The Sights and Flavors of Lake Como… In Person or in Your Home

lago di comoSometime late in 2016, I’m planning to take my new bride and her daughter to Italy. We have already begun the planning process. We’re watching all of Rick Steves’ Italy-related programs, picking the minds of friends who have been there, and perusing lots of guidebooks.

One destination that has been recommended by more than one friend is Lake Como, Lago di Como in Italian, which is Italy’s most popular lake and also its deepest. It’s shaped like an inverted Y, which gives it a long perimeter.

Lake Como is surrounded by mountains and hills, and dotted with beautiful villas and resort villages. There are good hiking paths, boat excursions and water activities. Popular since Roman times, it is a top romantic travel destination.

Lake Como is in the region of Lombardy, part of the northern Italian Lakes District. It lies between Milan and the border of Switzerland, on the Milan to Switzerland train line.

Bellagio, known as the pearl of the lake, is in a beautiful setting where the three branches of Lake Como come together. It’s easy to get to by ferry or bus from other cities on the lake.

The walled town of Como has a good historic center and lively squares with nice cafes. There are several walking paths near town. Silk is produced there, and you can see the entire silk-making process in the Silk Museum.

Villa d’Este, in the village of Cernobbio on the west coast, is the most famous of Lake Como’s villas. It is now a luxury hotel on a wooded peninsula, and each of its 161 rooms is unique.

Menaggio, against the mountains, is a lively resort with a lakeside promenade. It’s popular with outdoor enthusiasts for walking or hiking, swimming, windsurfing and rock climbing.

Villa Carlotta, south of Menaggio, has beautiful gardens. You can tour the inside with its original 18th century furniture and pieces of art.

Villa del Balbianello, in the village of Lenno, is also worth a visit and has some unusual treasures. The villa was used as a set for one of the Star Wars movies.

The fishing village of Varenna has picturesque, narrow alleyways and streets below a castle and a lakeside walking path.

After a day of touring, I’m told that Crotto dei Platani is the place to go for a memorable meal.

For 160 years, Crotto dei Platani has been serving tantalizing fish dishes and Italian wines to grateful diners. Family owned and operated, it’s the oldest eatery in the Lake Como area, and provides a wonderful destination after exploring the area’s shops, parks and historic villas — not to mention exquisite views of the lake from the restaurant’s veranda, garden terrace or patio.

If a trip to Lake Como is not in your immediate future, put on some Italian music — here’s a list to help you make a few selections — and pour a glass of red Italian wine. The latest Italian Reds Collection from Vinesse includes three tasty choices on sale and it isn’t too late to get in on the fun.

Then sit back in your favorite chair, close your eyes, and imagine yourself at Crotto dei Platani. It may not be as good as being there, but at least you won’t have to deal with TSA or Customs agents.

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