There are a few things I look for in a romantic vacation: tranquility, good wine, delicious food, nature and, of course, a view. Yep, I´m quite demanding when it comes to romance, lol. Still, there are some places in this world which hit all of these notes easily and offer even more. Lake Como is definitely one of them.
Only about one to two hours from Milan (depending on your target city), Lake Como is an oasis compared to the big agitated fashion capital. The first glimpses of the calm lake, the big surrounding mountains and the charming little towns are already very exciting and relaxing. I immediately fell into the laid back mood I heard Italy is all about. All I needed at that moment was that pure air, a Mediterranean style terrace and a slice of pizza…
But, first things first: before we talk about food (hard to hold myself back here!), let´s talk about the basics: where to stay. Though there are many towns to choose from around the lake, we picked Como, which was a fairly easy decision for us. Our choice was based on 2 things: the proximity to Milan´s airport – our point of entry in Italy – and the Hilton Hotel located there, which, apart from having a great reputation, offered a beautiful terrace overlooking the region. Sold.
By the way, we didn´t know this before we arrived, but the Hilton Hotel Lake Como has a well known spa which is also competing at the world luxury spa awards 2019. Though it wasn´t a criteria we took into consideration to choose our accommodation, you might want to choose a hotel with a nice spa in case you feel like maximizing your unwinding experience. I normally don´t do spas, but there was something about Lake Como that made me want to put on a robe and enjoy a foot massage before hitting the town center for a glass of wine. Don´t say I didn´t warn you 😉
Aside from the city of Como, other choices around the lake that you should consider are Bellagio, Lenno, Moltrasio, Torno, Argegno, Varenna and Menaggio. If you are looking for something less touristy, I would recommend to avoid Como and Bellagio. You would still be able to reach these towns by ferry/taxi boat/car relatively easily from other points around the lake in order to enjoy their shops and restaurants. Though we usually go for the less touristy option as well, we thought that by traveling to Italy during low season (November to March) we would avoid the crowds anyways. And we did! Just keep in mind that, despite Como and Bellagio not being so busy during low season , these places will generally be busier than the other ones mentioned above.
We were very happy having chosen Como as our base for the two and a half days we spent at the lake. Como is a very lively town, with several street markets, stores, restaurants and wine shops. Oh, the wine shops…I mean, it´s Italy, so you can expect to find good wine basically everywhere, even if you go to a small pizza place. Still, the wine shops usually offer a special selection and you can count on a sommelier/connoisseur to help you choose based on your taste. This can make all the difference (let´s just say that Mathias and I had some misses when choosing on our own!). You can also order a selection of delicious cold cuts to pair with the wine.
In Como, our favorite wine shop was definitely Enoteca da Gigi. The prosciutto we ordered melted in our mouths and the wine…well, it was so good we drank 5 glasses….EACH. Whatever you order, you also get a sample plate of bread with different spreads and salami (the salami was super yummy, by the way!). Other places in the city of Como where you can enjoy good wine and tapas is Il Ducato and Pronobis, both in the historical part of town.
The old town of Como is such a delight to walk around. I found the narrow alleys specially charming at night, when the stone streets are illuminated by faint yellow lights, adding magic to every scene your eyes catch….a smiling white-haired man behind the counter of an old pasta shop…a very elegant woman with bright red lipstick entering a Valentino store…a man with spiky hair cutting the hair of a client inside a vintage beauty saloon…Everything just seemed to me like out of the “Eat, Pray, Love” movie. And I mean this in a very positive way, of course!
Talking about Italian clichés, you should stop by Gelateria Lariana for super creamy ice cream. I always (no exception!) go for pistachio when in Italy, since it´s so hard to find ice cream made out of real pistachio anywhere else. But I also had a taste of Mathias fruit flavors and it was really good as well. This Gelateria is located right in front of Lake Como, which makes everything taste even better! 😉
The best feature of Lake Como is definitely its natural beauty. You should reserve time just to stroll around the lake, or even stay seated taking in your surroundings. Since we had a car, we visited other towns by driving, but, if we had had the time, I would have loved to have taken a boat ride as well. Here you can find everything you need to know about traveling by water in Lake Como.
If water is not your thing, you can keep your feet on the ground and still enjoy nature by strolling through beautiful properties like Villa Serbelloni, in Bellagio (they will be reopening next month). From Como you can also take a funicular up to the town of Brunate and enjoy the breathtaking views….Though I don´t like to spend much time inside while visiting places with such natural beauty as Lake Como, there are options for every taste. You can, for example, visit some museums like the Historical Museum Giuseppe Garibaldi, or some of the region´s many churches, like the beautiful Como Cathedral.
To make the most of your vacation, you should definitely plan day trips to other towns around the lake. They are all gorgeous! Each have their own charm and stunning views. For example, from Como, we could not see the snowy Swiss Alps we could see from Bellagio, which was probably the most impressive sight we saw on this trip. Bellagio was also our favorite city around the lake, with a nice mixture of lovely empty narrow streets that lead down to the lake and busy sunny terrace cafés with impressive panoramas. It was a shame Mathias and I had already gone over the bucket with wine the night before, or else we would have loved to sit down at one of the many cute wine bars/restaurants there for a nice glass of wine overlooking the lake. Though we did not drink, we did have lunch at Antichi Sapori and we were very happy with our meal. It was simple, authentic, flavorful and we thought the price was fair, which is hard to find in such touristy areas.
If you are thinking of renting a car to explore the region, I highly recommend so. We very much appreciated the freedom the car gave us, saving us from depending on boat schedules. We also thought it was the most economic way to travel around, since a cab to Como from Milan airport would not have been cheap. Besides, the drive around the lake is very scenic and enjoyable… The only thing I forbid you to do (really, you are forbidden!) is to drive up to Brunate. Take the funicular or the van they provide when there´s a problem with the tram, but don´t drive up. The streets there are the narrowest I have seen, which makes it a nightmare for cars coming from both directions. I actually couldn´t believe my eyes when I saw those streets were two-way streets! Now I understand why Italians make some very compact cars!
I started this article by saying that Lake Como is the perfect couple getaway. Yes, it is! But it is also perfect for families with children, dogs or even a relaxing vacation for one. Why not? This “lake therapy” would definitely do everybody good!