It turned out that the Villa Aurora also had wonderful breakfasts - breads, yogurt with granola, fruits, eggs. Afterwards we took a second cappuccino outside to sit on the deck in morning sun.
Italy is the land of fashion and it seemed wrong not to do at least a little shopping while we were there. But good grief, the prices! I'd read about an Italian outlet mall just over the border (presumably for tax reasons) from Como, in Mendrisio, Switzerland. It was so strange to be waved through a border without needing a passport. Last time I was in Switzerland, it was pre-EU.
Four flights, 160 stores. The prices were lower than at little Italian shops, but it was still insanely expensive. Store windows carried signs with the prices of each item on the mannequin and we laughed out loud at three thousand dollar dresses and six hundred dollar shoes. No. But I am pretty good at finding bargains and I ended up with a cool dress and my husband bought a few shirts.
The one thing we really wanted to come home with, though, was a pair of good Italian leather shoes. I found a pair of shoes I really liked on a samples rack, in my size. I put them on and walked over to where my husband was. He said, "Nice! How much are they?"
I told him, "$29."
He said, "Sold!"
I have wonderful memories from my time in boarding school in Switzerland and I was excited about going on into Lugano for the day. We parked in a garage and walked into the busy town center.
We had a glass of wine and complementary appetizers at an outdoor table, enjoying being back in the Alps.
Rain was again in the forecast, but our luck held as it had in Ireland, and we got yet another gorgeous, sunny day.
Lugano was hosting a three-day thrash/punk/jazz/hiphop/metal concert festival. My husband could not resist photobombing a band's photo shoot and I'm sure they looked at their pictures and wondered who the hell that obnoxious guy making faces was in all their pictures.
We spent some time walking around the beautiful city, people-watching. Of all the places we went to, Lugano had the most fashionable crowd. Nearly everyone we saw was dressed chicly and although this was a casual day for us, we still felt glad we'd dressed to fit in.
Down by Lake Lugano, we strolled past little kiosks and cafes. We made our way back into the town center because there was one thing I really wanted to do there in Switzerland.
While I was in boarding school, I often went to the patisserie in Villars for biscuits and chocolat chaud and I very much wanted to re-create that experience. We looked at a pasticceria but they did not carry the specific cookies I was searching for - fruit-filled and dusted with powdered sugar. Then I looked into the window of a chocolate shop and saw them. One apricot, one mixed berry. We ordered rich, creamy hot chocolate to go with it. I was in nostalgia heaven. As my husband paid the tab, he told the shopkeeper that I'd last enjoyed those cookies thirty-five years ago when I was in high school in Switzerland. She made my day by expressing disbelief to him that I was in school that long ago.
Walking again after the chocolate and pastries break, we passed this ornate door of the Chiesa di San Rocco, a Catholic church.
The altar inside of this 16th century church mimics the external door.
We went into a Coop, another boarding school memory for me, to buy chocolates to bring home. For the kids. Okay, I also bought some to bring home for us - the butter wafers topped with a slab of chocolate that I used to buy and a bar my beloved Cailler's chocolate. And, of course, a bottle of wine for the night. Near the entrance was a bull in Swiss undies. I have no comment on that.
You know you're in Switzerland when the shop employees speak an array of languages.
I liked the variety of stone and brick in this old building.
By now we were starting to feel ready for dinner as we hadn't had anything substantial since breakfast.
The restaurants on the square were starting to close early as they geared up for the concerts. We decided our best bet was to head up into the hilly part of the city away from the crowds.
We found Osteria Trani, a little restaurant and wine bar tucked into a side street. The tables were ranged along a staircase, with a passage down the middle for pedestrians.
We were expecting good food, but this place significantly exceeded our expectations. We ordered a bottle of white wine and then looked through the menu. The salmon tartare, with a lemon citrus dressing, was light and yummy. But the black squid ink pasta with prawns and langoustines in a tomato and cheese sauce was amazing. We kept passing our plates back and forth to share.
It was too nice to leave so we went back down to the lake for a last walk.
Two men were playing a game of chess, studying the pieces and then walking onto the board to move them. A younger guy sat on the bench and watched seriously.
I feel like a broken record saying it was beautiful, but I can't help it - it was beautiful.
We walked along the promenade of the Parco Municipale, with a view of Mount Bré through the gate.
We'd caught glimpses of swans on the lake so we kept walking for a while along the path that sprawled along the shoreline.
Finally we found the place where they'd come ashore.
And then left the swans behind to make our way back toward the parking garage.
Storm clouds were gathering and we wanted to get home before the rain. It was a long drive back along Lake Como and lightning was just beginning to flash as we got to the hotel. The skies opened up as we got to our room and we left the balcony doors open to let the breeze and sound of the rain come in as we slept.