The previous day we had walked east around the lake so today we walked west. We thought that we might take a boat trip later but even as early as ten o’clock a long queue was beginning to form at the booking office so we decided to leave that until later. We are not very fond of queues.
So we walked past the boats and the ferry terminal and set out towards the expensive side of the lake where the nineteenth century palaces and villas all enjoy wonderful views across the water. What a place this must have been before all of the daily tourists arrived. This was a walk past fabulous houses and gardens, private jetties and boat houses, a place where the European rich would gather for their holidays and show off their wealth.
Gianni Versace lived in Como and so did the singer Madonna and the actor George Clooney, also Julia Roberts, David Beckham, Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta Jones. It is that sort of place, glamorous and filthy rich. I am completely unable to explain what we were doing there!
As we walked we came across a diversion around possibly the best villa of all on the lake, all fenced off and swarming with security guards, the sort of people who want you to look at them in a funny way so that they have an excuse to punch you in the face. This was all because this was a party weekend to celebrate the engagement of Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal who are two of the richest people in all of India, probably the world, and the expense here was obscene.
Why Como I wondered, probably because they were too embarrassed to have such a lavish event in their own country in front of the hundreds of thousands of really poor people.
As it turned out these mega-rich people had taken over the whole town for the entire weekend and much of it was off-limits to people like us. We couldn’t visit the gardens that are normally open to the public, we couldn’t walk down some of the roads in the town because they were cordoned off and worst of all we couldn’t go into the Cathedral because these two Hindus were having an engagement celebration in a Roman Catholic Church and stopping other people going inside. Filthy rich, dirty money, no manners. I’m not jealous!
So we kept walking until there was no reason to walk any further and we turned back and walked back the way the same way. I asked a security guard what was going on and that is how I learned about Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal and got the black eye!
We hoped that the queue for the boat might have magically got shorter but it hadn’t, it was even longer now and as we sat at a pavement bar and had a leisurely coffee it occurred to us that we didn’t really need to go for a boat ride anyway. We had walked both east and west and as the lake is less than a mile across we were unlikely to see anything different anyway, so we saved the cost of a boat ride and had a beer instead.
I liked Como, I had never thought about going to the Italian Lakes before, I always thought that they were for old people, but I am an old person now myself so it seemed the right time to go there. I didn’t really need three days there I have to say, maybe a day trip out of Milan would have been enough, it is nice but it is not very exciting.
Later we found the inevitable statue of Garibaldi…
We had walked ten miles today along the lakeside. We dined at the same restaurant, went to bed, had breakfast and left.
This was not a good day on the trains I have to say. We got on a train to Milan which turned out not to be going to our destination station so we got off half way to change only to find that the train that we wanted had been cancelled so we had to get back on a train to Milan which also wasn’t going to our destination station. This involved a change and an irritating delay. We planned to be in Bologna by early afternoon but now the clock was ticking.
And then things went disastrously wrong and travel plans started to completely unravel. I bought some tickets for the fast train to Bologna but then got on the slow train to Bologna by mistake. By a cruel twist of fate two trains were leaving Milan at exactly the same time to Bologna, the fast train was going to Naples, stopping at Bologna but we didn’t understand that so we ignored it and got on a train going only to Bologna.
Sadly it wasn’t only going to Bologna. The fast train took just an hour, the slow train took nearly three. The train crawled along like a long distance runner with a pulled muscle, it stopped at every tiny station and remote halt along the way and would occasionally stop in the middle of absolutely nowhere. As we were wondering why, the modern fast train would suddenly thunder past at the speed of light with a loud whooomp that made our carriage rock with the aftershock and then after a minute or so our old arthritic train would creak back into life, roll backwards for a while and then crawl slowly forward.
The only thing that made me feel better about the whole thing was that another couple a few seats away had made exactly the same mistake. Finally we limped into Bologna about four hours behind schedule and ignoring the line of expectant taxis walked the mile or so to our accommodation on the edge of the historical centre.