Our travels through Northern Italy from the fashion capital of Milan soon led us towards the mountain landscapes of the Italian Lakes. At last we were about to tour Lake Como by Campervan, one of those all time “must do” locations of our motorhome travel list! Now we’d arrived at the town of the same name of this famous lake – Como.
Lake Como is shaped like an upside down Y. Well, that’s if you look at it in a Northerly direction! So, if you imagine Como being located at the start of the left hand prong, you’ll get an idea of where it is on the lake. Of course, that’s only if my explanations aren’t too upside down!
Finding a Sosta campervan parking on the perimeter of Como town proved simple enough. At just 50 cents an hour, it didn’t break the bank either. To be honest, there was no sign of the lake yet although we couldn’t wait to get our first glimpse of the water.
After a short ten minute stroll, through quiet streets, we soon we found ourselves amongst the busy main areas of the old town. Here, a mix of small squares, quaint alleyways and beautiful architectural facades lead us towards to waterfront.
This was a Sunday and Como was full of the joys of Italian life. Whilst families enjoyed a lazy lunch, their glamorous appearance certainly looked like they were dressed in their Sunday best.
We suddenly felt a little underdressed, but thankfully help was at hand in the form of some incredibly reasonable clothes stores. I have to admit, I’m not one for clothes shopping, but for some reason, today, I felt in the mood for something floaty!
Before I knew it, I’d tried on an arm full of Como’s latest fashion pieces. Soon my Campervan wardrobe would have an added hint of chic, all for the grand sum of 46 Euro!
Yes, I emerged back out onto the Como cobbles with my newly acquired Italian clothing. Much to Nigel’s dismay – I know….not more clothes!
That was enough shopping for one trip! Now, time to find the fabulous lake itself. It wasn’t long before the water came into view and with it the stunningly charismatic mountain scenery surrounding the lake.
A lakeside stroll followed, sharing the popular path with weekend visitors. Boat trips ferried tourists across the water, what a wonderful way to see this truly beautiful town.
By the time we got back to the Campervan, we realised we’d have to move on. Always cautious about where we stop, we didn’t feel comfortable when we saw a man peering into each Motorhome, gradually making his way from one to another.
The funny thing was, there was actually someone inside one campervan! Well, that was enough to make him quickly disappear into the bushes!
Driving swiftly on along the lake, the route took us through Cernobio, the next town along. We thought it might be an option for parking overnight, but despite good camper parking, the area looked a bit dodgy. After our previous experience, it wasn’t worth taking any chances, so onwards we drove.
Instead, we found ourselves on the old lower lakeside road all the way to the town of Menaggio, further along the lake.
Before long, the scenic route, led us through the winding villages of the lake. Then the road became full with oncoming traffic, all returning after their Sunday day-trips by motorbike, coach or flashy sports car. In the end, a never ending line of traffic was coming at us, ultimately creating a long bottleneck along the route.
It was just so narrow in places, on top of all that, more obstacles of low arches and bridges crossed above us, resulting in a halt to traffic in the extremely tight streets.
Like all things in life, it was all meant to be in the end. Because, if we’d taken the wider, main road above the lake, then we’d have missed a certain Mr Clooney’s place!
Well, you can only imagine the excitement as our Campervan suddenly passed the most pristine gated entrance on Lake Como. There was no mistaking, whatever lay behind the magnificently trimmed hedge must be spectacular.
As I stretched my neck to get a glimpse of the name of this palatial Villa at Laglio, Nigel failed to see what all the fuss was about. For a moment, I could only dream of gorgeous George, tending to his privet hedge as I admire his gardening tools from my open window…..Time to wake up Sonia!
Eventually, the narrow roads opened out slightly as we emerged into our first stop for the night at Menaggio.
We’d found a Campervan Sosta with a space left for us to spend the night. Located just outside the town, the parking a area was shared with cars but nonetheless it was fine for the night.
Best of all, it was free and only a few minutes walk into the centre of this lovely lakeside town. After a bite to eat, we took a stroll along the waterfront, passing an elegant lido area before reaching a pretty town square.
The Italian ambience was too good to miss, so that meant only one thing – settling down for a local liquor at a local bar. I’ve no idea what we chose, but it tasted strong and went straight to the head!
No wonder the Italians are always so joyous!
Well, after one very noisy night in our car park setting, we weren’t ready to stay for another. However, before leaving, we needed some information on local walks, so off we went to the tourist office to pick up some leaflets. Luckily, most areas in Italy have an English version available – thank goodness as our Italian isn’t up to much!
Leaving the Campervan in situe, before long we chose a walking route along an old Roman road above the lake. What a delightful little route, passing through intricate villages, commanding fine lakeside views.
The weather was superb. By the time we reached a beautiful little chapel at Nobiallo, high above the lake, we were glad for a rest overlooking the water.
What a lovely route and there was still more to come after returning to the Campervan. Walking in the opposite direction, it was time to take a stroll through the Loveno area of Menaggio.
This gorgeous old village above the main town is full of narrow cobbled streets, winding around ancient stone houses. Just lovely!
Back at the van, the time had come to move slightly inland. We’d heard about an old railway line route leading from the village of Grandola ed Uniti, about a 10 minute drive from Menaggio.
We found a place to park in the village, ready for an early start the next morning.
What a delightful change, as we took to the bikes along the cycle path. Heading out along the old railway line, this scenic, easy route took us passed mountain villages and the small lake of Piano.
Unfortunately, it started to rain, after taking shelter under a tree, we had no option but to continue on and get a little wet in the process.
Soon, we arrived at the lake side promenade in Porlezza, where we parked up the bikes. Here, coffee and lemon biscuits called, a rare sweet treat to give an energy boast to our depleting supplies.
Porlezza was so quiet, maybe the rain had kept everyone away, although it didn’t stop us taking a look around. The village is pretty but not as elaborate in historic architecture as other towns we’ve seen.
The lake was lovely and surrounded by scenic mountains, making the 14km, two and a half hour return cycle ride well worth the effort.
From Menaggio, our route continued North along the edge of Lake Como. Stopping for a couple of nights at Camping La Riva. This very neat lakeside campsite in a quiet area of Lake Como was actually quite lovely.
It’s not often we stop on a campsite, but there was no Sosta parking available and we needed to empty the waste and fill the fresh. Also we didn’t want to miss this area of the lake, so it seemed the best option to set out and explore by bike.
The site had large grassy pitches, and a brilliant swimming pool to practice my love of swimming, just in time before the heavens opened and a storm set in.
Some of the lakeside villages en-route looked a little worse for wear, so we hadn’t felt the need to stop until now.
As we woke the next morning to sunshine and blue skies, the bikes came out again. We then cycled along the lakeside cycle path to the town of Domaso. Campsites lined the waterfront, whilst pebble beaches and large grassy areas provided plenty of rest space.
After stocking up on some supplies in the small supermarket, our return to the Campervan made way for another swim in the pool before catching up on some laundry chores.
A pre-breakfast run followed by yet more swimming to get the most out of of the fab pool had me ready for the day ahead. Back on the road North, we were soon leaving Lake Como behind for a moment as we reached the gorgeous Lake Mezzola.
Well, what a find this was. Not only is Mezzola a super scenic location amongst the mountain scenery but it’s also home to possible one of the best free Camper Sosta’s we’ve ever found.
Right overlooking the lake, this grassy area has the most amazing views, not to mention the brilliant cycling routes on offer.
Luckily, just as we drove in, one Motorhome was leaving, providing us with a perfect place to park overlooking the lake. Time for some relaxation and a spot of lunch before setting out to explore.
Another hot day beckoned, so we took to the bikes yet again for a tour in each direction along the excellent cycle paths. Stunning scenery made the ride just perfect, surrounded by the dramatic mountains as they eclipsed the water of the lake below.
There’s so much walking to do here, let alone mountain bike trails, it’s an outdoor lovers paradise.
Unfortunately, it was the weekend and as usual in Italy, as darkness fell, the music began and the party started at the lakeside bar. That meant little sleep for us, the music was so loud, that Nige downloaded an app for decibel readings!
As the locals descended for their weekend getaways, it was time for us to move back along Lake Como. At Colico, a supermarket shop and chance to empty the waste and fill up for a few euro’s at a Sosta, proved the only chance of stopping at this popular resort.
Everywhere was full, Motorhomes filled the Sosta parking areas, whilst narrow roads and limited parking prevented any chance of getting a place to just pull over and stop.
The road was extremely narrow in places, probably not ideal for those with any larger Campervan’s. In the heat of the day, it was quite hair-raising.
Eventually we arrived at the town of Mandello, where we found a camper sosta with room to stop for lunch. It should have been 10 Euro per day, but some people in a Campervan were just leaving, so kindly handed us their ticket.
In the end, we didn’t fancy staying there all day, so drove on further along the upside down Y!
We really wanted to see Bellagio, located on the centre point of Lake Como. It seemed a long way along the narrow, winding lakeside road. First though, we took a detour, up to a Mountain viewpoint above the lake.
Fabulous views across the lake were well worth the drive. The pretty little church of Madonna del Ghisallo also took our attention before driving on to Bellagio, further back down the mountain.
Arriving in the early evening was a perfect time to visit, although parking was really a bit difficult. Motorhome’s weren’t allowed, probably because it’s so narrow here.
Our Campervan is just under 6m long so we can fit into a normal car parking space. Luckily we found a spot and slotted in at a charge of 50 cents an hour and free after 8pm.
Bellagio is a really pretty lakeside town, although it is fairly touristy. Boats take you across Lake Como to various towns on the other side of the water.
A lovely atmosphere within the tiny stone streets, proved too good to miss. So we went Italian and opted for a pizza in the town square before continuing our evening stroll under twinkling flicker of fairy lights.
It’s here that tourists and locals come for some Summer evening solitude. A classy historic town, filled with intricate stone steps, floral displays and ornate architecture. A fine end to our tour of Lake Como.
Now, we felt it easier to park the night a little inland. Instead driving onwards for about 20 minutes to the town of Annone D’Brianza to a free Camper Sosta area for some quiet downtime.
We’d come full circle, having driven right round the lake and what a route it had been.
Lake Como is everything you’d expect it to be. Not only is it surrounded by mountains and fabulous villas, but it’s also beautiful and elegant in a low-key kind of way.
The roads may be narrow and the Campervan parking not as plentiful as some areas, but that’s just fine. Lake Como by Campervan is still the most incredible way to get around this stunning part of Italy.
In typical Italian style, this classy Italian lake has romanced us and captivated our soles, leaving a lasting place in our hearts that will one day see us return for more.