Because it was a rainy day in Tiefencastel, we decided to take a trip to the Italian countryside in search of better weather. As we made our way over the Julier pass and towards Lake Como, the weather showed no signs of improving.
Fortunately, once we were on the other side of the mountain and in the valley in Italy the change was instantaneous and dramatic. Gone was the ~25 degree cloudy weather. Instead there were sunny skies, beautiful warm weather and attractive little Mediterranean villages.
As we made our way down to the shores of Lake Como the executive decision was made to take a look at a the Palazzo Vertemate Franchi in the village of Valchiavenna. “Why do we have to see this dilapidated, glorified mansion?” I grumbled to no-one in particular as we parked the car at an unreasonable 2 minute walk and set out to view the Palazzo.
Once there we were met by a locked gate and briefly the hope surged in me that we would have to turn back. Alas, the intercom was answered by a female sounding voice who declared in rapid Italian that she was on her way.
“Fantastic, an ancient battle-axe of a tour guide is going to show us this boring place” I thought, as a lovely 20 year old Italian girl bounced around the corner and let us in. Unfortunately, my attempts at seduction fell on deaf ears. Partly because she didn’t really understand them but mostly because I am sure Italy is filled to the brim with men significantly more attractive then I. Oh well, I guess the women in Switzerland are good looking too.
Fortunately, to my surprise the Palazzo turned out to be a beautiful, art-filled building which had housed several preeminent dignitaries in the past. The young lady tasked with bringing us in slunk into the background as the tour-guide took over.
This Terence Hill look-a-like told us in rapid, unintelligible Italian, and then in equally rapid but more intelligible German all about the past of the house. He explained the function of the different rooms, who had slept where and told several interesting anecdotes.
One of the stories was about the ‘Heaven Room’, where the heavens were quite literally plastered on the ceiling. Different wooden ornaments symbolized the planets and the sun, and so any message coming from the ceiling would be a direct command from God.
This room was reserved for Bishops, and the centre of the ceiling could be removed, to allow a dainty young Italian lady to be lowered from the heavens like an angel. Such a command could of course not be ignored, and so the Bishops were absolved from any responsibility for their subsequent lechery by God himself.
Moving on from what was ultimately a very pleasant experience, we made our way to Lake Como. This beautiful lake, framed by soaring green mountains is a prime tourist destination, and with good cause. As we made our way to Como (the city), a chorus of ‘we are hungry’ erupted from everybody in the car. We decided to stop in the village of Gravedona for a bite to eat and to look around. After parking the car we made our way along the lake shore to one of several local eateries. Unfortunately, these places were more inclined to serve us ice cream than food so we resumed our search for a restaurant.
It didn’t take too long to notice a sign leading to just such a place, and we quickly made our way over. To our astonishment we encountered a lovely little terrace where a pleasant waitress efficiently eased our hunger. As we, or should I say my father, paid the not unreasonable bill we discovered that the restaurant we had just eaten in - called the Ristorante Cà dè Mätt - was in fact a Michelin restaurant.
After having been fed, the family became instantly more compliant, and we decided to look for a bathing spot. We quickly found a little beach in the shade of the cliff atop which sat a nice Italian house. A couple of local bellas were tanning themselves in the garden up above me, and as the rest of the family decided to go for a dip I set about flashing smiles to these girls.
Even though my smiles were returned, nothing more came of it. Damn those Italian men, ruining wonderful young ladies for the rest of us pale folk.
Having concluded the beach trip, we made our way back to the car and drove the 2 hours back to Tiefencastel. Fortunately, the good weather decided to follow us, so the evening was ended with a couple of gin-and-tonics on our balcony.