Monday, March 15, 2010

A driving trip to Lake Como by car or hire car

Although there are many lakes in Italy, the most famous are those in the area knows as the Italian Lake District in the north of the country. The 50 km long Lake Como, with its two "legs", is a perfect destination for an Italian driving/hire car holiday.

The drive from the UK is easy and motorway all the way to Como itself. If you take the route through Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, via the Gothard pass/tunnel, the journey takes just 8 hours from Calais and avoids many expensive French motorway tolls. For a route, go to the RAC and download one for free.

If you prefer to fly, there are 3 airports to choose from. The closest to Como is Milan Malpensa, followed by Linate and then further afield, but still only just over an hour from Como, is Bergamo's Orio al Serio or Milan-Bergamo as Ryan Air have renamed it (it isn't actually even in Milan). You can then simply pick up a hire car on arrival. The drive to Como is straightforward and well sign posted – go to this directions page for more information. It will take you between 40 minutes and an hour to drive to the town of Como, which lies at the southern end of the western branch of the lake and makes a great starting-point for a driving tour.

Here are details of just some of the places that you can visit by car when visiting Lake Como.

Lake Como by car – Como town

Como town is a great place to stay for a day or two. Its historic attractions include the Duomo, Como's Cathedral, which dates back to the fourteenth century. There is also great shopping and many other historical sites in this beautiful walled town.

Como's museums include the Museo Didattico Della Seta, which traces the town's silk-making history, and Tempio Voltiano, a neo-classical temple which houses items related to the work of physicist Alessandro Volta, who lived in Como.

You can also take a break from your hire car by relaxing in one of the cafes in Piazza Cavour or taking a boat trip on Lake Como itself to admire the stunning lakeside villas, including Villa Oleandra (George Clooney), Villa Fontanella (ex-Versace) and Villa Casinella (Richard Branson)

Lake Como by car - Bellagio

Once you have explored Como, head north-west to Bellagio, nestled in the fork of the southern part of Lake Como. It will take you about 40 minutes to drive from Como along the vertiginous narrow roads to Bellagio.

Bellagio was one of the first internationally-known tourist resorts in Italy and is known as "the Pearl of the Lake". Park your hire car and stroll through the cobbled streets, wander along the lime tree and oleander-lined promenade and stop for a bite to eat in one of Bellagio's many restaurants.

The famous Hotel du Lac, which overlooks the piazza on the lakefront, and the historic five-star Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, will give you a taste of the opulence and glamour traditionally associated with Bellagio.

Lake Como by car - Bellano

On leaving Bellagio, you can drive southwards along the eastern leg of Lake Como and then north, back up the other side of the lake, or you can take your car on the ferry from Bellagio to Varenna. The town of Bellano is about five minutes' drive from Varenna.

Bellano is a pretty village, situated on the lakefront, and you can wander through its streets and alleys, and see some beautiful examples of medieval and Baroque architecture. There are also some excellent restaurants in and around Bellano.

Lake Como by car - Menaggio

You can either continue to drive north from Bellano to the far end of Lake Como and then drive southwards along the west shore of the lake, or you can take your car on the ferry to Menaggio.

Menaggio is a small, but popular, tourist resort, which has hotels, restaurants and a beach. It has an attractive town square and you can take a stroll along the lakeside promenade. There are also plenty of sporting activities available in and around Menaggio.

Lake Como by car – Lake Lugano

Just over the hill from Menaggio is Lake Lugano, so take a 30 minute detour and visit 2 lakes in one day and wander the stylish streets of this wealthy banking centre.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Why rent a holiday/vacation home instead of a hotel for your next holiday to Lake Como?

Why rent a holiday/vacation home instead of a hotel for your next holiday to Lake Como?
Given the current economic climate, renting a holiday home for your next vacation could be the answer. You can still get to your perfect destination in Italy, whether that be Lake Como, Rome, the Amalfi coast or Liguria. But instead of forking out for a posh hotel, save up to 50% of your accommodation budget and splash out on a dream vacation home instead.

Self catering vacation rentals are becoming more and more popular for many reasons:

There is such a wide range of accommodation types available – something to suit every pocket and style requirement – minimalist chic, log cabin, mountain chalet, country florals, hi-tech glass and steel, even a boat house!

You have your own privacy, even your own pool, if you want one. You get your home comforts – washer, dryer, fridge, freezer, WIFI, open fires to name but a few. As well as gardens, pools and other luxuries, should you want them.

Cheap holiday vacation rentals also save you a lot of money. You can buy food from the local market - fresh locally produced vegetables, instead of plastic supermarket ones and you can cook up your own delicious meals instead of having to eat the same old buffet every night at the hotel or eat out in expensive tourist-resort restaurants.

And you get to choose the food that you eat, because you are in charge. A take away pizza in Italy costs nothing like the exorbitant charges in the UK. You should pay as little as 4 euro for a pizza margherita.

You can bring less luggage, as you have the facilities to wash and dry your own clothes (if you want to). A great advantage if you have small children or infants and are flying with Ryan Air or Easyjet!

There are no restrictive hotel rules (i.e. not using the pool at 'siesta' time – just when you need it most - in the middle of the day – now that is a daft rule!). Many holiday homes will even let you bring your pets.

Thanks to the internet, there is a vast array of choice – either through rental agents or direct from the owners, through sites such as Lake Como Properties, Holiday Italia, Flipkey (Trip Advisor), Owners Direct , to name just a few. All you have to do is decide where you want to go and what your criteria are – how many bedrooms, private pool, close to village etc.

You can see a host of pictures to help you select the perfect holiday rental property. You can even read reviews from previous holiday makers.

But, with this wealth of information, it is easy to get confused, so follow a few simple tips to make sure you get the most out of these holiday rental web sites..........

Do not pay to join a web site. There are enough free ones. There is no need to pay a fee.

Decide whether you prefer to rent from a private owner or from a property manager or an agency. Dealing direct with the owner can have more risks involved and response times are often longer. Whereas a good property manager makes it his/her business to respond in a timely manner and as they manage more than one property, they can direct you to the ones that best meet your requirements, without the possible bias of an owner with only one property to sell you. Of course he's going to tell you it's just perfect for you.

A long established reputable company is usually the best choice when it comes to finding cheap vacation rentals and don't be afraid to ask how long the company has been doing vacation rental properties in that area. If you are looking at Lake Como for example check out Lake Como Properties and Holiday Italia, who have both been around for about 15 years. When you go directly to individual owners, you never know whether the property really exists and whether the pictures are genuine. A reputed company will verify these for you before they list the rental.

So, don't delay, start looking today. Especially if you want a villa with a private pool or an apartment with a shared pool, as these properties always get booked up first, particularly in areas like Lake Como, where they are few and far between!

If you hate sharing large hotel swimming pool with rowdy holiday makers or hate sun-bed bagging Germans, this could be the holiday for you. But hurry, the best properties get bagged very early!

Photographs courtesy of -
Panoramic view of Colonno from Bella Vista apartments, Colonno, Lake Como
Internal shots of Villa Lilla, Argegno, Lake Como
Swimming pool at Villa Lilla, Argegno, Lake Como
View from Villa Lilla, Argegno, Lake Como