We have made the remarkable transition from home to away, a journey of mind as well as body, and as I unpacked I sensed I was unpacking myself too – the bits and pieces of my life that traveled with me. In some ways, here on Lake Como, I am the same person, and in some ways, I am different, as though the foreign senses – the smells, the sounds, the lake itself – reflect a different me.
The hotel sits on the edge of the village of Cernobbio, the name dating to the times of a monastery here, a “coenobium.” Cernobbio itself fronts the lake and spreads up the flanks of Mount Bisbino. Historical records date to 4,000 BC, and since that remarkable time Etrurians, Romans, Longobards and Byzantines have settled here, the town of Como has dominated, Spain has taken possession, and war was fought with the village of Torno across the lake. In the eighteenth century paper mills revived the economy of the area, and villas began to appear with names like Villa Geno, La Rotonda, La Gallietta, Villa Olmo. The convent along the river Garovo became a villa that would be home to Cardinal Gallio and eventually our hotel.
We could take the ferry up the lake, and stop at other villages that dot the shoreline. We could visit Como and its cathedral. We could stay right here in Cernobbio and explore its three churches – San Vincenzio, Il Redentore, and Our Lady of Grace. We decide to sit by the lake and watch the water lap the shore, sparrows chirping in the shade trees. The sun is warm on the skin. Perhaps we shall explore later. Today we shall stare at the water catching the light as it ripples over the lake’s surface of dark crystal. We shall read some from our books. We shall doze. Church bells from San Vincenzio echo through the humid air, reminding us that time is sliding, slipping, care-less. So are we.