A week by the Lakes -- Trip report

Old Jun 17th, 2002, 04:11 PM
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A week by the Lakes -- Trip report

Just back from a fabulous 8 days by the Italian Lakes. I got much assistance here, and hope to return the favor by posting a bit of a report. there will be several parts, I think.
Varenna/Lake Como
3 nights at the Hotel Du Lac in Varenna: this was a terrific hotel. I absolutely loved it. The view was great, it was not too difficult to reach by car (easier than Bellagio, I think), and the staff was extremely helpful. Varenna is definitely a sleepier town than Bellagio, but I liked being there. There were a few good restaurants. We ate at the Hotel Olivedo dining room, recommended here, and liked it very much. Simple, but tasty. We also went to the more elegant Vecchia Varenna which was very good, although not on a par with Tuscan restaurants of comparable price. And we ate at the tiny Cavateppi which was the best of the 3 meals in Varenna I think (reservations a must, they only have 5 tables).

We visited Villa Carlotta, Villa Monastero, Villa Cipressi, Bellagio, and Castello di Vezio in Varenna. I wish we'd had time to go to Mennagio, and to Villa Balbienello, but we ran out of hours in the day. Villa Carlotta is spectacular and I recommend it if you are in the area, especially if you are into gardens. It was the nicest of the 3 gardens we visited on Lake Como.

Old Jun 17th, 2002, 04:16 PM
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The next 2 nights were at I Due Roccoli in Iseo. The reason we went to Iseo was as a not too inconvenient place to stay while we visited the archaelogical sites in the Valle Camonica. If anybody is interested in this specifically, post, and I'll give details. But other than that, I'd give Iseo a pass. We went to Monte Isola and walked around a bit, and it was charming, but that's true about an awful lot of places. That said, the hotel was terrific. It's high up on a hill outside of town, looking down on the hillside and the lake. There were more birds singing outside of our balcony than I can remember hearing anywhere else. The hotel restaurant is very good, which is a good thing, because I really didn't want to go out and have to drive the switchbacks back to the hotel after dinner and a bottle of wine.

We had some minor language trouble in Iseo. Unlike other places, the hotel staff did not all speak English. In fact, we heard very few English speaking tourists around here. It seemed most of the tourists were German-speaking, and most of them seemed to come to Iseo for some serious walking.
Old Jun 17th, 2002, 04:26 PM
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The final leg of the trip was 3 nights in Stresa at the Hotel LaPalma. The feel of Stresa was so different than anywhere else we went. There were so many big hotels, and LOTS more tourists. In fact, the La Palma seemed to cater to a couple of bus tours, but I imagine this is true of many of the big hotels along the lake side, so this is not meant as a criticism. It was just a bit of culture shock after staying in places with fewer than 20 rooms. Also, the restaurant in the hotel was not so good, and service seemed a bit stiffer...more formal and less friendly... than in the other places. Still, it was also a nice hotel, the biggest room yet, a balcony facing the lake, and a big bathroom as well.
We are very well in Stresa. I particularly enjoyed a restaurant called Piemontese. A little nicer than some of the others. One of their specialties is pasta with onions and tomato and hot pepper. This was different, and really quite tasty.

We spent a day touring the islands on Lake Maggiore. For 10 euro/person we bought a boat ticket that would allow us to hop on and off the ferries all day. Then we went to Isola Bella in the morning, Isola Pescatori at lunch time, and Isola Madre in the afternoon. If I were to repeat it, I would reverse the order. Why? Because I actually thought Isola Madre had the more interesting house and garden, so would have liked to see it when I had more energy. And because Isola Bella actually had some pretty nice shops. Some of the nicest ceramics I had seen, but I didn't want to carry them around all day.

We had an outstanding lunch on Isola Pescatori, at the Hotel Verbana. We sat in the garden under a pergola covered with jasmine, and a view of Isola Bella that was unreal, and enjoyed a very fine meal of lake fish and pasta.

Our last day we rode the cable car up to the top of Mottarone, but it was a bit too hazy to see much from the top. On the way down we stopped at the middle stop and saw the Alpine garden which was lovely, and most definitely worth a visit if you are into the garden thing (which you can probably figure out, I am!)
Old Jun 17th, 2002, 04:31 PM
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couple more general notes...

we used AutoEurope which got us a car from Europcar at Malpensa. I opted for a midsize automatic and was VERY pleased with the Mercedes C180 we got. I want to encourage you who are thinking of driving in Italy to go ahead and do it. It really is not as bad as it is made out to be. Okay, I'm pretty sure I don't want to drive in downtown Rome...but out in the countryside, and even in the small towns, I didn't find it that stressful at all.

The weather was, like my last trip to Italy, incredibly hot. At least for the second half. It was raining and cool in Como, but by the time we got to Iseo it had gotten to be 80+ degrees and humid. I don't know if this was a function of location, or weather pattern, probably some of both. Anyways, It was much warmer than I expected for early June.

if anybody has any questions, or would like to hear more about any of this, post away, I'd be happy to answer. Once again, thanks to those folks who answered my questions before the trip, you were a big factor in my trip going as smoothly as it did.
Old Jun 17th, 2002, 04:47 PM
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Hey Beth!

Your trip sounds wonderful! I didn't get to make it to Villa Carlotta on my last trip & now I'm jealous.

We stayed on Isola dei Pescatori at Hotel Verbano. Charming, intimate, & great food. I always recommend it, so glad to hear you liked it too.

Can't wait to hear more!
Old Jun 17th, 2002, 05:30 PM
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I feel like I'm reliving a trip we made a few years ago. We were in the Italian Lakes, stayed at I Due Roccoli, (it is wonderful, isn't it--great views even from the bathrooms)and loved their dining room, ate--but did not stay--at Hotel du Lac and ate at Vechia Varenna. Did you have pizzocheri? the wonderful buckwheat noodle stuff with oodles of cheese? Went to all the gardens--except Castello di Vezio in Varenna. In fact, never heard of that. Is it a garden, a museum, a conference center? Also had lunch at Verbana on Isola Pesciatori. Like I say, it was like repeating our trip. I loved it. Glad you did too. I hope the poster requesting info on the Hotel du Lac in Varenna earlier today reads your post and sees your recommendation for it.
Old Jun 18th, 2002, 05:53 AM
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I'm not sure, but I think your recommendation might have sent us to I Due Roccoli. I did like it very much, although our bathroom did not have a view.

Castello Di Vezio is the ruined castle on the hill above Varenna. The castle itself was actually closed when we went up there, but there is a cute little town surrounding it, and we were able to get right up to the outside of the castle and take some nice pictures. really it was a short sidetrip, but kind of interesting.

Dayle, I'm jealous that you stayed at Hotel Verbano. If I hadn't had a car I might have chosen it as well. When we had lunch there I managed to sneak a peek at one of the rooms, and it looked really charming.

I sure do like small hotels with character. Du Lac, Due Roccoli and the Verbano all fit that bill.
Old Jun 18th, 2002, 06:26 AM
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Your post just reminded me of our stay at Hotel Verbano. It is a lovely place, great views, GREAT restaurant-- but we barely slept a wink!
Our room was opposite a church, and the hourly chimes, most of the night, came right into our window. I think the room we stayed in was recommended by Karen Brown; it made me realize that she doesn't always STAY in the rooms she recommends!
Even with my all-purpose earplugs and the windows closed, it still kept us up much of the 2 nights we were there. This was more than a little ironic, because they are members of the Relais du Silence!
Old Jun 18th, 2002, 09:18 AM
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Hi! I posted yesterday about teh du Lac in varenna. So glad to hear it was so wonderful. I think I will go ahead and confirm!!

Sounds like a fantastic trip!!
Old Jun 18th, 2002, 06:12 PM
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Hey Paule,

I'm sorry the bells kept you up. I never heard them at night. I thought they ended at 10pm & didn't start until 7am. I'm a terribly light sleeper, as in, a mouse sneeze wakes me. Never heard the bells!
Old Jun 18th, 2002, 06:41 PM
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Hi, Dayle,
Were you in the room next to the church? If the bells stopped ringing, I'm pretty sure it was way after 2 pm. We were up till at least that time. The other noise problem was that we overlooked the restaurant, and on a Saturday night, people sat outside till very late.

I think it's a lovely hotel, and there are probably rooms that are quieter. The views from our room were beautiful, though, and almost balanced out the noise. It's just such a serene place that it seems even strange to complain about the "noise"!

Old Jul 8th, 2002, 08:31 PM
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Whatever you do (if staying at the Hotel du Lac in Varenna) Don't stay in Room 11 - yes it's got the lakefront view, but the room was the size of a walk-in closet. The bathroom was so tight 4x7 at the most.........and we are both small people!!!!

TV, phone, lovely white linens and goosedown duvet......but tiny, so tiny. We were amazed they even tried to squeeze a room into this space.
Oh well - we were literally right on the lake.
Old Jul 9th, 2002, 09:55 AM
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Old Jul 9th, 2002, 10:53 AM
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Just to clarify the quiet room we had at Hotel Verbano on Isola dei Pescatori. Our room faced east & shared a huge stone terrace with 3 other rooms. We had a double, 2 twin beds for 2 people.

There were rooms above us with no terraces, but with French doors & the same views.

We reserved about 8 months ahead. Hotel staff was very helpful.
Old Jul 9th, 2002, 11:32 AM
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Beth: do you think that the Hotel du Lac in Varenna represents good value for the money? Would you trade it for a lakefront room at the Hotel Milano (as long as it's not too hot!)? Was your room small? The lobby area of the du Lac is completely renovated. Is this true of the rooms as well?
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