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Around Lake Como.

Time travel:September 1-9, 2007.

Automobile:Volkswagen Passat Station.


Travel map:

    In the story "Tuscan Week" I have already told in detail about the preparations for our next vacation trip. But let me once again return to the preparatory stage.
  About the lakes of Northern Italy Como (Lago di Como), Garda (Lago di Garda), Maggiore (Lago Maggiore) there is a lot of information on the Internet, both in Russian and English and, of course, Italian sites. Analyzing all this flow of information, we tried to answer our questions: Why do people go to Lake Como? What to watch? Where to live?
  Ever since ancient Rome, the area of Lake Como, whose ancient name is Lario, has been valued as a place for elite recreation.
The landscapes of Lake Como, combining northern austerity and sophistication with the lush expansiveness of Mediterranean vegetation, are not without reason considered one of the most beautiful in the world. All this, together with a mild and stable climate, makes the lake a very attractive and prestigious vacation spot.
  Many famous people have been here at different times. Stendhal described Como in The Parma Cloister. Como was honored with his presence by Goethe, Tchaikovsky, De Musset, Longfellow, Heine, ...
  It is not surprising that artists did not bypass the lake with their attention. For example, in 1894 Levitan was carried away by Como. The motif of the lake for a long time becomes one of his favorite motifs along with the motifs of roads and the outskirts of the village in his work.
  The banks of Como abound with magnificent villas surrounded by fragrant gardens and luxurious hotels. In the 19th century, Russian aristocrats liked the lake very much, renting entire floors in hotels and living here for several months a year.
  To this we must add our own impressions, when a few years ago, traveling from Italy (then we lived for several days on another famous lake - Garda) to Switzerland, we stopped for a couple of days in Lugano. And on one of the rainy days, we returned to sunny Italy for only 20 km and spent several hours in the city of Como. Fascinated by the beauty of what we saw, even then we decided that it would be nice to come here for a few days.
  So, for the first, and for the second, questions, we get unambiguously positive answers: why go and what to see! Then the following question arises: can we, middle-class people with a weekly vacation budget of around 1,000 euros per person, afford a vacation in such a prestigious and relatively expensive place?
  First of all, I would like to note that the following amounts are based on our personal experience and we in no way claim to be absolute truth. Once again I repeat that this is only our opinion, which, of course, can be challenged.
  Here is a preliminary estimate of the expenditure items of the vacation budget per person:

Air tickets. Flight Tel Aviv - Milan on a regular flight with Alitalia - 500 US dollars or about 410 euros, per week with a two-week vacation - 205 euros.

Car rent. The cost of renting a medium-class car such as Opel Astra Station, sufficient for four people with luggage for 7-8 days, is 385 euros plus the cost of fuel, about 500 euros in total, per person - 125 euros.

Meals - from my own experience - 40 euros per day per person, per week - 280 euros.

Visits to museums, galleries and other attractions - from my own experience - 20 euros per day - per week 140 euros.

Souvenirs and other purchases - from my own experience - about 100 euros.

Total without housing costs - 850 euros.

  And there is only 150 euros left for housing for a week. Seems like a meager and insufficient amount?
Yes, if you focus on hotels, the cost of which for 5 * goes off scale for 200 euros per day, for 3-4 * - from 70 euros per day, even 2 * and B&B starts from 30 euros (minimum 210 euros per week).
  But for several years now, we have been solving the housing problem by renting private apartments. As in all recent years, we started our search for accommodation on, and this time we found the final option on This is the site of an Italian company that specializes in the sale of various services, including the rental of private apartments in the Lake Como area. So, we rented the Casa Marco apartment for a week, which suits us in terms of price, quality and location. They are located in the town of Colico. Rental price - 650 euros per week for four people. Per person - 162.50 euros, i.е. We are practically within budget.
  But enough about the money, otherwise the story is starting to turn into an accounting report.

  In the story "Tuscan Week" we parted on September 1, a few dozen kilometers from Milan. Before that, we visited Bologna, where we got a car. We were a bit lucky and instead of the ordered Opel Astra Station we got a higher class car - Volkswagen Passat Station.
  Let me remind you that we are traveling with a GPS navigator and call the talkative fifth crew member Vovka.

  Here I would like to share the rules of conduct in a car trip that we have developed over the years. Some will find these rules trivial, while others will find them useful. In addition, this part of the story will be of interest only to those who profess the same way of rest. Others will either be patient or just skip to the next paragraph.
  On most trips, as in this one, the crew is 4 people, 2 couples. Our experience shows that this is the best option. We are placed in the car very simply: the crew commander is at the wheel, the Navigator is nearby, and the beautiful half of the crew is comfortably in the back seat. The crew leader has a special, if not decisive, role in determining the success of a journey. And during the movement, he is generally endowed with dictatorial powers. Only the Commander, according to the traffic situation, decides where to go at the moment and chooses the direction of movement, even if it turned out to be wrong. Shouts of other crew members like "You went the wrong way!", "Turn right!" or, even worse, "Stop, we missed the turn!" considered inappropriate, harmful and even dangerous.
  An important role belongs to the Navigator. He develops the route, manages the GPS-navigator and together with him helps the Commander. By the way, we have a GPS navigator on the right side of the Navigator, thereby not interfering with the view from the driver's seat. 
  The next rule is based on the understanding that our trip is not a rally at all, we do not strive to set records, but we rest. Therefore, the daily run rarely exceeds 300 km, and the time in motion is no more than 6 hours. In addition, on the road we make rest stops at least every two hours.

  But back to our current journey.
  So, in the Milan area, we turned north and headed for Lake Como.

  We saw the lake already near Lecco. It sparkled with a shiny surface and immediately disappeared as we flew into the tunnel. In general, this part of the road turned out to be a continuous tunnel: one ended, the next immediately began, the tunnels are short (several hundred meters) and the tunnels are long (several kilometers, the longest is more than 5 km). And so on to Colico, our destination.   By the way, in the tunnels the GPS navigator is useless for obvious reasons and therefore Vovka monotonously announced that the signal was lost. But as soon as we emerged from the next tunnel, he began to feverishly look for a way, several times reporting a change in route.

  So we arrived in Colico. Here, on a small cozy embankment, there is an office of the company, where we must receive the keys and the exact address of our apartments. We were already expected and, having quickly settled the formalities, we received a bunch of keys and several sheets with a diagram and photographs of the road to Casa Marco. At first we ignored these sheets and decided to trust Vovka. But, after a little wandering, we returned to the starting point, followed the scheme and after a few minutes taxied to the gates of Casa Marco.
  A three-story cottage with the back facing the street. Here, in front of the automatic gates, there is a fairly spacious parking lot. There are several garages in the basement of the house. We even tried to drive a car there, but apparently the owner jumped out, very insistently, but politely, asked to park the car in the upper parking lot. Obviously, there are no permanent residents in the cottage. Our Casa Marco and another apartment are rented out, while the others are used as summer cottages. In any case, we saw other residents in the cottage only on Saturday and Sunday.

    The cottage is surrounded by a front garden, a stone path leads to each apartment. 
  Our Casa Marco is on the opposite side of the gate. We went there and ... The surrounding landscape was simply amazing! Wherever you look, everywhere we see pictures of unimaginable beauty, painted by Her Majesty Nature. We began to frantically click cameras, as if this beauty would disappear in a moment. By the way, then we got a stunning panoramic shot. I do not take the liberty to describe what I saw, it is still impossible to convey in words this beauty. And we saw a lot of such beauties in a week. So, believe me, just for this it is worth visiting Lake Como.

   But, having made an effort and looking away from the surrounding beauty, we entered Casa Marco. Apartment on three levels. From the entrance we get into a rather spacious salon. Here on the left is a large sofa and an armchair, opposite a furniture wall with a TV (cable TV with many channels, including two Russian ones!). In the far left corner in front of the entrance to the kitchen is a dining table. The kitchen has everything you need. To the right, past the kitchen, there is a small corridor leading to a toilet with a washbasin. In the same corridor there is another door, behind it is a staircase leading to the basement. There is a washing machine, ironing board and access to the already well-known garage.
  But back to the salon. To the right of the corridor is a staircase upstairs. There are two bedrooms and a bathroom on the first floor. In the bedrooms, in addition to a large double bed and a chest of drawers, there is a built-in closet. On the second floor there is another bedroom and a bathroom. Each bedroom has access to a small balcony.
  Everything is clean, in good order, fully meets our expectations and, combined with the surrounding beauty, makes for a comfortable and pleasant stay.

   The first day on Como was not without adventure. In the evening, after parking the car, we suddenly find that the left rear wheel is flat. It was already dark, but by the light of a hand lamp we changed the wheel. Fortunately, the spare wheel was in working order. But we were left without a spare tire. And the next day is Sunday. Only on Monday morning we got this wheel. And they helped us in the office, where we received the keys to the apartment. One of the workers drove in her car, showing the way, to the nearest industrial zone. There, her relative or acquaintance turned out to have a tire repair shop. The wheel had to be changed, it turned out to be just ripped open. We were already ready to lay out almost 100 euros, but the case was limited to 20 euros, and with a check of the condition of all wheels.
   Here I can't help but say kind words to the Italians. During the two weeks of traveling in Italy, we have repeatedly resorted to the help of the local population. And, despite our meager knowledge of Italian, and English also did not always help out, we found understanding, a kind and sympathetic attitude.

  Now I will move away from the diary entries and just tell a little more about the lake itself and what we managed to see around it.

Let's start with the fact that Lake Como has a very original and unique shape. Many see it as an inverted Y, others see it as the silhouette of a running man, and it is also called the 'Triangle Star'. The lake is the third largest in Italy and the deepest in the country (410 m) and probably in Europe. The three converging arms of the lake are named after the cities from which they originate: Como (Como), Lecco (Lecco), Colico (Colico). Moreover, each sleeve has its own characteristics: Colico is wild and pure, Lecco is a real jewel, Como is refined and elegant. The area between the arms of Como and Lecco is called the Larian Triangle (Triangolo Lariano).
  The lake owes its unusual shape to a narrow depression formed during the ice age, and it owes its unique beauty to a wonderful and harmonious combination of three natural factors. First of all, it is a frame of limestone and granite mountains up to 600 m from the south and 2400 m from the north (very reminiscent of the Norwegian fjords). The highest peak is Monte Legnone (2609 m), it rises above Colico in the north. The shores of the lake are covered with lush vegetation, among which vines, fig trees, pomegranates, olives, chestnuts and oleanders predominate. And all this is reflected in the amazingly clear blue water with shades of sapphire and cobalt, ultramarine and turquoise.
  Around the lake (only 170 km) there is a developed network of roads. Moreover, most of these are specific roads or roads through settlements. Only on the eastern side, in addition to the view roads, there is a freeway (the one with tunnels) from Lecco to Colico.
    Most of the road profile is rather complicated: mountainous, with sharp turns (serpentine). During rush hours, traffic jams are not uncommon, especially in settlements. So, on the one hand, you will not accelerate, and on the other hand, driving on such roads requires a fairly high qualification of the driver.
  All three arms of the lake are navigable. There are both high-speed hydrofoils and vintage steamboats. Moreover, shipping is so developed that you can get to any town on the lake by water. In addition, in the central part, where three arms converge, a ferry service has been established.
  Here I must make a critical remark to the authors of the "Milan and the Lakes" guide from the DK series (Dorling Kindersley). It incorrectly states that a ferry service operates throughout the lake. It operates only in the central part of the lake and connects only four towns: Varenna, Bellagio, Menaggio, Cadenabbia.

    Speaking of the transport infrastructure around the lake, you need to add a railway that runs along the east coast from Milan through Lecco, Colico and on to Switzerland.

  Interesting places around the lake where we visited, I would divide into three categories: observation (viewing) platforms, villas and cities.

  Observation (viewing) platforms - this is exactly what we came to Como for. And in this sense, we were very lucky, since the first such platform was, as they say, without departing from the cash register, that is, the porch. This landscape amazed us on the first day and accompanied us all the time, especially in the mornings, against the backdrop of misty haze and pastoral silence, interrupted by the call of roosters and the melodious chime of church bells.
  We visited another observation deck, the view from which also left an indelible impression, on the second day. We drove to Castello di Vezio, a medieval castle built on the site of a Roman watchtower. This place is interesting in itself. Here you can see an interesting spectacle - falconry. You can also try on real knightly armor and pose with a sword or crossbow in your hands.

   But the most important thing is, of course, a stunning view of the lake. Moreover, this place is unique in the sense that all three branches of the lake are visible here almost from a bird's eye view.

  An interesting observation deck is located in Bellagio and is called Punta Spartivento. It also offers a view of the three sleeves. By the way, this point is advertised as the most beautiful view of the lake. But we would prefer the view from Castello di Vezio.

   We visited Brunate at one more observation deck. You can get there from the city of Como by funicular.
  I have listed only the most impressive viewpoints we visited. In general, there are a lot of them. You can drive along the lake along the scenic road, stop at almost any convenient place and enjoy the surrounding beauty. In this sense, we especially remember the road along the coast from Como to Bellagio.

   Villas on Como certainly deserve special attention, this is a kind of visiting card of the lake. Each villa, and there are several hundred of them, has its own history. Some continue to be privately owned, others have been turned into museums or luxury hotels.
  So, the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni & Beauty Center, which immediately became one of the most prestigious in Europe, in 1873 became Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio. Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy and many members of the Rothschild family stayed here.
  Another luxurious hotel "Villa d'Este", where you forget about the realities of being, is located in Villa d'Este in Cernobbio. Heads of many states often come here on vacation. In the 19th century, Caroline of Brunswick, the future Queen of England, became the owner of the villa. The Russian Empress Maria Fedorovna also visited here.
  One of the villas is especially popular with fans of "Star Wars" - Villa Balbianello (Villa del Balbianello) in Lenno (Lenno) presented their scenery for one of the episodes.
  Most of the villas are located right by the water and usually face the lake with their facade. Therefore, the most beautiful views of villas should be sought from the side of the water - from a steamer, ferry, boat, or from the opposite shore. It was from this angle that we admired the villas of Olmo (Villa Olmo) in Como, Monastero (Villa Monastero) in Varenna, Melzi d'Eril (Villa Melzi d'Eril) in Bellagio. And also from this angle, we first saw the Villa Carlotta (Villa Carlotta), from the ferry, when we crossed with the car from Varenna to Menaggio.

  Villa Carlotta attracted us not only with the opportunity to see luxurious housing, a masterpiece of architecture, also rich in artistic values, but with its magnificent park.
  The villa is located in Tremezzo (Tremezzo) at an altitude of 201 m above sea level and covers an area of 70 thousand square meters, was built around 1690 by the Milanese banker Giorgio Clerici. Ownership changed owners over time. Among them is Princess Marina of Nassau, who gave the villa to her daughter Carlotta when she married Prince Meiningen of Saxony. At that time, the villa was surrounded by an English-style garden. The villa is currently owned by the Italian State and managed by the Villa Carlotta Association.
  Inside the villa you can enjoy works of art, including copies of the sculptures "Cupid and Psyche", "Terpsichore" by Canova. Among the paintings we can mention "The Last Kiss of Romeo and Juliet" by Hayets.
  The park's botanical collection exceeds 500 tree species. Blooming plantations of azaleas and rhododendrons are especially good. Terraces and balustrades are decorated with climbing roses, jasmine  and other climbing plants. It is very pleasant to walk in the shade of a wooded hollow planted with tree ferns, magnolias, palms and eucalyptus trees, whole groves of Japanese maples and bamboos, and descending lianas and blooming orchids create a corner reminiscent of a real jungle.

    Of the cities around Lake Como, Como and Lecco are included in the compulsory program.

  I'll try to take a virtual tour of Como. We have been to Como several times and each time we entered the city from the other side. The most interesting for us seemed to be the entrance to the city from the north, from Cernobbio. Moving along Via per Cernobbio, you see a whole string of villas: Villa Erba, Villa Lariana, Villa Flori, Villa Grumello, and finally Villa Olmo.
  Continue along Via Borgo Vico, turning left, you will find yourself on the Rosselli brothers avenue, from where, passing the Siniaglia stadium, where the local Como football team plays home games, you need to get to Marconi street. At the end of the street, right on the lake, you will find the tomb of Alessandro Volta (Tempio Voltiano, aka Museo Alessandro Volta). The Temple of Volta, whose inauguration took place in July 1928, was conceived as a place to store originals and copies of scientific instruments and devices of the famous physicist - the inventor of the battery, the first source of electricity. The Temple of Volta can be called a smaller copy of the Roman Pantheon. The interior features a rich mosaic floor, where more than 30 shades of marble, onyx and alabaster of rare quality are used.
  Walking along the picturesque promenade through the garden, we come to Piazza Cavour. On the corner, closer to the promenade, there is a cozy cafe, which we visited whenever we were in Como. It's all about the great cakes and excellent coffee.
  From Piazza Cavour along a narrow street we get to another square - Piazza Duomo. The construction of the cathedral, begun in 1396, on the site of an ancient Romanesque basilica, stretched over four centuries. Watching it, it is easy to see the differences of successive eras and styles: the facade is in the Gothic style, the Renaissance lines in other parts of the cathedral, the baroque dome of the 18th century. Many artists and sculptors decorated the cathedral; even two antique statues of Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger were brought here, placed on the sides of the portal. The dome, completed in 1744, was designed by Juvara, court architect to the King of Sardinia. The interiors of the cathedral are worthy of every attention. Inside are two sculptures of lions from the 12th century, a sarcophagus and a marble altar from the 14th century, coming from a ruined ancient basilica; paintings by Luini, Lanino and Ferrari of the 16th century; frescoes by Morazzone of the 17th century, Flemish tapestries and baroque stucco work of the 16th-17th centuries; 19th century Bertini stained glass windows
  Next to the cathedral is the elegant Romanesque-Gothic town hall - Broletto (1215)
Next to the Duomo is the old market square Piazza San Fedele with the basilica of the same name, built in the 12th century on the site of the appearance of the ancient Christian Saint Euphemia.

    Before leaving Como, you must not forget to take the already mentioned funicular to the town of Brunate to enjoy the panorama of the lake in the necklace of mountains. The historic village of Brunate is located 800 m above Como. On the funicular, this path can be done in 7 minutes, much faster than on a good asphalt road. The funicular is a small mountain train, it was first built here in 1894. The funicular runs every 15-30 minutes. Brunate is also called the "Pre-Alpine Balcony" for its wonderful panoramic position.

  Lecco is a less popular city, but also pleasant. Here we especially liked the long promenade along the lake.

    In Colico, where we lived, there is also a small cozy embankment. Here we chose one restaurant with homemade Italian cuisine, we dined there several times. The hostess met us already as regular customers and herself advised the most delicious dishes.
  In general, all the towns around the lake are very nice and cozy.

  On the lake there is the only island of Comacina (Isola Comacina), which, by the way, we did not have time to visit. The island has an interesting history and there is also something to see there.

  Now a few words about relatively long trips. Several times we seemed to break away from the orbit around the lake.

  The first time we did this was heading to neighboring Switzerland. At first they thought to make a big circle: to the north, to the Splugen pass, then the famous San-Bernardino pass, then Bellinzona and along Lake Lugano back to Como. But in the end, limited to a small circle. First, from Menaggio we drove along Lake Lugano, imperceptibly (literally!) Crossed the Italian-Swiss border, then turned north and headed for Bellinzona. There we saw the famous ancient castle of Castelgrande. From its walls we saw two more beautiful castles: Castello Montebello and Castello Sasso Corbaro. On the way back, we went the same way, but stopped at Melide in the Mini Switzerland park (MiniSwiss).

   The second time they broke away from Como, going to Venice. This is our third time in Italy and every time, wherever we are, we always try to get to Venice. In addition, another couple from our crew made their debut in Italy at all, and for the first time Italy without Venice is not quite Italy.
  Here we had to solve a kind of transport problem. The distance from Colico to Venice is about 300 km. So by car there and back 600 km - this is at least 10 hours on the road - very tiring! The option by rail also does not work: there is no direct train from Colico to Venice, with transfers on the road even more than 10 hours.
  Choose the combined option. By car we get to the station, from where there is a direct train to Venice, we leave the car there and go by train to Venice, we walk there until the evening and return home to Colico in the reverse order.
  It turned out extremely well. In the morning we left at 6:00, at the beginning of the 9th hour we were already in Brescia. We leave the car in a large underground parking lot at the station and catch the 9-hour train to Venice. Less than 2 hours in a comfortable compartment passed unnoticed and at 11 we were already in Venice. It is unnecessary to talk about Venice, you have to go there and see it with your own eyes. We had a wonderful time. At 7 pm we gathered back and by 12 pm returned to Colico.

    For the third time, and finally, we broke away from Como when we flew home from Malpensa airport, also having a great day in Milan.

That's how wonderful we spent a week around the fabulous Lake Como.

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