The picture of the promontory of Bellagio is so beautiful as a whole that the traveler had better stand off for awhile to admire it at a distance and at his leisure. Indeed it is a question whether the lasting impressions which we treasure of Bellagio are not, after all, those derived from across the lake, from the shore-fronts of Tremezzo, Cadenabbia, Menaggio, or Varenna.
A colossal, conquering geological lion appears to have come up from the south in times immemorial, bound for the north, and finding further progress stopt by the great sheet of water in front of him, seems to have halted and to be now crouching there with his noble head between his paws and his eyes fixt on the snow-covered Alps. The big white house on the lion’s neck is the Villa Serbelloni, now used as the annex of a hotel, and the park of noble trees belonging to the villa forms the lion’s mane. Hotels, both large and small, line the quay at the water’s edge ; then comes a break in the houses, and stately Villa Melzi is seen to stand off at one side. Villa Trotti gleams from among its bowers farther south; on the slope Villa Trivulzio, formerly Poldi, shows bravely, and Villa Giulia has cut for itself a wide prospect over both arms of the lake. At the back of this lion couchant, in the middle ground, sheer mountain walls tower protectingly, culminating in Monte Grigna.
The picture varies from hour to hour, from day to day, and from season to season. Its color-scheme changes with wind and sun, its sparkle comes and goes from sunrise to sunset; only its form remains untouched through the night and lives to delight us another day. As the evening wears on, lights appear one by one on the quay of Bellagio, until there is a line of fire along the base of the dark peninsula. The hotel windows catch the glare, the villas light their storied corridors, and presently Bellagio, all aglow, presents the spectacle of a Venetian night mirrored in the lake.
By this time the mountains have turned black and the sky has faded. It grows so still on the water that the tinkle of a little Italian band reaches across the lake to Cadenabbia, a laugh rings out into the quiet air from one of the merry little rowboats, and even the slight clatter made by the fishermen, in putting their boats to rights for the night and in carrying their nets indoors, can be distinguished as one of many indications that the day is done.
When we land at Bellagio by daylight, we find it to be very much of a bazaar of souvenirs along the water-front, and everybody determined to carry away a keepsake. There is so much to buyornamental olive wood and tortoise-shell articles, Como blankets, lace, and what may be described in general terms as modern antiquities. These abound from shop to shop; even English groceries are available. Bellagio’s principal street is suddenly converted at its northern end into a delightful arcade, after the arrangement which constitutes a characteristic charm of the villages and smaller towns on the Italian lakes; moreover, the vista up its side street is distinctly original. This mounts steeply from the waterside, like the streets of Algiers, is narrow and constructed in long steps to break the incline.