Blog Tour: My Journey in Northern Italy – Como
A Beautiful Weekend on Lago di Como
Welcome back everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Father’s Day weekend! I also hope that you enjoyed reading about my few days in Zürich, Switzerland last week. Thankfully, I now have an e-newsletter where you could subscribe and stay up-to-date with me. The e-news includes my blog of the week, a featured trip, my published articles as well as any offerings or collaborations. Click here to subscribe!
In the meantime, I am excited to start sharing my experiences in Northern Italy! If you were following me around this time last year, you know that I traveled to Sicily. It was such a beautiful trip that I couldn’t wait to come back to Italy and explore the North. As I have mentioned before in previous blogs, I am 100 percent Italian! I am 50 percent Northern Italian, 25 percent Central/Southern Italian and another 25 percent Sicilian! It is amazing to think that I have been to three out of the four regions my ancestors are from within a year.
During my recent trip to Northern Italy, I visited Lake Como, Venice, Florence, the Tuscan wine region, Cinque Terre and Bologna. Today, I am excited to share my first blog post on Lake Como!
Transportation from Zürich to Como:
On Sunday, May 27, we took the train from Zürich to Como. The train ride from both cities was absolutely breathtaking. In fact, it was the most scenic train ride I have ever been on! We passed gorgeous mountain lake towns with beautiful chalets and churches. Two beautiful lake towns that blew me away as we rode through them were Züg and Lugano. I will definitely be making my way back there to spend some time at those lakes.
After we finally arrived at Como San Giovanni train station, we started to walk to our hotel. I was just so thrilled to be back in Italy! The beautiful sounds that filled the air; colorful buildings that surrounded us; the friendly faces we walked past and of course the magnificent lake that stood before us made me feel so refreshed. (I keep telling myself that I WILL live in Italy one day!)
Once again, SitInMySeats Travel chose an amazing hotel for us to stay in! The Palace Hotel is a gorgeous 4-star hotel that is located right in the heart of the town of Como, facing the beautiful lake. As I mentioned in my blog post on Zürich, I had to share a room with my two brothers, so we got the Superior room that included a cute balcony. The view from our room was nice as we got to see the mountains and catch views of the lake. My parents, on the other hand, had the best view! Since it was just the two of them staying together, they were able to get the Lake View room.
Not only was the location, balconies and view my favorite parts of the hotel, I also enjoyed their breakfast in the morning! Compared to Europeans, Americans mainly enjoy a heavier breakfast (you only have to go to iHop to realize that). In Europe, you usually enjoy a croissant with some fruit. At the Palace Hotel, they served several different croissants (or I should say cornettos – an Italian croissant that includes an almond flavor); an assortment of cold cut meats and cheeses; smoked salmon; different fruits and so much more! I could definitely say it was one of the most fueling breakfasts I’ve had in Southern Europe.
When it comes to food in Italy, it is nothing short of AMAZING! No matter where you go in the country, you will savor the best food in the world. As I had mentioned in my blog post from Sicily last year, the food in Italy is regional. Since many of you are used to going to a typical Italian restaurant where you could find a range of different meals, it is opposite in Italy. In the north, you will find creamier and heavy dishes. That is because it gets pretty cold during the wintertime and the heavier meals are more comforting. In the south, you will find lighter dishes.
Northern Italy is popular for its pesto, truffle, risotto, cured meats and cheeses, gnocchi and tiramisu! (Oh, and I have to mention that gelato is popular no matter where you go in the country, so you will definitely not be missing out on that item!) Here are some restaurants we enjoyed eating at in Como:
Trattoria Il Solito Posto: After we first arrived in Como and settled into our hotel, we could not wait to start indulging in some amazing Italian food! My friend Ian, who currently lives in Sicily, has traveled throughout the country and provided me with awesome recommendations. The first place he recommended was Trattoria Il Solito Posto, located in the heart of Como. I will admit that this restaurant was probably one of the best places we ate at during our time in Italy. Situated on a quaint side street, we sat outside, enjoyed an amazing bottle of red wine and ate some amazing food. I got squid ink cannelloni with broccoli, lobster meat and fresh ricotta. It was to die for!!!
La Cucina di Elsa: Located right off the Piazza Alessandro Volta, is a quaint family-owned restaurant with amazing seafood pasta dishes and wine! I enjoyed an amazing lobster linguine in a tomato white wine sauce with a fresh bottle of white wine. It was the perfect dinner! This was another great recommendation from my friend Ian.
Terrazza du Lac Ristorante: During our 7-hour boat tour on Lake Como (I go more into this amazing day below), we visited the beautiful lakeside village of Bellagio. My cousins have a vacation home located in the lakeside town of Menaggio, so they are always making their way around the different villages. My dad’s cousin Tony recommended an amazing and charming seafood pasta restaurant right along the lake in Bellagio called Terrazza du Lac Ristorante. I enjoyed seafood linguine with a glass of white wine. It was awesome!
One of my favorite experiences not only in Como, but during our time in Italy was participating in an Italian cooking class with Paola Lovisetti Scamihorn. Paola is a food blogger of Passion and Cooking and author of the books The Mamma Mia! Diet, Authentic Italian Cookbook: Love is Eating and Love is Eating – Healthy and Tasty Italian Recipes for Family Meals. Born and raised in Como, Paola studied Pharmacy at the University of Milan and received a Master in Medical and Pharmaceutical research in Brussels. She published several articles in international scientific journals and also lived in London, Brussels and Innsbruck.
From the moment my mom, cousin Sophie and I entered Paola’s home, we felt so welcomed and part of her family already! After we sat down and got to know each other, we were amazed by how similar our family and traditions were! Even though there are major differences between European Italians and Italian Americans, we still have a lot of traditional similarities.
During our cooking class, we enjoyed an aperitivo – a Prosecco with prosciutto, salami, cheese and an assortment of breads. We then got to help Paola cook delicious whole-wheat linguine with fresh vegetables and herbs in a white wine sauce; chicken, prosciutto and sage roll ups as well as a tiramisu.
Overall, everything tasted fresh and amazing! We even bought one of Paola’s books (signed with a memorable note) and have made a few of her delicious meals since we’ve been home! Overall, this was a fun and great experience. I highly recommend everyone traveling to Como to sign up for one of Paola’s cooking classes. You will have a great experience and feel like one of Paola’s family members!
Lake Como Boat Tour:
During our second day in Como, we did a 7-hour boat tour around the beautiful lake. Once again, if ANYONE goes to Como, you definitely have to do a boat tour! (It is a MUST!) This day on the water had to have been one of the top days ever (along with island hopping in Greece) and I’m not exaggerating!
Through SitInMySeats Travel, we were able to find a great tour guide, Giacomo, who sailed us around on his gorgeous handcrafted wooden boat. What I discovered on this boat tour was that Lake Como is much larger than I originally thought of! After sailing past the heart of Como, we entered the jewel of the area!
As we sailed, we spotted gorgeous mansions and colorful villas; some of them owned by celebrities, top CEOs, bankers and world leaders! Here is a list of some popular villas we spotted on our tour.
- George Clooney’s Villa Oleandra in the town of Laglio.
- Richard Branson’s Villa La Cassinella in the town of Ossuccio.
- Gianni Versace’s Villa Fontanelle (now owned by a Russian restaurateur) in the town of Moltrasio.
While we continued to sail through heaven on earth, Giacomo brought us over to a hidden gem right off the lake. There was a little stone bridge that led to a gorgeous waterfall! I will definitely admit that this was much more beautiful to see in person. If only that moment lasted forever…
We continued to sail along the lake and made our first stop in the town of Varenna. When we finally got to the dock and stepped off the boat, I was amazed by all of the vibrant colors that I was surrounded by! This beautiful fishing village dates from the eleventh century.
One of the first things we did when got to Varenna was stroll through the gorgeous cobblestone alleyways. We caught breathtaking glimpses of the lake amongst the gorgeous architecture and historical monuments. The Church of San Giorgio was also beautiful to see! Oh how I dream to be back here.
After exploring the quaint and charming town of Varenna, we hopped back on the boat and headed to the beautiful village of Bellagio – known as The Pearl of Lake Como. Bellagio is located halfway between the two southernmost branches of the lake. It is famous for its pastel-colored villages, gorgeous views and charming culture. I will admit though, that Bellagio was definitely more popular with tourists than Varenna, but it was still a beautiful experience.
During our time in Bellagio, we got lunch, strolled through the alleyways and streets and also got gelato (of course)! We had such a lovely time there!
When we got back on the boat, we sailed to the outskirts of Bellagio to explore the gardens and area of Villa Melzi d’Eril – the summer residence of Francesco Melzi d’Eril, vice president of the Italian Republic that was founded by Napolean in the early 1800s. This area was definitely the most quiet out of all of the villages we visited on the lake. I loved strolling through the beautiful gardens and town. It was so peaceful and lovely.
The last stretch of our boat tour was spent relaxing on Locanda dell’Isola Comacina. This unique island on Lake Como is secluded, includes walking trails, fisherman’s houses, a small Romanesque-style church called S. Giacomo and a rich history and culture. One of the highlights of visiting this island was enjoying an Italian beverage such as an Aperol Spritz (a wine-based cocktail commonly served as an appertivo in Northern Italy). This bar, called La Botte, overlooks the gorgeous lake and offers a friendly service and comforting atmosphere! I highly recommend visiting if you do a boat tour in Como.
Overall, we had such an amazing day on Lake Como and I would do anything to go back there right now. It was that awesome!
Another must-do activity that we unfortunately didn’t have time for during our few days in Como was taking the Pigra Cable Car to the top of the mountains. Apparently this is where you could get the most magnificent views of the entire lake! Whenever I go back to Como, this is definitely something I will make sure I don’t miss out on again.
I hope you all enjoyed reading about my experience on Lago di Como! It is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have visited during my travels and I highly recommend everyone to see this area (located in the Italian region of Lombardy) if you travel to Northern Italy. If you have any questions about my trip or would like to book this package to Switzerland and Northern Italy, please contact SitInMySeats Travel and mention my name.
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