One of the most frequent questions we get here at the Palazzo is from guests trying to decide whether or not to rent a car when they visit us in Lezzeno. While there are pros and cons to both decisions, we thought it might be of interest for you to find out how Palazzo del Vice Re is the ideal place to stay on Lake Como without a car.
Getting to Palazzo del Vice Re
The airports closest to the Palazzo are Milan Malpensa (45 miles), Milan Linate (50 miles) and Bergamo Orio al Serio (43 miles). The nearest train stations are in Como and Varenna, offering service from Milan and Bergamo. From the Como San Giovanni station, the C30 bus leaves about every hour for Bellagio, with the Pescaù stop only about 150 yards from the Palazzo. From the Varenna station, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the ferry dock, where ferries for Bellagio (and less frequently Lezzeno) depart. While taxis on Lake Como are sometimes available at transportation hubs, our partners at IC Bellagio have a team of expert drivers with luxury sedans and spacious minivans that offer transfers from all of the major airports and train stations. We could also arrange for a water taxi service from Como or Varenna ferry dock directly to the landing stage outside the Palazzo.
For more in-depth information on transportation to and from the Palazzo, check out our blog post on How to Get to Bellagio, Italy.
Day trip on Lake Como without a car
Staying at the Palazzo puts Lake Como literally at guests’ feet. They have the opportunity to wade in the water at the private pebble beach, relax on the comfortable loungers on the Sun Terrace and linger over a freshly brewed cappuccino on the lakeview courtyard. Our complimentary kayaks are perfect for exploring the coastline in and around Lezzeno, admiring the lakeside villas and stunning scenery. For plenty of guests, this is vacation enough! But when curiosity calls, there are scores of daytrips in the area for travelers who opt for a car-free stay.
Cycling Lake Como
Lake Como offers a world of cycling adventures, from the fairly strenuous to the family friendly – check out our blog post on Lake Como’s Best Cycling Routes. And we have two complimentary bikes at the Palazzo for guest use during their stay. Cycling on the lake road, however, is not for the faint of heart. Locals tend to speed, and visitors can let their eyes wander to the stunning scenery. So, if guests want to take out the bikes, we recommend timing the excursion well – i.e., early morning, lunchtime or late evening – or simply winding in and out of the residential roads off the main street to soak up the unique village atmosphere. If you are looking to venture a bit further afield on two wheels, we have the perfect route:
A Tale of Two Lakes Cycling
In the late 1800s, local authorities opened a railway line connecting Lake Como with Lake Lugano to attract wealthy vacationers from Northern Europe. They arrived by train to Lugano, boarded the steamboat for Porlezza and then took the new railway to Menaggio on Lake Como’s shores. The project proved to be quite a feat of engineering, requiring tunnels, bridges and one complex switchback. Visitors flocked to the innovative railway from its opening in 1885 until the outbreak of the First World War, when it was shifted to transporting troops and equipment. With the arrival of motor coaches, higher coal prices and improved local roads in the early 20thcentury, the railway fell into disuse, closed in 1939 and was finally dismantled in the 1960s. In 2006, local authorities repurposed the track into a cycle path that connects the two lakes and takes cyclists through some of the area’s loveliest scenery. The entire path from Menaggio to Porlezza is only about 9 miles, or around one hour of cycling, but when you add time for the bike rental, ferry trips and picnic, it makes a great full day trip! Find out more about this popular cycle path here.
We recommend guests vacationing without a car to take the almost hourly C30 bus to Bellagio, where you can rent bikes (opt for e-bikes for that extra support on the hills!) from our friends and trusted suppliers. Then, with bikes, helmets and water bottles in tow, head for the Bellagio dock and board the ferry to Menaggio. After disembarking, look for signs leading to the Youth Hostel and, wind your way up the hill to the former railway track. About three-quarters of the way to Porlezza, the path enters the Nature Reserve of Lago di Piano. This delightful lake offers a small ecomuseum, fantastic birdwatching and boat rentals – not to mention an ideal spot for a picnic. Once in Porlezza, head straight for the lakeside promenade, grab an artisanal gelato from one of the many ice cream shops and enjoy the natural beauty of Lake Lugano before returning to Menaggio on the same route. The ferry takes you back to Bellagio to return the bikes to the rental place and catch the C30 back to the Palazzo – where we’ll be waiting with a well-deserved cocktail on the terrace!
Walking Lake Como
The entire Lake Como region is ideal for nature lovers, whether you are an ambitious hiker scaling the peaks or an amiable ambler strolling the lake shore. We’ve written about some of our favorite walks around Bellagio in this blog post, along with more detailed information on the best hiking trails near Bellagio in this blog post. Guests who opt to vacation without a car will be pleased to know that there is some great walking and hiking directly from the Palazzo, from a rather difficult trek to Monte San Primo to a more moderate walk on the ancient Strada Regia. The owners of the Palazzo, the Pertusini family, know the paths crisscrossing these hills like the back of their hands – and they love to share their passion for hill-walking with our guests!
Hiking the Royal Road
Until the lake road was completed in the early 1900s, the Strada Regia was the main path from Como to Bellagio for centuries of merchants carrying their wares on the back of a mule and locals traveling to family and friends living in the lakeside hamlets. In the early 2000s, the authorities set about repairing the route, posting the signature brown Strada Regia signs and inviting locals and visitors alike to enjoy this ancient path. Ambitious hikers could make an early start and try to make it all the way to Como (about 7 hours of hiking!) or take it easy and hike from Lezzeno to Nesso in less than three hours. You can start above the Palazzo to hike to Nesso and take the C30 bus back to Lezzeno or start by taking the bus to Nesso and then hiking back to the Palazzo – either way, the toughest bit is the beginning, as you make your way from the lake shore up to the ancient path.
We will start our itinerary in Nesso, getting off the C30 bus at the Piazza Castello stop. Photography fans will not want to miss the photo op on the charming Romanesque bridge known as Ponte della Civera at the foot of a lovely waterfall – but it will mean taking about 300 steps down and back up (read more about the Orrido di Nesso waterfall here!). Once on the Strada Regia above town, the trail winds in and out of the woods and even passes a huge boulder left there during the ice age. After about 40 minutes, you’ll reach the delightful Baita La Morena, a farmhouse restaurant with delightful farm-to-fork cuisine and sweeping views of the lake (find out more in this blog post). From the Baita, the path continues all the way to Lezzeno, passing through the quaint hamlet of Caravagnana with its old stone houses and the residential area known as Cendraro, where you can head down to the lake shore by the Crotto del Misto restaurant and continue on the lakeside path to the Palazzo.
Cruising Lake Como
Everyone knows that the best way to experience Lake Como is from the water, and our team here at the Palazzo knows exactly where to find the best water taxis, the best ferries to any lakeside destination, the best guides to take our guests out on the water in a kayak or stand-up paddleboard, and the best boat rental companies with outstanding cruisers that they can bring right to the Palazzo landing stage. There is literally something for everyone on Lake Como, from the adrenalin rush of kite-surfing to elegant lakeside restaurants – and we have expert guides proud to call this area their home who offer specialized tours for all sorts of interests.
Ora et Labora on Lake Como
Guests interested in local history as well as art and architecture will love this cruise to Lake Como’s northern branch with our trusted captain and expert guide. The history of the region is closely tied to the church, as Lake Como represented a key crossroads for pilgrims from Europe making their way to Rome. Monastic communities also seemed drawn to these tranquil shores as an ideal backdrop for the “Ora et Labora” lifestyle that combined hours dedicated to prayer with difficult manual labor – many are open to the public and offer unique insight into life on the lake in medieval times.
The Abbey of Piona is a case in point. Starting out as a community of hermits in the 7th century, the complex grew to be one of the richest and most successful monasteries in the Diocese of Como by the 13th century. After closing at the turn of the 19th century under Napoleonic rule, the abbey reopened with an order of Cistercian brothers in 1938. The cruise to this lakeside gem is its own reward – passing many quaint villages and lavish villas. Thanks to your guide’s prior arrangements, you’ll be able to visit the entire complex from the beautiful cloisters and the wood-paneled Capitulate Room to the small shop selling the tinctures, creams and herbal liqueur made by the monks. She may even suggest a late afternoon excursion to experience the Gregorian chants of the evening vespers. No matter what the time of day, a stroll along the peninsula where the abbey is located, around the beautiful bay of Piona, is not to be missed!