NEW - A day out - The Lake of Como

This new section of our guide is a small but precise and practical list of suggestions for a day’s outing from MIlan. What better place than Lake Como!

First stop Bellaggio, a wonderful village on the shores of Lake Como, visit its most important villas:

Villa Serbelloni. The villa has an ancient history. The interiors are finely decorated and are full of artefacts of various styles. The gardens are open to the public from 1 April to the beginning of November, daily except for Mondays. The gardens are owned by the Rockefeller Foundation which has has given Bellaggio permission to organise guided tours of about one hour. Tours start at 11.00 and at 15.30 from the offices of Promobellaggio in Piazza della Chiesa 14, tel. 031.951555.

Villa Melzi. Designed in 1808 by architect Giocondo Albertonelli, the villa has many neoclassical decorations that enrich the whole building. Stendhal wrote about the villa and the pianist Franz Liszt visited regularly. It could be that the statues of Dante and Beatrice in the gardens of Villa Melzi inspired Liszt’s famous “Sonata a Dante”. The gardens of Villa Melzi are open from 28 March up to 30 October, daily from 09.30 to 18.30. Tel. 339.4573838.

We then suggest that a short cruise on Lake Como is the best way to appreciate the natural and architectural beauties of this amasing area.

As this is going to be a quite busy day, we suggest you have a good breakfast in one of the bars along the lakeside. Once you are ready for the trip, you can buy a single or multiple (which includes all passes necessary to visit the villas) ticket near the lake pier. All you have to do now is get on the boat that will take you to:

Villa Carlotta. The villa is an enchanting place where masterpieces of the human imagination coexist with natural wonders in perfect harmony in over 70,000 sqm of garden and museums. Tremezzo, Como, Via Regina 2, tel. 0344.40405. www.villacarlotta.it.

After the visit to Villa Carlotta jump on the ferry and go to:

Isola Comacina. This small island is just off Lenno, a beautiful village on the west bank of Lake Como. With its beautiful architecture and Roman ruins, the island of Comancina is an enchanting harmony of forms and spaces.

Where you will be able to have lunch at:

alla Locanda. The Locanda looks over the lake and its pleasantly sunny in the autumn and early spring whilst in the summer it catches the breezes off the lake. During the winter the Locanda is closed from 1 November to early March. Tel. 344.55083/56755, www.comacina.it.

After lunch hop on the ferry once again in direction of:

The village of Varenna. The village consists of a network of little streets that descend steeply to the lake, where the houses along the shore are reminiscent of Venice.

Here we suggest you visit:

Vezio Castle. The castle consists of a small cluster of houses built mostly of stone inhabited by about 50 people. The original features of the village have remained unchanged over the years hence its unique atmosphere. From 5 March to 1 November the castle is open daily except in bad weather. www.castellodivezio.it.

The gardens of Villa Monastero. The villa overlooks the eastern shore of Lake Como and is on a small strip of land that stretches from Varenna to Fiumelatte, another small town. The garden offers a sequence of different views on recurring themes, such as cypress trees along the driveway of the villa, cedars of Lebanon and evergreen hedges. Tel. 0341.295450, www.villamonastero.eu.

At this point in the tour, it will probably be time for dinner. You will be able to eat at:

Vecchia Varenna. One of the best restaurants in town thanks to its combination of quality and tradition. Closed Mondays and all January. Contrada Scoscesa 10, Varenna, tel. 0341.830793.

If you’re not going to spend the night in Varenna you should keep in mind that the last ferry back to Bellagio leaves at 21.00.