Our Travel Guide For A Lake Como Holiday
Yvonne Boyle | 03 September 2021
Our Commercial Director Yvonne recently got to visit Lake Como with our customers on our first international Travel Department tour since March 2020. Yvonne has outlined her experience of her Italy holiday and all the incredible excursions in Lake Como she was able to enjoy.
Day 1 - Travel to Italy
This tour was always going to be extra special as it was the first international tour since March 2020. There were the new passenger locator forms (for both Italy and Ireland) to fill in and of course the EU Digital Covid Certificate was required to travel but once everyone was told what to do and what to expect, the airport experience was remarkably quiet, simple, and seamless. Our guide Carol was there to greet us and naturally was delighted to welcome a group back to Italy. Our first glimpse of Lake Como was on our coach from the airport and already we could absorb the beauty and elegance that this lake had to offer. Meandering roads, pretty villages, and exquisite villas (including George Clooney’s and Richard Branson’s) were passed en route to the hotel. The hotels in Lake Como are located pretty much at the centre of the lake which is a great vantage point for exploring.
Day 2 - Guided Lake Como boat tour
The following morning, we set off on the boat trip around the lake on our private boat. Carol gave us the history, the little towns worth visiting and pointed out all the highlights. We stopped off in Bellagio, a charming little town where we had time to discover the shops, the impressive church of Basilica of St. Giacomo and have coffee in one of the many restaurants and snack bars that line the streets. The afternoon was ours to do what we wanted.
Day 3 - Free Time to explore Lake Como
Our first free day was on the 3rd day and there are various things to do in Lake Como, but we decided to go to the beautiful Villa Carlotta which is very close to the hotels. This villa has exquisite gardens. It is €12 in and the tour around the delightful gardens at a very leisurely pace takes about 1.5 hours. There is a museum at the end of the tour which hosts some spectacular paintings and statues. A must do is to take a photo overlooking the lake. You need your Covid Digital Cert to gain entry to the museum. There is a really nice café within the grounds that serves lunch or drinks or both. A really lovely way to spend a morning. There are many beautiful churches around the lake dating back as far as the 15th century. We had spotted one up in the mountain called the Church of St. Martino and being keen walkers, we decided to take on the challenge and walk up as we knew the views would be panoramic and spectacular. This was a tough climb and requires a good level of fitness, trainers or walking shoes and plenty of water. We set out early in the evening and from our hotel to the top took approximately one hour and 10 minutes. We were not disappointed when we got to the top despite the tough climb, it was so worth it. The views were amazing. The walk down took about 30 mins.
Day 4 - Bernina Express train trip and St. Moritz
We set off at 8am and drove up the north side of the lake up into the mountains. We stopped off at a beautiful little town called Tirano and visited an impressive Basilica in the centre of the town. From here, we went into Switzerland and made our way up the mountain to pick up the Bernina Express at Poschiavo. The route chosen is the most picturesque – Alpine picture postcard - and it did not disappoint. From lush green valleys up to the sparse rugged mountain peaks, this was certainly the highlight of the day. Around every corner is a new vista and each one surpassing the last. We disembarked at Diavolezza which is 3,000 meters above sea level and the coach picked us up to make our way back down a little to St. Moritz. Famous for its wealth, St Moritz is full of designer shops and exclusive Tyrolian hotels. Carol, ever helpful, pointed out the best places to eat reasonably as this is not a cheap place and more importantly showed us the best chocolate shop! Following a leisurely lunch and a wander around the town we got back on the coach for our return journey which was a completely different route. Surprisingly an even more beautiful hairpin journey down the mountain where the scenery is breath-taking. We stopped off in the town of Chiavenna and again a gorgeous Italian mountain town with pretty piazzas and a medieval bridge that was certainly worth exploring. We arrived back at the hotel at around 6pm.
Day 5 - Free time to discover Lake Como
As it was a free day and we decided this was the day to walk the Lake Como greenway. The entire walk is approximately 10.5km down to the town of Collono. We started at our hotel in Caddenabia which is about 2km into the walk. It starts along the lake and then meanders up in the hillsides passing through cobbled streets and really lovely walkways with plenty to absorb along the way. It is waymarked with signs and pavement markings but does get a little confusing in parts so best to have a map which can be picked up in the Tourist Information Office. Carol is always at hand to help. A really lovely way to spend a day and some parts have a small climb but it is mostly on the flat and easy to do if you are a keen walker and can walk 5km without any problem. Would advise locating the bus stop you want to get and checking the bus time tables for the way back. The C10 bus stops are close enough to the walk and when we eventually found the stop, we got the bus back to Caddenabia – you can buy tickets on the buses (about 3 euro each back to Cadenabbia). In the afternoon we laid by the beautiful hotel pool and soaked up some sunshine.
Day 6 - Day trip to Milan
This is a city that I honestly did not know too much about and therefore did not really know what to expect. Pick up at the hotel was 8.15am and we had one comfort stop on the way – Milan is approximately 2 hours drive from Lake Como. For the football fans we had a stop at San Siro, home to both AC Milan and Inter Milan, for a photo opportunity. We were given individual Whispers (wireless audio guide headset) for our city tour which allowed us to hear the guide clearly throughout the tour. We met up with our city tour guide Alex at the Sforzeco Castle which is a very impressive building, a moat and bailey castle home to generations of Medici rulers and Alex brings it to life with wonderful and funny stories. We hopped back on the bus and did a quick panoramic tour of the city before getting off in the centre by the famous La Scala Opera house. Alex walked us through one of the oldest shopping malls in Europe, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and took us to Milan Cathedral or Duomo Milan. I can honestly say of all the cities I have visited (quite a few!), this cathedral is one of the most spectacular buildings I have ever seen – more than 3000 individual beautiful statues and ugly gargoyles! Alex gave us the history and Carol gave us details of where everything was and what we could do for the next 3 hours which was our time to explore the city. We went up to the roof of the Cathedral by lift. The cost of Milan Cathedral tickets is €20pp but it was well worth it. There are cheaper tickets for using the stairs but with 250+ steps up we opted for the lift. The architecture has to be seen up close and we spent some time at the top and in the Cathedral. Some of our group visited the art galleries and explored Da Vinci’s works in the nearby gallery. We arrived back at the hotel at approx. 5.30pm.
There is plenty to do in Lake Como on the free days if you want to see more and many of our group visited Como Town and went up on the funicular to the village of Brunate and spent some time exploring the area. Others visited the villages around the lake by boat and some of the spectacular villas. Those who visited the Villa Balbainello said it was out of this world and one of the highlights of their visit. There are plenty of snack bars along the lake very close to the hotels. There are some beaches and parks along the lake too and it is possible to swim at some of these locations.
Lake Como Holiday - Customer Review
Our customers who were on the same trip as Yvonne also had a fantastic experience:
“This was our second time to Lake Como with the Travel Department and we really enjoyed it as we had forgotten what a lovely place it is to visit….Our guide Carol was very good and helpful with advice and information about places to visit on our rest days. The trip to St Moritz is wonderful as the scenery is just spectacular.” - Tom and Bernie Hughes
“I have travelled on a number of occasions with the Travel Department (TD) and have had wonderful holidays to China, Iceland, India, Japan and most recently to Lake Como in Italy. One of the benefits of booking your holiday with the TD is that you don’t have to worry about anything except making sure your passport and papers are all in order and in date for your trip. The TD make all the arrangements for tours etc and you just have to sit back and enjoy being guided around the destination of your choice.” - Kay Brenan
This Italy trip had so much to offer with a really good mix of excursions and free time. It is a really beautiful place – and most importantly in these times – safe, clean, and well organised. Carol is an excellent guide and ever helpful and at hand to give extra information. Travel is back and you can discover this wonderful part of Italy on our Lake Como holidays.
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