When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore!
In the shadow of the snow-covered Rhaetian Alps, Lake Como may just be one of the most spectacular lakes in Italy, if that is not tempting enough, the thought of breathing the same air as George Clooney should do the job.
We checked into one of the coziest apartments we've ever came across in the lovely town of Brienno (the town next to George Clooney's mansion *winks*). Like many of the houses at Lake Como, the interior of the apartment had been refurbished to have a more modern, sophisticated look in comparison to its traditional exterior. The basement of this particular apartment, where the bedroom is, was practically a cave before the renovation. Keeping most of its walls intact, this gorgeous bedroom was definitely my first time sleeping in a "cave". Not that shabby at all.
One thing we learnt while we were there was that lake people are amazing people. Anywhere around this lake, people are friendly, helpful and eager to share. Our host Daniele, is the perfect example. Not only did he pick us up from the train station, he even drove us around town whenever he was available and made plans for us to get around easily when he was not. .
Dreaming at the Waters of the Lake
Photo credits Daniele Mangiapane
Do the Tourist Bits First
Menaggio - Bellagio - Varenna
1. Doing the touristy bits of Lake Como isn't really that difficult. There is something I would like to call the "Tourist Triangle" or the "Holy Trinity of Lake Como". Whatever you want to call it, you got to do it. Start off early and take a quick peek at Menaggio. While not necessary the most flamboyant, this small little town has quite a few great eateries, supermarts and a decent view of the lake.
Buy a ferry pass and hop on to the next ferry heading towards Bellagio. Request for a ferry timetable while purchasing your tickets. Be mindful of the last ferry timings and also bear in mind that they come and go as advertised, do not even for a second think that being a few minutes late is reasonable.
2 & 3. Once you alight at Bellagio you will immediately understand why it is known as the "Pearl of the Lake". Situated at the tip of a long hilly promontory between the two Southern branches of Lake Como, the village is characterised by century-old buildings, stone lanes and picturesque cobbled stairways filled with shops showcasing the finest Italian wares. The unique location also guarantees a view like no other. With plenty to explore, take a quick trip to the iconic Church of Saint James. Though small, the church makes up with abundance of history and culture flooding within the walls of the ancient building.
1. You can get a fabulous steak at Menaggio for a fraction of the price in Singapore
2. Keep the heels for Milan and pull on some comfy sneakers for Bellagio
3. Visit the numerous small churches
4. Take a slow walk and watch the gorgeous sunset on Varenna
4. Out of the three, Varenna is possibly our favourite. Being the most densely populated by the locals out of the three, this old fishing village gave us a closer look on what it really is like to live on this gorgeous lake. Here you will find colourful houses snuggled against each other, a medivil castle atop the mountain, and two gorgeous villas' gardens namely Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi. While it may not look as grand as the previous two towns, there's somethng abot Varenna that remains unpretentiously appealing with an air of sincere authenticity we found missing in Menaggio and Bellagio.
1. Pizzeria Balognett 2. Chef's Specialty of the Day
3. Fresh Ingredients 4. Pizzeria Balognett tries to bought daily grow as many of their
own ingredients as possible
Eat when in Doubt
One taste I will never forget? The pizza at Pizzeria Balognett, a modest neighbourhood pizzeria among the residential streets of Tremezzo. Before we get to the fresh juicy details, let us first warn you, finding this hidden gem is no easy feat so be prepared to do some hiking to work up the appetite.
This hidden gem is anything but fancy. With just a few plastic chairs and tables set on the pretty lawn upfront of the residential property, the tiny place is run solely by a couple passionate about good food. Offering a variety of choices, everything on the menu is freshly made with quality ingredients including fruits, spices and vegetables freshly bought from the local market or home grown in their miniature garden.
If you're up for something exciting, ask the chef to whip up something for you using their freshest ingredients of the day. With that request, we got half a seafood pizza with the most succulent produce and half a pizza with nothing but pear, apple and plenty of good ol' cheese. While the latter might have raised a few eyebrows, let me assure you that the effortless combination complimented each other so well that it remains one of the best pizza I've ever tasted anywhere.
Via Delle Mele 5A, Tremezzo, 22019
Best Olive Oil
Vanini Oil has been producing olive oil in Lenno since 1850. Using traditional cold-pressing metods, chefs far beyond Lombardia, including the famous Jamie Oliver, order cartons of this stuff to drizzle on their salads and break bread with. You will not have a tough time finding a bottle of this natural goodness here at Lake Como, but why not go straight to where they make it and pick up a bottle on the cheap while immersing yourself in the beautiful scenery? They migh even let you take a sip from the precious, extra-tasty first pressing, straight from the stone mill if you play nice!
Premiato Oleificio Vanini Osvaldo
Via Silvio Pellico 10, Lenno, 22016
Tel: 0039 0344 55127
II Gatto Nero
Via Monte Santo 69, Cernobbio
Tel: 031 512042
Closed on Monday
2 Piazza Risorgimento, Cernobbio, 22012
Closed on Tuesday
Bar Gelateria Helvetia
Via Portici Sampietro, 16, Tremezzo
Tel: 0344 40409
Take a Long Stroll
Dongo - Gravedona - Domaso
This was no doubt the favourite part of my trip (other than the pizza from Pizzeria Balognett). The whole chill vibe at Lake Como has certainly got to us as by the third day, we find ourselves slowing our footsteps, licking gelato and exploring the small towns we didn't plan to. Further north of the lake, the human population is pretty sparse apart from the occasional old couples taking their afternoon stroll together. The lake is a picturesque definition of serenity and beauty combined. Whether you are in a mood for adventure, romance or just chill in the arms of mother earth, north of the lake is the way to go. This part of the lake is also the only area where you can walk on the stretch of beach, right next to the waters.