For more than two months I have stayed within a two-mile radius, only venturing out to do my weekly grocery shopping. As Phase 2 unfolds and we are allowed to travel outside our city of residence, I’ve slowly ventured out of my neighborhood. Yesterday was the first time since late February that I left Milan. My husband and I headed to the city of Como, on Lake Como, for a lunch date. It was a beautiful day and a perfect afternoon exploring the streets of Como.
Lake Como is the most famous of Italy’s northern lakes. It’s the home of George Clooney, idyllic lakeside villages and Italy’s silk industry. The city of Como is a short half hour drive from Milan. It sits on the south end of the lake and is the largest lakeside town. It’s a bustling city of approximately 85,000 which in spring and summer is usually packed with tourists. I’ve been to Como many times and crowds are always to be expected so as we made our way into the heart of the historic center, I wondered what it would look like post-Covid. We were so surprised to see the city nearly vacant. Although some restaurants and shops were open, there was only a fraction of the usual foot traffic.
Como has been inhabited since the Bronze age. It became part of Roman territory in the 1st century BC. During the reign of Julius Caesar, the city was planned and established in the typical Roman grid system. The historic city center still retains some of the original Roman footprint. The original Roman walls were torn down and replaced in the Middle Ages and, amazingly, sections of the walls still exist today.
The historic city center is full of restaurants, cafes, and lots of shopping. We chose to eat lunch at Il Ducato, a small salumeria/cafe. It was our first meal in a restaurant since the start of the pandemic. I have to say it was strange, to say the least. The new normal will take some getting used to. The outdoor tables were all distanced and the staff seemed ready with all the required measures (masks, gloves and hand sanitizer). The strangest request was for our names and phone numbers so that if anyone who works or ate at the restaurant contracts COVID, we could be traced and contacted.
It was a day well spent. Although I enjoyed having Como all to myself, I know without tourism local businesses will not survive. As of June 3 Italy opens its borders to tourists from the EU or UK. As for when tourists from outside these areas will be allowed to visit, it appears they will have to wait until at least June 15. It still remains unclear.