My mountain lovin’ soul savored the scenery of Lake Como. Nestled deep in the Italian/Swiss Alps, the shores and steep hillsides of Lake Como are splattered with clusters of tiny Italian villages. I spent the hot afternoon of the 4th of July traveling by train from Genova to Milano and on to Varenna. From Varenna, I took a ferry to the pinnacle town of Bellagio (inspiration for the famous Las Vegas hotel). Bellagio is crowded with lakeside dining, gelato shops, expensive shopping and decadent hotels. The sound of water lapping on the shore mixed with the clinking of wine glasses—created the perfect evening ambiance.

Being in Italy didn’t stop this proud American from celebrating Independence Day! My traveling companions and I wore our best dress (red, white and blue of course) out for dinner. As I sat watching the sunset over Lake Como, my heart drifted home to scenes of checkered tablecloths, my hometown parade, and screeching fireworks. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was a little bit homesick in that moment. Italy is so beautiful and enchanting, but America is pretty remarkable too. I’m so lucky to know both.

Lake Como is also famous for being a summer home for George Clooney. As I rode the ferry from town to town, I would hear his name float in and out of conversations in foreign languages. I expected him to cruise by on a beautiful wooden boat at any moment. Perhaps someday I’ll be his neighbor. I spent my final night in Como sampling gelato, basking in the golden sunlight, and dipping my toes in the sweet cool water of this breathtaking mountain lake. Never before have I ever felt so authentically happy.

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Many of these images were taken by the talented and lovely Katherine Ellis. You can follow her on Instagram here