Lake Como (and Chiasso)

 

Who could say no to Lake Como? The ultimate in style and romance, no? After a disappointing trip to Milan, Como had a lot to make up for.

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I arrived relatively late in the day on the 90 minute bus from Bergamo, so headed straight across the lakefront to Hotel Borgo Antico, where I would be resting my head for a night before heading out across the lake.

I managed to sneak out for a few drinks within the ancient city walls that surround Como’s old town, but the nightlife in Como town is relatively relaxed so getting off to sleep wouldn’t be an issue.

The first thing I noticed was that the lake is pretty huge, so don’t be expecting to wander all the way around it. Boats or cars are a necessity, and I opted for boats as it is the lake you come to see after all.

I had chosen Borgo Antico for my first night as it is a stones throw from the train station and I fancied a look at Chiasso, a small town just the other side of the Swiss border. In the morning the train took just 8 minutes Como – Chiasso and I almost missed the closing train doors because of it, so if you’re going, stay alert!

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After a wander around the cute little town I stumbled across the weekend market, and treated myself to a “raclette” which I am told is a traditional Swiss dish of new potatoes and a gherkin covered in melted Swiss cheese. The dish is named after the cheese I believe. The cheese was hard and in a semi circle, with the flat edge pointing toward the sky. Once I had ordered they swept a hot metal arm over the flat edge and it slowly began to bubble. Once ready, the arm was removed and the cheese tilted so they could scrape all the melted cheese over the top of my potatoes and gherkin. Hence the word “raclette”, from the French “racler” meaning “to scrape”. The result was a beautiful dish that I think should be a thing everywhere!

It was great to see a burger van style premises making these! They also served a dessert of Nutella pancake, which was delicious as you can imagine.

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After a good fill and a nosey around Chiasso, I purchased some stinky cheese from another stall and jumped back on the shortest train journey I’ve ever had.

The ferry port at Como can be slightly confusing, and I ended up paying for a “fast boat” ticket that certainly wasn’t a fast boat. Fortunately, I wasn’t too fussed as the views were equal to those in Milford Sound, NZ.

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There are numerous beautiful towns along the coast of this gargantuan lake, but today’s destination is Bellagio, where I will be staying for the following 2 nights.

I tried to look out for George Clooney’s lakefront mansion, but unfortunately couldn’t see it. I did spot Mezzegra though, and you’ll be overjoyed to know that this is where Benito Mussolini and his missus were shot, not long after they had been caught hiding out at Dongo, another nice town situated on the North side of the Lake.

Once at Bellagio, I contacted the owner of the hotel I would be staying at and they came to pick us up as it is set back from the lake front in order to deliver a better view over the lake. I was welcomed to the Il Perlo Panorama with a glass of fizz and an unbelievable view before being shown to my room.

Once inside the room, I dropped my bag and looked out of the huge window that stretched the length of the room, past my balcony, onto this…

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Wow. I may have to barricade myself into the room and claim squatters rights. The room itself is lovely, with a nice bathroom, big comfy bed, table and chairs for breakfast, large TV (that I was never going to turn on when the background looks like ^ ), large wardrobe and electric shutters to ensure a good nights sleep.

The hotel run regular journeys to and from Bellagio (it’s less than 10 minutes) to save you from walking, but if you’re into that kind of thing then there is a scenic walk that the staff point out for you. I headed into the town for some food, and smashed a decent seafood pasta. At certain place in town you get money off your bill if you’re staying at the Il Perlo.

One beer turned into many and the next day my head was a little sore. I powered through got a multi-stop ticket and bounced around to a few of the nice towns that are littered along the coastline.

I also stopped at Villa Del Balbianello after a recommendation from a friend. It is in the perfect position on the lake and used to belong to Guido Monzino, the first Italian to scale Everest. Monzino left it to the National Trust of Italy when he died.

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Monzino liked collecting strange artifacts from his travels and kept them at Balbianello, most of them are still there on display and it’s pretty impressive. There is a guided tour of the inside of the building and the gardens are free to roam.

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What a lovely bookcase! Wait a minute…

Secret drinks cabinet! Man after my own heart…

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Not a bad view

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This is definitely the place to go on Lake Como, it is mind blowing. I took the ferry boat to Varenna next to get my fill of food. Varenna is worth visiting, if only for the view of the town as you approach it.

Another recommendation saw me at Il Cavatappi, supposedly where the locals eat. It is down a quaint alley, with an unassuming small sign on the door. The inside is more like somebody’s lounge and has maybe 6 or 7 tables. Cosy to say the least.

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The food is cooked a few yards from your table, though in this place everything is a few yards from your table. The meal came and was out of this world, and to make life even better I had the cheeseboard for dessert and the lovely waiter talked me through the cheeses, where they’re from, how to eat them and in what order etc etc, it was a great all round experience and not too pricey for Lake Como either.

The next day was time to move on, and my sadness showed how I felt about the place. I thoroughly enjoyed Lake Como and despite having seen the majority of it would not hesitate to return. I loved it, but then again so did Mussolini, so make of that what you will.

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