Ferrying around Bellagio – 2010


Today we left Bologna (Bologna trip report here) and drove to Bellagio – about 3.5 hours.  So many people said not to drive to Bellagio, but it really was not that difficult.  There was one point where we were driving and suddenly without warning we hit the end of the road and there was Lake Como – stunning!  We turned left and then drove on a very narrow windy road that everyone had warned us about but you are only on it for about 30 minutes – and when it was over Stephen said he thought it was fun!  The only negative was that Italian drivers really do not slow down, even when they are in a truck coming in the other direction on a narrow, windy road – yikes!  Well, we survived and arrived in Bellagio about 1:30pm.

We rented an apt. through Residence Il Borgo.  Flavio was great to work with, always responded quickly to my emails and he did not require any kind of deposit. We just paid the full amount the day before we left Bellagio; and he did give a discount to pay in cash.  Many people had raved about meeting Flavio and what a great personality he was and how helpful he has.  Unfortunately, the three days we were there he was out of town.  His wife Laura was there to meet us and help us.  She was very nice, but I suspect not the big personality that Flavio is, so I was disappointed we did not get to meet him.

We were able to drive right into the city center – Flavio had given me a code to pass through the gate and park right by the church while we checked in and unloaded our luggage.

One can only park there for an hour, but there is a lot of free parking just outside the gate, so parking was not a big issue for us.  Laura met us at the church and helped us check in.  The apartment is located on the third floor of their building; they own all the apartments in the building and rent them out.  There is an elevator.  Our apartment had a main floor and then a loft.  (Pictures on their website are a true representation of the room.)  In the loft is a Queen/King bed plus a daybed and downstairs is a sofa bed that opens to about a bed and a half so plenty of space for four people to sleep.  When the sofabed was open then the room was a little cramped.  It was air conditioned and had a full kitchen with dishwasher, oven, and pots, pans, etc.  The bathroom was a good size considering all four had to share it.   It is extremely well located half way up one of the main little streets in Bellagio, so easy walk down to the lake and ferries.  There was a mini-market right nearby where we purchased yogurt, cereal, etc. for breakfast.  The emails Flavio sent me said the room was 130euro/night,  -5% discount to pay in cash(which I thought was pretty good).   However, when I went to pay Laura absolutely insisted it was only 105 euro a night and 100 euro/night if I paid in cash.  I argued with her for a little bit and then said – “okay, if you insist, 100 euro/night it is!!”

This is the street the apartment is on.

This is the view from the apartment.

The place is a little tight for four people – I think if we had been good about closing up the sofabed during the day it would have felt like more room.  Overall, I was happy with the place and thought it was an excellent value.  I do regret that we were not staying someplace with a pool as it was hot, and would have been nice to come back in the afternoon and relax by the pool – however, the hotels with the pools were very expensive and we would have had to get two rooms!  Just mentioning this, because at this time of year if you are willing to have one place with a splurge this is where I would do it.

We had a quick lunch at a small café nearby then walked around the small town.  Everyone warned me, but I was still taken aback by the hordes of American tourists – it was particularly shocking since we had just spent the last five days in Bologna with very few tourists.  It was nice to be in Bellagio later in the evening when things were much quieter, and the daytrippers had gone home.

For dinner we went to Trattoria San Giacomo (near the top of Via Serbollini).  They do not take reservations so we had to wait about 30 minutes for our table.   A great meal.  Michael ordered the fish menu, which was three courses  – his favorite was the spaghetti with dried lake fish.


Today we ate our breakfast fixings and also went to the bar around the corner for coffee and pastries.

We bought the All Day Mid-Lake Pass for the ferry with entry to Villa Carlotta and started there.

We went through the villa and walked around the gardens a bit, then took the ferry to Varenna.  The ferry rides are very enjoyable and you get to see stunningly beautiful scenery.

Varenna is a very cute and quiet town. I think the streets may have been even steeper than in Bellagio.

We bet Michael that he could not run up and down one of the streets in less than two minutes – he took the challenge and won!

We decided we wanted to have lunch. On my restaurant list there was just one restaurant listed in Varenna with just the name and street name – no other descriptions. We could not find any street signs so we just started wandering around the town looking for a place to eat. Stephen saw a map store and ducked in – asked the woman working there if she knew of the restaurant and if she could tell us where it was – she did, and said it was very good, and lucky us – it was right around the corner. It is called il Cavatappi (Via XX Septembre).

It is a small restaurant, I think a total of five tables and just run by the chef and one waitress. We had an excellent lunch of liver pate, Stephen had one of the best salads in Italy (usually do not think salads are the strong point in Italy) and also excellent pasta with fresh tomatoes and basil, duck breast and perfectly grilled vegetables.

While we were eating we overheard her describing the desserts to another table – the torte de nocciola sounded good. When it came our time for dessert she told us what she had in English and called it “nut cake” – we asked if that was the torte de nocciola and she said yes. Funny how things sound so much more appetizing in Italian than the English translation!! It was absolutely delicious – our best dessert so far.

Next, we took the ferry to Menaggio where we walked around and enjoyed some gelato (we had all shared the torte so thought gelato was in order).

Dinner that night was at Bilacus just across from Trattoria San Giacomo on Via Serbollini. I had heard it was really hard to get a reservation and to sit out on the terrace. I stopped by about 6pm to make an 8pm reservation. We could not get a seat on the terrace, but inside has big French doors open to the terrace so it was still quite nice, the maitre d was particularly cheerful and helpful. Everyone had another excellent meal – Michael’s pasta with shrimp was probably the best dish. I ordered the lamb with breadcrumbs and herbs which was very good, but not quite what I expected.  They were quite thin, almost like a schnitzel, but as I said great flavor. I also had a delicious contorini of cannelloni beans and onions.


Today we decided to drive to Lugano in Switzerland – about 30 km from Bellagio. First we took the autoferry across to Cadenabbio (the autoferry runs about every 30 minutes) then had a beautiful, picturesque drive over the mountain. Lake Lugano is beautiful, we thought more so than Lake Como.

Lugano is a much larger city than we were expecting, but very nice, and a beautiful setting on the lake. We walked around a bit and did some shopping then had lunch at Osteria Portico (Corso Pestalozzi 21A). A delicious lunch, seated outside on their patio, but very expensive – they say things are more expensive in Switzerland and they are right!

Back to the hotel– drove up to the autoferry just as they were loading up- perfect timing.

For dinner tonight we had reservations at Batia Belvedere – Laura had recommended it and made the reservation for us. It is located about 10 minutes above Bellagio in a small town called Chevrio. It is a family run farm and restaurant – Mom, Dad and their young adult son and daughter. They have their own cows and chickens and grow their own berries and olives. It is located high above the lake with incredible views – unfortunately it was a bit hazy when we were there so our pics are not that great. We had one of the best meals of the trip. We started out with a selection of local cured meats, salami and cheese – yummy, particularly the fresh goat cheeses. I had polenta and salsicci (two things I had been craving but had not seen on a menu yet). Perfectly grilled salsicci and some of the best polenta ever – it had buckwheat in it as well. Lauren had boiled chicken, which she loved, she even ate quite a bit of the polenta which she normally does not like. Stephen had braised beef and Michael perfect gnocchi with butter and sage. Everything is served quite simply – like a plate your grandmother would have served you. We rounded our meal out with some fresh berry desserts – everything was very reasonably priced as well.

By the way, they will pick you up and drive you back for free if you do not have a car -this does seem to be common for many of the restaurants located outside of Bellagio proper.

Next up hiking in the Dolomites.

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