What a difference 2 hours makes, the rain stopped, the sun came out and the lake became magical. Villa Carlotta is an old villa meticulously preserved with very famous gardens - a few weeks ago they were awash with flowering azaleas, but they were still very beautiful. Carlotta was given the villa as a wedding present from her mother a few hundred years ago, and her husband was a keen botanist. The family has preserved the collection of art that was collected (mostly marble carvings) on the lower ground floor, while the second level has the original families furniture and personal belongings - a great museum. My favourite part of the garden was an orangery - a tunnel of all different citrus plants trained to form an arch, chock full of oranges, grapefruit and lemons - no pilfering allowed. I want to go on record to say that I too would like a villa at lake como when I get married.
It was late afternoon when I took a boat over to bellagio. The lake is Y shaped and bellagio is at the join so if you climb to a high point you can see the lake extend in 3 directions, it is beautiful. I had heard mixed reports about bellagio, it has earnt a reputation of being a bit spoilt by tourism, and to some degree it's true, the prices were high and the shops very tourist orientated (magnets, tshirts, silk scarves anyone) My chianti Classico quaffing wine from the supermarket costs €15 vs €4 for example, I guess they are betting people don't know quality or normal pricing points. The town was lovely to walk through and it is obvious there is serious money here. The school is named after our Italian relative and there is a memorial to him in the local government building.
One place that came highly recommended was a wine cave with a very passionate sommelier, so I stopped for a prosecco and salumi and cheese plate, in a cave lined with bottles and legs of procuitto hanging from the ceiling - fantastic! I caught a lift back to my hotel with the car ferry, a fun way to cross the lake.