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Less Than 24 Hours in Lake Como, Italy

A quick twenty four hours in Lake Como is more satisfying than you might think. Follow ToeB and Edyta on their adventure.

Menaggio, Lake Como, Italy is located in the Lombardy region of Italy only 30 minutes away from the Swiss border town of Gandria. The view is breathtaking. Throughout the centuries poets, artists and musicians have all trekked to this northern Italian region for inspiration. The pre-alps engulf the tiny painted towns with a protective feel that warms you. The black gaze of the picturesque lake is both beautiful and haunting. If romance is what you are after than look no further than Lake Como-only Paris compares.

A soldier holding a machine gun yelled at us “No Pictues!” as we were welcomed into Italy.
Our first look at the lake and the pre-Alps.

I know what you are thinking…if it is so breathtaking and all why did you basically stop over to sleep in George Clooney’s backyard? Sometimes there is a bigger goal during travel, especially when you only have an allotted amount of days off. On this particular fly/drive through Europe we were going to be visiting 10 countries in just under 14 days, so in this case 24 hours is quite longer than it looks.

Breathtaking Pre-Allp Views of Lake Como on the road into Menaggio, Italy
PRO TIP: Rent the smallest car possible in Europe as the streets are narrower than you might expect.

Also, in my defense, the itinerary was always Barcelona and I basically squeezed in Lake Como at the last minute. I know, I know who squeezes in Lake Como? Apparently, we do and as luck would have it we reached Menaggio just in time to catch the mid-lake ferry to Bellagio. Since it was the off-season and we had no idea what the ferry schedule was we were only afforded a few hours to stroll the quaint streets, stop for a bottle of wine (or two) and a snack before we had to board the last return ferry back to Menaggio during magic hour. Even though it was a short experience we made those hours count and boy were they worth it.

Streets of Bellagio, Italy
Streets of Bellagio, Italy
Streets of Bellagio, Italy
Boat Dock-Bellagio, Italy

Where To Stay:

The lake is sprinkled with hotels of various ratings and pricing. Since we were spending less than 24 hours in the area the goal was to save money. Me being me I wanted both savings and a view. I chose to stay at Lake Como Youth Hostel -La Primula, Menaggio; wonderful food, great views and the nearest exit to our morning driving itinerary.

Lake Como Youth Hostel La Primula, Menaggio
PRO TIP: Don’t sleep on hostels. They will surprise you.

From my experience there are some very affordable hostels offering the cheapest beer (like the Vancouver Hostel we stayed at during the 2010 Olympics) or some of the most spectacular views (as listed below). Then there are the hostels with the absolute best locations like Smart Stay Hotels in Munich City, which is 909 feet from one of the main entrances to the Octoberfest Grounds. This might not seem important, but when you have had 4 liters of beer after a 3 hour flight you NEED to be steps from your bed. Finally, there are the hostels with wonderful inexpensive menus and fantastic staff’s, who truly know the area. Our hostel in Menaggio had terrific food with a gorgeous view and extremely helpful staff.

Sunrise View from our room in Youth Hostel -La Primula, Menaggio
  1. Mountain Hostel Gimmelwald-One of the most remote hostels on the planet. This picturesque Swiss Chalet sits on the edge of a cliff overlooking the snowcapped Jungfrau Mountain. It’s the closest thing to heaven on earth you will ever experience. You are literally living in the clouds in Gimmelwald. I have never breathed cleaner air in my entire life and the hiking is a hard as it comes on your lungs, but it is glorious.
  2. Bondi Backpackers Hostel-Sydney, Australia. You can throw a rock and hit Bondi Beach plus the The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk starts steps away and is a great way to shake off the down under jet-lag.
  3. Sydney Harbour-The Rocks YA Hostel-Sydney, Australia. An affordable hostel that is also an archaeological site with the same spectacular views of the harbour as the Shangri-La Hotel.
  4. Rygerfjord Floating Hostel and Hotel-Stockholm, Sweeden. Book the suite if you can. The midnight sun is breathtaking as it sets and rises in a four hour window. Plus, you have a big enough deck for a boat party with old Stockholm as a backdrop.
  5. Smart Stay Hotels Munich City-Munich, Germany. Even though its name suggests otherwise this is still a hostel analogously. The average rate of a private room is €45.60 , but during Octoberfest it is up to $200 USD a night, but worth it when you consider most people pass out behind the tents at the end of the night. Not a great place to end up as behind the tents is where men relieve themselves throughout the day all festival long.

Click On The Images Below

Things To Do In Lake Como:

1. Take a ride on the ferry system. One of best ways to explore Lake Como is by boat. There are many ways to get around the lake via private boat, mid-lake ferry or the ship route that takes you all the way to Como. Here is the link to the official ferry site, so you can plan your journey: Navigazione Laghi.it (The English button is located at the top right of the page). We arrived mid-day and at check-in we asked about going to Como. The clerk suggested, due to time constraints, we take a shuttle over to Bellagio since the last return shuttle was just before 8 PM giving us a few hours to enjoy Bellagio. The mid-lake ferry shuttle is highlighted in yellow on the map below. You can buy a single ride ticket, one day pass or six day pass for the best savings.

Menaggio, Italy
Lake Como Ferry Route Map

2. Hiking-Since you are at a lower altitude the hiking is a bit easier than Swiss Alps and the views are still incredibly rewarding. The hostel had a bunch of hiking trail routes including this half day hike to Sasso San Martino (seen below). All Trails website is a great resource for hiking the world and has broken out the various trails in the Lombardy Region. The site’s information includes trail type, distance, elevation, views from the top, difficulty ratings, and eta’s. Please click the link for all the hiking trail information you need for the region: All Trails Lombardy Region.

3.Relax, Rewind, Restore– if doing nothing is at the top of your list for vacation needs then Lake Como would make the shortlist. Some of the wealthiest and busiest people in the world have a house somewhere in the region. I don’t think this is just happenstance. The nature of the place slows you down. From the relaxing ferry ride, to the meandering cobblestone lined narrow lanes the region forces you to slow down. The outdoor patios of the restaurants and cafes call you in for an espresso or a glass of wine. It is impossible to feel rushed or stressed out here.

Places To Eat:

Bstyle Cafe-Fantastic appetizers and wine selection. We sat outside to enjoy the laid back vibe of Bellagio.

Bstyle Cafe Terrace-Bellagio-Italy
PRO TIP: I once took a day trip from the Hudson Valley area of New York to Maine because I had a hankering for lobster. No map, no research, just my Jeep Wrangler and my cd’s. I got as far as the Maine border and became ravenous. Decision time. My original destination was Portland, but my stomach was not having it. I quickly pivoted and decided upon Keneebunkport. If it was good enough for the Bush family, than it was good enough for me. I took the exit and followed the road hoping it would lead into town, which it did. I came across a slew of lobster restaurants and parked. I walked into the first restaurant that looked like it might be good. As soon as I stepped inside I was surrounded by autographed pictures of famous people. Jackpot! Right behind the register area-front and center-was an autograph picture of President George H. W. Bush. Trust your instincts they are better than you think.

Since we only had a few hours in Lake Como I didn’t do any of my normal deep dive research into the area. I wanted to just roam freely and stumble upon a place. This has always worked out for me. It might seem terrifying and unknown, but it’s a great way to explore and discover. If you don’t trust your own instincts than keep these tips in mind. Rely on your nose and eyes. If the aroma coming out of the restaurant is to die for than go for it. If the place is packed than go for it. If you see autographed photos of famous people hanging on the walls…you know the rest. Another great thing to do if you are in an unknown area is go to a dive bar and ask the bartenders for great local places to eat. Emphasize local-some place the bartender loves, not a tourist place. This has worked out tremendously for me in the past especially in expensive towns.

Edyta and I strolled the streets of Bellagio for a while pooping in and out of shops. We passed a small walking street sloping towards the water with a quaint cafe. I motioned for us to turn down it. The owners had constructed permanent custom cafe seats and tables that sloped with the angle of street. I asked Edyta “How about a glass of wine?” We sat, bought a bottle, than another and spent two hours enjoying appetizers and Italian wine on a lazy Lake Como day in this unique spot on the world map. Twenty four hours maybe short for some of you, considering our grueling itinerary, it was just the relaxing break we needed to refuel for the journey on to Monaco, Nice, and Barcelona. This is traveling.


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