What are the pros & cons of staying at each lake. If we stay at Lake Como whe'll take Rick's advise and stay at Varenna. We will have 3 nights. Don't know where to stay on Lake Maggiore.
This past September we stayed two nights in Bellagio and two nights in Stresa (on Isola Pescatori). We definitely preferred Lake Como. Three nights seems excessive to me for Lake Maggiore. There is more to do around Lake Como and I find it to be prettier scenery. If I knew then what I know now, I'd either skip Lake Maggiore altogether or stay in Milan and day trip up to see Isola Bella.
Hi Susan. We stayed in Varenna/Lake Como in Sept '09 & loved it. We were only there for 2.5 days & concentrated on the mid-lake towns (Bellagio, Menaggio, etc.) but it was beautiful. I was planning to visit Lake Maggiore on our next trip but am concerned now after reading Andrea's comments & wondering if we should skip Lake Maggiore. I don't think you'd be disappointed though by Lake Como & I think 3 nights is a good amount of time to spend there. I found Lake Como to be very relaxing and it was a nice end to our hectic itinerary. If you decide on Lake Como, I can recommend Albergo Milano in Varenna (the hotel itself; not the annex). We stayed in a room with a lake-front balcony & absolutely loved it.
We opted for Lago Maggiore, because we felt there was more to do and see there than at Como. We took the ferry out to two of the Borromean islands one day and to the third another day. We also spent one day in Locarno and some time in Stresa. The Cadogan guide, "Lombardy and the Italian Lakes," has excellent, detailed descriptions of what's available in both areas. Why don't you consult it and decide what interests you?
We were going to stay at Hotel Rigoli in Baveno, based on its high rating at Tripadvisor and reasonable price. However, as I was navigating their site, I discovered that they also have a number of apartments for rent; and that's what we chose. We were very happy with everything about it. The hotel website gives you good information about all their offerings.
Susan, Either of the lakes would be a worthwhile stop, and which to choose will depend on what you're interested in for this trip. The Italy Guidebook has good descriptions of the sightseeing options in both locations. Could you elaborate a bit on what type of activities you're interested in? Varenna is a good place to just relax and enjoy Il Dolce far Niente. You could tour the ornate gardens at Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero, take a day trip to Bellagio or other parts on the lake, or just enjoy the ambience. Stresa is a good choice for Lago Maggiore. While there you could tour any / all of the three Borromeo Islands (Isola Bella is the most interesting and has a large Mansion and gardens that can be toured), ride the Cable Car to Mt. Mottarone or take a day trip to Locarno, Switzerland on the scenic Cento Valli Railway, returning to Stresa by boat. Whichever location you don't visit this time can be put on the "list" for the next trip. Good luck with your decision.
I have not been to Lake Maggiore yet, so can't offer an opinion about staying there. I was at Lake Como in September and just loved it. We stayed in Varenna at the Orange House. It was very nice and also economical. We spent one day taking the ferry across the Lake to Villa Carlotta. We spent several hours there, and I wish we had spent more time. The villa was nice and the gardens were beautiful. From there we took to ferry to Bellagio, which was also very nice. I thought about staying there, but I'm glad we decided to stay in Varenna. It was easier transportation-wise. The highlight of our stay at Lake Como, and actually one of the highlights of our 4 week trip, was taking a cooking class at Il Caminetto. It was such a fun day, even for my husband who does not cook. It took most of the day (they picked us up at the Orange House at 10 a.m. and dropped us off at 5:00 p.m.), and it was time well spent.