It was time to leave "Bella Roma" and travel up to the northern lake region to Bellagio, on Lake Como. We knew this would be a busy and somewhat complicated day since the journey would be In three parts. First we would take a fast train to Milan. Then we would switch to a regional train taking us to Varenna, on the lake. Finally, we would take an short ferry across the lake to Bellagio.
The first order of business was to get out of our apartment by 10 AM, no easy task after a late night of wining and dining in Rome's beautiful piazzas. Not only did we have to pack but we had to do some basic cleaning before leaving, but we all worked as an awesome team and were pulling or carrying our luggage up the street shortly after 10:00. At the taxi stand an enterprising driver said he could take all of us and our luggage in his little car, and sure enough, he got us all packed in.
We arrived at the Termini station thirty minutes early and found our train on the boards. No gate had been assigned yet so we decided to buy the tickets for the train to Varenna using the automated ticket machine. This proved tricky until a man stepped in to help. He patiently walked us through the steps and once we had the tickets cupped his hands together for a tip, which we gave him. It was now ten minutes to our train and still no gate had been posted, so when another man appeared and told us our train was on platform four, we all followed him there and sure, enough, our train was just arriving. He, too, held out his hand for a tip.
We had Premium class assigned seats and after some false starts getting the free wifi going, we all settled back to enjoy the three hour ride on one of Europe's famed high speed trains. That was good because when we arrived in Milan we couldn't find our next train! As we studied our ticket and the departure boards we would have gladly tipped someone to show us the way. Instead it took two visits to the Information Office to finally figure out where the train was. It was about as far away from where were were as possible and was leaving in ten minutes, so we "put on the gas" and raced through the station, turned down the platform and breathlessly dragged our luggage into the first car which, of course, was packed with people and their bags. At least we were all aboard!
As we manuevered our luggage through the narrow aisles to find seats I ruefully recalled Rick Steeve's advice to pack light, especially when traveling by train. Finally we found a car with five seats occupied by other people's luggage, and thinking that the luggage had not paid for those seats, politely asked to have them, helped the people move their bags to the racks above, then put our own bags up (thank you, Ben!), counted heads to be sure we had all made it, and settled down to rest.
We never saw a conductor and no one announced the station stops, but I did a quick online search and found how to tell when our station was approaching so we could get our bags moved to the doors and be ready for a quick departure. And so we got off calmly in Varenna, where we fortified ourselves with sandwiches for the last leg of the trip. I also visited the little travel agency next to the cafe and learned that one has to know and the look for the final destination for the train in order to find it on the boards. Duh! Just like the DC Metro. But unlike the Metro, there weren't readily available maps to consult to figure out the termination point and our tickets didn't tell us.
Once on the ferry we could really see the beauty of the lake, and as we approached Bellagio we could see that we would be spending the next few days in a little piece of heaven.