LAKE COMO – day trip and transport strike (1 of 2)

I had a day to myself while my husband was busy looking at technical stuff near Milan in Northern Italy. I looked at the map from the hotel, and I found out that Lake Como is less than an hour’s travel by train. I had heard that a number of famous people had houses at Lake Como, and as I was so close I thought I’d go and check out this place. After reading on the internet, and inquiring at the hotel about how to get there, I was off for a solo adventure to see Lake Como.

Map of Lake Como

Known as Lago di Como in Italian, it is the third largest lake in Italy with an area of 146 square kilometers. The lake is of glacial origin and looks like an inverted Y. It is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Europe and also known for the celebrities that have homes along its shores.
Saronno train station

I started off at Saronno train station which was just a 10-minute walk from our hotel. When I got to the station I communicated to the lady in the ticket counter with hand gestures and the words ‘Lake Como’. I think she understood that I wanted to buy a ticket. She motioned for someone in the office and this person came up to me and said in English that they will be on strike in about 5 minutes. WHAT!! Images of chaos and violence came to mind when he mentioned ‘strike’ (I am originally from the Philippines 🙂 ).
He did assure me that they usually do this transport strikes every now and then, and it is just for 9am to 5pm. He re-stated that trains will start again at 5 o’clock. Coming from the Philippines this is such an unusual concept of a ‘strike’. Isn’t the whole purpose of a strike to inconvenience people so that your demands will be met? Why resume operations back in peak hour? So you can understand my skepticism.
This guy didn’t know it but I was supposed to meet my husband in Malpensa Airport at 7 o’clock in the evening for our flight out of Italy. I had to make a decision quickly as the lady selling tickets is saying that she will close in two minutes. I debated whether to take the words of this man. Will the trains resume operations later that day? Will I make it to the airport tonight if I take his word? He must have seen the worried look on my face because (trying to be reassuring) he also said that there are buses that travel from Lake Como to Malpensa Airport. I hesitantly bought the last ticket on sale before the counter closed for the ‘transport strike’.
Ferrovie Nord Milano train station in Como

It’s about a 45-minute travel from Saronno (platform 2) to Como. The train ride was uneventful, except me fretting about whether I have a train to catch coming back. When I arrived in Como, as I looked at the name of the station it says ‘Ferrovie Nord Milano’, I got confused because the train timetable listed it as Como Nord Lago. I thought I missed my stop and I’m at the end of the train line but then I could see a lake out front. I got out of the train to investigate.
I found out that Como is serviced by 2 railway lines, a state railway that is part of Milano-Chiasso line to Switzerland (Como is at the border with Switzerland), and Ferrovie Nord Milano. The state railway trains arrive at the Como San Giovanni station while Ferrovie Nord Milano has a station in Como Lago where I got off. ‘Whew’, I breathe a sigh of relief. I am at the right place.
The train station is in Piazza Giacomo Matteotti just opposite the Como bus station and right in front of the lake. I first checked that buses would be running to Malpensa Airport later that day. Once assured that I have alternative means of going to the airport, I walked the short distance to where the wharf is, looking for a boat to see Lake Como.
A walk to the ferry terminal in Como

There are basically three types of boats that run along the lake for public transportation:
Battello – a slow boat, great for taking photos (has an outside deck) and leisurely travel
Aliscafo – a rapid-service by hydrofoil
Traghetto – a car ferry that services the central lake area.
I took the battello. In the boat I met a lovely student from London who was also on her own. We decided to team up and explore Lake Como together.
A view of the Lake from Como – the town at the bottom of the southwest arm of the lake

Towering mountains can be seen on both sides of the lake and the shores are dotted with beautiful villas and resort villages.

There’s also a road that runs along the side of the lake for buses and cars, but apparently boat travel is quicker and more scenic.

From what I observed, most towns usually have a bell tower of a church protruding among the villas, and as we passed one town I could hear the ringing of the bell at noon.

This is Moltrasio a small but charming village that has numerous gardens seen from the shore.

One of the many gardens in Moltrasio

Villa la Collina

I was captivated by the pine trees standing tall looking like guards around the house. I researched on the net and found out this is Villa la Collina, a former summer home of the first post-war German Chancellor Adenauer. This villa now belongs to the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation and is used as an international meeting centre of the foundation, as well as a guest conference and event venue and guest house for individual vacationers. The villa is open to guests from February to November each year.
The exciting adventure (and whether I caught the plane) continues in my next post.
Other posts about ITALY:
LAKE COMO – day trip and transport strike (1 of 2) —>You are here
LAKE COMO – day trip and transport strike (2 of 2)
A night out in VENICE
VENICE (1 of 3): A city with no cars – visited during the Regata Storica
VENICE (2 of 3): St Mark’s Square –Where everyone goes
VENICE (3 of 3): Gelatos and Masks
Travel Photo of the Week 8
Travel Photo of the Week 13
Text & Photos by Alice Davis

2 thoughts on “LAKE COMO – day trip and transport strike (1 of 2)”

  1. Pingback: LAKE COMO - day trip and transport strike (2 of 2) | Steps on Air

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