No trip to Italy would be complete without visiting the beloved City on Water and what some call the world’s favorite lake, but what is the best way to get from Venice to Bellagio on Lake Como? Our advice is to take it slow; plan to stop along the way to experience more of what Northern Italy has to offer. Padua, Verona and Bergamo are the usual suspects – and each has its own particular charm – but there are also a few hidden gems along the way that give visitors a unique insight into Italy’s history and culture. We know you’ll love them!

The Nitty Gritty

Traveling by car – either self-driving or availing of our car service – takes you along the Autostrada A4, known as La Serenissima in honor of the Serene Republic of Venice, which ruled much of northeastern Italy between the 8th and the 18th century. Just after Bergamo, the SP170 veers north towards Lecco, where you follow the lake road north to Bellagio. All in all, the trip takes about 4 hours without stops. Look out for the toll stations along the way. Some will give you a ticket to determine the charge due when you leave the highway; others require payment on site. The easiest way to pay is by credit card (and often the shortest lines, as many Italians still prefer to pay everything in cash!). Be warned: the time calculated between toll stations can be used to provide evidence of speeding – just stick to the required speed limits (130 kmph/80 mph on highways) and you’ll be fine!

Traveling by train – the Freccia Rossa fast train runs regularly from Venice’s Santa Lucia station to Milano Centrale. For more information on getting to Bellagio with public transportation, see our blog post on How to Get to Bellagio.

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Where to stop on your way from Venice to Bellagio

On the trail of Andrea Palladio

The city of Vicenza, about 1 hour’s drive from Venice, is forever linked with its favorite son, Andrea Palladio, considered by some to be the most influential figure in Western architecture. He built country houses for a who’s who list of the Venetian Republic during the 16th century and published a book of architectural principles that influenced generations of architects – including latter-day Renaissance man Thomas Jefferson. Get your first glimpse of Palladian architecture at Villa Capra ‘La Rotonda’, the Andrea Palladio-designed palace that inspired Jefferson’s own Monticello (check the website for opening hours), before continuing to Vicenza and his other masterpieces, like the Teatro Olimpico, with its original scenery and ornate stucco still intact, and the Basilica Palladiana, with the maestro’s signature windows that evoke the triumphal arches of Ancient Rome.

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Cycling on the Mincio

About an hour and a half from Venice, Borghetto Sul Mincio is one of Italy’s most picturesque hamlets and the nearby Peschiera del Garda gives visitors a glimpse of Lake Garda and its rich history. The best way to experience both is to rent bikes in either Borghetto or Peschiera del Garda and pedal your way between the two (about an hour each way). The Ciclovia bike path is flat as a pancake and follows the meandering Mincio river, making it ideal for even novice cyclists and families. Borghetto’s riverside dining and jumble of ancient mills are too pretty to pass up: stroll through its narrow alleys, linger on the bridge over the Mincio and climb the cobbled stairs to the ruins of the Scaligero castle. On the shores of Lake Garda, the ancient fortifications of Peschiera are historically eye-catching, while the crisp white wines from the nearby Lugana vines go down a treat.

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Falling for Franciacorta

Called “Italy’s best-kept secret” by Wine Enthusiast magazine, Franciacorta sparkling wine is taking the world by storm and giving champagne a run for its money. The Strada del Franciacorta, about two hours from Venice, covers about 80 km in all, winding through the rolling hills between Brescia and Lago d’Iseo passing leafy vineyards, medieval towers, turreted castles and quaint villages frozen in time. Visit the 11th-century Monastery of San Pietro in Lamosa, do some birdwatching in the Torbiere del Sebino nature reserve, or stroll the lakeside promenade in Sale Marasino overlooking Monte Isola island. Stop at one of the more popular Franciacorta wineries like Berlucchi or Montenisa for a tour and tasting or avail of our exclusive experience behind the scenes at Ca’ del Bosco. One of the most technologically advanced wineries in the world, Ca’ del Bosco wines rely on organic cultivation, hand-harvesting of the grapes and hand-turning of each bottle for the metodo classico. A tasting of Ca’ del Bosco wines comes with a side dish of quirky contemporary art; don’t miss the cuvee Annamaria Clementi, one of Robert Parker’s 50 best wines of the world!