When we decided to visit Lago di Como I did some research about the ferry boats that travel on the lake. You can imagine my delight to discover that there is a paddle steamer, named “Concordia,” that has only recently been restored and which operates regular Sunday excursions from Como. Plans were put into place for a day of steam cruising!
Imagine my disappointment when I arrived in Como to find that the weekend’s excursion had been cancelled – bummer!
All was not lost though, Mrs D and I decided that on the Sunday we would take a trip to the famous village of Bellagio and probably grab some lunch. Looking at the ferry schedule, we had a couple of options, but arriving at Como ferry terminal all bets were off – a major change of plan came into play.
This delightful vessel has quite a history. She was built by N. Odero of Genoa, taken apart and moved to Lake Como where she was resembled and launched into the lake. As built she was a side paddle steamer of 43.2 metres length, but in 1926 she was converted to a diesel-powered motor vessel with screw propulsion and as such has served on the lake ever since.
To say that she is much-loved is a bit of an understatement, basically she is the flagship of the lake ferries and very much in the hearts of the lake side communities.
To see her tied up ready for the morning “end to end” service certainly got my heart racing and fortunately, just before I bought two tickets, Mrs Dookes said “yes!” To be honest, I think she was relieved that it wasn’t a steam-powered vessel, with all the soot, smoke and hot oil that can entail!
We grabbed a pair of seats on the forecastle deck and settled in for the ride. Two minutes later I was on my feet and off exploring; which was how it stayed for the two and a half hour cruise to Bellagio!
I loved every minute of it and to be fair, for different reasons, so did Mrs Dookes!
The old girl is obviously well loved and cared for by her crew, “Milano” that is, not Mrs D! Her beautiful wooden weather decks smelling delightfully of fresh teak oil, whilst brass work was well buffed and polished with the odd trace of brasso left here and there. All companionway steps still have the original cast gunmetal anti-slip plates that proudly proclaim the vessels name “Milano” and all of these have obviously been cared for too, a nice touch.
“Milano” rides the lake waters beautifully, her straight stem parting the water like a keenly sharp knife whilst her counter stern is pure class. Despite the cross winds and at times enthusiastic helm work she is a real lady, without any nasty rolling or pitching – not bad for over 100 years old and without any stabilisers.
She’s obviously a bit of a handful to manoeuvre when on-shore breezes pin her against the landing stage. “Milano” is not fitted with bow thrusters like modern vessels, but with teamwork from the mooring crew and skilful handling in the wheelhouse it’s not too much of a problem that a bit of time, patience and experience can’t deal with.
Oh, I forgot to mention, I fell totally in love with this old lady of the lake! The two and a half hours trip to Bellagio and lunch flew by and if it hadn’t been that she filled to passenger capacity at the last two stops I’d have stayed on board all day!
….and the trip back?
Well that’s another story!
Catch you soon.