My wife and I are attending a wedding in Lecco on Oct 11, and will be in the Lake Como area for about 4 days. What are top things that we should do in the area , and what are the best restaurants that we should not miss!?
We stayed in Varenna. We ate at Bar IL Molo. The food was ok. Prices reasonable, view amazing. Highly recommend the tour at Villa del Balbianello. We enjoyed walking around Bellagio and out to Punta Spartivento. In Bellagio we went to Apertivo Et Al and did a wine tasting. It had been a horrible rainy day. I looked like I had been dragged thru puddles. Yet we were warmly welcomed, we were comped a glass of wine while we tried to make ourselves presentable. We then were guided thru a tasting of area wines. After more exploration of Bellagio, we ate dinner right next door to Apertivo Et Al, at Bilacus. Food was good, service was attentive and kind. The RS guide has walking tours for both Varenna and Bellagio that we found helpful.
Thank you so much for your suggestions. We will definitely do the tour at Villa del Balbianello, the wine tasting sounds great also!
Sound like Apertivo Et Al is a nice place to have dinner , we have Bellagio on our must see list.
Did you find it very crowded at Bellagio?
Thanks again for your help, it was very helpful!
We are traveling next April, flying into Zurich, out of Rome 18 days later, via train. Staying 3 nights in Lucerne, then will be taking the train over the Alps and decided to stay three nights in Varenna. Originally it was going to be Lecco, but have been told there really isn't as much to see there, thus the reduced lodging prices.
So our (exciting) first booking for this trip is Hotel Olivedo in Varenna, a recommendation from forum vet Laurel. Only 10 rooms, free cancellation through Expedia up til 2 days before arrival, it's right at the ferry point to tour Como, so we grabbed it.
From there it'll be 5 nights Florence, 6 nights Roma!
Just to be clear, Apertivo Et Al, is where we did the wine tasting. We had dinner next door at Bilacus. Also, at the top of the hill by Apertivo is where many take pictures of the lane as it winds down to Lake Como.
I never made it to Lecco but I recommend staying in the mid-lake area if you can. The main villages to visit are Varenna and Bellagio. Lenno has a small, attractive area by the lake and a good outdoor market (Thursday?). I never really took to Menaggio, which many on this forum like.
Homes, museums and gardens we visited: Villa Balbianello, Villa Carlotta, Villa Melzi, Villa Monastero and Villa Serbelloni (no buildings can be visited at the latter but there is a nice view of the lake from up there). I walked 'The Greenway' a couple of times on the west side of the lake, which is a comfortable walk for the most part of about 10km in length (don't know how they came up with the name). Good photo opportunities in some parts. For more stunning views, a hard trek up to the Sacred Mount of Ossuccio.
I don't know what the best restaurants are. We had very good food at Santo Stefano's in Lenno and San Giacomo's in Bellagio ( try to be seated away from the toilet at the back). We ate twice at Il Cavatappi in Varenna: it's tiny, the food was excellent, and we enjoyed the company of the chef and waiter after things had died down.
La Vista at Albergo MIlano in Varenna for dinner. If not too cold, dine on the patio for a magnificent view. Also, consider chartering a private tour on Taxi Boat Varenna. Dining at Hotel du Lac is also recommended. In Bellagio, dining at La Terrazza in Hotel Belvedere is superb. Also, Ristorante Alle Darsene di Loppia on the western side. In Tremezzina, Al Veluu has wonderful views and food.
Thank you for your post. Your itinerary sounds amazing. Based on your post we haver decided to spend 2 nights in Varenna and we booked 2 nights at the Hotel Olivedo. The reviews we read were very good.
We are also going down to Florence now for 4 days , I’m curious what is your itinerary for Florence.
Thanks for your help.
Thanks for your post, we didn’t consider Lenno, but we may visit there if we have time.
Your visited a lot of Villas, the only one on our list right now is Villa Balbianello. It looks amazing we will try and book something on line.
What other villas are do you recommend visiting? The greenway sounds interesting we like to hike so we will definitely check that out.
Jay Thank you for your post. Your itinerary sounds amazing. Based on
your post we haver decided to spend 2 nights in Varenna and we booked
2 nights at the Hotel Olivedo. The reviews we read were very good. We
are also going down to Florence now for 4 days , I’m curious what is
your itinerary for Florence. Thanks for your help.
This will be our 3rd trip to Florence, our first in high season, although early May shouldn't be that bad!
My problem with Florence has always been the crowds in the central area. Even the weekends in February were surprisingly busy. But...you can't deny the beauty, the Renaissance history, the markets. We will be renting an apartment very near the Santa Maria Novella train station, and besides the daily trips to the Mercato Centrale market, my friend at Massimo Leather and a few historical sights we haven't seen in a few years, we plan to take a daytrip into Chianti or Tuscany with a guide to tour wineries, and maybe a cooking class. Oh...also want to take the bus up the hill above Florence to Fiesole, which is supposed to be spectacular.
Thanks again for you very informative post
We were in Florence about 5 years ago and we are looking forward to being there again.
We did a day tour of Tuscany the last time but it was on a big bus and the time we had in each town was not enough . hopefully we can find a better smaller tour group or maybe a driver to take around Tuscany, we want to find a winery tour that includes a lunch. I like the idea of an Italian cooking class my wife loves to cook. Your other tips are very helpful also we will check those out also.
Are you renting a car in Florence?
Many years ago we ate at Il Cavatappi in Varenna. It's a very small, wonderful restaurant overlooking the lake. Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio is a high-end hotel with an excellent restaurant. The public areas are worth a peak. It also has an outdoor bar overlooking the pool and the lake. Great place for a drink and where you can watch the beautiful people.
Edit to add that Villa Serbelloni's gardens are beautiful and I believe they are open to the public.
We were there at the end of October. Neither Varenna or Bellagio were busy. However, the day we were in Bellagio it was rainy so people may have stayed inside. Villa del Balbianello, was selling out their tickets for each time slot. We did only have to wait until the next tour.
We walked around a bit in Lecco. There was an interesting church and baptistry. There was a gelato shop with a very nice, helpful employee, right on the street along the lake.
Jay Thanks again for you very informative post We were in Florence
about 5 years ago and we are looking forward to being there again. We
did a day tour of Tuscany the last time but it was on a big bus and
the time we had in each town was not enough . hopefully we can find a
better smaller tour group or maybe a driver to take around Tuscany, we
want to find a winery tour that includes a lunch. I like the idea of
an Italian cooking class my wife loves to cook. Your other tips are
very helpful also we will check those out also. Are you renting a car
No car, never have rented a vehicle in to be 4 trips to Europe. Have heard on this forum repeatedly about tourists unsuspectingly driving into ZTL areas, license plate snagged by camera, and then 6 months down the line getting tickets in the mail for hundreds of dollars. Don't need that.
Also, for the most part trains are inexpensive and efficient--online booking in advance is key to savings. In 2015 we did Paris all the way to Salerno by train, stopping here & there along the way, and it was fabulous.
We try to take a cooking class each trip. Our first time, October 2010, a friend had told us about a guide Eugene Martinez, who set up a winery tour/cooking class at Montagliari in Greve-in-Chianti, drove us out there and it was wonderful. Sadly, Eugene has passed on and I believe the winery has been sold. We've also taken classes in Taormina, Sicily and Salerno. All of them have been private, which means more $$$, but worth it in my opinion. I think this time we'll do one in Rome.
Explore the lakeside towns and meet people! We spent 2 nights in Varenna about 10 years ago in early November and practically had the place to ourselves. Arrived early afternoon and walked around, had a delightful dinner at Il Cavatappi (RS recommended then as well as now), and enjoyed Limoncello on the terrace at our hotel (Royal Victoria). Next morning we took the ferry across to Menaggio, wandered and had breakfast. Then we ferried over to Bellagio for more exploring, lunch and shopping. Then back on the boat to Varenna. That evening we stopped in at Al Barilott - a great little pub, wine bar, cafe, shop, you name it. Had fun talking to the locals and in walked the only other two Americans we'd seen all day. Next thing we knew we had a party going on - a great time with our new friends!!!
Varenna is a perfect place to stay. We stayed at the Hotel Cipressi and it was lovely. It is a classic elegant hotel beautifully positioned over the water with lovely gardens. Varenna also offers the advantage of being on the train line. You can easily catch boats from Varenna that will take you to other lovely towns on the lake.
Tfo, we spent 10 nights or so based in Mezzegra (about a five minute walk from where Mussolini and Clara Petacci met their grizzly ends), so we had time to visit the villas at a relaxed pace. I like visiting castles, palaces, palatial homes etc, but I especially like gardens. For me, all the places I mentioned are worth visiting. If I had to choose one it would be Villa del Balbianello: unusually for me, I have some impressive photos in and from the gardens. On Google Maps it shows a path leading to it from Lenno: we took this path and it leads straight into a high wire fence. We were dropped off by the ferry, no reservation required as I remember (September or very early October?). The indoor is a guided tour, a free roam in the gardens.
As an aside, one of the previous owners of Balbianello, Count Monzino, is interred there. In the seventies he led an expedition to climb Everest but didn't make the peak himself because of ill-health (he was a three pack a day man). One of the surviving members of the expedition returns annually for a function. Apparently he is very handsome and all the women swoon over him. I have the same effect, it can be a burden at times.
Check out Villa Carlotta, the home and nice gardens. If I remember correctly, Serbonelli is a short guided tour of the estate, booked via the tourist office (not much of a garden but splendid views). I don't remember Monastero as being a guided tour, or that we spent too much time there. Melzi, on your own, more lawn, shrubs and non-flowery perennials, with very nice views. I liked Melzi, we had it to ourselves when we were there.
Re The Greenway. It is a nice walk, the majority of which is along village streets up from the main road by the lake. A fairly short but steep walk up from Lenno, if you start at the bottom end. As for Lenno, and the short time you have, it is small place and would be worth visiting on market day and a bite to eat.
Trotter, Il Cavatappi does not overlook the lake, you must be thinking of another place.
Sounds lovely! Hotel Olivedo is booked! Any other hotel suggestions?
CaliMom. One person on this Forum recommended Hotel Cipressii in Varenna . I was going to check that out if Hotel Olivedo was not available
Since you are staying in Varenna, I recommend the Villa Monastero - the botanical gardens are spectacular. Also, I had the best prosciutto mushroom pizza in all my time in Italy at Tutti Frutti in Varenna, which also has a nice view of the lake. Funny name for a restaurant, but no wait, great food, lovely view, good service, and a nice selection of desiderio wine. https://www.tuttifruttivarenna.com/
Also, the people of Varenna are the kindest people. Really appreciate RS suggestion for this town. The Milan train was so much better, and more scenic, than the Como city route. It was a lovely place.
I bought a ticket for the first ferry out of Bellagio as soon as I arrived. Spent all of an hour there. That place is far too crowded for the covid era. May I also recommend Menaggio? It’s only one ferry trip from Varenna. The promenade garden along the lake is gorgeous and the city has its own historic/artistic walking route with tons of history dating back to WW2. So interesting and not touristy at all. It was nice to end the walk with a coffee and pistachio cream brioche at Pasticceria Cassera Moretti.
I just happened to look up the timing of some markets around Lake Como yesterday, so I'll add the information here. Obviously, I cannot promise they will be operating this October (though I don't think they're summer-only markets) or what sort of goods you'd find. Some might be produce-only.
Again: This information is just from research, not personal experience. Some of my sources were not super recent. I suggest verifying locally if you're contemplating making a special trip somewhere to go to a market. And there may be other markets around the lake.
- Antiques market, Piazza Fedele: 1st Saturday of month.
- Craft and antique market, Piazza San Fedele: Saturday 0900-1900. Beside Basilica San Fedele. (Might be a reference to the same market listed above; maybe there's no longer a weekly market?)
- Food market, Via Mentana/Viale C. Battisti, outside Porta Torre: Tuesday and Thursday 0830-1300, Saturday 0830-1830.
- Organic food market, Via Ballari; 2nd Saturday of month March-December.
- Collector’s and antiques market, Piazza XX Settembre: 1st Sunday of month, all day. 50 stands
- Craft fair and antiques market, Lungo Iago Battisti: Sunday
- Farmers’ market, Fiera di Osnago: Saturday 0900-1700.
- Outdoor food market, Via Amendola: Wednesday 0830-1230.
- Mixed-goods market, Piazza XI Febbraio: Tuesday 0800-1300. Produce, roast chicken, clothes, household linens, etc. (RS Forum recommendation)
- Bi-monthly market: 2nd and 4th Friday morning of month.
- Weekly market: Wednesday morning; not sure of location but should be easy to spot.
- Antiques market, Piazza di Olivedo: 3rd Sunday of month April-October.
Thank you for your post, sounds like you had a very good time in Lake Como.
These are great recommendations, I hope we have time to visit all of your recommendations!
Especially the Pistachio cream Brioche!
Thank You everyone who shared their information about Lake Como, we cant wait to visit all of the places that were recommended and to eat and drink at all of the restaurants! So much great information!
We have stayed at Hotel Olivedo in Varenna a few times. The mid-lake location is perfect, the ferry landing is right outside the hotel, lake views from the rooms are awesome, and the family that runs the hotel is so warm and welcoming. Varenna is a nice town to walk around, especially the lakeside walkway from Hotel Olivedo to the center of the small town.
We love riding the ferry and visiting towns along the ferry routes. The ferry ride north from mid-lake all the way to Colico is very scenic, especially with views of snow-capped mountains in the distance. The ride south from mid-lake to Como passes many lakeside villas. We didn't find anything interesting in the ride south from mid-lake to Lecco.
Our favorite Lake Como towns to visit are Varenna, Bellagio, Menaggio, Lenno, Tremezzo, Griante, and Cadenabbia, all easily reachable on the mid-lake ferry route.