Journal

Views from a ferry

In my last trip to lake Como, Italy I found myself truly privileged to have a moment of the lake’s surroundings all to myself. What usually is a highly crowded place with close to impossible to make a photo of a view without someone’s head, hat, hand, wave, roof of a car or similar; now was a place of solitude on water – the ferries that run on the lake.

Lake Como or Lago di Como is at the footsteps of Alps, surrounded by historic villages and villas. Throughout the year the local transport company Navigazione Laghi runs ferries on lakes of Como, Maggiore and Garda, they say their work dates back to the first half of the nineteenth century, coinciding with the advent of steam engines. The beginning of the public line service on lakes Maggiore, Garda and Como is in fact dated 1826-1827 – they delivered post and local goods, and worked as a means of public transport.

Initially run by a private company, it was taken over by State in 1948 due to the tough consequences of Second World War. It still is run by the State and they report they manage around 7 million people on all three lakes. Before lockdown, sometimes the amounts of tourists made it seem like all 7 million are daily on a single ferry.

There are historic steam boats that take almost three hours to get from Como to Bellagio (in one of my trips I stayed in Cernobbio which was exactly that – 2,5h to Bellagio and I took it almost every other day. Locals were not impressed by my “waste of time”:), and there are modern motor-boats that go in minutes from coast to coast. You can choose them according to your mood and outfit – wether feeling like dressing up for 70ties or nova days, the ferries will accommodate you perfectly.

I’m most definitely a fan of these ferries. If not for them, it would be impossible to travel around the villages. And it is an amazing feeling to be on the lake so often, even if you don’t have your own boat. They work, unlike some of the stereotypes about Italy, like a clockwork. Probably one can blame the geography of the lake being in the North of Italy.

Usually ferries are filled with people yet in early June 2020 there were locals, visitors from other Italian towns and cities and me on the lake. And I got an excellent opportunity of making beautiful photos of the views from sitting on the deck of the ferry.

While so much beauty is in towns on the sides of the like, it is equally mesmerising view from the lake, doubled by the marina elements and colours of the ferries. Looking back at photos on my phone, I was inspired to lock them onto canvas.

On a ferry from Bellagio to Cadenabbia, by Diana Dzene. Oil painting on canvas, 1m x 1m, Nov 2020.

Footsteps of Alps from a ferry, by Diana Dzene. Oil painting on canvas, 80cm x 100cm, November 2020.

Both painting in my studio.

While it has been amazing to experience the stillness of the view and an absolute majestic splendour of the footsteps of Alps, I think it misses its visitors. The views and ferries are made for people, and I hope sooner then later both are back on track with spoiling the many tourists with their beauty and peace.

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