80 Days in Europe: Summer on Lake Como

 

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Summer on Lake Como, Italy
May 2 – June 24, 2016 & September 1 -23, 2016

It is a bit difficult to sum up almost three months on Lake Como, especially now since it’s taken me three months to write about it. I am not sure where to start or how to put into words my experience of living out one of my dreams–and it really does feels like a dream or a distant memory.

When I first visited Lake Como in September 2014, the small quiet town of Lezzeno immediately stole my heart. I knew from the moment I had jumped off that bus to go back for just a couple more days, completely skipping my planned trip to Milan including seeing the Last Supper which I have still yet to see, that this place would forever have a spot in my heart.

Over the course of a year and a half, I fantasized about giving up my workaholic lifestyle to live a much simpler life on the lake. When the timing was right, after I resigned from my job in January 2016 and traveled for a few months, I knew that this time was a rare chance to experience actually living on Lake Como. So, I planned to live there for only the month of May. Of course one month turned into two months, so I was there until the end of June. And then, after returning to the states for two months for a contract role, I decided to go back to Lake Como for almost another month in September totaling three months in my favorite place on earth! As you can see, Lake Como never gets old to me. In fact, its quite the opposite. The more time I spend there, the more I get to know the humble and welcoming people of Lezzeno, the more I fall in love.

I’m not saying everything was perfect. While I could sum up most of my past trips to the lake by sipping prosecco under the Italian sun all day long, the weather this past May and June was much different–it literally rained half the time. Summer came late this year, so instead of hiking all of the mountain trails like I had imagined, most of my days were actually spent inside watching the rain beat down on the water. I spent a lot of time reading, watching TED talks, job hunting, and learning how to do nothing. It’s funny because when I was asked, “Cosa fai oggi?” or “What are you doing today?” my response usually was “niente.” Yes, nothing. I struggled at first–not running around, not having anything really to do or anywhere to be–but by the second month, for the first time in my life, I had learned how to truly let go, relax, and do, well, nothing.

I rented a little “doll house” apartment in Calvasino, about a 25-min walk from Hotel Aurora. Rent was $400/month thanks to my friend finding the place and Mariangela’s kindness. I had a view of the lake just as I had imagined and I was next door to my friend Cristina’s house who was next door to her nonna, Rosa–it was perfect. I even enjoyed the hike up the hill at times because it gave me a chance to work off some of the carbs I consumed daily.

When the sun did decide to show its face, of course, I spent my time on the sundeck of Hotel Aurora/JRC Wakeboarding Club. I had one summer goal–jump the wake by the end of my time there! Jonny spent the summer teaching me how to jump, but it was Renato who was driving when I finally flew wake to wake. If I wasn’t riding, I’d join Piero or Bruce and watch the pros train–yes, Italian professional wakeboarders all under the age of 21 doing back flips as if they were walking. Giorgia is a World Wakeboard Champion and the twins, Alice and Chiara are following in her footsteps–all very nice girls. While I won’t ever be a wakeboard pro in my lifetime, the kids are all very motivating to watch.

A typical day on the lake went something like this:

Mornings: I’d wake up around 8am or 9am, make coffee, read in bed, or write while staring out my window at the view of the lake from my dining room table covered with some 70s plastic sunflower table cover. I’d make myself breakfast or an early lunch, typically a salad because I’m not that great of a cook anymore. By 11am or noon, I would head to Aurora. Sometimes I would bike for 10-mins or I would walk for 25-mins. Just as I turned the final corner I would see the Hotel Aurora sign and know I had safely made it without getting sideswiped by a car (the streets are very narrow). I would always head straight to the hotel reception to greet Cristina, Lorena, and Patti, then either stay at the hotel bar or head down to the sundeck.

Afternoons: If the water was calm, I’d wakeboard practicing my jumps or just ride for the feeling of riding. I’d suit up, walk by all the hotel guests who were sunbathing, and would do a jump start straight from the dock. My arms are weak so I typically couldn’t make it past 12 mins lol. By 2pm I’d have a glass of prosecco in hand and would spend the rest of the afternoon reading or just laying out on the sundeck. Some days I would spend my afternoon running errands with Margherita, Cristina, or Lorena, or I’d go to Bellagio to help my friend Simone and his family–Piero, Roberta, and Monica–set up their online social presence for the wine bar they just opened, Angolo DiVino.

Evenings: As the season started to shift from spring to summer, the sun stayed out later. Typically, I’d move up to the bar around 5pm or 6pm for aperitivo time with Cristina and Lorena, and if they weren’t with me, I’d chitchat with Lisandro, the Argentinian bartender who arrived a few weeks before my departure. I love the days where we’d drink, laugh, and just enjoy life on the lake. Sometimes I’d head home for dinner or have dinner at the bar, especially on Tuesday nights when Cristina had to work late. I’d always join Devid for dinner and we’d wait for Cristina–they were like my older Italian siblings.

There were a few times where we’d all go out to dinner with Patti, Stefano, and their daughters Martina and Giorgia, plus a few more, starting with aperitifs at the local bar down the street–I forget the name. The first restaurant we went to was Agriturismo Baita la Morena on top of the hill just at the start of Lezzeno from Nesso. Although we had to hike up a hill in the rain just to get there, they had a private, glass-enclosed dining room on the terrace that overlooked the lake and fine Italian wine and food that made the hike well worth it. The second place we tried was towards the water and called The Stonehouse. While excited to try a new restaurant in town, the food didn’t compare to Stefano’s cooking at the hotel which is arguably the best food on the lake.

While most people would expect one to travel all throughout Italy in three months, I really wanted to just live in one place, Lezzeno–that was enough for me. However, about halfway through the first two months, I did take a mini-trip to visit Parma, Modena, Mantua, and Verona. And in September, I visited Bergamo. Life on Lake Como was simple, it was exactly what I wanted and deep down truly needed. The community there is close and everyone is so welcoming. Whether I was riding my bike or walking, drivers passing by would stop to say hello or offer me a ride if they were headed in my direction. Whether you are a millionaire or a waiter, people aren’t pretentious–they are humble and kind. You could have a meal sitting next to a billionaire and you wouldn’t even know it because those things don’t matter as much there.

A few memories…

  • The wind against my face as I biked down to Hotel Aurora and the stunning lake views to my left.
  • Cristina and Devid taking me out on their fishing boat for the afternoon, the seat breaking, and seeing George Clooney’s villa in Laglio.
  • Dancing at Lido in Bellagio until the club closed with Lisandro.
  • Walking home from Aurora and enjoying the beautiful red sky sunsets.
  • Joining Cristina, Devid, Erio, and Luisa for the day on their beautiful white fancy boat to Lecco.
  • Getting to know Margherita a little more on our way to Como to buy some party supplies, talking about life and the importance of balance and family.
  • Aperitifs with Margherita, Cristina, and Lorena on the terrace of the hotel drinking bottles of Minutolo wine.
  • Claudio taking me out on his boat for the day, reading and sunbathing behind Isola Comacina.
  • Arriving at Lido on a huge fancy yacht to celebrate Gina’s big win with Bruce and the kids lol–Gina, Chiara, Alice, Jonny, Mattia
  • The feeling of wakeboarding on glass in front of Villa Balbianello
  • Going real grocery shopping for the first time in 4 months at Essulunga stocking up for my apt.
  • Walking along Strada Regina, through the old stoned lined streets and pure green grass and trees

My three months on Lake Como in 2016 will forever be a part of me and I will look back at these being some of the best days of my life. I’ll remember the sight of of the colorful hydrangeas lining the streets, the calming sound of the lake in the morning and night, drinking prosecco while reading on the deck staring at the lake, the endless amounts of pasta consumed, laughing with friends, not completely understanding what they are saying in Italian, and the friendships built and hospitality received. I plan on returning every year to keep the tradition alive and hope to one day own a home in Lezzeno. Until then, welcome to The Expat Life!

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