Coronavirus in Lake Como, Italy, Villa Ponti Bellavista Part 2

2 May 1965 new cases 269 deaths

I’ve been busy creating the vegetable garden. Not only for my own pleasure, but because we expect only Italian guests this summer…and possibly for the next year or two. And for the first time making the apartment garden more beautiful and functional with herbs. With the coronavirus, this year booking inquiries have all been from italians, and usually for 1-3 months. This means villa managers, this year Chanel and I, are expecting to be living down there most of the time. Our Milanese family are still here, entering their third month and will stay at least until the end of May.

grape vine

Best news of all is that the lockdown won’t be extended again past the last nominated day to begin relaxing restrictions, 3 May. Italy’s number of new cases has been steadily falling, along with the deaths. The 269 deaths reported late yesterday was the lowest in a week and before that the lowest since around 10 March. And under 2000 new cases is cause for joy!

Everyone is relieved, but in our village, also a little worried that when the restrictions are eased to allow people to move about their region (but not inter-regionally), there will been in influx of Milanese coming to their holiday houses in Civenna, and also renting holiday houses. And possibly bringing the virus with them.

We feel very grateful we’ve had the same family here since the beginning. One of the brother’s left for Milan about 10 days ago and hasn’t returned. I think he may not return and risk infecting his family. I presume he’s trying to get their gin importing business going again. If they manage to restart it, they may be able to afford to stay here for the summer, which would be an incredible boon for us.

In the meantime I’ve thrown all my enthusiasm and passion into fertilising, mulching the new garden we planted last year after the pool was finished – hydrangeas, camellias, azaleas and, this year, planting the vegetable garden. We’ve been limited with many shops and businesses closed but we’ve done our best, John and I. No raised garden beds this year, but when summer guests arrive there will already be vegetables to harvest. I can already see new tiny fruit on the strawberries plants.


Every morning when I venture out for my cold swim after Wim Hof breathing I check out the tendrils of the new wisteria and black grape vine I’m training over the original restored bocce court viewing trellis. I put loads of fertiliser on hoping this year it will reach the top.

grape vine

I find it so satisfying I can’t stay away from the garden. Sometimes I just go down to look at the veggies. Some plants, like the spinach, looks like they’ve shot up overnight.

grape vine

I’m allowed to return the hire car to near Malpensa on 4 May. This means travelling through Milan by train on my way back. Fortunately not Milano Centrale, but the hopefully less used Milano Bovisa Nord – otherwise known as Politecnico, and no universities or schools are open at the moment so with luck this will be largely deserted. The guests will give me a new mask and the best quality hand sanitiser they’ve been able to get hold of.

Chanel, the other owner, returned from where she’d been trapped south of Bologna this week. She was stopped by police at the tiny town railway station where she started her journey. Fortunately she had authorization papers to travel back to her place of work – here. But in Lecco, police were also waiting at the station there and they took her in for questioning. She showed them her authorization but they shouted at her that she shouldn’t have travelled through Milan. Of course without a car, there’s no other way to get from Bologna to Lecco. When she pointed out that they were not wearing masks and handling her documents and giving them back to her without glove, so in fact they were more risky for her than she was for them, since she WAS wearing mask and gloves. She shamed them into both getting their protective gear on, and letting her go! Now she’s self-isolating for two weeks in a town called Barzio across the Lecco arm of Lake Como. She’s usually the head gardener here, but all had to be done in Spring. She planted the pots around the new swimming pool last year. Irises are now flowering everywhere.

Lake Como

John, our house sitter stuck here because of the coronavirus, is in the position of needing both Italy allowing him to travel, and the U.K. allowing flights in from Italy. He may be blocked here for several more weeks. He’s been such a fantastic worker, especially in the garden – from mowing, whipper snippering edges, helping mulch the hydrangea hill, cleaning up, removing rubbish, and chiding me about talking to my veggie garden. Not to mention making sure I have a gin and tonic in hand every afternoon. Secretly I think he’s as observant and interested in the veggie garden as I am. He has an eagle eye that John.

We’ve still had several inquiries the past week from websites wanting to list the villa. They’re all getting inquiries from Italians wanting retreats away from the city. We can only hope we manage a booking for the entire summer.

A view of the Lake Como's mountains

Fittingly, on the eve of Italy relaxing it’s lockdown measures, these figures are the best we’ve seen since the country closed down around 10 March.

Everyone is excited about tomorrow. Nobody knows exactly what to expect. But I’ll be one of the first to find out because in the morning I have to return the hire car that we’ve kept a month longer than the lease period because it was impossible to return due to the lockdown measures. So I have to drive to Malpensa and take public transport back. Guests are concerned, and I am a little too. But they have given me a new mask, hand sanitizer and we’ve dicussed the measures I’ll be taking. These include wearing a long coat almost to my ankles and a hat. I will take these, and my shoes off, when I arrive home and leave them outside the apt. I will spray my hair with a solution of water and 70% pure alcohol which the guests have given me.

The night before, I took this dusk photo of the lake just after the village lights came on, as twilight was settled over the water.

Lake Como at Night
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