Como or Bellagio?

Jun 1st, 2010, 11:30 PM
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Como or Bellagio?

After much research and thought, I figured I seek the advice of others who have been there. I am going to Italy Sept 3rd - Sept 26. I will be coming in from Doha Qatar. The first portion of my trip is finalized as I have a friend who is making the journey from the US to Italy for the first time. We will be starting in Bologna and then making our way to Venice, Siena (day tripping to Florence) and then winding up in Rome. She departs Rome on the 15th, and from there I'm on my own. What I am planning on doing is taking a train to Milan after she departs at 10am on the 15th. I would then like to make my way to Lake Como.

I'm not sure though where is the best place to stay, in the town of Como or Bellagio? I've looked at hotels in both cities, and am considering the following: Staying the 15th - 19th:

hotel Metropole Suisse au Lac
Hotel Terminus
Hotel Barchetta Excelsior
Hotel Belvedere
Hotel Suisse
Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni (would love to stay here, but think the price is a bit prohibitive)

So Fodorites; which area would be a better location for me to stay? Are there any other hotel reccomendations?

My plans after the 19th involve me going down to Amalfi Coast, where I plan on staying until the 25th, heading up to rome for 1 final night and catching my flight back to Doha on the afternoon of the 26th. I will be staying in Positano, and daytripping to Capri and all over the AC. I haven't made my hotel bookings there yet, as I wanted to nail down the first part of my final leg first, so I want to do this over the next few days so I can put all this reservation making to rest.

The other question I have is which way should I travel from Milan to the AC. I can take a train (113E or 150E) from Milan to Naples or Salerno (which is 6 hours and then time to get to Positano- 10am -4pm) or I can take a flight ($31 on Easy Jet - 2pm arriving at Naples at 4pm) from Milan to Naples. This is a no-brainer right? The flight is the best option or am I missing something?

Thanks in advance to all your advice and help - it's much appreciated.
chazzarelli is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 01:40 AM
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Como is a pretty large town at the less scenic end of Lago di Como. I would not recommend to stay there.

The scenic section with the splendid villas (Villa Carlotta is probably the best one) and the great views is around Bellagio, Tremezzo, Menaggio, Varenna. These towns are connected by ferries. The ferry rides are the main attraction of Lago di Como.

IMO, the towns on the western shore (Tremezzo, Menaggio) have some advantage, because you have a great view of Bellagio and the eastern shore mountains at sunset and at night. And, with the ferry, you are within a few minutes in Bellagio.

We found it very hard to find a decent hotel at Lago di Como. Many hotels are overpriced, in bad condition and have poor service and poor food (look at the travellers' pictures at tripadvisor!).

We finally ended with staying at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo Palace. The good things: it has a most beautiful indoor pool (very important since you often get bad weather at Lago di Como) and two outdoor pools, one of them spectacularly floating on the lake. The rooms were so-so, service was poor, the food ridiculously overpriced and mediocre.

After our first dinner, we used to walk over to Hotel La Darsena, which looks very nice and whose restaurant is excellent, at half the price of the Grand Hotel's restaurant.

Such experiences are typical for Lago di Como, because the area is overrun by tourists from overseas who are willing to pay hilarious rates and who are expected to never come back. So select carefully. Use tripadvisor and maybe some Fodorites have better recommendations than me.

In any case, check La Darsena.
Echnaton is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 01:43 AM
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Regarding the question of transportation:

$31 is a no-brainer indeed. But book ASAP, as the good rate will be gone soon.
Echnaton is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 01:59 AM
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Echnaton, thank you for that info on Tremezzo; we will be staying at Grand Hotel Tremezzo Palace for a few days this summer, and will check out La Darsena.
Tulips is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 02:00 AM
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I stayed in Bellagio and I loved it. I guess your choice would depend on whether you want a small town/village or a larger town/city type of place to stay. I had just been in Rome and Venice and Bellagio was a respite from running around sightseeing in the cities. But there is not much to do there. I enjoyed taking the ferries to other towns and walking around. You can easily go to Como City or to Lugano for the day on the boats and the scenery is stunning in the Bellagio area.

I stayed at the Hotel Suisse which I would NOT recommend unless they have changed since I was there in 2003. There was no heat which I needed in October and very little hot water for bathing. You get a key to the outer door to come and go at night but they do not tell you that the key is not for the front door but for another door that is accessed from the alley which is not easily identifiable. Several people were locked out one night when they came back late and could not get into the hotel since they did not know about the alley door. The locked front door is also a concern in case of fire since the alley door is from the first floor of the hotel not the ground floor. After I heard the story I looked for the door access from within the hotel and could not find it. They're also not forthcoming about breakfast information (which was included with the room). They have a restaurant and when I arrived I asked to buy a bottle of wine so I could have a glass in my room and relax after the train trip and look at the wonderful view from my window and their response was "we do not have room service." Geez...I was only asking to buy a bottle of wine, not for them to deliver it to my room; why would I wait when I could carry it up myself. So that's my saga on Hotel Suisse. A very odd place - not very good with customer relations. But the view from my window was spectacular!
adrienne is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 02:14 AM
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Starting at the end - the train to Naples (Frecciarossa) takes jut under 5 hours and is Euro 98 second 131 first. The plane is certainly cheaper and quicker. You might want to pay a little more and fly on Lufthansa which offers two advantages. You can reserve your seat so you avoid the rush for seats on easyjet and second Lufthansa I believe offers a 20kg allowance on checked in luggage. You have to pay for this on easyjet. For the various flight alternatives I suggest

As far as the hotels are concerned I think Como will be very expensive for the period in question as there are a lot of trade fairs in Milan and many participants stay in Como. Hotels in Bellagio should be cheaper. Alternatively you could consider hotels in Tremezzo or Cadenabbia which are both across the lake from Bellagio which can be reached by the very convenient ferry for both cars and foot passengers. Both Tremezzo, Cadenabbia and Bellagio are also connected by the hydrofoil service which travels down the lake to Como.
An alternative location is Grand Hotel Imperiale at Moltrasio - I have seen rates at about Euros 164 per night for 4 nights. There is also lake transport from Moltrasio but it is near enough to Como for a taxi not to be too expensive. The bus service is of course cheaper and very efficient but avoid the period before 9.00 as the schools will be back and traffic into Como will be heavy - not a problem at that hour on the lake!
nochblad is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 03:59 AM
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How late do the ferries between the towns run? Is there a link where timetables are listed on it?

My concern is that some of the places mentioned wont have much to do around the area, and thus I will want to be in the other surrounding cities. I really just want a great place for a base camp - nice views - decent restaurants around (I dont normally eat at places within the hotel), some shops to poke around at and easy accessibility for me to get back via train to Milan when I need to. That is why I originally picked Bellagio and Como, but after reading through the responses so far, I was a bit more inclined to check out the other cities.

Adrienne - thanks for the heads up on Hotel Suisse - that can now be crossed off my list.

I also looked at La Darsena - unfortunately they do not have a room available when I will be there.
chazzarelli is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 04:25 AM
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An alternative to Como would be to use Lugano as a base. It is a very attractive town, very clean, super lakeside walks and gardens, and with great shopping. Train connections are very good and regular to Como and Milan. Only problem is that restaurants close earlier than in Italy.

An advantage is a good and regular bus service to Milan Malpensa -
nochblad is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2010, 04:47 AM
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I stayed 6 nights in Varenna. Hotels are small and pricey, especially for rooms with lake views. I remember people saying a log of these lake-front hotels didn't have air conditioning.

I stayed at the Du Lac in Varenna and while it was nice, I think a lot of guests were disappointed with the Wifi situation. Breakfast was kind of poor compared to the hotels I stayed before and after Varenna on the trip. The dining rooms and terrace did have nice lake views though.

Wherever you stay, I wouldn't count on late night ferries. I was disappointed to find that after 7 or 8 PM, your options were limited. For instance, last ferry from Menaggio to Varenna was 7:30. Forget the last ferry from Menaggio to Bellagio. Last ferries from Bellagio to Varenna were like 8:40 and 10:40.

Bellagio might be the best self-contained town in the mid-lake area, not as much dependent on ferries to find restaurants after say 7 or 8 PM. Menaggio seemed to have a smaller center area but of course was connected by roads to other towns, which were smaller.

Varenna was more of a self-contained situation, connected by roads to smaller towns. But it did have a train station which was only an hour to Milan and about 30 minutes to Lecco. I didn't check how late the trains run but probably later than the ferries.

While it was charming to stay on the lake towns, I could easily see staying in Milan near the train station and taking 2 or 3 day trips. The hotels were cheaper but had nicer amenities -- better breakfasts, better Wifi, better access to real shopping if you wanted it. The train ticket was 5.1 Euro each way from Milan to Varenna.

You could also go to Como, Bergamo and probably Lugano from Milan as well. Again, the lake hotels were much more charming, especially if you were willing to pony up almost 200 Euro a night for a lake view room.

Milan restaurants tended to be cheaper too with so many more choices. But the city itself, while not bad, paled compared to places like Rome, Florence and Venice. It really could be taken in a day or two. Only advantage was rail links and cheaper prices than middle Lake Como.
scrb11 is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2010, 05:02 AM
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Thanks for all the advice and help. I have made a booking at the Hotel Belvedere in Bellagio. I made a booking directly with the hotel vs a website and they were very friendly and quick to respond to my emails.

Now on to my Positano reservations!
chazzarelli is offline  
Jun 3rd, 2010, 05:22 AM
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I think you will be very pleased with the Belvedere as it is a lovely hotel with great views.

I just returned from Positano on Monday and highly recommend the Hotel Marincanto. We loved it.
Weekender is offline  
Jun 6th, 2010, 08:46 AM
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Nochblad, you seem to know the area well; would you recommend going to Como on a Saturday? I understand it's market day in Como then. I have two teenage girls who like shopping (as teenage girls do). Or better to visit Como on another day, for the regular shops?
Tulips is offline  
Jun 6th, 2010, 09:08 AM
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Personally, I prefer Lake Orta, but Bellagio is much nicer, in my opinion, than Como.
Castellanese is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 08:16 AM
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My family likes the bustle of Como's Saturday market. One caution is that this is not like markets say in Provance. This is a market where the vendors drive up in their trucks. A lot of the merchandise is cheap clothing and cheap underwear. Also space is tight and the place is busy. It is easy to get separated from family members. The market sets up at Como's medieval walls.

OTOH, Como is a pretty good place for a little bit of shopping (market day or not).
Big_Red is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 08:33 AM
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Big_Red, I like markets that sell food, and maybe some local things. Not so much for clothes. Maybe better visit Como on another day. Thanks for the advice!
Tulips is offline  
Jun 11th, 2010, 12:05 PM
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Over the road from the street market there is a permanent covered food market with entrances from Via Mentana and Via Sirtori. Excellent choice of fruit, vegetables as well as a few florist, butchers, fishmongers etc. Open 6 days a week.

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays there is a section which is made up of local growers and producers with exceptional seasonal produce as well as local cheeses, honey, etc. Get there early as the fresh produce sells very fast and prices are very competitive.
nochblad is offline  
Jun 27th, 2010, 05:13 PM
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Tulips, the food market nochblad mentions is an experience for food. I spend months in Italy every year and it is one of my favorites. Como is also one of my favorite cities. I'm not a tourist so I go to enjoy life in Italy. Como is civilized, easy to walk as it's not overly large, has superb shopping in the old town and lots of pretty good, not great, restaurants. The issue with the restaurants is finding where the Italians eat as many of the Como restaurants cater to the Swiss and German tourists who must have cream in everything they eat.
EyeForget is offline  
Jun 27th, 2010, 11:31 PM
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Thank you! Would you have a recommendation for a restaurant for lunch in Como on a Saturday?
Tulips is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 03:50 PM
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Tulips, for casual, try the Ristaurante Scaldasole. It's off Piazza A. Volta. Close to the market and the center of town. Nice Piazza to relax in. Avoid the rest of the restaurants at the Piazza. For a bit more upscale (not high-end) La Colombetta is superb. It's up the street (away from the lake) from Piazza A. Volta on via Diaz. Look at a map first as its tough to find the door is off to the right on a side street. If you enjoy seafood, definitely. We've been going there for years and it has never let us down. We do the Slow-Food restaurant circuit and La Colombetta compares favorably with the best of them.
EyeForget is offline  
Jun 28th, 2010, 10:23 PM
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Thank you!
Tulips is offline  
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