My boyfriend and I recently celebrated our third anniversary (yay)! We knew we wanted to go away for a long weekend to celebrate but had trouble choosing a location, especially when Europe in August is crazy busy and crazy expensive. We wanted a location that we both had never been to, that wouldn’t be over-crowded, that had beautiful scenery and great food. Oh, and also really romantic. As we only had three days we didn’t want to choose a destination that we had to rush around to see in time. We wanted it to be relaxing and small enough to explore with leisure. We chose Lake Como, Italy and it was PERFECT!!!! It definitely ticked all the boxes. So I thought I’d write you a little guide on how to make the most of exploring beautiful Lago di Como in just three short days!
HOW TO GET THERE
The glacial Lake Como, which stretches over 146 square kilometres, can be found in the Lombardy region in Italy’s far north. We flew to Milan Malpensa and then hired a rental car to drive the 1.5 hours to Lake Como. The highway was an easy drive but once you get to Lake Como the roads become very narrow and windy, I was practically having a heart attack the whole time. Whilst we loved having a car for the freedom to stop anywhere we liked if you are not the most confident of drivers I would recommend going by public transport. You can catch a train from Milan into Como city and then use either the public bus or boats to visit other towns along the lake. I would think both options would cost roughly the same. If you do hire a car make sure it’s nice and small to make your drive easier.
WHERE TO STAY
We decided to stay in two different parts of the lake so we could explore more of the area. As August is a busy time to travel in Europe, however, accommodation options were slim pickings, especially under a small budget. We ended up staying in Cadorna Chalet in Veleso, which was perfectly located halfway between Como City and Bellagio. The chalet was on top of a mountain in a cute and authentic Italian village with beautiful, panoramic views of the lake. It was very peaceful and the owner was so lovely and accommodating, even after waiting up for us until 1am as our flight was delayed. We loved the location as it was close enough to Como city to explore but far enough away from the hustle and bustle to make you really appreciate the peacefulness of being by the lake.
The next place we stayed was Albergo Europa in Bellagio. The rooms were outdated and very 80’s but the location was great and the breakfast was quite substantial.
WHERE TO GO IN LAKE COMO
Como is the biggest town/city of the Lake Como region and also the busiest. As it’s the gateway to the Como region you can’t visit the lake without spending a day in Como itself. I thought one day here was more than enough to see the sights and wander the streets and waterfront. Here are some places not to miss whilst in Como:
The Como Duomo (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta; Duomo di Como) is the Roman Catholic church of the area, and religious or not no trip to Italy is complete without checking out as many Cathedrals as you can lie your eyes on! The Cathedral was built in the 1400’s and is described as the last gothic cathedral built in Italy. As always, the Cathedral is located in the centre of town so you can’t miss it during your explorations of Como.
Ride the Funicolare
The Funicolare (cable car) is located in Brunate, a short walking distance from Como town. The cable car takes seven minutes to ride to the top, where you will be rewarded with gorgeous views over the whole Como region, from 700 metres above the lake. At only €5 we found it great value too. This was one of our highlights of our day spent in Como. Once you reach the top spend some time wandering around the viewing platforms and streets to explore some of the views. We went late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds, an hour was more than enough.
WHERE TO EAT IN COMO
For lunch we ate at Il Pomodorino as it was rated quite high on Trip Advisor under budget meals in Como city but I wasn’t overly impressed by the food.
The place we ate for dinner, however, Tres Rose was so delicious we ate again on our way back to Milan. It is in Nesso, outside of Como city, but it’s worth the visit. I highly recommend the Seafood Fettucine, the Ravioli and the Quattro Formaggi Pizza. The food was so delicious and the view was beautiful!
The tiny village of Bellagio is truly the pearl of Lake Como, often dubbed one of the prettiest villages in all of Europe. It is quaint, romantic and authentically Italian.
Lake Como is shaped in an upside down ‘Y’ shape, with Bellagio in the intersection of the three branches. Whilst Bellagio is beautiful it’s also tiny and I found one full day here more than enough. If you have time on your hands it’s the perfect location to base yourself for a few days of exploring the region with boats departing regularly for villages across the lake.
WHERE TO EAT IN BELLAGIO
For our night in Bellagio we ate at L’Antico Pozzo, a beautiful little restaurant with great service and scrumptious food. We had the Tortellini and the Four Cheese Pizza, both of which were delicious. One of the great bonuses of eating out in Italy is the complimentary bread baskets you always get too. We struggled to find a restaurant in Bellagio that served both Pizza and Pasta and was decently priced but this place ticked all those boxes and I would definitely eat there again.
Varenna was one of my highlights of this trip, I found the little town so pretty and serene. This is definitely the spot to have a romantic lake side lunch with a handful of lovely cafes located on the side of the ‘beach.’ The boat from Bellagio takes around ten minutes and costs €9 return.
WHERE TO EAT IN VARENNA
We had a romantic lunch at Nilus, which is situated on the ‘beachside’ of Varenna, overlooking the lakes and the mountains. This was the cheapest restaurant we ate at the entire time in Como but it was delicious, we had the Lasagna and Pizza to share. It has to be one of the most beautiful lunch views in the world and one which I’ll never forget.
Villa Carlotta is one of the most famous villas in the region. It was built in 1690 and spans over 17 acres. It features gardens, fountains and a villa with sweeping views of the peninsula. Everyone said it was a must visit but I was quite disappointed unfortunately, I did not think it was worth the €9 entry fee or the €9 boat from Bellagio to Cadenabbia. I also found Cardenabbia quite dull in comparison to the other villages I had explored. But that’s just me.
No trip to Italy is complete without Gelato, and a lot of it at that. On one particular day we had Gelato for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here were our top choices:
Gelateria Lariana is voted #1 on Trip Advisor for Gelato in Como city, resulting in queues out the door. Whilst the Gelato was very delicious (we tried the dark chocolate and strawberry flavours) I wouldn’t say it was the best Gelato of my life (that can be found here), though it definitely hits the spot on a hot summers day.
Gelateria Del Borgo is definitely the best Gelato store in the sweet little village of Bellagio (though I was surprised in the lack of Gelato stores in this little town, they could definitely do with more).
La Passerella serves delicious home-made and dairy-free Gelato on the shores of Varenna. The Mango was my pick.
Riva Gelateria sells gluten-free ice-cream, which is really great for those who have dietary restrictions. I liked the chocolate the best!
We had the most romantic, beautiful three days exploring the Lake Como region. It will always remain one of our favourite places we have ever explored. From the architecture, history, scenery and food it has everything and more. I hope this post inspires you to explore Lake Como, Italy too and that this guide will help you plan your adventure.