Author: Jerry_Fresia, Contributing Editor
|My wife and I began visiting Italy in 2000. Each year we would pick a few different places to see. We started with some of the most well known destinations - Venice, Florence, Rome, the Amalfi coast, Cinque Terre, as well as many less well known places and small towns. We toyed with the idea of actually moving to Italy and leaving San Francisco for good. But as much as we liked Italy, no place really grabbed us. That is until we went to Lake Como. We arrived in October of 2003. By April of the following year, we were full time residents. Just like that!
After a few days in Varenna, we visited Bellagio and then Menaggio. But it was on the western side of the lake, an area called Tremezzina - one of the nicest and certainly the warmest, that we decided to live. We now make our home in Lenno, an ancient romantic village nestled on the shore.
|When we stepped off the train that day in Varenna, it was a bit like walking through the looking glass. The beauty of the lake is truly incredible. It changes slowly, endlessly and you never really get use to it. Surrounded by very steep mountains, ranging as high as 5 to 6 thousand feet, the lake stretches for 25 miles. The largeness of the lake provides the area with relatively warm winters even though we are only minutes from Switzerland. Palm trees are everywhere. Persimmons, oranges, figs, and even kiwis grow easily.|
|Numerous villages dot the shore, stretching back up into the mountains here and there. Some are perched on ridges. Thick stone masonry is everywhere as are splendid 18th century villas and simple modest stone houses, many of which are five hundred years old.
Life is slow and simple. And yet the bustling world of Milan is only an hour away. It was this combination of stepping back in time and also having easy access to all the pluses and minuses of modern life that made the lake so attractive to us - and to me, the possibilities for painting.
|There are harbors of every size with an endless variety of colorful boats, sometimes positioned against the lake and/or distant mountains, sometimes against the warm walls, the yellows and pinks of village houses. Or if you are at lake shore, you turn and look up and see magnificent mountains silhouetted against the sky, with houses and pieces of villages reflecting light and creating shadows. Within a minute walk from the shore, you find yourself surrounded by cobble stone paths and tall rock walls, arches, cafés, houses turned in a variety of ways, each over-lapping the other, each with coral tiled roofs, an assemblage of cubist shapes and cascading passages of light. Or in a few minutes more up the hill, you are looking down into the lake, enjoying velvet vistas, rooftops and church towers. And if painting people is your thing, you will find villagers, kids and fishermen working, resting, eating outside in what seems like a fabulously pre-arranged studio of life. Flowers, fields, goats, gardens - it’s all here.
|Also convenient for plein-air artists is that once you park your car, which is simple and free, everything is in easy walking distance. Hiking up the steep paths may not be for everyone, but it is certainly worth the effort. In addition, cafés and restaurants are sprinkled throughout, which makes it quite easy and delightful to take a break, enjoy fish from the lake and a glass of wine, relax as you eat out of doors and contemplate where you might set up your easel next.
“Paradiso”? Well, if beauty, good weather and relaxation are not your cup of tea, perhaps not. But for those of us who wish to enjoy the simple pleasures and the simple pleasure of painting, Lake Como is a “must” destination.
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|B i o g r a p h y|
|Jerry Fresia, who organizes painting workshops on Lake Como, Italy, has a PhD in Political Science and has written extensively both on art and American politics. He studied painting with William Schultz and Wolf Kahn.|
|E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Web Site: http://www.fresia.com|