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Which town to stay at in Lake Como?

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Apr 15th, 2014, 11:51 AM
  #1
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Which town to stay at in Lake Como?

Hi All,

My boyfriend and I are going to be stopping at Lake Como (Tuesday-Friday) in mid-September. We will be taking the train in from Milan.

I can't decide between Bellagio, Veranna, and Menaggio. We are both 30 years old and are looking for a town with good food, wine, and things to do. I understand we can travel by boat to any of the towns relatively quickly, but would like to hear some suggestions. We enjoy activities, hiking, etc and plan on visiting some of the local gardens.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Kasia
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Apr 15th, 2014, 01:14 PM
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With your short time window and the fact that you are without a car, I would opt for Varenna, the only one of the three towns with a direct rail link to Milan. We have stayed in both Bellagio and Varenna at different times (Bellagio with a car), and while Bellagio may have the edge in terms of shops and restaurants, having to factor in the ferry timetable into your itinerary getting to and from your hotel is not worth it.
As you are already aware, the ferry service gets you around very efficiently during the daytime and Bellagio is only minutes away when you decide to visit the town.

In terms of things to do.....
From Varenna itself, you can hike up to Castle Vezio for great views of the lake; for a longer hike, take the train to the next northernmost stop, Bellano, and hike the Sentiero del Viandante back to town.
Varenna itself has a reasonable selection of cafes and restaurants, many with lake views. Our favourite was the rooftop balcony at Ristorante la Vista.
Villa Monastero is the town's principal attraction - colourful lakeshore gardens.
A visit to Bellagio should include the gardens at the Villa Melzi, a short walk from the town itself. If you happen to be in town at lunchtime or in the evening, Bilacus is a restaurant worth seeking out.
We are fairly keen walkers so on one of our days in Varenna we took the ferry to Sala Comincina and walked part of the Lake Como Greenway; nothing too strenuous, a pleasant lunch in Lenno (Albergo Plinio) and onward to visit the fabulous gardens at Villa Carlotta. There is a direct ferry link from there, back to Varenna. An extra option on the walk is to incorporate a visit to Villa Balbianello if time allows.
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Apr 15th, 2014, 01:31 PM
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Good input above.
Be sure to get a RT ticket to/from Milano and Varenna. The station is not manned.
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Apr 15th, 2014, 02:44 PM
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I stayed in Bellagio and didn't think it was a big deal to walk to the Varenna ferry dock and get the boat. You'll only need to do this twice; it's not a lifetime commitment!

I felt there were more restaurants in Bellagio and more evening activity and people wandering around. The boats don't run late so you'll need to have dinner in whatever town you stay in.

Where are you going after Lake Como? Back to Milan?
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Apr 15th, 2014, 02:48 PM
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I stayed in Como itself and loved it - a really nice city with an old center - nice lakeside promenades and everything a city offers - not a tourist inundated small town like Bellagio.
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Apr 15th, 2014, 04:47 PM
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Nice to hear someone else who enjoys the town of Como, Pal!
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Apr 15th, 2014, 05:17 PM
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Before you decide where to sleep, you should make a list of what you want to see/do while you're there, note where these sights are located, then study the ferry timetables and develop a daily plan.

The September ferry schedules won't be posted for at least another few weeks, but you can get an idea of how long the rides are, order of the stops, etc.:

http://www.navigazionelaghi.it/eng/c_orari.asp

You'll see the mid-lake ferries in both directions stop in Bellagio, so if sights on the western shore (V. Carlotta, V. Balbianello, bus to Lugano) are high on your list then staying in Bellagio would mean less time riding ferries. For example, Bellagio to V. Balbianello is 30 minutes one way versus 45 minutes from Varenna.

There are hiking opportunities from all three of the mid-lake towns but probably most easily accessible from Varenna, or you could also take a train (hour or less) from Varenna into the mountains to Morbegno or Sondrio for more hiking. Castello Vezio is well worth a visit for the falconry and beautiful views, and we enjoyed touring the Moto Guzzi factory and museum in Mandello (easy by train from Varenna).

If you have any interest in pro cycling, the tiny chapel to Madonna del Ghisallo (patron saint of cyclists) and the adjacent Museo del Ciclismo are about 10 kms. south of Bellagio. The last pro race of the season (Giro di Lombardia) always stops at the chapel for a blessing. Oct. 5th this year.

We've stayed in all three of the mid-lake towns. Menaggio was too big for me but is very convenient for the western shore sights I mentioned. I think the views from Varenna are the best, but the most attractive town IMO is Bellagio.
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Apr 15th, 2014, 05:31 PM
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I agree that Bellagio would be my top choice. Catching the ferry is not a big deal and doesn't take that long. I also felt there was more to do in Bellagio. We also made the mistake of not booking a round trip ticket and had to go to a travel agent in Bellagio to help us get train tickets.
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Apr 15th, 2014, 08:42 PM
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Como city wouldn't be my first choice to stay. To me it's a better place to shop and much larger, more like a city, but doesn't have the lakeside, charming feel of Bellagio and Varenna. We have stayed in both Bellagio and Varenna twice each, and like both, but would definitely recommend Bellagio for your age group. Neither town has much night life but Varenna really doesn't have any. Our favorite thing to do from each city is to take the ferries to different destinations along the lake.
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Apr 15th, 2014, 11:39 PM
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Catching the ferry BACK OVER from Bellagio to Varenna very much can be a "big deal" depending on when you want to take the train back to Milan. Be sure to find out what the ferry schedules are; yes they are frequent depending on time of year but they are not necessarily good for making every train.
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Apr 16th, 2014, 06:09 AM
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Several years ago we stayed in Varenna in September and truly enjoyed it. We did do the ferry and visited the other towns, Bellagio for a lunch and shopping, and others. Varenna is a very quaint town. We stayed at Laura's Albero Olivedo, a terrific place with wonderful food, sometimes noisy with the dock right there, but the lines at night for dinner attested to how good the food was (at least when we were there). We also toured there the Villa Monastero with their beautiful gardens and the "Passerella", their romantic boardwalk on the lake. Laura was a great host and extremely helpful.
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Apr 16th, 2014, 06:11 AM
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Sorry for the spelling it was "Albergo" Olivedo, I think it has been in the family a long time.
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Apr 16th, 2014, 06:13 AM
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"Como city wouldn't be my first choice to stay."

Good grief. No sensible person with taste and vision would go to Lake Como to stay in Como. OK, so Como is a small Italian town with lakefront property and a hill or two to view, but let's get real. Como offers very little visual charm when compared to other parts of the lake. Como provides access to transportation, or perhaps some fine silk, or a segway to Villa d'Este, but to actually base yourself there for a visit to Lake Como? What a waste.

"would definitely recommend Bellagio for your age group"

Never heard that one before. I had to go back to the OP to see if the tourists were old farts. There are plenty of seniors with canes trying to climb those stairs in Bellagio.

"Neither town has much night life but Varenna really doesn't have any."

Not sure how anyone defines "night life." No city on Lake Como is Ibiza. IMO, Varenna has the most "buzz" in the evening along the lake, partly because the sun sets on the cafe chairs lining the shore. And most of those merry folks making all that merriment noise tend to be young lovers drinking more than they should.

Bellagio is far from hip. It's more like an old-money version of Disneyland in Europe for the mature. And the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni deserves to be a much better hotel. I enjoy my visits to Bellagio, but staying there offers too many limitations. The views from Bellagio are half as exciting as those found in Varenna because Bellagio faces west and sits in the middle of the lake. IMO, there simply is no argument to justify geographical inconvenience.

Menaggio is one big bore, and Tremezzo is fun if you have a car and get to swim in the floating pool at Grand Hotel Tremezzo. But crossing the street in your swimsuit is so tacky. Both cities offer an interesting visit, but staying there? Not for me.
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Apr 16th, 2014, 06:48 AM
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We visited Bellagio, but can't say we were tempted to stay there. We stayed in Varenna At Eremo Gaudio and loved it! The views from the terrace dining area were amazing. But be prepared for a climb to get to it.
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Apr 16th, 2014, 08:35 AM
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We stayed in Bellagio for three days and loved it. We day tripped to Varenna and that is wonderful, too. You can't go wrong wherever you choose. Bellagio seemed slightly bigger with more options. Varenna does have the rail link.
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Apr 16th, 2014, 08:47 AM
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I'd say it boils down to one question: How much luggage do you have? If the answer is "Not much," then I'd opt for Bellagio for all the reasons previously mention. However, if you have a lot of lo\uggage, then Varenna seems more logical, since staying in Bellagio would mean the nuisance of having to carry your luggage on and off the ferry, etc.
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Apr 16th, 2014, 01:48 PM
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My wife and I (who admittedly are well past 30) stayed at the Hotel Metropole in Bellagio for several days a couple of years ago and enjoyed it tremendously. I don't suggest that you would overwhelmed by the nightlife, but that did not seem to be the lead in your criteria. It is right on the lake and is near a fair amount of shopping (shops, boutiques) and restaurants. They also have one of the most helpful staffs I have found in a European hotel: example, we took our Mac laptop with us, but forgot an essential part of the plug (Macs have a two-part power cord). When I noticed it, I went around the town but did find any sort of electronics store so I asked the staff if they would charge my laptop; they went one better -- they had recently upgraded their Mac systems in the hotel and gave me a spare power cord. I have always remembered this kindness.
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Apr 16th, 2014, 02:37 PM
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Ten years ago we had a marvelous experience at the Belvedere Hotel in Bellagio. Wonderful staff, great views of the lake. Check out its website--belvederebellagio.com. For the best rates, do a Google search of the hotel.
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Apr 17th, 2014, 07:37 AM
  #19
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Thank you for all of the feedback! We are going to have a large suitcases with us, so I'm thinking Varenna is the way to go. Definitely going to be taking the ferry over to Bellagio for the day as well. After Lake Como, we are heading to Florence for a wedding and plan on doing a tour while we are there.

Nightlife isn't so important to us as we will be going out in Florence, so we don't mind relaxing at the quieter towns.

I will be sure to take all of your suggestions into consideration when planning our itineraries.
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Apr 17th, 2014, 08:09 AM
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IMO, getting on and off trains with large suitcases will be much more difficult than getting on and off the ferry. Be at the doors and ready to get off at Varenna as the train only stops for 1-2 minutes. Ditto for the train leaving Varenna; be ready to get on before it arrives. Don't spend time on the outside looking for a car with fewer occupied seats.

Better yet, reconsider the large suitcases and/or leave one of them at the Milano Centrale train station to be retrieved on your return trip.
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