On the way back to the hotel, I visited a little 11th century church, the Basilica di San Giacomo, just as volunteers were preparing for the Wednesday evening service. They worked in front of the richly decorated altar, a big contrast to the simple, small church. Maybe eight or so worshipers arrived for the service, although I did not stay for the final count.
Bellagio makes its tourists climb steep slopes to purchase luxury items in designer boutiques. Tchotchkes abound too.
First thing the next day, I headed for the Villa Melzi gardens, a short walk from central Bellagio, and a chance to find some quiet from the crowds.
The lungolago offers plenty of benches to rest your feet and check your cell phone.
The extensive gardens at the Villa Melzi contain plants and trees from around the globe.
An exquisite gazebo offers shelter from the sun and views of the lake and mountains.
The Melzi Villa was created between 1808 and 1810 for Francesco Melzi d’Eril (1753-1816), Duke of Lodi, Vice-president of Napoleon’s Italian Republic and, later Grand Chancellor of the Kingdom of Italy. The villa and its gardens have been designated an Italian national monument.
The villa’s museum displays photos of family members through several generations. The villa itself is still private, although the family has opened the gardens to the public. Much is made of Melzi’s association with Napoleon.
Francesco Melzi d’Eril had some stunning outfits in his closet.
The astounding detail on this piece carries through on each button. The tails are just as pretty.
Next I walked on to the small fishing town of San Giovanni, where I came across a building with bicycles hung on its facade. A woman sitting outside on a bench told me that her husband collects bikes and decided to hang some of them on their house.
We shared stories of the fantastic bicycle museum in Fabriano, and she gave me this vintage postcard of cyclists riding the bikes on her house.
Villa Serbelloni, owned by the Rockefeller Foundation, sponsors artist residencies. It can be visited now only in guided groups.
The town of Varenna is located across the lake from Bellagio.
We had dinner there at the Royal Victoria Hotel where Queen Victoria stayed incognito at a time when European royalty frequented Lake Como. Gianni Bimbi brought ethnic textiles from his shop YAYLA e LELO to our reception and described the techniques and symbolic meanings that make the textiles unique.
This plaque on the wall of the Hotel Royal Victoria contains pine needles, certified and stamped, from the tree that sheltered Garibaldi’s tomb. The plaque was produced by Garibaldi’s son as a souvenir for the 50th anniversary of his father’s death. I wonder how many more of these plaques still exist.
We took a ferry boat back across the lake to Bellagio after a good, long day. The weather has been beautiful despite forecasts of rain.