We’re in Italy! On Sunday, June 8 we left the U.S. and magically (seriously, time travel) arrived in a whole new place on a whole new day (and about 20 degrees warmer)! 8:30 Monday morning, to be exact. Temperature: 91 degrees. Yikes.
Okay, maybe not so magically- a long, chilly 8+ hour plane ride is more accurate. And then two trains and a bus brought us to our first destination: the tiny resort town of Cernobbio on Lake Como. It was certainly very interesting figuring out how to get here, while sleep deprived and trying to decipher a foreign language. For a little while, we tried to follow some other people who were obviously attending the same conference Forrest is. We even teamed up with three of these people while trying to find the bus station in Como… and quickly realized we were better off on our own. They gave up and hired a taxi; I simply asked a nice police officer for directions, and soon we were on a (blissfully air conditioned) bus towards Cernobbio.
To call this place small is almost an understatement. It is definitely more of a resort town than a sight-seeing town. But it is lovely: right on the edge of Lake Como, with expansive views of the mountains and towns across the water. There’s just not that much to do. Which means while Forrest is off at the conference during the day, I feel an awful lot like some kind of stay-at-home, “lady-who-lunches,” trophy wife (ahem, trophy girlfriend).
We begin each day with breakfast at the hotel- an interesting melange of breakfast styles including scrambled eggs, two different kinds of sausages, bacon, cold cuts and cheese, 2 different kinds of rolls, croissants, fruit, yogurt, and adorable little pots of Swiss-made jams. Nutella croissants every morning for breakfast! The only one who’d complain is the scale- and luckily I didn’t bring that along!
Then Forrest goes off to the conference, and I have an entire day to roam. Which means walking around in the morning before it gets too hot, and then sitting by the water or the pool (honestly, both on most days) to beat the heat and people watch.
The first day here, I set off to find a community garden, Il Giardino della Valle, that I had read about online. In the 1980s, a group of Cernobbio’s citizens cleaned up a site that had become an illegal dump, and created an oasis of trees, flowers, rickety bridges over the stream, and funny wood sculptures by a local artist. It’s the perfect place to escape the sun and the sound of cars. In my search, I basically hiked up the side of one of the mountains- not realizing that I had passed the small white gate that was the entrance to the garden! Sweaty and tired when I got to the top of the road, I knew I had missed something; and a kind old woman gave me directions. As I set off back down the hill, I had some company: a tiny chihuahua, wearing a red shirt, followed me all the way to the gate, before our paths diverged and he continued on what I can only imagine is his daily constitutional.
One thing we had both been wondering about is where anyone in this town does their grocery shopping! On the first day, we walked around trying to find somewhere to buy a couple bottles of water and some fruit, to no avail. But on Wednesday we got our answer: Wednesday is Market Day! One of the streets was closed off and lined with stalls selling various items, including fruits and vegetables, meat, cheese, fish, and even socks and underwear. I wandered through it four times, and finally bought a bag of cherries, five beautiful and perfectly ripe albicocche (apricots), and a half loaf of olive bread.
Despite spending so much time wandering through the streets, the area near our hotel remains unknowable. Every day, I encounter a new alley that I hadn’t seen before. Which means I sometimes get lost (very briefly- the streets aren’t that long!), and often find things I wouldn’t have otherwise. Like a small osteria, which would end up being the source of one of our most delicious meals so far! Forrest and I first went there for some pre-dinner Aperol spritzes, and wound up eating a multi-course dinner: prosciutto and melon, tiny gnocchetti in a butter and sage sauce, and grilled mutton kabobs called arrosticini, complete with red wine and espresso for dessert.