On my first trip to Italy, I didn’t visit Milan, but that’s only because I visited Lake Como, instead. I thought it was the most beautiful and magical place I’d ever been. The weather was perfect, there were gardens everywhere, beautiful boats & lakeside views, the best lasagna I’d ever had, the best gelato, best… I always said I’d go back if I had a chance. So when we were planning our summer vacation this year with a start in Milan, I insisted we take a day trip to Lake Como, as well!
Jim had definitely heard me wax on and on about my love of Lake Como (and especially Bellagio), to the point where I even made him watch this Gwen Stefani video for “Cool” from 2005 (I had seen it shortly after I returned from Italy and it highlighted all the parts of the area I loved and made me miss Italy). After some mild convincing (Jim wants to see more new places with me, than places I’ve already been), Jim was on board for a quick trip, and I set out to find a way to tour the lake and stop off at Bellagio.
I found a tour through Trip Advisor or Travelocity here. For about $100/person, we were picked up in a large air-conditioned coach in Milan (about an hour from Como), driven to Como where we had about two hours to explore, then taken on a boat ride (ferry ride) around the lake with about a two hour stop in Bellagio, then back on the coach to Milan. I think doing a tour like this is worth NOT having to book train tickets, ferry tickets, and be pretty worry free. Plus, our tour guide (Nadia) was delightful.
There’s a really gorgeous moment when you’re approaching Como. You edge out of a tunnel and BOOM – an AMAZING view (below). It was a little cloudy (and incredibly humid) that day, but the vista is still incredibly breathtaking. Jim nudged me with a big smile and said, “Wow.” Right then, I knew it was going to be a magical day.
Our coach pulled around and nestled its way into Como and dropped us off. With some time to explore the city, we mostly wandered around the shoreline and the old town/historic district. Below is a photo of the main square (and one of the last Gothic cathedrals built in Italy) as well as a sorta bossa-nova music group (music always makes every place more charming), as well as some pretty tree lined streets.
Along the shore, things were a bit prettier and slightly breezy. Here we took a break to watch some water planes (not sure of the technical name) land and take off from just in front of the Tempio Voltiano. Won’t lie, it was pretty cool, neither of us had ever seen that before.
Our ferry departed just a few steps away from the Piazza Cavour, where we embarked upon our cruise around Lake Como. Our “tour boat” was really just a local ferry, which made various stops along the lake, and took about three hours (for us) to get to Bellagio, our final destination. We landed some seats on the top deck toward the front of the boat (fully shaded) and settled in for some pretty views and breezes. That’s when we noticed a mother/daughter duo who was on tour with us…they had purchased a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Genius, we thought. So, we followed suit and ordered ourselves a bottle with two glasses, as well (takes me back to my Alameda ferry rides). Sadly, we drank that bottle faster than we probably should have, but it was just so cold and refreshing.
A benefit of taking the tour was Nadia. She was a phenomenal tour guide with an even better sense of humor. Each person was given a headset (radio thing with one ear phone), where Nadia was always in your ear, whispering details about this or that villa, a movie that had been filmed there, the place where Versace lived, etc. However, I have to admit our favorite Nadia-ism was her absolutely amazing turn of phrase when speaking English with an Italian accent. She added an “eh” or “a” to the end of everything. Making every statement sound a little bit like a question. Even better was how she said speed boat – “speed-y boat-a.” I’ll wager she mentioned/pointed out at least 50 speed boats for X or Y reason, and each time it made both of us smile with the glee of a four year-old in a candy store.
Before we docked at Bellagio, I had asked Nadia for some lunch recommendations. She responded, “There are lots of touristy places along the water. You do not want to eat there, eh. I will show you some great spots where the locals eat, eh. There is a place where they cook the pasta in parmesan cheese. You will love it. Follow me when we get off.” Nadia took us to the Hotel Suisse Restaurant. It was amazing. From the street it looks like it might be a tourist trap, but it is 150 percent legitimate (Nadia ate lunch there, too, which says something). Jim and I ordered a morel risotto dish with asparagus (for two) as a starter followed by two fresh fish dishes. This was EASILY the best risotto I’ve ever had. It was so creamy, but not heavy. Absolutely perfect. While we were eating we saw at least four other tables order the pasta made in the giant wheel of parmesan (see below). If that doesn’t tickle your cheese-loving fancy, I don’t know what will.
After lunch we wandered into an antique jewelry store, as I had eyed the black cameos in the widow twice. On my first trip to Italy, I had no idea cameos were an Italian thing, even though I saw them EVERYWHERE. When I returned home my mother asked me if I’d bought any. I replied no and she midly scolded me. Since then, I’ve been collecting cameos (rings, pins, earrings, necklaces) and am happy to report I added a black cameo medallion to my collection. After my shopping excursion, we explored the town a bit before settling on some gelato (lemon and strawberry for Jim, lemon and tutti fruity for me…both refreshing).
After our gelato, we hopped back on another ferry (this one was carrying cars across the lake, as well), then hopped back on the coach and both promptly took a much needed nap, arriving back in Milan with time to explore more of the city.
Lake Como was gorgeous, Bellagio even more so. But my favorite part was sharing it with Jim. With Day two of our summer vacation complete, we were looking forward to visiting with Genevieve and Jared in Lugano!