Lake Como, Italy
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When to go
High season stretches between Easter and October, with many hotels closed over the winter. Spring and autumn are bright and clear (look out for truffles on the markets before the chill settles in); in the summer, things heat up, but the Alpine breezes keep the lakes pleasant and mist-free. This is when crowds flock to Como for open-air festivals, alfresco dining and lakeside frolics, but there are plenty of peaceful retreats and tranquil hillside hideaways if it all gets a little too festive.
PlanesThe nearest airport is Milan Malpensa, an hour’s drive away, with good links to Europe and beyond. Milan Linate, a good alternative for domestic and international flights, is over an hour’s drive away, as is Bergamo airport for budget connections to the UK and Europe.
BoatsFerry services for both passengers and cars criss-cross the lake. Fast services user speedier hydrofoils, but for a taste of laid-back life on the water choose the slow boats that run to the mid-lake villages of Menaggio, Bellagio or Varenna.
TrainsComo San Giovanni station has regular links to Milan and further afield. The Malpensa Express runs from the airport to Como Lago station, but you’ll need to transfer in Saronno (www.trenitalia.com).
AutomobilesLame Como is easily reached on the A8 and A9 highway from Milan (about an hour’s drive away), or on state highway 342 from Varese or 369 from Lecco. It’s best to hire a car to explore Lombardy’s quaint villages, baroque villas and meandering shorelines.
Continue the adventure with three nights on Lake Como's sleepy shores, where neighbour George Clooney might zip by in his speedboat at any minute. But don't be jealous of George; you're staying at Relais Villa Vittoria, a pretty lakeside mansion with romantic gardens, a waterfront infinity pool, the requisite wine list and its own motorboat hire.
Worth getting out of bed for
– Drive or bicycle around the surrounding small mountain towns
– Spend a day on the lake in a classic mahogany Riva boat
– Dine on the waterfront at Crotto dei Platani