Friday, January 30, 2009

Going Loco up in Lake Como

If you made it to the end of the previous post, you likely noted Mezzegra’s beauty. Once again, Trofie Wife’s black belt Googling skills guided us to a grand old time. Our terrace window–door (those creepy “doors” that jump out at you when you turn the knob just a tad too far, causing them to morph into “windows”; apparently if you’re a “design” or “construction professional” you understand how these things work; nonprofit administrators not so much) showcased majestic, snow-capped mountains and illustrious Lake Como, which borders grand dwellings housing celebrities of old (bishops granted gorgeous villas) and new (George Clooney; now I understand his Nespresso connection). As per our other off-price journeys over the years, Martello and I were visiting the Lakes off-season, but the calm and stillness was definitely a treat (and we’ll be sure to make it back to experience high season and ride some boats around the lake; cross your fingers that Trofie Wife doesn’t get sea sick).

Mezzegra is a tiny town of 900 residents but it has a vaunted past as a site of a fatto storico (historic event).

 The brown sign doesn’t exactly spell it out (given the Italians’ continually strange relationship with Il Duce and his descendents), but on April 28, 1945, the deposed, on-the-run fascist leader (and his mistress) were gunned down by partisans. It appears as though Mezzegra residents (and likely regional and federal governmental leaders) felt as though they needed to commemorate their town’s role in history yet not commercialize it. (There is, however, a cute little bench and picnic table right next to the “ready, aim, fire” spot, so make of that what you will…).

After ruminating on the Mussolini affair for a moment, Martello lead us to the town’s church (even with only 900 residents I would venture to say that it isn’t the only one in Mezzegra), memorial to residents felled during the two World Wars, and the church’s adjoining (and still active) cemetery (in which Martello lingered for an uncomfortable amount of time, taking many pictures (while town members were paying respects at family graves); he challenged me to post some to the blog so he could call me on my hypocrisy at a later point, but I didn’t take any off the camera, so you’ll just have to imagine them or ask Martello to send you the files). 

We walked through Mezzegra’s winding cobblestoned hills and then several miles around the lake, where each vista was prettier than the next, and Martello found himself quite taken with the architecture of a solitary, waterside church that was nearly a millennia old.

While there was talk of trying to walk to Como, our better judgment (and frozen toes) prevailed, and we eventually hopped on a bus (hereby christened “the most beautiful bus ride ever”). We disembarked in Como near a guidebook-recommended pizza place and gorged on very long, wide pizzas (while marveling at the gargantuan appetites of what we believed were decommissioned Swiss border guards). We then explored Como’s Christmas market and contemplated ice skating on the temporary rink, but the combination of Trofie Wife’s reactivated leg pain (from our Arenzano hike of several weeks prior) and the unbearable (American) elevator music blasting from the rink’s speakers convinced us to forgo it. Instead, we took the funicular to Brunate to gaze down at Como while sipping hot cocoa.  

It’s a wonder that I made it back down in one piece, given that I sustained a hit to the lip (Martello’s mistake while in a photography-induced frenzy) and the nose (by tree branch). 

We descended at nightfall and made our way to centro and the Como duomo (say it three times fast; that never gets old!) which, oddly enough, specifically bans gelato (but curiously no other foods) from its vaunted halls. We then walked to a park containing a monument to Alessandro Volta (native son and father of the battery) and a Futurist monument to unknown soldiers by Antonio Sant'Elia, which Martello had seen previously in textbooks.

The park also displayed a small monument to a Righteous Gentile, Giorgio Perlasca, another Como native, who masterfully manipulated international laws of diplomacy in order to save over 5,000 Hungarian Jews from deportation to concentration camps (check out his amazing story here: Additionally, there is a small memorial plaque for Princess Malfada di Savoia, who had the misfortune of marrying a German Nazi supporter (Prince Philipp of Hesse) and found herself in Buchenwald upon suspicion of working against the aims of the regime. (Sadly, she was mortally wounded in the Allied bombing of the camp's munitions factory.)

We managed to catch the last bus back to Mezzegra (after a painfully long wait, during which Martello foraged some olive foccacia). We disembarked past our hotel, hoping to find an open café. Instead, we found darkness and a Scooby Doo-style haunted house villa with creepy gargoyles (sorry, it was too dark for photos!).  We eventually managed to find our way back to the hotel so we could rest our weary limbs and gear up for the next day of our adventure.

Baci e gelato,

Martello e Trofie Wife

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