LAKE COMO TOWN OPTIONS (March 16 - 21)

Old Jan 15th, 2024, 05:52 PM
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LAKE COMO TOWN OPTIONS (March 16 - 21)

Hi! My husband wants to ski the Swiss Alps and we found a great flight into Milan. Since I donít ski, we thought we would spend 5 nights in Arosa Switzerland, and six nights on Lake Como. (COMO, CHERNOBBIO, VARENNA or LECCO)

I realize this is off-season, and it might be a little bit chilly. But Iím having a very hard time figuring out what will be open, what ferryís will be running, and the general vibe of some of the towns will be at that time of year. Iíve only just now realized that LECCO will be cut off from ferryís in MARCH.

We will be traveling with two young children and will have a car. we wanted to choose a good base where we could explore the rest of the regionÖ even visiting places like Bergamo if it turns out Como is disappointing then, or take the train to shop in Milan.

We are looking for an authentic village feel. Someplace with a few different restaurants some cute shops, markets. But also incredibly picturesque.

it seems COMO might be the easiest, but Iím worried I will be disappointed that it is not quaint enough. Iím not sure what to make of LECCO by comparison, and I am wondering if VARENNA will be closed? CHERNOBBIO was recommended by a family memberÖ.

appreciate any advice.
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Old Jan 15th, 2024, 06:27 PM
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Welcome, jlewfirtree. I can only help with Varenna. With its train station, I'll suggest it would be the most convenient for connecting to other places that way. The car ferry there can take you to other lovely towns. Varenna doesn't close but some hotels are still not open so if you don't get calls returned that might be why. I found it charming. Others can weigh in re other places.

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Old Jan 15th, 2024, 07:08 PM
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I was in Como in November of last year so know your feeling about March but actually I usually travel March and November. The ferry schedule is attached.
https://www.navigazionelaghi.it/en/t...les-lake-como/ and the winter schedule is in effect until March 17.

Como was delightful and easy to wander around the city and travel out from it.

I love Bergamo, a very delightful city and a very special place.
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Old Jan 15th, 2024, 07:15 PM
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Thank you both! So would you recommend Bergamo as a home bar over the Como area at that time of year? March 16 - 22?
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Old Jan 16th, 2024, 07:18 AM
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Since you'll have a car, I'd base in Menaggio or Cadenabbia on Lake Como's western shore. Pick a hotel or lodging with parking. You could use the ferry to visit Bellagio and Varenna and use the car to explore along the western shore. You'd have access to other towns by ferry if the service frequency accommodates your sightseeing plans. From Menaggio, you can make a day trip by bus (or car) to Lugano in Switzerland. Have your passports with you.

Some restaurants and shops in Bellagio, Varenna and small towns may still be closed until the ferry service reverts to on-season timetables. It's not as much of an issue in Menaggio and Cadenabbia.

I like Bergamo a lot too, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend it over somewhere on Lake Como. You should do some research to figure out what you would do for 5 days in either place, based on your interests and preferences for this part of your trip. Neither place is particularly a young child's paradise. (What ages?) IMO, if you were thinking of making a day trip to Bergamo from Lake Como, I think it's a little too far... at least 90 minutes each way by car, and longer from Menaggio/Cadenabbia. And that doesn't account for making your way to parking in Bergamo without violating the town's ZTL (limited traffic zone). It would be easier to visit Bergamo by train from Milan, but it doesn't sound like you're spending any time in Milan.
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Old Jan 16th, 2024, 07:30 AM
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Hello! Wow, I hadn't even considered the western side (as I was looking at Como, Chernobbio, Varenna and Lecco). I'm afraid my brain will explode if I start looking at new places!!!

I suppose we just want to be someplace REALLY BEAUTIFUL, and picturesque, and safe, and clean, with delicious food and atmosphere. A playground for kids is fine. We will stay in an Airbnb, so will also want to chill sometimes and just "be" in the place. Options for food would be nice. We like "nice" places that don't feel "too touristy" but don't want to be someplace totally "residential" where there are ugly modern buildings. (so touristy WITHOUT being OVERTLY TOURISTY) In Italy, I prefer RAVELLO over POSITANO. I prefer MATERA over LECCE. I Love ROME (20 years ago). I'm NOT EVEN BOTHERING with Milan because I've been told its a bit industrial, but would like one good shopping day there!!!

I GUESS MY CONCERN IS: WILL I BE DISSAPOINTED IN COMO ITSELF (in the historic center next to the cathedral) in terms of charm? Granted, we are only staying 5 nights, and do plan to see other places. I just don't want to arrive and be underwhelmed.

THANKS AGAIN FOR THE HELP!
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Old Jan 16th, 2024, 08:43 AM
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So you will fly in and out of MXP, will visit Arosa and lake como and will have a car?
Be aware that your car should be equipped with snow tires, may be studded tires as the roads between Lake Como and Arosa are going through the Alps.
The best itinerary is Menagio - Lugano - Bellinzona - San Bernardino tunnel - Thusis - Chur - Arosa.
The most scenic one, but the most snowy one would be Menaggio - Chiavenna - Silvaplauna - Julier Pass - Thusis - Chur - Arosa.

By public transport, the journey from Varenna to Arosa takes 7 hrs either via Tirano - Bernina Pass - Albula Pass - Chur (very scenic itinerary)
or via Monza - Bellinzona - Postbus - Chur.
If Varenna or Menaggio looks too "dead" for you in March, Lugano would of course be a good alternative:
tons of restaurants, shops, children playgrounds....
1 cog wheel railway, 2 rope railways and 3 gondolas going to the viewpoints in the surroundings.
trains to Varese - Malpensa airport (1 1/2 hrs journey) every hr,
trains to Como - Milan city every hr
frequent buses to the scenic villages in the neighbourhood (and to Menaggio!),
daily boats to Gandria, Morcote, Campione and Porto Ceresio during the whole month of March
shorter and easier transport to Arosa,

BTW I suppose you know that it would be much easier to stay along Lake Maggiore (close to MXP airport) instead of Lake Como (farther away)
and to ski in the Swiss Canton of Valais, way closer to MXP than Arosa.
.
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Old Jan 16th, 2024, 08:45 AM
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BTW: Cernobbio IS on teh Western side of Lake Como, close to Como and last stop of the local boats in the Bay of Como, running all the year round.
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Old Jan 16th, 2024, 08:50 AM
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Thank you so much for this advice. We had our hearts set on Lake Como AND Arosa (after MUCH deliberation). We are already booked in Arosa (which we chose over Zermatt). We will have an Audi A4 SUV.

Can you tell me, what is Como itself like? Is it disappointing (in terms of beauty and charm) compared to Varenna? Or other smaller towns? Is there enough "charm" there (historic beauty, natural beauty, chic / cute shops)? Or is Como itself more "industrial" and not as attractive for a tourist?

As for the drive, we were going to go VIA A13. I was HOPING to come back (if we stayed in VARENNA) via St. Moritz. Are you saying those roads will not be passable without snow tires?
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Old Jan 16th, 2024, 05:37 PM
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I'm not a fan of Como, and that would probably be my last choice. It has history, there are nice views, and most shops/restaurants/hotels are open year-round, but it's not as charming and picturesque as many other towns. If you were planning lots of excursions, it might make some sense.

I would prefer to stay near the middle of lake in order to make short excursions on the mid-lake ferry that serves Varenna, Bellagio, Menaggio and Cadenabbia. You can take your car on this ferry if you wanted to explore along the eastern shore. You'll be arriving at the lake just as the ferry service increases (March 18th), so things will be opening up pretty much everywhere, esp. if the weather is nice. (Your dates in March 2023 in Menaggio... temps reached about 60F every day but dropped to the 30s overnight.)
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 05:40 AM
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Como: i have nothing to add to what Jean told you. Yes, it is an industiral town (textile industry) although it's not ugly at al (Lecco is much worse)l. But it has not the same charme as th midlake villages or as most Lake Lugano towns and villages.
SNOW TIRES ARE NOT COMPULSORY in Switzerland, but NO CAR INSURANCE WILL PAY anything in case of an accident due to snow or ice if your car is not equipped with them.
The road from Arosa - Chur to St. Moritz goes over the Julier Pass (7500 ft). There will be a lot of snow on both sides of the raod for sure. The road itself may be dry (if the weather is fine), or covered with some snow or black ice if the weather is bad. Nobody knows. The Maloja Pass between St. Moritz and Lake Como is only 6000 ft high. But even there, it cannot be guaranteed that all 9 hairpin curves will be completely free of ice.
If the weather is fine, you will have no problem. Immediately after snowfall of rainfall to the frozen ground, things may gte more serious.
Therefore, if you rent a car on a Swiss airport during winter, it will automatically be equipped with snow tires.

For all these reasons, I usually recommend to people landing at MXP to stay at Stresa/Lake Maggiore (some 30 min by car from the airport) and Crans-Montana, another 3 hrs away (with the possibilitxy to avoid the Simplon Pass by using the car shuttle trains Iselle - Brig).
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 06:16 AM
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Thank you for this feedback. SOME MORE QUESTIONS:

1. So we are actually Landing in MILAN, renting the car from Milan Malpensa, driving from there TO AROSA, and then BACK AGAIN to COMO. Will we need to get snow tires even if we only drive to Arosa along the main highway?

2. As far as if COMO is suitable for us / IF I will find it disappointing. We will be there March 16 - 22 (departing early am). During these days we want to EXPLORE LAKE COMO, (spend 1 day on FERRIES to Bellagio and Varenna FROM COMO), spend 1 day in BERGAMO, spend 1 day SHOPPING in MILAN (UNLESS SHOPPING IN COMO IS JUST AS GOOD???). I'm worried about the weather at this time of year, so figured that COMO TOWN itself MIGHT be a good solution in case the weather IS TERRIBLE (we can then maybe go to VERONA or SOMEPLACE ELSE for day trip).

We are booked in the COMO old town (Pedestrian area) close to the Duomo. I'd like the convenience of some restaurants closeby, grocery store (my kids are picky eaters), the direct train to MILAN. IF we are inside the Pedestrian area of COMO (with car in parking lot to use if we need), will it be charming enough? Or will it still have an industrial feel? I know that Varenna ALSO has direct train access to Milan (but further away).
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 08:12 AM
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I still wouldn't pick Como if you want that lovely, Lake Como experience. The fast ferry from Como to the mid-lake towns isn't terribly comfortable and views out the small-ish windows aren't great. I certainly wouldn't want to do that ride more than one round-trip.

Would you train or drive to Bergamo??? The train from Como would take nearly 2 hours each way, and you'd change trains in Milan. Driving from Como would take almost as long, and then you have to deal with the ZTLs in both Como and Bergamo. FYI, the main train station in Como is outside the pedestrian zone, so with small children you'd want to taxi to/from the station which adds to your overall travel time. I just don't think a day trip to Bergamo from Lake Como makes sense.

Como to Verona by train is at least 2.5 hours each way, again changing trains in Milan. Driving is no faster, plus you'd have the parking and ZTLs issues. Makes even less sense.

The shopping in Milan is miles beyond anything you'd find in the lake towns, but it does depend a little on what sort of "shopping" you want. Locally-made products, souvenirs, etc., or clothing, shoes, fashion, etc. You'll find some of both types everywhere, but Milan shopping (actual or of the "window" variety) is mostly fashion related.

If Bergamo and a day in Milan are high on your list, you should spend a couple of nights IN Milan. Bergamo is less than an hour from Milan on a direct/no-change train, and there are some great sights, dining options, etc., in Milan. If you opt to stay in Milan, you should return the car at Malpensa and take the Malpensa Express train into the city. Driving in Milan and figuring out the ZTL is crazy.

Of course, I can't predict the weather, but I think you're worrying too much about weather at Lake Como at that time. For your dates in March 2023 and March 2022, temps in Menaggio (mid-lake) reached about 60F every day. No rain. Temps drop quickly after sundown, and you may want later starts in the morning until temps rise a bit, but the weather records indicate nice, clear days. You'll have warm attire for your days in Arosa, so you'd certainly be prepared for the conditions.
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 09:02 AM
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Okay. Again, good info. So you would choose Varenna over Como? What about Bellagio? Also, is it just that Como is less charming? It looks to be fairly chic and picturesque. Is it like the difference between Sorrento and Ravello (amalfi coast)? I'm just trying to get a sense.

What about Chernobbio (right next to COMO)?
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 05:04 PM
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My choice would be Varenna or Bellagio. Picking a hotel with some sort of parking situation would be imperative.

We've stayed at the Hotel du Lac in Varenna without a car, but I think they have an on-site parking lot. You'd have to inquire about adding beds for the kids. It's a comfortable and charming hotel, a short walk to the ferry dock and a little longer walk to the train station.

https://www.albergodulac.com/en-GB/h...a-lago-di-como

My favorite hotel in Bellagio is the Albergo Florence, but apparently it won't open until the "end of March." You could inquire as to an exact date. You'd also have to ask about beds for 2 kids as the website shows rooms only accommodating up to 3 people.

https://www.hotelflorencebellagio.it/en/

A good option for you in Bellagio would be Residence La Limonera which offers apartments of different sizes, all with kitchenettes. There used to be a parking lot on-site, but now they offer parking "nearby."

https://www.residencelalimonera.com/
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 05:32 PM
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Cernobbio... I haven't spent time there other than for a wander at the Villa d'Este.

I get the sense you're resisting the idea of staying in the mid-lake area...
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Old Jan 17th, 2024, 06:51 PM
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Do NOT stay in the city of Como! It is a city with a silk manufacturing history. It has a small medieval section. But it is so much nicer mid lake. Forget the city of Como! Go north on the lake to the mid region with Bellagio and Varenna, Menaggio, Tremezzo, Cadenabbia and Lenno.
We always stay ( 4 trips there) high up on the hill in Bellagio with great views. Lots of good dining. A couple of laundries in town.
Hotel Belvedere has views and parking, a rarity.Parking is very hard to find so staying at Hotel Belvedere would be perfect since you will have a car. Lake Como is the only place we donít have a car.

Last edited by HappyTrvlr; Jan 17th, 2024 at 06:58 PM.
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 03:04 AM
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"Will we need to get snow tires even if we only drive to Arosa along the main highway?"
Nobody can predict the weather. So the correct answer is: may be yes, may be no.
San Bernardino is at 6400ft and Arosa is at 5800 ft.

Como SG - Bergamo takes 1 hr 35 min:
FNM Train from Como SAN GIOVANNI to Sesto San Giovanni plus bus (Nordest Trasporti) to Bergamo Autostazione
Como LAGO - Verona takes 2 3/4 hrs, change at Como Camerlata and Milan C

Como Lago is the railway station close to the Duomo. Como San Giovanni is farther away and can be reached by Como Citybus
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 08:03 AM
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Hotel Belvedere in Bellagio is lovely, but I wouldn't stay there with two small children (although we still don't know the kids' ages). It's about a half-mile walk round trip (uphill on return) between the hotel and, say, the ferry dock. Shopping and many restaurants, food stores and gelato are all beyond that. Once you've parked the car in Bellagio, you really don't want to move it unless you make an excursion away from the town. It helps that you'd be in this area mid-week and early in the season, but I wouldn't count on parking being readily available everywhere.
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Old Jan 18th, 2024, 02:07 PM
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You seem determined to stay in the city of Como. I think you will regret your choice when you travel to more beautiful section of the lake and see the charming towns there. The posters here are trying to help you avoid that mistake!!
You need a parking place to leave your car. We went through a lot to find one on our first trip there which is the reason we ended up at Hotel Belvedere as they offer parking, a rarity. I donít imagine AirBnBs will have them.
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