Our journey from Milan airport to Lake Como was hijacked by our car’s navigation system, which insisted on a circuitous route that turned a projected ninety minute journey into four hours. We’re familiar with this behaviour from our trip to Europe four years ago, and this was a timely reminder to manually check every proposed route.
Lake Como is a steep-sided glacial lake near the Swiss border, ringed by narrow tortuous roads and navigated by car and passenger ferries which service the many beautiful lakeside towns. We started our Lake Como adventure at Bellagio, regarded as the jewel of the lake.
Crossing the lake to Varenna on the car ferry, we drove down to Abbadia Lariana where we’d booked a motel room in the motor camp. It was a great spot, right on the lake front, and we extended our stay to three nights to get the most out of our Lake Como experience.
On Tuesday we explored Varenna, then took a ferry across the lake to explore Menaggio. A short bus ride took us to Cadenabbia, and we walked back to Tremezzo and visited Villa Carlotta, one of the many lakeside villas now open for public tours. That evening we enjoyed one of the best meals we’ve had in Italy at Mama Cuccio in Mandello del Lario.
We were so taken with Madello del Lario that we returned the next day – Wednesday – to look around. The town is the birthplace of Moto-Guzzi motorcycles, and introduced us to roadside milk and water vending machines. We didn’t try the milk, but we can vouch for the quality of the water, available still or sparkling for just €0.05 a litre.
From Madello del Lario we drove up the western side of Lake Como to Bellano. Unfortunately the town was closed for lunch: everything comes to a halt from 12.30pm to 3.00pm. We then drove down the inland valley that parallels the lake to Lecco. There was a lot of industry in this valley, but also mountain hamlets with a very Swiss appearance.
It’s not surprising that Lake Como has been a favourite destination of the rich and famous for several centuries. It’s beautiful. We were lucky in our choice of accommodation: the motor camp was a small, family run operation with a cafe that served good food. Our unit was tiny but more than adequate. We’d recommend buying a day ticket for the ferries: this would have saved us a few euros. Several of the lakeside towns have “tourist trains” which provide an informed commentary along a well-chosen route. We took one of these in Bellagio, and thought it was good value. Personally I most enjoyed the less tourist-focused areas, but everywhere we’ve had the opportunity to visit has been well worth while.