Fourteen Months Abroad – Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy

May 4.—Here we are among the beautiful Italian lakes, to which we have been looking forward with much pleasure. Yesterday morning before leaving the hotel for the station, L. went once more to the great cathedral to see the new silver statues which add much to the beauty of the great altar. The red drapery was differently arranged and all was beautiful. On our way in the omnibus to the station we noticed large trees covered with purple blossoms just the color of purple wisteria. Each blossom was as large as, or larger than, the snap dragon blossom and had that appearance. In the outskirts of Milan a multitude of women were washing clothes in a public place. From our train we saw barefooted women at work in the fields. The ground was wet from much rain. We passed rows of mulberry trees for feeding the silk worms and saw arbors covered with wisteria. Corn, wheat and rye were up in the fields, the latter headed out and the wheat high. There were° hawthorn hedges, Judas trees, tamarisks and locusts, be-sides the handsome, drooping, graceful Italian evergreens and other trees. We traveled by rail to Como and there took the steamer Lariano for Bellagio. Notwithstanding rain and heavy clouds hanging over the mountains we had grand views. The rain poured down for a short time. Then the air cleared and we could see the mountains. Snow covered their summits, although we were so near them and surrounded by them. Lake Como resembles a river more than a lake and we were strongly reminded of the day we spent on the Rhine. L. said “it seemed like a second journey on the Rhine.” There were the same bends in the lake, the same high mountains on each side of us, but without the castles. Other buildings were there instead of castles !

Yesterday at 10:10 we left Milan, arriving here about two in the afternoon. At Hotel Florence I stopped half-way up to the room the man was taking us to and told him we could not go so high, there being no lift. As he had no other room for us, he kindly sent us here to Hotel Suisse. We were charmed at once with the view from our window. This morning as soon as we were up we began feasting on the scene before us—we could hardly take time to dress. The sun had risen and the clouds were beginning to break away. Every moment the scene changed. The colors of the mountains were deep blue and purple, different shades of green and brown, with lights and shadows. Some of the trailing clouds were very low. A little patch of snow was on one of the mountains, just on the other side of the green lake, not far from us. The lake was, of course, a part of the view—a very important part.

Later.-We have been half way up a hill into “the least bit of a church,” L. calls it. Returning, we walked along by the lake and went into the stores—which look very tempting—then to the end of the village where the mountainside was covered with native pines. We passed a grand hotel with fine grounds. There were palm trees, rhododendrons, azeleas, olive trees, a eucalyptus tree and roses—tender salmon roses, climbing cluster roses, some white, some yellow. This was Hotel Bretange. I ate my first ripe fig, given to me by a storekeeper.

“Bellagio is the loveliest spot on Lake Como and is where the lake divides into two arms. The shores of Lake Como are studded with picturesque villages and charming villas with a background of forests and mountains, some of which are 7,000 feet high.”

We are glad to be here among the Italian Lakes. There are six in all. Only three of them are usually visited by tourists—Lakes Como, Lugano, and Maggiore. A bird sang sweetly to us this morning when we were in the woods. We wish much to hear a nightingale.

Later.-We walked this afternoon to the other end of the village, where we found the Grand Hotel Bellagio. On its beautiful grounds were palm trees, medlars, wisterias and a variety of roses. We looked in the stores and bought picture postals. The grand mountains were all about us. A great pile of snow covered mountain peaks appeared suddenly and unexpectedly before us while we were out walking this morning. L. called it “a grand morning view.” We enjoyed the same view from the grounds of Hotel Bellagio this afternoon. There seem to be only two fine hotels here.

May 5.—To please me L. has written an account of what we have done today, which I now copy. “Today we went to the upper end of Lake Como at Colico. The weather was fine though with a strong breeze at first that drove us into the cabin. The scenery was grander than from Como here, the mountains higher and more snowy, and the view changing every moment in shape and color. The only thing lacking was the drapery of the clouds. The mountain sides were dotted with hamlets and villas and churches. Within one small circuit we counted thirteen hamlet groups. The mountain colors were a bright green lowest down, very dark green, almost black, where the shadows were deepest, brown, grey, and over and behind, the masses of pure white snow, all these surrounding the shining pavement of the lake. We ate our ample lunch on the deck of the Volta, Colico seemingly shut in on all sides by the lofty mountains and snow-clad ridges behind them. We came back all the way on deck and had a finer opportunity of sight-seeing than in going up. We saw no landing place so at-tractive as Bellagio.”

May 6.-After lunch.—After copying in my journal what L. had kindly written, I rested a few moments and then walked with him to a nightingale grove. Birds were singing but we did not recognize the notes of the nightingale as they have been described to us. Last night we were in the same grove from nine till half-past nine, but heard no singing. In addition to what L. wrote about our trip to Colico I might add that we left here yesterday at 10:30 on the steamer Plinio. Afterwards we changed to the Volta and thus went to the head of Lake Como and back. Oh, that magnificent scenery! It is simply indescribable. We returned to Bellagio at four o’clock.

May 7.—The wonderful view from our window continually changes, according to the weather, the clouds and the time of day. Last evening there were very mysterious, sombre, awe-inspiring views in the west, due to the effect of the clouds on the mountains, the shining of the sun through them, and the hazy atmosphere.

About two o’clock yesterday afternoon while waiting at the wharf for the steamer to take us to Lecco, we sat embowered by Banksia roses, white and yellow. The trellis roofs of two arbors, each about fifty feet square, are covered with rose vines and roses. The stumps of these vines are some of them six inches in diameter. Many of the branches on the roofs are very large and long. They have been growing forty years. Although we saw many of these roses on the Riviera, there were no such extensive displays of this kind of rose. There must be thousands of them here. As we sat there we watched two tame sea gulls swimming around near the landing with ducks and swans. Our trip to Lecco and back delighted us. Lecco is at the end of one of the branches of Lake Como. Now we have explored the whole lake from Como to Colico, which is at the end of the main lake, and yesterday from Bellagio to Lecco. Although we were driven into the cabin often by a strong wind, we could see much from there. Before we reached the landing it began to rain, but we were safely housed and enjoyed the mountains and the lake.

After dinner we went nightingale hunting again, but without success. The night was too cool and wet.

Right below our window is a little harbor where fancy boats and other boats are kept. A large freight boat is here. All except the pretty boats in which visitors are carried have long, pointed sterns and bows, and monstrous hoops on which canvas covers are stretched when needed.

The lake is very rough today. The high waves dashed over the embankment on the street where we were walking. From our dining room we noticed a steamer coming in. Water washed over the bulwarks on the main deck, reaching even the pilot house.

We have been to see silk blankets made; the factory is on a steep, narrow, cobblestone stairway street of which we have a photograph.

We tried again to hear the nightingale. There was only a little faint singing. How lovely it seems to be here writing by this window from which we have such magnificent views of the lake and mountains. None of the little boats are on the rough water today.

The peasants and poor children here wear wooden sandals on their feet. Only a thick wooden sole protects the foot. A strap holds it on.

May 8.-We are enjoying a delightful Sabbath after yesterday’s wind and cold. We have been to a small English church today.