Home Features Walking the Greenway del Lago di Como with my RX100

Walking the Greenway del Lago di Como with my RX100

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The title is a mixture of American English and Italian, so I will give it some context.  Lake Como is the third largest of all the Italian lakes and, as you will see from the map, the lakes are situated at the southern side of the Alps. Indeed, two of the lakes have an international border between Switzerland and Italy in the middle of them. 

This Greenway (public footpath) is six miles long and has been constructed on the west side of Lake Como’s central area. It was funded by the EU and would not have been cheap to commission. Many sections have newly laid pavements, and there are circular metal path markers every fifty yards or so. Finding decent walks along any of the Italian lakes is often very problematic as many have sheer cliffs down to the water. Overcrowded roads which follow the contours of the lakesides are no place for tourists; especially when stopping to take photographs.

My wife and I have enjoyed five holidays in the Italian lakes, each of one week: one at Lake Garda, one at Lake Maggiore and three at Lake Como.  At Lake Como we stayed in Bellagio once and in Lenno twice. 

Character

All the lakes have their own character and charm.  I would suggest Lake Como has the most gentile and aristocratic atmosphere; whilst Maggiore is more bustling and developed. Maggiore, though, would really need a separate article to describe all its attractions and allure.

We have been fortunate enough to visit all of the Italian Lakes (except Lake Iseo) as we hired a car on four occasions and on the fifth occasion we took a package holiday which introduced us to Lake Orta: The town of Orta San Giulio and its island are certainly worth seeing.

In all our visits to the area, we were impressed by the stunning scenery, picturesque lakeside towns, grand villas, historic gardens and steamer rides. Of course, one can simply relax at lakeside cafes and watch the world go by. Although all this may seem idyllic, the weather is not always predictable, and it can rain very heavily in the Italian lakes. It even snowed in May on the nearby hills at Lenno one year.

One of the other great joys of holidaying for me is the opportunity to try and take some decent “snaps”. 

So let me move onto the subject of photography.  For many years I have had an interest in photography and, for my 50th birthday some 22 years ago, I treated myself to a week’s landscape photography course in Tuscany with two tutors and ten participants. Whether you, the reader, when viewing these photographs would say the money was well-spent is yet another matter.

It was during the course of our series of holidays to the Italian lakes that I changed from film to digital photography. In 2012, I had bought a bunch of pre-paid slide processing vouchers from Jessop’s photographic company, and then they went bust and so I wasn’t able to use them.  That was the trigger for me to use my digital camera full time. I still have some Velvia film in my freezer, though I doubt I will ever use it. 

Unrivalled

This article aims to recommend the Greenway del Lago di Como as a delightful walk which also presents a wide variety of photographic opportunities: expansive vistas, narrow alleyways, historic villas or perhaps the tourists themselves. This lakeside footpath is probably unrivalled in the Italian Lakes. 

Additionally, the image quality of my Sony RX100 Mk 1 can be assessed. Do later RX100 iterations have that much better image quality, if at all? 

Rather than using Google Earth, I would like to use three photographs I took 16 years previously to set out the geography of the central section of Lake Como.  My photographs also show about half of the Greenway route as seen from the opposite side of the lake. They were taken from our panoramic accommodation south of Bellagio.

I used a Minolta Dynax 700si  camera loaded with Fuji Velvia film. The slides were later scanned using a Plustek scanner and SilverFast software. 

The above photograph of Menaggio lakeside and all subsequent photographs were taken with my RX100 compact camera.

Punch

Would you agree that there is a difference in the crispness of this digital photograph as compared with my previous three scanned photographs?  Velvia film, however, was always a landscape photographers’ choice as it had a “punch” in its colours. So my RX100 images may have more crispness than scanned Velvia but do they in the readers’ mind lack “punch” which perhaps would be preferable for landscape and travel photography?

As an aside, when my Velvia slides were viewed through my Leica projector on a large screen, they are very acceptable; though I admit my large screen hasn’t been put up for the last few years.

Also, I find scanning slides challenging as I never seem to get the colours exactly right. 

However, let’s move onto the subject of the Greenway itself.

There is an excellent website giving full details of the Greenway del Lago del Como; so please click the link and read what you want and perhaps watch the video. The “walker” covers the six miles in 3 minutes 44 seconds!

Greenway del Lago di Como – Official Website (greenwaylagodicomo.com)

Also, here is a link to the helpful interactive map.

Greenway of Lake Como – Interactive Map | Points of interest & Facilities (greenwaylagodicomo.com)

My 15 photographs shown below are taken on the Greenway from north to south; though the eagle-eyed reader will gather we did not walk the full six miles and indeed, the picture immediately below was taken from a steamer.

I remember several years ago lugging a heavy tripod, camera case and a big telephoto lens up and down mountains. A particular trip to the Mannlichen in the Swiss Alps comes to mind. Although the images of the north face of the Eiger and the Silberhorn were worth the effort, I wouldn’t do it again as I am 20 years older. Fortunately, modern compact cameras can produce a very pleasing image quality without heavy equipment. My RX100 is ideal for me at the moment, though I am tempted to upgrade as I feel a viewfinder might be useful. 

As to which model if at all; I can also be guided by the excellent articles below:

I was interested to read in the article: “Is it the travel camera for me?”, that “Babsky tweaks” were made to the creative style menu to give the RX100 photographs more life. I experimented on a recent walk near Felixstowe docks and I agree the vivid setting is over the top. As for tweaking the standard setting, I’m not sure. 

So for those readers who are thinking of different holiday destinations once borders are opened once again, I thoroughly recommend the Italian Lakes and Lake Como in particular as a holiday destination. Don’t forget to take your camera.

Read more from Chris Rodgers


15 COMMENTS

  1. Nice article and picture Chris, thanks for sharing! My great-grandfather was born in Como and I visited the city and the lake several times, but I never walked the Greenway, this is a good suggestion for the end of the pandemic (at present the mobility from across regions is restricted).

    • Thank you for your kind comment. I suspect we are all itching to get away with our cameras.
      I have a list of places I would like to drive to in my Alfa Romeo Giulia (Italy perhaps), as it has hardly been used during the last year.

      Chris

  2. Lovely photos, Chris, and the Velvia shots are every bit as good as the digital ones. I’ve never seen colour in digital that is as good as the colour I recall from using Velvia and Kodachrome slide film back in the 1980s. It is also good to see those locations on Como in colour for a change.

    With the ‘Swiss Roll’ photos the locations in Switzerland seem to have changed a lot more than those in Northern Italy, particularly Bellagio which seems to be in a time warp all of its own. Nothing there seems to have changed on 70 years, even down to the seats.

    I expect that I will go to Como when the Covid restrictions can be lifted. I would certainly bring a finely tuned pre-war Leica with a roll of black and white film to see what I can get from that as well as a modern digi-wonder for sanity checks etc. It would be interesting to see if I could manage 21 or 22 shots as good as the ones on the ‘Swiss Roll’.

    That Greenway is fabulous and well away from the traffic on the road skirting the lake/ And is only 6 miles which would be easily manageable. If the Chiesas were open it make for nice little breaks along the way. I quickly lost count of the number of Chiesas which were right beside the Greenway.

    Thanks for posting these photos and for your previous assistance with the ‘Swiss Roll’ story.

    William

    • It was my pleasure to help you with the “Swiss Roll” story. Thank you also for your complimentary comments about the photographs.

      So there we have it then. You have a post lock-down project, to go to Lake Como with a finely tuned pre-war Leica and some black and white film and visit as many chiese (churches) as you can. Yes you are quite right, the Italian Lakes seem very much to be a time warp and that is their charm. Many of the hotels on the lake sides are in the Belle Epoque style. The Grand Hotel Tremezzo is typical of that style.

      I am pleased you enjoyed the video, I thought it was quite a find on the internet as one can get a real feel of the walk itself.

      I would be very happy to recommend hotels in the Bellagio/Lenno/Menaggio area should you start planning a holiday there.

      Chris

  3. .
    Did you drive there around 1950 or ’51 in a convertible BMW? ..If so, William Fagan wants to know more about you (see “Swiss Roll: The facts of the 70-year-old photo mystery as we now know them”).

    As for these lush photos, in answer to your query (“..they’re written down for me..” [sorry, couldn’t resist a ‘Blade Runner’ quote]) “..Would you agree that there is a difference in the crispness of this digital photograph as compared with my previous three scanned photographs?”, I get the impression that the scanned photos aren’t as sharp as they could be, and that’s the main difference (..I’m rather colour-blind, so I can’t comment on the colours).

    I have a Plustek scanner – you don’t say which one yours is, or what its resolution is; mine’s a 7600 – plus a few other assorted low-ish res scanners – with Silverfast software. The resolution of the 7600 is, supposedly, 7200 x 7200 dpi (or pixels), which pretty much equals a (theoretical) 52 megapixels. The quality which I got, though, was never any better than cheap – or expensive – scans from any – even so-called ‘professional’ – photo-processing labs.

    Then I bought a used – we-ell, New Old Stock ..old but a never-opened package – Nikon Super Coolscan 4000 (from Nicholas Cameras’ second-hand shop in Camden) and tried its multi-scan mode: 3 scans of the same image one after the other, and that took 20 minutes per frame ..but Wow! I’d no idea there was so much detail in a 35mm negative! ..A *HUGE* amount of detail, colour and brightness-gradation came out of that ..like a several-thousand-dollar drum scan! It’s just that the Plustek scans haven’t extracted that from your film. Check and see if your Plustek is “Multi-sampling capable” ..it should be. And multi-sampling on the 7600, according to its specs, should provide 7200-dpi multi-sampled scans in 56.82 seconds. One minute each ..but the 20-minute scans of the Nikon are absolutely indescribably gorgeous, and are certainly a match for the RX100 ..assuming shot with a good lens on the film camera.

    So I’d look to the scanner, and its software, and see if a ‘Babsky tweak’ of your settings could deliver sharper, more detailed photos from your film, if you want. I think that it could ..I *know* it could!

    As for the differences between the RX100 Mk1 and whether “..later RX100 iterations have that much better image quality, if at all?..” ..they don’t, not really; it’s more about differences in the various lenses’ apertures (wider max apertures for low-light photos) and the zoom ranges of later models. The Mark 1 is a terrific camera ..but later ones have better viewfinders (later ones actually had viewfinders) and longer, or more useful, zoom ranges, plus changes in video capabilities, slo-mo, etcetera. I don’t think anyone could pinpoint a difference in quality of the photos themselves between a Mark 1 and the current Mark VI ..and I’ve owned several of them.

    I’m not really a ‘pictorial’ kind of photographer, so I can’t comment on the images, except to say, again, “lush!”

    • Thank you for your extremely useful comments. I have a Plustek OpticFilm 7300 scanner with multi exposure and multi scanning features. I will get out my large screen and Leica projector with its Colourplan P 2 lens and remind myself how good Velvia slide film can be.

      All the 3 scans above were with the multi exposure feature so I think we are left with the conclusion that the scanner leaves something to be desired. I have nearly finished my long term project of scanning most of my slides I have wanted to, and today I was up to about 3000 in total. It is now time to concentrate on digital photography I think.

      Also unfortunately many of my Velvia slides have suffered from mould, which was my fault for storing slide boxes on a bookcase next to an outside wall.

      I will for the time being stick with my Mk 1 camera as it suits my type of photography for the time being… which like the rest of us is fairly limited to our home environment. However I am always open to considering a mirrorless full frame camera; though that needs some more research.

      When I was in Menaggio in 2003, the Rolls Royce Club of Great Britain was having its summer outing and they all met at The Grand Hotel Victoria. The car park was full of 1930s Rolls Royce cars. By the way, I am still waiting for a reply from the hotel about whether they have any records of visiting BMWs in 1950/51. The hotel is currently closed.

      Thanks again for your comprehensive reply.

      Chris

      • The Swiss Roll negatives were scanned on a humble Canon 9000F. I gave them minimal tweaking apart from the photo of the man which required a lot of contrast boost to reveal his features. The main damage to the film was in the form of light leaks, but some of the negatives were either under or over exposed. You can tell immediately which ones they were as they are the ones which are grainy. Some of the exposures are perfect and lying around for 70 years in a FILCA cassette does not seem to have done them any harm at all. David has a background in publishing where very high standards were achieved using scanned slides. With the resurgence in the popularity of film, there may soon be a business case for introducing an up to date equivalent of the Nikon Coolscan. Maybe Lomography might consider this in conjunction with one of the lens manufacturers as it would fit with the rest of its business model. I suspect though that it might start with a cheaper model for its mainly younger customer demographic, which does not obsess over sharpness, but is looking for something else from photography.

        William

  4. A nice article and images Chris. Thanks for all the links about the lake. A couple of years ago I drove back from Slovenia via the lakes in the summertime and remember the traffic was really busy and we did not feel like stopping.
    Regarding cameras, there are loads of travel cameras to choose from. I think any brand nowadays produces truly decent small kits. The choice comes down to fixed focal vs zoom lenses and the imaging the different brand produces.
    Jean

    • Yes, the traffic around the Lakes is extremely busy. That is why the Greenway is such a good option for a decent walk.

      Thank you for kind comments.

      Chris

  5. I enjoyed your article and pictures and was particularly interested in your use of the RX100. I have the RX100iii and am so impressed by it that I am going to upgrade to the vii.

  6. Thoroughly enjoyable, Chris. Good job in keeping the throng of tourists mostly out of the frame. Except for the fast cars and new money it seems the place impervious to change. I think I have shot one roll of Ektachrome in my life. Hope to see your trip around the other lakes too.

    • Thank you. Yes, the popular spots can get extremely busy. I have some photographs of a group of tourists being led around by a guide holding up a stick with a coloured ribbon on top.

      Chris

  7. A very pleasant break from the confines of lockdown, thanks Chris. I didn’t see much difference in the quality of the photos taken with film or digitally but that’s probably down to my screen and eyesight. All very good regardless of the medium.

    • Thank you. With a decent weekend weather forecast for the south and east of England I think many of us will take our cameras out on our permitted local exercise.

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