Getting the most from your stay in Como

Date Added: 22/05/2013

By Peta McCartney

COMO, Italy, May 17 AAP - The hushed atmosphere within the sanctity of St Fedele church in the piazza that bears its name in Como could well resemble that of its first service in 1509.

Stepping through the huge doors and thick stone walls on a sunny Sunday morning in early spring brings you into sight of beautiful frescoes against austere grey stone, marble floors and the full Catholic mass of the local faithful. The sight and sound of a modern religious service in this northern Italian town's oldest church sets the scene for a pleasant stroll around medieval cobbled streets, pleasant piazzas and views of the grand Duomo and nearby lake, which dominates the landscape.

Families wander past with their babies rugged up and fast asleep in their prams. Older couples move slowly along, walking their dogs or in conversation with friends, apparently in no hurry to arrive at their destination. Youngsters appear oblivious to the age of their playground or the rattling of their bones as they ride along the rough cobbles, while others in this football-mad nation turn the ancient piazzas into makeshift soccer grounds.

Cafes and gelateria are well-patronised as people stop to enjoy a quiet moment on a lazy day and suddenly you realise you've fallen under Como's spell. There are nearly a dozen piazza within the city's medieval walls, all an easy stroll from the water's edge and the Palace Hotel, a grand landmark dating from the 19th century and a perfect base for a couple of days' adventures.

But to appreciate the beauty and the magic of Como, take the 10-minute ride up the funicular railway to Brunate where you can enjoy a meal with a view at Trattoria Da Antonio whose patron proudly boasts that everything is freshly made - "nothing frozen" - from the bread and pasta to his own beer and limoncello.

"That's a lot of work," we say, impressed.

"My wife!" he replies and offers a politically incorrect high-five to my husband, laughing.

Lunch of lasagne and a soft drink will cost around 12 euros ($A15.86).

The funicular railway, which opened in November 1894, boasts views of the city and surrounding countryside to as far away as the Italian Alps.

Go early to avoid the crowds and to make the most of your time in Brunate, which offers walks of between two and 30 minutes to attractions such as Volta's lighthouse, St Andrew's church in all its pale stone glory, Marenghi Park or St Maurice church.

The railway service runs every half an hour and takes around 10 minutes each way, for a return fare of 5.25 euros ($A6.94) per person.

If you're still peckish once back down to sea level, why not pop into the Taverna Messicana on the Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini for one of their famous three-foot-(0.9-metre)-long thin-crust pizzas and a mixed salad for around 25 euros ($A33.05).

Other ways to enjoy the beauty of this Y-shaped lake include boat or sea-plane rides, both of which can be booked on the wharf.

For those wanting a little more excitement and adventure, Como is a short half-hour train ride from Milan, arguably the world's couture capital.

A stroll through the high-end fashion district is worth it, even if you can't afford what's inside, while words cannot do justice to the sight of the city's Duomo and Galleria, situated near the world-famous Scala Theatre.

If the bright lights aren't for you, take a walk along Como's promenade at the end of the day, with a gelato from one of the many ice-creameries along the way, but don't be surprised if you have to queue. Like the choices available once inside the gelateria, in Como there is a lot to offer every taste and in this city you can afford to add several scoops to your dish.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE: Como is 60km from Milan Malpensa International Airport and 75km from Milan Linate International Airport.

Rail travel is regular and prompt from within Italy and from international locations. Some reservation conditions apply to fast trains. Eurail passes should be booked and paid for prior to departing Australia for duration of travel required (see your local travel agent).

STAYING THERE: The Palace Hotel is a 15 minute walk from Como San Giovanni central railway station or a five minute taxi ride, costing 7 euros ($A9.25).

Palace Hotel offers standard rooms in low season for $190 per room twinshare, with lakeview $228 per room twinshare per night. (Children up to 12 years sharing a room with parents are free of charge.)

PLAYING THERE: Getting around is easy on foot to most sights, and there is free entry to churches. Ferry fares and sea plane tour costs vary depending on which type you opt for. The funicular railway is 5.25 euros ($A6.94) per person return.

Contact CIT Holidays for more info: 1300 380 992 or email cit@cit.com.au 

* The writer travelled to Europe independently and was a guest of CIT Holidays, Palace Hotel and Eurail.

Copyright AAP 




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