A few weekends ago, I was lucky enough to visit the shores of Lake Como to do some cycling with SaddleDrunk. In a word, it was absolutely magical. I didn’t think anything would even come close to rivalling the otherworldly sights I experienced earlier this summer in Bali and Lombok. But I was oh so wrong. Como is the definition of picturesque; the coupling of quintessential Italian architecture and tiny side streets with the impressive scale of the surrounding mountains and lake itself, is breathtaking. It was as though we’d walked straight into a painting.
“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for.” Ray Bradbury
I hadn’t been to Italy for a couple of years, since I visited Venice, Florence and Milan whilst inter-railing with my gorgeous cousin, which brings back fond memories of pizza, pasta and gelato; the authentic Italian dining experience, shall we say. This was something we planned to take full advantage of again this time around, particularly since we’d be tackling some serious hills on the bike. But before I do a post talking a bit more about those climbs, here’s a few things to do in Lake Como whilst you’re there. Because it’s somewhere you absolutely have to put on your bucket list.
FIND THE BEST VIEW OF THE LAKE
We flew to Milan and hired a car from the airport – a Fiat 500, what else can you hire in Italy?! – and drove the 1h30 minute drive to Bellagio. Although the road is extremely narrow in places and feels somewhat more perilous every time you meet a local, it is a spectacular journey. The lure of Lake Como can be felt the minute you set eyes on it. Everywhere you look there’s clusters of colourful, terra-cotta villas nestled in the foothills of enormous mountains with buttery-smooth peaks. Whether you drive, cycle or walk up these hills, do it to get the best view of the lake you possibly can. It’s so worth it.
GO SHOPPING IN BELLAGIO
We stayed in a beautiful apartment in Bellagio for the weekend, which is renowned as the most picturesque town in Como. Although granted a little more expensive, it truly is the jewel of the lake. Everywhere felt totally authentic and the streets are so small we could barely get the car down there! But they form an intricate maze of beautiful silk shops, art galleries, gelatarias and restaurants that you could spend hours getting lost in.
HIRE A BIKE
This was one of the highlights of the trip for me – obviously! One of the things I love most about riding a bike is that it can give you a totally different perspective on a place and allows you to see more of somewhere than you ever would otherwise. We hired our wheels from Carlo and Enrica at Il Perlo, a wonderful bike hotel just outside the centre of Bellagio with incredible panoramic views of the lake. I’ll do a post on the trials and tribulations of the route we took, so look out for that if you’re interested to see our elevation gain! *wince*
EAT PIZZA EVERY DAY
Because when else is there ever an excuse?! Don’t get me wrong I love all kinds of food, but there’s something really special about pizza. And in Bellagio, there is some seriously good pizza. We were famished when we arrived and stumbled through the door of the first pizza restaurant we found, which actually turned out to be our best pizza of the whole weekend. The restaurant looked something like the photo below; look for BARCHETTA in big red lights; this must have been all we could see in our haze of hanger! We also paid a visit to La Grotta – which comes up top for ‘Best Pizza in Bellagio’ on TripAdvisor and Albergo Ristorante Europa, which had a really beautiful view al fresco. I think we’d also recommend heading to Babayaga, although we unfortunately didn’t have time to squeeze this in ourselves!
SWIM IN THE LAKE
We were so lucky to be able to use the swimming pool and private beach at Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni throughout the duration of our stay in Bellagio. And even luckier to have access to their diving board!
TAKE THE FERRY
The small towns that line the shores of Lake Como are interconnected by ferry and on our second night, we hopped on the boat to Tremezzo. The ferry ride itself is something I would really recommend since it gives you such a fantastic view of the lake. It’s also super quick – you can be across the other side in minutes.
HAVE DINNER AT AL VELUU
I’d pre-booked a table before our trip at Al Veluu, one of the most famed restaurants on the lake not only for it’s food and traditional charm, but also for this view. It was absolutely spectacular. We had courgette flowers with mozzarella and salted lake fish with polenta to start, then steak tartar and beef for main. It was some of the best food in the best setting that I will ever have, I’m sure. And if the photo doesn’t prove it, Mark Zuckerberg himself had dinner there the night before!
TRY EVERY SINGLE FLAVOUR OF GELATO
Surely one of the top things to do in Lake Como. Because, well, why wouldn’t you? A quick shout out to hazelnut, pistachio, gingerbread and banana, all which we rated very highly among our many gelato stop-offs over the weekend. My personal favourite flavour – ever- is Cremino which I have only ever come across twice; once in a tiny side street off of the Duomo in Florence and secondly, in Milan Malpensa airport, of all places! It’s some dreamy combination of chocolate, hazelnut, peanut, almond and chocolate ganache. Unbelievable. I think it’s safe to say we returned back to the UK after eating our entire body weight in ice cream.
If you get a chance to visit Lake Como, do. It’s one of the most mesmerising places I’ve ever been to and I very much hope to go back one day.