Scene 1: Travelling from Miami to Milan with Richard Gere, wine, and a train that moos.
On our overnight flight from Miami to Zurich on Swiss Air, they fed us well and made sure we were never thirsty!
Swiss Air has the best collection of movies and TV shows to watch in order to pass the time.
Are you a Richard Gere fan? On our flight, they had his entire movie collection available.
After a quick, and comfortable, 9 hours in the sky, we arrived in Zurich.
The Zurich airport was modern and efficient. Our favorite part of their airport? The trains that connect the terminals actually “moo” when you’re arriving at a station.
This was our very first mooing train!
At our gate, we had to hop on a bus to take us to our plane. Their busses were cool – they actually lowered and tipped the bus to make it easier to enter and exit.
Ronnie, ready to board our last flight. Next stop, Milan!
Scene 2: Our first 10 hours in Italy – gelato, homemade wine and a traditional toc polenta party.
When we arrived in Milan at 2:00, Adam and Jerome were there to pick us up and drive us to Bellagio. On the drive, we made one very important stop: cappuccinos and gelato. (Perfect since we had been traveling since 10:00 am on Monday and it is now 2:00 in the afternoon on Wednesday.)
While in Bellagio, we were lucky enough to rent an apartment in the same home as Adam. The homeowners, Salvatore and Annie, were so kind and welcoming. They were having a traditional toc polenta party that night and invited us to join them! Thanks for renting the apartment to us and for making us feel like family.
Here is the view from our apartment in Bellagio –
The view, with a few improvements –
We toasted to the beginning of an incredible adventure, unpacked our bags and went down to the Bellagio town center for happy hour. As we were leaving the apartment, Salvatore and Annie were pulling wine out of their wine cave for the toc polenta party that night.
Inside of their wine cave.
Ronnie and Adam in Bellagio town center enjoying Aperol spritz drinks with a view.
As soon as Lisa finished her Aperol spritz, she moved on to red wine.
A half-liter of red wine for 4 Euros? Yes, please!
Sunset happy hour in Bellagio, Italy.
After happy hour it was time to head back to the house for Salvatore and Annie’s toc polenta party. How generous of them to invite us to their party and introduce us to their family and friends.
The polenta is cooked in a giant pot and stirred often.
When we walked in we were each handed a glass of wine and a giant wooden spoon.
Toc polenta means touch – so you scoop the polenta with the spoon and use your fingers to eat it.
Never put the spoon in your mouth as you WILL be going back to the polenta pot for seconds, and thirds, and maybe fourths.
In addition to polenta they had whole, fried sardines, sausages and so much more!
Stuffed with polenta and red wine, we said goodnight and quickly made our way to the bed for a good nights sleep.
Scene 3: Beautiful Bellagio, more wine and a visit to Villa del Balbianelli.
Today we were taking the ferry from Bellagio to Lenno for some sightseeing. But first, a cappuccino with a side of Euros.
We did some exploring around Bellagio while we waited for our ferry to depart.
Every turn led us to more and more beauty.
We boarded the ferry and traveled across Lake Como to Lenno. Here we are leaving Bellagio.
Passing by Varenna on the way to Lenno.
From Lenno, we walked (for us islanders it felt more like an uphill hike!) up to Villa Balbianello. The walk was beautiful with impressive views.
The villa and the grounds were the most beautiful and well maintained we have ever seen. And for only 7.50 Euros each to enter, it’s definitely worth it.
Does this villa look familiar?
It was used for one of the scenes in”Casino Royale” featuring James Bond and Vesper.
Or, maybe the above picture isn’t James Bond and Vesper, maybe it’s Ronnie and Lisa? We just look really different in Italy.
We wonder what that boy in the statue is contemplating. We know the dog is begging for a treat!
Jerome, the “Regal Beagle”, taking in the sites.
Every view was more magnificent than the one before. It was like we were on a movie set.
Here’s Lisa trying to find the answer to the question, “How do you get kicked out of Villa del Balbianello?”
We had lunch in Lenno and then took the ferry back to Bellagio.
Another happy hour and then we were off to dinner at La Grotta Pizzeria in Bellagio.
La Grotta was a nice, casual restaurant. All of the food was authentic and service excellent.
Ronnie ordered the gnocchi –
And it was tasty!
Lisa had the pasta carbonara which was also delicious. But Lisa’s favorite part? An entire liter of red wine served in a pitcher!
Scene 4: Errand day in Lecco, exploring Varenna, and a mini-Octoberfest.
The following day we had a task: drive to Lecco to buy a SIM card for our phone. Adam brought us into a TIM store and for just 20 Euros we had all of the data we would ever need for our entire trip.
After we completed our “one task of the day”, we had lunch and strolled around Lecco.
While drinking a beautiful and tasty cappuccino,
This man strolled by walking his 3 cats.
Just a man walking his 3 cats down the street.
We walked around the lake and discovered more breathtaking views and picturesque harbors full of boats.
All smiles on the shores of Lecco.
After Lecco, we drove along the shores of Lake Como up to Varenna.
Our plan was to take the car ferry back to Bellagio later, but first some exploring.
Varenna had a long sidewalk along the shores of Lake Como that lead to numerous bars and restaurants.
And of course, it led us to wine. But just a half-liter?
Ah, that’s better. A full liter of red wine!
(Right now we know you’re thinking, “Wow, they are drinking a lot of wine.” Yes, yes we are. We don’t get really good wine in Belize so we needed to drink as much as possible while we were in Italy.)
We also snacked on meat and cheese trays.
And discovered a picture-perfect sidewalk for a break.
We boarded the car ferry and started our journey across the lake back to Bellagio.
There was a bell on the front of the ferry, and of course, Lisa couldn’t resist ringing it. Not once, but twice!
Back in Bellagio, we stopped at La Torretta Restaurant to refuel and rehydrate.
Ronnie chose this fancy bottle of ale.
And Adam went for the Octoberfest sized mug of beer.
Adam looked so happy with his mug that Lisa ordered one also. That’s a big mug of beer!
Their beers were cold and their pizza was hot and delicious.
Writing this tale is making us hungry and thirsty……..
Scene 5: A prosecco filled day of boating on Lake Como, antique Fiats and a cheesy polenta night!
It was Saturday which made it the perfect day to rent a boat and cruise around Lake Como. We rented our boat from Lake By Boat in Bellagio. The owner was super friendly and helpful. With the paperwork signed and a quick overview of the boat, we were off to explore the shores of Lake Como!
Captain Adam driving out of the marina.
Renting our own boat was definitely a great way to experience Lake Como. The boat was comfortable and the motor had just enough power.
We drove by Villa La Gaeta. This villa is where the last scene in “Casino Royale” was filmed.
Yes, we were listening to the James Bond theme while driving around Lake Como.
We stopped in to visit Richard Branson but he wasn’t home. He definitely gets the award for best manicured trees on Lake Como.
After 3 hours of boating fun, we returned to Bellagio and ended up at an antique Fiat car show.
Love the luggage on the back!
Tonight’s dinner location was extra special. We were driving up the mountain to dine at Rifugio Martina. The main parking area requires about a 15 to 20-minute hike uphill to reach the restaurant. But since it was cold, we continued to drive along the 4-wheel, bumpy path to park a little closer. Even parking close, we still had about a 5 or 10-minute hike up to reach the restaurant. Very adventurous!
When we walked inside of Rifugio Martina everyone was having a great time. It was a rustic restaurant with large picnic tables and prompt service. Such a fun environment!
Of course, we had to order meat and cheese to start.
Rifugio Martina is famous for their cheesy polenta paired with your choice of meat. Adam and Vica ordered pork, Ronnie had deer and Lisa had steak.
Meat with a hearty helping of cheesy polenta goodness?
Sign us up for two servings!
It was like a giant french onion soup with extra cheese and no onions.
Scene 6: Gorgeous gardens, a scary public restroom, homemade carbonara and a 3 piece orchestra.
It’s ok to have pizza and wine for breakfast, right? (Just to clarify, we ate “breakfast” at 11:00)
With gelato for dessert.
After “breakfast” we went to explore the botanical gardens at Giardini di Villa Melz in Bellagio. Tickets were 6.50 Euro each and it was definitely worth visiting.
The main villa was completed in 1810 and is humogous.
The end of September was the perfect time to visit since all of the leaves were showing their fall colors.
Magnificent view of Lake Como from the gardens.
An interesting canoe on the shores at Giardini di Villa Melz.
Ronnie was ready to take it out for a spin on Lake Como!
There were beautiful flowers everywhere.
We even found a palapa on the grounds.
Walking back to Bellagio town center a tourist train passed us by –
And we had the option to use this bathroom. We call this bathroom scary because to use it you had to insert a coin. The coin activated and then opened the sliding door which immediately shuts behind you. We couldn’t figure out what was happening to the people that went inside – was it an elevator? Not trusting that the door would open again, we took a pass on this one.
We did not want to spend the rest of our day stuck in an elevator/bathroom in Bellagio!
Back in town center, Adam picked up the ingredients for dinner and we headed back up to the apartment.
Chef Adam, with assistance from Vica, created an absolutely fabulous pasta carbonara.
After dinner, it was time to return to the town center and spend the rest of night at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. The hotel was so luxurious and they had a 3-piece orchestra playing. What a treat it was to get dressed up and be “fancy” for a night. For the record, if it wasn’t too fancy for us, it won’t be too fancy for anyone.
The musicians in the orchestra were incredible. We had so much fun listening and dancing to their musical renditions of popular songs. We think they had just as much fun playing as we did dancing!
Fun Fact: They are dog-friendly! So bring along your favorite furry friend!
We couldn’t leave the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni without a picture in the “fancy chair”.
After our first five days in Italy, we realized what our schedule was going to be for the next few weeks:
Wine, cheese, gelato, repeat!
Act 1 of our Italian adventure had come to a close, but tomorrow is another adventure.
Off to Garda, Italy we go to start Act 2!