LAKE COMO TOWN OPTIONS (March 16 - 21)

Old Jan 18th, 2024, 02:13 PM
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We're going to be at Lake Como for nine days in September - we will also have a car. We found what appears to be a lovely airbnb in Argegno - with a large lakeview terrace and parking. The village is small and within walking distance (the description suggests it's a good place for children, because there are pedestrian only streets heading into the village and to the lake.) Walking distance to the ferry. We plan on exploring the villages around the lake and possibly beyond. If you look at the AIRBNB site - the place is called "Orange Spot, lake view, terraces, and Private Garage." Less than a hotel rate. Happy travels!
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Old Jan 20th, 2024, 06:59 AM
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Given the things you want to do, I think you should consider spending most of the time in Milan. You heard that Milan is "industrial". It's a large city, and has its industrial areas, but the center of Milan is elegant and vibrant. We go there nearly every year, and plan to go there this February. Take the children to the roof of the cathedral, where they will be entranced by the Gothic pillars and gargoyles.

There is a huge medieval castle (Castello Sforzesco) right in the center of the city. The Galleria is a beautiful glass-domed shopping mecca. You didn't mention art or music, but Milan has great museums and concerts.

You can visit Bergamo from Milan much more easily than from Como, and you could easily take a day trip to Varenna. My husband went to university in Milan, and he and his friends often took day trips to the lake. You could make both trips easily by train, just as quickly as driving.

Lake Como is not one of my favourite places, although I know many people love it. In your case, it doesn't seem a good fit with your interests, and it has little of interest to children.
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Old Jan 20th, 2024, 03:55 PM
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Varenna gets my vote . We stayed there a few years ago and are booked there this summer. Unlike the other towns, the VERY busy road which goes around the lake is behind and up the hill from town. Thereís no traffic noise or cars in the center. The main parking garage is down near Hotel CapriseÖmost park there. Theres a short ferry to Bellagio , from which you can go to many towns.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2024, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Jean
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.
HELLO! I'm only now seeing these responses JEAN and OTHERS. Thank you very much for the help!!!

I will admit, I'm finding planning this trip extremely stressful

THE CHILDREN ARE 4.5 and 7.5 -- They have traveled A LOT. They have never been to a theme park. They like creative play and can entertain themselves in most places. WE WILL LEAVE STROLLER HOME.

AS OF NOW, this is our PLAN:

1. Arrive Milan MXP 9am on March 11, Get car with snow tires and make our way SLOWLY to AROSA (stopping often if needed!) - CONSIDERING spending first night in LUGANO.
2. AROSA March 11 - 16
3. Stop someplace near ST. MORITZ for one night on March 16.
4. MARCH 17: Drive from St. Moritz AREA to VARENNA. Spend the day. TAKE A CAR FERRY TO COMO? (Is this an OPTION)
4. COMO - March 17 - 22 (We booked a CHEAP Airbnb Next to Cathedral)
5. March 22 - depart MXP 9am.

I have yet to find a place in VARENNA that I like and that is in our budget. Its easily a few $1000 more to stay there. I don't think Bellagio is a great option for us. I've nixed Lecco. I will continue to look at VARENNA and if possible, cancel COMO booking.

We ARE OPEN to doing ANY OR ALL of the following during the COMO stay: BERGAMO (day trip). OR, since the COMO place is cheap, we stay ONE NIGHT in VERONA or BELLAGIO (leaving our stuff in the apartment we rented.)

WE WILL HAVE A CAR. I have looked at the train journey and its TOO COMPLICATED. I do not feel like transferring 3 trains to get where I need to go (even though I love trains). My kids aren't old enough to carry their own bags.


Last edited by jlewfirtree; Jan 22nd, 2024 at 10:22 AM.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2024, 09:54 AM
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NOTE: I've Written to some hotels in BELLAGIO and VARENNA that ARE NOT OPEN YET on our dates. I DO 100% realize that mid-lake is more beautiful, but I remain concerned that for the dates of MARCH 17 - 22 we might find places closed or "dead" and that might, in itself, be a disappointment (more than staying in COMO if como is less picturesque, but has more open and a pedestrian area to wander). I continue to receive mixed information about this, and still do not fully understand, and many people commenting on the thread travelled in peak season.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2024, 11:20 AM
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You will have to pay a road toll for Italian Pedemontana moterway
https://apl.pedemontana.com/welcome
Once in Switzerland, you need the Swiss sticker for A2 and A13.
You can get it at the Swiss border post of Chiasso Brogeda.
Surses is not the name of a village, but of a Valley.
Bath and Sauna at St. Moritz: https://www.ovaverva.ch/en/sauna
There is no car ferrry from Varenna to Como, but to Menaggio
Count about 1 1/2 hrs fo the drive from Varenna to MXP (toll roads).
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 03:52 AM
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You seem sort of stuck on Lake Como. For what you want to do, Necker's advice for Lake Maggiore or Lake Lugano sound like the better option.

Lake Como is very much a destination for Americans and British people. It was the most anglicized place I've ever been in Italy. Once when we were ordering lunch, the waitress asked us if we could speak English.

I can confirm that in Bellagio everything seemed to be uphill. In the center, there were very few shops that weren't either boutiques or souvenir shops. Even the pharmacy was prevalently for tourists, with a long route through the place to multiply the temptation, as they do in IKEA.

Everything closed very early by Italian standards, even the restaurants. We walked downhill to a restaurant, because parking in the center was practically impossible. We hoped to take a bus back uphill after dinner, but they had stopped running at an awfully early hour. We had a lot of trouble finding a taxi. We called several, but only one would take us, after a long wait. We shared it with an English guy who hadn't been able to get a taxi at all.

I liked Varenna better, but it was just slightly less touristy than Bellagio. Also we were just there for the day, so I don't know if they rolled up the sidewalk in the evenings as they did in Bellagio. (It's possible that lots of bars and other night spots were open in Bellagio, but we don't drink, and we're used to dining at 8PM. Also we were there in early June, so maybe it's more lively in July and August, and also even more crowded )

I know that lots of people love Lake Como, including Jean, whose opinion I respect highly. Many people enjoy touring the villas, but that's not a favourite activity for me. There are some nice walks and hikes, but there was an early heat wave going on, and a lakeside walk of about an hour wiped us out. All I can say is that we were there for three days, which was at least one day too many for me.

I've never been to Lake Maggiore, but relatives of ours go there often and enjoy it. We stopped in Lugano on our way home from Switzerland, and it was a beautiful lake. We saw a nice playground, right by the lake, which your children probably would enjoy. (I didn't see any playground at Lake Como, but we only saw the two towns.) I really think one of these would be more suitable than Lake Como, if you don't trust me when I say that Milan is refined and elegant, and not an industrial dump.

Even staying in Bergamo might be better. Bergamo Alta is very beautiful, but maybe not a great transportation hub.

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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 07:08 AM
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bvlenci, you are so rjght!!
But during the years, I learnd in this forum, that for rmost American andAsian people, Italy consists only of
Varenna/Bellagio, Ortisei, Venice, 5Terre, Florence, Rome, Amalfi, and Matera;
For Switzerland it's Wengen/Muerren/Grindelwald, Lucerne, Zurich and Bernina Express;
for Greece: Santorini, Mykonos, Naxos, Paros, Nafplio, Athens;
for Austria:: Hallstatt, Salzburg, Vienna;
for Turkey: Urgup/Goreme, Istanbul;
for Spain: San Sebastian, Barcelona, Madrid, Granada and Sevilla (with a daytrip to Morocco);
etc. etc.
There are some exceptions, however, like Melnq or Adelaiden........
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 07:32 AM
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Always happy to be an exception
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 07:54 AM
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Hello again! I so appreciate all of these perspectives - it helps me to form a clearer picture.

The reality is that we are celebrating my husbands BIG bday and for 10 years we have PLANNED on taking him to the Swiss alps. The BEST FLIGHT was into MXP.

I DONT SKI. I DONT LIKE COLD WEATHER. After A LOT of deliberation, WE CHOSE AROSA (it was between Zermatt, AROSA, or Adelboden). SO, while I appreciate the suggestions to completely reconceptualize this trip. In brief: WE ARE GOING TO AROSA.

I noticed ON THE WAY to Arosa (from MXP - our booked flights) you pass Lake Como. And so, the idea to piggyback COMO was born.

I appreciate the feedback on the other lakes, but this is the itinerary. Iím just trying to make the best choices I can based on this framework. And also, yes, we are ALSO interested POTENTIALLY in Bergamo or even VERONA (if Como SUCKS - AND WE NEED TO PIVOT).

We WILL have a car (itís just easier for our routes with little kids). Though I do wish there was DIRECT TRAINS (switching trains 3 times isnít an option for us).

So Iím not sure if people could refrain from backhandedly criticizing me as being a typical ďAmerican.Ē You really know nothing about me or where around the world Iíve lived (spoiler alert: many places).


ALSO, if I was planning a trip to Lake Como in the summer, I would probably try to stay in a small village to avoid the crowds. I might even consider a different lake in peak season ó since I would be able to swim, or enjoy warm weather type stuff. AGAIN, we are going MARCH 16 - 22, so Iím trying to make the best choices I can given that it is out of season.

Im sensing most people really donít like COMO, and prefer VARENNA. I also sense that even BERGAMO might be better (though someone else had said lake Como is still preferred).

these are the kinds of things we like to do: eat good food, be in quaint picturesque places, wander around gardens (exploring villa gardens sounds like a dream), explore cobble
stone streets, drink wine.

Kids: a playground, fun shops to look at, a comfortable home base (with a nice view out the window)

Here are my top places in ITALY so far:
1) MATERA
2) 20 years ago: Rome
3) 20 years ago: Ravello (preferred to Positano)
4) Ostuni (was there in April)
5) SARDINIA (teleport me)

I didnít like NAPLES. VENICE would be too touristy for me now. FLORENCE is lovely, but canít handle the tourists. Alberrobello was cute but too touristy (we stayed in a trulli on a farm in the middle of nowhere and preferred that). Lecce was OKAY, but wasnít crazy about the surrounding towns.




Last edited by jlewfirtree; Jan 23rd, 2024 at 08:18 AM.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 08:30 AM
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Also: if I was planning a vacation to Italy, I would not plan to go to Lake Como in March.

This is essentially a vacation to a Switzerland ski village (AROSA), that ďjust so happensĒ to have entry and exit at MXP. (I am well aware that there are more convenient ski villages than the one my husband chose. Yet here I am.)

We want to see some villas and explore the architecture and gardens (I assume SOME spring flowers MIGHT be starting then?!?)

We want to eat good food at restaurants that are easy to get to (and prefer to have a few choices and not just 3 restaurants).

We would like to go on Moderate HIKES.

We would like to shop at a local supermarket and stock up on delicious Italian produce and cheese and treats.

I would like to shop for shoes and maybe some new clothes.

The kids would like Gelato.

Im originally from NYC, and im just not into the idea of being in a BIG CITY right now. For this (and other) reasons, Milan simply doesnít interest me (though Iíd like to do a day trip).

IF I was planning a trip to Italy, I would probably focus on Calabria.

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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 08:46 AM
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Sorry! I didn't want to offend you.
It's YOUR tirp. We just try to show alternatives and pros and cons in order to help you do the things YOU like best..
And you will drive along (and even accross) Lake Lugano anyway on your drive on the motorway A2 from Chiasso Brogedea (Swiss border) to Bellinzona.
BTW: the route all along Lake Maggiore up to Bellinzona wouldn't be much longer in miles, but in driving time.

Lecce is fine for people interested in archeology or in typically Italian organized beaches (San Cataldo. I visited Matera, Alberobello, Castellana Caves and Ostuni many decades ago, when I worked in Bari. Nowadays, Ostuni and Alberobello got too touristy. I usually stop over in Apulia (Tremiti Islands, Vieste, Baia delle Zagqare, Riserva and beaches of Torre Guaceto, etc.) on the way to Greece.
I DID LIKE Naples, not only because it's THE transport hub for the whole area, and beacuse of it's outstanding museums, but just as a typically (somewhat chaotic) Mediterranean city.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 08:54 AM
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No worries! It takes a LOT to offend me (and you havenít).

I do like the look of Lugano (but why is it so expensive!?) we will definitely take a day trip there to explore.

i like the IDEA of Naples (I was there 20 years ago), but the reality was that it was too chaotic for me (and i LIKE INDIAN CITIES!!!!) It was also a little dirty for me AND, someone tried to steal my motherís watch - but MOM AND I FOUGHT HIM OFF!!!! Then I chased him down the street screaming and making a scene (donít F With NYC women - a dumb move in retrospect.)

LECCE was nice in the center, but the whole area felt a little ďdepressedĒ to me and there was a lot of fascist / communist style architecture.

My main concern is that COMO TOWN Itself will be like either of these placesÖ I havenít explored much of northern Italy. If itís simply not ďas quaintĒ we can deal with thatÖwe will do day trips. I just hope itís not unappealing to me in the ways LECCE and NAPLES were.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 09:04 AM
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There are many shoe factories and shoe outlets in the Provinces of Varese and Como. Ask locals for the best places.
The biggest SWISS shoppping center along your itinerary is Serfontana at Morbio, close to motorway A2. Prices in Switzerland are usually higher than in Italy, however..
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 09:11 AM
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I do like the look of Lugano (but why is it so expensive!?) we will definitely take a day trip there to explore.

Because it's in Switzerland. Switzerland is expensive, full stop.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 09:15 AM
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Haha! Yeah, I'll take Italian prices (AND FOOD!!!!)
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 09:32 AM
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NO, Como isn't that bad! It's a normal NORTH Italian city, neither particuilarly scenic nor ugly. The local populaton is very friendly and helpful if you ask them something. Otherwise they let you in peace.
Only the many African refugees who try to enter illegally into Switzerland and then to Germany may cause some problems.
There is just one fascist building at Como (La Casa del Fascio), close to the Duomo, but rather hidden and not dominant at all. We are far away from the typycal dominance of fascist architecure, like in Brescia, EUR in Rome, Rhodos Post office and cathedral, or along the harbours of Lakki/Leros Island and Pothi/Kalymnos..
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 09:34 AM
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La Casa del Fascio
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 11:03 AM
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What a fantastic wife to make this dream trip possible for your husband on his special birthday!
And also your efforts in making this easy on your children is admirable. I totally agree with the car. It will be great!

My first thought when I saw your dates was, that is a shame you are little early for Lake Como. We were in Varenna in October we had warm, perfect weather. We did comment, what do you do if it is rainy or cold, there is not a lot of indoor activity here. We loved it, but it definitely seemed like a couples location. And I would imagine it will not be all open then.

Menaggio seemed more family friendly, with more flat areas and running around space. The marina and the town square are lovely. I notice on Booking.com, there are several reasonable apartments available, and maybe a washing machine and a kitchen would be nice. Then you would be able to go to different directions on the ferry, playing off of the weather. And who knows how to predict that these days. The ferry is an activity, too. After that, I would head down to Milan, turn in your car and be be situated for your flight. You could spend a couple nights there and pursue some indoor options.

You can also back yourself up with 2 different sets of cancellable reservations, and watch the weather to help decide which one to use. Enjoy!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2024, 04:14 PM
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I'll echo coral22's mention of Menaggio... This is one of the towns I suggested in my first post (#5) of this thread. It has a larger year-round population, so most things don't close during what is the off season for towns like Bellagio and Varenna. There are some nice hikes in the hills above town (weather permitting) and a lovely lakeside promenade for the passegiata. Villa Balbianello and Villa Carlotta are fairly close by car or bus, and Varenna and Bellagio are only a few minutes away by ferry. There are castle ruins in the hills above Varenna, and the views from there are amazing. The TI office in town can give you bus info to reach it, and you can bus or walk back down. You could drive from Menaggio to Lugano in about 45 minutes, and it's just a few minutes farther to reach Swissminiatur, which your kids might enjoy (weather permitting). It opens March 16th.

https://www.swissminiatur.ch/the-park/?lang=en



FWIW, we've never visited Lake Como in high season, and I love being there when it's quiet(er) and temps are cool. It just doesn't appeal to me in that summer holiday way. And the town of Como doesn't appeal to me at any time of year.
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