We began a fun-filled day trip to Bellagio by riding the bus from Milan, which is less than an hour to Como, the historical village at the southern end of the left arm of Lake Como. From this ancient city, established by the Roman Empire in the first century after Christ, we stepped aboard a speedy hydrofoil, and in a mere 50 minutes arrived in Bellagio. To save some time, we decided against the slow boat that takes two and a half hours. Either way, the trip provides a grand, unobstructed view of colorful villas, picturesque towns, and breathtaking alpine mountain scenery.
Lake Como is a destination that is glamorous, romantic, and unquestionably gorgeous. For many people, a visit to Bellagio is the highlight. Also called the Pearl of Lake Como, Bellagio is the perfect mix of narrow streets, small shops, inviting restaurants, and picturesque views across Lake Como.
Lake Como is shaped like an inverted letter Y, and Bellagio is located at the top of a peninsula that divides Lake Como in two.
Our enchanting day started by walking ashore in Bellagio, which is quite small and compact. Many of the streets are pedestrian only, so this beautiful, quaint town can be explored in an hour or so. A leisurely stroll was more to our liking and more fun.
We had heard of the perfect view of Bellagio already, so we climbed up the ally “staircase” of Salita Serbelloni until reaching the end at Via Giuseppe Garibaldi. From there, we merely turned around and looked down the iconic, photogenic ally that has quaint shops and small restaurants built into stone houses with ancient vaulted terracotta roofs.
We were rewarded at the top of the staircase by a delightful wine tasting spot -Aperitivo Et Al – that offers regional wines and light selections for lunch. We shared an excellent sample of local cheeses. It is a favorite among tourists, and is deserving of its four and a half stars in the wine tasting category.
Next we went to the town center where the Basilica of San Giacomo stands, dedicated to St. James the Apostle, It is a historic Romanesque church built between the 11th and 12th centuries that today showcases an impressive golden altar. The basilica was expanded in the Baroque period and renovated in the twentieth century.
Near the side of the church there are the remains of three apses from the Middle Ages,
decorated with mosaics. Next to the church is an ancient tower, the only existing remnant of Bellagio’s fortifications that once surrounded the entire town.
We enjoyed a short stroll from the basilica along the Lungolato (lakeside) walkway, a picturesque promenade of flowers, trees and breathtaking views of the lake that passes Lido di Bellagio, a beach club along the waterfront.
Just past the beach club is Villa Melzi, a summer residence of Francesco Melzi d’Eril, the vice president of the Italian Republic that was founded in the 1800s.
Surrounding the villa there are beautiful gardens that are open to the public (the villa is not open to the public). Lined with walking paths, native and exotic plants, many park benches are conveniently situated with views of the lake.This is a relaxing place to stroll and enjoy the scenic lake under the shade of numerous trees.
The public ferry is a thirteen minute walk from Villa Melzi and is the best way to get between Menaggio, Bellagio, and Varenna. Hourly ferries depart even more frequently at peak times. We had a grand tour of the colorful, extravagant villas that dotted the shoreline. The boat captain suggested we have lunch in less crowded Varenna, where there are several restaurants that have excellent local seafood caught daily, tasty Italian fare and succulent mediterranean cuisine.
So, off we went on the short ferry ride to Varenna. We were impressed by the selection of restaurants there, and agreed upon one with an excellent seafood menu, where each person in our group said their dish was delicious.
On our next visit where we wish to have a longer, more leisurely experience, we will consider spending at least one night in Bellagio. That way, before 9 am, we can stroll through the narrow streets free of the crowds, when window shopping is a lot more fun and relaxing.
Moreover, if I do stay in Bellagio for more than one day, I will plan a visit to Pescallo, an enchanting tiny fishing community away from the tourist area but is less than a mile from Bellagio.
Pescallo looks like a postcard and is an enchanting and lovely fishing community. It is a hidden secret (now you know), but it is not for the faint of heart, due to the cobblestone pathways and steep stairs linking it to Bellagio, starting from the top of the hill on Via Giuseppe Garibaldi which leads to the fishing village.
Pescallo is quiet and devoid of crowds, where ducks swim close to waterside benches, and boats are nestled quietly near the shore. In a phrase familiar to Italians, it captures the feeling “il dolce far niente,” or the “sweetness of doing nothing.” It is a favorite spot for outdoor “plein air” oil and water color painters. A day at the heart of Lake Como was quite enjoyable. The lake and its crown jewel Bellagio are indeed world class destinations that are high on the list in northern Italy – one of the most beautiful regions in the world.