One thing I really loved about Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport was that they had hotels IN the airport. I spent my fourth night in a very comfortable room at the Mercure Hotel inside the terminal and caught an early morning flight the next day from Amsterdam to Milan, Italy.
Oh Italia, how I love you… The food, the scenery, the lovely sounds of the Italian language all around me. I successfully made my way via train from Milan to Lake Como, where I would be spending the next two days. My mother insisted I visit Lake Como on my trip because “George Clooney has a house there!” I’m sorry to report that I did not randomly run into George Clooney as I explored the lakeside towns that make up Lake Como, but I can definitely see why he would want to own a home here! Stunning lakeside vistas framed by green, villa-studded hillsides provided a serene setting for my Italian stopover.
View from Menaggio Youth Hostel
After I arrived by train in Como, Italy, I travelled by boat to the small town of Menaggio, where I would be spending two days at the Menaggio Youth Hostel. This hostel is fantastic — comfortable, affordable accommodations with a family-like hospitality. The owners cooked dinner every night at 8pm, and for 12 euro you could partake in a scrumptious three-course home-cooked meal with the rest of your hostel mates. This was a fantastic perk, and coupled with the 1 euro gelato and liters of wine for 2.5 euro, it was an appreciated respite from some of the overpriced establishments in town that catered to tourists. I highly recommend this hostel for the budget traveller.
I had a lovely, laid back couple of days enjoying the peace and tranquility of these small lakeside towns. Menaggio was quite charming, and I also took the ferry across the lake to the town of Bellagio, where I enjoyed lunch, then an impromptu hike through the residential neighborhoods and the stunning Villa Melzi Gardens. Back at the hostel in time to enjoy dinner with the rest of the group.
After leaving Menaggio, I took a two-hour bus ride to Lugano, a town on the banks of Lake Lugano. Lugano was technically in Switzerland, but what is considered “Italian Switzerland,” so folks were still speaking Italian, and all the cultural norms of Italy were still intact. Spent two lovely days in this region, the first night in the tiny town of Morcote (pop. 752) at the family-run Albergo Della Posta. Yet another peaceful day on the lake, as I worked on my novel at the hotel’s private lido. The tranquility of lake life was contagious, and I was overcome by a sense of calm as I enjoyed my surroundings.
Had a fabulous Italian meal on the terrace of the hotel’s restaurant, enjoying bread, wine, a caprese salad, some pizza, gelato and limoncello over the course of three leisurely hours. Europeans have the most fabulous approach to the act of dining. Meals are to be savored, not scarfed down like Americans do. Waiters don’t hurry you out of restaurants to turn over the table, in fact, they will not even bring you the bill until you ask for it. I wish this practice was more common stateside. Infinitely more civilized.
The next day I migrated back to the heart of the Lugano, and spent the night on the stunning grounds of the Montarina Hotel and Hostel, another hostel that I HIGHLY recommend. I’d requested a female dorm, but they only had mixed dorms available when I arrived, so they upgraded me to a private room. On the recommendation of the hostel staff, I had dinner at La Tinera, another family-owned grotto that was a favorite of the locals (I prefer local eateries over tourist traps any day of the week), and enjoyed yet another fantastic authentic italian meal.
It pained me to leave the lake region of Italian Switzerland, as I very much love this area, but it was time to start making my way across Switzerland toward Geneva…
Continue on the Third Leg ~ Switzerland
Europe, The Album