Mary Hamilton-Smith of Australian Womens Travel writes about one of her favourite destinations – why not join her on one of her trips
To me Lake Como in Northern Italy is like a piece of heaven and I return there as many times as possible, which is why it features so many times in my tours to Italy!
It has been appreciated for its beauty and uniqueness for ages, and even as early as Roman times. Throughout history artists, writers and actors have come to the lake for inspiration, and much great work has been completed there. Since the 19th Century it has attracted numerous famous visitors from Shelley to Longfellow, Stendhal, Liszt and Mark Twain who wrote “From my window here in Bellagio, I have a view of the other side of the lake, which is as beautiful as a picture. A scarred and wrinkled precipice rises to the height of 1800ft. On a tiny bench half way up its vast wall, sits a little snowflake of a church, not bigger than a martin box”
I often stare at the little church in question wondering why it was built there, and how they built it. Last time I was there in June, I asked a local “How do you get up there?” “By feets”, she replied, and then left me slightly rolling her eyes at my seemingly silly question. So I did not ask any more, maybe next time….
After WWII Mussolini and his mistress were both shot in a nearby town, while trying to escape to Switzerland.
Of course the attraction of the area for the rich and famous continues with George Clooney, Madonna, and Sir Richard Branson all owning or having owned villas on the lakeside. The beauty of this picturesque setting which continues to draw us is owed to the unspoilt little villages that hug the shore, the beautiful villas with their lush green gardens, the mountainous hinterland (snow capped even in late spring) and the relaxed, courteous locals who welcome visitors with a smile.
For me, the sheer beauty of the place, with stunning views of the surrounding majestic mountains, with the deep valleys sheering through them. The clear lake water is mesmerising, and there is a peaceful ambience that descends upon the place and emanates through you. The air is clearer, the pace slower.
My two favourite places on Lake Como are Bellagio and Carenna. Fewer resorts are as beautiful as Bellagio – called the Pearl of the lake. Its world class hotels and restaurants provide the perfect place to soak up the lake’s famous panorama. The village is characterised by century old buildings, stone lanes and cobbled stairways filled with shops showcasing the finest Italian wares.
However I always stat at Varenna, which is known as the Diamond of the Lake. It’s picturesque lanes and old fishermen’s houses are unpretentiously appealing, its pretty waterfront and tiny stone beach are just stunning. It is a wonderful place to explore tiny alleyways or sit and relax and enjoy its more authentic air. The wonderful gardens of Villa Monastero set on the banks of the lake are a joy to wander though and explore.
I can not wait for my next trip – why not join me Australian Womens Travel