A fast Autobahn whisks you south to the Italian border at the town of Chiasso, where you can observe the border formalities insisted upon by the Italians, and indeed by most Latin peoples. There is much stamping of papers, much talk and gesticulation by the officials, some bellowing, occasional tantrums when things don't flow smoothly, and in general, a good dose of the Italian way of life, right here at the very border.
Como This is the only town of any importance we pass on the way to Milan. The town is situated at the southern tip of Lake Como, a shoestring-shaped body of water that runs north for miles.
Origins: Como started out as a Roman camp, and part of the old Roman wall still stands in the town. This was the northern frontier back in Roman times, and there were many fortifications to keep the barbarians out.
Pliny the Younger: This was Como's most famous citizen, a Roman historian who left us an eyewitness account of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., an event which left the city of Pompeii smothered under volcanic ash.
Medieval trade: Como was strategically located on the road from Italy to the Swiss Alps, and this meant that much trade flowed through the city, bringing prosperity to its citizens. The envious Milanese, nearby, envied these assets, and they destroyed the city in 1127. Later in the same century, the German Emperor Frederick Barbarossa rebuilt the town. From 1355 to the present, Como has been linked economically with Milan, and with the outward expansion of Milan, Como has become almost a suburb of it!
Vacation paradise: Today Como is a popular place for vacationers in the summer. The lake is ideal for boating and swimming, and fresh breezes keep the town cool. Indeed, the ancient Romans discovered this, and built fabulous villas at various spots around the lake. Today, more modern mansions stand on many of the same spots, enjoying enviable lookouts over the lake and the distant Alps.
Approaching Milan After Como, you'll see that the mountains have ceased altogether. We're out of the Alpine region, and into a broad, flat stretch of land that is known as the Po River Basin. It's a fertile plain watered by the Po River, in which crops of all kinds are raised and harvested. The road will be straight all the way into Milan.
(COURIER: After this, start your general introduction to Milan.)
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