I can wholeheartedly admit that my fascination with Lake Como is due to George Clooney. I enjoy his films and appreciate his commitment to justice around the world, but I am not some sort of celebrity fanatic. I just thought to myself, that place must be pretty fantastic if a guy like him wants to spend so much time there. And guess what? It really is that fantastic! I can imagine how much more fantastic it would be if we had the funds to stay at a glamorous villa and ride in our own private boat, but even at our budget, we were really able to appreciate everything the area offers.
Our drive to Lake Como was fairly uneventful until we began winding our way up the curvy roads towards Bellagio. Driving these narrow roads as you stare down at the lake directly below you is something you never forget! We actually stayed a little past Bellagio at Hotel Il Perlo Panorama, but not being in town was absolutely worth our view, it was breathtaking.
We booked the spacious family suite which was a standalone unit separate from the hotel. When we entered, there was a bed, couch, and table and stairs leading down to another bedroom with a set of twin beds and a bathroom. There were panoramic windows both upstairs and downstairs, but the view from the terrace was on a whole other level.
There was a flat grassy area where the boys could run around, so we thought letting them run around would be better than loading them back into the car and forcing them to sit down for a meal. Instead, Rob made the short drive to Bellagio and grabbed some takeaway pasta from Gastronomia Mini Market Antichi Sapori. The servings were American sized, but we were eating a late lunch so we managed to put it all down. We were feeling quite lethargic after our meal. The dreary weather coupled with our full bellies led to a lazy afternoon waiting for my friend Petra to arrive.
Petra warrants a blog post dedicated to her, and that will happen in the near future. I will explain in depth our trans-Atlantic friendship spanning the last 25+ years, but the short story is that she was an exchange student from Germany at my high school during the 1993-1994 school year. If she can meet me while I am visiting anywhere in Europe, she makes it happen. Lake Como was no exception. Even though we had not spent time together since my twins were born, she was undaunted by the prospect of vacationing with them. That is true friendship!
As evening approached, Petra arrived and after catching up for a bit, Petra squeezed in between the rear-facing car seats in our rental Ford Focus hatchback. She is a good sport and we had some good laughs as she maneuvered herself between the car seats that did not leave much room for anything or anyone else! Since it was a dreary day, it was easy to park near Bellagio. The town is basically a flat area along the lake with storefronts, but from there, the rest of the shops and restaurants are up steep stairs. Basically, you would walk along the lakefront then there would be a gap in the buildings and a sign listing all the shops and restaurants up that flight of stairs. Yes, we had done it once again, we had chosen one of Italy’s hilliest destinations!
Being that Bellagio is more village and less city, I thought it would be easy enough to seek out a restaurant with good reviews on TripAdvisor, and it was. We chose La Lanterna based on the fact that the food was well reviewed and it was supposed to be good for families. Our boys were on their worst behavior that night, probably due to the addition of Petra, they wanted to show off a bit. Bryson and Connor did not want to stay seated, so we spent most of the meal wrangling with them to keep them from roaming the restaurant. Not only did Petra handle it well, so did the staff at the restaurant. I can definitely recommend this restaurant for families visiting Bellagio.
An added bonus was the cozy atmosphere on the cool, dreary night. Hand-painted bottles adorned the walls of the restaurant and were for sale along with other items. We ended up with a souvenir of our own – a ceramic decorated spout for a vinegar bottle. It reminds me of the fresh salad we enjoyed there with nothing but olive oil and balsamic vinegar, I needed something light after our late, heavy lunch but I also enjoyed some of Rob’s pasta, he just loves it when I take food off his plate!
We were able to put the boys to bed in the baby cots that the hotel provided, while we stayed up too late catching up with Petra. We finally made our way downstairs to our twin beds. We did not think Petra would enjoy sleeping in the same room as the boys in case they woke up, which they luckily did not. When we awoke the next day, we made our way to the top of the stairs, and I was in awe of the stunning view in front of me.
The clouds from the previous day had camouflaged much of the mountains, hills, and trees. No wonder our hotel was named Il Perlo Panorama, the view was indeed panoramic. We made our way up the hill to the main hotel for breakfast where the terrace afforded an even grander view. It is amazing to me that this hotel was so affordable in such a glamorous part of Italy. A generous breakfast was included and dinner was even offered. We booked dinner for that evening so we could continue to enjoy the view after our day exploring.
Even though we had a car, the hotel offered a shuttle to get you to Bellagio if needed so you did not have to worry about parking on a weekend day as glorious as this day because parking would certainly be a problem. It was more than a problem, we had trouble getting into the town because of the crowds, probably many of them making a day trip from Milan. Once we arrived in town, we quickly made our way to the ferry so we could start our day exploring the other Lake Como villages near us, Mennagio and Varena. We actually were not sure where we were headed when we got on the boat, we knew it would go to one village or the other so we just hopped on and let the route decide our first destination of the day.
Even though the boat was crowded and there were no seats left outside, there was room for us to park the strollers and enjoy the wind in our faces. Since the boys were “contained” in their strollers and were entertained by all of the action around them, I was able to relax and enjoy the sunlight dancing on the water as the boat darted across the lake.
As it turns out, the boat was en route to Mennagio first so that is where our day started.
We obtained the ferry schedule, then more or less wandered around the village, stopping in a few shops, but mostly just enjoyed the flatness of the town.
While the boys enjoyed climbing and meeting new friends.
We were concerned with visiting too long and not being able to get on a later ferry to
Since Varena was on the same side of the lake as Bellagio, we knew we could more easily get a taxi to our hotel if the ferries were too crowded later in the day. Fortunately, this was not the case, and we were able to enjoy the enitire day on the water. Unfortunately, Varena was the hardest village to visit with strollers.
Varena was steeper than Bellagio and the shops and restaurants seemed to be more spread out. Upon departing the ferry, we walked alongside the main road to the top of the village because that seemed easier than making our way up the stairs. We partially made our way down the stairs into the village, but our stomachs were beginning to rumble. There had been some restaurants with
I honestly do not remember much about that meal itself, but I do remember the view and the fact that there was a playground almost directly in front of it where the boys could play while we waited for our meal. A view and a playground made for a very happy mommy who was able to easily visit with her dear friend while her children were occupied by their doting father.
Soon we were on the ferry back to Bellagio where we consumed our required gelato for the day, then made our way back to the spectacular terrace at our hotel for late afternoon drinks. They actually had a waiter outside taking drink orders, which we thought was a nice touch. The drink prices were very reasonable, so even if you ever find yourself in Bellagio and do not stay here, I highly recommend you go for a drink so you too can enjoy the panorama. There is plenty of room for children to run around without any fear of them teetering off the side.
Dinner was served in the dining room that also boasted a panoramic view of course! The owners were so accommodating to our family and very patient with our boys, even when they were not on their best behavior.
After dinner, we enjoyed the last few minutes of daylight on the veranda. It was the perfect ending to our short stay.
Even though the next day was cloudy and the view was not what it was the day before, we really did not want to leave.
We felt very comfortable and at home with the owners, and they allowed us a late checkout. We made one more trip into Bellagio so Petra could finally pick out a piece of Murano glass vase after debating options all weekend!
Back at the hotel, the waiter that served us drinks on the veranda the previous day offered to make us lunch, and we were all impressed with the salads and pizza he prepared. We finally forced ourselves to leave so that our room could be cleaned for the next guests and made our way to our hotel at Milan’s Malpensa Airport. The next day, Petra would fly back to Germany and we would fly to Greece, but our reunion had been fantastic. The best part was that my boys were introduced to their travel partner for years to come. Perhaps even George Clooney would appreciate the part he played in the special memories we created at Lake Como in the spring of 2015.