LAKE COMO, Italy — If you’ve had the patience to try to travel to Europe this summer, there’s a good chance you’ll be traveling to Italy.
After all, a report from Confcommercio, an Italian organization representing tourism businesses, said the main driver of the country’s tourism recovery this summer came from the 2.2 million Americans who visited between July and September, a 20% increase over with the same period of 2019.
And if you traveled to Italy this summer, there’s a good chance you visited the Amalfi Coast, which many travel advisors said was the No. 1 booked destination in the country this year.
For my Italian adventure, I chose another dreamy, sought-after destination, one that even the best Instagram accounts can’t do justice to in a post.
I’m talking about Lake Como. And before you ask, it was nothing like what I had imagined. It was better.
Photo: TW photo by Nicole Edenedo
The country has consistently been among the top destinations for European summer bookings and travel demand has soared to levels not seen since the start of the pandemic.
Despite its reputation as a fairyland of luxury, frequented by the Clooneys and the billionaires in “Succession,” there are many sides to Italy’s lake region, and Lake Como may not be the place you think it is. Are there $40 million villas here? Yes. Did I see a Ferrari? Obviously. But there are also lakeside apartments for rent, $8 pizzas with $5 beers, and down-to-earth people who call Lake Como home their whole lives.
“I have people who think Lake Como is a big resort, but it’s not because there are locals living here who have always lived in Lake Como,” said Pietro Radojkovic, one of my new favorite tour guides, who was born. and grew up in Lecco, a town in the Lake Como region.
He and I had an insightful conversation during a two-hour boat ride on the lake, which was provided by the tour company Lake Como for You, also based in Lecco, and booked for me at the last minute by the Italian specialist Perillo Tours .
It was not difficult to see how right Radojkovic was, and how much my own observations aligned with 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 with immaculately manicured gardens and the throngs of expensive cars and throngs of well-dressed tourists buzzing the streets. I noticed this 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 the Piazza del Duomo could ever shine brighter than the glittering slopes of Lake Como at night, any Instagram filter would be far better than the natural glow of the golden hour that hits the Viale Geno promenade at sunset and there is no greater display of wealth than eating alfresco in a restaurant with a sky for only 20 euros in the late afternoon and realizing that you have time to stay and enjoy it.
Transfer to Lake Como
There are several ways to see Lake Como and plenty of tour options to suit everyone’s style.
For those looking for a romantic entry into the heart of Lake Como, I recommend booking a train trip with Railbookers and choosing from one of the many itineraries offered by the rail holiday package. There are daily trains on high-speed rail lines that will get you to Como faster, such as the panoramic Bernina Express or Italy’s flagship Trenitalia. Or you can take your time to reach Lake Como and arrive in style on the iconic Venice Simplon-Orient Express, with overnight options and opportunities to stop in other cities.
Inside the first class locomotive on the SNCF Grand Est TER Alsace train traveling through France and Switzerland. Photo: Nicole Edenedo
There are also river cruise options before or after your Lake Como cruise.
AmaWaterways is offering a three-night Lake Como land extension to its seven-night Rhine Castles and Swiss Alps itinerary starting in 2020. The tour package includes tours and boat tours of Bellagio and film locations where films such as “ Ocean’s Twelve” and “Casino Royale” were set up.
And Perillo Tours offers Lake Como on two of its most popular tours in Italy. Both the 12-day Wonders of Northern Italy and the 14-day Italy North Classic 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.