Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Northern Italy - confused about which lakes to visitit

Northern Italy - confused about which lakes to visitit

Old Sep 21st, 2022, 07:26 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 1,228
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Northern Italy - confused about which lakes to visitit

Have changed our plans a bit for our 3 week N Italy trip next May/June but still confused on where to visit for Lake region. And also if we need 2 or 3 nights in Turin.

First week-Bologna with day trips to Ravenna, Parma, Florence and food trip day

Then train to Turin- 2 or 3 nights? Will pick up car rental here as we need automatic.

Langhe region 4 nights.

I have 5 nights open after this and then our final night near Linate airport.

So how do we spend these 5 nights?? They will be Sunday to Friday so all weekdays. Lake Orta is appealing bc it is smaller and supposedly less touristy. Como sounds like its super touristy with Americans (I am American.) Do I use 2 areas as my base and split my time? If so where? What are your favorite lakes and why? I am sure we will be tired so want this last leg of the trip to be beautiful but also relaxing with some time to swim. thanks all.
plambers is offline  
Old Sep 21st, 2022, 08:52 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 23,710
Received 4 Likes on 3 Posts
I think you have 3 lakes that would be realistic for that time... Orta, Maggiore and Como.

Will you have a car up until your flight from Linate? How early is your departure?

I wouldn't find enough to interest me at Lake Orta for 4 days, but that doesn't mean you wouldn't enjoy a visit. With a car, you could make some short excursions.

I would stay at either Maggiore or Como. Lots to see and do that appeal to me. You should research which sights at both lakes would appeal to you most.
Jean is offline  
Old Sep 21st, 2022, 09:22 AM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 1,228
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Jean, I'd happily give up the car if we could. I know I'd need one if we went to Lake Orta. I assume I could get a bus or train from Alba to Maggiore or Como and I'd need to see if we could drop car off in Alba. I believe a car is not needed at Como. Same for Maggiore?

We leave Linate early so last night is hotel near there. Also, if we add a night to Turin, that leaves us with 4 nights so would prefer one base if this happens.
plambers is offline  
Old Sep 21st, 2022, 02:22 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 1,881
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
All the lakes are beautiful (and all attract lots of tourists) with each having a different feel so I'd just choose which one fits in best logistically. It's hard to make a bad choice so don't stress it.

btw I visited lake Orta by bus while staying in Stresa, although I believe the bus timetable is seasonal so you'd need to check that. Lakes Maggiore and Como can both be easily visited using local transport, although may be useful if you want to explore away from the lake into neighbouring areas. I've visited all of the lakes you mention without a car.
dreamon is offline  
Old Sep 21st, 2022, 06:39 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 23,710
Received 4 Likes on 3 Posts
If you decide you can get by without a car, I'd return it in Turin (where you picked it up). This would eliminate any one-way surcharge. You can reach all three lakes by train from Torino.

My choice would be either Maggiore or mid-lake Como without a car. Four nights is 3 full days which IMO is barely enough time to see the main sights at either without even thinking about excursions away the lake(s) that would require a car. As you research your options, you might want to get a sense of the ferry service on Maggiore and Como.

https://www.navigazionelaghi.it/ [Not currently showing timetables that would apply in May/June, but still an idea...]
Jean is offline  
Old Sep 24th, 2022, 03:22 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 16,718
Received 22 Likes on 4 Posts
I would never call Lake Como “touristy.” Most of it has an elegant feel.
We did not like our one stay on Lake Orta. There is a paper plant in the area and the wind blew the acrid smells from it to Orta. We would rate our hotel experience as one of our worst ever too. So there was no way we could have had a good time. Sometimes those things just happen.
Lake Maggiore is very nice. The mountains are set farther back than on Lake Como, different scenery. The SÉ area of the lake is very close to MXP so a good place to spend your first night after landing . We particularly liked staying in Ranco.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Old Sep 24th, 2022, 07:08 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 1,881
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Bellagio, Varenna, Stresa and many other places on the lakes are amongst the most visited by holidaying foreigners in Italy. By definition that makes them touristy. We first visited Bellagio in 1983 but on my most recent visit in June 2015 it was absolutely packed with tourists. It felt like a different place entirely, which is entirely understandable. All the lakes are beautiful - and often the towns are elegant - but they are certainly very busy with visiting tourists. That isn't all bad.

I confess I didn't see or smell the paper plant near lake Orta but that sounds horrible.
dreamon is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2022, 07:16 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 7,567
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by HappyTrvlr View Post
I would never call Lake Como “touristy.” Most of it has an elegant feel.
Lake Como (specifically Bellagio) is the only place in Italy where I was asked in a restaurant if I could please speak English. We were there once, in May, and the visitors were mostly English speakers, predominantly British. There were also some French and German tourists.

The dinner hour was untypically early for Italy, and bus service stopped very early. It was even difficult to find a taxi after dinner. We were also underwhelmed by the restaurants, but we were there only for a few days (about one too many) and we were just looking for decent meals, not elegance.
bvlenci is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2022, 09:40 AM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 1,228
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
This is my worry! We will be there mid June. I was looking at Varenna as a base for 4 nights. Is this too many? We can have a car if that will make things easier.
Or one night Orta and 3 nights Varenna?
plambers is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2022, 10:26 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 23,710
Received 4 Likes on 3 Posts
I think these are the sorts of choices only you can make. For me, four nights at Lake Como for a first-timer would be a minimum. That's only 3 full days. Of course, it depends on what you want to see/do on the lake, but I'd prefer more time myself. I would have probably dropped the car somewhere before getting there. Since you don't need (or necessarily want) a car to explore the lake, paying to rent and park it for 3/4 days would be money I'd rather spend on something else... perhaps a private transfer to Linate at the end. You should also investigate the overall cost of the car rental if you pick up the car in Torino and drop it somewhere else, how much those additional days cost, etc.

Since I really, really dislike one-night stays, the detour to Orta wouldn't appeal to me at all.

Tourist destinations are by their very nature touristy on some level, and Lake Como's scenery and summer weather has attracted visitors since Roman times. But I admit I haven't visited in June, so I can't speak to the touristy atmosphere at that time. Being a tourist myself, I figure I'm part of the "problem."
Jean is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2022, 12:31 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Aug 2022
Posts: 38
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
A little detour, but I would consider a visit to Desenzano del Garda, a cute small town by the Lake Garda: https://lakegardatravel.net/desenzano-italy/
EnricM is online now  
Old Sep 26th, 2022, 12:34 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 7,567
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We stayed in Bellagio, but I really liked Varenna better. At least we saw some actual Italian families living in the center, and children playing in a piazza. There were tons of tourists there, too, but the atmosphere was different. Varenna is also where the train station is, so it's more convenient in that respect.

It was very hot when we were there, which put a damper on any desire to do much walking or hiking.

They have some famous gardens known for displays of azaleas and rhododendrons, but they were past their peak in May. There are some luxurious villas you can visit, but that's not my thing. I decided to tour one villa (I forget which one) and that was more than enough for me. My husband waited outside.

We spent one day exploring the mid lake by boat, which was nice.

There are lots of boutiques and craft shops in Bellagio. I'm not into shopping, either, and what I saw was very overpriced.

I realized on my first day that I had forgotten to bring sunscreen, and it took forever to find something so prosaic for sale in Bellagio. I finally found a pharmacy where the only sunscreen for sale was a very small tube produced by a famous cosmetics brand, which, ml for ml, cost about 10 times what I would pay for sunscreen at home in central Italy. I bought it anyway, because I needed sunscreen. The pharmacy was laid out on the IKEA model, so that you had to take a tortuous route past display cases offering deluxe label perfumes, cosmetics, and costume jewelry.

If I ever go back, which is unlikely, I would go in April to visit the gardens, when there is little chance of a heat wave.

I have also visited Lake Garda, which I enjoyed very much, but it would be quite out of your way. I've never been to Lake Maggiore, but relatives of ours go there often, and speak highly of it. They drive there, and I don't know if having a car there would be very advantageous.

I'm sure that people with different tastes and interests would enjoy Lake Como much more than I did. Some academic colleagues of mine from the US, people I greatly respect, love Lake Como. That's why I wanted to spend some time there on our way to Lucerne. My husband, who went to University in Milan, had been there a number of times, and he said it was nothing special. I discounted his opinion, because I assumed he and his friends went to Lake Como specifically to meet girls. Besides, that was s long time ago. But while we were there, he said several times, "What did I tell you?"

Last edited by bvlenci; Sep 26th, 2022 at 12:36 PM.
bvlenci is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2022, 05:09 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 23,710
Received 4 Likes on 3 Posts
I can't abide heat and I'm not into shopping either, but the natural/mountain scenery from different points on Lake Como, the water views, some lovely ville and gorgeous Italianate gardens... oh my....

https://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/20...-of-lake-como/
Jean is offline  
Old Sep 27th, 2022, 07:58 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 1,054
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
We stayed in a room with a huge terrace at the Hotel Florence in Bellagio mid week in mid May in 2012 for 3 days and loved it. The weather was great, it was surprisingly uncrowded and the colors were a bit past their prime but it was still beautiful. During our stay we walked all around Bellagio and went to Varenna, Menaggio, Castello di Vezio, Punta Spartivento, Melzi Gardens, Villa Balbianello and spent a lot of time on our terrace having drinks and snacks while enjoying the view. We meant to do more but it was just too nice on our terrace.

Our time in Bellagio was between our visits to Venice and the Piedmont and we had a rental car. We were in Bellagio for three days and did not move our car an inch. If we had it to do again, we would still rent a car in Venice, drive to Bellagio and park it for the three days. It was just too convenient to be able to drive into Bellagio and pull right up to the hotel to unload, park for free 3 spaces from the front door, then when we left, pull up to the door, put our luggage in and drive to Asti with no steps, hills, ferries, taxis or trains to deal with or haul luggage to and from. I guess we are getting spoiled in our old age.

Here is a link to some pictures from our time at Lake Como.

https://john183italy2012.shutterfly.com/pictures/423

Last edited by john183; Sep 27th, 2022 at 08:21 AM.
john183 is offline  
Old Sep 28th, 2022, 03:31 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: May 2010
Posts: 4,492
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Just depends on the OP’s interests.

One time I visited, stayed in Varenna but often took ferries to Bellagio and Menaggio, with day trips to Bergamo and Lugano.

Views from the villas are spectacular, particularly Balbianello. The guided tour to the top of the promontory in Bellagio, also spectacular.

There are more serious hikes, a lot of elevation gain, if one is interested. On the bus from Menaggio to Lugano, there are spectacular views as it climbs above the lake.

It also seems to be popular for bicyclists with many challenging climbs.

Driving on the western shores is tiring, with a lot of traffic on narrow roads. Also difficult to find hotels with parking near Menaggio. They book up fast. But you could drive up to Balcone d’Italia and take your time to drive to Lugano, another very scenic drive.
scrb11 is offline  
Old Sep 28th, 2022, 07:23 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 16,718
Received 22 Likes on 4 Posts
One reason we prefer Bellagio is that it is away from train noise and road noise as it is on a peninsula in the middle of the lake. We have spent two weeks there and never have run out of things to do or see. We stay at the top of town, away from most tourist areas.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Old Sep 29th, 2022, 07:45 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 1,228
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
John, this is a good point. I was seriously considering dropping our car off in Turin and taking train but we will have a decent amount of luggage since we are staying for 3 weeks. I found a lovely apartment in Varenna with fantastic views and parking so perhaps we will keep our car and then drip it off at Linate.
plambers is offline  
Old Sep 29th, 2022, 07:59 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 23,710
Received 4 Likes on 3 Posts
Do investigate the one-way rental surcharge.
Jean is offline  
Old Sep 29th, 2022, 10:51 AM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 1,228
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
100 euros
plambers is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -