AN IDEA FOR A FAMILY TRIP IN SPRING
Our lake Como is very good for spring and summer trips: there are a lot of very nice locations where you can spend your time; if you choose a trip by ferry, everything becomes even more exciting, above all for children.
Why prefer the ferry to the car?
- To avoid the traffic jam of the weekend, typical in our zones;
- because children like get on and get off the ferries very much: this can represent something new for them;
- because children can have a rest between your visits;
- because the perspective from the lake is more amazing than from the land
In this post I propose you a trip we chose to do the last first of May: it’s a ring tour with departure from Varenna and return to Varenna again, with different intermediate stops along the east part of lake Como. The places to see are really a lot, so unless you have a week holiday to see each of them, you need to make a choise: ours has fallen upon the most renowned locations, those you can’t skip if this is your first time here at lake Como. Among them we chose to insert Piona, a peculiar stop, very different from the others. With just one day, you won’t visit all places in detail: some you could see better, some others more in general. This trip is thought to stay for most time at the open air, so it doesn’t include visits to villas or museums. For those ones you need more time. Here below I try to give you some alternatives for the only day trip.
Alternative 1: if you want to do a mix of villas and lake places, the choise is difficult: to give an example, Varenna is smaller but has a more chracteristic lakefront thsn Bellagio, so you could choose Bellagio to visit one of the villas and Varenna for a walk around the town.
Alternative 2: visit deeply just one of the two (town+villas)
Alternative 3: give up to Piona (a real pity).
Should I choose between these three? Alternative 1
Our trip in brief:
✔First stop – Menaggio
✔Second stop – Piona, peculiar location with its famous abbey
✔Third stop – Colico
✔Fourth stop- Bellagio
A trip by ferry is very charming, but I have to admit that isn’t so cheap, above all this tour in particular that includes Piona.
- From Varenna (our departure point) it’s possible to buy the tickets of free circulation with the offer “Happy Family” that is a full ticket for 2 adults paying and free for maximum 2 children from 4 to 12 years old (not celebrated yet). This option permits you to Hop-On, Hop-Off from the ferry, that is get on and get off in the variuos locations during the whole day; if you stay for a week, you can buy the same kind of ticket for 6 days, instead of one. For our daily ticket “Happy Family” we spent Euro 38.80 (2 adults and child 10 years old – price 2018). The costs change continuously, so read the official site. In the meanwhile I’ll leave you the link to this site updated to 2018, written in a detailed way, to give you an idea of the cost of all single tickets, the costs for cars, dogs, etc…
- The problem is to reach Piona: from Varenna there’s no direct ferries to Piona. You need to move to Menaggio or Bellagio, so you have 2 otpions:
- take the ferry to Menaggio (a few minutes navigation) using the family ticket just bought; once in Menaggio you can take the ferry to Piona: it leaves at around 9:00 in the morning. If you loose it, as happened to us, the next one is at around midday. Not to wait three hours wasting the whole morning, the only solution is to take the hydrofoil: it’s a faster service than the ferry, that’s why it requires a supplement (to add to Happy Family ticket). We spent 26.60 Euro more for three persons, only for that stretch from Menaggio to Piona. From Piona we waited then for the famous ferry we lost, to continue our tour;
- you can skip Piona choosing to remain inside the central triangle of the lake visiting Varenna, Bellagio, Menaggio and/or Cadenabbia: these locations are in a comfort zone because they’re easily reachable with ferries that, travelling along the only yellow area you see in the photo above, offer more frequently journeys.
- To reach Varenna I suggest the train (direction Sondrio – stop in Varenna) because car parks are always full and difficult to find, above all in the weekend, as Varenna is a very small town. If you anyway choose the car, find a multifloor car park at a meter at the entry of the town on the right, otherwise along that way on the left there are always a long queue of cars parked: if you’re lucky, the park here is free, but you have to be on site early in the morning. At the station there are some places but you have to pay.
- Why leaving from Varenna? Because in Menaggio or in Bellagio there’s no train station and for car parks you have to pay, unless you have a great fortune.
But now leave immediately to discover these four little lake locations by our typical ferries. Our first stop along the lake Como is Menaggio.
LAKE COMO: MENAGGIO
From the pier walk towards the street and then turn right: you’ll reach the centre town in 5 minutes. Visit it according to your navigation time: we had about 40 minutes before the hydrofoil came, so we only had a quick go-around. In few time you’ll probably see Menaggio in a hurry, but it’s so small that it’s easy to see its narrow internal streets with restaurants, and to walk along a stretch of the lakefront, always full of flowers in spring and summer!
Ps: If you arrive in time to take the ferry at 9:00, you’ll have to skip this stop. If you want could see it on the way returning back, because the ferry stops here before reaching Varenna again.
LAKE COMO: PIONA
Piona is our second stop we reached in the morning at about 10.30 /11.00 by hydrofoil; the distance from Lecco is about 37 km. Arriving from the lake, you’ll have to walk throuh a slightly uphill road, about 2 minutes walk, before reching the site of which you’ll be immediately impressed by an amazing lake view, a very green und well maintained garden on the way to the abbey and the SILENCE, a real oasis of peace and serenity far from the noisy towns. More than to see, Piona is to enjoy: except from the abbey and the little sanctuary, there’s no much to see, but the place itself is really magical, a different kind of stop. For children there’s also a small observatory.
Ps: if you arrive by car, the abbey has a wide free parking.
The abbey is still today inhabited from the Cistercian monks and was built in the Roman-Lombard style: what we see today is the result of a previous extension.
The most fascinating part of the abbey is without doubts the cloister, with a wooden ceiling, frescoes dating back to the thirteen century and other very coloured pictures on the walls. The cloister is very small, but I don’t know why, I’d define it “airy”. Maybe for the green area or for the particular light that surrounds it.
Just ahead is the chapel dedicated to the Holy Mary: in spring it’s surrounded by coloured flowers; another little spiritual corner with the mountains on the background. What I really appreciated of that day was the lunch at the open air surrounded by the sounds of nature and by green areas: I felt really energised. In front of the abbey take the downhill street towards the lake: there’s a quite wide space where you can have your packet lunch. There aren’t restaurants, but just a little kiosk where you can buy drinks and sandwiches.
LAKE COMO: COLICO
From Piona we took tha ferry again which, before returning back to Varenna, brings you to the last location on the east part of the lake: Colico. The boat here stops for about half an hour before leaving again, so you can expolit the situation walking along the lakefront, or if the children are tired, you can go t the main square, just in front of the pier, and sitting in one of the open air bars for a snack pause.
LAKE COMO: BELLAGIO
From Colico the ferry travels towards Bellagio doing intermediate stops: the travel takes more than an hour (40 minutes by hydrofoil that isn’t however convenient in this case, as you already have the family ticket). Bellagio is the biggest among the towns we visited during this day, a jewel in the lake area: it rises exactly in the point where the lake divided into two branches: of Lecco and of Como. Perhaps it’s not an accident if many Hollywood stars, for example Geroge Clooney, decided to buy their villas right here.
Once in Bellagio you can visit everything with calm, as from here there are more frequent ferries to reach Varenna in few minutes. The pier area is also the one where are some of the most expensive hotels, bars, different locals and restaurants. You can find restaurants and locals, with local specialities, also along the lakefront, where it’s good to walk and admire the landacape. In spite of the lake area is irresistible, I suggest you not to stop here, but to go through the narrow uphill streets of the old village. These streets are always so crowded in spring and summer, but you can’t skip them: on either side you’ll find craft shops, art galleries and so small locals that seem to be made for goblins.
In the village you’ll find, at the end of the street here above in the photo, other locals, bars and shops, but once in the square of the church, I’ll suggest you to go into the cathedral “Basilica” di san Giacomo, a jewel of the Roman-Lombard art, whose bell tower stands over the historical centre, so it’s impossible not to see it! This church is interesting inside: even if not very big, what impressioned me was the majestic of the columns supporting the arches. It’s rich of art works; very beautiful the three apses behind the altar with a warm golden light and the mosaic designs on the upper parts.
To visit in Bellagio there are also two big villas: Villa Melzi and Villa Serbelloni. During this tour I’m proposing you, it’s difficult to find time to visit also the villas, but if you have a day more, or your trip involves only Bellagio, I think you must visit them, or one of them!
Villa Melzi is near Lido di Bellagio and it’s open from March to October (6,50 Euro, free until 12). Of this villa you can visit only its gardens. You have the canche to choose between two paths: the botanical one to find out flowers and rare plants, and the artistic one that valorizes the statues. Very beautiful is also the little white cloister from where you can enjoy an amazing lakeview: an amazing oasis also for children!
You can visit the gardens of Villa Serbelloni , also opende from March to October (9 Euro; 5 Euro from 7 to 13 anni; free under 7), only with guided tours at 11:00 and at 15:00 with departure from the square of the church “Basilica di san Giacomo”. From 6 to a maximum of 30 persons can enter. I suggest you to book in the busy periods.
LAKE COMO: VARENNA
Varenna is our start and finishing point for this tour around the lake Como by ferry: you can visit it in the morning or in the evening, in order to your navigation timetable. We did a quick visit in the morning, not including the villas.
Ps: the stop in Menaggio is after Bellagio and before Varenna, in case you couldn’t visit it during your outward journey.
If you arrive from one of the parking at the beginnig of Varenna, you have the two beautiful villas right on your left: Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi (about this last one I wrote here). Both are rich of avenues, flowers, exotic plants and peculiar architectural elements that make the park wonderful. In Villa Cipressi you can only visit the gardens, while in Villa Monastero also the museum “Casa Museo” richly furnished, with an art collection belonging to the different owners lived here. From the last year there are also the combined ticket for the two villas.
Past the villas, you are immediately in the main little square of the historical centre; in front of it the church of San Giorgio, ancient Roman forum.
At the end of this square you’ll find some steps going down towards the lakefront through very narrow streets, where are a loto of locals, bars, and every kind of shops. The village is very small but peculiar in its particulars: cobbled streets, very uphill roads and masonry buildings.
Past the village, you’ll find the “Walk of Love”, a red romantic footbridge over the lake that link the village to the pier. The station is over the pier and near this last one is a little playground for children.
Ps: if you arrive in Varenna from the station, do this path on the other way: from the pier to the villas.
Our daily trip on the lake Como finishes here: I hope you’ve liked it and that can be an useful idea for your first spring family trip!
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In the last years I follow what Dalai Lama says:” At least once a year go to a place you’ve never been before”.
After years of sufferings and sacrifices, I’ve decided that life is too short and too unpredictable to continue waiting to do what I like and what makes me happy.
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