I'm baaaaaaaaaaaaaack!! After taking an unintentional year and a half hiatus from the ol' blog-a-roo, guess who's back! Tell your friends!
Not much has changed since I last sat down to write one of these...oh wait, just kidding...yes it has! We had a baby!Read More
Milan is located a little over an hour south of Lake Como and I was especially excited to visit for two reasons: first, I had never been before and second, THE LAST SUPPER!
Driving into Milan during morning rush hour is a truly Italian experience that everyone should try at least once! No, really - you're going to love it! *Tip: When driving in Italy, stop signs are more of a suggestion and aggressive driving is the only respectable way to operate a vehicle. So don't be afraid to drive it like you stole it.
Santa Marta Suites, our hotel in Milan, was a small boutique hotel of only 8 rooms located right in the heart of the historic city center. We absolutely loved this hotel and highly recommend it to anyone visiting the city. Each room is different, the customer service is superb and it offers a very unique experience!
After arriving in Milan, we quickly located the iconic Duomo di Milano and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, both of which are stunning. The entire Piazza del Duomo is surrounded by shopping options and, when in Milan, one simply must shop! We wandered by the high end shops located within the Galleria, including the first ever Prada store, and then made our way to some of the flea markets lining the side streets. This is where we really had fun! There were so many vintage purses, scarves, dresses, hats, and ties!
That afternoon we made our way to Navigli, Milan's canal district, where we decided to cool off in a cafe. Unbeknownst to us, we happened to be there right in the middle of preparations for men's fashion week...helloooo, male models!
The next day, we took a walking tour of the city with Dark Rome. Again, great company, great tour guide - highly recommend. The tour took us into the Duomo where we saw the statue St. Bartholomew Flayed, through the Galleria and along Milan's Brera district, which is a great spot for restaurants, or if you are so inclined, a croissant with a brownie inside (I was sooooo inclined)!
We made our to Sforza Castle, where Leonardo lived and worked while he was painting The Last Supper, before ending at Santa Maria delle Grazie, where I ticked yet another item off my bucket list!
The history behind The Last Supper and da Vinci's painting techniques and processes are incredibly fascinating - he was testing out a new method in which he used eggs in his paints; the number 3; the face of Judas is thought to be the face of one of the monastery's priors who had angered da Vinci; the "fresco" began to deteriorate within a few years after it was completed; monks actually cut off Jesus' feet to install a door so that they could reach the kitchen faster; the church was bombed during WWII and the painting was only saved because of protective sandbagging. But, I digress. Needless to say I was, and there's no other word for it, pumped to have finally seen this piece. Mission accomplished.
Lake Como has been on my travel-wish-list for quite some time and when Kyle and I decided on an Italian holiday, I knew we had to go! In my vacation fantasies I had predetermined we would be staying at a beautiful, glamorous villa, literally right on the lake, with a pool accessorized by fun and colorful umbrellas, wooden boats and even a celebrity or two!
Well, lets just say that all of those criteria are actually harder to find than one would think. I did, however, narrow it down to two fabulous options: Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio or Grand Hotel Tremezzo in Tremezzo, both of which are luxury hotels meeting all of my qualifications (minus the celebrities of course - I would have to leave those up to fate). In the end, we decided on G.H. Villa Serbelloni. As fate would have it, the travel-booking-website-gods were smiling down on me and lo and behold there was a deal available through Booking.com! If you have not yet used this website, I highly recommend you search it before your next trip. They will occasionally offer special deals for luxury hotels at a fraction of the normal price i.e. make my dreams come true!
As you can see, the hotel was stunning! If you have seen the movie Grand Budapest Hotel, that is what this hotel was like! Originally built as a holiday villa for an aristocratic family in 1850, the hotel has hosted many illustrious guests over the years, including Roosevelt and Kennedy. Situated at the very tip of a peninsula, which juts into the lake, the hotel offered the most amazing panoramic views.
Getting to Bellagio itself requires quite a hair-raising drive through the mountainous lake area. The town, which is bustling with tourists, shoppers and artists during the day, is actually very quiet at night. We spent our first two days in Bellagio simply wandering the tiny streets, eating pizza for lunch and fresh fish for dinner, often enjoying an aperitif at a street side cafe, and partaking in the town's silk shopping.
Though we were there in mid-June, the weather was on the cooler side, but we still managed to enjoy the hotel pool and the lake. If you look closely at some of the pictures, you can see snow on the very tips of the alps (allow me to name drop one more time...ALPS) in the distance and yes, the water was cold! So, if anyone ever asks...yes, yes I have done the polar bear plunge.
On our third day in Bellagio, we took the ferry to Mandello del Lario to meet our guide for the day, Mauro. I had found Mauro's company, Lake Como Motorbike, through some research online and Kyle and I were so excited about this adventure.
First, Mauro walked us to the Moto Guzzi museum in Mandello. We were suited up and sent on our way on our Moto Guzzi! We followed Mauro all over the lake, taking the ferry from Varenna to the opposite shore and the town of Menaggio. We then rode through the mountains to Lugano, Switzerland and around Lake Lugano. We came back through the main town of Como, where Mauro showed us around and took us to the home he shares with Federica Campari, a local chef who had prepared an amazing lunch for us. After lunch, we headed to Lecco where we enjoyed gelato before ending our day back in Mandello. The entire experience was absolutely incredible and we could not have dreamed of a better guide than Mauro!
*Tip: The ferry's at Lake Como are the easiest and best way to get from town to town and the ride is stunning! It's a value play too - $16 versus a private water taxi quote of $400.
We concluded our time in Bellagio with dinner by the lake and Kyle even ordered up a beautiful sunset for desert.