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How to Spend Our Time on Lake Como; restaurant recommendations

How to Spend Our Time on Lake Como; restaurant recommendations

Feb 3rd, 2014, 02:18 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 426
How to Spend Our Time on Lake Como; restaurant recommendations

My husband and I (67 and 64) will be spending 3 nights in Bellagio in early May and are trying to decide how to spend our time while we are there. This will be the first stop on our trip to italy, so we are going there both to overcome jetlag and to see some beautiful lake scenery before hitting the cities (Venice, Florence, Rome). We do like to stay busy while traveling in Europe and want to spend our time there seeing as much as we can without exhausting ourselves.

We should arrive in in Bellagio in time to get settled into our apartment and wander around Bellagio, and perhaps even take the mid-lake ferry to Varenna that evening. That leaves two full days before we leave for Venice. We have researched taking the ferry to the various towns on the lake to view the villas and it appears that can be done in a day. I would be interested in hearing about your favorite towns, sights, and experiences and why you liked them. We are not especially interested in seeing the interior of villas but might enjoy some of the gardens if they are especially nice. While we can walk 5-6 miles/day sight seeing, we aren't hikers.

On the second day, we are considering taking the ferry to Como, seeing a few sights there, and returning to Varenna by train (or vice-versa). The other option is visiting Lugano. I have read some posts about how to do this but am confused about the connections. I found an excursion from Menaggio that involves a bus ride to Morcote with a visit there, then a boat to Lugano for the afternoon, and a bus back to Menaggio. It might be nice to see a second lake, and we would enjoy having another "taste" of Switzerland. I have tried to check out the bus schedules for this trip on my own but have only found them in italian and haven't been able to figure them out so far. Are there any in English, or can someone describe how to use them?

I know that everyone has a personal opinion about how much or how little to try to do on a trip and what to see but I do find it helpful to hear about others' experiences and to learn from their expertise.

We would also appreciate recommendations for places to eat on Lake Como. We do not need "upscale" expensive food and multiple courses but prefer simple local food at moderate prices (preferably under 50 Euros for two at dinner without wine as we do not drink alcohol).

As always, I am thankful for your time and expertise in replying!
drchris is online now  
Feb 3rd, 2014, 03:13 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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If you go to Varenna "in the evening," make sure you know when the last ferry back to Bellagio departs. And then, don't miss that last ferry! Ditto the last Menaggio-Bellagio ferry if you go to that side of the lake.

Depending on the timing of the Menaggio-Morcote-Lugano excursion (whether the stops are long enough), it sounds good. Morcote is small and charming, and we went there mainly for lunch. The ferry ride to Lugano is scenic. Without a lot of time for excursions elsewhere on the lake, there's not a whole lot to see/do in Lugano other than shop (you won't be able to spend Euros), stroll around, enjoy the scenery, the flowers, etc. You could do this excursion on your own (for likely less money), but seeing both Morcote and Lugano would probably be difficult time-wise since you'd have to go Menaggio-Lugano (bus), Lugano-Morcote-Lugano (ferry) and then Lugano-Menaggio (bus). And you'd have to make sure you get back before the last ferry to Bellagio.

I like the ferry ride from Bellagio to Como, but Como itself did nothing for me.

The gardens of Villa Balbianello are gorgeous. The views from the castle ruins above Varenna (accessible by bus or taxi) are IMO the best in the mid-lake area.

We like Bilacus Ristorante in Bellagio.
Jean is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2014, 03:38 PM
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I forgot to mention that there is a falconry located on the castle grounds above Varenna. Check the schedule for the bird training (not yet posted for 2014), and try to time your visit to see the birds in flight.

Jean is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2014, 03:55 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
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A train from Como to Varenna is not a good idea. Though close to one another, the two cities are on different train lines, so the trip would take two train changes and 2.5 hours.

The more direct route would be to take the C30 local bus from Como back to Bellagio which takes 1 hour and 10 minutes.
ellenem is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2014, 05:20 PM
Join Date: Jan 2010
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Take the ferry across the lake to Villa Carlotta- lovely villa but even lovelier gardens to wander around in. From Villa Carlotta you can walk into town for lunch- I can't recall the name of the place where we ate, but it was just as you entered town on the left- good and not too $.
Our take in Varenna is that it is VERY small. You don't need a lot of time there to explore. We enjoyed just taking the ferry around the lake to different towns and getting off and exploring. Really beautiful and restful. Enjoy the cafe life and just walking around! Personally, with the limited time you have there, i wouldn't try to go explore a second lake, just soak in the ambience of Lake Como.
el13207 is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2014, 06:17 PM
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I've been to Bellagio three times -- twice with hubby and once with my 4 sisters.

Personally I enjoy taking it easy in the Lakes. My ideal time there entails walking, sitting in cafes (nice coffee place on the upper street about a half block from the church), boat rides, and gardens.

Bellagio has a promenade level (on the lake, near the ferries, etc.) and a parallel street on an upper level. The two are connected by streets and steps at various points. Most of the locals and their shops (cheese shop, pastry shop, fruit grocer) are on the upper street. Great exercise walking up and down!

For excursions, there's Varenna -- next town up the lake, if memory serves --where there is a lovely villa garden. Easy half-day trip with a nice lunch.

We also took a boat across to Menaggio, which as some have pointed out is the point to pick up the bus to Lugano. We just took a regular bus from the main plaza area (tickets at the Tabac shop). It's a pretty ride, but not sure it's worth the time on a short stay. Menaggio has a hotel and restaurant right on the lake where we went with friends for a beautiful lunch/view.

Another excursion was to Villa D'Este, down in Cernobbio, toward Como. Lunch outside on the lake wasn't as pricey as the Vila might make it look.

We also went to Bilacus and enjoyed a meal there. Also ate at Hotel Florence with friends for a nice meal.

Villa Serbelloni (also at the "church" or north end of town on the promenade level) would be a nice place for a drink and they have a couple of restaurants that were decent when we went there about 4 years ago.

Whatever you do have a lovely trip!
annw is offline  
Feb 4th, 2014, 03:19 AM
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 157
We found Varenna to have great restaurants. Most on one street--dubbed restaurant row.
For great food and great view of Lake with outdoor dining--Ristorante Vista at Albergo Milano.
Two other good ones, but no view--Borgovino and Il Cavatappi.
SkipHudgins is offline  
Feb 4th, 2014, 06:48 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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You won't see all the villas in one day, but you can probably see two per day fairly easily without rushing.

When in Varenna don't miss Villa Monastero - walk all the way along the lakefront to the gazebo. You can probably wander the grounds of Villa Cipressi nearby (a hotel).

Lenno is small and cute and has a good little restaurant on the water, Albergo Plinio. There isn't much there so you can't miss it. From Lenno is where you will take the boat to Villa Balbianello.
flygirl is offline  
Feb 4th, 2014, 12:58 PM
Join Date: Feb 2009
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With only 3 nights in Bellagio, my first piece of advice would be to forget Lake Lugano and confine your activities to the middle lake section of Lake Como itself.

On your arrival day, there should be plenty to take up your time without leaving Bellagio. The Gardens of the Villa Melzi are easily reachable on foot when you have explored the town itself.

A pleasant day walk - about 5 miles - can be had along the Greenway marked trail on the far side of the lake. Ferry to Sala Comancina, walk to Lenno for lunch (would second the recommendation for Albergo Plinio) and onwards to Villa Carlotta; see the gardens and catch a ferry back to Bellagio.

Varenna is a short hop on the ferry but might not take up a full day. The walk up to Vezio Castle is a stiff enough climb while the walk to Villa Monastero is flat as it follows the lakeshore.

Already recommended but another vote for Bilacus restaurant in Bellagio.
SeeDee is offline  
Feb 5th, 2014, 09:28 AM
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Thanks for all of the advice and restaraunt recommendations. It helps in making decisions about priorities on what to try to see since I usually try to see it all and end up exhaustpyed. They are all going in my file.

Is Menaggio worth a look? Any recommendations there?
drchris is online now  
Feb 5th, 2014, 09:42 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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If you walk through Villa Melzi, at the other entrance is the tiny little restaurant below. Good food and pleasant atmosphere. We sat outside.


Menaggio has very pretty views and a nice promenade. We still haven't found a good restaurant there but I'm sure they must exist.
flygirl is offline  
Feb 8th, 2014, 01:48 PM
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flygirl - thanks for the recommendation. Perhaps we will plan to just visit Menaggio but not eat there!
drchris is online now  

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