Italy is a vast country with a wealth of history, art and sites to see throughout. So when our initial plans to fly to Sicily for the first time fell through, we researched where else we could visit to have a world class experience on a reasonable budget. We found extremely cheap flights on Ryanair from Dublin to Bergamo in the north of Italy, near Milan, and decided to spend a week broken down to 2 nights in Bergamo, 2 nights in Milan and 2 nights in Lake Como, all in the Lombardy province of Italy. If you do this trip we highly recommend staying in Lecco, which offers stunning beauty on a budget in Lake Como. Bergamo’s old town is wonderful, and we enjoyed the best food of our trip there. We had the least fun in Milan, and paid more for it.
Lake Como, in the heart of the Italian Alps, is most famous for the town of Bellagio and celebrities like George Clooney and Richard Branson own homes in the area. Because of the Las Vegas hotel, we estimated the Italian town to be half populated by American tourists. The ferry ride to Bellagio, across Lake Como, amid the vast snow capped Italian Alps is breath taking. But the high price tag of hotels and predominantly American touristy vibe of Bellagio isn’t for everyone.
The photos in this post are all of the Lake Como town of Lecco, where we spent 2 nights at a lovely hotel with a lake front view, at a much lower price tag than staying in more expensive towns like Bellagio or Varenna, but convenient enough to visit these other gorgeous places on a day trip. From Lecco you can take a 20km (12 mile) ferry ride along Lake Como on weekends or every day during the summer, check the schedule. If you stay during the week in early May, like we did, you can still have gorgeous weather but you’ll have to catch a short and inexpensive train ride to Varenna costing only €8 roundtrip ($11 USD). You can then conveniently ferry from Varenna to beautiful Bellagio and Menagio just across the Lake throughout the day.
Lecco is easily worthy of an entire day on its own if you stay there. We loved strolling the beautiful promenade along Lake Como and enjoying tasty food and delicious wine. There’s scores of ice cream shops selling many flavors, and also offer authentic Sicilian style Italian ice which is packed with fresh fruit tartness. We also recommend grabbing a drink at the ferry boat restaurant for an excellent view. We do not recommend eating at the restaurant Figerio, as we had a bad experience with service and mediocre food there. It was tied for the worst meal we ate during our week in Italy.
We also highly recommend staying at HLL Hotel Lungolago as the prices were very reasonable for what we received. We paid €90 ($126 USD) per night for a large, newly renovated, ensuite room with a small balcony overlooking the lake. Lake front rooms with huge patios were €100 ($140 USD) per night during the week. To put this in perspective, an equivalent room in Bellagio will easily run you double.
A big thumbs up to Lecco for providing us with a world class travel experience at a reasonable budget. We’d easily rank Lake Como in the top 5 most beautiful places we’ve seen and were sad we could only spend such a short time. If you visit, enjoy every moment of this stunning scenery all around you!