There is something truly magical about Italy. The food, architecture and Italian people come together to create one of the most welcoming environments in Europe. Italy is my favorite place to vacation. I have a special place in my heart for this boot-shaped country. Probably because 1: I was married in Italy several years ago (you can read about that here), 2: Italian wines lack the preservatives/sulfites that cause hangovers, and 3: the country easily accommodates individuals on a gluten-free diet. Yes, the land of pasta and bread is a GF haven. Who would have thought?!
Since our wedding, my husband and I made a pact to try and visit Italy every year or so around our anniversary. Last year we went back to Positano where the magic happened. This year, we decided to spend the weekend in a place we’ve never visited – Lake Como. I’ve always wanted to travel to this mountainous region in Italy. I credit one of the Ocean 11 movies for introducing me to this stunning piece of the world. Funny story – the movie Under The Tuscan Sun was the reason I wanted to get married in Positano.
Even though the weather was downright terrible (non-stop rain which is highly unusual), the scenery was spectacular and we had a wonderful time hiking, boating, wine tasting and devouring delicious meats and cheeses. If you’re looking for the perfect mix of culture, nature and relaxation, then Lake Como is your ideal vacation destination. As recommended by Rick Steves (my travel guide guru), we chose to stay in the quaint town of Varenna. One of the best parts of Varenna is its accessibility by train. Rather then rent a car, simply hop on a train from Milan and in an hour, you’re there. From Varenna you can access the other picturesque towns by ferry, bus or train.
The hotel we stayed at was called – Albergo Milano. The rooms were updated and nicely appointed. The location was perfect – boasting stunning lake views and a short stairway lead straight down to the water’s edge. The hotel is presided over by an adorable blind cat, yes you read that right, blind. Its name is Sashimi and it has the softest fur you will ever pet.
Varenna is a quiet town, so if you’re looking for buzzing nightlife, you would perhaps be better off staying in one of the larger towns nearby. That being said, there are lots of wonderful restaurants in town to keep any foodie happy. Varenna is home to one of my favorite sites – an old ruin castle. Perched high up on the hill, the castle has an amazing intact stone tower that features some unparalleled views of the Lake Como region. The only downside is the hike up. It’s along an old mule trail that is quite steep and when the weather is rainy (like when we were there), the rock path becomes incredibly slick!
– view from the castle high above Varenna –
– view through a castle window –
In addition to hiking, my husband and I rented a small speedboat for a few hours one morning. This was definitely the highlight of our trip. We happily zipped around Lake Como dreaming about living in all the gorgeous villas that dotted the shorelines. Lake Como is huge, so if you decide to rent a boat, make sure get it for a least two hours.
The weather varied quite a bit while we were in Lake Como, so I would recommend checking the forecast a few times before you pack. The mountains and elevation can make the weather quite different (and cooler) then neighboring Milan. You’ll be safe packing beach gear and a few cooler weather pieces like jeans and a sweater for the evenings. If you like to hike, make sure to bring hiking shoes and outdoor clothes.
Now that I’m back home, I’m itching to return to this beautiful place. Next time I plan to stay longer than a weekend!