Mr. M and I got married last year about this time in Europe. For our honeymoon, we stayed in Europe and visited several places in a two week period. Our first stop was Lake Como in Italy. It had been a top destination of mine for many, many years and I was very happy to be able to check that area off my list with my new husband. It is quite the romantic stop!
This trip took place July 15-19, 2012.
Home base: Bellagio, Hotel Centrale
Arrived in Milan; traveled to Como via train
Traveled to Bellagio via boat
Day trip to Villa Carlotta, Villa Babianello, and Como; via boat
Returned to Bellagio via bus
Day trip to Villa Monastero; explored Varenna, via boat
Checked out of Hotel Centrale in Bellagio
Traveled to Como via bus; departed Como via train
Como is the largest town on the lake. Personally, I didn’t find it as interesting as I found some of the other towns on Lake Como, maybe because it was so large? There is a train station and local bus station here, so it’s a great traveling hub.
Hopping on a bus from the train station to one of the lake towns is not as scary as it sounds. You just need to know which town you’re going to and the bus sign will tell you which number to ride. Then read the departure and arrival times of the bus, located at the bus stop. Buses stop early – I think around 7PM? A bus ride is so cheap! You will have to purchase tickets from a Tabacchi shop; there is one inside the train station. I enjoyed riding the bus because it allowed me to see into the backyards of the locals’ homes through winding roads and hills.
Traveling by boat on Lake Como gives you a different view of life, a more glamorous one, in my opinion. If you arrive on a later train after the buses stop running, your best bet is to catch the boat from the docks, which is a further walk into town towards the water. Don’t be too late for the boat either because they all stop sailing early also.
Of course there’s a duomo in Como! We are in Italy, remember?
Bellagio was where we chose as our home base during our time in Lake Como. Upon arriving, we were immediately greeted with…. STAIRS! Fear not, the stairs were not too deep, but I still hate them. Despite all the stairs, Bellagio is a most charming town and worth a visit.
Bellagio is easy to explore on foot. We also saw many mopeds and small vehicles driving through the town. They were actually surprising to see because the “roads” look like narrow cobblestoned alleys, fit only for foot traffic.
The thing I remembered the most about this town is the serious lack of grocery stores. Perhaps we were staying in a touristy area, but there were residential apartments all around us… where do they buy their groceries? We did source a store behind our hotel, but it resembled a convenience store at best.
Visit the tourist office at the boat dock to grab a map and get recommendations for what to see. The boat departure and arrival times are prominently displayed there as well. Make sure to check those times before you venture out on your day trips.
If Como is too large and impersonal and Bellagio is too small and hilly, then you’ll find the right combination of both in Varenna. I thought Varenna was the perfect size with the right touches of art, culture, food, and scenery. I may have to make this town my home base next time! There’s so much I left unexplored.
One of the popular things to do on Lake Como is to visit the many villas that dot the lakeshore. Villa Carlotta is one such site that was recommended to us by the tourist office in Bellagio. There was a villa in Bellagio, but, come on, we were on our honeymoon and for once, I wasn’t going to squeeze EVERYTHING in. Ha!
The grounds of Villa Carlotta were beautiful and grander than I expected. It’s no Gardens of Versailles, mind you. Italy is a much smaller country than France, after all! The villa itself is an art museum. Don’t forget to look up! The painted ceilings are not to be missed.
There is a fee to enter. Check the website for details.
Die hard James Bond and Star Wars fans may recognize this villa from the movies. Villa Balbianello is a popular destination for movie filming as well as weddings.
A guided tour of the villa is included with the entrance fee, but no photos are allowed inside. Because the tours are guided, be sure to come early to get in line for the next one.
Another thing to note about Villa Balbianello is that it is a bit of a hike to get to after you get off the boat. That is, if you didn’t hire a private boat who will take you directly to the backdoor of the villa. We didn’t, so we climbed the gentle slope for a scenic hike. Just gave me and Mr. M more bonding time!
Located in Varenna, Villa Monastero boasts an incredible garden and not much villa as it used to be a monastery. Pay a small fee to enter and you can spend all day along the lakeshore, I swear.
Pack a picnic or order from the cafe on the grounds. There’s plenty of places to stop for a bite… just have to walk farther down the path to find good seating. It’s worth it to keep walking to the end for the million dollar picnic view, though!
How do you argue with a view like that, huh? Naps are also very enticing here because if you can find a bench under a tree, the cool shade will lull you into a dreamy lullaby for sure.
Let’s not forget the food! Oh Italy, you do know how to get your pastas perfecto! I had been on a paleo diet for months up until my wedding so I could look as svelte as possible in my white dress, so I was hungry for pasta when I got to Lake Como. If you ever quit paleo, quit in style in Italy! As pastas are considered only the first course in Italy and not as the main entree as we consider them in North America, the servings were rather small. Some nights we had to order two of the first course items, to the frustration of the server, I’m sure. Oh, how I could go for a nice plate of pasta in Bellagio right now! And then finish it off with a double cone from Gelateria del Borgo. le sigh…
Looking through these old photos totally made me long for those four glorious days of summer 2012 again! What a dream it was to take our evening passagiato with a gelato cone in one hand and the other hand entwined in the fingers of my romantic partner! I’m glad I waited to see it for the first time with Mr. M.
If you would like me to feature a particular place next month, please let me know in the comments below!
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