Lake Como, in Northern Italy’s Lombardy region, is a beautiful Italian Lake area known for its dramatic scenery, set against the foothills of the Alps. Follow my guide to experience Lake Como not like a tourist, but like a local!
1. Stay In An Apartment
The first tip I have for you is to stay in a serviced or Airbnb apartment (preferably with a view of the lake) ! The grand lobby and 24 hour room service of a hotel may seem tempting, but staying in an apartment in Lake Como will make for a much more authentic experience. Rather than a sterile hotel environment, an apartment has much more character and could be the home of a local artist or someone that has had the apartment in their family for generations.
Most apartments have the same amenities or more than a hotel room, and most importantly, much, much more space for you to sort out your over packed luggage! If you're intending on an extended stay, you can get much more value for money. You might even be situated in a more suburban/local spot, allowing you to find hidden gems you probably would not have come across in a prime 'touristy' hotel location.
2. Hire A Motorbike
If you're up for a bit of an adventure and fancy taking a break from walking by
foot, discover Lake Como on a motorbike. You can experience some amazing drives and ride lake side (there can be very windy and narrow roads on some routes) through Como, Bellagio, Varenna, or take the route up the mountains where you can see Bellano, Argegno or Lecco.
This way you can see so much in a day and navigate through all of the big towns but also see some of the smaller, very charming towns too.
3. Don't stalk George Clooney!
The picturesque area of Lake Como is meant to be a hide-away for Clooney, his wife Amal and many other Hollywood A-listers. Clooney bought his fabulous 18th-century Villa Oleandra in 2001, which was at the time part of the Heinz ketchup family estate. The estate has 25 rooms and abuts the lake in Laglio, a tiny hamlet of less than 900 a few kilometers from the Swiss border.
However word on the cobblestone street is, since Clooney bought the lakeside property in Como, even the Mayor tried to cash in on the stars presence, endorsing a viewing platform in a public area opposite his house for paparazzi! Thankfully, the locals and mostly George's neighbours petitioned against it - Clooney even threatened to sell up if it were to happen, which in the end, it did not.
He's still not in the clear though, with tour companies and boats adding his property to the map, taking visitors within a few meters of his villa to allow everyone to stop and take a few snaps. Show the poor man some r.e.s.p.e.c.t people! So in saying that, be like the true locals and let George live in peace! Even if it means passing up the opportunity to send your crazed Clooney-obsessed mother a zoomed in shot of his bedroom.
4. Eat At The Locals Favourite Spots
The beauty of this is that you don't necessarily have to dine at a Michelin star restaurant for a good meal. Some of the best eateries in new cities are often street food stalls or family run deli's. Here I have for you my top pick for three of the main towns in Lake Como;
Enoteca Cava Turacciolo, Bellagio
I walked up the alleyway steps and stepped into the dark cave to discover what had been lurking.. oh, it's a wine bar with cheese, charcuterie and fantastic wine. Phew. Enoteca Cava Turacciolo is an amazing little hole in the wall with a very intimate and unique atmosphere set in a cave. There is a small selection of pasta, meat & fish dishes which are all lovely and a cheese/charcuterie board with matched wine to die for! Pardon my language but the host knows her sh*t when it comes to wine tasting. If you order the wine tasting menu with three courses and wine for 24 euros, you will leave very full and rather merry!
Tigella Bella di Garavaglia Matteocomo, Como City
Located in a small alley in downtown Como, close to Duomo, Tigella Bella di Garavaglia Matteocomo is a cozy little shop serving craft beer and one of the best 'sandwich's' around. It's not really a sandwich, rather, its a Tigelle. An Italian type of bread born in Modena, sort of like a panini and a pancake had a lovechild, filled with an array of fresh deli ingredients. It's fast, it's tasty and it's cheap for around 6 Euros. Perfect to grab and go!
Osteria Quatro Pass, Varenna
As authetic as you can get, Quatro Pass is a gem of a place which you will most definitely need to pre book. We asked our hotel to make the call and do a little Italian persuading and we managed to get a booking a couple of days ahead. It's a charming family run Osteria, serving traditional local dishes and some amazing seafood! Do me a favour and order the Eggplant Parmigiana starter, I will live vicariously through you while you eat it. The prices here are very reasonable and the wine list is extensive, a perfect evening in Lake Como.