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Travelling Down to Como

by actiondesksheffield

Contributed by 
People in story: 
LT Westney
Location of story: 
Lake Como, North Italy
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
22 May 2005

Traveling Down to Como

LT Westney

In North Italy, up towards Switzerland lie the Italian lakes. They are all very pleasant , my particular favourite being Lake Como. I first went there in wartime, travelling down from Verona. It was towards the end of the war and I was the only soldier due for Italian leave. Duly ready and waiting at the appointed time , in that agreeable Romeo and Juliet city, I was staggered to find that a driver, complete with his three ton truck , had been detailed to take me the hundred and fifty or so kilometres across the top of Italy to Lake Como.

With my kitbag occupying just a very small area of the spacious interior of the truck, the driver and myself set off exchanging small pleasantries about three ton trucks roles in Army life. We stopped a couple of times for suitable refreshments before finally reaching Como city and the Army rest camp.

Como has pretty well everything required for a good holiday. It has a splendid unusual cathedral, good shopping and the summer climate is ideal for pleasant walks amidst sub tropical vegetation around the lakeside. If further and more varied shopping is required, the next main point on the railway is Italy’s capital of the north, Milan. Como is situated at the head of the lake and plenty, of boats depart from there to the other Lake Como resorts.

On one side of Como, high on the slopes towards the Swiss frontier, Winston Churchill used to have a villa and what an ideal spot he had chosen for his painting etc! On the other side it is well, worthwhile taking the funicular railway up to Brunate for the splendid lakeside views from the top.

From Como’s boat landing stage, it was possible to hire a rowing boat for the short journey across to the N.A.A.F.I. for a mid morning cup of tea. I rather enjoyed the exercise until a middle aged Italian lady with dark, expressive eyes told me, in most lugubrious tones, of the many men that the deep lake had claimed as its victims. She pointed down to the bottom of the lake. As enjoyment of my cup of tea was hardly enhanced by these grim warnings, I changed my cup of tea time and managed to dodge the Italian lady.

Now if the Army had been wildly extravagant in providing such large, wasteful transport to convey me to Como, it made up for it when the week's holiday was up. No three ton truck came to fetch me back.
In fact no return transport at all was provided, not even a handcart. In Como I had eked out my Italian lire with masterly organisation and financial acumen, so that it lasted the whole week.

I managed quietly for the next day and with still no transport arriving for me, then gave up smoking selling the remainder of my cigarettes to the local Italians. Next morning, with both money and cigarettes totally expended, kitbag on my back, I set off for the open road to hitch hike my way, back to Verona. On the way I saw the Italian lady. Or rather she saw me. That woman may have caused me a misgiving or two, but she must have had a fine nature. I never saw anyone look so pleased to see me. Her big, expressive eyes filled with thankful tears as I hastily retreated for the open road.

I was quite lucky with the hitch hiking, with the result that the Signals unit, of which I was a member, received a significant reinforcement round about tea time. In actual fact it appeared that no-one had missed me. My absence had gone entirely unnoticed. Later, in the unit office, I mentioned that a three ton truck had conveyed me to Como.

"What three ton truck?" They asked. I professed to see little difference between one truck and another.

"Who was the driver?" they persisted. I said I did not know his name but he had dark hair and liked vermouth. These gems of information were not considered particularly useful and I left the unit office wondering if I had imagined it all. But realism came through when I pictured the Italian lady with her big, dark expressive eyes. If only I could produce her to confront the unit office!

On second thoughts I don’t know though ...


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