Trip Report - Italian Northern Lakes

Old Jun 17th, 2005, 07:33 AM
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Trip Report - Italian Northern Lakes

Buon Giorno Everyone,

What a fantastic trip! Everything worked out perfectly, the transportation, weather, and accommodations. Thank you all for your wonderful articles and responses to my questions.

We arrived at the Malpensa Airport and took the Malpensa Express to Milan. I decided to take the Malpensa Express because I did not want to arrive at the Central Train Station. The Cadorna stop seemed to make more sense, because we hopped right on the M1 subway, traveled three stops to the Domo, and walked another two blocks to our hotel – very easy.

We spent two days in Milan and saw most of the sights within walking distance of the Domo. For us that was about a five mile radius from the cathedral. I made online reservations to see the Last Supper about a month in advance and that proved to be smart, because they were turning people away the day we saw the fresco. The day we were scheduled to leave Milan and travel by train to Como, all the transportation workers decided to strike. I actually had a heads up on the strike by reading a warning from the “Seekitaly.com” web site before I left the states. The strike was scheduled from 0900 to 1600, so I made a reservation on the 0730 train to Como. We had no problems getting to Como, except for getting up a 0600 in the morning to make sure we could get to the central train station on time and navigate in a huge building I had never been in before.

Lake Como was beautiful. We stayed at the Villa Flori located outside of the city of Como within a 5 minute walk to the city of Cernobbio. The hotel was right on the lake and about a minute away from a ferry stop which we used to hop back and forth to explore the city of Como.

After three wonderful days in the area around Como and Cernobbio, we took the ferry up to our next stop on Lake Como, Varenna. Our hotel (Hotel Eremo Gaudio) in Varenna was about two miles out of town and about 1500 feet above the town. You had to take two private funiculars to get to the hotel lobby. Varenna is located where the three legs of Lake Como intersect, so the view from the balcony of our room was spectacular! Three days there we took in the sights of Bellagio, Lenno, Menaggio, Varenna, Cadenabbia and the Villa Balbainello. The trip to the Villa Balbainello where they shot a three minute scene in Star Wars II was fantastic. Not only was the Villa beautiful, but the story of the last owner was fascinating. We used a local guide ([email protected]) who gave us a wonderful tour of all the rooms (she actually had a key to get into all the rooms) in the Villa with great stories of the past owners.

After Varenna we hopped a ferry to Menaggio, then a bus to Lugano Switzerland. Lugano on Lake Lugano was great, but, Lugano was not really our kind of place. It was like staying in the most expensive mall or Miami Beach. A few side ferry trips during our stay to some smaller towns on the lake were more to our liking.

After Lugano we took a train to Locarno on Lake Maggiore. From Locarno we took a ferry to Stresa on the Italian side of Lake Maggiore. Stresa was magnificent! There must have been 4 billion roses in bloom lining the lake front promenade, and the roses in the gardens on the Borromeo isles were equally magnificent. We really fell in love with Stresa and the surrounding towns we explored by ferry on Lake Maggiore. Stresa is definitely a DON’T MISS stop if you are visiting Lake Maggiore.

Doing this trip again (which I may very well do), I would add at least two days in Menaggio across form Varenna. I would like more time to explore the towns on that side of Lake Como. I would stay in the small town of Gandia about two miles from Lugano on Lake Lugano. You can walk to Lugano from Gandia or hop the ferry. I would look into staying two days in Lucarno on Lake Maggiore and exploring the other towns on the Swiss side of Lake Maggiore. If you go to Lugano or Lucarno check out the Manor Department store. They have a wonderful cafeteria with a HUGH assortment of hot and cold foods at very reasonable prices.


Hotels

Hotel Gritti – Location, Location, Location – comfortable, clean, good value, and a block from the Domo. The staff was extremely helpful and friendly. Our room did not face the small plaza so it was quite and we had a full bath with a tub and shower.

Villa Flori – Wonderful hotel right on Lake Como. Too far to walk into the town of Como, however, the ferry stop was only a minute walk from the hotel and the quaint town of Cernobbio was only a 5 minute walk from the hotel. While in Cernobbio visit the Villa D’Esta, it’s something to see. We had a very comfortable, clean, elegant room with the balcony right over Lake Como. Super continental breakfast you can enjoy outside by the Lake.


Eremo Gaudio – Located in Varenna at the center of Lake Como. I don’t believe there is a better view of Lake Como than from the Eremo Gaudio . Suggest taking a cab (8 Euro) to and from the ferry station if you have luggage. The walk from the hotel to the ferry station without luggage is easy and relaxing, especially when you take the promenade route along the lake. ( I’m 60 years old, and if I say it’s an easy walk – it’s an easy walk). If you can’t stay there, at least go for lunch or dinner to enjoy the fantastic view. Food is very good and reasonably priced. We found the staff extremely helpful and friendly.

Hotel San Carlo - comfortable , clean, a very good value, conveniently located in the heart of city of Lugano, a block from the Lake on a pedestrian street. The staff was extremely helpful and friendly supplying us with maps and recommendations for dinning, things to do, and places see in the area.

Hotel Saini Meuble' – A very good value in a beautiful city, clean, comfortably sized rooms, conveniently located on a pedestrian side street in the heart of Stresa. The owner/staff was extremely helpful and friendly supplying us with maps and recommendations for dinning, things to do, and places see in the area.


flabobcat is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2005, 12:36 PM
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Fantastic information Flabocat! Great reviews...

what really 'wowed' you? What made you decide staying in which cities? We went to Lake Garda three years ago and are trying to decide between Como and Maggiore for October... Only 2-3 days overall on the lakes.
travelphile is offline  
Old Jun 17th, 2005, 01:06 PM
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Great report--grazie !

And now you know why, after 13 trips to Italy, " the lakes" are still my favorite destination.
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Old Jun 18th, 2005, 03:41 AM
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Hello all, I just returned from Venice and the Italian lakes so I thought I would tack on my brief trip report.

We spent 3 nights in Venice at the Westin Regina and Europa. We had a wondeful room with a balcony on the Grand Canal. We began to enjoy Venice once we left the tourist areas and saw the real neighborhoods. We didn't like the Lido - just rows and rows of cabanas. We thought the Murano trip was worth it to see the glass blowing. we found Venice to be VERY expensive - a cappucino was 6 Euros in the hotel. Our favorite restaurant was a Osteria our concierge recommended. I will look up the name and add it later.

We rented a car and drove to Varenna on Lake Como. We stayed at Hotel DuLac -with a fantastic room on the second floor overlooking the lake. What can I say - GORGEOUS views! http://www.albergodulac.com/ The staff was very warm and helpful and breakfast was good. Best restaurant was La Cavatappi. There are only 5 tables and closed on Wednesdays. You obvously need a reservation.

Varenna is small, it is not a place for shoppers. But it is very picturesque. The locals were very friendly.

We took the hike up to the castle and on the Fiumolatte - which wasn't flowing. It was a good hike and probably took us 2 -3 hours with stopping. We hiked right past Hotel Eremo Guadio and Bobcat is right - great location for views of the lake.


We took a daytrip to Bellagio and we were glad we were staying in Varenna. Although not overrun w/tourists 2 weeks ago - it was busier than Varenna. We took a water taxi to Villa Balbianello and were pleasantly surprised. The gardens were stunning but the story behind the most recent owner was equally fascinating. I think most Fodorites would love to hear about the life of Guido Monzino. http://www.fondoambiente.it/english/...nell/index.htm

I will continue later this week with the rest of my report. This is my first ever trip report - so please be kind. Ask any questions - I will check back often. I owe a lot the success of this trip to the info I received from this board!
Mikki123 is offline  
Old Jun 18th, 2005, 04:23 AM
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This is a wonderful report. The Italian Lakes have moved WAY UP on my travel list.

Can't wait to hear more.
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Old Jun 18th, 2005, 05:12 AM
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Moved them up on mine too..I've saved this post for reference!
jody is offline  
Old Jun 18th, 2005, 03:33 PM
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Definitely keeping this for reference. Thanks.
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Old Jun 19th, 2005, 03:27 AM
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Continuation of trip report:
I am almost afraid to tell you where we went next for fear of more people discovering this Lake - but I was lucky enough to 1st read about it on this message board so I must.


Lake Orta and the town of Orta San Guilio are magical. I don't know how to describe it any other way. We stayed at Villa Crespi on the edge of town. http://www.slh.com/italy/orta_san_gi...el_ortvil.html

There really isn't much of a lake view from the hotel but you get the joy of walking into town along either a beautiful (some parts very secluded) promenade along the lake or a small lane (quicker route) that goes right into town. There is a trenino - tram - that we didn't take that runs also if you can't walk.

We hiked the Sacre Monte which is an easy hike to the top of a hill that overlooks Lake Orta. There are about 20 chapels depicting the life of St. Francis of Assisi from the 1600's and 1700's. Buy a booklet there and follow along through the wooded paths. It would be great place to bring a small picnic.

Our favorite meal was at the Hotel San Rocco. We had the best table over looking the Isola San Guilio. Try the risotto!

We took a daytrip to Stresa. I was very impressed by the beautiful town - but it seemed to have a lot of large hotels and hence a lot of people. We took a boat ride to Isola Bella - one of the Borromeo Islands. It was magnificent - especially the gardens.

We drove to Stresa using the most direct route but returned to Orta via the mountains. The longer return was simple scenic - spots over looking Lake Maggiore, canopies of trees, small gardens, a park like drive through most of it.

It was an easy ride to Malpensa from Orta - under 1 hour. If I had to change anything about this trip is that it would have been longer. I would love to explore some of the other towns on Lake Como and Lake Maggiore and, of course, spend more time in Orta.

Here are few more links that might be interesting:
http://www.boston.com/globe/search/s...ella_italy.htm

http://www.castellodivezio.it/english.html

Thanks again to all of the Fodorites who add their experiences to this website and help all who ask questions!


Mikki123 is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 08:32 AM
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As promised, I would add the name of our favorite restaurant in Venice - it was called Osteria San Marco. It was very close to our Hotel (Westin Regina and Europa). The food and wine were excellent ($120USD for 2). The waiters and waitresses were helpful and not intrusive.

Across the way from this Osteria was a little stand up coffee bar (with 3-4 stools)where we could get 2 cappucinos and 2 pastries for 5 euros in the morning. This was a much better value than the $50USD breakfast buffet per person at our hotel.

Mikki123 is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 06:04 PM
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Great information Mikki!

What was it about Mennagio that caught you? I'm leaning towards making that home base in Ocbober - but am not quite committed yet!
travelphile is offline  
Old Jun 20th, 2005, 06:45 PM
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Hi Mikke,
How many nights did you stay in Orta?
How many would you liked to have stayed? Thank you. Soon it will be my turn!!
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Old Jun 21st, 2005, 05:34 AM
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Travelphile - I did not stay in Mennagio. We chose Varenna because we were looking for peace and quiet after the hoopla of Venice. I think Bellagio would have been fine also, now that I have been there.

Janemc - We only stayed 2 nights in Orta. I would have liked to stay another two nights plus and enjoyed more of the local culture, taken more hikes and explored the area between Lake Orta and Lake Maggiore. When we drove to Stresa, there was a lovely town called Baveno that I would have loved to visit, etc. I would have liked to take more time on Lake Maggiore also.

Can you tell I loved the lakes area? T
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Old Jun 21st, 2005, 12:17 PM
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Sorry - I think I read "Maggiore" as an M word and had Menaggio on the brain!

OOPS!
travelphile is offline  
Old Jun 21st, 2005, 04:47 PM
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just decided to visit Italian northern lakes so need lots of advice- is it possible to get around without a car? also need suggested itinerary and hotel recommendations for 5 nights end of July . Would you sleep in one spot or stay in different cities?How far is Lake Lugano and has anyone stayed at stella d'italia?
lbrucker is offline  
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