Italy

One Day in Lake Como – Bellagio and Varenna

We skipped the hotel breakfast and instead had our tiramisu from last night as a quick bite before our 2.5 hours drive to Bellagio, Lake Como so we could save time. I was a little bit disappointed that the tiramisu wasn’t that great  🙁 We already notified the hotel that we’ll be leaving at 6:00 AM so when we checked out, the parking staff already there waiting for us to transport us and our luggage to the parking lot, excellent service!

Google Maps directed us to SP583, it thought it is a faster route along the lakeside of Lake Como. In reality, it took longer because the road is so windy and narrow that it barely fit two cars traveling in opposite directions so whenever a car came across, we had to slow down. There were so many blind spots, if I was driving the car, I would be so scared! And look you’ll need to share the already narrow road with those bikers and there’s no way you can cut them safely. Therefore, we just rolling on the same speed as them….nope, they didn’t even pull over onto that shoulder space to let us pass them!

Look at the space they took, more than half the width of the road!

We made a short stop when we saw a park filled with windsurfers.

After the painful drive on SP583, we made it to Bellagio, one of the most famous towns on Lake Como. If you are driving to Bellagio, I recommend taking SP41 instead, even though through mountain but wider and no bikers. Also, read about the parking rules before the trip to understand and plan where to park. I really like how they make it easy especially for tourists to identify free parking spots (marked by white lines on asphalt) and paid parking (blue lines on asphalt).  The town’s website is very informative on parking and provides a map of the locations of free and paid parking: https://www.bellagiolakecomo.com/en/content/stub-162?device=mobile

When we got there before 9 am, all the free parking spots have been taken so we drove to our hotel, Hotel Du Lac, Bellagio to tried our luck and surprisingly there were a few paid parking spots right in front! Perhaps, the shops were still closed so not as busy yet. The parking rate was €1.50 per hour from 8 am to 8 pm so we only need to pay up to 8 pm since we will be leaving before 8 am the next day. Unlike the metered parking in the US where there’s a 2 hours limit, you can park there for days as long as you keep paying. I went to the machine and entered till 8 pm; 11 hours for €16.50. 

We checked in although our room was not ready yet as it was so early, we stored our luggage and went out to explore the charming lakeside town. Accommodation in Lake Como is very expensive and limited so you need to book early for the best value hotels because they will be sold out. I booked 6 months in advanced for Hotel Du Lac and with Travelocity 18% off coupon, it turned out to be $176.06 for one night which was a good deal. When I checked 3 months prior to the trip, it was already sold out. 

Located right in front of the waterfront and near the ferry pier, our hotel was a convenient base for exploring the town as well as hopping on the ferry to other towns in Lake Como which is a must. Since it was still early and the bus tour crowds and daytrippers haven’t arrived yet, it was the only opportunity to take photos without being photobombed. The narrow streets are very charming.

This is the most photographed street in Bellagio, the iconic photo of the hanging lamp and the mountain on the backdrop. It was easy to find because the town is small and you can Google “Aperitivi Wine Bar” for the exact location. This was the only time of the day where you can get a photo like this without other people, at the rest of the day, this street is filled with tourists. However, at this time of the year (September), the sun angle did not lit up this street early in the morning so it was hard to find the correct exposure so that the mountain will not be overexposured. 

I tried taking the postcard photo at different angles, which one you like the best?

As you can see tourists started to arrive. There is a souvenir shop right at the start of the street where we got a cute Bellagio house to add to our collection 🙂 We walked back down to the waterfront to see if we have any luck with our room and yay, it was ready. The room was small but at least the decors were modern and clean looking.

 

We unload our heavy bags and then went right out to continue to explore the town. The view from up the hotel balcony; Lake Como looked so beautiful.

We walked to the Bellagio Promenade where we saw the ferry loading the cars and passengers.

The promenade is beautifully covered by those blooming trees and plants.

Another postcard view of Bellagio and Lake Como. 

We went to the ferry ticket office and purchased the roundtrip to Varenna for €9.20, it is not time-based so you can get on any of it as long as it’s the right direction to Varenna. We decided to go after lunch since there are more restaurant choices in Bellagio. With some time before lunch, we walked up the lovely narrow alleys for photos.

This door is covered completely by coins, creative isn’t it?

Chiesa San Giacomo where they were having some sort of ceremony:

For lunch, we went to Bistrot Antichi Sapori where I had a delicious prawn spaghetti. They ran out of mussels the night before so no mussels for our appetizer.

The restaurant was very generous, three king prawns!

Jason tried out the daily special – spaghetti with black truffles. It was very creamy and the famous black truffle taste. Our lunch cost €36.

After lunch, we headed back to the waterfront to have some photos while waiting for the ferry. Now, the sun light up the town so it looked more bright and colorful.

The pier is very busy constantly unloading and loading passengers and cars to various towns in Lake Como. The views from the ferry as it departs Bellagio.

It was a short ride to Varenna and the most beautiful view of Varenna is from the ferry as it approaches the lovely town so make sure you stay on the right side of the ferry from Bellagio for the view. When the ferry was turning toward the Varenna pier, you can see those colorful houses and the clock tower, it was so picturesque!

From the pier, it took another short walk to get to the town center where we passed by this cute lavender shop:

Varenna’s pier from the town center side:

Also through this very green passage:

It was a nice stroll.

Looking up those flights of stairs reminded me of Dubrovnik…..ready for some exercise?

We managed to find another postcard-perfect view, it was right behind a restaurant/bar. The colorful houses and flowers surrounded by green trees and the blue lake and sky, Varenna is very pictureque.

Without a map, we just explore on our own up those stairs and narrow alley way and we came across another Hotel Du Lac haha!After the flight of stairs, we got up and saw Chiesa di San Giorgio:

Along the main road, we followed the sign to Villa Monastero, famous for its botanical garden. The admission was €5 per person. The garden is very long, 2 kilometers, from Varenna to Fiumelatte.

The garden has beautiful columns, stairs, and structures to photograph so be prepared to stop every few steps for photos.

Wonderful views of the other side of Varenna, Lake Como, and other towns behind it…I think across the lake is Menaggio.

We almost reached the end of the garden with the view of the next town: Fiumelatte. 

Then we turned back for our long walk back to the exit. After a good hour+ at the villa, we did more exploration of the town. It is not touristy as Bellagio and we found it hard to even locate a souvenir shop!

There are a few gelato shops along the waterfront and went in Riva for gelato. I tried out the melon flavor and it was SO GOOD! The refreshing sweet flavor of melon, I finally found it again after Alberobello and Cinque Terre!!!

We caught the ferry right around 3 pm; the next ferry is another hour away. Varenna is beautiful but it’s small and not commercialized (a good thing) so a short visit is very well worthwhile. On the ferry back to Bellagio, you can see the difference in color due to the sun angle? It’s not as bright colorful so the best timing is at around late afternoon to early afternoon.

I didn’t realize this on the way to Varenna, you see that rows of colorful houses up there in the middle of the mountain? They are lined up perfectly and looked the same.

The ferry, fully packed:

Back to Bellagio:

We checked out more souvenir shops and went back to our hotel for a quick rest and to get our tripod before heading back out for dinner at Far Out. It was a big disappointment! The mussels were overcooked grrrr.

The grilled seafood plater looked huge but it just tasted okay.

My shrimp and prawn spaghetti…..it was a small portion and they were very cheap on the ingredients, unlike the one I had at lunch! The taste wasn’t good either. It cost us €54.50 and not satisfying 🙁 

After dinner, we still have time before the sunset and blue hour so we checked out more shops before they closed. We came across this interesting restaurant where they also selling painted glass bottles! Look at those hanging on the wall….they were flattened wine bottles!

They also have very cute painted limoncello bottles for €10 (if I remember correctly). The bottle is small enough to fit into a ziplock bag to carry on the flight 🙂 Our backup plan is to empty the bottle but we passed security just fine.

We bought the heart-shaped with a painting of the colorful street of Bellagio. It made a unique souvenir to bring home!

The painted bottles were expensive at €35….Jason was debating very hard. However, we couldn’t find one that is the colorful street as the limoncello painting otherwise Jason would’ve bought one home.

The restaurant where they sell those painted bottles is La Lanterna. 

Even their lamp cover is made of painted glass bottles, creative aren’t they?

We walked back to the famous street and it was packed with people having dinner.

The sun was setting and we walked back to the promenade ready for night photos. I wasn’t expecting a colorful sunset and it took us by surprised!

The silhouettes of the mountain ranges looked spectacular.

There was one other photographer there photographing the sunset and then left. We were the only ones there photographing the blue hour and night time so we had the prime spot. Bellagio at night is as beautiful!

After the blue hour, we weren’t done yet. The lamps hanging on the tree trunks really caught my eyes. The atmosphere looked magical.

Back to the famous street while the sky was still blue. But the hanging lamp there is broken :O

After the day trippers and tour groups left, the town is back to its charm.

After some night photos, we went back to our hotel to rest and need to sleep early since we need to head out before the crack of dawn tomorrow in order to make it back to Milan for our flight at 9:50 AM. I was smart this time to set the GPS to use SP41…no way we are taking that curvy and narrow road back! SP41 is much more easy to take even through mountain road and in the darkness.

The chandelier at the lobby of our hotel, beautiful!

We only spent a day in Lake Como which barely scratched the surface on what it has to offer….but better than nothing right with our limited vacation days. Lake Como is busier than Lake Garda and even though we only visited Bellagio and Varenna, I prefer the towns on Lake Garda more as they are generally bigger and more to explore. Limone Sul Garda is my favorite! 

2 thoughts on “One Day in Lake Como – Bellagio and Varenna

  1. Did you skip Lake Maggliore Stresa ,Lake Orta area?The sacrimonte chapels and terra cotta figures are quite impressive.

    Italy lake regions are quite pretty

    1. Yes we did, only have 3 days to choose two lakes….there are so many beautiful places in Italy. I lost track how many times I visited Italy, more in the upcoming future 😀

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