Lake Como & Italian Riviera

Jun 21st, 2007, 08:35 AM
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Lake Como & Italian Riviera

We are a family of five (all adults) looking to explore the Lakes region and the Italian Riviera on our next 2 week vacation (summer 2008). Need help figuring best place to stay-am thinking apartment or house rental would be good to have kitchen facility but am open to suggestions. Trying to be budget minded. It will be hot so a pool may be nice. Is Lake Como the best Lake to stay on? Anyone been to town of Como? Which spot should we pick on coast? Portofino so expensive-should we pick a smaller town? Please advise. Thanks much.
lrtayloe is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 08:52 AM
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You've chosen areas that tend to be more expensive,especially in high season.
You say "summer", what month?
How do you plan on traveling to and from these areas?
The town of Como,IMHO, is on the bottom of places I'd stay if going to Lake Como.
do a search here and at Slow travel.
Santa Margherita Ligure comes to mind as an alternative to Portofino.

jabez is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 09:39 AM
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When we stayed on Lake Como, we stayed mid-lake in Varenna. I would highly recommend it, beautiful, quiet town. From there it is a 15 ferry ride to multiple other towns, a great way to travel.

As for the city of Como itself, I spent some time there (I rented a bike there to climb Madonna del Ghisallo). While the town has a certain charm, it is much larger and less of a tourist destination (although it is the center of the Italian silk industry and has a fantastic bike shop). It has a rougher edge (as a more industrial city would have) and being at the bottom of the lake, it isn't as central to the more charming (IMHO) mid-lake towns.
bobby_c is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 09:53 AM
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If you enter "Lake Como" into the search box, you'll be directed to a lot of helpful threads on this topic.
LucieV is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 09:55 AM
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Staying in Portofino and trying to stay budget-minded are totally incompatible! I stayed in Santa Margherita Ligure, at the Hotel Metropole, and loved it. There's a cheap and frequently-running ferry that will take you to Portofino. I think the trip takes about 20 minutes, and is itself quite pleasant. There are also buses running frequently between SML and Portofino. Even for a non-Italian-speaking neophyte traveller such as myself, the whole thing was easy to figure out.

People have also enjoyed staying in Rapallo, but I haven't been there.
hawksbill is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 10:04 AM
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I love this website. Thank you everyone. We are travelling in July-have no choice. I have an opportunity to rent a villa on Lake Como in Como for approx $900 or another in Mezzegra for about $1300-sounds like you are in agreement that perhaps a town other than Como would be the best location from which to explore that area? And I have already noted the priceyness of Portofino-I just need a spot from which to explore-should I go as far as Sanremo? Are there any B & B's? We stayed in a B & B in Amsterdam in March and loved it! I will look into your recommendations.
lrtayloe is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 10:13 AM
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We are doing your exact trip this July. We will be staying in Lenno (this is our first visit to this area of Italy) and then moving on to SML which we love and would recommend to you. We then go to France for a week in Antibes.

We stayed in San Remo (rented a villa)a few years ago but, if you are considering going towards that area, I would suggest instead to go over the border to Menton.
Marianna is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 10:27 AM
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Definitely don't go as far as San Remo if you're interested in the Portofino peninsula. It's much too far away. And probably not worth a side trip either -- I've never been there, but I seem to recall that the concensus on this board in 2005 was that the Ligurian coast west of Genova isn't worth a stop.

For your base in Liguria, I think you want to look into SML, Rapallo, maybe Camogli. Perhaps Sestri Levanti if you're planning to spend a lot of time in Cinque Terre, but I wouldn't recommend that. I stayed in SML, and devoted one of my three days to Cinque Terre. I wish I hadn't. I think you'd need to have at least 5-7 days in Liguria before it would be worth a single day trip down to CT.

Have you checked out for hotel reviews? Coverage of the B&B-type places you're looking for may be pretty incomplete, but it's a good place to start.
hawksbill is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 01:39 PM
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Thanks again-Marianna where are you staying in Lenno? Thanks for the trip advisor rec'd-that is where I found the amazing B & B I just stayed at in Amsterdam. This will be my third trip to Italy and I am trying to maximize what I see in the north and on the coast. Have been to Cinqueterre (did a side trip while down in Tuscany for two weeks two summers ago). Also have been to Venice, Rome, Florence an the Amalfi Coast. The accomdations I have found in and around Lake Como are most scenic and inexpensive for the five of us-should I do some day trips from Como to SML or Portofino from there? We are going to rent a car but would train it if it were cheap and easy. Not sure of the mileage.
lrtayloe is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 02:51 PM
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Bellagio, Bellegio, Bellegio!! on Lake Como.....Levanto in the Cinque Terra!
mike1728 is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 04:02 PM
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If you are looking for a "base" for two weeks, I believe that the town of Como would be ideal.
Probably cheaper accomodation, and more choices.
You can reach most of the Lake country from there by boat.
There are many interesting shops and restaurants in the old town.
It does not have a resort feeling, as for example, Bellagio.
Bellagio is one of the most beautiful spots in the world, but it would be more expensive, and I wouldn't want to spend two weeks there.
We stayed for a week last year, and any longer I would have been bored.
But.. if you like a slower pace it is heavenly.
erly is offline  
Jun 21st, 2007, 04:11 PM
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It seems to me that the two regions (i.e. Lake Como and the Ligurian coast) are far enough apart that you'd ideally have a base in one place for a while, and then switch to the other one, no?
hawksbill is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2007, 01:46 AM
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Thanks so much again. How is the drive from the Lakes to the Coast? We travelled with ease while on our last trip (with the exception of the big cities Rome & Florence where my husband insisted on driving into-I think he liked the challenge.) Thanks Hawksbill, and the others who suggested splitting our stay in the two places. Did anyone include Genoa in their touring? Turin?
lrtayloe is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2007, 02:04 AM
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You can find a nice list of mostly self-catering properties available in the Lake Como area here:

If you thing you might want to eat out for dinner most days, you should compare the costs of inexpensive hotels (with breakfast included) v. apartment/house rates. Also, in high season, many apts/villas may require a minimum stay of a week or so, are you willing or able to spend that much time in the Lakes region?

IF--and only IF--you can't find anything to your taste or budget around Lake Como, you might want to consider traveling a bit farther north to the Locarno or Lugano lakes in Switzerland's Ticino. In addition to the apartment/villa options, there are many moderately priced "family style" hotels that have small kitchenettes--enough for making simple, light meals. We stayed in one (the Hotel Parco Lago in the suburban Lugano town of Caslano). Some of these hotels also have pools or private beaches where guests can swim. Very pleasant and relaxing.
BTilke is offline  
Jun 27th, 2007, 07:30 PM
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Santa Margherita Ligure is a nice choice, also Camogli, Rappallo, etc. if you don't want to be as far down as the touristy Cinque Terre area. Plus, staying in the aforementioned areas, you are halfway to Genoa and could always take a day trip up there to see the harbor, Acquario, etc. You have plenty of time to decide and I am sure you will pick the best place for your family!
Huitres is offline  
Jun 27th, 2007, 07:43 PM
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Driving from Como to Portofino area is a breeze...all freeway once you get to the city of Como. Last summer, we left Bellagio after breakfast and drove to Portofino for lunch before heading to Tuscany.
guanciale is offline  
Jun 27th, 2007, 09:15 PM
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We spent a week on Lake COmo in April, and loved it.

We stayed at Limonta, a quiet little village, in an apartment overlooking the lake. It's a bit isolated, which suited us, but wouldn't be so good with kids.
All the lake towns are lovely. Como itself would probably be my last choice - but it is a nice town.
margo_oz is offline  
Jun 27th, 2007, 09:21 PM
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For the Lakes part of your vacation, I recommend Varenna on Lake Como - it's beautiful, relaxing, easy to get to & you can take the ferry to other towns on the lake.

For lodging, I stayed at an apartment listed - go to reference #24034.

Just looking at the photos of the view from this place make me so want to go back.

This apartment might be a bit small for you, but they have a larger apartment just above it (reference 23167) and it costs about 450 euros for a week - and the family who rent it are extremely nice.

Have a wonderful time!
Shanti is offline  
Jun 27th, 2007, 10:03 PM
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We liked staying in Santa Margherita Ligure, for a base with easy access to the Cinque Terre and Portofino. We were very happy with our little B&B type hotel called the Nuova Riviera.

Here's my full trip report, with details about the little hotel:

"Santa Margherita Ligure, three nights in May, 2006

We left Venice by train and arrived in Santa Margherita Ligure at 8:10 p.m. The taxi was 12 EUR (including baggage costs), and took less than ten minutes to arrive at our hotel, the Albergo Nuova Riviera. The hotel management prefers people check in by 6:00 p.m., but they graciously agreed to our later arrival because I’d called in advance from Venice to discuss our train schedule options and to request the late check-in. To arrive earlier would have meant more train connections, so we were happy to take just two trains: one train from Venice to Milan, then another from Milan to Santa Margherita.

We really enjoyed the Nuova Riviera, via Belvedere 10, The little B&B hotel is located up a slight hill, on a quiet narrow road, in a nice semi-residential neighborhood, only 200 meters from the harbor and the center of town. They call it a “liberty villa with garden”, and you feel at home there.

The owner met us at the front gate, to assist with our bags from the taxi up to our room on the third floor. There is a beautiful staircase at the Nuova Riviera, but no elevator. Breakfast is included (very simple pre-packaged rolls, but nice cappuccino, also simple juice). Our room was very reasonable, 98.50 EUR for a double/twin with breakfast. (It would have been slightly less expensive if I hadn't gone through

Actually, our room had three twin beds, and was quite large with a big wardrobe, a desk, a roll-top desk, and two upholstered chairs. The room had a unique rounded wall, with large windows, and also a ceiling fan. The bathrooms are relatively new, with nicely tiled shower stalls. It was sparkling clean and very charming.

The owner and his manager live there, I think, so they are there to say Hello and Goodbye whenever you are coming and going. It's a very personal touch, so you feel like you're staying in a private residence really. They are very helpful in answering questions, providing maps and directions.

Despite the late hour of our arrival, we were interested in dinner, so we walked down to the town. Santa Margherita feels very safe, and we were comfortable there walking at all hours to and from the hotel. We easily found a few interesting restaurants, and chose the Ristorante “A Lampara”, via Maragliano 33. It is a small and cute place, with some locals still there chatting. It was fine for our light, late-night meal.

The next morning was slightly overcast, and since we were planning on going to the Cinque Terre, I asked the manager at breakfast if he knew the weather forecast. He said it could clear, or it could rain; then he very kindly found the forecast on his computer and printed it out for me. Another example that service at the Nuova Riviera is very personal and friendly. In fact, my daughter had chosen to sleep in and skip breakfast that morning, but the manager insisted on preparing a tray for me to take to her in our room.

We decided to risk the weather and head to Cinque Terre, which was a good decision as it turned into a beautiful blue-sky day after all. We took the train to Vernazza, and had a simple picnic of yoghurt and fruit at the waterfront. Before leaving, I picked up a card from a hotel there, which looks nice, the Gianni Franzi, Piazza Marconi 1,

We headed up the trail to Corniglia, expecting it to take about 1.5 hours, which was correct. It is a breath-taking walk, in more ways than one. The views are amazing, and the uphill stair stepping takes your breath away, too! Actually, in retrospect, I wish we’d taken the train all the way down to the southernmost town, Riomaggioire, then walked up to Manarolo, and on to Corniglia. Those two walks would probably be less strenuous than the one we selected, which is all uphill and all stairs. However, there were plenty of spots to stop in the shade and view the unbelievably clear water below, and the gorgeous coastline.

Once we arrived in Corniglia, we took a break in a pretty little piazza. We found a little market to purchase a bread, cheese, tomato and wine snack, while we decided how to spend the rest of our visit in Cinque Terre. I chose to take the train to the next town, Manarolo, while my daughter opted for the hike, since it was the one walk she hadn’t been able to do yet.

We decided to meet at the train station in Manarolo, and I set out to walk to the Corniglia train station. Again in retrospect, I should have just taken the hike, because it is a long walk down to the train station, on another seemingly endless stairway. I probably walked as far to the train station as the hike to Manarolo would have been. (I’ve since discovered there’s a free shuttle from the town of Corniglia to its train station.)

We easily met in Manarolo, which is quite small. I found a nice little gelato shop there, and we again had the pleasant task of deciding how to proceed with our day’s itinerary. After a short break, we caught the ferry boat up to Monterossa, in order to see more of the beautiful coastline from the sea.

In Monterossa, we found a really nice ristorante where we stopped for salads, with tables right over the water. We weren't especially hungry, but the setting was so perfect and it was nice to sit for awhile so we decided on an early meal. I can't remember the name of the waterside cafe, though, which is a shame because the prices, food and service were very good. (I do have a photo, though.) It had restrooms on the outdoor deck, and the place had the feeling to me of southern California.

From Monterossa, we hopped back on the train to Santa Margherita Ligure. It was a great day at Cinque Terre, and we were lucky to have the amazing weather. The air temperature was probably in the low 70s, with a slight cool breeze off the water.

Back in Santa Margherita, we headed to our cozy little hotel to rest awhile, then walked back into town. Since we’d eaten a couple of hours before, we found the Trattoria Baicin, via Algeria 5, and enjoyed a nice light dinner for about 35.50 EUR, including a half-liter of house wine. We were pretty tired, but on the way back to Nuova Riviera, we stopped in an internet pub to finish some e-mail correspondence.

The next morning dawned sunny, which was perfect for our plan to visit Portofino. It’s a short, and slightly scary, bus ride on very narrow and windy roads. I watched as the bus barely cleared some very nice-looking sports cars on the road’s many curves.

Portofino is smaller than I expected, and much more expensive. It seems to be an upscale harbor, with one especially huge and glamorous navy-blue-and-white yacht sitting there, the “Princess K”. The K had beautiful lounge areas visible, and two uniformed (somewhat snotty) young men guarding the way onboard.

From the little harbor, we walked up the hill to a church, which has a spectacular vista of the sea and the coastline below. There is also a villa-type museum up there, but we opted not to go inside on the beautiful day. There were benches to sit and enjoy the view, and take photos.

Walking back down to the harbor, we wandered up and down the couple of little streets and looked at the numerous art and little gift shops. I was looking for a watercolor of the Portofino harbor to take home, and luckily found a cute little framed one that would be easy enough to hand-carry on the planes home.

We returned to the harbor to find lunch. There are several restaurants and cafes that ring the harbor, all with pleasant outdoor seating. We walked around and looked at menus, but we were surprised at how much we had to pay for a simple caprese salad and omelettes, especially with the extra charge to sit at a table by the water. The lunch menus and pricing there were about the same as dinners we’d found elsewhere. But, we certainly enjoyed sitting there drinking our wine, under an umbrella in the sun, watching the boats and the people.

The afternoon was so pleasant, we decided to take a ferry boat further up the coast to the next stop, which was a teeny and ancient monastery at Fruttuosa. The ferry made a short 30-minute stop there, so we could see the little place. There were actually monks chanting in the monastery, which was a lucky happenstance.

The ferry took us back to Portofino for a quick stop, and we continued on the ferry back to Santa Margherita. It was a very nice boat, and lots of fun to sit and watch the coastline glide by. Again on land in Santa Margherita, we found a little café for coffee and gelato, sitting at a little park harborside.

Santa Margherita was the perfect town for our stay, as it seemed much less crowded and touristy than our day-trip destinations of Portofino and Cinque Terre. We walked up and down along the harbor a bit, looked at the nice shops in town, then walked the short way to the hotel before dinner.

We’d heard other guests mention they had eaten twice at a restaurant in town, and we decided to try it for our last meal in Santa Margherita. It’s called Ristorante da Emilio, Piazza Martiri della Liberta 20. It had especially attractive outdoor seating, and the prices were also relatively inexpensive. Our meal included salad, cheese, veal, pasta, one-half liter of house wine, and cappuccino for 51.70 EUR.

The next morning we took our time over breakfast and packing, to check out around 11:00, and take a taxi to the train station. Next stop: Nice, France."

Jun 28th, 2007, 11:53 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 397
FWIW, some friends of ours rent their Italian farmhouse north and up the hill from Menaggio, where we have spent many happy weekends (when they were still living in Milan), see for a photo taken from their balcony and a link. It's a truly amazing place. But a bit out of the way and you have to walk the last 100 yards or so in the tiny village.

best, Deirdre'
DeirdreStraughan is offline  

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