This has been written by a customer who recently holidayed with Finesse Travel at Lake Como
If you go again to Lake Como, and didn't get to Villa Carlotta, only a five minute walk from our hotel, you lazy sods, please consider it. 10 each to tour gardens and grounds and the views alone are well worth the entrance fee. Great value for money! Grand homes, never Dave's thing, and he really enjoyed it. The gardens are stunning.
I also took the excursion to Villa Balbienello, built on a promontory and you have to go by boat (that lets our token boat/spider screamer out then!) A very wealthy Cardinal first built on it, it is built on 4 levels, into and on the rock, with a chapel. The last owner was a man who inherited a supermarket chain and spent his life exploring, climbing Everest, going to Antarctica, north pole, in fact all over the world. He left the property and money to the national trust and it has to be left as it was when he died. Don't worry, his body isn't mummified in his office where he keeled over! It is packed with the artifacts he collected from all over the world and from his expeditions, fantastic! And it is simply beautiful. Again, the building, gardens and views are stunning, and the guide was excellent! Please go if you return to Como.
We also did the Bernini Express and St Moritz. You spend a long time on the coach, about an hour and a half to get to the train, and coach all the way back, but both ways you visit wonderful charming villages giving you time to explore. And coming back you take a famous mountain pass that drops 2000 feet in 20 hairpin turns, once featured on top gear when that blockhead Clarkson was on it, starts with an M (it's that famous I don't know the name of it!) the views are spectacular!!! The train is an hour of stunning views at every turn, especially the glacier lakes. Dr. Moritz is lovely too, but definitely for the very rich. Dave loved car spotting...Rollers, Bentley's, Masseratis, etcetera. On the trip back we stopped at a wonderful Italian village chocka with buildings from mideival times onwards. The driver and tour guide were absolutely excellent! We recommend this excursion!
We also took the Lake Orta and Lake Maggiore excursion. Not as long on the coach as the Bernini Express. Same tour company, Larios, and again driver and tour guide, absolutely excellent! Lake Orta is the smallest of the Italian lakes and absolutely charming! Wonderful architecture!! You can also take a boat to a wonderful island you can see in my photos, so pretty! My photos just do not do it justice.
Dave and I both loved Lake Maggiore. It is bigger than Orta but not as big as Como and not as built up. Wide boulevard all along the lake at the city end, and charming hotels, buildings and cobbled streets to walk. And food, drink, shopping, half the price of Como! Included in the excursion was a boat to a lovely island complete with obligatory villa owned by one of the ruling families. We didn't tour the villa and gardens as we only had an hour there, but we will one day, as we fully intend to do Lesley's trip to Lake Maggiore!
Again, my photos don't do any of what we experienced justice! By the way, our tour guide on this excursion was Julia, ex pat, and she was telling us that she so fell in love with the Italian lakes that she returned time after time, and then 14 years ago was offered a job leading tours so jumped at the chance and moved to Italy and is living the dream. She loves her job! Anyway, did I mention that you can visit the library in Maggiore?
I forgot to mention the Saturday market at Como, how could I forget that, I bought 30 items of clothing, earrings, and two leather belts! Wowser! 😀 I decided to take the bus to Como. Now this takes 1 1/4 hours, granted, but so does the ferry, unless you take the rapid ferry service at 8.30 am, and I wanted the cheapest way as I intended every penny possible to spend at the market (see above re my score!) bus 7.90 return...bargain! And, at the bus stop I called up with three Irish gals from our hotel, who were also going to the market, and we spent the whole day together, it was ace! This is them...
Okay, so this market, it is really easy to find. You get off at the main bus station (not the one on the hill, the next one on the harbour) walk back along the main boulevard and turn up into the city walking along any of the shopping streets. Just keep walking away from the harbour, and in about fifteen minutes you're there . The market is enormous, spread all along the medieval walls. We were there all day, with a stop for lunch and another for the obligatory gelato, and we didn't do it all! Great prices, too. Dresses for a fiver! They have it all, clothing, jewellery, handbags, shoes, cheese, produce, children's toys and clothing, and more. And, if you have the nerve, at some stalls you can bargain! What fun! We ate at a bar restaurant on the market, and again the cost was far less. I had a huge gorgeous salad and a cappuccino for 4.20! We had cappuccinos at the harbour at the start of our shopping extravaganza to caffeine up and they were 4 each! Once we were loaded up like Sherpas we slowly wended our way back to the bus station, where Maureen and I were sent on a grande gelato run to build up our strength for the bus journey home, and then we loaded ourselves into the bus (it had a definite lean on the way back!) and we all agreed it was a fantastic shopping day! If you are a shopper and you also enjoy markets, the Como market is the one to visit!