Come on, Como!
Como, Italy was described to me as a "sleepy town" by a friend of mine and he was right. But it wasn't necessarily "sleepy" in the bad sense of the word (boring, uninspiring, lacklustre), rather it was calm, peaceful and enticing - perfect for a three-day weekend. Cobbled, old, narrow streets lined with Italian-style buildings greeted us - as did a pretty soggy helping of rain...think buckets + dogs + cats. And D - or Mr Optimistic as he shall be henceforth known - packed a single mini-umbrella for himself and left his coat at home.
Fortunately the weather humoured us when we arrived on Friday and we were graced with beautiful sunshine as we explored the shopping streets chalk-full of local boutiques, cafes and pizzerias. We made reservations at The Market Place, a restaurant recommended to us by a colleague. We opted for the five-course menu and four-course wine selection and we left feeling content and stuffed, our tummies and taste buds were spoiled and incredibly pleased with our dining decision. The restaurant was small and elegant with attentive waitstaff that knew their stuff. Each dish was prepared beautifully with fresh, local and seasonal ingredients that offered a refreshing taste of summer. The dishes ranged from a roasted pepper and tomato terrine with Italian soft cheese and a poached egg carefully placed on a bed of spinach and covered with a parmesan foam to a juicy, perfectly prepared pork loin, and, finally, a sort of "deconstructed" peach cobbler. If you find yourself in Como, we certainly recommend it - just make sure you call ahead and make a reservation, things seemed to really get going when we arrived at 7.30 p.m. and at 7:45 p.m. the restaurant's atmosphere was in full swing.
Saturday involved more rain, and that led to "accidental" shopping. And countless cappuccinos! It rained so hard for so long that the storm drains couldn't even keep up and the streets and sidewalks near the lake were flooded. We took shelter under the entrance of an older building open to tourists for a few euros. We weren't interested in going inside so we hung out and waited for a break in the shower. The employees working at the entrance of the building took a smoke break after we'd been there for about 10 minutes and chatted with us for a bit. We met an Indian-Italian who didn't speak English and a very tiny Italian woman with two teeth who knew all of two words in German - spazieren and kartoffeln. Why she would need to know "to walk" and "potatoes" - two completely unrelated and super random words - is beyond me but it certainly brought some comedic relief. When she noticed that we only had one umbrella, she offered us one that had been left behind. So we stayed dry, made two new friends, practiced our Italian and collected an umbrella to take home as a souvenir - rather successful if you ask me.
We dined at Feel that night and were impressed with this restaurant as well - a groovy style with an interesting menu that featured mix-and-match dishes created using ingredients from the neighbouring Italian regions. The sounds of a jazz trio made for a happy ending to our second night in Como - we found ourselves seated outside in front of a small stage where three men playing the drums, bass and piano entertained visitors and locals sitting in the audience and standing outside the entrance. We were happy - as I'm sure pretty much everyone was - that the rain decided to let up for this little concert.
One of the things I found most appealing about Como was its lack of tourist-ness...yes, we heard other Swiss, German and English travellers making their way down the streets, but the city itself felt traditional and true to itself. The shops we went into - Chérie, Mitchumm, A. Gi. Emme, Mucci mu and Tessabit - (all linked, check them out) had their own styles, Italian chic expressed in different ways. Self-professed "shopaholics" that we are, we had LOTS of fun exploring these places!
And Sunday arrived with more weather that prompted us to regret not wearing wet suits. We checked out of our adorable one-room Como home - organised through airbnb - and hopped on the train for a 5.5-hour ride back home.
Travelling was easy enough, Como is just across the Swiss-Italian border and we picked up 40CHF day-passes on our return and departure days to avoid paying an arm, leg and possible new shoes to get to our vacation spot.
And though my shoes were damp and our suitcase was heavier than when we arrived (when does that not happen to us?) we came back home with fond memories of our two-toothed Italian friend, our countless-upon-countless lattes and cappuccinos and the view of the lake when the sun did break through the clouds - no Clooney sighting though. Maybe next time.