Five things to do around Lake Como
If Lago di Como is good enough for George Clooney, it's good enough for us! Romantic and beauteous, the Lake is best explored at a gentle pace.
For those with four wheels, winding the lakeside road between towns is not only fun, but it allows you to discover beyond the places served by the lake's ferry service.
It's always refreshing to visit a place where the majority of people are speaking the local language, too. Lake Como is popular with holidaying Italians, and for good reason - it's a magical place.
Nº 1 - VILLA BALBIANELLO
Lake Como is famed for its palatial villas, including our favourite Villa Balbianello. The story alone makes a visit worthwhile; Count Guido Monzino, who led the first Italian expedition to conquer Mount Everest, donated the villa and its contents to the Italian Cultural Heritage Fund on his death in 1988. The gardens are, as you'd expect, impeccably manicured, and the views across the lake blissful.
INTERESTED? You can walk to the villa easily from the centre of Lenno on Tuesdays and weekends. Lenno is reachable by car and there are a large number of car park spaces near the foot of the main path. Otherwise, there are regular taxi-boats from Lenno. Our entry to the garden and villa included a tour by a knowledgeable guide and cost €17 per adult or €11 with a National Trust card.
Nº 2 - CROTTO SORSASSO FARMHOUSE
Nestled in the lesser-visited Domaso, this family-run winery serves great food on a hillside outdoor terrace overlooking the lake. The Travi family are fantastic hosts; they even picked us up from our apartment in the next town. Dinner consisted of around five courses set prior to arrival, and the food included local cheeses, lake fish (pesce persico) and tender roast beef with various vegetables and potatoes. The dessert (braschino) was served with their moreish bluberry grappa ("You're about to enter the grappasphere", Daniele Travi). We also tried their red, white and rose wines... We visited for Rachel's mother's 50th birthday celebrations, our table was adorned with balloons and she was given a candle as a present. For genuinely thoughtful service, value-for-money and high-quality cuisine, visit Sorsasso!
INTERESTED? The all-inclusive menu cost €35 per person and the shuttle service was not publicised - ask nicely ahead of time and you may be lucky.
Nº 3 - bellagio
A visit to this tangle of steep cobbled streets is charming, despite its popularity with modern tourists. There isn't much to 'do', but a wander past the attractive waterfront and quaint shuttered buildings can while away an afternoon. Avoid the overpriced tourist restaurants near the jetty and head to Ristorante Bilacus - it has a fine shady terrace and offers a wide selection of high-range, affordable dishes.
INTERESTED? Bellagio sits an hour away from Como itself or is easily reachable by boat from Varenna or Menaggio, among many other shoreline towns.
Nº 4 - HISTORICAL SITES WITH A VIEW
Nearby Varenna sits a 7th century ruined castle with sweeping lake views and falconry exhibitions on some days. Willing tourists in the warmer months can volunteer to be covered in chalk which dries to create the ghost figures that are dotted across the grounds.
Further north near Lecco sits Piona Abbey, in a marvellous setting. The Cistercian monks produce their own goods such as herbal teas which you can purchase in the shop during opening hours.
Nº 5 - water sports
In the north west, particularly around Gravedona, the area boasts plenty of water sports for the more adventurous. Why not hop in a kayak and treat yourself to a lake fish lunch after a couple of hours paddling?