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Thursday, 12 January 2012

una gita a Como - a quick tour on Lake Como

Como is my hometown, and it is a fantastic place to ride your oldtimer. There are a couple of stunning view spots that you can enjoy, some of them probably not as known as they should be. Here are some random recommendations for a 2-days break in town, if you don't want to simply follow the Tourism Office's indications available online (note that not every page about the itineraries are available in English).


Book a little boat at Cernobbio's port and enjoy the lake from the water. You can book it for 3 hours for approx 100 Euro and it will be sufficient to take a quick tour of the west coast all along Cernobbio, Moltrasio (the most beautiful village on that side and perhaps of the whole lake), Carate Urio and Laglio, where Clooney lives. If you prefer a guided tour, ask the concierge at Villa D'Este in Cernobbio, the most beautiful hotel in the World according to several rankings and the unforgettable location of the World's most important Concorso d'Eleganza for classic cars (apologies, Pebble Beach). After the tour, treat yourself with an aperitivo or a dinner at the hotel, or a full day ticket at the SPA of the hotel. Just note that rates are in line with the standards of the hotel: fair enough.

Discover your on-the-road side through a drive from Como on the "west Coast" of the lake, again across Cernobbio, Moltrasio, Carate, Laglio, up to Brienno and beyond, until you reach Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo: this amazing Villa hosts one of the biggest botanic garden in Europe, right above the lake. The only replica in existence of the worldwide famous Canova's "amore e psiche" statue is visible in the main hall. On your way up alongside the lake, remember to stick to the old road "Strada Regina Vecchia", a way more romantic than the faster highway uphill, the "Strada Regina Nuova".

For a day/ afternoon in a SPA, choose the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, just next to Villa Carlotta; pool and hot tub right above the lake are nothing less than magic!  It's a 5-stars hotel, but an entrance to the SPA is definitely affordable and that's enough to switch off your brain for a couple of hours. If you're fancy an unforgettable luxury experience, you can also head to the lake east coast, opposite to Cernobbio, at Casta Diva, a 7-stars resort in Blevio.

But, if you are fed up with the grandiose athmosphere of 5-stars hotel, I recommend you spend at least a night at the B&B Gardenia, a glamorous villa located 8-km inland from Como downtown, just recently turned into a guesthouse with spectacular good taste. 

A very good alternative, or simply a second step on your way up north ("alto Lago", locals say), is a visit to Villa Balbianello in Lenno. It has been refurbished by the Italian Environment Protection Fund and I do think that is one of the most beautiful villas in Italy. The holders of the Villa, often booked for international events and weddings, are organizing various events to let any joiners enjoy the stunning view on the lake, among which I would recommend the lakeside concerts normally taking place in August every year.

if you or your partner are into sailing or surfing, you'll need to go to the top north of the lake, in Gera Lario. That' a good excuse for a lunch break at la Tirlindana, in Sala Comacina, just opposite to the Isola Comacina, the only island on Lake Como. The restaurant on the island is definitely touristic, and food quality is not the best you can come across. However, the atmosphere is unique and if you have kids, let let enjoy the owner's storytelling talent: they will shortly know everything about the Ghost living on the Island! Over summer time, on June 24th, if you are lucky enough you can find a boat to rent and head to the Island to enjoy the most important fireworks show of the year, celebrating San Giovanni.

Depending by your mood, you could decide to drop your surf-mates in Gera and keep driving north, where the Alps will ask you to challenge their sides. Let's drift on a couple of hairpins and in an hour or so you will find yourself in some of the most well known ski locations of northern Lombardy.

It may look like Como is all about villas and luxury. I don't really think it is. It is also about culture, sports, nature and, scratching the surface, fun.

The day after, in fact, you can climb the East coast. Roads are tiny and maybe darker than the ones on Cernobbio's side, but at least as funny to test your driving skills. After a worth-to-be-done visit to Bellagio (yes, you are definitely going there, aren't you?) if it is not too hot you can go to Chalet Gabriele, a traditional restaurant of heavy, winter-specific :-) Lombardy cuisine including good polenta and dear or pork meat.

A good alternative to the lake tourism is hiking or trekking on the mountains just above the lake: take a guide to the Sentiero d'Italia (Italy's walk) and start walking from the Mount Bisbino, above Cernobbio. The legend says that you can walk throughout all Italy without leaving that road :-). You can also drive up from Como to Brunate and have a nice walk there, too

Back in Como for a breakfast the day after, don't miss, for any reasons, to stop by at pasticceria Monello in via Manzoni, owned and operated by real Sicilians for crazily good pastries and cannoli.

Italian traditions include a drink before dinner, a classic aperitivo. The best one in town is in Como downtown at Pane e Tulipani.

Generally, there are no special restaurants in the Como area, with probably one unique exception: the the Cantuccio, in the old town of Albavilla, 15 mins drive from Como downtown. Staying downtown Como though, you can head to the Sociale, close to the city theater, or find a good pizza at Riva Cafè, between piazza Volta and the lake side. La Cucina di Elsa in Piazza Volta and the Marketplace are hot spots for quality seafood. The Cantina Frasca in Cernobbio is also very good, with fairly high quality traditional food and a very friendly atmosphere, but don't expect lake view! For a fair-enough trade off between food quality and lake view, go to Crotto dei Platani in Brienno, 20 mins away from Como still along the Lake west coast where Cernobbio is.

If it happens you find yourself in Como around end of May / beginning of June with your classic lady, let's ping me and we can join together the "Giro Notturno del Lario" (Lake Como night ride), the local classic car competition bringing you all around the lake, on a 160 KMs track divided in several stages and tests disseminated along the whole circuit. More to come in the next posts on this topic!

Enjoy!

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