Day 6: Brunate

Today was another working day for DH. The girls and I joined him for breakfast, then came back up to the room and did some laundry while he went into the office. We had to wash in the sink as there are no coin laundromats in Saronno. There are lavanderia available, but you drop your clothes off and come back to get them- usually a few days later. And you must give them a tidy sum (haha, get it?) to get your clothes back.

After housekeeping, we took a walk back to the big park we went to with Matteo and Emilia a few days ago. The kids played for about an hour, but they were having a hard time fitting in with the language barrier. And soon they were hungry, anyway, so we went to a place across the street for pranzo (lunch). We had to ask first, accettate la carta di credito (do you accept credit cards?) since I had very little cash in my wallet.

The place we chose was called Don Juan and was probably the only bad meal I’ve had in Italy thus far. And honestly, “bad” would be stretching it; it was more like “passable”, much as if we had gone to a quick-service place back home. Not great food, but not terribly expensive, either. We shared a bottle of acqua naturale and then S8 ordered Special Number 5: hamburger with patatine fritte (fries/chips). O6 got penne ragu, and I had chicken with tomatoes. We weren’t really sure what we had ordered, though, because the Don Juan is actually a Spanish restaurant, with Spanish dishes translated into Italian, which we then had to translate to English. But we did pretty well. S8 was a little disappointed that her “burger” was just a meat patty, no bun; likewise, I was sort of expecting either a chicken cutlet or sandwich but instead got a fried leg and thigh with some sliced raw tomatoes next to it on the plate. But we were hungry and it was edible, so we chowed down.

Spanish-Italian "burger"

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As it turned out, O6 liked the burger and S8 preferred the pasta, so they ended up trading bites of each other’s plates. I ate some of my chicken, but it tasted as if it had been cooked in rancid oil, and I couldn’t finish it. The fries were good, though.

After lunch we walked back to our room and rested for a bit. I let the kids watch some Italian cartoons. They saw a dubbed episode of Fairly Oddparents, which is a familiar American broadcast. They saw a few other shows, too, while I took a little nap. Then they colored and worked on their journals while I did some housekeeping. Soon it was 5:30 and DH was back from work. We hurried up and went down to the car, as we were meeting Andrea and Emilia on the road to visit with Andrea’s parents before going to dinner up in Brunate.

First we drove to Andrea’s parents’ home in Como. They have a huge house, even by American standards. Their garden is lovely and we sat outside and had some snacks and water. There were a few other grandchildren there at the same time, so the kids played for a while. Andrea’s mother, Nadia, showed us the 50 red roses her husband, Loris, gave her for their wedding anniversary. She also thanked us for a gift we had sent ahead: a yellow pie plate from an Ohio ceramic factory and a metal charger engraved with “Loris e Nadia, 50 anni” from Wendell August Forge. The pie plate was significant because, every time DH has gone to their house, she has made him apple pie. She somehow found out that was his favorite and was very sweet to try to make him feel at home. It seemed fitting.

The road to their home is winding and narrow.

They're not kidding

Loris' street

This is considered a two lane road:

Narrow road

Loris and Nadia have a beautiful garden:


Time to go!


Nadia is very sweet. She speaks a surprising amount of English.


She asked me about knitting. Fortunately, I had a sock in my bag that I have been working on. She and Emilia were checking it out.


Sitting in the garden

Our visit was short, unfortunately, because we wanted to get up to Brunate before it got too dark. Brunate is a town on a cliff overlooking Lake Como. When he had dinner in Cernobbio a few nights ago, we could look up and see the Brunate lighthouse. DH and I went up to that lighthouse with Andrea and Emilia back in ’99, before any of us were married and before any of the kids were even thought of! It seemed appropriate to have dinner there tonight.

Brunate Lighthouse from Como

Straight ahead

Welcome to Brunate

The drive up to Brunate is narrow and winding. In true Italian style, the drive is not for the faint of heart or the weak of stick-shift skills. It is a series of extremely sharp switchbacks on a road so narrow it would scarcely be called a “road” in the US. Here, of course, it’s not only a road, but a two-way one at that.

With buses.

Two way traffic?!

Periodically you will encounter oncoming traffic in a place where there is not enough room for two cars wide, and in this case, the person with the most obvious place to pull over will do so and allow the oncoming driver to proceed. It is a very interesting arrangement, but worked quite well.

Here’s a brief glimpse of the view of Como Lago from above:

Quick view of Como from above

We finally reached the top, white-knuckled (and some of us a bit queasy) and found parking. We climbed the steps to the lighthouse, named after the famous Alessandro Volta. The kids climbed on the base and played while we reminisced and admired the view of Como Lago below.

Sunset at lighthouse

We were there!

Steps to the lighthouse

Brunate Lighthouse

O6 at Volta Lighthouse

Volta Lighthouse in Brunate

Soon it was time for our dinner. We walked a short but steep path down to a restaurant called Locanda del Dolce Basilico, and took a table outside, overlooking Como Lago.

Go here- it's good!11

Locanda del Dolce Basilica

A waitress came out and described the dinner specials and the menu. We ordered a bottle of wine, some water, and antipasti of Affettati misti to share. The antipasti included bruschetta with liver pate, three different kinds of meats (thinly sliced), and some doughy balls with zucchini in them. We also had some foccaccia which was very different from any I’d ever tasted: extremely thin, with a very rich and heavy cheese melted on top. It almost tasted like macaroni and cheese. Yum.


Waiting for dinner to arrive


Lovely evening

We had a great view of Como Lago from our table.

View from our table

For dinner the kids had prima piatti of penne with a red sauce. Matteo had penne with pesto. I really wanted the pesto, but the adults were ordering secondi piatti (second plates), and I felt I ought to go along with what everyone else was doing. I ordered Carrè di vitello disossato con patate al forno : veal, cooked and sliced thinly, with a side of potatoes cooked in butter and spices. Emilia had Coniglio alla ligure con polenta, a sort of stew with pieces of fish and beans over polenta. DH and Andrea shared the steak Fiorentina, which is a wickedly thick t-bone for two people.

Steak fiorentina

For dessert I had an espresso, DH had a torta (basically apple strudel), and the girls had gelato with fruit. Andrea and Emilia ordered a special wine with a biscotti called cantucci, almond.

Delicious dinner



Sadly, our evening came to an end all too soon. We followed Andrea back to Saronno and everyone passed out (except me, since I had to write this blog or risk forgetting all these important details!)