2 days by the beautiful Lake Como

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
10
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
7
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
6
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
6
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
9
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
8
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
77 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
Europe
country
Italy
Length of time
1-2 days
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 300
Time of year visited
September
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
52nd/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 20% SUMMARY RATING: World Class

Summary

It’s a big shout when people say somewhere is the most beautiful place in the world . . . but, yep . . . Lake Como takes it.  Picture perfect Italian villages punctuating luscious forests as they meet the lake’s crystal clear waters, and all against the stunning dramatic backdrop of the Alps.  It’s hard not to just stop and gorp at it over, and over again

Naturally in such a beautiful place, it comes with a huge demand from others wanting to visit and, especially in summer, the costs go through the roof.  The cost is something hard to avoid, but it’s actually relatively easy to avoid the crowds with a few simple tips and enjoy what makes this place such a world famous destination

highlights

#1 Hiking up to Sassa San Martino for stunning views of the lake and distant mountains, all to yourself. A truly world class experience

#2 Soaking up Bellagio. A achingly beautiful Italian village in arguably one of the world’s most beautiful settings

#3 Feeling like James Bond as you wander through the uber-refined Villa del Balbianello by the secluded lakeshore

#4 Getting lost in any of the picturesque small lakeside towns

#5 Spending a lazy afternoon in one of the many lakeside parks, taking a swim or watching as the light lake traffic goes by with the mountains as the backdrop

Rough itinerary

Day 1 – spend your day seeing the ultimate in elegance by heading to Villa del Balbianello in the morning and then take the ferry to Bellagio for the afternoon. For Bellagio, wander around the beautiful centre, followed by the small side village of Pescallo and then Villa Melzi d’Eril to avoid some of the crowds.  Have dinner in Bellagio to watch the sunset

Day 2 – start off in Tremezzo (potentially see Villa Carlotta, but if pressed for time I’d give it a miss) and hike up to the world class Sassa San Martino viewing point.  Snake back down the steep face via the Chiesa di San Martino back to the lake shore

Travel Tips

  • Accommodation – this will be your biggest expense, but, in hindsight, I don’t think it really matters where you stay as long as you either have a car, or stay close enough to one of the towns so you can access the regular ferries and buses.  I ended up biting the bullet and staying in a nice place (Hotel La Perla) in Tremezzo, which had stunning views, but I could easily have stayed somewhere far cheaper and simply walked out into the many many glorious spots by the water or up a bit in the hills.  If I was to return, I would aim for one of the places maybe a 1km walk outside of Bellagio – it is simply stunning round there and, at 1km out, there looked to be some more affordable but no less beautiful spots that you could easily walk into town from
  • Transport – getting around the lake is actually more of a pain than you would think.  For example, Como (the main town of the lake) to Tremezzo, which is only around halfway up the lake, takes an hour by bus or ferry. In addition, taxis are expensive – around €80 for half the distance of the lake  – and there are no Ubers.  It just means that you need to be aware of the times of the buses (for the west side of the lake you want the C10, which leaves roughly every hour or so) or ferries (more frequent). When deciding where to stay / go, it’s worth checking the timetables online or you can find them at every stop
  • Where to go – the lake itself is huge, so there are no end of places to see and heaps small lakeside towns with world class views, so I don’t think you can really miss out. The places I really enjoyed were in particular Bellagio and Villa del Balbianello, but my highlight was the walk up to Sassa San Martino
  • Bellagio – when I heard the name, I immediately thought of the casino and realised there’s a reason they named the place in Vegas after this small town.  Its location in the middle of the “Y” of the lake is incredible and the town itself is beyond cute.  It can be a little busy, so my tip is to get outside the centre and you’ll quickly find the number of people dropping.  The tourist centre provide a map for doing a 2 hour walking route that gets you outside the small centre, but it’s a little long and maybe half of it walking on open road. Instead, I’d suggest walking over to the little fishing village Pescallo, and then getting lost on your way to Villa Melzi D’Eril (€10 entry) where you will find beautiful grounds and, of course, views of the lake
  • Villa del Balbianello (€10) – famous for being the filming location for some of the beautiful scenes in James Bond Casino Royale and Star Wars Attack of the Clones, this was somewhere I’d always associated with Lake Como and it didn’t disappoint.  The 20-30min walk through the forest to reach it is also very nice
  • Sassa San Martino – MY BIGGEST TIP is, if a reasonable fitness, to hike up the ridge in between Menaggio and Tremezzo that you can see very clearly when looking from the water.  The views are insane and almost deserted (I saw 2 people in the whole 3-4 hours) – a really world class experience.  I walked the loop from Tremezzo to Sassa San Martino, then down via Chiesa di San Martino back to Tremezzo, but you could easily start from Menaggio to shorten the distance.  For the route ,and to get an idea of the distances etc, type into google maps Hotel La Perla to Sassa San Martino to Hotel Britannia Excelsior – or type in Sassa San Martino into AllTrails for the various options.  For the full loop, total distance was around 13km, 19,000 steps, equivalent to 250 flights climbed, and I walked the full distance in an afternoon in 3.5 hours, which included stops.  But, again, you can reduce this by starting in Menaggio
  • Getting there – fairly straightforward from Milan. Try to aim for the Como S Giovanni station (rather than Como Lago) as the trains take less than an hour vs 2 hours for the normal station
  • I wish I’d . . . to add to the overall experience, I wish I’d either rented a boat or a paddleboard to cruise along the water other than taking a ferry

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone