And we’re finally at the last post of Europe 2016 (here are one and two). As I mentioned, we took a train to Lake Como for two nights in the beginning of our trip (after spending one night in Zurich). Lake Como was at the top of my travel wish list for years…my parents and I took a train through when I was younger and ever since then, I’ve been desperate to make it back for an actual stay.
You may have heard of Lake Como associated with George Clooney–he’s had a house there for years–and it’s a favorite vacation spot for wealthy Europeans, particularly in the summer. Even in November, the area was stunning (hence the insane amount of pictures in this post!); we had our doubts about going so deep into the off-season, but it actually worked out quite well. The main thing to keep in mind is that a lot of the smaller towns are practically shut down this time of year, meaning hotel options are seriously limited. We stayed at Albergo Terminus in the main part of Como, and it was one of the few hotels open that time of year.
While lodging options were pretty limited, the town itself wasn’t totally empty. There are the year-round residents, and there were definitely some tourists who, like us, were likely taking advantage of the off-season deals. What surprised me is that food wasn’t actually that expensive there, especially compared to Switzerland…for instance, our first lunch cost less than $25 and we each had an entire pizza and a drink. There were definitely times where it felt a little eerily quiet–one night walking to dinner, we were pretty much alone on a couple alley-like streets–but we’d been told that the main part of town is known to be very safe year-round.
Peek into our hotel room…so cute, right?
Upon arriving in Como, we checked into the hotel, had lunch, walked around, and freshened up before heading to dinner at Bellavista Boutique Hotel e Ristorante, a popular restaurant all the way at the top of a hill. The hotel recommended it and said it’s a “can’t-miss” place for the views, so we hopped on a cable car and went to check it out. The place was so empty when we got there, which was weird, but eventually five or six more parties showed up. It’s really crazy to think that the whole town and surrounding town are jam packed for half the year! Luckily the views didn’t disappoint despite it being nighttime.
Bellagio starts here!
Recapping some of the above to share more about where we stayed, what we did, and where we ate.
We stayed at the Albergo Terminus in Como (the main part) which was one of the few hotels open in the off-season. It worked out really well because this is definitely a nicer hotel that’s pricey in the summer, but the rates in November were a fraction of the price. The hotel and main part of town is about a 20 minute walk from the Como San Giovanni train station–totally doable if you don’t have a ton of luggage.
If you’re traveling to Como “in” season, there are so many hotels to choose from. Be warned that they can be very expensive–the area is known to be a luxury travel destination, after all (remember this post on Villa de Este?)! AirBnB is also very much a thing, and is a great way to get both a local experience and save a few bucks.
I pretty much covered it all above, but be sure to visit at least one of the towns on the lake. Given the quick trip and limited ferry service due to the time of year, we only left Como once. We loved Bellagio–it’s a popular spot across the board, and for good reason. It’s on the larger side and has a bunch of hotels, too, so considering staying there if you’re traveling in-season. You can take boat rides on the lake, and certain towns have some historic attractions so I would look into those. My favorite part was how walkable everything is–whoever first said that walking is the best way to see a city was onto something! Como is one of those places that has a strong culture, and you really can see it by stopping into stores and cafes and chatting with shopkeepers or servers.
Definitely plan to visit a couple towns outside from where you’re staying. There are some historic sites and the ferry–when it’s running regularly–makes it really easy to hop around the lake. I truly wish I could spend a week here in May to explore other spots!
Where to start?! My favorite part of visiting Italy has always undoubtedly been the food, and this trip was no different.
Bellavista Boutique Hotel e Ristorante: The pretty place on the hill, highly recommended by our hotel. The views were incredible at night, so I can’t imagine what they’re like during the day. You take a funicular (little train) up to the top and that’s a fun experience in and of itself. Good–not amazing–food…I’d probably go back for drinks but skip the meal if you’re there in-season and all the other restaurants are open.
Osteria La Tana Dei Pescatori: There’s no website for this place but it’s a true Italian seafood restaurant. If seafood is your thing, you’ll like it! I love how authentic it felt and the portions were really generous. Bottles of wine were also very reasonably priced! I think our whole meal came out to under $80 with two entrees, maybe an app (I can’t remember) and a bottle of wine.
Fresco Cocktail Shop: This place is so cool. Highly recommend it if you’re in the main part of Como at all…it’s basically a cocktail bar filled with locals…I don’t think we saw any tourists. It’s a little out of the way to get to but the whole experience was great. Delicious cocktails served with complimentary little snacks, in a dark, speakeasy like spot.
Far Out (Bellagio): We stumbled upon it and it was nearly full with both tourists and locals, which is saying something given how empty the town was. Turns out it’s rated #7 on Trip Advisor! I can’t remember exactly what we got–pretty sure it was two kinds of pasta–but there was definitely an Aperol Spritz involved :)
I’m not sure what the first place we went to lunch was–it was a hole in the wall spot–and likewise with the al fresco coffee shop in Bellagio. Basically it felt like you couldn’t go wrong with food + drink across the board.
So unsurprisingly, I’d completely recommend (and highly encourage) a trip to Lake Como–it’s truly a dream, and I haven’t seen a place like it. Going in November was definitely a different kind of experience, but it was hard to complain about being able to feel like you had most of Bellagio to yourself, shared only with the people who arrived on the same ferry for the day, and be able to trudge up and down the hilly town without sweating in the 90+ degree heat. I’ll definitely be going back in the summer some time, but these will more than do for now…I think!
As always, let me know if you have any more questions (email is great, too! firstname.lastname@example.org) and hopefully you’re sold on adding this charming spot to your travel list as well :)
Photos by Monica Dutia