In the tucked-away villages of Lake Como, painted frescoes and secret wine cellars deep underground are hints of a life that happens unhurriedly. Head away from the touristy towns, or come during low season to score the best deals.
If you’ve ever caught Nespresso’s ad set in a luxurious lakeside villa starring Jack Black and George Clooney, you’ll know that legendary Lake Como attracts Hollywood’s heavyweights — at least that’s what big corporations would like you to think. And it’s partly true. But is this lake, one of Italy’s finest, just for the big spenders?
Locals know better. Since long before Mr. Clooney attracted any tourists, Lake Como, with its picture-perfect location and climate, has been a hub of settlements and small communities, with visitors coming from all over the country. Artists, writers and philosophers have sought inspiration here for generations. Today, many holiday homes still belong to locals who either have their original dwelling higher up the mountain, or in the bigger cities.
Related: 11 Simple ways to save on a trip to Italy
Tips for visiting Lake Como
Even if you only have a few days to sight-see, try to move away from the shopping towns to reach breathtaking views uphill: rustic stone chapels standing strong against bellowing winds, sheep grazing in pastures, children scrambling or biking up mule trails to reach school. It’s unforgettable and can be surprisingly affordable.
Here are 10 ways to do more for less while visiting Lake Como:
1. Walk or hike
Going by foot is the oldest way of traveling, and still the cheapest. Take the rugged footpaths which start at lake level before winding up at craggy mountains. They may not be found on any map, and there’s your adventure. Switch up your level of intensity by choosing how high or low you walk.
Tip: Follow this link to get information on local hikes.
2. Rent a bike
Move around effortlessly and hit multiple beaches by pedaling your way along the trails lining the lake. In recent years, more towns have constructed paths fronting its shores for easier access to the water.
Tip: Get cycle routes and bike rentals in Bellagio with this helpful website. Giancarlo’s Bike Rental in Sorico (north) rents out from around €15 for a day. You can get a guide as well, to learn some history — and Italian — as you cross the protected Pian di Spagna Nature Reserve. Call +39 338 471 7186
Head for a local market to save big on a bottle of wine. Photo: Doug M.
3. Buy spirits from local supermarkets
The Valtellina region is world-renowned for its fantastic vineyards and local wine cellars. You don’t have to sit in a swanky restaurant to indulge. At a third of the price of what that could cost, you can enjoy premier wines sold on local supermarket shelves.
Tip: Iperal is the big supermarket with a mall in Colico (east) in case you feel the urge to shop. Lidl, a German chain, has also quality items at lower prices. Bottled wines from every region start as low as €2.99.
4. Order house wine with your meal
Anyone who turns a stuffy nose up at the offer of vino della casa in Italy clearly doesn’t know how exceptional the local wine can be. Many places have basement cellars and produce their own aromatic reds (it won’t come with any label, but no matter) from the plump Nebbiolo grape.
Experience the bounty of food at Lake Como. Photo: Kristian G
5. Eat in an Agriturismo
No-frills, farm-to-table goodness is hard to beat for taste and price. Italy’s agriturisimo restaurants are famous for generous portions of food that are locally sourced, often from on-site farms, that you can visit before dinner. Get ready for some serious comfort food cooked with extra cream. You might end up rolling home, but at least your wallet’s still intact.
Tip: We like surprising visiting friends with such porzioni abbondanti as El Mercante serves in Colico.
Seeing Lake Como by boat is an affordable and fun treat. Photo: Joanna Daniels
6. Kayak, SUP and canoe rentals
To get a close-up view of the lake, rent a kayak from the many water sports schools that now offer decent priced options for aquatic playtime.
Tip: Rates can be as low as €10 (Standup Paddle Boards) and €7 (kayak) for an hour.
7. Get locally-sourced tips
Google doesn’t always know where the good stuff is. Local festivals, art workshops, town marathons and private wine-tastings may not even be advertised on the usual travel sites. To find out about events that are open to the public, check out the local tourism office website (before your trip) and visit the office in person upon arrival. Plus, look for events in the local newspaper, and stay on the lookout for posters and flyers when visiting.
Tip: Check out the websites about visiting Gravedona and Lario News. You can also pick up a copy of the newspaper La Provincia.
Taking the bus is cheap, and you might get views like this! Photo: Paula Funnell
8. Ride the public bus
Although it comes at sporadic times and you need to purchase your ticket in advance at the local tobacco store (where they sell everything from lottery tickets to grappa), the public bus is still a great way to hop from village to village. Prices start at less than €2 and an unused ticket is valid all year long.
Related: Crossing the Italian Alps by train
Hopping aboard a ferry on Lake Como is a quick way to get across to another village. Photo: Joanna Daniels
9. Fast Boat Ferry
Another option for village hopping: You can cross Lake Como in just two minutes by taking the ferry from Domaso to Colico, or vice versa. Or use it to sail 45 km south in less than an hour, where you can then continue on your on-foot excursion if it’s bedazzled Bellagio you seek.
Tip: Find the ferry schedules here.
10. Come during winter
Layers of light filtered through a lazy haze make the Lake Como region magical in the winter months. Winter is low season, meaning you’ll get prized accommodations for much less, and the absence of crowds make it seem as if you have this gem all to yourself.
Related: Lake Como in Winter: Budget tips for an Italian Alps holiday
The post Northern Italy: 10 ways to save when visiting Lake Como appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.
Source: Euro Cheapo