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We left the romance of Venice to another equally charming place in Northern Italy, the captivating Lake Como. After negotiating our large suitcases on the uneven cobbled streets of Venice we found our car rental depot and set off on the autostrade heading towards Verona, Milan and then the tranquility of Italy’s third largest lake.
Fortunately I had pre-purchased a Europe travel sim prior to our trip to Italy and was able to access maps on my iPhone, which made it extremely easy to navigate our way to Lake Como.
Lake Como is shaped like an upside-down Y, with three slender branches that meet at the resort town of Bellagio. The lake is set against the foothills of The Alps that provide breathtaking scenery and is dotted with small villages full of charm and character.
Our digs for four amazing days was just outside the village of Varenna. After negotiating a narrow lane up the hillside we came to the Albergo Eremo Gaudio. We were not disappointed as our hotel boasted a large terrace overlooking the magnificence of Lake Como with views towards Bellagio and Menaggio.
Then there was a second part to the hotel that you accessed via a rickety funicular that had a second large terrace with exquisite views. We were so glad that we had selected this unusual hotel.
After a quick unpack into our spacious room, we strolled into Varenna and were immediately struck by the beauty and elegance of the town.
Passing the elegant Villa Monastera and Villa Cipressi, we reached the square of the village, Piazza S. Giorgio, with the beautiful St George Church and Bell Tower taking pride of place.
The square is surrounded by restaurants, bars and cafes and a tiny delicatessen, with mumma proudly guarding the doorway, that offered all sorts of local delicacies.
We entered the narrow cobbled laneways and eventually joined a pathway that traces the shoreline of the lake. Here there were waterfront restaurants with pretty flower boxes and shops selling the usual souvenirs, chic clothing, handmade jewellery and pottery and leather goods.
We were all starving and thirsty so took a seat at one of these restaurants and enjoyed the stunning views of the deep blue velvet lake and the backdrop of the snow-capped mountains engulfed in cloud. It was mouth watering platters of anti-pasta, white wine for the ladies and Italian beer for the men all round.
On our last day in Varenna we set off on a picture-perfect day to see The Villas and The Gardens of Villa Monastero. The Villas date back to the 1200’s when it was a monastery owned by the church and was then privately owned until the Provence of Lecco purchased it in 1918. It consists of a House Museum and a Conference Centre.
The Villa is surrounded by a pretty and picturesque botanical Garden which extends for two kilometres from Varenna to Fiumelatte along the lakefront. The Garden, is set up in terraces, and has been structured in different patterns making it a beautiful spectacle.
After a good night’s sleep and substantial breakfast we set off to find the ferry port in Varenna so that we could spend the day doing some village hopping around the vast lake. We managed to jump aboard a ferry that runs regularly between Varenna, Menaggio, Bellagio and Tremezzo, the route forming a square shape.
Cruising on the lake is without a doubt the most common thing for tourists to do when visiting the area. It is the perfect way to observe the area from a unique point of view, admiring the charming villas and towns that populate its shores.
There are plenty of options for cruising the lake with a choice of motorships, ferries, hydrofoils or water taxis. The cheapest option is the ferry service that costs around 15 euro for an all day ticket. You can check the Lake Como boat timetable on the official website of Navigazione Lago di Como, where you will find the best way of getting around the lake by boat.
Our first port of call was Menaggio, a picturesque town of ancient origins, located at the foot of Val Menaggio, the valley that connects Menaggio to Porlezza. We strolled along the elegant lake promenade called Viale Benedetto Castelli, admiring the pretty plantings of flowers at intervals and Wisteria laden trellises.
As we continued along the footpath we reached the hamlet of Loveno di Menaggio. Loveno is known mainly for being home of the beautiful Villa Mylius Vigoni, definitely one of the best things to see in Menaggio.
On the return trip we stopped for a hot frothy cappuccino at one of the cafes in Piazza Garibaldi and then set off through the narrow streets checking out some of the shops, who mainly sell local products such as shoes, clothing, and home accessories.
As far as churches go, Menaggio has three lovely little churches: San Stefano (17th century), San Giusto and San Carlo accompanied by a beautiful bell tower and the ruins of a medieval castle above the town is also worth a visit.
Possibly one of the most renowned towns on Lake Como, Bellagio is know as the “pearl of the lake”. I discovered it did have a certain romantic feel about it with its world class hotels and restaurants providing the perfect place to devour the lake’s famous panorama.
With its location at the tip of a long hilly promontory between the two southern branches of Lake Como, its streets and and narrow laneways are set high up into the hill. Walking around was an exercise in negotiating many stairs and steep inclines – very hard on the calves and knees.
We strolled along the promenade past all the fancy restaurants and bars serving up apertifs until we reached the historic Hotel Grand Bretagne, which is currently abandoned and falling into disrepair. A few minutes further on, we came to one of the two gardens open to the public in Bellagio, Villa Melzi. The second public gardens are located at Villa Serbelloni that is set on the slopes of the Bellagio promontory.
We explored the maze of cobbled streets and laneways and Bellagio’s main town square, Piazza San Giacomo. The square is dominated by a church and bell tower, the Romanesque Basilica di San Giacomo, which is worth a visit for its frescoes and statues.
But mainly we came to Bellagio to soak up the resorty and laid back ambience of this elegant lakeside town and maybe pretend for a few hours that were rich and famous. Plus we womenfolk wanted to browse the many upmarket boutiques and shops, even if it was to look only!
After we boarded the ferry it was only a very short trip, directly opposite Bellagio, to Tremezzina. This small town is actually the merger of the communes of Lenno, Mezzegra, Ossuccio, and Tremezzo.
Tremezzo is home to one of the most famous villas on Lake Como: Villa Carlotta. The villa shows some neoclassical features and is surrounded by a vast terraced garden, where you could spend most of your day without the risk of getting bored.
We took a walk along the lakefront passing a number of historic hotels, such as the Grand Hotel Tremezzo. This luxury hotel features a private beach area and a floating swimming pool on the lake and at about 2,200 euros per night it may just be a pipedream for some!
My husband spent a the good part of an entire day undertaking a bike ride on the former railway line between Menaggio and Porlezza. The railway line built in 1884 connected Lake Como with Lake Lugano and is 12.5 kilometres in length.
The route runs through the Val Menaggio and touches the Val Sanagra and the Lago di Piano Nature Reserve. It is rated as an easy ride or walk with little hills to negotiate. This is a great way to explore some of the stunning terrain surrounding the lake.
I would absolutely advise prior to embarking on any overseas holiday to purchase your prepaid travel sim cards, as it makes life easy being able to keep in communication with your partner and fellow travel friends by mobile phone.
After spending four idyllic days at Lake Como I can see why it’s rated as one of Italy’s top holiday destinations and also where George Clooney now calls home. We did spend a lot of time trying to find George but alas he was incognito! I felt very much like an intruder mixing with the rich and famous cruising around this classy Italian holiday resort spot. However if you look underneath the expensive label you will find a place that is affordable for the everyday tourist. Perfetto!
Linking up with Travel Photo Thursday
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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budget janAugust 21, 2017
Perfetto indeed. It all looks wonderful and good to know that it is affordable as well. When we were on the Amalfi Coast we were talking to a guy who looked exactly like George Clooney. I was mesmerised!
KathyAugust 21, 2017
I would have been mesmerised as well!! We did look for George at Lake Como but never found him. Lake Como was like a dream – such a scenic area.
JoAugust 21, 2017
Ohh, gorgeous photos – I have severe wanderlust this morning and I’ve always wanted to go to Lake Como. My sister went there for her honeymoon years ago – I bet it’s changed since then, and imagine you probably need to pick your time of year quite carefully?
KathyAugust 21, 2017
Yes I think Lake Como gets a big influx of summer holidaymakers. We were there in early May so it wasn’t too busy. It would be an extremely romantic place to spend your honeymoon. :)
DavidAugust 23, 2017
Wow! What a beautiful place. Enough inspiration here.
KathyAugust 23, 2017
Lake Como is a stunning holiday destination in Northern Italy. I’m so glad I included it on my Italian itinerary.
EstherAugust 25, 2017
This looks lovely. I like the Italian lakes. I’m off to Bologna with the husband in a few weeks and it’s been SO long since I’ve been to Italy, I just can’t wait. Your post is making me count down even louder!
KathyAugust 25, 2017
Lucky you. We never got to Bologna but we were told by several people that it is a must see city. Lake Como was divine. I loved every part of it.
CarolAugust 25, 2017
Acharming place to visit – lovely post.
KathyAugust 25, 2017
Thanks Carol. It is a very enchanting part of Italy.
Ruth | Tanama TalesAugust 26, 2017
Oh Kathy! I do not know what to say. The lake and its towns are spectacular. Some of your photos even remind me of Greek Island (I guess the lake is very idyllic). I think it is a good idea to stay several days around. From your photos, I can see there is plenty to do. I would be happy taking those ferries around! #TPThursday
KathyAugust 26, 2017
I was so glad that we put Lake Como on our Italian travel itinerary. It exceeded my expectations for sure.
Abigail SinsonaAugust 28, 2017
Italy is truly a traveler’s gem. Lake Como in particular is so beautiful and stunning. I would understand why you loved it so much. Every corner is photogenic and beautiful!
KathyAugust 29, 2017
Yes Lake Como is one of the prettiest and most photogenic locations in Italy. The villages surrounding the lake are absolutely charming.
dunkawimbaAugust 28, 2017
OK, I am Italian and this post made me feel so guilty for having never visited this gorgeous area of my own home country! Thanks for reminding me that sometimes rather than travelling on the other side of the globe I should invest into discovering more of my country!
KathyAugust 29, 2017
Most people that visit Italy don’t venture as far north as Lake Como and I really feel that they’re missing out on this beautiful location. I’m so glad I included it on my Italian itinerary.
My Travelogue by BhushavaliAugust 29, 2017
Italy is just incredibly beautiful! I’ve been to 4 cities and haven’t been to Venice or Como yet! But I’ve heard so much about the beauty of Como from many incl you! Guess I should go on a romantic venture with my guy to these 2 places.
KathyAugust 29, 2017
Yes you definitely should. Both places are equally charming and romantic.
adaAugust 31, 2017
wow now I am really jealous! You’ve got to see so many wonderful places on your trip! I would love to visit Lake Como ! Hopefully I can finally organise it next year! I love your photos! Every place you’ve seen looks like from farytail! So beautiful!
KathySeptember 1, 2017
Yes everywhere in Italy was equally superb. We loved every little bit of it (except for the scammers at the train stations!) I would love to go back and see more of it. Maybe in a few years time!
ChieraSeptember 3, 2017
I have read and heard so much about Lake como recently! I am dying to go. Your pictures are beautiful :)
KathySeptember 3, 2017
Thank you. It was very easy to photograph such a picturesque place. Lake Como was delightful.
BonitaSeptember 3, 2017
I liked the idea of tiny churches, and the lake front infinity swimming pool.The other thing that also stood out for me is how you conclusively gave us a detailed account of your trip.with this blog post alone, I can easily go to Lake Como 😊. Well, is I remember to buy a SIM card.
KathySeptember 3, 2017
Thank you so much. I like to give my readers a first person account of my travels. It truly was a magical place to visit.
Sandy N VyjaySeptember 3, 2017
Lake Como is really captivating. The pictures bring alive stunningly the beauty of Italy. This is a region of Italy we have not visited. But some of your pictures reminded me of a small village called Sienna near Florence where we stayed the last time we were in Italy.
KathySeptember 4, 2017
It is indeed captivating! I adored Lake Como. I also stayed in Siena in Tuscany and explored the entire Tuscan region. Such another beautiful place in Italy.
JamesSeptember 4, 2017
It looks like Varenna is the place to stay on a visit to lake Como. Such a picturesque town and the option of ferry to visit the other towns. I’ll definitely use itinerary when I visit!
KathySeptember 4, 2017
Out of all of the Lake Como villages I thought Varenna was the prettiest and probably the least crowded. The ferry is a wonderful way to explore the rest of the villages and to get gorgeous lake views.
SierraSeptember 8, 2017
I absolutely loved Lake Como! We stayed at an Airbnb nearby and explored Varenna and the other towns each day. So relaxing.
KathySeptember 8, 2017
We did too Sierra. It’s such a beautiful part of Italy. I could easily return to the village of Varenna.