Visits to Lake Como became almost an everyday affair. The regular bus drivers knew me on a first name basis now. Grabbing a Gelato, trying various flavors, feeding the ducks at the lake or simply hop skipping from one piazza to another, Como had everything on offer for the remaining few hours of a weekday for us. One fine day, we decided to circumvent the lake and take the funicular up the mountain. We were told there was a lighthouse there and it excited all of us. Similar sights greeted us when we walked across the piazzas and gelato shops, crossing roads to walk under trees and hear the birds sing. *Travel Tip – Similar to most European towns & cities, you can rent bicycles in Como, and cycle around before returning them.*
Atop Lake Como, high in the mountain, sits the village of Brunate. We had never given it much thought, but tracking down this elusive light house atop the same mountain, brought us face to face with this tiny, warm, cozy village. It had a funicular which made scaling up the mountain easy. The entrance was flagged by a café and some restaurants. This particular funicular was in the form of steps. So, once inside it, it gave a feeling of sitting on steps! Unmanned and operated remotely, the Funicular takes tourists to the tiny town of Brunate. We had the Faro Voltiano lighthouse on our agenda that evening. Built in the honour of Alessandro Volta – the Italian pioneer of Electricity & Power.
The funicular station at the top of the mountain had a lot of information about a lot of things. It even had a museum of sorts right where the funicular docks. Once you enter through, there is a small market place with cafes and restaurants (all of which were shut by the time we got there). There are two gigantic gear wheels stuck half way through the ground. I was under the impression that maybe there is another transportation system that takes you up to the Lighthouse. I was wrong. You have to walk through the village of Brunate, cross it and then access the lighthouse through an uphill trail. Crossing the village was not an easy task, and will not be an easy task if you are not in shape and are in a rush to get to where you want to go. It’s all uphill from the funicular station, narrow and steep!
Narrow, steep cobblestoned streets winded upwards to the town of Brunate. A trek further up to the lighthouse was in the offing and we were soon losing daylight. By the time we reached the trail that led further up to the lighthouse, it was dusk and darkness had fallen. The dull yellow streetlamps started beaming and the sky from twilight crimson turned to “deep purple”. Going up further in the dark with only our cell phone flashlights was not encouraging. We stopped to catch our breath and gather our bearings. This is when the entirety of the town came up. I realized how quaintly beautiful this town was. Small houses with tiled roofs, cobblestoned front and back yards, some with gardens, some without, fancy doors with fancy gates, small flower boxes with plants in them thrown over the wooden windows – it looked like a fairy tale town. I glanced over my shoulder and realized we were sitting right in front of Brunate’s very own Duomo (Cathedral/Church). It looked like a work of art with the night lights painting it in a very different style.
Brunate is a small town with a very limited populace, but it does get crowded in summers as tourists rent apartments and book hotels here. It sits about 1600 ft above Lake Como and the city of Como. The entire town offers incredible views of the lake and an incredible bird’s eye view of the populace below. Not much in the dark I am afraid. Hence very limited pictures.
It’s a gorgeous little town and fits well into the land here. Subtle charm lulls you in and inspires you to soak in the simple town life in its beauty. I am sure, once the sun is up, there is more life around to add to its character. Poets have lived here and I am not surprised at all. I am sure the quaintness of this place inspired great works of poetry. The calm and serenity needed for your creative juices to flow is omnipresent in Brunate.
We were right in front of the church, sitting on a bench, sharing a bottle of water, when we heard some sort of music off in the distance. Walking towards it, I could identify a saxophone accompanied by drums. Soon we came upon it. A large iron gate led us to a garden with tables and chairs laid out – it was a restaurant. Actually, an old house that doubles up as a restaurant and hotel in the tourist season. If you are here in Brunate ever, I recommend this place. Its known as the Bella Vista Boutique Hotel and you can find them on the internet here. It was beautiful and warm and cozy.
The porch led us inside where you have a bar and more tables. A small open stage houses a live band, which was playing as we entered. We decided to have our meals outside in the garden, though we were advised that rain was expected and it’d be better inside.
We still chose the garden table and the promised rain did come. A light shower.Not minding it, we enjoyed our dinner overlooking Lake Como. The manager suggested we try their handmade pasta made by the family that ran the hotel and restaurant with the local produce they take pride in. We did that, and I ordered the Freshwater Whitefish Caviar Spaghetti with Cherry tomatoes – The fish being the produce of Lake Como. One of the best I have had. The band played on and once they were done we were allowed to goof around a bit with the drums – basically posing for photos, and taking a look around.
The Spaghetti was hand- made and sprinkled with Olive Oil the pasta tasted wonderful. My friends had ordered Duck and something else with a hint of spinach, the pasta looked like it had arrived straight from Popye’s can.
Bella Vista is a boutique hotel and you can book rooms here to stay and enjoy not only the cozy town of Brunate but also cruise along Lake Como and enjoy the serenity. After the hustle bustle of your excursions you can find solace in the calm of Brunate.
The lighthouse we were after remained elusive and made it to my bucket list, if I travel to Como again in the near future. The ride down the funicular was a happy tummy one and the bus ride back into Switzerland almost lulled me to sleep. An evening of exploration that led to unexpected good tidings!
Have you been to Como or Brunate? What was you experience like? Drop in your story…