Lake Como or Lake Garda in July?

Old Nov 22nd, 2013, 08:31 PM
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Lake Como or Lake Garda in July?

I know this is not the first time this question has been posed and I have read some previous responses but thought I would throw out some of our priorities and ask for some guidance as I am still having a difficult time visualizing which experience we will prefer.

My husband and I like to hike, cycle, read and eat well. We prefer to stay in understated luxury (smaller, more "rustic", with great locally sourced food) - and finding the right accommodations will influence our choice. Most of what I have seen on Lake Como is more opulent than I would like and I found this spot on Lake Garda that looks good to me: http://www.hotelvillaarcadio.it/

I prefer charming villages to stately mansions. We would rather get around by boat or bicycle than car. We like to kayak, not waterski. I have read about cycling paths near Lake Garda that appeal to me (I remain a bit of a chicken on the road, though I do it).

We love children but are not traveling with ours on this trip so being in a place that is full of families with young kids is not appealing.

Finally - location. We were considering 4-5 nights at one of the lakes and then 4-5 nights in Switzerland, which seems easier from Lake Como (though I haven't really looked at rail schedules yet).

Thanks in advance to anyone who can weigh in with which spot might best fit the bill for us!
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Old Nov 22nd, 2013, 09:14 PM
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Sounds like you're leaning towards Garda, which is not a bad way to lean at all!

Lake Como has its charms, but for this journey I'd say Lake Garda will suit your requirements - it has a more laid back feel than Como to a great degree, and the access points for cycling are easier. Both lakes have boat trips available.

Your accommodation looks great, but is up the hill, ie not on the lake itself, so not sure if this is what you were looking for. Towns like Riva del Garda, Limone or Torbole might suit you in terms of accommodation and pace, and Riva has some great spots on the lake for eating, catching boats and staying. Otherwise, Salo is fine up in the hills or down on the lake.

As for train access to Switzerland, it depends on where in Switzerland you want to end up. But you're right, it will take quite a deal longer from Lake Garda than Lake Come. You may find you need to go to Milan Centrale to take trains on to Swiss destinations.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 12:25 AM
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I wish I knew what "more opulent than I would like" means. Is that state of being actually possible LOL?

I've been to Lake Como several times which has more than couple charming spots and hotels but I agree it sounds like Garda is more your kind of place.
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Old Nov 23rd, 2013, 01:58 AM
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All 4 big Lakes (Lake Maggiore, Lake Lugano, Lake Como, Lake Garda) are beautiful. The first 3 are half in Switzerland whereas the train journey from the Southern end of Lake Garda to the Southern end of Switzerland takes just 2 hrs.
Lake Lugano, the Northern half of Lake Maggiore and the South-Western quarter of Lake Como have the best networks of well signmarked hiking trails. Lake Lugano has the biggest density of mountain railways (1 cog wheel railway, 2 cablecars and 2 gondolas) and bus lines to the mountain villages around the Lake. The Northern ends of all 4 Lakes (Locarno, Agno, Gravedona, Riva) are almost in the Alps.
Lake Maggiore is only a few miles from Milan Malpensa airport.
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Old Nov 24th, 2013, 05:11 AM
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Thanks everyone. I do seem to be leaning toward Lake Garda but also considering splitting our time. I would appreciate any lodging suggestions on Lake Como (and also favorite villages/spots to base/what to look for in a home base).
Thanks!
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Old Nov 24th, 2013, 08:32 AM
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I would vote for Lake Como, but stay in Varenna rather than in Bellagio. Varenna is a small unpretentious village, with a beautiful garden and a Michelin restaurant, a lovely passerella by the sea and just across the lake from the more opulent Bellagio with its beautiful formal gardens.
There is a small four star hotel whose name escapes me at the moment right on the lake.

Alternatvely, consider Lago di Lugano, just across the border from Switzerland.
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Old Nov 24th, 2013, 08:35 AM
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It's Hotel du Lac.
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Old Jan 25th, 2014, 10:24 AM
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We spent five days on Lake Como last July, and fell in love with the area. We have not traveled to the other lakes, but did greatly enjoy our time in Bellagio. The beauty of Lake Como is that wherever you decide to stay, the ferry system is so easy and convenient to explore all of the areas of the lake. Varenna is smaller, but I didn't find Bellagio to be very "opulent". It was nice, but we are not very fancy people and felt 100% comfortable everywhere we went. We stayed at Hotel Metropole, and very highly recommend it. Its centrally located, and the views of the lake are stunning. Breakfast was good and included. And we did a kayak tour in Bellagio, which was one of our favorite parts. I'm sure wherever you decide to go, you'll have a spectacular time.
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Old Jan 28th, 2014, 06:20 PM
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Thanks for the feedback. Wow, the pictures look amazing of both Bellagio and Varenna. This is going to be a tough choice!
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Old Jan 29th, 2014, 07:29 AM
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Villa Arcadio looks magnificent. This might be an important reason to choose Lake Garda.

We found it quite difficult to find a decent hotel at Lake Como that did not ruin us. We ended in Grand Hotel Tremezzo which we considered a rip-off. The problem of Lake Como is that it is overrun by wealthy American tourist who pay ridiculously high rates.

And, yes, the attractions of Lake Como are opulent. The main attractions are stately historical mansions with magnificent gardens. You travel by ferry on Lake Como.

Lake Garda, on the other hand, is more diverse. You find several most charming villages on the shores, one of the finest is Limone, in cycling distance from Villa Arcadia. Lake Garda has breathtaking cliffs, comparable to those of the Amalfi Coast. Sirmione is another charming town on an island in the southern section of the Lake with hot springs. You will recognize the sulphur smell.

And Lake Garda is warmer for swimming than Lake Como which is on the chilly side.
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Old Jan 29th, 2014, 06:13 PM
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Well I have to say at this point I am considering doing BOTH lakes 3-4 nights at each. We have almost 2 weeks to work with so we might just get a flavor for both places and then head up to Switzerland for a few days. Have to decide how much driving we are willing to do and the logistics in Switzerland (ie where to go!)
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Old Jan 30th, 2014, 05:49 AM
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The Swiss border is less than 2 miles away from Lake Como. Most people visit the gems of Southern Switzerland in day trips from Lake Como
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Old Jan 30th, 2014, 10:45 AM
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Thanks neckervd - I was actually considering taking the train to Zermatt then flying out of Zurich, thinking it would give us a different experience. Would day trips from Lake Como to Southern Switzerland feel very different than Lake Como? I have been to Switzerland (Wengen), my husband has not. What would your recommendation be for day trips from Lake Como?
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Old Jan 30th, 2014, 11:35 AM
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I have been to Lake Como four times and Lake Garda once. They are both pretty but Lake Como is utterly beautiful (esp mid-Lake). Lake Garda is not as dramatic, even in the north. We stayed in Malcesine and I highly recommmend our waterfront hotel, the Hotel Castello Lakefront.

Lake Garda seemed more family oriented. I have seen plenty of placid kayakers on Lake Como. Lake Garda is known for windsurfing although I am sure there are kayakers there as well. You will find a lot of hiking in both places.

Above Lake Como is Madonna del Ghisallo, a cycling shrine. You will see lots of cyclists on Lake Como. I think that Lake Garda roads may be somewhat more forgiving to cyclists given that they are wider and didn't seem as twisty curvy to me as do Lake Como roads - at least the lakefront ones, I mean. Interestingly enough the reason we added Lake Garda to our last trip was to take in one stage of the Giro d'Italia which was starting in Limone sul Garda.

Both places will have plenty of ferries. I got the sense though that to see far flung places on Lake Garda you'd be better off in a car. The mid-lake on Lake Como (which is where I'd recommend you spend the most time) doesn't need a car at all although you will like one to visit Madonna del Ghisallo unless you plan to bike to it (it's quite a climb to get there). A car is also helpful on Lake Como to visit Switzerland or to explore the mountains in general.

From Lake Como you won't be far from Soglio in Switzerland, or the Engadine Valley. We briefly visited Lake Lugano and I felt the first two I mentioned were more beautiful than Lake Lugano.

If you click on my name and go down to trip reports I have two trips reports that include Lake Como. I don't have them all online yet, alas.

Here they are:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-lake-como.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...s-the-alps.cfm

I also wrote a thread which has a lot of Lake Como things to do on it - although I didn't tag it as a trip report so it might be harder to find here.

Hotels: our favorite is Albergo Lenno which is on the waterfront in Lenno. As a bonus, you would not be far from a UNESCO church which you can walk to from Lenno:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacro_Monte_di_Ossuccio

I also noticed there is a place to hire kayaks from Ossuccio although I haven't done that yet. Bellagio also has places to hire kayaks.

The Menaggio TI is online and has a lot of info about things to do around Lake Como.

http://www.menaggio.com/new/index.php?lang=EN

You can't go wrong on either one although I'm very partial to Lake Como.
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Old Jan 30th, 2014, 05:59 PM
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Wow thanks flygirl for the great recap - your photos are amazing. I am leaning toward Como at this point - though still considering 2-3 days (additional) at Lake Garda so we can ride a bike trail that I read about (I must say the descriptions of the roads around Lake Como does frighten me a bit for cycling). I really appreciate the feedback.
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Old Jan 30th, 2014, 07:55 PM
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