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Day 1: Lecco

We had been excited for ages about the trip we had planned for this bank holiday; a return to Lecco in Italy, which we loved when we first visited in 2012, although we didn't have perfect weather. I think we'd both always had it on our mental lists of places we'd like to go back to, and an opportunity finally presented itself this year, when we found cheap flights to Milan Malpensa for this weekend.

We were flying from Stansted at 08.45 which sounded like a relatively civilised time, but I was worried about how busy the airport might be on a bank holiday and so had booked the airport parking for 6am. We left home at 4, which should have been more than enough time, but the SatNav seemed intent on taking us to the airport via a rather unusual route. We were expecting to go via the M6 and A14, but as soon as Tim drove onto the M6, the SatNav indicated that we should leave it at the next exit. We thought perhaps it knew something we didn't about traffic jams or roadworks, so followed an increasingly bizarre set of directions along small country roads in the direction of Rugby and Daventry. It was about an hour later when the SatNav was directing us across Northampton town centre that the penny dropped; as we were leaving home, Tim had checked the settings to make sure it wasn't set to avoid routes with motorways. But in doing so, he had inadvertently ticked rather than unticked the option which avoids motorways. Oh dear!

Once the setting was sorted out we progressed to Stansted at a much quicker pace and still arrived with plenty  of time to spare. The airport didn't seem as busy as I had feared, and the flight was a very pleasant one, with some stunning views of the Alps as we flew over Switzerland. We landed in Milan at around 11.40 and I had optimistically thought that we might be able to get a train from the airport at 12.13. I wasn't sure how big Milan's airport was, but we didn't have any baggage and getting off a Ryanair flight is normally quite quick, so I thought we stood a reasonable chance. If we missed that train, there was another one at 12.43.

It turns out that Milan Malpensa is not just a big airport; it's an absolutely enormous one! There was a long bus drive from the plane to the terminal, then a long walk down various airport corridors before we finally arrived at passport control. And this was where the problems started: I don't think I've ever seen such a long queue for passport control in my life! We initially joined the "All passports" queue, mainly because it only looked half the length of the EU passport queue, but that turned out to be a poor decision as it was moving at a small fraction of the speed.  After a while we abandoned that queue and joined the EU one, which did move a lot more quickly but was also a lot more chaotic, being eight people wide in some places!  By the time we had finally succeeded in getting to the front of the queue and out into arrivals, not only had we missed the 12.13 train, we had also missed the 12.43 one :(

I had bought our tickets for the Malpensa Express in advance online, getting a special price of €20 each return, which believe it or not was quite a good reduction from the standard price of €13 in each direction! I'd had to enter the time we were planning to travel on the website when buying the tickets, but luckily we were able to catch any train within a three-hour window of the time I'd stated, so the tickets were still valid for the 13.13 train. The airport is around 50km outside of Milan and the train journey takes the best part of an hour. It was a nice modern train with good air-conditioning though, which I appreciated as it had been very warm queuing for passport control!

Tim had contacted the owners of the apartment we'd booked to say that we would be arriving in Lecco at 15.00. Originally my plan had been for us to get lunch somewhere close to the station in Milan before getting our next train, but the airport delay meant this wasn't going to happen. The Malpensa train arrived in Milano Centrale in 14.05 and our connection for Lecco was due to depart at 14.20. 15 minutes seemed like it ought to be plenty of time to get off one train, buy a ticket and board another train, but my second lesson of today was that Milano Centrale is an enormous train station! It took us over 5 minutes to walk from one side of it to the other in the search of a ticket machine, and then when we had managed to buy the tickets and determine that the train we needed was on platform 5, we realised that we were standing by platform 21 and had to jog all the way back across to the opposite side of the station again.  We made it - just - but in future I would always allow half an hour for changing trains in Milan!

This was a very old-fashioned Italian regional train, of the sort where you have a choice between having the window closed and baking or opening the window and being deafened by the sound of the train while the breeze keeps blowing the curtains over your head. But it was very good value compared to the airport train, with the tickets costing less than €5 each, and by 3pm we had arrived in Lecco :)

The address we had been given for the apartment was only a few streets away from the train station, so it didn't take us long to locate the correct general area. I was a bit nervous about what the apartment was going to be like, because I had had some issues with the reservation on booking.com. A few days before I went to Croatia in June, I had some weird missed calls on my mobile from an overseas number which, when I googled it, turned out to be in the Netherlands. Eventually I got an email from booking.com saying that they had been trying to ring me to say that my reservation in Lecco had been cancelled, as a result of an overbooking. I wasn't very impressed by this, in particular because it had been one of those prepayment bookings where they take the money off your card straightaway. I was just in the process of trying to correspond with booking.com to get the money back when I started getting more unexpected overseas calls on my mobile, this time from Italy, which turned out to be the owner of the apartment trying to convince me to stay for slightly different dates so that he didn't get charged an overbooking penalty by booking.com. This wasn't helpful at all, because we had already booked our flights, and the dates we wanted to travel were fixed by the bank holiday anyway. I'd just resigned myself to having to try and find somewhere else to stay in Lecco - or possibly having to stay somewhere other than Lecco - when a few days later I got another email from the apartment saying that actually they'd had a cancellation and they could accommodate me in a slightly different apartment to the one I'd booked.

This one was described as a "studio apartment" so I was worried it might be a bit cramped, but actually when we checked in we found it was quite spacious. There's a kitchen in a separate room from the living room/bedroom, and everything looks very new and modern. The only downside is that there's a sofa bed rather than a normal bed, but it actually feels quite comfortable as sofa beds go, and we're in a really good location right in the centre of town.

We unpacked some stuff and then headed out to explore Lecco.


It's a really pretty town, with mountains on one side of it...


... and Lake Como on the other.


The views out across the lake are really beautiful :)


We walked left along the edge of the lake for a while, to enjoy the views back towards the town.


The day was a bit hazy, but it was still really lovely.


We remembered doing the same walk in 2012 :)


After a while we turned around and walked back towards the town.


On the right hand side of the town there is a leafy promenade by the lakeside.


We strolled along there for a while, enjoying views in the other direction.


The path stretched on for ages....


...but eventually we decided we'd better turn around and head back to the town. Apart from anything else, we hadn't had any lunch and we were absolutely starving!!


When we got back into the centre of Lecco, our challenge was to find somewhere that was serving food this early in the evening. The apartment owner had recommended us a particular pizza place, but when we located it and looked at the opening hours, we saw it didn't open until 18.45. That was far too long for us to wait, but luckily we found another place nearby where we were able to sit outside and enjoy some much needed pizza and wine :) The service was excellent, as we were the only people in the entire restaurant for the duration of the meal, and the pizza was really good too.  It was a great end to what has been a rather tiring day!

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