Italian Lakes interlude

A week of late autumn sunshine and soft alpine breezes made for a perfect walking trip, plus some stunning rock architecture curtain-walling the many well-marked paths of the Italian trail network. Lierna is a superb base for exploring Lake Como and the foothills of the Sondrio alps, underneath the high ridges of the Grigna and the Legnone. The high treeline allows shaded walks to about 1500m, I tripped over myself several times as 300m faces of rock reared through the gaps in the oak and beech.

It was also a trip to unwind, watch sunsets with a beer or two and swan about the jigsaw harbour villages of Varenna, Bellagio, Menaggio. I even thought I might catch a glimpse of George Clooney on his Vespa - 'Ciao, George!' - but his name was banned on the holiday, just referred to as Voldemort...  

Lake Como is a leggy lake with two branches reaching down to old Etruscan/Roman towns of Lecco and Como, the hidden bays more accessible by boat than land, usually punctuated with peninsular castles and echoing the longue duree of history and struggle for the control of the high alpine passes. Etruscans, Celts, Gauls, Romans and then Longobardi fed the distinctive mixed-blood of these mountain lakes before the Italians just seemed to give in to a flashier culture of style, cars and football. You'd certainly be hard pushed to discover a sense of  cultural and financial nervousness currrent in other European countries, there's a lot of brash money on display here. Some of the cars aren't quite so flashy, though...

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