Lake Como/Milan/Lugano

Mar 29th, 2009, 08:59 AM
  #1  
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Lake Como/Milan/Lugano

This will be our fifth trip to Italia and the first to the northern area that includes above referenced locations. We decided to rent a car since there are five of us traveling and we were able to get parking with the apartment we are renting in Varenna. I have booked a couple of nights in Milan and one night in Rapallo. We would like to explore by car...how easy will that be...should we reconsider? We would like to see Lugano, Milan and Portofino in same trip. We have ten days at end of May. Five rail passes can easily outdistance car rental & fuel...we are uncertain as to what are must see places in such a short amount of time in and around this area. Someone mentioned Pavia-others Parma-I thought limiting our trip to Lake Como/Milan/and Italian Riviera and Lugano doable. Please let me hear your thoughts.
lrtayloe is offline  
Mar 29th, 2009, 09:11 AM
  #2  
 
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Is there a reason you've included a couple of nights in Milan? Unless there is and given the short amount of time, I'd suggest dropping it from your agenda. There's plenty to see and do around The Lakes...
TuckH is offline  
Mar 29th, 2009, 09:16 AM
  #3  
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one night to have proximity to airport for daughters and another to have proximity to airport for myself & husband
what shouldn't we miss around Lakes?
lrtayloe is offline  
Mar 29th, 2009, 09:29 AM
  #4  
 
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I would suggest staying in Santa Marguerita Ligure instead of Rapallo; it is more charming and smaller, but big enough to offer several things to do. Try the spaghetti con vongole at Da Alfredo, go visit the Villa Durazzo, a restored palazzo of the 15th century with beautiful gardens. A moderately priced hotel in Santa Marguerita is the Mediterreaneo. Ask for top floor room with balcony if available.

Varenna has a Michelin rated restaurant called the Vecchia Varenna which is very good. The gardens there are beautiful as are the gardens just across the lake in Bellaggio. Varenna is really charming. When we stayed there, we arranged a taxi pickup from Malpensa--not cheap but incredibly convenient.

Be sure to allow down time for just being. Buon viaggio.
cmstraf is offline  
Mar 29th, 2009, 10:07 AM
  #5  
 
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Lake Como is mostly about scenery. So you take the boats to some of the towns along the lake-front.
The main shopping towns are:
Bellagio (tourist shopping)
The town of Como. This is a city of roughly 80,000 people. With a relativley large pedestrian only 'centro'. Also, a large market on Saturdays by the medeival walls.

Varenna, Bellagio, and Menaggio from a triangle at mid-lake. This is where the car ferries load up and unload. There is also an hourly passenger boat that calls on these 3 towns plus
Bellano, Lenno, and Tremezzo/Villa Carlotta.

Any of the lake-front towns are fine destinations. Some are fifteen minute boats trips and some are two hour boat trips.
Buying day-passes for the boats makes a lot of sense.

You propably want to visit one of the villas/ gardens that are open to tourists. The gardens at Villa Monastero are just south of Varenna's main piazza and a very short walk. Across the lake are Villa Balbianello and Villa Carlotta.

I hope to get to Parma, maybe our next trip.
Big_Red is offline  
Mar 29th, 2009, 10:15 AM
  #6  
 
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I think Milan is highly underrated. We spent two nights there last year and really enjoyed it!

Here were our highlights (from my trip report):

1. Brera Neighborhood: Very charming, walkable neighborhood with great places to eat and snack.

2. Gelato: Chocolate -- the shop, not the flavor. Our cab driver said the gelato here was the best in Europe. It was pretty incredible.

3. Food: two outstanding dinners at Bebel and Le Torre di Pisa. Both sort of medium-range in terms of price, but incredibly delicious. Also enjoyed Obika Mozzarella Bar (I think it's actually a chain). Had drinks and mozzarella buffet during "happy hour" -- Fantastic!

4. Seeing the Last Supper: the audio guide made all the difference for adults and teens alike. Amazing. (reservation made 6 months in advance!)

5. La Scala: Wow! We paid admission to the museum to gain access to the various boxes in the theater. Like nothing we’ve seen before. Beautiful! Next time will definitely get tickets to a production here.

6. The roof of the duomo: We took the elevator to the top (no line at 5pm) and walked among the buttresses and spires. Unbelievable! It took almost 500 years to build this place. Don’t miss it!

7. Walking along the main fashion streets: I thought they were quite charming -- cobblestone, some pedestrian only. My teenage fashion-conscience daughter was a bit disappointed. I guess she was expecting too much for “the fashion capital of the world”!!

8. Day trip to Lake Como: Very easy and inexpensive one hour train ride direct to Varenna. (something like 5 euro each?)

9. Checking out the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele: beautiful! There is a great book store, as well, with a nice English book section. We were all ready for new books and had fun browsing here.

11. The city seemed pretty empty. We were there on a weekend in late June.

HAve a great trip!
dina
dina4 is offline  
Mar 29th, 2009, 10:19 AM
  #7  
 
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I would definitely swap SML, or Camogli, for Rapallo.

You can walk from SML to Portofino. We found free street parking in SML.

I also like Milan..
ekscrunchy is offline  
Mar 29th, 2009, 03:11 PM
  #8  
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thanks to all of you for your info. a big help and we've made some changes. sounds like a car is optional, any more comments about that?
also, any tips for getting access to the Last Supper?
lrtayloe is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 04:31 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
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Last Supper tickets can ordered on line:
www.cenacolovinciano.org

According to Rick Steves:
It’s better to book by phone. If you call, you’ll have a greater selection of days and time slots to choose from, since the website doesn’t reflect cancellations (tel. 02-8942-1146, or from the US, dial 011-39-02-8942-1146; booking office open Mon–Fri 9:00–18:00, Sat 9:00–14:00, closed Sun; the number is often busy — once you get through, dial 2 for an English-speaking operator; the process takes about two minutes and you’ll hang up with an appointed entry time and a number; can pay with cash or credit card upon arrival).
dina4 is offline  
Mar 30th, 2009, 04:52 PM
  #10  
 
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I live a 10-minute bus ride from Rapallo and Santa Margerita Ligure. If you bring a car, make sure you book a hotel with a place to park it -- and you will be charged extra for it. A car is optional -- you can take the train to the Riviera -- but with five people, you might find the car easier, provided you have a place to park it. Do not buy rail passes. Just buy tickets.

No matter where you stay on the Riviera, I highly recommend that you take a boat to Portofino, if you want to go. You can do that from Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure and Camogli. Each town is different. I like them all: Rapallo for food and shopping, Santa Margherita Ligure for its silly Riviera feel, and Camogli (where I live) for its village charm and great beauty. Portofino is actually my least favorite town, although I do like it on rainy days when mad throngs are gone! But take a boat in to see it at its best.
zeppole is offline  

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