We went back to Milan the next morning, then took another train at a different station to Lake Como, the first stop when going to the Lake District. Although Lake Como is only 30 minutes away by car, it took us an hour to get there by train. The train fare was only 4.60 euros each but we were nearly slapped a fine of 5 euros each for not validating our tickets. Lucky for us, the lady conductor let us off. The validation of tickets on European trains is quite troublesome. From Milan to Bologna and back, we saw the validation boxes on the platform so that was easy but going to Lake Como, we didn't see the boxes and in our hurry to get on the train (Italian trains are not very punctual and were usually late by 5 to 7 minutes), we just didn't bother to search for the validation boxes.
When I told my friend B that I was going to Milan, she said that I must check out Lake Como. I thought I heard "Cumo" and didn't realize that it was the same Lake Como that is synonymous with George Clooney.
The train station at Lake Como is rather deceiving. It is small, desolated and nobody spoke English. We felt quite lost. The lone cafe was run by Chinese from China who spoke Italian and Chinese but they were curt and we couldn't get much information from them. The taxi drivers were dishonest, and told us that it would take 20 minutes to walk to the town. Because we had to make calls to our airline, we missed a couple of buses going to Bellagio, a town about 25 km away where we had booked a room. Missing the bus to Bellagio was a blessing in disguise because if we had gone on to Bellagio, we wouldn't have had enough time on the way back the next day for Como. The bus ride to Bellagio from Como costs 3.20 euros and takes on hour even though the distance is only 25 km. If I ever go to Lake Como again (and I want to!), I will make sure to drive there. Getting around by trains, buses and ferries takes 4 times longer than by car because of the many stops. Despite having a heavy bag each (filled with the cheeses, salami and handbags we bought in Bologna), we walked to the town when we met a couple of tourists coming up the steps in front of the station who told us that the city was just down the steps.
We walked down the steps that cut through a small park was the town of Como and it only took us 5 minutes! Remember that, and don't pay 20 euros for a taxi ride.
Despite our worry over Etihad Airway's non-reply regarding my daughter's change of flight, we immediately perked up when we saw the lovely town of Como. Como turned out to be quite big although the train station gave the impression of some God-forsaken town. Como is quite different in architecture from Milan and most Italian cities, probably because it is so near Switzerland. The buildings are not as colorful and the town is elegant, clean, neat and looks very expensive.
We only spent about an hour and a half in Como, which is a shame because the town is quite big, extending from the point where the ferry is to the other side of the lake. We had to move on to Bellagio because we had no idea what time the ferry service stops. Getting to Bellagio by ferry was quite confusing because there were no signs, no maps, no taxis, no tourist information booths and nobody spoke English!
The view on the ferry ride was beautiful--lots of villas and houses along the shores of the lake, crystal clear water, mountains all around, some of which were slightly snow-capped. I never knew that Lake Como was so big and so heavily inhabited. Our timing wasn't right though because the sun set early and before we got to Bellagio, it was already dark.