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Report 678: Italia - Umbria, Lago di Garda, Lago di Como & Visits with Friends in Empoli and Coccaglio

By girasoli from Hawaii, Spring 2005

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Page 20 of 24: A Boat Ride up North and Then Grande Grandine in Varenna

photo by girasoli

il grandine - HAIL

The word around town Tuesday was the temporale weather heading our way and Wednesday, the weather predictions were correct. I woke up to overcast skies. I hung out for a while watching the weather trying to decide what to do and finally decided to take a chance and take a boat ride to Colico, the farthest point north on Lake Como. The first boat leaving (except the rapido boats) was at 11:30 and so I hung out at my apartment and ended up falling back to sleep. I woke up a little after 11 to my soap opera - The Young & the Restless! It is called Febbre d'Amore and it seems to be about a year delayed. I gathered up my things and headed down to the boats.

There was a big group of kids from a summer camp getting off the boat I was about to board. They stopped in the middle of the exit pathway. I heard one say that they were told to stop there. They backed up everything and finally a man working on the boats came by, waved his hands, and said "Avanti, avanti". The kids moved on and we were then able to board.

The boat was not very crowded after the stop at Varenna, perhaps due to the unsettled weather. I found a great seat with a wonderful view and took lots of pictures on the ride up north and ate food I brought with me on the way. The towns are quite different than the towns on Lake Garda. Most seem smaller.

When I arrived in Colico, of course, everything was closed except for a few bars. My plan was to then take the rapido boat back due to the bad weather heading this way. Because my boat was running late due to the summer camp crowd in Bellagio, the rapido boat beat my boat to Colico and was just heading back towards Bellagio when my boat arrived. The next boat was to arrive in about 40 minutes which was not a big deal. I walked around the town and got a gelato.

On the way back, the sky seemed to clear a little as we got close to Varenna and so I decided to stop there for an hour or so before heading back to Bellagio. Varenna is a very beautiful little town. I took a bunch of pictures as I walked down by the water and then saw the cutest baby ducks, five, with their mamma duck. I of course being a preschool teacher, started to hear Raffi's song about the Five Little Ducks in my head. I took some pictures and then watched a grandma and her two grandchildren feed the ducks.

I was so busy watching the ducks and taking pictures that I didn't notice that the sky had turned black! I walked a little ways farther towards a hotel I had thought about staying at in the future to get some information and the rain began. The man at the desk was very kind and let me hang out in the lobby for a little while. I asked him what he thought - if it would be a quick storm or a long storm. He predicted a long storm. Luckily I had my raincoat with me.

I decided to walk back to catch the next boat since there was one scheduled in about 15 minutes. Much of the walk was covered and so I did not get too wet. However, once I arrived at the area where the boats arrive and the tickets are sold, it started to rain quite hard and the wind was blowing all over the place. It was difficult to stay dry under the little tin roof that connected the two tiny buildings where the tickets were sold. There were about 15 or 20 of us waiting under this little tin roof.

The lightening started and many of us tried to get pictures but the rain was blowing into us. I gave up and put my camera away as I did not want to get the lense wet. Then we heard this loud noise that sounded like someone was shooting a gun at the roof! It was HAIL - Grandine!! At first the hail was about the size of marbles. It was falling pretty quickly and the noise was unsettling. The woman in the ticket booth got out and moved her car under the covered area which left us with a much smaller area to hide under so as not to be hit by the hail. Then the hail started getting bigger and no exaggeration, it had to be the size of golf balls. Hard ice balls!! We could pick them up as they fell by our feet. As the wind moved one way, so did we, and then as the wind moved the other way, so did we. Finally someone opened up the little building on the other side of the ticket booth and we all crammed inside. It was very scary and an even scarier thought was getting on the boat when it arrived.

The boat was of course late, but this time, it was easy to understand why. Luckily the hail stopped right as the boat arrived and we all boarded quite quickly. We were actually all waiting for the ferry boat, but another boat that went to Menaggio and then Bellagio arrived first. We didn't really care which boat arrived at this point and just wanted to get aboard. Once on the boat, on the way to Menaggio, the hail started up again for a short while. I think the storm was following us.

When we finally arrived at Bellagio, the storm seemed to let up. I headed home to take a warm shower. The temperature cooled about 20 degrees from the mid 90's to the 70's once the storm started. I signed up for a boat ride and tour to Villa del Balbianello for the next day as a splurge and was starting to worry that this weather would continue.

For dinner, I decided to eat at the little bar right by my apartment just in case the temporale (thunder storms) started up again. I had another wonderful plate of pesto pasta with a gelato from across the way for dessert.

photo - picture of the grandine (hail) from inside the little building while waiting for the boat (photo does not show the true size of the hail which was the size of golf balls!)

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