Our first day on Lake Como dawned grey and misty, but by the time we caught our ferry over to Menaggio, blue skies were appearing! Menaggio was a sleepy town with a lovely, waterfront walk, complete with restaurant filled piazza. My favorite meal of our entire trip was here with one of the most delicious pastas I've ever eaten, followed up with a stop at a different restaurant for warm chocolate cake and gelato. With some time to kill before our ferry out of town, we decided to take a walk up past the town. Menaggio seems to have the most complete description of hill walks, with a fancy little map and board posted right at the ferry landing. We went up narrow alleys and stairs, saw some beautiful views looking down the lake, then headed back down to the ferry landing to get over to Villa Carlotta.
Lake Como is lined with elegant villas and gardens, some public, most private. Villa Carlotta has some of the most beautiful gardens and has somehow managed to swing their very own ferry landing, despite their being one to the north in Cadenabbia and to the south in Tremezzo, both only a short walk away. (We were quite thankful for the immediate access though when our blue skies turned to heavy downpour just at the end of our visit). The villa itself was built in 1745, but is named and known for it's owner 100 years later, Duchess Carlotta (Charlotte), who was given the villa as a wedding present from her mother. Those were the good ole days. The gardens have become famous for it's profusion of rhododendron (not blooming during our visit) and azaleas (blooming strong), and pathways wind and dip between stands of flowering trees and shrubs to viewpoints of the lake. I was especially enchanted with the names found in the garden, such as the Rhododendron Forest, the Theatre of Greenery, and Fern Valley. Thankfully, the rain held off until we were past Fern Valley and nearing the exit. With rain showing no sign of letting up, we headed back to Bellagio for a little riposo (rest) before dinner and called it an early night.