Tuesday, 3 July 2018

FAMILY REVIEW: Lakes Como, Lugano and Garda

All three of these lakes are very different!

LAKE COMO

Lake Como from Lezzano

TRAVELLING LAKE COMO

Guys, we've already talked about how different driving is in Italy when we first arrived... right hand side of the road, tolls, general driving culture being different but that has nothing on driving around Lake Como!

Lake Como is quite large and covers quite a few towns as well as Como City and to travel from the lower right hand corner of the lake to Como itself takes nearly 2 hours total - if done nonstop... and you're a tourist taking your time.

In those 2 hours, a heart attack can easily occur.

The roads around the entire lake are narrow, are not one way and 90% of the time there are no lines on them.

Seeing as we were still not 100% confident in our right lane driving and seeing as our car rental place upgraded our car from a tiny 2-door Fiat to a Nissan X-Trail, we struggled the entire time we drove around there. We purposefully chose the tiny Fiat but were left struggling with an SUV.

The locals know what they're doing. They exude confidence as they come around those tight corners in their tiny cars. You can pick the foreigners from the locals and this is probably where we saw the most road rage when drivers not used to the roads were taking so long around them... aka... us. 

But we survived, hearts beating fast, passenger's feet tight against the floor like she was able to control the brakes, back seat passenger calm after we told him to stop gasping at every tight squeeze we made or making comments like "WE'RE GONNA DIE!!!" because that gives the driver confidence! *sarcasm*


Had our accommodation not been in the middle of that trek around the lake, we probably would have skipped it but at least we can say we made it through alive, car not damaged, heart still beating, marriage still intact.

ACCOMMODATION

We stayed in an Airbnb home in a place called Lezzeno. A small little town dotted along the lake, roads still narrow but restaurants and homes clustered together to make up this small community.

When we finally made it there, our host couldn't speak any English (not that we expected her to).

This was a real test on our Italian language. I may stand behind Nathan when he steps up and orders food or buys tickets (which he has mastered quite well, FYI) but this moment was where I felt like I finally contributed something.

I understood more than I thought I would. I couldn't talk back to her besides saying "yes" or "thank you" but I was understanding most of her instructions to know what to do next and was able to let Nathan know the gist of what she was asking of us. One point for ME!

Our accommodation was amazing! Sure, the walk up was no picnic for someone who complains about exercise *not naming names* but it was worth it!

Casa dal Greta (if you seek it on Airbnb) was our home for the night. Our only regret was only staying there one night because it was near perfect staying there! These Airbnb hosts are pros at doing this and you can tell by how well the place was looked after.


Not only was inside great, but the little view of Lake Como from the balcony was even better. And the fact we were nestled between very old homes with old cobblestone pathways leading up to our accommodation, this made us feel like... yeah, we're in Italy guys!


LAKE COMO

To wake up to the view of Lake Como was like we were still dreaming! The view of it from Lezzeno combined with the stillness and quietness of the community was breathtaking.

COMO CITY

Ok, we did not stop here. We passed through here but did not stop. Because... after driving around those narrow roads for what seemed like eternity, we needed a quiet place to stop and breath. Como City did not have that - well, we didn't see anywhere to stop - and the roads, even though somewhat wider, were still narrower than the average. It was hustling and bustling with a lot of people and had the navigator not just navigated through the narrow roads, she would have had time to pre-plan where to go once we hit Como City. She failed and just wanted to go to wider roads and a quiet place.

The view as you come into Como City though, was beautiful! But again, the navigator couldn't multitask and navigate while taking a photo. So you'll just have to Google it 😛

LAKE LUGANO


Lake Lugano is just on the other side of the Switzerland border not far from Como City. Less than an hour travelling from Como through the border and to the Lake.

TRAVELLING THROUGH THE BORDER

We had no idea what to expect when crossing a Euro border. Will they interrogate us? Tell us no? Will we stick out because we're brown? Who knows!

So we had our passports ready, just in case, and headed towards the border. It was a slow process going through the border because we all must drive slowly through the border check but we were not stopped. It seems like they do random checks of cars and you just slowly drive past the patrol people and hope you're not randomly checked. If someone ahead is randomly checked, then you use that time when they are checking them to go on through. We did exactly that.

Once we were in Switzerland, past the border, there was another random check as you entered their motorway from their local Polizia. Again, someone not far ahead of us was stopped and we took that opportunity to gap it!

We don't know the process of their border controls but it still didn't mean we didn't feel anxious. Like, going to see the Principal even if you haven't done anything wrong... you still feel anxious like you're gonna get in trouble. That is basically how we felt the entire time.

On our drive back across the border, we went through a different border than the one we first went across. It was through the main highway out of Switzerland and as much as my phone GPS was trying to warn us to get off the motorway, we ignored her and went anyway. Turns out GPS lady was right because we were sitting in motorway traffic for soooo long as everyone was slowly going through the border control. Again, no one stopped us, we just could not speed through the border. And again, we were still anxious the entire time.



SWISS ROADS

What a massive contrast to driving on Italian roads. Swiss roads are wider, well maintained and mostly straight and there were no tolls on that highway! Huzzah!

LAKE LUGANO


It's actually quite funny in Lugano. It is a Swiss city but it is still very strongly Italian. I suppose the entire country will always be a mix of the countries surrounding it evident with their official languages being Italian, French, German and Romansh. And because Lugano is close to Italy, it is still very Italian. Signs are still in Italian. People still speak Italian. And even though you are now in Switzerland and their currency is Swiss Franc, some places still accept Euro.

But it has a different feel to Italy. It still has very old Italian buildings but they seem to be better maintained in Switzerland - ok, make that Lugano because we didn't go any further than that. We said to each other that perhaps Lugano is a tourist hub and therefore well maintained. Who knows what the rest of Switzerland is like!

But the lake itself is also very beautiful! Yet, different to Lake Como. Perhaps as it seemed wider than Lake Como, it seemed more vast with the mountains surrounding it. Perhaps being in a city while looking at the lake also made a difference compared to the quiet Italian town view of Lake Como we experienced.

We left Lugano relaxed and ready to tackle the roads again. It was what we needed in Como but found in Lugano. A green space, a place to stop, a place to relax before moving on.

LAKE GARDA


Lake Garda is not far from Verona and we thought we'd tackle it on the way home from our excursion to the other lakes and hit them all in one day. It was a lot to ask of the navigator but she's wonder woman, so...

I lie, she isn't and we had two separate GPS systems: one with the upgraded car and one on the phone. Both gave varying directions and it was up to the navigator to choose. A lot of pressure! And when the phone GPS was on low battery, the navigator chose the car GPS. And she was wrong.

That GPS system was leading us to the wrong side of Garda - about an extra hour out of the way.

So after failing at the one job she had, we finally just followed the phone GPS and made our way to Garda. 

I'm sorry to say but... there won't be much to say about Lake Garda.

Out of the three lakes, this was our least favourite.

The lake view wasn't as impressive as the other two and the atmosphere around the lake was also not as good either.


__________

FINAL REVIEWS

H: Good. (yes, that is all he said about them.... 😂)

N: I really, really loved the lakes. Lake Como was very beautiful, quiet and natural. Lake Lugano was beautifully set in the town with the mountains and the township surrounding it. Lake Garda was beautiful but if we hadn't just seen the other two lakes, we would have appreciated it more. It's more of a touristy place than the other two Lakes and the places we stopped around them.

T: I loved waking up in the quiet area of Lezzeno around Lake Como. That was a view to die for. I could stay there forever if the roads weren't so narrow! The quietness of the lake in that area was the most quietest sleep we'd had thus far. Crossing into Switzerland was so good.. wider roads, beautiful surrounding mountains wherever you looked. Lake Lugano was my second favourite lake. It was well looked after and beautiful in a different way to Como. I did not like Lake Garda and would probably never go back there. The atmosphere was not my favourite and would easily go back to either one of the other lakes before going back there.



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