It has always been my dream to visit Lake Como, arguably one of the most romantic vacation spots in Italy; however, every single time I started to make travel plans, it seemed like such a hassle. The most popular towns of Lake Como are Bellagio and Varenna, but with only a few days available in our itinerary last fall, taking a train then a boat then a taxi just to get to one spot felt like an impossible task. That was until I found the perfect place, CastaDiva Resort & Spa in Blevio. Located less than 15 minutes from the town of Como on the south end of the lake, it was much easier to get to, secluded from the crowds, but with the same unbelievable views of the lake - a pure Italian paradise. So if you are like me and are looking for a simpler option for visiting this quintessential Italian destination without compromising quality over the summer, here is all you need to know to plan a wonderful weekend getaway on Lake Como.
Planning a Visit to Lake Como
How to Get to Como
Lake Como is located roughly 50 miles north of Milan and lies along the Swiss border. The lake is shaped like an upside down V, with Bellagio at the middle tip of the V and the main town of Como at the southwest point. There are many options for getting to Lake Como from all over Italy, but the farther north you go, the harder it is to get to, often requiring a combination of several modes of transportation to get to your final destination. This is why I loved being so close to the town of Como, it was less than an hour's drive from Milan and that was it. You can also take a single train directly to Como from Milan as well as various other cities in Italy. Here's a quick reference guide from USA Today that breaks down your options for traveling to Lake Como: How to Travel to Lake Como, Italy.
My personal preference for getting around is by having my own car - that allows me to go anywhere I want without having to rely on train schedules. A trusted luxury car rental company throughout Italy is GP Luxury Car Hire - perfect for riding around in a carefree convertible or powerful sports car. Now, keep in mind that driving can be stressful as roads are narrow and windy, especially as you travel north from Como toward Bellagio, but the views are worth it. In addition, there are numerous water taxis and boat services that depart several times a day and travel to the various lake towns, which is another reason Como is such a convenient location for exploring the area.
Exploring the Town of Como
It's funny, when I was planning my trip I read several articles that said to skip the town of Como completely, but I personally really enjoyed my time there and more recently it has grown in appeal and popularity. The town of Como has its own charm that is much different than that of the smaller, more visited villages and an authenticity that's difficult to find in this part of Italy. Now Como definitely has more of a city feel than Bellagio or Varenna, but there are plenty of cobblestone streets to explore with little boutiques, cafes and restaurants around every corner. One of the best parts of Como is that you are actually surrounded by more locals than tourists, many who look as if they are enjoying lakeside retired life. Take a long stroll along the waterfront from the center of town and you'll find people riding their bikes, old men chatting on benches, restaurant owners smoking on sidewalks and couples lazily gazing out toward the Alps. This isn't a place to be overly planned, it's better to just get lost... but honestly it would be hard to get really lost because it's not that big. The New York Times has a fantastic article on how to spend a few short days in this beautiful town: 36 Hours: Lake Como, Italy and I highly suggest taking some notes if you want to be more planned out on your journey.
For more on the surrounding towns, here's an article from one of my favorite travel guide writers, Rick Steves: The Italian Allure of Lake Como as well as The Lake Como Area Travel Guide from Travel + Leisure.
Where to Stay When Visiting Lake Como: CastaDiva Resort & Spa
Lake Como is known for its lavish lifestyle, attracting travelers from around the world to its grand villas, romantic sunsets and luxurious accommodations. If you are looking to have the best of it all without the large crowds and only 15 minutes from the Como, you'll want to check out CastaDiva Resort & Spa in Blevio, part of the exclusive collection of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. This exquisite five star accommodation was once owned by the famous Italian opera singer, Giuditta Pasta, and has been visited by some of the greatest artists and writers of the 19th century. Without losing any of its historical importance or original facade, the resort has been completely renovated with the finest of details. It encompasses a handful of buildings, including the main villa, two private villas and several other new buildings, with 73 guest rooms in total. In addition, there property has its own restaurant, Orangerie, with 2 Michelin Star head chef Gennaro Esposito, cocktail bar, private floating pool on the lake, state of the art spa and several acres of serene walking paths (here is a link to the resort map). CastaDiva is unique in that it is open later into fall than nearly any other accommodations on the lake - remaining open into mid to late November depending on the year, making it a sought after spot during the colorful fall months. Once you arrive, everything you need is at your fingertips and it is truly hard to leave.
The interior of the main villa is a true reflection of the times and embraces its rich musical history. You'll find plenty of space to enjoy a glass of wine at the bar, sit on the deck watching boats float by, play a game of chess in the library or read a book as classical music plays in the background. There is something so enchanting about this property that you can't help but fall in love - secret passageways, cobblestone paths and private gardens all just add to the allure of the lake's majesty.
Some practical aspects of the property include on site valet parking, chauffeured golf carts to take you anywhere you need to go around the resort and shuttle rides to and from Como throughout the day. Because there aren't many options within immediate walking distance from the resort, especially because of its location along a narrow road, the shuttle provides easy access for exploring the city or for taking a boat to one of the nearby lake towns. You can also charter private boat rides directly from the resort where you'll be picked up and dropped off right there at CastaDiva's boat dock.
The CastaDiva Spa is quite simply one of the best I've seen in service, facilities and offerings. Whether you go for a treatment or just to enjoy relaxing day by the pool, this expansive 3,900 sq. foot spa has all that you want and more. Reflecting the concept of the elements throughout the spa, each room and water treatment entices the senses - with aroma therapy infused showers, ice cascades, saunas, Turkish and Mediterranean bath rooms and an indoor heated pool and jacuzzi equipped with state of the art hydro-therapy equipment to ease sore muscles and melt away the stress of traveling. In addition, there is a glass bottom lounge, outdoor floating pool and Himalayan pink salt room for detoxification. Nothing was spared when designing this outstanding sanctuary and provides guests with the ultimate in luxury when staying at the resort.
guestrooms & The villa dorabella penthouse suite
All guest rooms are uniquely decorated and provide a complete array of amenities for an undisturbed and satisfying stay. All of the buildings at CastaDiva are beautifully appointed and I wouldn't say that I have a personal preference, based on my experience. Of course, the private villas provide the ultimate in luxurious stays; with private pools and personal boat entrances, the private villas receive elite travelers and celebrities like Robert De Niro, who visits annually.
All rooms throughout CastaDiva include the following:
- Fully stocked minibar, inclusive of everything but alcoholic beverages
- Large LCD cable quipped televisions
- Bathrobes and slippers
- Complimentary high-speed wifi - we can attest that it was extremely fast and highly reliable
- Soundproof rooms for complete privacy
- The majority of guest rooms are lake facing
- Delicious buffet breakfast with a large variety of options overlooking the lake (may not be included in all reservations)
I personally stayed in one of the upper villas, Villa Dorabella, in the Penthouse Suite with lake view. Just a short stroll up the hill or a quick ride on a golf cart, this 1 bedroom, 2 bathroom penthouse is over 1,200 square feet, has a full kitchen and living room and is perfect for a romantic weekend away or a longer summer vacation. The penthouse overlooks the lake from an expansive private balcony, looking down over the main villa. With floor to ceiling windows and french doors, you get an unbeatable front seat view of Lake Como. The kitchen does not come fully equipped with cooking utensils, but those can be requested from the front desk for making your own meals.
The best reason to visit - the view of lake como
One of the absolute best part of CastaDiva Resort and one of the reasons it continues to be one of the leading hotels of Italy is the extraordinary view it has of Lake Como. I spent many hours sitting on a bench overlooking the lake, enjoying the spell of complete tranquility and leisure. The scenery was so gorgeous, I even forced my husband to get dressed up and do a mini photo session with me, which I planned on using for Christmas cards that I never sent out (oops). Below you get a sneak peak of a few photos from my "private" collection, since I rarely include personal photos on the blog - mainly because I figure that's not what you're here for anyway, but these are too cool not to share. On my final evening there, I witnessed one of the most magical sunsets I had ever seen and with hardly anyone around, I felt as if it was just for me - a final farewell gift from Lake Como that I'll cherish forever.
Although this was my first visit to Lake Como, it will definitely not be my last. I look forward to the day that I get to return and I hope you too get a chance to experience this magnificent destination. Happy travels!