Vacation and Travel Tips – Lake Como impressions

Some impressions of our stay.
The “tourist” towns are nice but it’s worth exploring the “working towns” like Mandello del Lario or Lecco, as there are some wonderful restaurants there and both have very pleasant parks along the Lake Como where you can have a scenic walk and the shops are often more low key and less crowded.  Bellano is also very nice, and the Cavallo Bianco is an excellent place to eat – all locals (always a good sign).
Esselunga in Lecco is a great supermarket (and they have a very good cafeteria), if you can navigate the highway in getting there!  We did most of our grocery shopping at EuroSpin in Mandello, which is well-stocked and cheap, and they also gave me a free umbrella!

We were underwhelmed by Menaggio – the Hotel du Lac’s food is inedible and people should be discouraged from going there. The waiters, when visible, were yawning and surly.  Food didn’t even taste microwaved – just bad!  No excuse for it.

Also, Menaggio seemed sterile – aside from that lake walk, which is quite nice.

On the other hand, Tremezzo & the Villa Carlotta were lovely – the gardens are like an enchanted forest and great value for money (cheaper than Villa Melzi in Bellagio and loads more to see).

Colico has a great restaurant on the waterfront – Portovino – in that big square. It’s the most popular one there and again, lots of locals eat there.  Wonderful service as well.  It’s right across from the big fountain.

is lovely, but we were hard-pressed to find a good place to eat.  There are cafés but apparently no restaurants (or at least no reasonable ones).  A must-see is Paradiso, the archaeological dig/botanical garden outside Chiavenna, where you climb pretty high to some ruins. The views are spectacular and the park is unusual and lovely.

Also worth seeing is the Partisan Museum in Dongo.  Very interesting; gives an idea of how ordinary Italians did extraordinary things when they worked to overthrow the Fascists.  Also in Dongo, the Albergo Dongo cooks up very good food.

Corenno Plinio (between Dorio and Dervio) has a great restaurant called Taverna di Castello (duh!) – again, really good food with seasonal dishes and open all day.

Lierna –  Il Crotto is lovely for a special night out, but Riva Bianca, the pizza place – is really good for take-outs (and it’s right on the beach down the road from the apartment!).  For 8-10 Eu you can get just about any pizza you want (4 pages of menu!). We also loved Sister’s Cafe, which sells pizza bread, pastry, bread, cleaning products, reading glasses, and train tickets!  If you order drinks they keep bringing you food.  We had to stop going there at ‘happy hour’ because by the time we got home we weren’t hungry any more.  Other people were getting crisps, but the lady made us salami sandwiches, and all sorts of goodies.  Seems like a major gathering place for locals.  We found out about it because my sister-in-law was looking for a place to buy cigarettes and she ended up liking it for the people-watching.

Mandello del Lario is surprisingly very nice.  The part toward the hills is newer and unexciting, although it has a new pedestrian zone with a modern square with a statue of Mr. Guzzi and his motorcycle designs (the MotoGuzzi factory is there).  But the old town, toward the lake, is charming and has 3 good restaurants and a great gelateria overlooking the lake where you can sit for ages watching the world go by.  Also, around the old town, towards the main road, is a lovely area with modern and older villas – very nice neighbourhood.  If you want to get away from the tourists, this place is perfect. Can’t remember the names of the restaurants, but the locals are happy to point them out – they’re all a stone’s throw from the gelateria.
As you can see, big focus on food.  Why not?  It’s Italy, home of the best food in the world.  Our grandson said one day while eating one of many pizzas “I love it here – I want to live here – this is the best food I’ve ever had.”
Oh, here’s some helpful info:  PARKING!  Never simple, right?

Bellano:  Free at the train station

Lecco:  We took the train – it’s a 2 minute walk from the station to the very nice pedestrian zone with a variety of shops; 10 minute walk to the lakefront with restaurants nearby.  It’s a 20 minute ride on the local from Lierna, but from Varenna, it’s non-stop if you take the Milan train.

Chiavenna:  Free in the municipal car park across from the train station, except on Saturdays (market day).

Dongo:  Free on the main street before the tunnel, or right before you get to the square, turn left if coming from the north and there’s a car park by the lake.  The left turn is a very small street by the post office and easy to miss – better to just drive past the square and park up the road.  Parking in the square is free for one hr only (or 2, i’m not sure)

Mandello del Lario:  Free by the train station.  It’s by the MotoGuzzi factory.  The lake is a 10 minute walk away.
Eleonora our landlady at Riva Bianca was really nice.  She gave us some helpful tips about stores, restaurants, etc.  and was very accommodating with regard to anything we needed in the flat – she even turned on the heat when we got there as it was cold and rainy, and provided us with down duvets to make sure we weren’t cold.

Hope this is helpful to the next batch of visitors!

Names: Maggie & Nick K., Chicago, USA
Property: Riva Bianca Misultin
Dates: 30/9 – 27/10/2016

Riva Bianca Lake Como    Lierna Lake Como