One of the largest lakes in Italy and one of the deepest in Europe, Lake Como continues to be the destination du jour dotted with enviable estates & villas, lakeside restaurants serving the freshest seafood, a distant yet breathtaking view of the Swiss Alps and that overall je nais se quoi of European vacation spots. Even power couple George and Amal Clooney, until recently, owned a home on the lake.
Lucky for me the universe and stars aligned with work duties summoning me to Italy (second time in 1 year!) so I decided to channel my “just do it” attitude, packed my bags and hopped across the pond to Lake Como for the weekend before my work obligations commenced – my first solo trip. I was excited and nervous all at the same time but it was Italy… How could I NOT go?? If nothing else, I would be completely content eating and drinking myself through the weekend… Which I did.
Lake Como or Lago di Como is way bigger than I could have imagined and since I booked the trip last minute, I decided to make home base in the city of Como which is at the bottom of the lake and for good reason. As this was my first solo trip, I wasn’t sure if I was mentally prepared to stay somewhere more remote. Some people say that Como is “touristy” which I guess it is, but it being my first time there, I didn’t really notice or mind. I have to say it was comforting to have the sounds of the streets permeate into the living room of the apartment I rented. Even though I was alone, it didn’t feel like it. The apartment I rented was be-au-ti-ful, huge and was right in the middle of all the action. My host Emanuela was great, helping me navigate from Milan to the apartment and getting acquainted with Como.
If you know me, you know my favorite thing in life is good food and to me, Italy is the Mecca of good food so naturally my top things in Como are food related:
My first night in town, I decided to treat myself to a delicious dinner. Natta Cafe is perfection. Simple and comfortable interior, decorated smartly with lots of wood and lit by candles using wine bottles – love. I started with bruschette Classico – I will never understand how something SO simple (baguette, tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper) can be freaking divine. NEVER! For my pasta dish, I ordered the special Pappardelle all Boscaiola: pappardelle with tomato sauce, cream (obviously), mushrooms, and ham. Again, divine!
On day 2 it was time to explore the lake. A co-worker suggested hitting up the big towns in the middle of the lake: Bellagio, Varenna, and Caddenabia. While the towns are incredibly easy to access via ferries, it’s important to note the time tables and routes, especially if you’re planning to hit up multiple in one day and want to maximize time by taking the fast ferries. It’s a specifically coordinated dance to get everything aligned.
I think the name Bellagio says it all, doesn’t it? I’ve never been to Vegas but after seeing this gem of a town, I feel I can safely assume I didn’t miss much. I stepped off the ferry and immediately felt the air of opulence in my lungs: bougie boutiques with designer brands, the finest silks, perfectly coifed men, women and children walking around, all to the soundtrack of clinking wine glasses, likely filled with the drink of the season in Italy: The Spritz. Legit picture-effing-esque. I spent the majority of my time walking around Villa Melzi which is a nice alternative to climbing through the narrow streets of the town (even though I did that too!). The Villa was built between 1808 and 1815 by Giocondo Albertolli and is surrounded by lush gardens. At first glance, the sprawling gardens seem to be solely influenced by traditional English gardens but a walk through and you’ll find pretty strong Japanese influences and style as well.
Due to one part jetlag and 2 parts me being slow, I was only able to accomplish Bellagio on that first day. The next day, I hit up Caddenabbia (home to Villa Carlotta) and Varenna. I’m not usually one to play favorites but when comparing Villa Melzi to Villa Carlotta, there’s a CLEAR favorite. Villa Carlotta was breathtaking – maybe it had to do with the weather being way better than the day before but either way, it’s simply stunning. Pictures are worth a thousand words so I’ll let them do the talking.
Next up: Varenna! My coworker (hey sister Chlo) who had recommended going to Lake Como, actually recommended I stay in Varenna but the combination of last minute travel booking, traveling alone and a lack of familiarity drove me to stay in Como so I only had an afternoon to spend there. She had posted a picture (power of social media amiright?) of her lunch with a backdrop of a majestic view and knowing my dear love for a good meal & a view, I had to recreate this for myself. Once off the ferry, I hiked over to Cafe Varenna, a teeny waterfront cafe grounded not in concrete but a pebble beach. I enjoyed a glass of white wine, melon and prosciutto salad (again, simple and divine) and bruschette – although this one didn’t compare to Natta cafe, the bread was too tough. Then again, there’s no such thing as a bad meal in Italy… At least I haven’t found it yet.