Did you know Lake Como is only about an hour’s ride from Milan? There are numerous grand villas that line Lake Como. Taking the slow ferry gives you a glimpse at a few!
Villa Balbianello in Lenno is one of the most scenic residences on the lake and is famous for its terraced gardens. It was originally built for Cardinal Angelo Durini and sits high up on a hill overlooking Bellagio and the lake. The Loggia Durini is a popular wedding venue. This location has made its way into a variety of movies like Casino Royale and Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones.
Grand Hotel Tremezzo besides being a magnificent hotel has a floating pool! This historic property was recently renovated and very popular on the Lake. Enjoy the restaurants or the spa. Terrace dining has you looking over to Bellagio. While here be sure to stop next door and visit Villa Carlotta. Built in 1690 it features a lovely Italian garden. Again, if you are taking the ferry to Bellagio or Varenna you can hop off in Tremezzo to visit here.
Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is another lovely spot to stay, just lunch or grab a drink. The Villa was built back in the 15th century. The park is not part of the property and the Gardens at Villa Melzi are time better spent.
Villa D’Este originally had a female convent on this site but it was later demolished to make way for a private residence. It too has beautiful gardens. In 1873 it was converted into a hotel and it has seen the likes of many celebs!
If you visit Bellagio be sure not to miss the famous gardens of Villa Melzi. The gardens are open to the public but the 19th century neoclassical villa is not. It is said these gardens were a favorite spot for Franz Lizst, the famous composer and pianist and quite possibly where he wrote one of his most famous pieces, ‘Dante Symphony’. This Villa was built to be the summer residence of Francesco Melzi d’Eril, one of Napoleon’s men.
As you enter you come upon this serene Japanese inspired garden and the Grotto.
Next you encounter the Moorish Pavilion with its sculptures and cypress trees. A pretty spot to rest a minute or just hop out of the sun. The views both north and south are lovely.
Farther along towards the Villa is a lovely Plane (Plantanus x acerifolia) tree lined path with modern benches. A quiet spot to enjoy the views of the lake and the towns across.
Right in front of the Villa is the Terrace and Lake Landing. The columns frame the views toward the Swiss Alps.
As you wind your way around you link back to the beginning via a series of paths lined with specimen trees and statues.
This lovely village on Lake Como is known for its steep, narrow, stair lined cobbled streets with insane views of the lake. It is one of the most popular stops for tourists visiting the area along with the towns of Varenna and Como.
Bellagio is located at the junction where the “Y” shaped lake divides into two branches. Take it slow, walk around the lanes, stop for a spritz, check out the shops. Don’t miss Villa Melzi gardens or Villa Serbelloni or just walk out of town and explore. Be prepared though!!!! We did this and GPS didn’t work to well to get back into town and we really walked and walked and walked! Dead end after dead end.
The old town center faces the west branch of the lake and is lined with cafes and shops at one end is Villa Serbelloni.
Warning!!! Wear comfortable shoes as there are lots of stairs to access the higher part of the town.
In the center of town you’ll find Piazza della Chiesa and the bell tower of the Basilica of San Giacomo, a Romanesque church that can be seen from everywhere.
Even if you aren’t staying overnight you can have a very special lunch at many hotels. We walked out of town and stopped in at Hotel Belvedere with breathtaking views of the east branch. Lunch was incredible!!!! Hotel Belvedere overlooks the eastern branch of Lake Como and the views here are towards Lierna to the south and towards Fiumellate to its north. Either the dining room or the adjacent patio provide breathtaking views. Hard to believe we had the patio to ourselves while a few guests enjoyed the pool and sun deck. Many hotels welcome non-guests for meals. It is a way I have found to experience a locale I might not be able to afford. Also I don’t know about you but I hate hotel hopping! This kills two birds with one stone!
We took a day trip from Como via the ferries that run daily from Como. Bellagio is an easy day trip. The slow ferry takes 2 hours and makes multiple stops along the way and you can hop on and off to explore. There is also a fast ferry. We took the fast ferry back to Como late afternoon. Get to the docks early and make sure you are at the right one!!! Just sayin’! You might want to stop in Tremezzo to see Villa Carlotta or in Lenno to visit Villa Balbianello. There are many small lovely towns to explore.
While in Como check out the silk! Como is one of the best places to buy silk in all of Europe!
In upcoming blogs I will show you some other sights like Villa Melzi’s gardens and Villa Balbianello.
There are so many things and places to experience on Lake Como that I could go on and on! Here are a few more sites from the city of Como located only an hour by train from Milan and perfect spot to call home base for visiting the lake.
Basilica di San Fedele – Romanesque dates to 1120
Volta Museum-dedicated to the inventor of the electric battery
On the shores of Lake Como in the town of Cernobbia is the 16th century Tivoli Palace named, Villa D’Este. This former palace from the Renaissance era was converted to a high end hotel in 1873 and consists of the Villa and a 25 acre park. Be prepared for stunning views of Lake Como!!
Also on the shores of Lake Como in Como is the Hotel Albergo Terminus which dates back to the 19th century. The views of the lake are fabulous and its central location in the historic center next to Piazza Cavour, the piers , the funicular and a small train station makes it very convenient.
Travel to any town in Italy and you will find beautiful churches. The Como Cathedral as it is known, is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and dates back to 1396. Architecturally fascinating, it mixes Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque features. This is a very important Gothic church in Northern Italy. This Roman Catholic cathedral stands in the Piazza del Duomo a lovely spot to people watch, have a drink or just hang out!
The Cathedral features a Rose window and a very impressive green Rococo cupola dome. The main portal stands between statues of Como natives as well as sculptures of Adam and Eve. The exterior also has sculptures of five other saints. Near the Rose window you will see a statute of God surrounded by other statues.
The cathedral has ancient tapestries and paintings and is worth a stop inside.
The Coin department store near the Piazza has a cafe on the roof with lovely views of the Cathedral.
Lake Como sits near the foothills of the Alps on the Italian-Swiss border and is only an hour by train from Milan. The city of Como makes a great home base to visit the other major towns on this lake like Bellagio and Varenna but there are many special towns lining this lake. If you can, hop the slow ferry getting on and off checking out towns like Cernobbia, Lenno and Tremezzo.
Well Portofino is probably the most photographed fishing village on the Italian Riviera! Whatever you have in mind, relaxing is in store since there is not much to actually DO here! Be prepared to just stroll around the boutiques, the harbor and walk up to Castello Brown maybe and of course, don’t forget people watch!
The yachts that grace this picturesque harbor are luxurious to say the least but it is also full of small fishing boats. Don’t forget this was always a fishing village!
It is worth the short hike up to Chiesa di San Giorgio and Castello Brown. The views from both spots will not disappoint you!
Chiesa di San Giorgio has had a commanding presence over Portofino and the Ligurian Sea since it was constructed in 1154 or perhaps even earlier. This Romanesque church was sadly bombed during WWII and then reconstructed in 1950.
Castello Brown was well suited as a defensive site and was used as such since the 15th century. There are 2 methods to ascent to the Castle. You can walk up the steep staircase or take the winding path up. We walked up the stairs and down the path which opens up the best panoramic views of this town.
Don’t miss a chance to walk around this picture perfect town! The brightly colored buildings just beckon you in. Sit and sip in the Piazzetta or at a seaside bar in the U-shaped harbor or grab some gelato, always a favorite.
Don’t miss the Chiesa di San Martino in town with its beautiful bronze doors is just up the hill off the Piazza. Note the mosaic on the landing made from rocks gathered on the shore.
Portofino is a very convenient day trip from Genoa, Milan, the Cinque Terre or the towns just above it of Santa Margherita Ligure and Rapallo. We made Santa Margherita Ligure our home base to travel the Riviera heading to The Cinque Terre, Portofino and exploring the wonderful town of Santa Margherita Ligure.
If you are looking for luxury; look no further in Portofino than the Belmond Hotel Splendido. This is a luxury hotel built in the 1920’s and sits on a hill overlooking the sea and its lovely gardens.
This is one of the longest running events on the Formula One circuit and has been held continuously since the World Championship was introduced back in 1950. With the exception of one year it has been held in Monza, IT just outside Milan since 1922 when the Grand Prix was established.
When you arrive the Fan Zone is a place to have fun while waiting for the events to begin including music, old cars and games and of course: FOOD and DRINKS!
They had some of the original race cars on display. How far technology has come but these cars are gorgeous! So fun to look back as we enjoy today!
This year Kimi Raikkonen held the pole position but sadly Ferrari couldn’t close the deal and Lewis Hamilton on the Mercedes team took the prize. That did not make the crowd (Tifosi – pronounced [ti’fo:zi] the Italian word used to describe a group of supporters in sports) happy or my husband who was rooting for Ferrari and Kimi! The Ferrari team has actually won the most times: 19 to be exact but Michael Schumacher is credited with the most individual wins and widely considered one of the greatest Formula One drivers ever.
Italians are fanatic about their Ferrari team and the crowd (Tifosi) enthusiasm is infectious from the flag waving to the chants!
I highly suggest you do not ask your spouse or significant other what is the one thing they would love for their birthday (a big one!) anywhere in the world. My husband said the Italian Grand Prix as he has been a car racer himself and a major racing enthusiast his whole life. So off we went — of course, with some negotiation I got to stay in Italy fo 2 weeks!!
The race starts with a fly over by the Italian Air Force showing the Italian colors in the airstream. Sadly it was over the roof in the stands where we were sitting.
The race, for those who have never been to a Grand Prix, is crazy fast!!! I mean up to 210 mph!!!!! The circuit is 3.6 miles long. Luckily we had seats right between the start and the finish line.
Of course, getting there was an adventure in itself! First we had to catch a train from Milan to Monza, then a shuttle bus from the train to the park and then a crazy long walk to get into the arena and then do it all in reverse at the end of the race. Whew!!!
I will say it was quite a challenge getting tickets for Formula One as tickets are not actually printed until right before the race so we were going a little nuts trying to get them to the US before we left for Italy. Food there is a challenge as are the “facilities” but we had a great time in spite of the inclement, cold weather. Figures the only day in our 2 weeks that was not sunny and warm.
There were races all day thankfully since we got there first thing in the morning and there was even a Porsche Cup Event race in between the Formula Two and Three and Formula One events.
There is even a Ferrari store in Milan at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele where you can grab your Ferrari gear and look the part before the race! Of course, we were sporting our Ferrari shirts 🙂
All and all I would say a very happy hubby and a well deserved birthday present. If you get the chance to go to any major sporting event the crowd excitement is infectious and a ton of fun albeit very expensive!!
Recently I had an opportunity to travel to Milan and the Italian Grand Prix in Monza. I only spent a few days in Milan near the Piazza del Duomo while starting my exploration of the Lombardy region.
Milan is the capital of the Lombardy region in Northern Italy and is surrounded by the famous Lakes region. This city is usually associated with fashion, travel, finance and of course, architecture!
Milan’s Gothic Cathedral towers over the Piazza del Duomo and is the 3rd largest in Europe and the country’s second largest behind St. Peters. On one side of the Piazza you will find The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele with its shops, all sorts of entertainment and rooftop bars and restaurants.
The impressive enclosed shopping arcade known as The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele features high end shops, like Gucci, Prada, Versace, Ferrari and Louis Vuitton. The 19th century Belle Epoque domed ceiling is the crowning piece of architecture.
The Galleria was the first building in the city to have electric lighting!!
The paintings at the base of the dome represent Europe, Asia, Africa and America.
The Cathedral has stood on this spot in Milan for 2000 years. It has fifty-two 100′ pillars which represent weeks of the year.
Don’t miss the chance to walk up to the roof and marvel at the 2245 marble statues and 135 marble spires that adorn the church. The white marble was quarried in the nearby lakes region of Lake Maggiore.
Milan’s streets radiate out from the Duomo stretching out to its very contemporary financial district.
If you are in this region be sure to find a day to visit Milan!