Lake Como, one of the world’s most beautiful places!
Autumn, fog and a little drizzle in the air adds no obstacle on our enthusiasm for the landscape and the architecture of the villages along Italy’s third largest lake, Lake Como. Lake Como extends 46 km north from the town of Como with a long arm from Bellagio to the city Lecco. Lake Como is located just north of Milan and is easily accessible from the airports in Bergamo and Milan.
Lake Como has always been and still remains a playground for the rich and famous. During summer there is a multitude of tourists here and the luxury hotels along the waterfront are fully booked. But we are visiting in October and it is quiet, most palaces are closed and the beautiful Rivera boats, otherwise crossings back and forth on the lake, are stored away for the winter. But ferries still run whatever the weather. You can choose between express or slow boat.
12 years ago I visited Como for the first time. I arrived with the local train from Milan, alone. The train rolled into the station and for me it seemed as if the train was heading straight into the sea. I sat in the first carriage and the beautiful Lake Como was like a revelation in which it extended northward, with steep mountains on both sides. On the mountain slopes and along the waterfront, the palaces one more beautiful than the other enthroned in different shades of sand colors.
Now I’m back in Como along with a nice bunch of ladies and we are going on a boat trip on Lake Como. Tickets are purchased at the ticket booth at the harbor. The harbor is in the town center and easy to find. We have decided to visit the small city of Bellagio, located about halfway on the way to the north end of the lake. Of course we choose the slow boat! Not bad with a sightseeing tour to just Euro 5.5.
At Lake Come the steep mountains that plunge straight into the sea as in a Norwegian fjord, are carefully studied and we want to catch all the stopovers in the small villages along the way. We defy the sour wind and are sitting on the top deck with stunning views in all directions. Now and then we run downstairs to get warmed up. Many of the ferryboats offer simple food, beer and wine, but out of season, we must do without.
More information about timetables for boats on Lake Como can be found here.
The ferry is approaching Villa del Balbianello and sails close to the beautiful palace that today is a museum and a popular spot for wedding receptions. If we had time we could have gone off the boat in Tremezzo and walked out to Villa del Balbianello and received a guided tour. Seeing the magnificent palace from the seaside is not a bad substitute. In 2006 parts of the Bond movie Casino Royal was filmed at this location. Agent 007, then played by Daniel Craig, stayed here in a hospital to recover. Originally, the palace was built for Cardinal Angelo Durini.
We are not many passengers on board and most are tourists like us. Locals normally use the express boats when they travel is back and forth on the lake. On the slow boat on the other hand, the cameras are used frequently and it’s not just we who express enthusiasm over and over again and sighs deeply “Oi, this is so beautiful!” The clouds are low and hovering around the peaks and prevent us to see the Alps in the north. But as compensation, we experience a magical atmosphere in the well 2-hour ride from Como to Bellagio, also known as the pearl of Lake Como. Not difficult to understand. The city grows up the mountain slope and has a road system where the narrow streets that go upwards is paved and not accessible to vehicular traffic, while the streets that crosses horizontally are slightly wider and amazingly – open to cars. We must repeatedly push our self up the walls to avoid being overrun, and this confirms our prejudices about impatient, Italian drivers.
Bellagio is situated on a promontory just where Lake Como shoots out an arm and makes the lake look like a Y turned upside down. In Bellagio we enjoy the old town and shopping in stores with beautiful silk products and other local goods. I think with horror how the busiest tourist season is here, when one most certainly goes in line through the narrow streets.
Many cafés and shops are located along the promenade in Bellagio and it is a pleasant place to sit and watch people while enjoying a coffee or a glass of wine. Go south on the promenade and you will arrive at Villa Melzi, which is known for its botanical garden. The house itself is closed to the public, but the garden is open and definitely worth a visit.
We sit down and eat Italian pizza and are enjoying a last glass of Italian red wine, before we take the express boat back to Como. In the express boat there is no opportunity to sit on the deck to enjoy the view, it runs at full speed and the water is surging up over the windows and is obstructing the view. But we are satisfied with both the food and the appearance and some of us are already planning the next trip to Como and Lake Como, but may be in a warmer season.