Lake Como - View from the Inside

"For hundreds of years it has been a popular destination for the rich and famous, but there are plenty of things for the humble tourist, too."

April 2019 • Melissa Coates, Marketing Executive

Lake Como - View from the Inside

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear ‘Lake Como’? For me, George Clooney, magnificent villas, Aperol Spritz and picturesque backdrops all come to mind. There is hardly a place in Europe that evokes images of beauty, glamour and tranquillity more than Lake Como. For hundreds of years it has been a popular destination for the rich and famous, but there are plenty of things for the humble tourist, too.

There are three main places you’ll want to see on Lake Como: Menaggio, Bellagio and Varenna. Our base for the week is the lakefront town of Menaggio; the elegant lake promenade is the perfect place for a relaxing walk between flower beds and colourful houses. Don’t miss the chance to go aboard a boat to Bellagio and Varenna (15-30 minutes & payable locally) – Lake Como is even more beautiful when seen from the water!

Enjoy a private lake cruise to Villa Balbianello, one of the loveliest villas and gardens on the lake. This place has an incredible story; you probably know it best from the set of Star Wars or a James Bond film, but besides being a filming location, it was also the home of the Italian explorer Count Guido Monzino, who was the last person to live in this villa, and the first Italian to lead an expedition to Mount Everest. With a guided tour, you can go inside the house and try to discover all its secrets – you’ll find disguised passageways, hidden compartments, and trapdoors. One of its many oddities is the dome-shaped tree, which, until recently was trimmed by gardeners by hand every winter over the course of three weeks! It was specifically designed this way to preserve the view from the lake from inside the villa.

By bus we journeyed to Poschiavo where we boarded the famous Bernina Express for an hour long train journey, part of an optional day excursion to St. Moritz. From the comfort of your carriage with large panoramic sealed windows all the way to the roof, you'll see stunning variations in the landscape, and palm trees combined with snow – it's arguably the most scenic Swiss train ride train of all!

For those who opt for the optional day excursion to Milan, your guided tour will begin at Sforza Castle – the medieval fortress and ancient residence of the dukes of Milan, which is said to be the greatest Renaissance monument in the city and now houses several museums and important art collections. View the Scala Opera house, considered one of the most famous theatres in the world; and the famous Duomo complex – regal and imposing, the front view of the Milan Cathedral, complete with pigeons hanging out in the square, is easily one of the most iconic images of Milan. Light, airy, and pretty, the 19th-century Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a luxurious place to shop, with the glass ceiling giving the entire place a soft glow.

Back on Lake Como we enjoyed another private lake cruise to Villa Carlotta. The thing that stands out about Villa Carlotta is its expansive gardens with lots of different paths to take depending on how much time you want to spend there. There’s also an exhibit about the process of making silk. In addition, of course, is a lot of Renaissance art and classical-style statues. After your visit to the illustrious Villa Carlotta, you’ll enjoy an aperitif on the panoramic terrace of the adjoining Grand Hotel Cadenabbia.

Lake Orta is for those who like to be the first to discover hidden gems. This secret sister to the Italian Lakes is frequented by mostly the Milanese on the weekends and practically empty otherwise. On this optional excursion you’ll find the lake peaceful, with soaring mountains in the backdrop and misty low hanging clouds. Continue to the elegant town of Stresa, on Lake Maggiore which retains its Old World charm and romantic atmosphere. Of all Lake Maggiore’s towns, Stresa is the most famous – with magnificent views of the lake from here, the town has a lively cultural scene year round and is well-known for its musical events in the summer. Lake Maggiore’s main attraction is the Borromean Islands and the crown jewel of the trio is Isola Bella; famous for its villa and gardens, and the Borromean family threw lavish parties for famous figures throughout the ages – including Montesquieu, Napoleon and Josephine, the Prince of Wales and Ernest Hemingway. 

Lake Como is beautiful; there’s a reason it’s a popular tourist destination. The food is delightful, as you’d expect in Italy. Cruises on the lake are magical and we enjoyed the time we spent discovering its charming villas and characteristic small towns.

Experience the beautiful scenery and more for yourself on our Grand Hotel on Lake Como tour.

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