A Family Vacation in Lake Como

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Tamar Genger MA, RD
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Lake Como, a popular vacation destination in Northern Italy is best known to most Americans today because George Clooney lives there, see pictures of his villa here.  Now, that wasn’t my reason for going (at least that’s what I promised my husband) and I didn’t have any celebrity sightings at all, but I did see some of the most gorgeous scenery imaginable.

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On our family trip to Israel this summer we were able to arrange a brief stopover in Milan, after a short stay in the world’s fashion capital we took a 1 hour train to the lake region.

The area of Lake Como is comprised of dozens of small villages running up and down either side of the water.  It is often recommended for romantic getaways and honeymoons, because of the gorgeous views of the Swiss Alps over the lake, quaint small towns and beautiful gardens, but it is also very family friendly.

It is relatively easy to find an apartment to rent with Airbnb or other vacation rental sites so that you can have enough space for even a very large family. You can bring some kosher foods from Milan which boasts several kosher restaurants and markets or buy fresh produce in the local markets.  The biggest decision you have is which village to stay in.  A ferry boat service traverses the lake throughout the day and some towns offer water taxi service, but some villages have more frequent service than others.  You will want to find a nice village that you enjoy and works with your budget, but it’s nice to know that many other small towns are only a short boat trip away.

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Look at these views from the ferry.

waterfall

We stayed in Bellano, this was the view from our bedroom, the waterfall that put us to sleep every night.

Bellano was not as busy as some of the other lake towns which was a plus for us.  Bellano had several small markets, playgrounds, a movie theater, public and private swimming areas and some great fishing.  We thought it was the perfect place to stay, but there is less to do for tourists.

bellagio lake como

Since the nineteenth century, Bellagio has enjoyed a reputation as one of the most exclusive and opulent resort villages in Italy. The neoclassical villas of Bellagio evoke refinement and sophistication and you can easily arrange a guided tour of the grounds of these magnificent homes. Villa Melzi and Villa Serbelloni are the most famous in town.  Tickets to Villa Melzi include entrance to the neo-classical Chapel, the museum and the park which boasts beautiful sculptures and lovely azaleas and rhododendrons. Villa Serbelloni is operated by the Rockefeller Foundation and hosts artists and scientists from all over the world.  Although you can’t see the inside of the Villa, you can tour the grounds and gardens.

termezzo

Villa Carlotta in the lakeside village of Tremezzo was one of the highlights of our trip.  The museum includes Canova's masterpieces such as Palamede, Amore e Psiche, Tersicore, La Maddalena Penitente, but also Thorvaldsen's monumental frieze Alessandro Magno's Entrance to Babylon and the famous painting Romeo and Juliet Last Farewell by Hayez.

villa carlotta

Yes, these are real live turtles!!

You can also stroll for hours in the Villa’s gardens observing azaleas, camellias, ferns, rhododendron and bamboo with the glittering waters of the lake in the postcard-ready background.

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The main highlight of Varenna is Villa Monastero, a 14-room house museum where you can experience 19th century life in the living, dining, parlor and bedoom of the aristocratic neo-classical villa adorned with objects of art and furniture and surrounded by a lovely botanical garden hosting a wide variety of indigenous and exotic species.

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On our Lake Como vacation we enjoyed the amazing views of snowcapped mountains and the daily adventures ferrying from town to town along the magnificent lake, walking cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways and falling under the spellbinding magic of Italy’s Lombardy region.  You will do a lot of walking and my youngest was just turning 6, she only whined a little bit.