When Plan A doesn't work out, there's always Plans B, C and D!
One of the problems with booking things like accommodation fairly late is that many places are booked out! That’s what I struck with wanting to stay at Lake Como, I had no problem securing accommodation at Il Vicolo for the Thursday and Friday, but Saturday and Sunday there was nothing. So Plan B, I would stay in Milan and have a day trip to Lake Como.
That’s how I found myself surrounded by the mass of humanity that is the travelling public on a Sunday morning in mid July at the Milano Centrale train station. My original plan was to catch the 10.20am train to Varenna, spend the day there and then catch the ferry back to Como and the train to Milan from there.
Weeeeellll, best laid plans and all that, here’s what actually happened.
Had leisurely breakfast at hotel just next to Milano Centrale, had already checked internet for train times, so knew there was a train at 10.20am meandered to train station at 10am planning on buying a ticket with plenty of time to spare. I can just look back now and smile wryly at my naivety. It was a Sunday! It was summer! Milano Centrale was heaving with people. Everywhere was packed with people, the ticket office, the automatic ticket machines. Still with time to catch a train I managed to fight my way (well more like firmly stand my ground!) to get to a ticket machine that was working. Then it wouldn’t accept my credit card!! Grr, after some messing around it was too late to catch 10.20am train. For some reason there was no 11.20 train, next one was at 12.20pm. Ok still doable, managed to buy ticket, (a different machine liked my credit card!)
Arrived at Varenna-Esino station, pleasant train ride on different side of Lake Como, the Lecco branch. Walking down from train station to ferry dock to buy ferry ticket had a quick change of plan, thought it would be nice just to spend day at Varenna and then catch late afternoon train back.
These were the third set of stairs I passed I didn't take any photos at the others as they were full of people sitting down and having an ice-cream!
Varenna was lovely, have been there before, busier (and larger) than Menaggio was the day before, but nowhere near as many people as Bellagio.
A local produce market in the piazza in front of the church.
It was quite a hot day but walking this part of the path, between 2 very thick old walls, the temperature dropped noticeably.
Found lakeside restaurant again, had the most gigantic salad for lunch, appreciated Italian way of having oil and balsamic vinegar on the table for you to add dressing to your taste. In mine, lots of balsamic!
View from lunch spot.
Trudged back up the hill to train station late in afternoon, once at train station couldn’t find anywhere to buy ticket. (Hadn’t bought a return ticket because originally planned to leave by ferry) There’s no automated ticket machine at Varenna-Esino, the tourist office shut at 4pm on a Sunday. Only place open was the bar, I asked there and was told I could buy a ticket on the train. Well OK then.
Boarded train, conductor came around. I said I didn’t have a ticket and wanted to buy one. Important information to insert here was that I speak Italian quite well, so this conversation was in Italian, I don’t speak English at all when in Italy. The conductor then proceeded to tell me that I would get fined! “But, but…” He asked if I were Italian as he pointed out there were large fines for Italians who rode trains without a valid ticket, and I said “No an Australian who could speak Italian.” In the end he was quite nice, I bought the ticket and he complimented me on being able to speak Italian well! I was still miffed though, I had asked and was told that I could buy ticket on the train! The irony was that for 3 days I had been catching an assortment of trains around Lake Como and not once had a conductor come to check that I had a ticket. The one occasion I didn’t have one, a conductor appears!
So lessons learnt:
Varenna-Esino station doesn’t have anywhere to buy tickets after 4pm on a Sunday.
Milano Centrale station is swarming with people on a Sunday in summer! Dream on if you think you can get anything done in less than an hour. (There was even a huge line for the Left Baggage!)
Don’t try and buy train tickets on a Sunday.
As well, we live and learn!
Why a picture of cobblestones? You may well ask, practical me after having wheeled suitcase over an assortment of cobblestones in various places, thought "Hmmm nope, you wouldn't want to try and wheel a suitcase over these!"
There's a nice boardwalk type pathway from the ferry dock along the water.
An iconic spot for a photo, there was a queue of people waiting (well a short queue!) to take a photo from the path through this stone archway. Naturally I took one too!