Houses front the lakeside promenade in the comune of Lenno, located in Italy's Lake Como.

Euro Trip 2014, Part 2: Cruising in Lake Como

One of the loveliest ways to spend a day in Lake Como is to take the passenger ferry along its mid-lake route, stopping along the way to explore the lakeside towns and historic villas. From our hotel in central Varenna, it’s a quick (and fragrant) walk along the passerella to the ferry landing.

The yellow Hotel Olivedo greets those who land in Varenna's boat landing, as it has since its opening in 1896. A large vehicle-and-passenger ferry sits at the dock.

The yellow Hotel Olivedo greets those who land in Varenna’s boat landing, as it has since its opening in 1896. A large vehicle-and-passenger ferry sits at the dock.

I loved the ferry boats, from their chunky white exteriors to their mid-century modern interiors.

Our first stop was Bellagio, with its appealingly broad waterfront of shopping arcades. As is the case in other cities of historically well-to-do Northern Italy, the archways are decked with curtains to shield shoppers from the hot Italian sun.1 After snaking through the stepped streets and stumbling upon Basilica di San Giacomo, we headed north past the heavily secured driveways of multimillion-euro homes to Punta Spartivento. Here, the very tip of the Bellagio peninsula juts out into the center of Lake Como. The price? Free.

All along the lake, there are reminders of the region’s past and present status as a getaway for the wealthy. Given the tremendous expense to maintain an historic villa as a private residence (not that it stops A-list celebrities or athletes from scooping them up), many of these estates have long since been converted into museums or repurposed as luxury hotels.

Our final stop was Lenno. At the most southern end of the town’s panoramic boardwalk, perched atop a promontory on the western side of the lake, lies the famous Villa del Balbianello. Widely known nowadays for its role as Anakin and Padmé’s elopment venue, it has long been argued to be the most beautiful sight in all of Lake Como, worthy of a Grand Tour itinerary.

However, we also had a grand prix to attend. When I looked at the ferry timetable, the train timetable to Monza, and the racetrack’s schedule of events (namely the day’s pitwalk and driver’s autograph session), I realized that I’d made a critical mistake. I had completely misjudged how much time we would need to get to Villa del Balbianello, let alone walk its famous grounds before catching a ferry back to Varenna in time to catch the hourly train to Monza. We had little choice but to head back.2

Still, the manicured waterfront of Lenno provided some eye candy while we waited for the return trip back to Varenna.

In my next post, I’m ditching the boat captain’s hat for a Ferrari cap as I make my way to the famous Autodromo di Monza for the very first time. Hope you’ll tune in!

Captain's hat

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