For the second instalment of our Lake Como series we bring you the most photographed village of the lake. Located at the very heart of Lake Como, Bellagio epitomizes the Italian glamour and charm. Full of steep streets, cobbled stairways and little sorbet colored corners, Bellagio is the most visited destination in Lake Como.
The truth is that Bellagio is the best starting point to explore the area: all the ships and ferries stop in its little port, what makes it the best connected village of the lake. Besides, its beautiful buildings, lively cafes and restaurants and incredible180º views of the lake guarantee an unforgettable experience. However, peak season can be a nightmare precisely because of those narrow alleys that, on the other hand, make Bellagio so very charming.
We visited Bellagio at the end of march, so it was almost empty and we could enjoy the quiet atmosphere before both the village and the lake woke up to the season. It was especially beautiful in the mornings, when we would wait for the boat to take us to whatever village we had chosen to visit for the day. The area closed to the port is full of cafes under a gorgeous portico with theatrical curtains, white blazer and black bow tie waiters, and counters full of cornetti and other sweet pastries. With the smell of coffee and sweet almonds in the air, the first hours of our mornings couldn’t have been better.
Bellagio looks like a film setting, specially the stairways that go from the lake shores to the highest parts of the village. If you look up you will see cute buildings, picturesque trattorias, lush green mountains… but if you look down, the sparkling lake will appear magically. The first thing we did when arriving to Bellagio was looking for a place to eat. Obviously. We had done our research, but we forgot our notes in the hotel, so ended up at Bilacus, a lovely restaurant with the most romantic terrace overlooking the gorgeous Salita Serbelloni. Vine climbing up a terracotta wall, blooming magnolia, a delicious garlic and olive oil scent that promises authentic and traditional Italian cuisine… This restaurant was the perfect introduction to Bellagio and it reflected its personality to perfection. We ate fragrant grilled vegetables, creamy mozzarella, sea bass with fresh herbs and swordfish with tomatoes and capers. The gentle Spring breeze and the warm sunshine made that al fresco lunch even better, because our muscles, all tight and tired from the cold Winter, finally relaxed. With a deep breath and a huge smile, we ordered one of the best tiramisu that we’ve ever eaten, with a thick dark cocoa powder layer that ended up all over our happy faces.
And speaking about food, you can’t miss pizzeria La Grotta. We discovered this place by pure chance and we loved its local atmosphere, huge simple wood stove pizzas and discreet service. When we saw that the workers of the port were eating and waiting to be seated in this small establishment, we knew it was going to be good! Don’t expect anything fancy, this is pure everyday, local life.
Bellagio is a destination to be discovered slowly. Those stairways are steep! But that will give you an excuse to stop, rest and admire the pastel pink, ochre and vanilla houses. The charming light grey or deep green wooden shutters make a beautiful contrast in every façade. Be curious and explore the side alleys, the stairs that go nowhere, the little shops, the porticos… And let the vibrant, energizing Alpine air mess with your hair. Breath in and let your sorrows out. That’s what Italy does best.
One of the most surprising aspects of Lake Como is its luxuriant vegetation. Everywhere you look you will find a green mix of palms, pines, camellia and even bamboo. As a matter of fact, what is said to be the most beautiful garden in Italy is located in Bellagio: The gardens of Villa Melzi. Walk along the flowery Lungolago Europa and you will arrive to the modest entrance of these spectacular gardens. The lake is the perfect background to this unbelievable stunning display of nature. Every image, every detail of the landscape is like a painting. Seat in one of the benches facing the lake, admire the views, feel the breeze and the scents of thousands of flowers, plants, trees and listen to the bells of the little church located in the premises. For us, the moments we spent wandering through the gardens and soaking in the calming and beautiful atmospehre were precious.
During our last morning in Bellagio we were lucky enough to witness a glorious sunrise after a night of storm. The rain had cleaned the atmosphere, the sun seemed to shine brighter and the ducks and swans played happy in the water. We had a lovely ice cream as a second breakfast because, why not? and we went up and down as many stairs as possible. Bellagio is perfect to get a sense of place, to live a true Lake Como experience with its majestic buildings, select atmosphere and the hustle and bustle of the lake. But please, choose low season to visit. Bellagio deserves to be savored slowly and you deserve the luxury of having one of its corners on your own, at least once in a lifetime.