughed. “Of course this would happen to me!” All things happen for a reason and it ended up working out. Instead of waiting two hours for the ferry, I quickly caught the bus “home” to Lezzeno.
Lezzeno is a special place to me. It is the first place I have wanted to visit more than once (there’s a lot of places in the world to see) and have. Its the first place I could consider home, a place where I want to eventually settle down or retire. However, the challenges of visas are another story…. Once I arrived, I was welcomed by all the wonderful people I had met last September. With smiles from cheek to cheek, everyone made me feel as if I were returning home. In fact, I was returning home and I decided to suit up and wakeboard that afternoon placing myself in Lake Como heaven :). Piero taught me how to do a 180, as well as how to ride switch, and then he started teaching me how to do a 360 on the water! Although I started wakeboarding 8 years ago, I had never actually had someone teach me… and it makes a huge difference! All of this was possible that day because that little bird landed in my pasta – Day 1 was perfect!
With the world (well, the lake) at my fingertips, I decided I would spend a few days hiking since I had already explored most of the small towns on my last trip. Day 2, I hiked to the San Martino Church nestled in the cliff side just across the lake in Cadenabbia/Griante. The hike was lovely and the views from the top were breathtaking and soul awakening. I had been working and traveling non-stop prior to this trip, so the hike was a great way to sweat out all the stress and tension that had built up over the months leading up to my sabbatical. The following day, Day 3, I went straight to the source of what I think is the best olive oil in the world (the best I’ve ever had), the Olio Vanini factory in Lenno. Words cannot describe how amazing this olive oil is and its not sold anywhere else other than on the lake, so it’s pretty special. After the rain let up, I tackled another well-known trail called “The Greenway Walk.” I did get a little lost but when I found my way, the sights along the lake were unreal. It was as if I were in a fairy tale or a movie. I rewarded myself with a glass of wine lakeside at the famous Grand Tremezzo Hotel pool. In the early evening, my friends Cristina and Devid took me to Lecco for some shopping and an aperitif. Lecco is stunningly beautiful with the old town situated just in front of a striking cliff backdrop. The main town is quite charming as well. We capped off the night with a delicious Italian dinner in Bellagio at Trattoria San Giacomo.
After exhausting my legs by hiking two days straight and wakeboarding, I spent Day 4 boating and relaxing on the lake dock at Hotel Villa Aurora. This was my favorite day – me, the lake, my Kindle, endless glasses of prosseco, wakeboarding, boat rides, and good friends. What more could I have asked for? Oh, an Italian man. Just kidding :). I started the morning accompanying Piero across the lake to pick up a few guests. One of my fondest memories is Piero turning up the music, laying down in the back of the boat while we were waiting, and saying “Questa è la vita” or “This is the life.” In that moment, I remembered you do not need a six-figure job to make you happy, you just need to do what you love doing. It’s as simple as that.
In the afternoon, Cristina and Devid took me to Nesso on Devid’s fishing boat to see the Roman Bridge and Nesso Waterfall, which is mysteriously hidden just behind the town. I had a lot of fun that afternoon and I started to take in the Italian lake life. Yes, Lake Como can be glamorous and extravagant but my days were actually very simple and that’s what I loved most about it. In the late afternoon, Piero, Devid, and I took the guests back to Lenno on the boat, the music was blasting, wind was in our faces, and Villa Balbianello to the right…. In that moment, all I could think to myself was how lucky I was, how fortunate I was, how blessed. Life was great…. and I was happier than I have ever been.
It has been a long road but every year I discover more about myself, more about life, and more about the importance of the little things. I’ve had my fair share of struggles, like every person, but those hurdles made me the person I am today. The person who values the little things or those small moments that bring a smile not only to your face but also to your heart.
The perfect day ended with dinner in the hotel bar, watching live Italian kareoke, and everyone just laughing. It wasn’t extravagant, it was just simple. People sharing a meal together, people meeting new people, people learning from one another. Human interaction, which we unfortunately do not get enough of anymore because everyone seems heads down in their phone (ironically, that’s the business I am in). I remember thinking to myself that night “Questa è la vita” and it is a life I want.
“Questa è la vita”
Day 5, the week flew by didn’t it! It was Cristina’s day off so she, Devid, and I went hiking to see some of the most beautiful views of the lake. We even hiked to a restaurant called Rifugio Martina known for its breathtaking views of the lake and possibly the best polenta in the region. A few glasses of wine at the restaurant definitely made me feel tipsy a lot faster, but the hike was great and I was able to explore another side of Lake Como, the back-country ‘wilderness’. The paths were very narrow, there were old abandoned houses, wild animals, lots of trees but also fields of grass and flowers! I’m pretty sure I sang to myself, “the hills are alive….” at one point. Thursday was definitely special day. Not only did I share it with my Italian friends but my best friend of 20 years arrived that evening and we made homemade pasta at Cristina and Devid’s – and I met Simone. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. I typically travel alone so having friends to share all my great memories with was really nice.
Day 6, the day of rest. We spent the day relaxing at the hotel, wakeboarding, and paddle boarding. We didn’t exert too much energy that day, except our arms from throwing back glasses of wine. I also had been battling some internal medical issues for about 7 weeks, so my body was pretty exhausted and I was struggling to keep my iron levels up. Despite not feeling well, I didn’t let that stop me from completing my 360 that day! However, I did strain my left hamstring probably from pushing myself…. The injury set me back a bit and I was nervous for the next day… like really nervous!
Day 7, Competition Day! I never thought I would ever be able to do this but I competed in the Tour di Lago Wakeboarding Competition in Lecco! I may have not been in the pro category but I did win Gold in mine! I managed to ride and win despite my bum hamstring, so it was pretty freakin’ awesome.
We spent the next two days, Days 8 & 9, relaxing and exploring Bellagio. Daniela’s family came to visit which was really nice and on our last night, Cristina arranged a group dinner at Ittiturismo da Abate in Lezzeno. The night felt a little like “Eat, Pray, Love.” You know that scene where Julia Roberts is dining with all of her Italian friends on her last night and there’s endless amount of wine and good food just flowing while everyone is laughing and smiling… yeah, that was our night. And the more wine I drank, the more Italian I seemed to understand! It was the perfect end to a perfect nine days on Lake Como.
Of course I couldn’t get myself to part with Lezzeno, sooo I booked my return flight for this September… I do have to compete in the finals of the Tour di Lago!