Visit Bellagio, Lake Como for 2020/21 with SNO®
The Bellagio peninsular, plunging into Como’s fabled waters, is one of Europe’s most enchantingly elegant destinations. Every inch emits old school glamour and the air - some of the freshest you’ll ever breathe in - seems to be laced with la dolce vita.
While your hours away wisely: sunning by the lakeside, eyeing up grand villas, boating out to silent shores and devouring epicurean delights. A bucket list destination if ever there was one, Bellagio will wow all five senses, stealing your heart in the meantime.
Bellagio’s bliss for billionaires, no doubt, but it’s heaven on earth for cyclists too. The town accesses a duo of the most iconic bike rides in the region (scrap that, the world) - Madonna de Ghissallo and Muro di Sormano of Giro di Lombardia fame. You’re not a serious cyclist ‘til you’ve pedalled these - ideally in succession - for perhaps the most emotional, exhausting, exhilarating ride of your life. Afterwards, let’s just say the peninsula’s posh spas seem less insanely indulgent, more downright necessity…
Italy’s bike rides feature no shortage of saint-named hills topped with pretty chapels... But Madonna di Ghisallo’s different. With its place of worship dedicated to the Patron Saint of Cycling, this is bicycle mecca: the pilgrimage from Bellagio is a 10km-ish ride, climbing 500m+ in altitude and cramming in life-affirming lake views to reward the legwork. The church is like no other you’ll step inside - a shrine to all things bike-related with relics from legendary riders - bibs, wheels, you name it - and a flickering flame for those who’ve been lost to the sport. If your inner giro geek yearns for more, there’s a modern museum built into the rockface next door with more on the history of cycling. Or if you’re dying to ride it but need some extra pedal power, e-bikes are just the ticket.
Your passion for cycling reaffirmed, it’s prime time to test your resolve on one of the toughest trails of all time... Ride on towards Asso, fork right at Mudronno and continue onto Sormano for its notorious Muro (aka ‘wall’): a 2km zig-zagging climb with gradients up to a leg-jellying 25%. They’ve painted markings and messages along the way to egg you on, and the best Giro di Lombardia riders smash it in 12 minutes…
If your thighs ache just thinking about it, there’s plenty if you’re seeking a more leisurely bike ride. Our favourite bits come the form of rolling hills along the lakeside, like the road between Bellagio and Lecco which passes through the quiet villages of Moregge and Malgrate. Cycling southwest takes you over rolling hills, past the Nesso falls and Torno boulders and along narrowing roads to Como (which can get busy at weekends). For a longer jaunt, you can continue up to historic villages like Laglio and finish in Cadenabbia, then catch the ferry home.
For mountain bikers, the ridge between Como and Bellagio is a blast, featuring a hairy toboggan trail, mule tracks and forested paths. Across the lake in Argegno, a funicular takes you up to Monte Tremezzo for an exciting ride back passing WWI trenches.
There’s no shortage of formal fine dining in this neck of the woods: Alle Darsene pairs top notch Mediterranean fare with smashing vino in the gorgeous fishing village of Loppia – ask for one of the outdoor tables under the trees for the full experience. For Michelin-starred molecular cuisine, Ettore Bocchia at the Mistral is a true pioneer. His tasting menu’s spectacle for the senses and that’s before you take in the setting, stunning Villa Serbelloni. Ristorante Salice Blu is another hot spot and for a real foodie experience, chef Luigi runs cooking classes where you can learn to make pasta and risotto.
Bellagio has plenty of more affordable eateries too - for an easy lunch, Bellavita does pizzas, paninis and sandwiches that don’t cost mountains. When it calls for a good old fashioned pizza, Forma and Gusto’s wood-fired wonders are well worth tucking into. We could eat the risotto at Ristorante Terrazza Barchetta (a more formal setting right next door) day in, day out.
Last but not least, you can’t come here without at least one lakeside gelato and Gelateria del Borgo is our favourite spot for sweet treats, offering all the usual flavours plus others like oreo and panna cotta…
The peninsular alone brims with wonderful walks, abundant in historic sites and lovely lake views. If you want a sight-seeing wander without straying too far, set off uphill on the Salita Mella from Piazza Mazzini to the town hall and Romanesque San Giorgio church. Steps over the road from the church lead down to the fishing village of Pescallo, which has some stunning views over the lake and mountains. You can continue here to explore other hamlets, like Oliverio, Regatola, Guggiate and San Giovanni with their gardens, villas and charming piazzas.
Head down to Como for the Kilometer of Knowledge trail, which crams in public art, lemon trees, lake views and the Olmo, Grumello AND Sucota villas. Como’s also home to the funicular to Brunate, which takes you up into the skies then deposits you in delightful territory for an amble around villas and churches or a walk to Mount Piatto.
For footpaths further afield, the ferry network gives you easy access to Cadenabbia (we love the cobblestone path to San Martino, 1 hour), Menaggio (for the paths of the Parco Val Sanagra) and Varenna (don’t miss the Wayfarers path, following old mule tracks, 2-3 hours). Heading up the lake, you’ll find quieter, wilder terrain. On the east side, this includes the looming Monte Legnone – the highest mountain in the area which most hikers climb from Rifugio Roccoli Lora.
There are endless ways to enjoy Bellagio (pronounce it: Ber-lar-gee-oh). Munch through as much of the Michelin guide as you can muster – fresh fish, fine pasta and delectable desserts grace the menus here (don’t miss a table on the terrace at Mistral, 1 star)... Soak up every sight your eyes can settle on - opulent villas, old churches and abbeys can be seen on hike, bike ride, kayak or SUP tour. Devote at least a day to Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and its ancient alleyways - ambling between boutiques, perfumeries and wine bars. And allot another to the Lido di Bellagio, lolling on its lakeside loungers as you marvel the masterworks of its mixologists…
A non-stop safari for the senses or delicious dolce far niente - as much or as little as you end up doing in Bellagio, you can’t help but have a marvellous time in ‘the pearl of Lake Como’. But here take heed: you’ve not been to Bellagio, not properly, if you haven’t hired a Riva boat and zipped across the water. They call these the ‘limousines of the lake’ and it’s a Lake Como rite of passage to ride one, stopping in a secluded spot for a swim, sunning on the deck and picking out which palatial villa you’ll buy (with the help of lady luck in one of the slick local casinos…).
You’ll want to be based at the Vegas Bellagio for non-stop night owling, but anyone who likes a tipple or two in a scenic setting will love it here.
Bstyle’s one of the reasons everyone should explore the town’s fascinating narrow alleyways. Stop for an Espresso martini and nibbles and you can easily lose track of time.
Wine lovers can’t go wrong here - Cava Turacciolo pairs its collections with delicious charcuterie, while in Aperitivo Et Al it’s all about the cheeses, olives and whisky ‘drowned’ ice cream.
For DJ’s and dancing, head to the Lido di Bellagio which throws super scenic soirees through the summer season.
If you’re flying, the closest airports to Bellagio are Bergamo, Milan Linate and Milan Malpensa. From the UK, flights take around 2 hours. Usually our holidays include transfers, but if you prefer to drive, there are car hire facilities at the airport.
An alternative to taking the road is travelling by train: there’s a station at Malpensa airport while Linate and Bergamo both have buses serving Milan’s main stations. Once you arrive in Como, there are buses serving Bellagio.
Look for the house shaped like a tower in the tiddly town of San Giovanni - inside you’ll find a couple of hundred seafaring curiosities, including old Venetian telescopes, compasses and solar clocks. Great for a wander to escape the midday heat and soak up some Italian history.
Count Pietro Venini built Villa Giulia towards the end of the 18th century. You can reach it by 800 stone steps from the dock at Loppa and we’d say it’s well worth the climb, with impressive gardens, a lovely olive grove and views of both parts of the lake. Learn from our mistakes and bring a bottle of water if you’re heading up there in hot weather!
Neoclassical in style, Villa Gerli dates back to the 18th century. It’s surrounded by a lush English-style park which it shares with the mausoleum of Gonzaga and the church of Santa Maria di Loppa (thought to have been built near the end of the 10th century).
Once a month, Bellagio hosts an open-air market where you can pick up local produce and souvenirs (usually third Wednesday, but it’s worth checking with the tourist office in case that changes).
Celebrating different cultures and art forms, the Tower of the Arts hosts events and exhibitions throughout the year.
This tiny Romanesque style church is believed to date back to around the end of the 11th century.
Not much is known about this church, other than it was the first church in the Bellagio area and dates back to at least the 10th century. A restoration took place in the late 1700’s, giving it a Baroque appearance. The altar piece is a 16/17th century oil painting by Gaudenzio Ferrari, called ‘The Risen Christ between the Saints and Donors’.
The story goes that around the 16th century, one of the lords of the Castle (now known as Villa Serbelloni) had trouble with his legs so travelled everywhere on horseback. Stopping to drink from a well, he noticed his horse would bow to the well and after drinking from it one day, suddenly his legs felt better. He ordered his men to dig a trench in front of the well, where they discovered an image of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. He built a church on the spot and apparently the same image can be found in the chancel.
An excellent example of a Roman-Lombard creation, this church was built by the Masters of Como from 1075-1125. Indoors, you’ll find various historic features including mosaics, the altar, a cross, triptych and sculpture.
A Neoclassical-style villa and chapel, surrounded by stunning English-style gardens among the Bellagio hills. The buildings date back to 1808, commissioned by Francesco Melzi d’Eril (Duke of Lodi, Count of Magneta and VP of Napoleon’s Italian Republic) and designed and decorated by Giocondo Albertolli. Indoors, there are artworks and furnishings created by some of the greats of the day. The gardens, with their winding paths, sculptures and orangery are the work of architect Luigi Canonica and botanist Luigi Villoresi.
Lido di Bellagio’s a scenic spot for swimming and plenty more besides: spend the day lazing on a lounger on its sandy beach and / or come in the evenings for its dine and dance events (it turns from beach club to nightclub with guest and resident DJ’s). Full day entry tends to cost around €10.
Around 2km from the centre of Bellagio, San Giovanni Beach can be found where the Perlo stream flows into Lake Como. There’s a pebble shore with swimming piers, picnic tables and a snack bar. Look for signs saying ‘River Side Spiaggia Libera’.
Cadenabbia (3.5km): 30-minute drive or walk from Bellagio via the ferry to Cadenabbia
Tremezzo (4.5km): 35-minute drive/45 minute walk from Bellagio via the ferry to Cadenabbia