Bellagio, one of the best known towns on Lake Como where ladies can buy beautiful straw handbags and men can buy silk ties. Bellagio is also home to the Rockefeller Foundation and close by are The Gardens of the Villa Melzi.
What to see and do in Bellagio, Italy:
1 – Shopping – Bellagio is another ritzy town on Lake Como but with a smaller scope than Como. Walk along the lake to find stores selling beautiful hats, colorful straw bags, and gorgeous scarves. Make your way up the different cobble stone paths (steep steps so comfortable shoes are advised!). You will find various small art galleries, purse/bag stores, antique shops, hand painted pottery, and kitchenware made out of olive tree wood. ~ For silk products and straw bags I recommend the Saraceno store: there is one shop on the main shopping street across from the people ferry stops, and a Saraceno outlet store up the stairs across from the Hotel Metropolo.
2 – Basilica of San Giacomo – The Basilica was constructed between 1075 and 1125 and sits at the top of the town.
3 – Rockefeller Foundation – The Rockefeller Foundation has conferences and also prestigious residencies for scholars (residencies are available for one month to no more then 20 scholars/artists at a time). The foundation has been in Bellagio since 1960. You can take a tour of the grounds (which involves a lot of walking up hill), and although you can not tour the house you do get a glimpse of the villa and the gardens are gorgeous. I have been on the Rockefeller Foundation tour two different times and actually had a different walking route each time so saw new things! The tour guides are very knowledgeable and always eager to answer questions.
To make a tour: Buy tickets in advance. The ticket office is on the right side of the plaza by the Basilica of San Giacomo in an old stone tower. Tours are available from April to the 2nd of November from 11 am to 4pm. There are no tours on Mondays. Buy tickets in advance as only groups of 20-30 people are allowed at a time. Tickets are 8.50 euros and the tours last about an hour and a half.
4 – Walk along the lake and have a gelato! – This is an essential activity while visiting Lake Como in the Spring or Summer; I make sure to have gelato at least once a day while traveling in Italy in the summer!
5 – Villa Melzi – If you walk along the lake, away from the ferries, you will reach the gardens of the Villa Melzi which you can enter for a ticket price of 6 euros and 4 euros for students. (Gardens are open from the 28th of March to the 30th of October). The villa was built between 1808 and 1810 for Francesco Melzi d’Eril who was nominated the Duke of Lodi by Napoleon, and later became the Chancellor of the Empire.
Overall Bellagio, Italy is a beautiful town and a wonderful day trip!
How to get to Bellagio, Italy:
The best way is by ferry from Menaggio, Varenna or Cadenabbia; ferries are frequent and provide a leisurely ride with of course spectacular views the whole way! You can get a hydrofoil boat from Como but it is quite a long way. And of course you can drive, although the road between Bellagio and Como is narrow with lots of curves; so you spend most of the time hoping you make it to your destination and driving with white knuckles.