LAKE COMO, Italy – If you’ve had the patience to try and travel to Europe this summer, there’s a reasonable chance you’ve traveled to Italy.
After all, a report from Confcommercio, an Italian organization that represents the travel business, the main driver of the country’s tourism recovery this summer comes from the 2.2 million Americans who visited the country between July and September, a 20 percent increase over the same period of 2019
And if you did travel to Italy this summer, there’s a good chance you visited the Amalfi Coast, which many travel consultants have said is the country’s No. 1 booking destination this year.
For my Italian adventure, I chose another dreamy, highly sought-after destination that even the best Instagram accounts can’t do justice to in one post.
I’m talking about Lake Como. And before you ask, it was nothing like what I imagined. It was better.
Photo credit: TW photo by Nicole Edenedo
The country is consistently among the top destinations for summer bookings in Europe, and travel demand has soared to levels not seen since the start of the pandemic.
Despite its reputation as a fabled land of luxury frequented by the Clooneys and the ‘Heritage’ billionaires, there are many countries to Italy’s lakeside and Lake Como may not be the place you think it is. Are there villas for 40 million dollars? yes Did I see a Ferrari? obviously. But there are also lakeside condos for rent, $8 pizzas with $5 beers, and down-to-earth people who have called Lake Como home all their lives.
“I get people who think Lake Como is a big resort, but it’s not because there are local people who have always lived on Lake Como,” said Pietro Radojkovic, one of my new favorite tour guides who was born and raised in Lecco, a town in the Lake Como region.
He and I had an insightful discussion during a two-hour boat trip on the lake, which was arranged by the tour company Lake Como for You, also based in Lecco, and booked at the last minute for me by Italian specialist Perillo Tours.
It was not difficult to see how right Radojkovic was, and how well my own observations matched his assessment.
Hotel Metropole Suisse Como in Lake Como, Italy. Photo: Nicole Edenedo
There was something beyond the extravagant villas on even more extravagant plots of land with impeccably manicured gardens and the throngs of expensive cars and throngs of well-dressed tourists buzzing the streets. I noticed it every time I left the Hotel Metropole Suisse during my four-night stay: Lake Como is rich in natural beauty and its luxury lies in its landscape.
No diamond sold in Piazza del Duomo could shine brighter than the shimmering hills of Lake Como at night, any Instagram filter would be far surpassed by the natural glow of the golden hour hitting Viale Geno at sunset and there is no greater display of wealth than dining alfresco in a canopied restaurant for only €20 in the late afternoon and realizing you have time to linger and enjoy it.
Getting to Lake Como
There are a number of ways to see Lake Como and plenty of tour options to suit almost anyone’s style.
For those looking for a romantic entry into the heart of Lake Como, I suggest booking a train trip with Railbookers and choosing one of the several routes offered by the rail holiday package. There are daily high-speed rail trains that will get you to Como the fastest, such as aboard the panoramic Bernina Express or Italy’s flagship Trenitalia. Or you can take your time to Lake Como and arrive in style on the iconic Venice Simplon-Orient Express, with overnight options and chances to make stops in other cities.
Inside the first class carriage on board the SNCF Grand Est TER Alsace train traveling through France and into Switzerland. Photo: Nicole Edenedo
There are also options for a river cruise to Lake Como before or after the cruise.
AmaWaterways is offering a three-night Lake Como extension to its seven-night Castles of the Rhine and Swiss Alps itinerary from 2020. The tour package includes guided walks and boat tours to Bellagio and film locations such as “ Ocean’s Twelve’ and ‘Casino’ Royale’ were placed.
And Perillo Tours offers Lake Como on two of its most popular tours to Italy. Both the 12-day Wonders of Northern Italy and the 14-day Italy Northern Classics offer day trips to Lake Como and spend time visiting other famous lakes in the Lombardy region, such as Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano in Switzerland.