It is fitting that Lake Como is the end of my Italian smorgasbord. The crisp air, clear lake, and austere mountains make the perfect antidote to a whirlwind surfeit of ancient ruins and expansive history. There comes a point where Borromini and Tintoretto and Gaius Aurelius all merge together into an indistinguishable tangle of fallen Doric columns and frayed frescoes. Here, gazing at snow-capped Grigna Mountain as it salutes the cloudless sky, I can sip on the bracing ether of nature as an antidote to the hearty fare of culture I have been treated to on the rest of my tour. Too much of anything can turn it bland and I am feeling corpulent on the menu of architecture and art I have been gorging on from Rome to Venezia. After such a feast, it is time for a restorative which the unruffled landscape of Lake Como provides.
Ideally, I would like to take in a new destination by slowly letting it absorb into my pores, savoring its distinctive flavor, and mulling over its compositional herbs and spices. Time is ever my enemy, however, and with such a lot of dishes to taste, I have had to guzzle and run so often. Unfortunately, this is typical of plenty of my travel life: there is so much to explore and take in that consumption triumphs over erudition.
I think to myself, “If I don’t see it now, I’ll never have another chance!”
I go galumphing off to another site, frenetically snapping at it from every angle, like a terrier overcome by the sight of an enormous raw steak. With so much information crammed into my head, though, it becomes impossible for me to decipher what the destination was truly about. More importantly I fail to see how I was transformed by having seen, heard, and tasted the place. That is why being alone and still at the end of my journeys has been pivotal for me. At the conclusion of each trip, however long, I always seek out a place where I can be absolutely motionless, surrounded by the hush of serenity, free to slowly chew the cud. I think about the stories whose substance, like dense chocolate, have stayed with me. I ponder the characters I have met and what they were trying to tell me underneath the words they spoke. I pore over my scribblings of historical factoids and ephemera to glean any nuggets of wisdom from the past.
Mostly, though, I sit still for hour after hour, thinking of nothing in particular while I let the stewpot of my recent adventures boil away until something valuable bubbles to the surface. Now that I have satiated on Roman lore, Renaissance mythology, and Baroque trivia, it is the perfect moment for me to let everything simmer while I recline quietly on a boat in the middle of Lake Como. The nippy breeze wafts the scent of pines towards me and sends out an imperceptible ripple on the glassy surface of the lake. Perhaps, as I practice the Italian pastime of dolce far niente, the gust will riffle through my memories and open an undiscovered recollection. There is no sense of hurry here, so I will happily wait, letting the various shades of blue drift me to a space where I can contentedly digest, assimilate my Italian experiences, and prepare for my next adventure.
The villas dotting the shores of Lake Como have long been admired for their grandeur and elegance. Though many are privately maintained some, like the Villa Carlotta in the town of Tremezzo, open their interiors to visitors. Originally owned by the Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen, the 18th century mansion has resplendent gardens of camellias, azaleas, and statuary.
Hungry for more Italian? Check out our Bespoke Traveler Journal: At The Table for delectable recipes.