Como, Pearl of Italy
No matter where you are in the world, you’re likely to compare it to Como, arguably one of the most beautiful places in Europe, due to its picturesque views of the lake, amazing architecture and beautifully maintained, various green areas. Not to mention the unrivaled Italian food!
At an approximate 1 hour drive from Milan, Como is the home away from home of many international celebrities and therefore, an attractive destination for a lot of American tourists. Booking a transfer van from Milan airport to Como, I found myself being in the presence of an extremely talkative Italian driver…”Oh, you know, Clooney is actually a really nice guy’, he says trying to catch my attention. “He owns a villa here in Como and everybody that’s met him told me he’s so nice!” I nodded my head, trying to look interested, although the only thing I could think of was my next meal. I was actually starving.
“The Rockefellers have a beautiful property in the area too, if you book one of my tours, I’ll take you there!”. I politely replied that I’d consider his offer, silently hoping this long drive will end soon.
Once in Como, we headed straight to Ristorante Sociale (http://www.ristorantesociale.it/), an Italian place in the city center, which was recommended to us by our host. “Risotto con i filetti di pesce persico”, she said, “that is the best thing on their menu! And the fish is actually the one you find here, in the lake!”.
…It was the most expensive meal we had in Como, as delicious pizza places and ice cream shops can be found on literally every corner of the street. Street food at its finest!
Lake Como is the ideal site not only for walkers and joggers, but also for those who love sea planes, as Aero Club Como is just a step away from the lake’s bank, inviting tourists to try one of their small aircrafts on display. I loved to start my days with a jog around lake Como, as the weather was fantastic, the views surreal and the air especially fresh!
I just couldn’t miss the amazing views from the top of the hill, where I arrived by funicular. A pleasant stroll along the wall will take you to the funicular ticket shop and from there arrive on top where there are plenty of great spots to observe. Head both right or left for beautiful views of the lake! A small church and a lighthouse are also sights to see – just follow the signs.
When it comes to shopping in Italy, as a general rule: you just can’t go wrong with leather shoes and bags. I got lost on the narrow streets of Como, staring at eye candy stores like Carpisa, Nautica, Motivi, Armani, Max Mara, Stefanel and so many coffee, deli and wine shops! I just had to step into one of the many l’erboristerias around, which are packed with natural Italian cosmetics, unique perfumes, diet supplements, teas and much more. These are actually distinctive from pharmacies and provide some stuff that, as a world traveler, I found unique.
As a big walker myself, i found that walking in Como is a great way to explore the city and admire the views, but public transport (mainly buses) is well connected too. If you’re planning to travel by bus, I advise you to buy the tickets from the train station and not from the driver, as the price doubles once you buy them inside the bus. City bikes are available as well.
Walking through Como, I couldn’t miss admiring and entering the Dome, a beautiful piece of Gothic architecture that is actually the seat of the Bishop of Como.
While in the area, I visited the Museum of History, which hosts an interesting collection of paintings, sculpture, war apparel, clothing, archaeological items and more that spans through thousands of years. I was pleasantly surprised to be guided through the museum by a very helpful employee, who showed me all the sites to be seen,including the beautiful garden at the end of the tour. One of the most interesting exhibits I found there was a genuine Egyptian mummy enclosed in a typical sarcophagus.
Going through Porta torre towards the lake, I passed the site of the ancient Roman Thermae, hosting remains of Roman baths and several burial items.
Exploring Como was a fascinating high-scale adventure: style, elegance, hospitality, good food and shopping spots all around! This is definitely a place to see, especially in springtime, where the tourist boost is low and the weather is pleasant.