So Katy and I decided a few weekends into October that we needed to take a trip somewhere in Italy.  This was on Wednesday, and that Friday morning we hopped a train north to the beautiful lakes district.  We decided on Lake Como, because it is one of the only lakes that has a hostel.  The whole area is very ritzy- a lot of wealthy people from Milan vacation there and famous people (like George Clooney!) own villas on the lakes as well.

We arrived by train to the town of Como and headed instantly to go see the lake.  It was the perfect getaway because when we went, it was still pretty hot weather in Bologna (in the upper 80s) but on the lakes it was cool, crisp fall weather already.  Actually, in Como we were only about 20 miles from the Swiss border- Katy wanted to walk there, I suggested that we go another time.  The lake view from Como is pretty, but nothing too impressive.

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We spent a bit of time in Como, since all of the tourist destinations are there (a cathedral and a museum dedicated to Alessandro Volta, inventor of the battery, who was born there).  Then we hopped a bus to the town of Menaggio, where our hostel was located.  The bus ride was so beautiful, the road winds right around the lake so you get great views of the water with the mountains (which I think are actually part of the pre-Alps).

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That’s a picture of the hostel that we stayed in.  It was basically right on the water, with its own little private beach right across the road (below is a picture of me there).  Menaggio was a really tiny town, but it was nice and relaxing to be there and just chill out by the water.  Definitely a nice break from Bologna, where you never see any nature at all.

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So because the purpose of this trip was to get out and see some nature, we woke up early on Saturday and headed out on the first ferry to the town of Bellagio.   That was probably my favorite town, we walked all around it and up to the point where the three parts of the lake meet up (the lake is shaped like an upside-down Y and Bellagio is right where it all comes together).

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So from Bellagio, we embarked on a 2-hour hike around the peninsula there.  We saw a villa (but only from the outside) and had our picnic lunch that we had brought with us.

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Then we headed back into town and caught the ferry again to the town of Lenno.   This was the hike we had actually planned to do, up the side of the mountain to the Santuario Madonna del Soccorso.  It was really cool because on the way up there were 14 chapels that had life-size depictions from the life of Mary and Jesus in them.  You couldn’t go inside of them, but you just peeked in the windows.  I really enjoyed it, it was definitely different than anything I’ve seen or done before.  And it was a much harder walk than we thought it would be- really steep and long.  But the view was beautiful when we finally got up there.
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This is us about halfway into the hike.  If you look just above our heads at the tall tower-shaped thing on the side of the hill, that’s the church that we’re walking to.

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Here’s a map of the path up to the church, with all of the little chapels along the way labeled.

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And here we are, finally at the top.  Afterwards, we walked back down into the town and then headed off to hike over to Villa Balbionello, which is beautifully situated on a tiny peninsula.  They have filmed a lot of movies in the gardens there, I think they are some of the most beautiful in the world.  This particular spot might be recognizable to those who have seen the wedding scene at the end of the third Star Wars movie:

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In total, we walked over 12 miles that day.  Needless to say, we were so tired when we finally made it back to the hostel that we just passed out even though it was like 8pm.  On Sunday, we got up and just took the ferry all the way from Menaggio back to Como.  It was a nice recap to sail down the lake past the towns we had seen.  The lake is so beautiful, I’m definitely glad that we chose to go there.