Bellagio, Lenno, Villa Carlotta & Varenna – A Self guided ferry tour on Lake Como

This is a continuation of my series of posts documenting our Italian vacation in May 2017. We had been in the beautiful mid lake town of Varenna and had done the trek up to Vezio castle on the previous day. The agenda for today was roaming around the mid lake towns by ferry and seeing one of the numerous huge villas that dotted the lake shore. We had no fixed itinerary and had decided to take it one place and one hour at a time considering that the weather was unpredictable.

It had rained heavily overnight and I woke up to a cloudy overcast sky over the picturesque lake. We got ready and had a great breakfast at the Villa Torretta. The breakfast was served in the beautiful common area downstairs by the mother son duo that ran the B&B. Eggs, croissants, cheese, cold cuts, corn flakes, fresh fruit, freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee filled us up to give us energy for the frenzied sightseeing that we are known for.

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The beautiful common area of the Villa Torretta where breakfast is served

The Villa also had 2 resident pets, a dog which was too scared to approach us and a cat who was threatened by the (impossible to remove completely) smell of my pet cat Pukku from my shoes. So he always used to be around to make sure no other cat entered his territory.

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The resident cat of Villa Torretta

So we said our ciao to the cat and proceeded to the ferry dock with a timetable provided by our host to buy a 1 day mid lake ferry pass which makes travelling around the region fast and cheap. We boarded the ferry and sat in the open seats at the front of the boat since it wasn’t raining as of yet and those seats gave the best views.

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Sitting in the front of the ferry at Lake Como

As the ferry left Varenna we got the best views of the town from the water and it looked like a fairy tale town appearing from amidst the clouds (Previous post featured image). We then proceeded towards Bellagio which was the first stop of the ferry and every way you looked was a photo opportunity. Beautiful villas with lush gardens, picturesque small towns, green hills in the foreground with towering alps guarding the back. You didn’t have to ask me twice to click a gazillion photos.

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The views along the lake shores are amazing and the cloudy skies make them more dramatic
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The mid lake region at Lake Como – Beautiful photo opportunities wherever you look

The mid lake ferry makes round trips of Menaggio – Varenna – Bellagio – Villa Carlotta – Tremezzo – Lenno. We didn’t plan to get down in Bellagio now as we wanted to visit one of the Villas before the rains played spoilsport. So I took photos of the glitzy mid lake resort of Bellagio from the boat and continued to enjoy the views as the boat proceeded further along the lake.

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Bellagio – The glitzy mid lake resort town on Lake Como

There are two famous Villas that you can visit in the mid lake region. The Villa Carlotta with its sprawling lush gardens and the superbly located Villa Balbianello where numerous movies have been shot. Unfortunately the latter was closed for the day which meant that our only option was the Villa Carlotta!

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The Villa Carlotta and its famous gardens

The Villa Carlotta has its own ferry stop and we got down and went across the road, bought our tickets and entered the villa. The villa itself holds some interesting pieces of art and shows us a sneak peek into the life of the rich owners of the Villa. We did a quick tour of the interiors of the Villa before stepping out into the main attraction which were the gardens.

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The art in the Villa Carlotta has the best views!

As soon as we entered the gardens we saw a noisy group of school children enter the gardens and we swiftly moved in the opposite direction to avoid being overrun by noisy kids! Thankfully the gardens are immense and we never saw the kids again. I’m no botanist, but the well manicured gardens with huge flower beds make for great photos. We walked around the well marked paths and literally took photos at every corner. The gardens were being constantly tended by a huge work force dedicated to keep everything perfect. And the effort shows, the lawns are perfectly mowed, flowering plants trimmed symmetrically, hedges shaped perfectly.

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Views from the gardens of the Villa Carlotta
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A lizard steps out to smell the flowers
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Perfectly trimmed flower beds
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Pathways arched with oranges that would not have lasted seconds in India
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The well manicured hedges and fountains near the exit

We walked around the gardens for a good 2 hours without realising the time. But soon it was time to move on and we moved out and took the next ferry to the last town covered by our mid lake pass, Lenno.

Usually Lenno is the stop used by visitors to the Villa Balbianello. Since the Villa was closed today the town had very few visitors, which was exactly what I was looking for. We walked along the waterfront of the almost deserted town, visited the local church and just sat on a bench at the lakes edge for a while. It seemed like our private town, there were no tourists in sight and only the ducks for company as we sat enjoying the views.

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All alone in the beautiful church at Lenno
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A Swan and Mallards perform a synchronised swimming show just for us

We had the most memorable lunch at a shore side cafe at Lenno where we couldn’t decide which was better the food or the views. I had plate full of fried fish fritters with tartare sauce and the better half had her favourite gnocchi.

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At the Pasticceria Bar Sport, Lenno – A superb place to have Lunch
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Gnocchi and Fish Friiters with a view to die for

We had a leisurely lunch as it started to drizzle a bit. Thankfully it was done by the time we finished our meal and walked back to the ferry stop to catch the ferry on our journey back.

We travelled all the way back to Bellagio and disembarked to see what all the fuss was all about. Bellagio is full of top hotels and the streets are lined with fashionable shops that are way out of my league and budget. Anyway we were not there for shopping, so we went to the Punta Spartivento or the point where the wind splits. This is the place where the lake Como splits into 2 limbs and there is a park and a restaurant at the point. We walked along the breakwater at the edge of the lake, rested our legs on one of the numerous lake facing benches in the park for some time before moving on.

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The park at the Punta Spartivento in Bellagio

We then walked to the biggest and grandest church in the region ( Glitzy church for a glitzy town!). The Bellagio church has a grand baroque interior with a huge golden altar. We sat down in the pews for a few minutes as is routine with us and walked out into the sunshine. Surprise!!

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The interiors of the Grandest church of the region in Bellagio

We celebrated the appearance of the sun with a Gelato from a crowded gelato place at the top of town and relished it on the way down to the ferry docks.

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Celebrating the appearance of the sun with a gelato in the narrow lanes of Bellagio

We realised that Varenna and its beautiful passarella was the best place in the whole region to enjoy the sunshine and we promptly caught the next ferry back and skipped going to another town in the region Menaggio. As we would have rather walked the romantic walkway in Varenna one more time rather than see another town.

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Varenna bathed in sunshine with receding clouds in the background

We went back to the Villa Torretta to freshen up a bit and collect my 300mm which I had not carried because of the imminent threat of rain. I wanted a few photos of the glorious swans that I had seen swimming near the Passarella. Thankfully the swan obliged and I got some decent photos.

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A beautiful Swan at Varenna
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The Swan poses for a profile photo!
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A male Mallard takes a quick nap in the sun
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A female Mallard asks me not to ignore her in favour of the swan.

We sat at the small harbour in the sun doing nothing and it was just bliss. This is the place to come to for a relaxing vacation. No museums, no must see places – Just the beautiful views and cool mountain wind to enjoy. Nature at its best!

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Enjoying the sun at the small harbour in Varenna

We couldn’t resist having another gelato to enjoy as we sat in the sun watching the lake waters gently lap the shores. Even the bees were glad to have the sun up as they moved from flower to flower along the walkway having their fill of nectar.

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One more gelato to celebrate the sunny weather!
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A bee enjoying his fill of nectar on a sunny evening in Varenna

We walked back along the passarella, sad that this was our last day in this wonderful town. I had expected Varenna to be good but I hadn’t expected a town which would stay in my dreams forever. As the sun set on our last evening here, we returned to our room for some rest before we left for dinner and take a few photos of the town lit up at night.

Dinner was at a Rick Steves recommended restaurant called Varenna Mon Amour ( Varenna My Love) which was exactly the way I felt about the town. I had some great lamb chops while the better half had yet another plate of gnocchi. As usual the meal was amazing.

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Lamb Chops at the Varenna MonAmour

After the excellent dinner, we walked one last time along my favourite walkway in all of Italy and took photos of the lit up town and the ferry dock area. Something that the rain had prevented me from doing last night.

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The town of Varenna all lit up
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The Ferry dock area of Varenna from the passarella

It had been an amazing two days in the Lake Como region and the Villa Torretta, but we had to move on the next day to another region which had long been on my bucket list – The Cinque Terre.

But that is a story for another post, another day.

As it is I have exceeded my self set limits in this post, but it was unavoidable. Anything less would not be justice to a place I absolutely love!

Till next time,

Ciao.

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