I recently returned from a scarf purchasing trip in Como for the spring collection. The trip is long, about 6 hours by car if there is no traffic.
Every time I take this route I reflect on the fact that I’m traveling along ancient roman roads. Starting from home I take the last section of the Via Salaria (from Pedaso to Ancona) then a section of the Via Flaminia (from Ancona to Rimini) and lastly the Via Emilia (from Rimini to Milano).
Many of today’s highways, both major as in autostrada and less major are built on top of the old Roman roads.
The Romans had a network of roads throughout Italy, most of which started in Rome and branched out to various corners of the country. See here for a map (http://historylink102.com/Rome/roman-roads.htm)
The roads were used by the military and also for trade, moving commodities from one place to the other.
The Romans had settled in our neighborhood as well and there is an ancient dirt road near our house, leading from our neighborhood castle, Rocca Monte Varmine to its church in the valley below. It’s the only dirt road in the area which holds up year in and year out. It’s the road I take as a shortcut to our favorite pizzeria. Those Romans knew what they were doing!
Here’s a photo of our neighborhood castle taken by Marco Mecarelli
But I digress.
I find highway driving stressful. All those trucks and cars, often with the drivers yapping on their cell phones (yes it is illegal here too), and in typical Italian fashion going way past the speed limit.
Thank goodness that along Italian highways one can stop at one of those giant gas stations with bars that sell everything from chocolate (pretty important) to the latest bestseller, but most importantly, usually a decent coffee and a fresh squeezed orange juice.
By the time I arrive in Como I’m pretty tired, but I normally have at least one appointment with a manufacturer before taking the narrow windy road along the lake to the tiny town where I stay.
When I first started Elizabetta I stayed in the city of Como on these business trips, but I never enjoyed it. My work days start early and go late. The noise of traffic, late night tourists, etc would keep me up during the night, and frankly, it was lonely. As a tourist I might feel differently, but as a woman traveling alone for work, I just want a place that is quiet, clean, inexpensive and where I can find dinner by foot.
Façade of the Duomo (Cathedral) of Como, a majestic building, part Romanesque, part Gothic.
A couple of years ago after staying in quite a few different places, I found the place that suits me. It’s in a tiny sleepy town along Lake Como, and I mean tiny. Everything along the lake side is vertical. Parking is up near the main road, as motor vehicles cannot go down to the lake. You walk down to the lake to the little piazza where you’ll find a battello (a water bus) stop, a hotel with a restaurant (and a lovely terrace), a tiny space which is a post office, and in an old historical desperately in need of a facelift building, a lively (for a sleepy town) bar that has 3 rooms upstairs and serves sandwiches.
The rooms are enormous, 2 share a bathroom, never an inconvenience as I’m up before any vacationer might be. The ceilings and floors are wavy, in fact sometimes I feel like I might fall through to the bar below. I wake up to the sound of the first battello and the squawking of the seagulls and ducks looking for their breakfast. The sun arrives late on this East side of the lake, but I watch it starting to light up the west side as I have my coffee.
This is the view from one of the rooms as the west side of the lake gets its first morning sun.
The owners and their one employee are warm, friendly, generous people who know and chat with everyone. They treat me like family when I arrive, handing me a glass of prosecco and a plate full of snacks and we sit and catch up on our lives since we last saw each other.
In the morning as I come into the bar for my cappuccino there is the woman with her curly haired dog reading the paper, the battello ticket collector (who spends much of his days with a fishing pole off the pier) and assorted other townspeople, so my work day starts of with the friendly but genuine chit chat of people who see each other a few times a year.
I walk outside in the piazza and watch the ducks, the boats and schoolchildren jostling with each other as they start to walk up the main road; then up the steep hill I follow, past the church and the middle school which is already alive with the excited song of children’s voices to my car to start another day looking for scarves.