A personal account from Lake Como
What a whirlwind of a year it has been for us all, with Covid-19 affecting everyone’s travel plans and the uncertainty of when we will travel again. When I was given the opportunity to travel with our first group to Lake Como, this also being our first group departure since March 2020, I jumped at the chance (after some considerable thought)! It was imperative that someone from the senior management team was with the group to ensure that everything ran smoothly and in order to get an idea of how it was to travel during this unprecedented time to ensure that our customers felt confident to continue to travel with us.
Although I was slightly nervous, I must say, it was far less stressful than travelling during our ‘old normal’, as long as all of the necessary forms have been completed before departure, its plain sailing, short queues at check-in, security, duty free and at boarding, and once your temperature has been taken at the boarding gate, everyone boarded in an orderly fashion. The flight was only half full so the majority of passengers had an empty seat between them. We were asked to wear a surgical mask on the flight rather than a cotton or home-made one, so I would recommend taking some with you as the rules seem to differ on different airlines. No snacks or drinks are served during the flight so make sure you grab a sandwich and drink at the airport.
Once we arrived in Italy, the process through immigration was swift, bags arrived promptly and we were met at the airport by a representative who guided us to our 20 seater bus, there were just 6 of us who flew out on Alitalia, with another customer who flew from Manchester who we were to meet at the briefing that evening. We ensured we all socially distanced ourselves on the bus, and were told that this would be the bus that we would use throughout the rest of the week.
On arrival at the Grand Hotel Menaggio, we were asked to wear our masks in the hotel but it was not necessary outdoors, this applied to all indoor spaces in Lake Como. There was hand sanitiser dotted around the hotel, in shops and restaurants, and the majority and places took your temperature before you were allowed in.
The hotel is classic-chic with uninterrupted views of the beautiful lake, it has been one of our customers’ favourites for many years, it’s the only hotel in Menaggio which is situated on the lake, so is very sought after and only a 5-minute walk to the square where you will find a selection of restaurants and boutique shops.
Lake Como is spectacular and serene, its beauty is enthralling and beguiling. I’ve wanted to travel here for over 16 years and it was definitely worth the wait! With its impressive mountain backdrop to its shimmering emerald lake, I was finally in paradise after being in lockdown for the last 6 months.
Due to some of the quarantine restrictions imposed, some excursions had been cancelled but this gave us time to enjoy the peace and quiet of Lake Como and take in the stunning views by the lake facing pool.
On day two, we embarked on the first of our Jules Verne Special Events, a private cruise to Villa Balbianello, what a beautiful introduction to the lake, a relaxing cruise followed by a guided visit to the villa museum with free time to explore the gardens and take in the breathtaking views.
We had a couple of free days so decided to take the ferry to Varenna and Bellagio, the ferry stop is just next to the hotel and a mere 15 minutes later we arrived at the pretty, quaint village of Varenna, another 15 minutes away by ferry is trendy Bellagio, both have beautiful gardens to explore, boutique shops to mull around and lovely bars and restaurants to watch village and lake life pass you by.
Our second Jules Verne Event was a private cruise to Villa Carlotta where we had time at leisure to walk around the beautiful gardens and visit the villa, followed by an aperitif on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Cadenabbia. A truly memorable experience, I may be biased, but Jules Verne always put on a very ‘special’ event!
Our final day was a full-day excursion to Lake Orta, Stresa and Isola Bella. We departed at 8am for a 2-hour journey to Lake Orta by bus, after a short train journey to reach the charming village, we visited the Santa Maria Assunta Church with its impressive 1700 frescoes, then walked along the narrow cobbled streets, passed colourful façades to the promenade to see some more beautiful views of the lake. Then on to Stresa on Lake Maggiore, this town is much bigger and buzzier than Lake Como with many shops, bars and restaurants, we boarded a small boat across to Isola Bella where we had free time to explore the stunning palace and exquisite gardens. For those who are pondering whether to book this or not, don’t hesitate, it’s a wonderful day out and gives you the opportunity to see what’s beyond Lake Como.
We had a small intimate group, with customers who have travelled with us for many years, everyone was so happy to be away after lockdown and they were all very positive with the way we had handled the ever changing situation. The trip was so enjoyable, so relaxing and gave us all more confidence to travel again, a few are even looking forward to booking some more adventures for the remainder of the year!
Although I was a little nervous travelling during the pandemic, I’m so pleased and grateful that I did, it really is a great time to travel, there are no queues at airports and at sites, there are no crowds so you are able to get that ‘perfect’ picture and really experience the true beauty and character of where you are visiting, on top of that everywhere is clean and is more in order.