THE TRIP OF DREAMS TO ITALY | 1/2 LAKE COMO
When the clocks chimed midnight and we progressed into a New Year, I started to think about what my Get The Gossip blog was all about. I share all my weddings and shoots, but what about something a little more personal? Don't get me wrong, on a normal day-to-day week my life can be pretty boring... sat at a computer all day editing, being my own Accountant as well as Marketing Manager, maybe going to the gym a few times a week if I’m lucky!
However, on the odd occasion throughout the year I throw caution to the wind and go a little crazy. I spend far too much money, book holidays after a drink or three (yes, I did book a trip to New York on a whim with a friend after 5 cocktails!). So, on a February trip to Manchester for a friend’s birthday getaway last year – and after a few cheeky glasses of champagne – we decided some summer sun was in order… the question was, WHERE DO WE GO?!
Out came the phones and we started Googling, 'best places to visit in Europe'. After shouting out lots of different cities, we fell upon a very long list, found on an unnamed website, that stopped us clean in our tracks…
We both looked at each other and, in an instant, we had made our minds up – Lake Como here we come! 1 week later the trip was booked and we had nothing else to do but shop for all our holiday outfits!
February soon blurred into July and before we knew it, we were at the airport excited and ready to fly! However, flying with EasyJet is actually NEVER EASY. As I laid on the airport floor 3 hours after we were due to take off, I wondered if we would ever make it to the Italian sunshine.
We finally landed in Italy at 10.30pm, but our dreams of starting the trip with cocktails and dinner overlooking the lake drifted into the distance and all we wanted to do was make it to our B&B, Villa La Rosa, and get a good night sleep. An hour’s drive later, all the beautiful scenery was hidden by the darkness, and we rolled into bed and decided to start our exciting trip again tomorrow with a fresh head and a much-needed shower!
The next morning, as I pulled back the curtains of our floor to ceiling window, we were met with the utter beauty of Lake Como. I dared to open our bedroom door and all I could hear was the sound or birds tweeting and church bells ringing... I thought to myself, if this isn't heaven, then I don't know what is?!
It was confirmed, the best week of our lives had officially begun!
The photograph above is exactly what we were greeted with! Our view was from the top of a hill a 10-minute walk from the centre of Bellagio which, I have to say, if you're heading to Lake Como it certainly is a MUST to stay in. We stayed in one of the most amazing B&B's, Villa La Rosa. It’s owned by a local family and only has 6 bedrooms, plus an amazing a rooftop pool... so you think this view is nice, the pool one is even better!
I could not recommend Villa La Rosa more! One morning we walked around the corner to their little breakfast room and were greeted with fresh strawberries the Father had picked fresh from their stalks! It really is a family affair as the son’s helped us book a private boat the following day as well as taking us and our bags to the ferry station as we left so we didn't have to lug our bags down hundreds of steps! I would warn you though, that if you're not good on your legs, the steep steps from Bellagio to the Villa might be too much... but after a drink or two they become easier and easier, and it really is such a pretty walk!
We started off our first full day adventuring around Bellagio village. We walked around all the little alleys and up and down all the cobbled streets. We went in and out of so many beautiful shops, but kept our energy up with PLENTY of gelato and even had time to visit our first Villa of the trip - Giardini di Villa Melzi in Bellagio.
^ taking a quick break to check out the map via our phone!!
Giardini di Villa Melzi was our true first taste of a Lake Como Villa, and just WOW! We walked around all the gardens, witnessed an art class just outside one of the buildings - which I totally wanted to join in on! It was lovely to just relax and dangle our feet off the edge, soaking in the stunning view that we would enjoy for the days to come.
As a first taste of Bellagio, this was pretty amazing!
After an entire morning of wandering around back streets and gardens, we'd spotted a stunning little restaurant, Ristorante Bilacus, at the top of the famous Bellagio steps overlooking the streets below. Trust me - you have to look UP while walking around Bellagio, all the little hidden gems are either above street level or below! We knew we absolutely HAD to eat there that night! After a rest by the pool in the afternoon and experiencing a wonderful electric storm, the sun reappeared and we enjoyed a night of great food, wonderful drink, and plenty of laughter!
Day two and our love for this Lake was only growing!
We'd been told many times that the best way to see Lake Como was from the water, so on the Friday, that's exactly what we did! We hired a boat and had a fabulous driver/tour guide to explain about the Villas from the water, and the local history. I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest history lover, however he was the most amazing guide. He made it interesting by giving us little snippets of information about the families who own them but not going into so much detail that we were bored.
We moved from Villa to Villa, village to village, viewing the Lake from a whole new perspective! And at 30+ degrees, the lake breeze certainly helped us both cool down and keep things incredibly fun!
If there is one thing you do when you visit Lake Como, it HAS to be hiring a private boat. On this ride we found out about Lake Como's only island that only houses one church and one restaurant. We vowed to ourselves that on our next visit to this European wonder that we'd get a taxi boat to and from that restaurant for a meal - I mean, what a way to travel!
Once back on dry land we were itching to visit more villages along the shore line, so we hopped on the next ferry which took us to Verenna, a beautiful little fishing village on the other side of the lake.
I wish I'd taken more photographs of the lovely little cobbled streets and old little churches! We ventured in and out of buildings, up and down alleyways and settled at a lovely little quiet restaurant along the shoreline to have my second helping of local fish that trip.
While sipping on some wonderful local wine we gazed into the water, watching the locals using boats as taxis, going to and from different villages. We watched as a canoeist dropped a passenger off at their boat that was anchored up just off the shore; and the table next to us, which was filled with some great looking men dressed in wonderful linen suits, leave to board the most stunning boat and drive off into the distance.
Another world?! Yeah, you bet!
We finished off our night back in Bellagio, at a wonderful little wine bar underground, Aperitivo Et Al, where what initially was a pre- dinner drink, quickly turned into a full wine tasting with a few nibbles in-between! Honestly, this night was amazingly fun, and you can tell when you've hit the jack-pot location-wise when you see lots of locals popping in for a few drinks or to pick up a bottle of wine.
Locals know best!
We soon slipped into our last full day on the lake and we didn't have anything in particular planned, so we decided that, since we were on Lake Como, we should really go to Como town.
Worst. Decision. Ever.
We stepped off the ferry, looked at each other and checked when the next ferry back was! Como itself is much more urbanised and touristy. It's more built up and doesn't have the 'Lake Como’ charm to it. We were heading across to the hustle and bustle of Milan the following day, so we didn't want to waste time in a town that was too busy and just not that pretty. Unfortunately, the next two ferries were fully booked, so to make the best of a bad situation we went for lunch and killed time until our next ferry... as you can tell, I have no photographs from this part of our day!
On the ferry ride back, in-between trying to spot George Clooney's house, we decided to head to a Villa we'd seen from the water the day before. We jumped off the ferry at Lenno, grabbed a Gelato pick-me-up, and started our trek to Villa del Balbianello.
A few months earlier a friend was telling me about his time on Lake Como, his dad was getting married at Villa del Balbianello and it sounded dreamy! Part of Casino Royale was even set at this Villa - anywhere that's good enough for Bond is certainly go enough for us!
My Vans trainers proved their worth this day since the walk and uphill climb was certainly longer than we realised, but just WOW it was such a treat when we got there! We purchased tickets for the Villa tour that took us through the house and the family history, which was utterly wonderful, and we got to imagine what living there would have been like... I think I was born in the wrong country!!!
We watched as a private little wedding was being set up in a building slightly set back from the main Villa, and all I could imagine was being the wedding photographer for that wedding! Photographs on the boat arriving at the villa, the wonderfully outstanding grounds, and the floral decorations were just something from a dream.
On our way back down the Lenno it must have been THE DAY for weddings, because another one was being set up further down the hill. This one was much bigger affair with 80+ guests but looked like it would be amazingly relaxed on the shoreline with trestle tables set up in long lines and simpler, but still just as beautiful, flowers were placed along the centre.
Now I understand why so many people dream of getting married on Lake Como!
As we ventured back to the ferry port, we realised just how late it was and that we might have missed the last ferry. After a quick run and jumping from the plank to the boat we made it just in the nick of time! We spent our last night at a different wine bar in Bellagio this time, but one just as good!
We woke to the sound of the birds chatting again, and with a heavy heart we said goodbye to somewhere that gave us both so much happiness. We jumped on another ferry, one that would be our last of the trip, and made our way back to Varenna to drag our suitcases uphill to the local train station to catch a train out of our version of heaven.
However, there was no time to be too sad, we were heading to Milan!
To be continued....