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The Travel Blog

 

Lake Como, Italia Squisita (Exquisite Italy)

Image Title: The view from our Airbnb apartment in Sala Comancina, Lake Como, Italy [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
The view from our Airbnb apartment in Sala Comancina, Lake Como, Italy [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
Image Title: Jesus in Davinci's famous, Last Supper painting in Milan [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
Jesus in Davinci's famous, Last Supper painting in Milan [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
Image Title: Phil getting an Italian shave. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
Phil getting an Italian shave. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
Image Title: A lover's walk in the rain in Lugano, Swtazerland. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
A lover's walk in the rain in Lugano, Swtazerland. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
Image Title: Lago Lugano, Switzerland. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
Lago Lugano, Switzerland. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
Image Title: Giardini di Villa Melzi, Bellgio, Italy. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]
Giardini di Villa Melzi, Bellgio, Italy. [Photo: Open Door Travelers]

 

Lake Como brings images of fabulous villas and outrageous European family wealth.  While this image is certainly true for some of Lake Como’s charms, it is far from all that this northern Italian lake located along the Italian-Swiss boarder has to offer for the casual tourist.  Getting to Lake Como is rather easy.  We took a four-hour cross country train from Nice in southern France to Milan and after a day of touring and shopping in Milan, took a one-hour regional train to the city of Como at the south end of the lake where friends from the UK met us in a hired car and drove 30 minutes up the lake to Sala Comancina where we stayed in a lovely Airbnb apartment, right on the lake.

Getting around Lake Como really does take a car, but hire a small one because even by European standards, the roads through the small villages are appallingly narrow.  The village of Sala Comancina where we stayed is similar to all of the villages surounding the lake.  Unique to the village of Sala Comancina is the small Isle of Comancina just a few hundred meters from the village. This small island has a rich and sometimes bloody history and even boasts a tale about the Holy Grail in the 6th century. The village itself has a church, a post office, a wine bar, three restaurants and homes for around a hundred or so families. Perfetto. While the villages and restaurants we visited aren’t quite as English accommodating as say, city center Milan, our few basic words and phrases of Italian combined with merchant’s few basic words and phrases of English, didn't cause any trouble for eating fabulous food, drinking great wine, or getting on the correct ferry.  It is important to note, that off-season, many of the restaurants in the small villages go to off-season hours and may only be open on weekends.

We made the most of a long weekend visiting Lake Como. Our cross country train arrived in Milan early Friday afternoon and we had arranged for a walking Historical Tour of Milan ending at Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” painting in Saint Maria delle Grazie. Pro Tip: In order to see the famous painting at this time, you have to sign-up for a guided tour to get a ticket. Most of the day Saturday was spent shopping in Milan . . . we had to up our fashion game just to tour the city . . . and Phil getting a straight razor shave from an Italian barber.  We then took the local train up to Como Saturday evening.  After checking into our Airbnb apartment, our Airbnb host, Robbie, gave a quick walking tour of the town ending at his favorite restaurant, La Tirlindana.  We all had excellent meals of lake fish - aka, Perch or Trout depending on the restaurant and the catch that day. 

On Sunday morning we drove over the hill to Lago Lugano, Switzerland, for lunch and a peaceful stroll in the rain along the lake in this beautiful city. Like the Chicken and the Egg, it is hard to tell which came first, Lugano or Disneyland.  Everything is perfect and clean like walking through a painting. After some postcards and a Swiss Army Knife from Switzerland for the nephew, we headed back to Sala Comancina and toured through Villa Balbianello, the famous villa owned by renowned Italian explorer and philanthropist, Guido Monzino. The villa has hosted several famous movies including James Bond: Casino Royale, Ocean’s Eleven, and Star Wars Episode II.  Sunday evening’s meal was another local establishment, Ristorante La Comancina, which turned out to be our favorite restaurant for the weekend.

Monday morning was not quite as rainy so we took the ferry across the lake to Bellagio. This quaint little town is a bit more touristy than Sala Comancina and caters to more of a check-the-box crowd, but it has some places worth visiting, like the beautifully maintained Giardini di Villa Melzi Gardens.  While in Bellagio, you should make a point to visit Andrea, the sommelier at Aperitivo et al Wine Shop and let him take you on a wine tour of Italy without leaving his shop. We tasted a Valpolicella, a Brunello, and a Barolo with cracker e' formaggio to cleanse our palates in between tastings. Magnifico. 

Monday evening was our final night on the lake. We took the ferry back across at sunset and returned to our Airbnb apartment for Prosecco - expertly opened with a Sabre du Champagne off the balcony by our friend - before our last dinner on the lake at Taverna Bleu, in Sala Comancina. The next morning was a fairly early start to drop us off at the train station in Como before our friends drove into Milan to fly back to the UK later that afternoon.  Lake Como was, for us, an exquisite example of all that northern Italy has to offer and we hope to visit many more times in the future.