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Varenna or Bellagio, Albergo Milano or Hotel Florence?

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We (my husband and I, late 60s) are going to Lake Como for three nights next May, coming from Santa Margherita Ligure and going to Verona to complete our trip. I’ve narrowed our stay to two hotel choices in either Varenna (Albergo Milano) or Bellagio (Hotel Florence), and any experiences you can share to help us decide would really be appreciated.

We are good walkers and love gardens and villas. We plan to see Villa Carlotta, Villa del Balbianello, Villa Melzi and Monastero. We’ll probably walk up to the castle above Varenna if we stay there. We enjoy good food and enjoy meeting new people (often staying at B&Bs).

I realize that it would be easier to get the luggage from the train station to Varenna. Is there an advantage to being in Bellagio to reach the first two villas, or is the ferry time about the same? We like having a nice long lunch and earlier dinners, say 7:00-7:30. Are there more options in Bellagio or Varenna for dinner, and any problems getting back on the ferry to our hotel after 9:00 or so? More places to walk and enjoy in either town?

Thanks in advance for anything you can say to tip the scales! I need to book soon, I think.

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