After a whirlwind trip through Cinque Terre, it was back on the train for a 4 hour trip to Lake Como. The lake is shaped like a Y and is the third largest in Italy. It is also the deepest lake in all of Europe. Known for lakeside villas, the town of Bellagio (i.e. where Las Vegas stole its idea for another hotel) and a slower pace of life, it is also the European home of George Clooney. Apparently he has purchased 3 homes there and did it all while Lira was still being used--smart man as he immediately doubled his profit once they changed to Euros.
Lake Como is beautiful....surrounded by mountains and heavely visited by Americans and Germans. Many of the menu's etc that I saw were translated into German and not necessarily English.
The city of Como (at the base of the Y) is pretty large and very touristy. Bellagio is also high on the list of tourist places. But if you travel to one of the smaller villages (Varenna, Tremezzo, etc), you will find quaint, sleepy, little towns to wander around. You can drive the perimeter of the lake to get from one side to the other but expect to be driving for over an hour. The prettiest way to approach any city (although not necessarily faster) is by one of the different boat services. Their 'fast boat' is a hydrofoil and only makes a few stops along the lake. The regular boat, which is a larger, upgraded version of a Venetian vaparetto makes the milk run around the shoreline. Planning travel from one village to another requires a degree to understand the schedule and also patience as they are rarely on time. And one must be careful to not get stuck on the opposite side of the lake from where you are staying after 8pm because there aren't any boats that run after that time. You will be hardpressed to get back home!
Just as with Cinque Terre, Lake Como requires more time to truly visit and appreciate all it has to offer. It is a huge place and you could easily spend 4-5 days or longer there. Italy is truly one of the most beautiful countries. Being 'confined' here because of the beauracracy and lack of my paperwork really isnt an issue. I am enjoying every minute of my local sightseeing!