Marketing and Travel Freelance writer Mary Finucane continues her discovery of Italy’s northern Lakes..
Time permitting, visit all Lake Como villas but if you only have room for one, then make your way to Villa del Balbaniello. Run by the FAI, Italy’s main heritage charity, this delightful 18th century cardinal’s villa is best reached by boat from Lenno which also boasts a lovely local market on Tuesday mornings By the way, bring your National Trust membership card with you if you have one (saved us 6 euros on entrance).
Another must-see is Varenna on the eastern shore. With it’s dinky harbour of bobbing boats and its ancient arcaded waterfront this photogenic village looks like it has been airbrushed in from Sicily and with the lake being at it’s widest here it really could mistaken for the Mediterranean. The lakeside gardens of Villa Monastero here are simply gorgeous.
The scheduled ferry services that exist on all the major lakes are good ways for get yourself a cut-price cruise. Of all the various routes, the Como “mid-lake shuttle” that connects Menaggio, Varenna, Bellagio and Tremezzo is particularly scenic and costs just 15 Euros per person.
Another way of really getting to know your area is by taking one of the Inghams Wanderwalks which are free and led by their expert local representatives (Jayne and Theodora) who know the language and landscape intimately. We took the tour of The Hamlets of Bellagio and lost weight as we climbed hundreds of steps in the midday sun but discovered places we would have passed by or at the very least misunderstood.
We also managed to squeeze in a little bit of Switzerland and savoured breathtaking views on board the Bernina Express through the Swiss mountains from Italian Tirano, up to the Bernina pass (2253 m) to the famous winter sport resort St. Moritz (1775 m). It was a blissfully perfect day.
Our week in Lake Como just whizzed by and we are definitely coming back for the views, the lake, the people and the places we have yet to see. My husband is a petrol head and is yearning to visit Mandello del Lario, a Como village famous as the home of Moto Guzzi motorbikes. My son has more gelato to taste, we need to visit Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo in sunshine and then there is George. All week we were told he had been spotted in Bellagio. We’d arrived at a restaurant to be told he had been there a few days ago. Our guide Elena told us how she and her husband had seen him but he had not recognised them! I do know now where he lives so may have to be more persistent next time.
Alas, I have not even begun on the charms of Lake Maggiore where my favourite island is Isola Madre with it’s luxuriant semi-tropical gardens. Then there is Lake Iseo with it’s beguiling sleepy island-village of Monte Isola or the secluded Italian sections of mostly Swiss Lake Lugano…
But it is all there waiting to be discovered by you and I really hope you do soon. It truly is “Bellissimo” !