Visiting the Mid-Lake Region of Italy’s Lake Como
By Bill DeGiulio, Guest Author
The lakes region of northern Italy is well known to tourists and is an easy day-trip from Milan for those seeking to escape Italy’s second largest city. This region of Italy is known for its glamorous lakeside villages and stunning scenery, and of course the sometimes home of actor George Clooney. The three main lakes that comprise this outdoor paradise are Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Lugano. Lake Como gets most of the attention, but all three offer stunning scenery and are just a short train ride from Milan. Whether you are escaping for just a day or visiting for an extended period I think you will fall in love with this enchanting region of Italy just as we did.
What makes this area so enticing first and foremost is the absolute jaw-dropping scenery in this part of Italy? While Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano venture into Switzerland, Lake Como is the only one of the three to be totally contained inside the borders of Italy. Each lake offers its own distinctive aura, but the one constant is the magnificent view of the Alps that seem to rise up from the shores and frame every community in picture-perfect fashion. I’ve always been a lake’s and mountains type of person, but this area takes beautiful outdoor scenery to a whole new level.
Our most recent visit to Italy took us to the mid-lake region of Lake Como. Here you will find two of the lakes most beautiful communities, both visually stunning, but otherwise different in so many ways. The sleepy and
relatively unknown Varenna, and the glitzy and glamorous Bellagio, together they offer a little something for everyone. Varenna is located on the eastern shore of Lake Como with Bellagio just a short 15-minute ferry ride away. Bellagio has a prominent location perched at the point where the lake splits into two arms. The western arm leads to the town of Como, gateway to Lake Como while the eastern arm ends at Lecco, another charming yet lesser known lakeside community.
Varenna is the kind of place where I could easily spend a week or two, waking up each morning and strolling along the quiet, empty cobblestone paths that lead downhill to the waterfront. It’s too early in the day for the tourists to have arrived, and for a few moments, it is a blissful heaven. Even when the visitors do start to arrive, be it by train from Milan or via the ferry from one of the other lakefront communities, Varenna seems to have a quiet calm about it. There are a few touristy things to do here; you can tour the Villa Monastero and the Villa Cipressi, trek up to the Castello di Vezio that keeps a watchful eye over the village or visit the ancient Church of San Giorgio. Or, you can just relax over a leisurely breakfast or lunch on the waterfront while soaking in the views that never seem to quit. The ferry makes its scheduled stops in Varenna throughout the day so it’s a great hub to explore the other communities that line the lake. The one that everyone seems to want to visit is our next stop, Bellagio.
Just its name alone seems to conjure up images of the rich and famous. When I think of Bellagio my mind immediately gravitates to glamour, style, and of course Hollywood. It’s known as the Pearl of Lake Como, and to be honest I wasn’t sure if Bellagio would be to my liking. But, one can hardly ignore the lure of Bellagio so after a short fifteen minutes on the ferry, we came ashore for what would be a very pleasant surprise. Maybe I let my mind convince me that Bellagio was a place that only the rich and famous should visit, and as I am neither perhaps I thought I would feel unwelcome and somewhat out of place. What I can tell you is that Bellagio is beautiful, has wonderful cafes and restaurants, historic churches and villa’s, great shopping, and has some of the most friendly and down-to-earth people that we have ever met in Italy. Our time in Bellagio wound up being a wonderful experience. From walking its steep and narrow paths with breathtaking views of the lake to its picture-perfect waterfront we really, really enjoyed our time here. Maybe there’s a reason why Bellagio is so popular?
Our mid-lake adventure for the day complete it was time to plot our return to whence we came. As we rode the ferry from Bellagio to Como for the train ride back to Milan I found myself thinking, gee, we really need to return here for an extended period to explore the rest of the lake. Who knows what other pleasant surprises are awaiting us.
Ciao for now.
All images and text: © Bill DeGiulio 2018