Off the bike

Looking for something to do after your ride, or maybe it's time for a rest day, or maybe your family would like to explore while you're riding? There are endless things to do while visiting Lake Como, you'll need to keep coming back to do more. Many of these options can be reserved ahead of time, while some can be done at your leisure to fit your schedule. If there is an activity that you don't see, just ask. The staff at Hotel Il Perlo are like your personal concierge service. They know everything and everyone and can make it all happen.

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exploring Bellagio

You can't visit Lake Como without visiting the charming village of Bellagio. Either take the hotel shuttle or begin your exploration by meandering down the village pathways three kilometers to the waterfront. The village sits at the tip of the Triangolo Lariano in the center of the lake, splitting Lake Como into its three main branches. Spend a day or afternoon visiting the exquisite shops and restaurants, or just sitting on a bench along the waterfront with a gelato watching the lake-life unfold in front of you. The narrow cobblestone alleys, parks, gardens, and Villa Melzi make it an ideal destination for exploring.  Self-guided or guided walking tours are available to learn more about Bellagio's history, which dates back to before Roman times. After all that walking, don't leave without an aperitif and pizza in one of the small bars to toast your vacation in one of the most beautiful villages in the world. Too relaxed to walk back to the hotel? Nessun problema! The shuttle can pick you up.

Villa Melzi in Bellagio

Villa Melzi in Bellagio

The small village of Bellagio with the Grigne mountains in the background

The small village of Bellagio with the Grigne mountains in the background

Lake Como Food Tours

One of Hotel Il Perlo and ComoLagoBike's partners is Lake Como Food Tours who offer a number of different small group tours featuring the best experiences in Lake Como: Cooking classes, wine tasting, food tasting, walking tours, even private boat tours of the lake's shoreline and villas. Their tours are all personable, very informative, and a fantastic way to spend a few hours or even a whole day discovering the history, food, and culture of this area. This is a perfect option for those cycling "rest days" or if your family wants to leave you behind to soak in la dolce vita while you ride.

A walking tour with stops for wine and food, yes please! Photo courtesy Lake Como Food Tours

A walking tour with stops for wine and food, yes please! Photo courtesy Lake Como Food Tours

Let's make pasta! Photo courtesy Lake Como Food Tours

Let's make pasta! Photo courtesy Lake Como Food Tours

Villa Hopping

Lake Como has been famous for its opulent villas for centuries, where wealthy aristocrats, government officials, and patrons of the arts from all over Europe have spent summers staying cool on the lake. Many of these villas have been opened to the public and you cannot leave your holiday without visiting at least one. In addition to Villa Melzi in Bellagio, there are villas dotted along the lake that are worth a short relaxing ferry ride to visit. On the western branch of Lake Como in Lenno is Villa Balbianello, considered by some to be the most beautiful. You will have to decide whether it was worthy of the films A Month By The Lake, Star Wars Episode II, and Casino Royale using it for their movie set!  On the eastern branch of the lake in Varenna is Villa Monastero, originally a nunnery in the 12th century. Since then it has undergone several renovations and owners. Now it is home to a reknown botanical garden with unique species, rooms decorated in different styles over the centuries, as well as a conference center that hosts intellectuals from all over the world. Looking for an easy way to villa hop? Arrange to use one of the e-bikes!

Villa Balbianello, photo courtesy Lake Como Travel

Villa Balbianello, photo courtesy Lake Como Travel

Villa Monastero, photo courtesy Lake Como Travel

Villa Monastero, photo courtesy Lake Como Travel

immerse in a language class

What's a trip to Italy without learning a few new skills, such as speaking a few words with the locals? There's nothing like connecting with a new Italian friend in their own language. One-on-one or group classes can be arranged through Learn Italian in Bellagio - I can't recommend Antonella more! I have spent many off-the-bike hours working with her on grammatica e conversazione and she has helped my confidence so much. A great language teacher has that combination of professionalism and play, and she excels in both. Her lessons include workbook exercises, but more importantly, field trips to practice real-world conversation and skills. If you are visiting or working in Italy she also specializes in Italian language for business, which requires a very different set of skills because not every situation will be congenial discussions about your favorite food or vacation spot.  A wonderful opportunity to learn la lingua Italiana!

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hiking and Water sports

Lake Como is ringed with woodland trails that have connected farms and villages for centuries. They are well signed and maps are available. Carlo and the staff have been hiking and mapping many of the local trails and can provide you personal guidance for a great walkabout. Many other trails around the lake also take you to the rifugi (or alpine huts) that dot the mountainsides and can provide you a night's stay or a meal - and of course their own home made wine! inLombardia provides information on local trails including the Dorsale Triangolo Lariano trail between Bellagio and Como that is right outside the door of Hotel Il Perlo. In addition to the main trail there are several spurs that can take you to side villages or down to the lake.

If you do one short hike, make it to San Martino church. This beautiful small church is visible from Il Perlo’s veranda. Look closely to the west, you will see a small white building impossibly perched halfway up the mountain. Allow around four hours for the trip. It takes around one hour to reach the church from the Cadenabbia ferry.

You can't have a huge body of water like Lake Como without an enormous variety of water sports. Many children from the area have grown up rowing on the lake to become world class and Olympic rowers. One of those former champions is Michele from Bellagio Water Sports. He would love to take you on an unforgettable waterside tour of the villas and hidden shoreline gems. Choose from kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding. This is a great relaxing way to spend your non-cycling time.

Trails throughout the Triangolo Lariano leave right from Hotel Il Perlo

Trails throughout the Triangolo Lariano leave right from Hotel Il Perlo

Relaxing kayak tour along the Bellagio waterfront. Photo: Bellagio Water Sports

Relaxing kayak tour along the Bellagio waterfront. Photo: Bellagio Water Sports

Shopping

When in Italy shopping is a must! There is a reason that Italy is known for its class and style: their high quality, locally made goods are a part of their lifestyle and it doesn't take much effort to add a piece or two as stylish staples.  Many of the shops you'll find in Lake Como make their items in-house or locally as they have for generations so you know that you are investing a time-honored quality. Don't be fooled by the price tags. Well-made goods don't mean that you have to pay designer prices. With the help of the savvy shop keepers you will be sure to find some heirloom pieces that meet your price range. Whether it is purses, scarves, shoes, or jewelry, make sure to leave extra room in your suitcase to bring some of these home.

My mom receiving wonderful assistance in buying a silk scarf from the owner of Azalea in Bellagio.

My mom receiving wonderful assistance in buying a silk scarf from the owner of Azalea in Bellagio.

That Italian style, even while doing errands by bike.

That Italian style, even while doing errands by bike.

My personal addition is scarves, sciarpe, and the ladies at Azalea in Bellagio will help you find the perfect scarf for yourself or as a gift (hint: they take up nearly no room and are the easiest to pack in your suitcase). Since the 1400s Como has been the world's leading producer of silk. The villages around the lake all had factories that contributed to one of the many steps in the production of silk fabric: nurturing the mulberry trees and silk worms, spinning and weaving the yarn, dyeing and printing the fabric, and sewing the pieces into final products. Although most of the silk worms and yarn are now made in Asia, Como still leads the world in silk fabric production and is sought after by the finest fashion houses in the world. Azalea stocks these and other locally made products, including handmade, silk screen fabrics that are works of art. Treat yourself to silk, cashmere, wool, and an assortment of blended fabrics, they are just stunning and will last a lifetime. 

Enjoy this video below by CNN on the history of silk in Como and its modern era.

Take the Bernina Express to another world

If you need a break from the beauty of Lake Como, let us suggest a fairy tale train ride into the mountains of Switzerland on the Rhaetian Railway, of which the Bernina Express was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008. This train ride is famous not just by train enthusiasts, but all lovers of profound beauty of mountains, high alpine lakes, waterfalls, and small villages. Go back in time and to another world while on this four hour, one-way ride. The train begins in Tirano, which is at the end of the Valtellina valley northeast of Lake Como, and winds northwest deep into the Swiss Alps to its final stop in Chur. You can make the return trip on the Bernina Express again, or take the regional train and hop off at the stops along the way.

From Bellagio, this round-trip journey requires at least one overnight stay at one of the towns along the route. A suggested two-day itinerary is to take the ferry from Bellagio to Varenna, then the regional train north to Tirano. Board the bright red Bernina cars to begin the tour (note - reservations required!). Sit back and gaze out the panoramic windows to the end of the line in Chur. Staying overnight here will allow you relaxing time to explore this alpine town and enjoy a meal of local flavors. The next day take the regional train rather than the official Bernina Express and hop off at any town you like. In particular is the town of Bergun, which is known for its railway museum and Filisur, which is the stop-off point for another short rail line north to Davos on a 100-year old, historical train. Continue back to Tirano, then take the regional train back to Varenna and the ferry to Bellagio.

Route map for the Bernina Express. Click for larger version.

Our Clan will be taking this route in May 2019 so check back for personal intel :)