If you’re looking for a picturesque, relaxing Italian summer holiday, Lake Como is the place for you. Although its price point is a lot lower than the likes of my number 1 and 2 holidays, New York and Dubai, Lake Como firmly rests itself as my 3rd favourite holiday of all time. I absolutely loved it and think about it constantly and how much I’d love to go back. It’s like no where I’ve ever been before.
Getting there was probably the most stressful part. We flew to Milan Bergamo Airport (which we’d handily flown to before) from London and then caught the train from Milan Cadorna Station to Como Lago station which took around an hour. The trains in Italy are SUPER cheap but what they don’t make obvious is having to validate your train ticket before getting on. There are stampers dotted around the station to validate your ticket and if you don’t do that before boarding a train, and get caught, you will get fined by an inspector on the train. Luckily, the inspectors felt sorry for us so gave us the minimum fine of 10 euros but fair to say it wasn’t a great start! Como Lago station will get you to the south end of the lake and from there you have a number of choices depending on where you are staying on the lake.
The main places to stay are Bellagio, Mennagio and Varenna which form a triangle towards the middle of the lake. We were originally (I say originally, please refer to nightmare story in “Hotel” section below) staying near Menaggio and having looked at the long windy one lane roads decided to get the local bus rather than hire a car to get to where we needed to go. This worked pretty well albeit a little scary. The bus drivers really do have nerves of steel!
Hotel (which was a real life nightmare!)
So, the nightmare begins as we arrived at our first hotel near Menaggio. We had read about this hotel and had decided to go for it based on its low price point. There was a swimming pool, lovely chandeliers and grounds so thought it would be great. We had read a few nightmare reviews before about people turning up and the hotel not having any room available for them despite booking. We found this hard to believe and thought it might have just been administrative error for those guests and assumed that if we paid in advance, the likelihood of us not having a room would be pretty low. WRONG. SO WRONG. We arrived PRIOR to the check in time and was told that unfortunately they did not have any room for us. At this point, it felt like the world had imploded. We were in Lake Como, with no where to stay, on my boyfriend’s birthday and no flight back for another 4 days. Upon my outburst of rage, they offered to put us up in their sister hotel “just up the road”…. just up the road being up the mountain (with no footpaths to get back down). We arrived in the alternative hotel room (which could only be described as a greenhouse with windows for walls and was greeted by our very loud German neighbours, who could see directly into our room if we dared to open the curtains and absolutely no signal or wifi. I immediately decided this wasn’t for us and started phoning round other hotels and luckily found one on the other side of the lake that would take us. I told them we’d be there in an hour and told the hotel we were in (if you could call it a hotel, more like a nudist commune) where to stick it and asked that they take us (because we couldn’t walk ourselves!) back down to the lake side. We then caught a ferry to our next hotel, that we hadn’t even seen, in Bellagio.
It’s at this point, I’d like to say – everything definitely does happen for a reason – we arrived at our next hotel called Hotel Excelsior Splendide and let me tell you, this hotel was SPLENDID. It is a former 19th century palace slap bang next to the ferry terminal and all the main shops in Bellagio. We were taken to our room and was greeted with the most amazing view out of our window. We were so so so happy and relieved. Finally, the Italian summer dreamy holiday could begin…
Things to do
Explore the many towns of Lake Como
We spent most of time exploring the towns of Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna. This was super easy as each town has a ferry that comes every 20 minutes or so. It was lovely to spend a couple of hours in each town on various days and return back to the ferry port with no real need to look at timetables. The ferry trips were cheap and only took around 20 minutes to get to the next town. The ferry trips themselves were also a lovely way to see the lake and were never overcrowded.
Bellagio: This is where our hotel was so we spent a lot of time here. There are many shops here to look around and features lots of cobbled streets to explore. I would say this was my favourite of all of the towns as it had the most to see.
Varenna: This is situated in a cove on the lake and felt much more cut off from the world which in turn made it very dreamy and peaceful. There were lots of cute little eateries and shops that sold bespoke artistic pieces.
Menaggio: This town felt very much everyday and more practical rather than touristy. I think this would be the place to live if you were going to be a resident of Lake Como. We didn’t find this place too appealing as there was a busy road running through the middle which ruined the Italian charm somewhat.
Hire a speed boat (a compulsory recommendation! )
We couldn’t go to Lake Como without hiring a boat. There are several places around the lake to do this but I would definitely recommend booking this in advance if you want to make sure to do it. We got very lucky and managed to find a boat the night before by frantically phoning round at dinner. Another point to note is that this activity can be quite pricey but is 100% worth it. We paid 175 euros for 3 hours for our own speed boat and it was honestly one of the best 3 hours of my life. We were a bit concerned at the lack of safety talk – the guy just gave us the boat, didn’t offer any lifejacket, showed us how to go forward and steer and sent us on our way and before we knew it, we had a speedy boat and a whole lake to explore. My boyfriend is a sunbather so he spent most of his time at the front of the boat whilst I rampaged round the lake doing my very best to go as fast as I could without giving him whiplash. It was SO much fun. We drove round trying to find the biggest houses we could (including George Clooneys). I felt like I was in a James Bond film!
Eat eat and eat some more
When we weren’t in a gift shop, we were either eating or drinking something. In all of the towns, there are many different places to eat, many of which are lakeside. It felt like we would walk for 15 minutes before stopping off again for some more food. One night we just sat outside a bar drinking cocktails and watching the world go by which was so lovely. We also ate gelato three times in one day (which I think is perfectly acceptable in Italy… no?). I must admit I did struggle when it came to eating dinner as many of the restaurants had menus that were very fish-focused but I still managed to find plenty to eat.
I have to admit, there aren’t loooooooads of things to do in Lake Como other than walk round, look at the amazing landscape, eat some food and watch the world go by, but we really didn’t want to do more than that. My boyfriend loves a relaxing holiday while I like galavanting here, there and everywhere so this holiday was a great compromise. Of course, there are some famous spots such as Villa Carlotta, that we could have attempted but we weren’t too fussed. I feel like this gave us great freedom that you don’t normally experience with a city break style holiday and instead we got a long weekend of a dreamy Italian summer holiday. Take me back!
That was my long weekend in Lake Como! I recommend this place to anyone. I hope you enjoyed reading this. If you’ve been to Lake Como, I’d love to hear your thoughts!