We drove up to Lake Como from Florence, arriving mid-afternoon. By that evening, my husband had decided he wanted to live there. Now we have been to many beautiful places, but none have elicited quite so strong a reaction – not sure though whether the greyer he goes, the more he’s wondering, ‘What would Clooney do?’
And although we went to beautiful Bellagio we didn’t spot George, but to be honest I’d have been hard pressed to be distracted from the gorgeous scenery (oh, alright, maybe just a glance…).
Nestled between Switzerland and Italy, Lake Como really is a dream destination. Snow capped mountains reflected in the clear blue of the lake, the historical buildings and beautiful fishing villages – it’s like stepping into a postcard. We loved it, and would go back in a heartbeat.
1. Think about food!
Ok so I am always thinking about food. But if you are staying in an apartment, or even if you just want to have some snacks for the kids, stock up at a supermarket before you drive round the lake.
We didn’t, and there was only one tiny shop near us – which was expensive and limited in supplies. I kicked myself for not having done a supermarket sweep in Como – it was a long and windy drive back, and I didn’t want to waste any of our precious time.
2. Where’s best to stay?
If you are doing Lake Como with kids, the central lake area is great – between Argengno towards Tremezzo and Bellagio.
As is a theme with these posts from Italy, finding a hotel room for the four of us proved (a) difficult and (b) expensive. So we opted for Air BnB it and we lucked out with our apartment. OK, so we also splashed out, but it seemed good value compared to the cost of hotels. (I am very practised in the art of rationalising my spending).
These were the last few days of our holiday and we really wanted to relax, and the apartment was right on the lake with great views and was very spacious. Great kitchen too. Shame we didn’t buy groceries when we had the chance…
3. Lake Como with kids?
Although it might not seem like the most child-friendly destination, we found that there was a lot to keep the kids occupied. Water-themed activities abound (funny that, it being a lake and everything!) so it’s ideal if your children are good swimmers.
The lake – It’s fun to take a boat trip across the lake, and it’s possible to hire your own boat for the day. Here‘s a list of Lake Como’s best beaches; we really liked Menaggio. There are lots of watersports available – from water-skiing to kayaking, and some of the beach areas have trampolines in and around the water.
Lake access? – Some hotels have access to the lake and for a fee you can rent loungers even if you are not a hotel resident.
We stayed right next to Hotel Aurora and we used their facilities every day! The kids loved it. They have water trampolines in the lake which was loads of fun, and they also have kayaks and paddle boards for use. As an aside – if you haven’t tried paddle boarding, it’s not as easy as it looks. And when you try to give it a go, and splash flat on your face, everyone on the terrace will be watching you. Just saying…
The hotel also had a great restaurant with a beautiful terrace overlooking the lake. It’s a good idea to book in advance. If you want to stay at a hotel, it would be worth checking this place out.
Hiking and biking – there are lots of great trails around Lake Como, ranging from easy family walks to…very hard ones. There are some alternative roads for cyclists, and some actual cycle routes. Be warned that the main road is very narrow with lots of bends – slightly nerve wrecking to drive, let alone cycle, so it would be a good idea to do some planning if you want to do any biking with your family.
4. Places to visit
Bellagio – apparently ‘The Pearl of Lake Como’ – needs no introduction. Even on they day we went, when it was overcast and rainy, it was stunning A lovely town to explore on foot, gorgeous buildings and churches, cobbled streets – it’s a nice place to get lost in. Lots of options for food and drink…and gelato. There are guided walks here which are worth doing.
About 20mins from Bellagio, Villa Carlotta is a good shout as a place for the kids to explore the gardens and let off steam. Great cafe here too.
Smaller than Belaggio, but very picturesque, Varenna makes a great destination for a day trip. Lots of waterfront cafes and restaurants and you can explore the beautiful gardens of Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi.
Villa de Balbianello
Set on the tip of a peninsula, this is another stunning villa with beautiful terraced gardens. It’s appeared in a few films, including Casino Royale and, more impressively for kids, Star Wars. Unfortunately, it was Star Wars Episode II…and the exterior of the villa was done with CGI…but still, a good fact!
5. Leave your car
The roads are windy, and hairpin-bends about. The traffic can be bad, especially in towns. Parking is not easy to find. therefore, once you’ve got to where you are staying, ditch the car and travel by bus or boat. It’s more fun and definitely less stressful.