Five days in Northern Italy

I feel like I may have built up the hype for this post. It contains minimal photos of Italian fashion, food and architecture. Mainly because I spent the majority of my time eating, drinking wine, being a bridesmaid in an Australian-Italian wedding and searching for the elusive George Clooney.

I apologise in advance if you are expecting any of the following:

  • heaps of food shots
  • photos of everyone looking fabulous at the wedding
  • snaps of me sunbathing on George’s yacht

Unfortunately, I couldn’t deliver the Clooney goods and since it wasn’t my wedding, I will be respecting the privacy of the newlyweds (but we all did look fabulous). However, if you want to see photos from our short trip from Dublin to Milan, with a stopover in Lake Como and the Piedmont region in Northern Italy, then keep reading!

DAY 1: Dublin Airport

We stayed near the airport on Sunday night so we could get up for our 6am flight. Upon checking in, I discovered the front page of that days news featured Mr. Clooney himself, giving us advice on the secrets to a happy marriage. I think it had something to do with spending time together often…

Nevertheless, I downed my coffee, skimmed the article and noted the breaking news headline as evidence our mission (my fellow bridesmaid travelling from Ireland – the husband could have cared less about finding George…or so he says) would be successful.

Also note Kylie’s article and join me in wondering who laid out that front page with those stories in the same column? Too funny.

Notes From Another Land / Dublin Airport News

After arriving in Milan, we took a bus to the central train station to wait meet up with my fellow Irish bridesmaid and board a train to Como (we took different airlines, just to add to our complicated Italian logistics).

I must admit, since the three of us only had five days to fly return to Italy from Ireland and visit both Lake Como and attend the wedding, I used this Guardian article to book accommodation and squeeze in a few villages.

All in, over the five days we took:

  • two flights (Dublin to Milan return)
  • eight trains (Milan to Como, Como to Nizza via Milan > Turin > Asti, Nizza to Milan via Asti > Turin)
  • four buses (Milan Bergamo to Milan Centrale return, Como Station to Cadenabbia return)
  • three boat trips (Cadenabbia to Bellagio, Bellagio to Varenna and Varenna back to Cadenabbia)
  • countless car/van trips (pre-wedding, during the wedding and post-wedding)

You may be thinking, why didn’t you hire a car? I was the only one who is used to driving on the right-hand side and I can only drive automatic, which were in short supply when we looked at booking. Also – driving in Italy is fast paced and not always straight forward…so we opted for the public transit route!

A note for future travellers to Italy: the train platforms in the small towns and regional areas aren’t very accessible, so travel light or use a backpack! Luckily we needed to tone our bridesmaid biceps so we took the stairs as a mini-workout challenge. After which we rewarded ourselves with croissants.

Notes From Another Land / Cadenabbia

The popular method of travel: scooting around

We arrived in Como and then boarded a bus which took us up the winding two-lane road to the Cadenabbia, about 50 minutes away. It was not for the faint-hearted or those who get motion sickness easily. Pack your drowsy tablets and strap your luggage in – these buses overtake and stop suddenly. Also try to clear your stop with the driver before he gets going so he knows where to pull over. Once you arrive, the windy journey will be well worth it, Lake Como is lovely and there are lots of picturesque spots to check out!

Some snaps from our accommodation, the Grand Hotel Cadenabbia:

Notes From Another Land / Cadenabbia

Our room at the Grand Hotel Cadenabbia

Notes From Another Land / Cadenabbia

The view across Cadenabbia

Notes From Another Land / Cadenabbia

The Grand Hotel Cadenabbia cocktail bar’s patio overlooking Lake Como

Notes From Another Land / Aperol spritz

Aperitif time

The demographic at Lake Como is definitely a bit older but it’s a lovely spot for a quiet break. Our hotel was hosting a few tour groups and we found ourselves shutting the bar down on the first night. In our defence, we didn’t finish our meal until 10pm and by the time we could have a night cap, the bar was closing down well before midnight.

I’m guessing it’s because they needed to prepare for the 7am breakfast rush! But before we were off, we managed to quiz the bartender about George Clooney. Apparently folks like us are the cause of him staying in his estate and he used to frequent the local restaurants more often before his secret hideaway was discovered. Poor guy.

DAY 2: Boat time

Otherwise known as finding George, sourcing the best gelato and trying not to sprain an ankle as we explore the quaint cobblestoned streets of Bellagio and Varenna.

Notes From Another Land / Lake Como

From a distance I resemble Amal in this hat, no?

Notes From Another Land / Lake Como

Waiting to board the ferry

Notes From Another Land / Lake Como

Lake Como

Ok, so the photos decrease as time goes on. We became distracted by Italian silk ties and scarves, cappuccinos, he best chocolate croissants we have ever tasted, competing gelato shops (we had to judge them both) and the half litres of red wine for under a fiver. We strolled through narrow streets that still managed to be used by school buses and stopped every now and then to look out over the lake. The sun came out for a while, we soaked it all in and then caught a boat back to Cadenabbia before it started to rain on our last night in Lake Como.

I said farewell to Como (for now) and put my search for Clooney on the back burner. I had an early start the next day and a wedding rehearsal to attend. There were bridesmaid duties, more red wine and over 10 types of cheese waiting for me to sample in Nizza. Duty called.

Notes From Another Land / Lake Como

The search for George continues

DAY 3 & 4: Nizza

This day consisted of a bus ride, four train rides, a couple of car rides, unpacking and steaming wedding attire, a rehearsal at the church, wine and cheese at the hotel and a dinner where I ate the best gnocchi I’ve ever tasted in my life.

Since we had stocked up on croissants at Como for the different legs of our journey, I opted out of the dessert but again, I’m sure it was the best you could have tasted. I just couldn’t possibly do it after all those breaded pastries, wine, cheeses and olives.

Thank goodness it takes a while for the body to catch up with the menu, or I would have had bridesmaid trouble. Luckily I was able to sacrifice it all in the name of trying everything (except that one dessert) and resigned myself to buying a pair of stretchy jeans when we got home to London. What do they expect you to do when they put a hundred breadsticks on your table in a basket?

Luckily, the groomsmen were engineers and fascinated by the architecture and structural beams in the local buildings so I challenged them to build a breadstick mock up of the designs. This cut down on a considerable number of the breadsticks available to us: crisis averted. Then it was off to bed to rest for the big day!

I won’t go into detail but it was a lovely day. The church was beautiful, the food was fabulous and the speeches were great! The Italians sure do know how to do a menu and the view from the reception and villages we passed through along the way for photos were beautiful. We wish the newlyweds all the best on their next adventure in their new life together in Australia!

DAY 5: Final day winery lunch

We bid farewell to the other guests on our final day in Nizza before heading back to Milan but before we went we were treated to lunch and wine tasting at a local winery. Again, unfortunately because we spent most of the time eating and drinking, there is a lack of photos.

But I did get a few of the view!

You may not be able to see it from these, but the Alps were in plain view from the top of the winery and even though it was a beautiful sunny day you could still see the snow.

Notes From Another Land / Italian Alps

View from the winery

Notes From Another Land / Italian Alps

Looking towards the Alps

Notes From Another Land / Italian Alps

Final day in Piedmont at a winery

It was a short and action-packed trip to Italy, one we will never forget. I’m looking forward to going back to explore more of the country and its’ different regions.

Next vacation, I think we will do less travelling over a longer period of time…or maybe we will just spend more time exploring our new city and lounging around for a summer of laid back London weekends!

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