Prior to visiting Lake Como, I imagined it would be a beautiful yet glitzy enclave for the wealthy and powerful. A place for the elites to gather for lake recreation and relaxation. And in the evenings, a place for fine dining and entertaining in villas overlooking the water. While the beauty of Lake Como is striking, what really impacted me was how approachable and quaint it was. The unassuming nature of the town intertwines with the grandeur of the lake and elegance of the hillside estates to create a unique identity that is both approachable, and irreplaceable. I think what makes Lake Como such a famous destination is that it gives a piece of itself to everyone who visits. It is not reserved for a certain type of person or class of person; it just opens its doors and makes you feel welcome. We saw people from all walks of life in Lake Como. From the corner table in an exclusive restaurant, to camping in the park playing drums and guitar - all people seemed happy and at home there.
Lake Como is a lake in Northern Italy not far from the Swiss border. The lake sits in the bottom of a bowl with steep hills surrounding it on all sides. A tight winding road surrounds the lake up on the hillside and private drives line the road leading to large villas with panoramic views. The surrounding area is incredibly green and small villages can be found at stops along the road that follows the lake. The main town is small but busy and vibrant. The town has been around for a long time and its history is apparent when walking its cobblestone streets, exploring its main church, or admiring the centuries old estates on the lake.
Our friend Erin joined us for our Italy leg which included Lake Como, Milan, Puglia, and Genoa. We picked her up from the airport after leaving Lucerne and drove to Lake Como full of excitement for the coming few weeks of travel. It was invigorating to be with a friend as excited and happy to be in Italy and it really got us in a great frame of mind. We stayed in a bed and breakfast just outside of town hosted by an incredibly gracious and kind older couple who owned a beautiful estate that they now rent several rooms out of. The property appeared to have been built in the late 1800s, had gorgeous views of the town below, a sparkling pool, and huge rooms.
Our few days we had were spent walking the town, driving the winding roads around the lake, eating incredible meals, and enjoying as much gelato as possible. Italy for me is so much about the food and my fondest memories of the lake were some of the meals we had. We enjoyed dinner at Il Gato Nero which is George Clooneys favorite restaurant in town – a place he frequents often. It was out of town and had one of the best night-time views of the lake shimmering under a full moon with the lights of the town dotting the skyline. Another evening, we stumbled across a Michelin star restaurant and got a table right away. I was almost as astounded by that fact than the steak I had - perfectly cooked and served over a still flaming mesquite log alongside potatoes that defied any flavor and texture I have ever had before.
On our last day we took a drive out of town around the lake and about thirty minutes down the road, we pulled over for lunch in a modest and empty restaurant. I wasn’t expecting much but the patio had unrivaled views and the food was once again amazing. We had yet to eat one bad meal by the time we left Lake Como.
I was sad to leave Lake Como for Milan because I knew the small town charm was to give way to the big city rush. The slow pace of the town and the beauty of the lake was contagious and I wanted to enjoy it longer. I had been given my piece of Lake Como and I will take it with me from now on. Grandeur and humility coexist here – a rare attribute I will not forget, and an example we can all follow in ourselves. // Jeff