Last stop, Bellagio! We spent the last few days of our trip in this quaint little town on Lake Como, and we easily could have spent the full three weeks there. Bellagio perfectly encapsulates our ideal vacation. We take frequent weekend trips to Carmel, and Bellagio very much reminds me of a little Carmel in Northern Italy. It offers upscale restaurants, hotels, and shops, without being too showy or crowded. The weather is mild, you’re on the water, and there’s an abundance of outdoor activities. All of the little towns and villages around the lake are unique and special in their own way, and because of the frequent ferries, it’s easy to hop around. We made short trips to several of them, but next time we plan to spend much more time really exploring each town.
MEALS + LIBATIONS
Bilacus we dined at Bilacus on our very first night, at the recommendation of our hotel. They just barely squeezed us in, so I would recommend making a reservation to ensure a table – preferably outside. We each had a pasta (which I was expecting to be a much smaller portion than it was) followed by fish. Paul ordered the salmon trout in a lemon sauce and I had whitefish cooked in a butter sage sauce. Even if you don’t like fish, try this fish. It is absolutely to die for and I could have eaten it a thousand times over. We finished off with a little limoncello and rolled ourselves back home after a truly exquisite meal.
Barchetta the restaurant that changed it all. We popped in for a nice lunch one day and both ordered a Lake Como specialty dish – battered perch fish in a butter sage sauce with lemon cream risotto. This was without a doubt the best thing I’ve ever eaten, and I think Paul would say the same. We went on to try this dish at multiple restaurants (which were all great), but this was by far the best. Do not miss it. I have grand plans to re-make it at home, but somehow I doubt it will be quite as delicious.
La Terrazza our time on Lake Como fell over our one year wedding anniversary so this is where we chose for our celebratory dinner. By far the fanciest restaurant of our trip, it certainly did not disappoint in service, food or atmosphere. That said, I still found it just a tad stuffy and overpriced for what it is, and I will always prefer an upscale restaurant that has a more personable vibe to it. This restaurant is inside the Grand Tremezzo Hotel, which looks to be straight out of a movie. We started with a quick glass of prosecco in the hotel bar, complete with darling bar snacks, before heading over for our reservation. I have to give quick mention to the unbelievable bread basket they brought out, along with whipped olive butter. We shared the white truffle butter tagliatelle, followed by steak for Paul and turbot with fried zucchini flowers for me. We finished off our meal with some of the best, though slightly nontraditional, tiramisu. If you’re willing to pay the price it’s definitely worth a visit here, but remember there are so many exquisite restaurants nearby as well.
La Punta Ristorante this is probably the restaurant we will become regulars at when we buy our vacation home in Bellagio one day (fingers crossed!). We stayed late into the night, enjoyed the servers’ company, and ate some fantastic food. They started us off with complimentary prosecco, which wins me over every single time. My lasagne was mistakenly burnt the first time around, so our server brought us small quiches as an apology for the wait. Our feast then included lasagne, pesto tagliatelle, battered perch fish with lemon (our second favorite version), and sauteed spinach. We each had an affogato to cap off the night and I was almost too stuffed to move. The restaurant is secluded and right on the water, with fantastic views should you decide to come for lunch instead.
Bar Florence October is off-season on Lake Como, so unfortunately our hotel’s popular restaurant had shut down for the year. Since we weren’t able to eat there, we stopped by the bar for drinks instead. It’s the perfect spot to watch the water and take in the view with your cocktail in hand. I adore how Italian happy hours always come with small snacks – this one with chips, olives, and mini sandwiches. Since we were hotel guests, they ended up telling us not to pay and sent us on our way.
PLACES TO GO + THINGS TO DO
Villa Melzi this was the first villa we visited and it was the perfect morning walk from our hotel and throughout the grounds. The gardens are not particularly elaborate but beautiful nonetheless, and I loved the tree-lined path that followed the edge of the water.
Villa Carlotta we ferried over early one morning and were delighted to be able to experience Villa Carlotta with few other tourists. The gardens are absolutely beautiful and the grounds are vast. You could easily spend hours exploring here, though we managed to get through in a little over an hour since we were in a time crunch. This is one of Lake Como’s most famed villas and it’s definitely worth the entrance fee.
Villa del Balbianello when can I move in? As much as I loved Villa Carlotta, this is the one I would choose to live in. Looming over the edge of the water, it’s probably the most recognizable since it has been used in several movies (including James Bond and Star Wars). In order to explore the inside of the villa, you have to pay a higher fee and wait for a scheduled tour time, so we opted to purchase tickets just for the grounds. It’s also worth noting that getting to Villa Balbianello is a little bit of a hike up and over a hill. There’s an even more scenic route (about an hour long) if you’re into hiking, but at the very least be prepared for a 20 minute walk in. Your backup option is to pay for a boat ride right up to the villa, but let’s be honest, you’ve gotta work off the pasta somehow.
Lake by Boat I researched many different boat rental companies prior to our trip and Lake by Boat was one of the only that allowed you to take your own boat without a exorbitant cost for a guided tour. Unfortunately, we had terrible luck with the wind so we kept moving our scheduled time around and ultimately wound up spending less time on the water than we planned. That’s somewhat to be expected in the off-season and likely wouldn’t be an issue in the summer. Chartering your own boat is a great way to see the lake and experience bits of all the small villages that you wouldn’t otherwise see.
We desperately hope to be back on Lake Como sooner rather than later, but in the meantime please share your adventures if you visit! If you’re planning a European trip anytime soon, don’t miss my recaps of Paris, Rome, Florence and Venice.