I met my fellow hotel guests over breakfast, all American, and there were two women celebrating the 35th anniversary of their first trip to Italy and their friendship. The breakfasts are always highly anticipated at pensionnes as they are so homecooked - today homemade bread, local cheese, eggs, a bowl of apricots and cappuchino!
It started out clear and fine, so i jumped on a boat to Lenno to check out the weekly local market and do the hike to villa balbianello (only accessible on Tuesdays by land). The market was selling tinker style goods to the locals, the roast meat stall looked particularly popular. I got some kitch teatowels of maps of Italy with the food specialties depicted - they are so kitch and retro they are almost cool!
You would know villa balbianello if you saw it, it has featured in many films such as casino royale (where bond recuperated and fell in love) and star wars - the clone wars (where padme and anakin fell in love, notice the theme). Interestingly in real life it didn't see alot of love action, it was built by a cardinal who wanted somewhere contemplative to follow pursuits such as reading and music, it then got taken over by a Marquis who used it as a secret base for political meetings, and the final owner was an eccentric Italian explorer and lifelong bachelor. He left it in trust after he died, and left his collections of rare ancient relics from innuit indians to Aztec masks and tang dynasty pottery. His taste in furniture was tasteful things from 19th century France and England. There is an excellent museum devoted to his explorations, with the sled he used to get to the north pole and the tools he used to climb mt everest. But the real star is the location, and the loggia. The photo is of the loggia, two rooms joined by a covered pagola decorated with fig vines, and views from either side of the lake. The garden is vertical and beautiful, and everything is edged with carved stone balconies. Everywhere you look are stunning views of the lake, it is even more beautiful in real life than in the movies, they can't capure the scale or the scent of the gardens. The trust insists that all visitors go on escorted tours, and it really brought the history and eccentricities of the place alive (secret passageways and a hidden cocktail bar worthy of James bond).
By the time I left it was pouring down and cold, and when I passed the English teahouse I could not resist some Earl grey tea and scones with jam and cream. Apparently the tea house is run and frequented by the sizeable English population who retire here in considerable numbers, so the tea was very very good. I had a quiet evening and more of that amazing porcini risotto that I had for lunch yesterday.