Lake Como: My Italian Seductress
My heart has belonged to France. Disillusioned by the monotony of cubicle life years ago, my desires gradually drifted away from developing a career as a statistician. During my precious three weeks of vacation per year, France lured me in with her elegant language, rich cream sauces, and Grand Cru champagne. The American corporate ladder didn’t stand a chance. On my dreamiest days, I would picture myself in a bright-yellow, eyelet dress, riding a bike with a baguette-stuffed basket on the front, coasting lazily through fields of lavender on my way home from une ville.
But in a cubicle I remain, slogging through data reports by day and flirting with la joie de vivre whenever I can sneak a chance. In my free time, I take French language classes, eat at French restaurants, read French books, drink French wine, and, of course, blog about all of my fabulous French experiences. Despite the realization that this love affair might be bordering on obsession, France always seems to pop up on my Europe trip itineraries. I just can’t seem to stay away.
A few years ago, I was making the trek from the Swiss Alps to the French Riviera and decided to make a stop in the Italian Lake District. A friend of mine had visited Lake Como on her honeymoon, and the beauty of her trip pictures had stunned me. I felt a little bit unsettled when I booked my hotel room in Bellagio. I would be making my first visit to France’s biggest rival, and it boasted amazing food, perfected wine, a melodious Renaissance language, and beautiful scenery. But could it really measure up to my first European love?
To say that my adoration for Italy was instantaneous would probably make me sound like a travel harlot of sorts; so let’s just say that when my bus crossed the Swiss border and began cruising through the Italian towns scattered amongst Lake Como’s lush hillsides, my steadfast French allegiances began to seriously falter. And then, within my first half hour of setting foot in the country, Italy delivered a knockout punch. In Enoteca Cava Turacciolo, a wine cave below a Bellagio side street, I tried what, to this day, is the best glass of wine I have ever tasted.
The remainder of my time at Lake Como was filled with Italian wonders that won’t leave my head, no matter how many times I eat beef bourguignon or drink a glass of Moet. In a small town along the Greenway del lago di Como hiking trail, I had the best pizza of my life. I met smiling locals who were eager to communicate with me, even if it was only to teach me the meaning of the world bella. I tried my first gelato. I traversed stone alleyways that wound me through crumbling Renaissance towns and gave the charming half-timbered houses of Alsace a run for their money. And the wine? Every single glass was impressive.
Two years later, an empty Chianti bottle from that wine cave in Bellagio still sits on my kitchen counter, reminding me that I need to pay a visit to my European mistress. This time, I’m eager to immerse myself in Italy’s many temptations and surrender myself to the secrets of la dolce vita.