Lake Como

Lake Como!  We ate, we drank, we hiked, we boated and I choked on a piece of steak!  More on that last part later, but we really loved our time on Lake Como.  As we were getting ready to leave Rome, a much visited vacation destination, where there is no shortage of trusted recommendations for places to eat and things to do, I started to feel sort of nervous about Lake Como, a place I knew was beautiful but not much else about.  Luckily, the owner of the apartment we rented had all the recommendations we needed and we found plenty of ways to entertain ourselves, apart from eating and drinking 🙂

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We took a train from Rome to Milan — it was such a nice train and they passed out Tarelli, an Italian cracker that I am now addicted to — then another (less nice) train from Milan to Varenna and then the car ferry from Varenna to Bellagio, where we stayed at Hotel Nenè, right in the heart of the town.  It was so rainy when we got in, but as we were basically inside a train all day, it didn’t matter too much.  We grabbed a quick snack at Apertivo Et Al as soon as we got settled at our apartment and then the rain really didn’t matter 😛

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We were still on Rome time for dinner, so we walked to Loppia — one of Bellagio’s many adorable hamlets — for dinner around 9 PM and it was a GHOST TOWN.  In the dark and rain, it was sort of eerie, but also kind of cool to walk around by ourselves.  We adjusted our dinner time to be a bit earlier after that night, but it was still an awesome dinner at All Darsene di Loppia.  I was so impressed with the food that I immediately stopped worrying Lake Como would be a culinary disappointment.  Check out our sampler of the fish from the lake!  I loved them all, but one of them literally tasted like bacon and that was obviously our favorite.  I had THEE BEST pumpkin gnocchi with a lamb ragu for dinner and then… we had a white chocolate sphere for dessert!!!  They poured a warm raspberry sauce over top so the chocolate melted to reveal a incredible, mildly liquorice-flavored cream inside.  DANG, it was so good!

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The sun was back out by the next morning, so we could see Lake Como in all her glory.  Gosh what a view!  I had a little shop/cafe I wanted to go to for breakfast but didn’t realize how far away it was until we’d been walking for twenty minutes, oops!  But it was okay because we go to see the San Giovanni hamlet and it was the cutest.  Felt like we had the whole thing to ourselves, you know, so we could do the zip-line at the park in privacy 😛

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After breakfast and exploring San Giovanni, we noticed a sign for a little train and you guys know we cannot pass up a little train, so we rode it back to the town center then decided to stay on and head back to Loppia to walk through the Villa Melzi botanic gardens.  The entrance to the gardens was RIGHT next to the restaurant we’d had dinner at the night before, so we maybe stopped back in for lunch.  It was the same staff, so they all remembered us.  As for the gardens, they were beautiful!  We were sort of blown away by how alive and thriving everything still is in Italy in October!  Learned we love an Italian Cypress too 😛

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Later on, we read near the water but maybe spent more time propping up Joey’s phone to take that portrait of us.  We had made dinner reservations at Trattoria Baita Belvedere and what an adventure it was!  First, it’s up in the hills and since we didn’t have a car, the restaurant sent a van for us (and two other couples) then drove us up the most twisty-turny road to the restaurant.  That view ♥♥♥  Joey read that they serve wild boar there, so his excitement level was a 10.  I don’t think it was as good as he’d hoped, but at least he wasn’t eating the world’s driest hen, which is what I was doing… we did have an excellent bottle of wine and a delicious cheese sampler though.

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Oh, just another beautiful day on Lake Como ♥  We tried another breakfast spot that involved more walking and unimpressive pastries and it was then that I realized Bellagio breakfasts might be a problem.  Afterward, we took the ferry to Mennagio, which was cute but not a ton to see or do.  We did put our hands in the water though and it was pleasantly not freezing cold.  We read that people don’t really swim in the lake because they consider it dirty but it looked super clear to me!

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We spent the rest of the day in Varenna, which you can also ferry to.  We had picked a restaurant called Il Cavatappi to have lunch at and when we finally showed up they were turning a group of three away.  I figured they were getting ready to close for their mid-day break and was about to walk away when Joey realized it might have been the party size causing the issue.  For two they had a table right away and I’m so glad because it was an amazing meal!  We felt so lucky 🙂

After lunch, we tried to take a sort of hike over to a small stream and a cemetery but we must’ve taken a wrong turn because soon we were actually hiking up to a castle on the top of Varenna.  I’m sure that cemetery was cool, but so was the castle.  We saw some papier-mâché ghosts and instantly recognized them from The Amazing Race!  The view was something else, plus they keep falcons and owls up there and they were really cool to see, even if we were a day early for their “show.”  Once we got back down to the town center, we grabbed a post-hike gelato, of course!

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That night for dinner, we went to La Pergola and I legitimately choked on a piece of steak.  It was a very scary moment when I was waving my hand at Joey to indicate I couldn’t breathe before I coughed that piece of steak up, so my advice to you is to really chew your food.  The good news is that steak was perfectly cooked and seasoned 😛

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After breakfast at Bar Cafe Rossi — it was steps from where we were staying, but right in the town center, so I’d deemed it touristy and kept resisting going there, but then it turned out to be better than both the places I walked so far to, so what do I know? — we walked around for a bit, then decided it was now or never if we wanted to rent a boat and take it out on the lake.  The first place we walked over to was fully booked for the day and we were thisclose to just letting it go, but decided to call one other place and they had a boat available!  We grabbed lunch at La Pergola (yes, we went back) out on their terrace and what a view of the lake.  Sorry for so many pictures of that ivy-covered house, but how cool?!

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Okay, I’m sorry if these pictures are out of order (it’s hard to remember which town was which!), but can you even believe they’ll let you take a boat out on your own, no license required??  We went through Boat Hire Bellagio and I could not recommend them more!  The man who ran the company was so kind and fun and gave Joey a little crash course on operating the boat, then gave us a map with a suggested route and it was perfect!  We got to see the other side of Bellagio, Menaggio, Varenna (including a view of that cemetery from the day before!), a bunch of breathtaking villas and the one little island on the lake.  We were hoping to catch sight of the Clooney villa but no such luck.  It was seriously so fun and Joey only went so fast that I was scared I’d fly out a couple of times 😛

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For our last dinner in Bellagio, we planned on walking to a seafood restaurant but it was sort of chilly and sort of far, so we opted to go to a place around the corner instead.  Turns out they serve the same risotto and fish dish that we’d been hoping to get at the seafood restaurant.  We were told it’d be an hour wait, but we were expecting it, so we just grabbed some pillows and sat on the steps outside the restaurant while we waited.  I guess this is a typical dish in Bellagio and despite how bad the lighting in my picture is and how simple the dish looks, it was amazing!  That fish was so perfectly fried and seasoned.  We both devoured it.  And then we ordered tiramisu and basically ordered it every night after that!

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One last view of those picturesque stairs and then we made our way to Venice!  I was really impressed with Lake Como and found it so beautiful, from the food to the people to the towns to the actual lake.  I hope to see it again some day ♥