We had made virtually no plans for our week in Bellagio, we knew that we would take some ferry trips, maybe visit Como and Lecco, the rest of the time we just expected to stare open mouthed at the views.
That was a pretty good starting point, however we aren’t very good and sitting and starring. Fortunately the owner of our apartment had a left some leaflets in the property highlighting local attractions. A few of these immediately took our fancy. The local tourist office have produced three leaflets of self guided walking tours around the local area. The walks varied in length, from an hour to around three hours, that sounded appealing. There were also a couple of gardens in the vicinity that sound worth a look. That would be enough to start us off.
The tours are a great way to get to know Bellagio. It is a very small place filled with interesting nooks and crannies, small archways leading to a narrow paths, either down to, or up from, the lake. Inevitably these narrow paths are filled with shops and restaurants. At first it appears to be something of a maze but it really is impossible to get lost, as eventually you always reach the lake or the narrow main street, Via Garibaldi.
The shortest of the walks is basically a loop around the centre of Bellagio, it gives you a nice introduction to the town and goes through the lovely Parco Comunale with its rather humorous benches. They feature a stone seat, with the back and armrests made up a hedge built around the seat. It’s a lovely looking thing but not really the most practical when it comes to sitting back and relaxing. The walk also takes you alongside one of the great mysteries of Bellagio, the huge Hotel Grande Bretagne, an imposing a potentially magnificent 19th century hotel that has been derelict for many years. You end the walk back in front of the main ferry stop, ready for a drink or some food from one of the many cafes, restaurants and bars that line the front.
The other two walks take you a little further afield. The first of these is called a Walk Around The Suburbs of Bellagio. On this walk you quickly leave the tourist throng behind and get a glimpse of the simple side of life in this beautiful place. Particularly stunning is the small suburb of Pescallo. A cobbled footpath leads to a gorgeous bay, which when we visited, on a glorious morning, looked just about perfect. From here you walk gradually uphill, getting ever more spectacular views of the Lecco leg of the lake. You also get to wander alongside large areas of land given over to Olive Trees, later on the walk you will also find many areas of flower and vegetable production.
Eventually you head back towards San Giovanni, it was here that we had one of most enjoyable meals during our holiday. Nenè is deli / cafe in a tiny alleyway, overflowing with beautiful food and wine. There is a menu but the helpful lady behind the counter asked what we fancied and she would put something together for us. A few minutes later we sat out side sampling a delicious array of cold meat and cheese with a lovely glass of local red wine, perfection. On the route back from San Giovanni to the centre of Bellagio, there are a couple of places where you may dip your toes into the clear waters of the lake, or maybe even take a swim as several people were doing as we strolled past.
The third of the walks takes you further into hamlets on the eastern side of Bellagio. This is a slightly harder walk, featuring more hills and cobbled paths. As with the second walk you head past the imposing Villa Giulia and it worth mentioning the rather strange long straight piece of land which stretches out in front of the Vila. It’s knows as a Vialone, which translates to Avenue in English. It reaches virtually from one leg of the lake to other and is really just a rather odd rather unkempt field, very strange. Once again this walk provides you with some fantastic views of the lakes and mountains in the area. It’s also interesting to see how much food production goes on in the tiny part of Italy
There is little square in Visgnolla, with a couple of places to get something to eat and drink. We had a nice lunch in a place called Il Tiglio, which oddly features a large painting of a German beer festival on it’s external wall. Here we had one of those classic, large Italian sandwiches, overflowing with bresola and local cheese. The walk back towards town takes you past some lovely residential outposts but as ever in this part of the world there as many ups and there are downs on the journey. Take your time and enjoy the scenery, hopefully you will be in no rush.
If you complete these 3 walks, you really will have covered the outcrop of land that makes up the greater Bellagio district. There aren’t that many shops or cafes along the longer routes, so be sure to take something to drink with you, especially if the weather is warm.
Having completed these walks, we thought that we had done all the strenuous walking that we needed to do. Then I recieved a message from a friend about a walk on the other side of of the lake, which would reward us with even better views. Hard to imagine!
High on the mountainside above Griante is church. From the Bellagio lakeside, this clearly visible. Upon seeing it, the normal reaction is, why would anyone build something like that, in a place that nobody can get to? Having been told you could get to it, of course we had to try it. So, early one morning, before the sun became too hot, we took the ferry north to Cadenabbia and set off in search of the church of San Martino. The path is steep in places but well maintained and no special walking equipment is required. There are places to rest on the way up, which we gleefully took advantage of. You could probably complete the trip in about 45 minutes going flat out but we took nearer an hour. Once you reach the church the views back towards Bellagio, and down both legs of the lake are incredible. We stayed up there for quite a while, both to enjoy the view and to get some energy back in our legs!
Having made our way back down to the lakeside, we enjoyed a walk along the front and a well earned lunch outside a small hotel. This side of the lake is overflowing with incredible Villa’s, sadly most of which you can’t enter. It’s like the poshest housing estate in the world! We walked along to Tremezzo before stopping for a while in Parco Mayer, a beautiful small park on the edge of the lake.
From there we walked onwards to Lenno, an exciting walk, as in places there is no path on the busy main road! We survived and soon we were on the ferry back to Bellagio, our hill walking completed for the holiday!