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Active Retirees : Active Retirees April-May 2012
22 | www.probussouthpacific.org A romantic might say that Lake Como is lined with gold ... and silver, marble, silk and chandeliers. The shores of Italy’s third largest lake, after Garda and Maggiore, are edged with hundreds of neo-classical villas built in the 18th century by the noble families of Milan and the industrialists who made their fortunes from Como’s silk trade. These luxurious homes, designed by princes, counts and cardinals, have been passed along the generations, and approximately 10 per cent are public buildings – museums, exclusive hotels and art galleries. But those that attract the most interest on my jaunt by ferry are inhabited, for fleeting periods of the year, by today’s new royalty: celebrities. As we approach George Clooney’s white mansion, officially known as Villa Oleandra, I have my camera ready in case the superstar is lingering on the upstairs terrace or tending to his terracotta pots of red geraniums. Alas, he is not. Despite the great disappointment for many on my boat we soak up the sunshine and glorious mountain views on this otherwise perfect July day. I later read that Clooney is such an attraction – and the cause of many traffic jams in the tiny village of Laglio – that the local mayor has deemed it an offence for groups of three or more to congregate outside the villa. A little further on we pass Richard Branson’s estate, an enormous late 19th century Spanish mission-style mansion surrounded by a dozen towering cypress pines. Accessible only by boat, it can be rented for €25,000 ($31,000) a week when the Virgin billionaire doesn’t want to hole up in it himself. It’s hardly surprising that the rich and famous have gravitated to the graceful shores of Lake Como. Carved by a glacier more than 20,000 years ago, the lake is stunning and one of the deepest in Europe. From the air it resembles an inverted ‘Y’ with Como at the base of its western arm. Ferries travel its 46km length to the village of Colico in the north and meander along its more remote eastern arm as well. My trip covers the western fork, where Sting, Madonna, and Sylvester Stallone are among the stellar cast who own or have owned properties. Eat, drink, di mare At the intersection of the three branches of the Y-shaped lake, Lake Como's most visited village, Bellagio, sits snugly on a wooded cape, offering gorgeous views to all who walk its promenades or dine at its restaurants. Its cobbled streets are perfectly formed, the gardens of the grand Villa Melzi tumble down to the shore and I’m sure there are a few celebrities lurking poolside under the candy-striped umbrellas of the grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. Lunch on the terrace of Hotel Silvio, a family-run establishment set up in 1919, promises delightful seafood treats. Restaurateur Christian Ponzini, great-grandson of the original owner, not only runs the hotel but gets up early each morning to fish for the catch of the day. He recommends we start with a platter including the speciality, perch topped with pesto, followed by a huge bowl of seafood and spaghetti that’s impossible to finish. Hotel guests are Fame, no fortune The shimmering expanse of Lake Como is surrounded by opulence and indulgence, and frequented by the rich and famous. However, a day on the lake need not break the bank. By Caroline Gladstone TRAVEL CRUISE
Active Retirees Feb-March 2012
Active Retirees June-July 2012