Italy for the Ordinary | Lake Como Part 1
Milan to Lake Como
We arrived in Milan International airport on July 11. It was cheaper to fly to Milan than other cities in Italy. Also, we were meeting our daughter Sarah after her hiking adventure on the Tour Du Mont Blanc. We gathered our luggage and found our way to the Central Railroad Station in Milan. From there we boarded a train from Milan to Varenna, a small town on Lake Como. As you read this it all sounds rather simple but at the time it was a bit confusing. We were supposed to meet our daughter at the Milan train station but her car-share driver from France to Italy was willing to take her all the way to Varenna. This was great for her but we were unaware of the change of plan. It was very hard to communicate with her since she was traveling in a car without cell service. Somehow, once we found WiFi in the train station, we were able to communicate with her, albeit a little sketchy. We had enough information to know that she was not going to meet us at the Milan Central Train Station. We knew she would find her way to our hotel since she is an experienced traveler, so onward to Varenna we went. We wasted a bit of time but in the end it all worked out. As I recollect this was rather complicated but at the time you’re in the travel mode- so you do what needs to be done. There may have been easier ways to get from Malpensa airport to Milan Central Train Station to Lake Como but we were trying to be mindful of a budget and this proved to be the most cost effective, however it may not have been the most time-effective.
1. Some form of an International Phone: travel can be so stressful, especially if you are meeting someone along the way or you don’t have firm plans already established ahead of time. Having a phone really can save some aggravation.
2. International Credit Card with a Pin: Before you leave, make sure you have a credit card that doesn’t charge international fees and make sure your credit card has the ability to use a pin number. Many places will not allow you to make purchases without the use of a pin number, especially if you’re at a gas station.
3. Local Currency: Before you leave your home destination, have some currency of the country you’re traveling to, even if it’s a small amount of money.
4. Try and Know Your Plan Ahead of Time ;) The more prepared you are, the less stressful you will feel once you arrive. You may not know exactly where you’re going, but at least you’ll know what to look for.
5. Be Wary of Those Around You: When using the machines to purchase a train ticket pay attention to your surroundings. There may be some ready to “help” but in the meantime scam you. We were uncertain how to use the automatic machines to purchase our train ticket. A man offered to help, and he really did help us, but you need to be careful. We gave him a tip for his kindness, but I do think he could have taken advantage of us if we were less aware of our surroundings and belongings. Just be careful.
6. Validate Your Ticket: Once you get your train ticket you must “validate it” before you get on the train. Italy uses an honor system. The ticket collectors randomly will ask for your ticket. If your ticket is not validated you will be fined. Before you board your train you stick your ticket in the machine and it stamps or validates your trip.
Varenna, Lake Como
The excursion via train from Milan to Varenna was one of transition. You’re rather exhausted from your air travel. As you sit on the train, the sights take you from some form of run-down buildings with graffiti in Milan to majestic mountains and a clear blue lake. You start to feel energized and excited as you approach the alps and your eyes behold immense beauty. The steep peaks of the mountains coupled with the sharp turns of the train allow you to get a glimpse of the brilliant still water between the buildings as you speed by in the train. When you arrive at Varenna, you feel like you landed on a wonderland-Disney only better. It’s somewhat unimaginable. It’s old, quaint and charming all tied up in a picturesque village. You can’t wait to explore!