A new country and new currency.  I have gotten in the habit of bringing home currency that I know I will be using again.  In this case, Italy is on the Euro, so I kept extra Euros from our 2023 trip to Tuscany and Umbria, knowing we would be returning to Italy again.  As for those Swiss Francs?  I spent my last remaining coins on chocolate, of course!

Having written a lot about Italy in my past blogs, I won’t get into any of those topics this time around.  I will, however, make a few distinctions between Switzerland and Italy.  Take the roads, for example.  Swiss roads are excellent and constantly being improved, which isn’t the case in Italy.  The trains in Switzerland are also extremely punctual (After all, they are known for their fabulous watches!).  In Italy, not so much.  How about those restrooms.  I had never seen such a nice and clean restroom as the ones on Swiss trains!  In Italy, they were often missing a toilet seat, for starters…

Still, there is a reason this was my fifth time in Italy: I absolutely love it!  What’s not to love?  The country is beautiful, the people are warm and friendly; and the food is amazing!  Although, if it’s typical Italian cuisine you are searching for with lots of fresh ingredients (especially vegetables), don’t go to northern Italy; just stick with the south.  Northern Italy may be gorgeous, but the climate isn’t conducive for growing a variety of vegetables, so they aren’t the easiest to find.  Would you like a beautiful California-style salad?  Fuhgetaboutit.  A rich tomato-based sauce on your pasta?  Nope!  Rich cream sauce and meat will appear on your pasta.  Even if you order “lasagna with vegetables” like I did at dinner, the vegetables are micro-diced—just a nice little splash of color for interest.  You can find plenty of mushrooms, however; they are native to the area, as are white truffles.

(For all photos, click on the image for a full screen view.)

This may have been lacking in vegetable volume, but it sure was big on flavor!

The bottom line?  Don’t go to northern Italy for cuisine with fresh ingredients, but DO go for the drop-dead gorgeous scenery!

We began our tour in the Lombardy region in Lecco, along the shores of Lake Como, and 30 miles north of Milan.  At less than 50,000 people, it’s a small, less touristy city and easy to navigate on foot. 

Our hotel, located across from Lecco, had a beautiful view of the lake and town.  Had the skies been clearer, we would have also had amazing views of the mountains beyond.

The view off to the left of our hotel

Following a walking tour by our Italy tour leader, Maria, we had time on our own.

Author Alessandro Manzoni was from Lecco.
This woman kept an eagle eye on the gardener down below watching his every move.

I had never seen such adorable cakes as in this bakery!

Pizzette (miniature pizzas) were a convenient snack-on-the-go.

Next, we took a ferry to the quaint town of Mandello, a picturesque commune of less than 11,000 people.  We were treated to delicious gelato before wandering through the town and ending up at the train station for a ride back to Lecco. 

Check out this ferry employees badge when he had hair and looked much younger. He has been with the ferries for a long time!

Our first day in northern Italy was so enjoyable—relaxing and lovely!