Lake Como has been a family bucket-list item for quite a while now, partly due to its role in the latest series of James Bond films as Bond’s extravagant villa in Casino Royale. Milan’s close proximity to Como allowed us to plan a day trip along its famous Lake, visiting the towns of Lecco, Menaggio, Bellagio, Tremezzo, and Lugano in Switzerland, among others. My photos barely due the beauty of Lake Como justice; it truly is one of the world’s most beautiful landscapes.
Located an hour north of Milan, the city of Como is nestled between its namesake Lake and the Italian Alps. Although the lakeside communes of Lake Como are widely known as vacation (and residential) destinations for the rich and famous, the quaint and colourful town of Como is a tourist destination in its own right. To our good fortune, our tour guide/driver was a third generation local to Como and knew well where the interesting secrets were amongst the city. However, what was less fortunate was our timing: many of the beautiful villas and properties the guide wanted to give us a peek at had been reserved and closed off for Dolce & Gabbana events! Nonetheless, Como is home to many beautiful churches, villas, culinary destinations, and is the birthplace of some important historical figures – including Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the electrical battery. Just beyond Como, we stopped for lunch at the Hotel Fioroni in the small coastal town of Carate Urio. The hotel’s owner was so excited to share with us his autographed photos of George Clooney, who had frequented the restaurant during his stays in Italy. Among the six of us we shared a memorable meal of Italian staples: homemade gnocci, nut ravioli, spaghetti and meatballs, and tiramisu. With a view of Lake Como right outside the window, it was truly a picture-perfect lunch.
The entire drive along the Lake Como is absolutely breathtaking, though narrow – our driver pointed out how easy it is to spot the tourists in traffic, as they were the ones driving uncomfortably, meaning as slowly (and safely) as possible! Lake Como’s coastal towns are all quite similar yet they each have their own unique histories and characteristics. Tremezzo is where Benito Mussolini and his wife were shot and killed as they attempted to escape Italy for Switzerland after the collapse of Fascism. Lenno is home to the Villa del Balbianello, famous for its royal setting in Star Wars: Episode II. Menaggio’s ancient roots can be seen in the medieval architecture throughout the town, particularly in the remnants of the walls that once surrounded the city. Bellagio, which is a across the Lake from Tremezzo, is Lake Como’s most popular tourist destination, and is worth the ferry ride for it’s charming - albeit busy - streets and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Our road trip culminated in Lugano, Switzerland, our final stop before heading back to Milan. Situated westward of Lake Como, Lugano is home to Lake Lugano, a vast lake of similar beauty. What we immediately clued in on were the stereotypes of how costly Switzerland can be (a simple combo at Burger King was over $20 CAD!) – mind you, the chocolate was well worth the steep price tag. It was also interesting to note just how different Switzerland is from Italy, despite their close proximity and shared language in this particular region.
This tour through Lake Como was the highlight of my vacation. Italy is truly a fantastic destination for all types of travel enthusiasts: photographers, foodies, beach-goers, and adventurers.