Sunday, June 3, 2007

Visiting Bellagio

I've been to the city of Como, on Lake Como, in northern Italy a couple of times. The Mr. has business there every month and I tagged along once or twice. It is a lovely city, full of Italians going about their daily life (read: not too many tourists). And Lake Como...well there is a reason that George Clooney bought a villa there-- it is breathtaking.
So, when my best friend from first grade said she was coming over for a visit and wanted to see Italy, I figured that a trip to somewhere on Lake Como was in order. It would be an easy four-hour drive to the area from our place in Switzerland. Being in the car alone with my dear friend, able to talk without the interuption for four hours sounded pretty good, too.
I had heard so much about Bellagio, 'the jewel of Lago di Como'. My folks had been there a few times and highly recommended it-- not to mention many other friends from here in Switzerland. It was settled-- we were Bellagio-bound!
We were not dissappointed. It is absolutely beautiful! Quaint, cobbled and compact-- it is a fabulous village made for meandering, shopping and eating. It was special even to my travel-jaded eye.
The weather was absolutely horrible; rain, wind and uncharacteristically cold. But even so, it was a glorious place to be for a few days. My friend and I just walked around, checked out shops, climbed hidden, craggy streets, drank wine and ate pasta.
We stayed at the Hotel Metropole Bellagio. The location was perfect-- right in the center of the port, at the bottom of the town. Our room was decent size and opened right on to the lake with a small balcony. It was simple, a bit dated, but clean and just Euro 144 per night.
On a walk I check out the Hotel Florence which was just down the street, still in the old port. It looked to be much nicer at about Euro 30 more per night for a lake view room-- well worth it, in my opinion.
I also looked at rooms in the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni. It is a 5 star, with beautiful grounds also right on the lake, in a great location. In all honesty though, I don't think this hotel is worth the price Euro 600 (the rate during the time we traveled in late May). It is definitely grand; large halls and public spaces to sit and take in the scene, but the whole place seems to have seen better days. It feels a bit like your grandmother's fine, old summer house-- decorated to the nines four or five decades ago, and blessed with good bones, but just past it's prime now. If it was half the price, it would be worth it for sure, but as is, I would be dissapointed to pay all that money for a stay in Nona Serbelloni's Italian villa.
We stumbled upon Far Out, a restaurant on Salita Mella. The interior was modern-casual and very comfortable, the atmosphere lively. I had spaghetti with clams and it was excellent-- I am cautious about using that adjective, but is deserved here. My friend had gnocchi with pomodoro sauce that she was not as crazy for, but the gnocchi were very tender and obviously house-made. What impressed me the most was that there were as many Italians in this restaurant as there were tourists. Bellagio seems to be over-taken with Brits and Americans tourists, so to find a place that the locals ate was a good endorsement.
All in all, the town of Bellagio is absolutely worth at least a day visit, better yet a few days' stay. Be aware though, because of its unblemished beauty, it is full of tourists. I heard english spoken more than Italian. If it is a more 'authentic' slice of Italian life that you are looking for, Bellagio may not be for you. If you simply want to take in an absolutely exquisite small Italian village and can overlook the 'english factor', Bellagio is well worth a trip.

1 comment:

Linda said...

It looks beautiful. I love your description of the Serbelloni.