When I moved to Europe, I had a pretty generic “goal list”…basically one that listed the European countries I hadn’t visited yet. There were a couple of exceptions where I noted something specific I wanted to see or do. One of those things was visiting Lake Como. I only knew a couple of people who visited previously, but I heard it was beautiful, and for whatever reason, I wanted to be sure to go. It was a possible destination during my dad’s visit in April, but when we made different plans, I put it high on the list of summer weekend getaways. I found a friend who also wanted to go, and we booked everything a couple of months ago.
Before I go any further, I have to say that it FAR exceeded my expectations. It was more beautiful than I could’ve imagined, and it was most definitely one of my favorite places visited in the past year and a half. Yes, really.
We stayed at a fabulous place up above Bellagio. It was called Borgo Le Terrazze, and I would HIGHLY recommend for anyone planning a visit. We had a room with an incredible terrace…
a huge rocking chair in our room (which I know my brother would love!)…
a substantial breakfast (with a view)…
and a really friendly staff who drove a shuttle into town throughout the day. (They even let us squeeze 15 people in the shuttle van coming back from the center of town in the middle of the afternoon instead of making two trips.)
The drive from Vevey was roughly five hours. We got in late in the evening on Friday, checked in quickly, and headed straight to dinner. A friend gave me a heads up to book a table at Alle Darsene di Loppia a couple of months ago. It was UNBELIEVABLE. I had a similar reaction to the food as I did when I tried the Black & White Pasta in Cinque Terre. And I’m pretty sure that I’ve been dreaming about the food since Friday. We sat outside in their beautiful terrace and enjoyed the tasting menu – stuffed zucchini flowers, cavatelli with shellfish, pigeon breast w/ figs and apples, and strawberry tiramasu.
Bellagio is the kind of place that makes you want to relax. We lingered over breakfast and hung out on the terrace before taking the shuttle into the center. We pick up boat tickets for later in the afternoon and strolled through the cobbled streets looking in some shops. Prior to boarding the boat, we ate a sandwich on a terrace overlooking the lake.
Rather than riding the big ferries, we opted for a smaller boat to take us around the lake. We chose Bellagio Water Taxis. Janine does the bookings, and her husband, Luca, does the boat driving. They were fantastic, and the boat was beautiful. There were only 10 of us on board, which was perfect. Luca told us about the lake (it’s 1,200 feet deep!!) and the largest of the villas – the lower end ones sell for approximately 30 million euros!
We spent about 30 minutes making our way down one side until we came to Villa del Balbianello. Those of you who are James Bond fans may recognize this villa from one of the scenes in Casino Royale. And, for those of you who are fans of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, it was the setting of the wedding scene. We were able to spend time in the villa and on the grounds, and all I could think was, “WOW!” The villa is quite old, but the last owner was Count Guido Monzino. This man was an extremely wealthy businessman, who also participated in expeditions to the North Pole and Mount Everest in the early 1970’s. When he died, he left everything to the state, including money to maintain the property. There are views of the lake from every room of the house except for one bathroom. There is even a secret passageway!
Back on the boat, we passed the villa of Sir Richard Burton, which he rents out for a whopping 170,000 euros PER WEEK! Now if I can just find a couple of hundred friends to split the cost…
We spent the afternoon at the pool before heading out for our final dinner at Ristorante Salice Blu. The chef at this restaurant has won a lot of awards, and while the food was good (though not nearly as good as the first night), the service was quite poor.
There is very limited parking in all of Bellagio. I parked easily at this restaurant when we arrived, but several more cars arrived after me making it complicated to get out. I was working on turning my car around when one of the restaurant staff came out and offered to help. I gladly took him up on it assuming he does this all the time. I instantly regretted it. It turns out he never drove an automatic car before!! While I assume there’s nothing to it, I watched him lurch forward and backward sometimes in reverse, sometimes in neutral, and sometimes in park. What should have been a relatively basic 3-point turn (which even I could’ve done) turned into a 10-point turn. At times he was inches away from other (nicer) cars, and I cringed envisioning him slamming into one of them thinking he was in reverse when he was actually in drive! I finally started shouting for him to get out, which he wouldn’t do until he had successfully turned the car around. Then, he proceeded to shut the car off while it was still in drive! Not what you do with an automatic!
Moral of the story: never let an Italian man drive your car!!!
After another relaxing morning, we drove home through Lugano, Switzerland. It’s about four hours away from Vevey, so I wasn’t sure if or when I would ever get there. It is also situated on a lake surrounded by mountains (a theme this weekend!). We took a walk and ate lunch at La Cucina di Alice before continuing our drive. I have to say that I’m glad only stopped by. Neither of us felt like it would be worth spending an entire weekend.
Our drive home through the mountains was spectacular! And ultimately, we ended up at our own lake surrounded by mountains – Lake Geneva. So much beauty in Vevey and my current “roadtrip radius.” It never gets old!