Posted by: Kristie | February 16, 2010

Lake Como Snapshot

Traveled Oct. 14–17, 2009

Click to view all Lake Como photos

Our Observations/Info

Located in Northern Italy, Lake Como is where wealthy Italians (and others) spend the summer. George Clooney, probably its most famous resident, owns a house there and sadly one of the reasons we decided to go.

Don’t go in the off season, which starts in October. It was cold, had limited ferry service and just wasn’t as glamorous-seeming as it probably is in the summer. The beautiful people are not there in October. The plus side is there weren’t a lot of crowds and the rates were cheaper.

Shannon, Julie and I freezing on the ferry. Photo by Julie Plunkett

This is the one time renting our accommodations went awry. Our original lodging was a two-bedroom house situated on the lake, directly across from Clooney’s place (not that this fact influenced our decision). It was a little scary, too isolated and just not a good choice. Read all of the gory details.

If you’re not staying in one of the main towns of Varenna, Bellagio or Menaggio, having a car might be a good bet in the off season. The ferries run much less and on a limited route.

Check all ferry schedules — we ended up only using the one that took cars, not just the passengers.

We really liked Varenna. It housed the train station for the area, and it was charming, unlike the “fancy” Bellagio.

Shoreline of Varenna. Photo by Julie Plunkett

How We Got Around

Train from Cinque Terre to Milan. Cab to Milano airport to rent a car. Drove to Lake Como. Extremely glad we rented a car instead of relying on the reduced ferry schedule and bus. It would’ve been such a pain if we stayed in our original location. If you’re in one of the main towns, you probably wouldn’t need a car.

Once there, traveled to the different villages via ferry and car.

Where We Slept

Careno Rental via vrbo.com
Contact: Angelo
€60/night for 4 people
Stayed Oct. 14. Supposed to stay for three nights, but only stayed one. See Chaos in Como post for more info.

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Incredible price – only €15/person/night, but you definitely get what you pay for.
Large and spacious
A bit creepy due to its location, lack of acoustics and grotto off the bedroom.
Too far away from the main action of the area, especially for such a short trip.

Hotel Olivedo
€125/night (off-season rate)
Stayed Oct. 15–17

Hotel Olivedo in Varenna with our sweet little rental car.

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Great location, located across from the ferry dock and roughly a five minute walk from the train station.
Rooms were spacious and included a small balcony with a view of the lake.
Hotel also included a decent restaurant which was convenient and somewhat reasonable.
The owner is a little brisk and not overly friendly, but I think that’s just her manner. She was helpful when necessary.

Where We NomNom’d

Ristorante La Vista (Varenna) — This quaint restaurant was a bit of a climb from our hotel, but worth the hike. Rated the #1 restaurant on Tripadvisor, the place was quiet and intimate, and featured reasonably priced prix-fixe meals and a friendly husband-wife staff.

Restaurant in Hotel Olivedo (Varenna) — Although touted as one of the top restaurants in Varenna, our meal wasn’t very memorable. But it was convenient since this is where we stayed, and they made a great vegetable soup that was hearty and warming.

Gilardoni Alimentari (Bellagio) — A small shop for basic and delicious picnic needs with a decent fresh meat selection. We picked up buffalo mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, olives and some other goodies for snacking.

What We Did

Day trip to Switzerland — We thought it would be fun to take the bus over to Lugano, Switzerland, adding one more country to our trip. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would’ve chosen a more specific place, other than a random city that was nearby. The bus ride was quite an experience, packed with Italian teenagers on the way there and commuters on the way back — quite authentic and claustrophobic.

Large chess set in Lugano. Photo by Shannon Woody

Villa Carlotta — Out of Lake Como’s famed villas (which I had never heard about before I arrived), Villa Carlotta is supposed to be the best. Located a ferry ride away from Varenna in the town of Menaggio, the villa itself was beautiful but the gardens were the highlight.

The Grandiose Villa Carlotta. Photo by Julie Plunkett

What We Bought

Pashminas
Playing Cards

To view all photos, check out Lake Como Gallery

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