11 JUNE 2018

It doesn’t get much more luxurious that this at a Mediterranean.

After pondering how we should spend our last day in Lerici before going to Lake Como, we decided to have a splurge and go to a beach club. Eco del Mare was rated ‘the best’ by our hotel and the weather forecast was for a hot day. After Michelle had spent some time negotiating the best Monday rate for the day we were dropped at the top of a fearsome cliff which would put Sydney’s Gap to shame. Ah, but for guests at this self-congratulatory hotel there was a lift – oddly only offering assistance for the middle of the climb. At the bottom was one of the strangest place I’d seen in a long time.

It was a hotel shouldered into the side of the cliff. It had six rooms, all looking out over the beach and limpid water. It hadn’t been open long and came with a romantic history of being the fanciful décor work of its female owner who scoured the world for all things beach. The public areas were festooned with coils of salty rope, torn nets, pieces of driftwood, and all manner of auld stuff washed up. The sand comprised grades of coarse grey gravel to pebbles to stones – all doing a more penetrating job on the soles of the feet than Dr Scholl sandals. While the locals walked through this stuff erect and unperturbed, I staggered from one stone pile to the next as though I had two broken legs.

The day rate covered the use of one medium umbrella with two muslin wings, two pieces of reclining furniture (choice of a flat canvas bed or bean bag or bean filled ground mattress), and a non-lockable storage box. I opted for the ground mattress but when I tested lying in it I couldn’t escape because wherever I rolled, the sides reared up, trapping me in a live burrow. Michelle and the beach captain had to haul me out. I switched to the bean bag with far greater success. For one day, sitting on the beach and using this unspectacular equipment, the cost was $180. Drinks, comprising mostly ice cubes, were $22 each. Staying in the hotel, in which you’re virtually trapped after sundown, costs around $750 per night.

The day failed to show any sun and the water was too bracing for us to swim in. It also rained for a while.

Jeez, we had a great day at the beach.


June 12  To Como

Unless you’re a serious, in form, weightlifter, European train travel with large, heavy suitcases is not recommended. Of course, once you’ve planned the route and pre-paid, it’s too late. Our journey from Lerici to Como was looking okay until we reached La Spezia train station where we had to tackle long stone ascending staircases because the lifts were being repaired. Were it not for kind and muscular fellow travellers giving us a haul-up, we’d still be there. There is a certain camaraderie among those who have chosen to lug. And not just in the matter of cases. In the lofty and magnificent Milan railway station, we had arrived too early to meet our driver (to Como) and took refuge in a pizza-and-pee-entitlement restaurant – except it lacked the pee entitlement. That obliged a journey downstairs where one euro was required to make a contribution to the city’s urine bank. Back in among the pizzas we came across a small American woman who’d had a couple of beers, needed relief, but didn’t have the necessary euro on hand. She was seriously assessing her options among the rubbish bins when Michelle funded her trip downstairs and was rewarded with a list of good places to eat and buy jewellery in Como.

Our Como hotel, called the Palace because it used to be one, looks across the road at Lake Como – one of the deepest in the world at 460 metres. Our room, (which we rejected at first because it was too small and then accepted it gratefully when offered microscopic alternatives) is in the centre of the hotel, on the first floor. Our balcony may have been used to wave to the grateful poor below in days gone by. As it was, we could only wave at the rain pelting down. The weather forecast was not encouraging, but because it has proven to be generally inaccurate in Italy, we’re hopeful.

Hotel toaster review

The Como Triple Knobber Cautionhot is unnecessarily complex.

The palace Hotel serves breakfast beneath massive chandeliers and overseen by equally massive faux medieval paintings of near naked men and women cavorting in the cloudy countryside. I would have expected a toaster of regal style in such grand surroundings, but placed in a corner, almost as an afterthought, I discovered the Como Triple Knobber Cautionhot, a modest machine overpowered by a sign warning of fire if other than sliced bread is inserted. But what’s a toast captain for, I have to ask? His basic training covers putting out toast fires. Anyway, the CTKC is fairly basic except for its three knobs which baffle many users into failing to produce toast at all. You can have too much technology in hotel toasters.

On Lake Como  June 14 2018

There is an old style, grinding ferry that goes right to the end of Lake Como and stops at 34 delightful lake towns on a-hop-on hop-off system. Trouble is, if you hop off you may have to wait hours to hop back on because the ferries are not frequent or reliable.  The best solution is to hop-on-and-stay-on until the end – which is Colico – where you can hop off until the ferry is cleaned and ready to go again. That gives you about half an hour to explore the town, gulp down a coffee and get on to visit the same towns on the way back. If you sit on the same side on the returning ferry you get a different view because you are facing the other way – if you get my meaning.

I must say that the scenery is spectacular with heavily wooded mountains plunging straight into the lake and houses built on impossible climbs. In the lofty distance the Alps stood, still wearing a shawl of late snow. We zigged and zagged across the lake for four hours to reach Colico, but the captain had squandered time and was running twenty minutes late. His crew did a rush cleaning job en route and told the returning passengers they had to stay on board because the service had to get back on schedule and would be leaving immediatamente! Off we growled again, but this time the captain, in his enthusiasm, ran early.

Passengers will tolerate a late ferry, but not an early departing one because it punishes the pious and the punctual. The captain faced enraged ticket holders waving their fists at the too early ferry diminishing in the distance. The captain’s superior, probably the Admiral of Como Ferries, must have called him about the growing angst because he then tried to slow down by docking at Argegno, doing a big loop around the lake, and docking again. This gave a strange feeling of déjà vu because we’d already seen the town on the way up and now twice on the way back. However, it seemed to solve the captain’s problem.