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krisek Bellagio - A travel report by Krys
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Bellagio,  Italy - flag Italy
18654 readers

krisek's travel reports

How posh can you get? Bellagio, Lake Como.

  9 votes
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Bellagio, which gave name to a fancy casino in Las Vegas, has gained a lot attention when George Clooney bought a villa at the other side of the lake. The little town has improved its standing on Italy's tourist map, which has led to renovation projects.

Bellagio travelogue picture
There is a lot hype about Bellagio, but the increase in the international interest in this little town, or village really, created an influx of visitors, who in turn flooded the narrow lanes and little cafes and restaurants lining them. There are a few equally attractive or even more picturesque villages at the lake than Bellagio, less crowded and more chilled out and atmospheric (Varenna, for example), but Bellagio just became famous for some reason. It is really a great place with a few interesting spots on offer. Some of the mansions, palaces and villas are incredible and exceptionally attractive and the promenade along the lake, frequented by the locals and visitors alike, is wide and planted with little flowers, which is not necessarily unique amongst all the villages surrounding the Lake Como's shores (Menaggio has a nice one, too), but has a somewhat great unique character.

In the winter, Bellagio seems incredibly quiet, the contrast with the summertime hassle and bustle is stark. Many places, including hotels, cafes, restaurants, gellaterias, shops simply close down for the entire winter season. The surrounding Alpine peaks covered in snow create a beautiful backdrop for the colourful facades of Bellagio and it is a pity that there are not many people to witness that. Well, not as many as in the summertime. And yet, perhaps it is the wintertime that makes Bellagio so attractive. It is much calmer.

Favourite spots:
Bellagio travelogue picture
The lakefront terrace by the classy fast boat terminal was perhaps one of my favourite spots. The string of cafes and restaurants with tables under the archways and on the pavements overlooking the Alps at the other side of the lake had this vibe and charm of typical 1950s Italy with its chatter, smell of espressos wafting between the tables, a slight clinging of tiny teaspoons being rested on the fine bone china saucers, and delightfully pretentious waiting service. It was also funny to observe the foreigners putting their foot in it by ordering cappuccinos after 11 a.m., totally oblivious that it was a catastrophic faux-pas. One does not drink cappuccino after 11 o'clock in the morning in Italy! And yet so surprisingly the waiters and waitresses kept ignoring this ignorance, leaving them so unaware of the mortal mistake...

What's really great:
Bellagio travelogue picture
Bellagio was so small, and yet its narrow and steep alleys managed to fit all those tourists browsing through countless souvenir, handbag, belt and fashion shops. I was really impressed with that. For there were only two main avenues running parallel to the lake's shore - the longer and wider lakefront one, and the shorter and narrower upper one, passing by the church's piazza. Plus just a couple of side alleys connecting the two, and the thousands of visitors just fit there. Not that they disappeared from sight. Far from it, the alleys were packed, but still, Bellagio's elasticity to accommodate everyone was incredible.

Although I am not a great shopper, I have to say that the boutiques in the town were top notch! The quality (and the prices, obviously) was amongst the highest I have seen anywhere in the world. The leather goods, including the certified crocodile and alligator stuff, were immaculate. If I won lottery, this is where I would get a lot of goodies.

Bellagio travelogue picture
Apart from some of grand mansions, palaces and the lake views, Bellagio's main sight appeared to be the Church of Saint James (San Giovanni Battista) dating back to the 12th century. Its grey austere bell tower stood proud on a hill dominating the municipality, giving Bellagio a familiar image, so similar to the many municipalities around the lake, which typically have their church bell towers dating back a few centuries, outstripping any other structure around by their height. The church in Bellagio was not particularly attractive or unique. It was similar in its form to the many churches in the area. It was simple, and the decor was tasteful and minimalist.

Lake Como is rather famous for the lovely villas erected along its shores. There is one famous villa in Bellagio, too. It is Villa Melzi d'Eril. It was built for rancesco Melzi d'Eril, the vice-president of Italy, between 1808 and 1815 by the architect Giocondo Albertolli. It features an elegant English garden as well.

Bellagio travelogue picture
I did not stay in Bellagio overnight - as I did not have to. But there is no shortage of hotels in the municipality, provided one comes in the summer, there are many places to choose from. All the familiar names of Hotel Splendide, Hotel du Lac, Hotel Metropole, Hotel Swisse, which can be found around the lake almost in any town can also be found in Bellagio. I would not expect them to be very cheap, but their location by the lake always provides great views.

One of the nicer places to stay (and eat - see below), although not immediately in the heart of the town, was the Albergo & Hotel Silvio. Their rooms with views were about €80-€100 per night, but the views were spectacular. Standard double was about €75. The family, who has run the hotel for generations, the Ponzinis, were very friendly and extremely professional at the same time. I went there to dine, this is how I know.

Bellagio travelogue picture
The La Divina Commedia was Bellagio's the only nightclub. It was actually quite a nice restaurant during the day, but when the clock stroke 9 p.m., the mood changed instantly and the party began. There would not be too much to write home about this club, but instead of a few hotel bars around, there was not much of other options. It was open until 2 a.m.

An alternative to clubbing in Bellagio was the Open Air Opera. It is situated in the tunneled out amphitheatres within the hills surrounding the town. Performance vary year on year and season on season, and bookings are essential. The spot is not reserved for operas only. Traditional Shakespeare plays are often also staged, as well as Italian bands play concerts.

Bellagio travelogue picture
For those, who like hanging out in cafes, there were plenty of those in Bellagio in the summertime, the best ones located immediately by the lake between the ferry terminal, the passenger boat terminal and the Grand Hotel. It was difficult to go wrong with any of them, as the snacks and drinks were consistently great at all of them. Some also served incredible ice-cream. There was also a small cafeteria on the upper street, which was particularly popular with the locals. Their made the most aromatic espresso in town, but one had to be careful with the traffic, as cars would pass just few inches from the tables and chairs.

South from the ferry terminal, a wide lakefront alley was planted with colourful flowers. It was very popular with the local residents, who'd walk their dogs there, catch up on their gossip, or just relax. The visitors occupied the benches and the lakefront bays, admiring the Alps and talking to ducks swimming in the lake.

Bellagio travelogue picture
The Albergo Ristorante Silvio looked much more exclusive than the prices actually are. For many, many years, the specialty of the restaurant has been fish. In fact, the owners have always been fishermen. The current one goes out fishing so he can then serve it (literally) on the tables. This magnificent place overlooking the lake, was, as mentioned above, adjacent to a lovely hotel.

I tried pesto lasagna and it was fine, but the three fish pates were unique, surprising and excellent. Silvio was very flexible and could cook almost anything you asked for. In my party of 15 people, there was a little boy, who was very particular what he wanted (nothing that would feature anywhere near the menu) and the restaurant delivered!! It was packed by the time I was leaving and I would highly recommend it.

Other recommendations:
Bellagio travelogue picture
Bellagio is well connected by frequent ferries running, most crucially with Menaggio and Varenna, which shorten the trip around the lake by a few good hours of driving along the narrow and winding roads. The ferries take all passenger cars and run approximately hourly services from early morning until about 8 o'clock in the evening in the summer, less frequently in the winter. There are also passengers only fast boat services connecting Bellagio with the majority of the municipalities around the lake.

The nearest train station is in Varenna, called Varenna-Esino-Perledo, with nine train services to Milan, which take about an hour, starting from Milan at about 8 a.m. and finishing at about 9 p.m.

Public buses connect Bellagio with Como, but also run only morning to evening services.

The nearest airports are: Milan Malpensa (MXP), Milan Linate (LIN), Bergamo's Orio al Serio (BGY).

Published on Friday December 25th, 2009

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Tue, Jun 01 2010 - 06:35 AM rating by shervin19

Thanks so much for your intersting report, You are one of the best in Globosapiens.

Tue, Dec 29 2009 - 10:52 PM rating by gloriajames

simply a stunner !! beautiful pics and a great report! 5*

Sun, Dec 27 2009 - 05:53 PM rating by pesu

Krys, I like the pictures and your description (especially of the cafés) very much - they perfectly transfer the charm of Northern Italy. Wow, I am so glad that I can drink cappuccino in Germany all day long... ;-)

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