Milan, Lake Como and Piedmont

My wife and I are planning a trip to Italy in July and want to go to Milan, Lake Como and Piedmont. We are flying into Milan and will stay there for a few nights, then head to Lake Como for a few nights, then head down to Piedmont. Our itinerary will be something like this:

Milan: 2 nights
Lake Como: 2 nights
Piedmont: 7 nights

We plan to have a rental car for our time in Piedmont but we are unsure if a car is needed while we are in Milan and Lake Como. What do you think?

Our main focus for Milan and Lake Como is probably sightseeing/checking out the areas and of course a few good meals. Recommendations for hotels, restaurants and must-see sites are much appreciated.

For Piedmont, it’s all about the food and wine. We would like to stay in Bra, La Morra or Monforte. We are trying to decide between staying in a hotel vs renting a villa/apartment. I like the idea of having a kitchen so we have the option to cook a few meals but having a/c is important since we will be there in July and it seems many villa/apartments don’t have a/c. Any thoughts or suggestions?

I’ve heard good things about these hotels:

Villa Beccaris (Monforte), Hotel Le Torri (Castiglione Falletto), Corte Gondina Hotel (La Morra) and Agriturismo Molino Sobrino (La Morra)—any comments any these places…good or bad? Any other suggestions?

For restaurants, two of the places we are definitely going to be trying are Centro in priocca and La ciao del tornavento in tresio. Any other recommendations?

We have been to Italy before (Venice, Florence, and Rome), but we’ve never been to Piedmont so any general advice is appreciated too. We are all ears. Any advice/recommendations/suggestions for hotels, wineries, restaurants and not-to-miss sites/attractions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

I wouldn’t waste any time sightseeing in Milan. It’s just an industrial city.

Milan has its charms and, somehow, doesn’t strike me as an industrial in the sense that I understand the word.

A few sites of interest are:
La Scala Opera house: Quite possibly one of the best venue in the world today.
Da Vinci’s The Last Supper in the Santa Maria della Grazie
The Duomo di Milano or Milan Cathedral, a Gothic architecture and the largest in Italy
The High Fashion shopping areas smack in the middle of the old town.

Milan is worth a visit if you are in the area. I dont think you need more than a day there though. The Duomo is incredible (do the roof tour if you can) and the area around it is nice to walk around. I think you need to reserve ahead of time to get in to see the Last Supper.

Piemonte is incredibly beautiful. My wife and i went for 4 days in the spring and wish we had spent more time there. We cant wait to go back.

With limited time to spend in your three areas, I would spend as little time as possible in Milan and as much time as possible in Piedmont and the Lake Como area.

For the Lake Como region, Bellagio is just about heaven on earth for its setting. It sits on a piece of land that juts out into Lake Como, so that essentially you are on a peninsula surrounded by spectacular scenery – the Lake is framed all around you by the Italian Alps. Romantic, to say the least – if you are not moved by what you see all around you and fall in love all over again with your wife, well then, I question whether you have a heartbeat.

It’s been a long time since I went to Bellagio, but I recall a number of wonderful hotels right along the waterfront. I stayed at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni – they treated us quite well and upgraded us to a huge suite overlooking the water. It was pricey back then, so I’m sure today it is the same. Service was impeccable. There are plenty of wonderful restaurants to choose from a short walk away. Unless you are walking along the waterfront, any other walks involve steep uphills. The huffing and puffing is worth the resultant views.

Just behind the Grand Hotel is/was a huge tract of land owned by the Rockefeller Foundation. At the time, it was open to the public on certain day/days of the week for a guided tour of the grounds. Apparently, the Foundation gives out grants to writers (? my memory is hazy on this) to come and stay there and, well, write. Always wondered if I could sneak in an application.

At the other end of town, there is another outdoor park for strolling – massive, impressive trees (I like outdoor gardens/parks/etc.)

It is a rather harrowing drive to get to Bellagio if you follow the coastline of Lake Como, or your other option is to boat it (car included) on any of the numerous car ferries that traverse the Lake from town to town. If you drive, just pretend that you are an Italian race car driver and drive like one, and you will do fine. Your passenger, however, might turn green.

If you are trying to figure out where on Lake Como to stay, then I highly recommend staying in Bellagio – you will not be disappointed. If you never make it out of the city of Lake Como, then you haven’t seen why people go gaga over Lake Como (the region).

I reread my post just now and am not sure I made the following point clear enough: get out of Lake Como (the city) and stay elsewhere on the Lake. The beauty of Lake Como IMHO are the OTHER towns/cities on the Lake – the small, exquisite villas; the restaurants on the edge of the water; the ferry boat rides that go every which way on the Lake that take you to new towns to be discovered.

Two days allocated to this incredible region seems a little short. One whole day of your trip is going to be taken up in traveling between Piedmont and the Lake Como region (or vice versa) and no matter which region you end up last, you will still then have to allocate at least 1/2 a day to get back to your flight out of Milan.

I left you a bit of info on another board, but here is my two cents. No car needed in Milan or Lake Como. I would stay in Bellagio if you want several hotel, restaurant, and shop options. If you want quaint and laid back I would choose Menaggio.

To add to my Montforte post, if you are looking for accommodations with your own cooking option, I would recommend Felicin. Ask for the apartment accommodation. We had twin beds that we pushed together, so ask for a queen if they have it. Regardless, the view is one of the best in Piedmont. A short walk up the hill as you exit the back of the apartment is a very good restaurant (name escapes me) that is built into the rock. It is a great wine bar as well.

Carrie, I participated in a workshop at the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni in 1987. I remember it as very old-fashioned luxury. For me, the highlight was meeting Bill Joel and Christie Brinkley there.

Devin, I stayed across the lake (to the west) at the Grand Hotel Tremezzio, and fondly remember morning coffee on the large porch. It is near Menaggio. Right next door is the lovely Villa Carlotta Museum which has the most beautiful gardens for viewing.

Thanks for all the comments so far…I will go over them in detail with my wife later today. Cheers.


My girlfriend and I went to Lake Como and Piemonte in September. We rented an apartment in Fiumelatte (about 1 mile south of Varenna). It was terrific. Not much to do in Fiumelatte, but the view was magnificent. Also, pretty easy to get to Varenna and access the ferry system. For what it’s worth, all of the amazing pictures I’ve ever seen of Lake Como do not come close to experiencing it in person.

We stayed in La Morra at the Villa Carita. We liked it very much. It is just outside La Morra proper and has a great view of the city and the surrounding countryside.

I agree with everyone’s comments that you should put in more time at Lake Como and less in Milan. However, the Duomo in Milan is pretty spectacular as is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II (essentially the first indoor shopping mall, which is right next to the Duomo).

I spent a week in Piemonte last May hiking, wine tasting, and eating. Lovely place, lovely people. Stayed a few km. outside of Alba and then Monforte, but if I had to do it again (and I will someday), I think I would stay in the town of Barolo itself. Splendid walk through the countryside from Monforte to Barolo.

Some restaurant recommendations:
Osteria dell’Unione in Treiso - gorgonzola gnocchi, tajarin with ragu, panna cotta, can still taste it.

La Luna nel Pozzo in Neive - very affable owner, good food, great spot for lunch.

Trattoria della Posta, about 3-4 km. outside of Monforte d’Alba - great antipasti for sharing, good mains, excellent desserts, and a truly stupendous wine list. We had three bottles, each between 14 and 20 Euros: Chionetti Dolcetto di Dogliani Briccolero '09, Giuseppe Rinaldi Barbera d’Alba '09, Giuseppe Mascarello Nebbiolo Langhe '08. All excellent, the latter two stunningly gorgeous. I highly recommend trying the “lesser” wines of great traditionalists like Rinaldi and Mascarello, for me they are among the best QPR you can find anywhere.

One disappointment: Osteria dell’Arco in Alba (rabbit in Arneis sauce, one of their signature dishes, was bland and dry)

One more wine rec: Moscato d’Asti, IMO one of the most underrated wines around. So many good ones - La Spinetta Bricco Quaglia, Marchesi di Gresy La Serra, Elio Perrone Sourgal, Vajra. Ethereal, ambrosial stuff, for 10-12 Euros a bottle. And, on top of everything, it is a dessert wine one can actually have with dessert (as the Piemontese do).

A final food rec: try the various excellent local sheep and goat cheeses. And the carne cruda, raw Fassone beef not quite ground more like beaten with a knife, and mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, and grated cheese (best I had was from a restaurant in the town of Mango, which I have unfortunately forgotten the name of).

A book recommendation: Barolo by Matthew Gavin Frank, sometimes poetic, sometimes florid, but captures some of the spirit of the place.

I agree that Como should just be a jumping off place for the villages around the lake. It would be a perfectly charming town if not for the other little lakeside villages that take the charm up to 11

A plug for Varenna, across the lake from Bellagio and Menaggio. Smaller scale village charm. Stayed at Hotel Olivedo and loved it.

Love Varenna, too. Nice lake walk, small, pretty town right on the ferry.

I concur that you don’t need a car in Milan or on Lake Como, but you probably want a car to get to Como (there is a train that runs up the eastern shore of the lake that stops at Como and Varenna), but that won’t get you to Bellagio if that is what you decide) and it certainly is much harder to rent when you get to the Lake than it is to rent in Milan, so my advice is to rent in Milan at the end of your stay

Another plug for Varenna, la Perla del Lago di Como - a lovely town far removed from the touristy overcrowding of Bellagio but close, via water taxi, to Bellagio or anything else you wish to visit.


Some consider Varenna Italy to be the most heavenly of all the towns on the Lake of Como. Elegant and peaceful, it captures the breath of its visitors with charming rustic houses, a matrix of narrow cobble-stoned alleyways, and its lovely lakeside promenade…

The Hotel du Lac in Varenna is a small, friendly, waterfront jewel. Highly recommended. They can arrange car service from Milan at less than the cost of a rental (which you do not need at Lake Como), or will pick you up at the train station in Varenna.

Two Varenna Restaurants I highly recommend:

Another restaurant we enjoyed, quite good and less expensive than the two above, is Borgovino (no website that I could find). This video doesn’t do it justice, but is fun:

I quite like Milan, plenty to do for 2 days.

Be sure to visit Peck and eat at Da Spontini for excellent Pizza, it isn’t fancy dining though. Della Crocetta for excellent sandwiches. Obika for somethign a bit more modern.

The train from Milan to Como is very cheap (around €10 first class) and a nice trip, takes 45 mins.