On the boat from Bellagio one of the passengers, an American woman, was surveying the other passengers by showing them a list she had prepared and asking them to vote. The list consisted of possible names for her new dog back home, a rat terrier. There were about a half-dozen possibilities on the card from which I quickly chose “Lek,” not because I had any idea what the name meant but because a rat terrier, it seemed to me, should not have a conventional name, such as “Charles,” which was also one of the choices.

That the conversation was so trivial was a relief because an hour or so earlier I  had sat in a waterside cafe at Bellagio, sipping a cappuccino while watching the hills on the other side of Lake Como. They had been darkened by a downpour which had emptied the ancient streets.

Many Americans know Bellagio because of the Las Vegas hotel by that name with its dancing fountains. At the real Bellagio water can also provide a show but its presentation displays shades of gray clouds, some dark and ominous, others appearing as ghostly puffs crowning nearby hills or filling valleys. The town is located just south of the Alps where quaint hillside villages compete with their environment for beauty. Even the storms are lovely– though I did not particularly want to be in a boat during one.

Mercifully, by the time of the boat’s trip back to Lecco the sky was still gray but now there were splashes of blue in the mix providing a backdrop for a hawk gliding in wide circles. Lake Como, the largest of the streams in the northern Italian lake region, is shaped like an inverted “Y.” Bellagio is located at the convergence of the three lines.

Weather had suggested no threat during the morning ride to Bellagio; nevertheless it had provided a topic. Marina, our tour guide, told me that she had lived in the states for several years where she conducted cross-country trips for Italian tourists. New Orleans had always been one of her favorite stops although she teased that she seldom got enough sleep whenever she was there.

Like so many people around the world, she wanted to know about the pace of the recovery. (I had several other inquiries during the trip with one of the most common questions being, “why did the city reelect that mayor?" I tried to be delicate with the term “race card” as a reason, but I always concluded by explaining that now the city has a new mayor who was elected in a first primary victory with strong biracial support.)

Marina told be about a well-known lake area singer, Davide Vin De Sfroos, who had gone to New Orleans to perform as part of a relief effort concert. He had become enamored by the city, so much so that in his 2008 CD, “Pica!,” he included a song he had written called “New Orleans.” Somewhere in those beautiful hills an Italian ballad about our town is echoing.

During the next morning I saw, at the hotel, the woman who had been conducting the dog name survey. I asked her what the winning selection had been. “Charley” she answered which, at least was less formal than “Charles” as listed among the choices. I told her that I had voted for “Lek.” She responded that she had liked that name too but then added, “The dog is just not a ‘Lek.’"

I guess I should have known.

YouTube has a video version of Davide Vin De Sfroos’ “New Orleans."

Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival- Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores.

Books can also be ordered via e-mail at gdkrewe@aol.com or (504) 895-2266.