The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE -

A day tour of Lake Como with Mauro Migli­avada is €170, in­clud­ing lunch and equip­ment loan. More: lake­co­mo­mo­tor­ • vil­laser­bel­ • a corker of a view from its ter­race. The path drops back down to­wards the lake from here, but we make a di­ver­sion to see a lo­cal land­mark — the spot where Ben­ito Mus­solini and his mis­tress, Clara Pe­tacci, were ex­e­cuted by Ital­ian partisans in April 1945, com­mem­o­rated by a black cross set into a gar­den wall.

It may be a sunny coun­try lane, but the place makes us shud­der — not least be­cause some­one has laid fresh flow­ers — and we quickly move on to Villa Car­lotta at Tre­mezzo. From the out­side, with its white paint­work and teal blue shut­ters, it’s a beauty, an 18th-cen­tury mas­ter­piece that used to be­long to mi­nor Euro­pean roy­alty. In­side, it’s a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment; only one room, the bed­room of Car­lotta, one of its many own­ers, has been pre­served. The rest is sim­ply a mu­seum. Yet it is worth the price of en­try for the view from the top-floor bal­cony and for the botanic gar­dens that sur­round it.

By the time we get to the dock at Caden­ab­bia, 8km from Lenno, aper­i­tivi are call­ing us, so we hop on the ferry back to Bel­la­gio. Stand­ing at the front of the car deck, a thin wire rope the only bar­rier be­tween us and the wa­ter, is a damned cool way to spend 15 min­utes.

It’s quite tempt­ing to while away your time in Como just pootling around on fer­ries — de­cid­ing, say, to pop over to Varenna for a cof­fee sim­ply be­cause, well, you can. How­ever, the me­dieval old town of Como is worth a morn­ing of any­one’s time, and it’s only 45 min­utes on the hy­dro­foil from Bel­la­gio. We also go to the Villa Ser­bel­loni (not to be con­fused with the ho­tel), an out­post of the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion that sits on the hill over­look­ing Bel­la­gio. It’s all very se­cre­tive — you have to book your ticket, you can’t turn up unan­nounced — and we only get as close as 100m from the villa, which we are warned not to pho­to­graph. The foun­da­tion aims to “pro­mote the well­be­ing of hu­man­ity” and has in­vited all sorts of peo­ple, from heads of state to poet and US civil rights ac­tivist Maya An­gelou, to use its fa­cil­i­ties and hold res­i­den­cies.

Clare has a flight to New York to catch, so my last day is to be spent alone. I’ve found a great stand-in, though.

Pretty Varenna soaks up the sun­light, top; pool ter­race at Grand Ho­tel Villa Ser­bel­loni, above

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