In Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Eat, Pray, Love, she mentions having found the best pizza ever in Naples. Yet here I am, in Milano's Brera district, sitting at Obica's  as the 'cameriera' (waitress) brings the Margherita pizza I just ordered. With my first bite I savor its fresh chewy thin crust and those dollops of freshly made soft mozzarella cheese that have been spattered over a devilishly flavorful tomato sauce. Every bite sinks taste buds deeper into an amorous ecstasy until, in a déjà vu moment, I recall her words. I've discovered quite by surprise that my own affair is happening right here, right now, in Milano. Obica's even tweaked my climatic experience with the addition of prosciutto. Their beer collection rivals those of a California micro brewery. Try the L'ORSO VERDE. Intimacy has never tasted so good!
HOW I got here? I had only to fly into Milano Malpensa Airport, as it was the best choice for this excursion. Once there I jumped onto the Malpensa Express  for the Milano Nord Cadorna Station. Approximately, a 30 minute train ride that cost 12 euro each way. I opted for the 18 euro round trip ticket. The Cadorna Station was my quickest and easiest option for getting to Como. I took the Trenord , a local train that in an hour gets you into Como's Nord Lago Station. No mistakes here as this station is the end of the line. The cost each way for this ride was 3.80 euro out of season. During seasons its 4.80 euro each way.
In the Italian town of Como there is a Duomo, a basilica and chiesa's, remnants of a citadel, Romanesque and renaissance era architecture. So much history has lapped the beautiful shores of this ancient settlement on the glacially formed Il Lago di Como! Situated within a peaceful corner of its old town's protective walls, lies the quiet home of Stella Sciacca. It's in the very eye of this historical district at Via Indipendenza . The hostess with the most-est, Stella's Sicilian charm will be hard to beat. Her husband Nello is an illuminating writer, and her son Pietro - an all Italian version of an all American boy. Step outside the decorated room of Audrey Hepburn's and those narrow cobblestone streets, alleyways and corridors of Citta Murata await your explorations. Like a vortex, it drew me into the very heart of the Piazza Duomo! Lined with restaurants, shops, people and locals playing their music, the square was the life of this party! Its beautiful old cathedral with its architecture and colorful stone work was the centerpiece.
The village except for the lake on its north is surrounded by mountains. Once the curiosity for a view from above struck, the gravity of its lure became futile to resist. I found myself drawn into the pure Italian wilderness where suddenly, I was strolling along the ancient cobblestoned trails from one hamlet to the next. My imagination stumbling into a forgotten land of Romeo and Juliet! A time before a time before, there lies a triangle of mountains known as the Triangolo Lariano. Positioned between the Como and Lecco branches of this lake, it stretches north, all the way to the point of Bellagio. They are but a small slice of the Prealpi Lombarde pie! Those exotic limestone foothills! Front country to the Alps, once a border of the ancient Tethys Sea. On a ridge below, in the outskirts of Como, lies a time machine of sorts to such a place...a tram type train known as the 'funicular'!
Colorfully perched along the same ridge lies 54b! A home eloquently remodeled to its traditional 1921 origins. The rooms, a Concerto in Pastels, will leave you nothing less than enchanted! Even from the street, 100 steps below, an embraceable view of Como, the Duomo and the lake from this home's balcony, must have been beckoning me. Inspired, the climb became its own reward, whiles the charm and charisma of my hosts Isa and Edo were the icing on this cake. Their presentation of breakfast every morning is but a gift waiting to be unwrapped. Having discovered this as well on the search page , I was living yet a second life as a local here at Via Torno , with Isabella Tagaliabue and Edo . When I was ready for dinner, there was plenty to choose from. My personal favorite, a great pizza, can be found within walking distance at Riva Cafe, just off Como's waterfront from the ferry terminal at Via Fratelli Cairoli , or just google map it.
To get to Como-Brunate Funicular  you can walk you over 1000 feet up a 55% grade across this ridges slope to the first stone hamlet of Brunate. I took one of the two trails that serpentine their way up this ridge as well! This is your choice. It is at Brunate where the stone path of the Prealpi and my hike, or your mountain bike, adventure begins! The trek took me up through the hamlet of Faro Voltiano and Baita Carla to arrive at the mountain tavern of Baita Bondella. Invigorated, but ready for a break, you could rest under the shade of sycamores while enjoying a cold Peroni beer. I chose to set inside and attempt some conversation with the 'locandiera' (tavern owner), a friend of Edo's. It was a long way though to hear the 'cameriere' (waiter) tell me they had no more of their traditional mountain dish, Polenta. Made from corn or chickpeas, and once considered the dish of peasants, it's cooked to a similar consistency of mashed potatoes. Once I explained that I had walked all the way from California he asked me to give him a moment and then returned with a final dish they'd managed to scrape up. Theirs was served with sliced beef and dark gravy. Yum! My exaggerations had paid off. For desert I had an apple cake and a cappuccino as I continued to chat with the proprietor, Franco.
Baita Bondella  not only serves food and drink, but they do have a bed and breakfast! One of many quaint lodges strewn about the prealpi trails of Lombarde. To stay the night at Franco's and have breakfast with a cappuccino in the morning runs 25 euro! I discovered I could travel all the way to Bellagio on foot this way. Take a ferry from there to Varenna or Cadenabbia, and I could continue in this manner all the way into Switzerland. Franco offered to take me back to Como in his Range Rover! When you are traveling and trekking unknown territory, uncaring whether you're lost or not, this can be a pleasant return to reality. How could I refuse? Down steep and narrow cobblestone roads, this was the appropriately sized rig for the job. Edo drove us the next morning up to the town of Torno for one last Prealpi excursion, Crotto Piazza , where our cappuccinos awaited. Inspiring views and breathtaking vistas along the Prealpi trails was worth every step taken, every meal eaten and every cappuccino that's kept me going!
Milano is the most passed through, yet passed up, industrial city in Italy. Brazen, most people never consider it a vacation destination. Yet, it is the Italian fashion capital, home to the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world, and bears an Italian version of the Louvre, the Brera Picture Gallery. It is a virtual hub between the Alps and the remainder of Italy. One will never uncover its seductive, though subtle secrets, without spending time. If you never venture further than its train stations or the Duomo, you will miss the very heart of one of Europe's largest citadels, the Sforzesco Castle at Piazza Castello.
It contains several museums and often has exhibits of both Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo's work. Remain vigilant though, as shady characters could be lurking. On a lighter note, sprawls the subtle beauty of Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore on Largo E. Gemelli, an institution long recognized for its openness to innovation and change. The university's eloquent garden campus is situated on the grounds of Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio. A delightful surprise!
Santa Maria delle Grazie  and its piazza are home to Leonardo da Vinci's, 'The Last Supper.' One is commonly led to believe you can stroll right in and see it. Unfortunately you cannot. It is because the painting is in the refectory, which in 1999 was converted into a sealed and climate controlled environment. Entering now through the Cenacolo Vinciano, the personnel there have no problem informing you in a rather callus and unprofessional feeling manner, that you cannot see the painting today. Nor even this week! Be informed. Booked three months in advance, it's not conducive to spur of the moment viewing. You will only be allowed 15 minutes at this supper's table. All measures taken to protect a masterpiece! There are scalpers in the piazza however, always willing to sell you a ticket on their tour. The episode can easily ruin the feel of a Last Supper sighting. Reserving beforehand insures the quality of your experience. Cenacolo Vinciano is closed on Mondays and free the first Sunday of every month. The cost online is an advance fee of 1.50 euro plus the 6.50 euro for the ticket.
Though adventure can come in many forms, there is no form quite like traveling and trekking a foreign land. I remember when I first began dreaming of it. How I held back for so long believing I needed to meet someone to do it with, someone special. It was Europe after all. Especially Italy! Then the thought hit me that maybe I would meet someone over there? Who I found though, was me!
A very long time ago a good friend of mine told me to do that which you fear most. It led me to becoming a helicopter fire pilot. Little did I know then, I'd become so much more. I became empowered. Traveling abroad was the same thing. There is no way to know yourself better than seeing how another culture sees you and observing firsthand how another culture really is. Europe is rich in culture, architecture, history and gastronomy! So go ahead, do what you fear most and trek it out.
 - Via Mercato, 28, 20121 Milano MI, Italy +39 02 8645 0568
 - www.malpensaexpress.it/en/
 - www.trenord.it/en/
 - 77, PRIMO PIANO, Como, Lombardy 22100, Italy +39 3478 675 958
 - www.airbnb.com
 - 54, Como, Lombardy 22100, Italy
 - +39 3352 819 16 firstname.lastname@example.org
 - 10, 22100 Como CO, Italy
 - www.funicolarecomo.it
 - www.baitabondella.it
 - www.crottopiazzaga.com
 - www.legraziemilano.it/il-cenacolo