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If I would be born in another lifetime again, perhaps I will be born in Lake Como. Such is the heavenly aura that blesses this global gem. A glacial lake in the Lombardy region of Italy, known for its picturesque landscape, luxurious villas and freshwater… Lake Como is easily the crowning glory of my trip. As royal as it feels, as princely every corner is, it is undoubtedly an expensive destination. I wanted to see it all but I didn’t have a kingly purse.

What further earmarks Lake Como as a priceless piece of art is the red carpet of the Golden Triangle, which includes Varenna, Bellagio and Menaggio, the most scenic places on earth. One look at pictures can win any debate.

But visiting the Golden Triangle is a princely proposition. I covered Varenna and Bellagio only. The more you travel, the more you will spend money and time. However if you do have the means, complete the Golden Triangle. I couldn’t but hey, we all are not George Clooney (reference, he has a house there)

Now, let’s get down to business. From wherever you are in Italy, take the cheapest flight/train to Milan and spend a day there. Head to Lake Como the following day (wearing good walking shoes otherwise, you will come home with blisters). A day trip isn’t enough to soak in the beauty of the place but if that’s all you got like me, you are in the right place because I’m going to tell you how to do a day trip at the minimum expense.

Take the train from Milano Central Station directly to Varenna. It will cost you around 14-18 euros depending on the time, season and how much early or late you book your tickets. You need to book your tickets in advance to avoid last minute chaos of not finding a seat. The only three reliable and safe sites for your tickets are Trenord, TrenItalia and ItaliaRail. Once you arrive in Varenna, you need to walk to the ferry point. Usually people will start walking in that direction and you will know your way. If not, you can ask someone at the port for directions. It’s hardly a 10 minute walk. Once you reach the ferry point, purchase a ticket from the booth. The year I went in, the ticket was 6 euros. There’s also a day pass available for unlimited trips for specific regions costing 29 euros if you would like to explore more. Just next to the booth you will find your ferry with “Bellagio” displayed on the top.

Once you arrive at Bellagio, purchase your tickets for Lenno. Get off at the Lenno port, head to Villa del Balbianello. There are signs as soon as you get off the ferry for the villa. If you are instead doing the boat tour, head in that direction of course.

You need to book Villa del Balbianello tickets in advance since they tend to sell out! Ideally, the boat tour is better since its drops you off right in front of the villa and the villa’s actual beauty is seen from the water itself but I preferred to walk. It will take you 20-30 minutes from the city centre to reach there. Once you reach the main walking path of the villa, it will get hilly and you will get breathless so be prepared for it. It is not much but it is not that easy as well.

Check the official website of Villa del Balbianello and book your tickets to Varenna and to the villa accordingly since it’s not open always. I would suggest to visit Villa del Balbianello as soon as it opens if you get the chance. I booked the 12 pm slot and it was too crowded.

After you are done with the villa tour or boat tour, head to explore the town and the famous Salita Serbelloni. Here’s where you can also do souvenir shopping and grab a bite.

I went to Bellavita, a small cheap hideout for the perfect budget friendly lunch. Depending on what you order, you can fill up your bellies in just under 8-10 euros. I did notice though, that it was a lot cheaper than the restaurants below at the shore and the restaurants that were offering any sort of view… Any restaurant that has a view, don’t go unless you want to empty your pockets. To make it more budget friendly you could pick something up in Milan at a gas station and carry it with you if you don’t want to spend money. You can sit by the lake, enjoy the view for free and have an amazing afternoon picnic!

For dessert, go for a gelato to beat the heat! Chefs tip – always go for the gelaterias that have their gelato in covered metal containers, that is the real stuff! Covered gelato means it will be the right temperature. Temperature is really important for gelato. Gelato is smooth and velvety and you can not get a good scoop if its not the right temperature. Also, make sure to avoid big heaps of gelato garnished with extravagance since those are just filled with air and vegetable fat. Even if a galeteria checks all these boxes, look for the colour of their gelato before ordering. Is the raspberry flavour too red? Is the lemon flavour yellow, instead of white? If it is, the gelato has been made with artificial colour. A authentic galeteria will rarely use artificial flavouring or colour. Plus it isn’t good for the body and you should avoid it all costs. PS – if your gelato melts quickly it is a good sign!

After having food, shopping around and admiring the beauty of the town, chances are it will be time for your ferry. The whole town is so small you can cover it entirely in one hour so don’t worry if you think you left something. If you do have time on your hand still, laze around the shore. You can take a dip in the freshwater if you’d like.

Head back to Varenna, enjoy the area nearby to the train station while you wait for your train back to Milan. Depending on the time of your train, you can decide if you want to the famous church or the lovers walk!

I hope this information was helpful for your travels!

Twisha Mohin



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