Melanie Chandra

New York / Los Angeles

Lake Como, Italy

I have to say, Italians really know how to enjoy life.

Just two weeks ago, right before beginning production for Code Black Season 2,  my husband and I traveled to Italy to soak in as much of "the life" as possible. That correlated with us arriving home two pounds heavier from copious amounts of pasta, pizza, and buon vino!

We spent time in two different parts of the country.  Our first stop: Lake Como.  Sicily, our next stop, will be reviewed in a future post.

When I told friends I would be traveling to Lake Como, they said one of two things: “George Clooney has a villa there!” Or, “That’s where they shot Casino Royale!” Both are true, but they don’t ultimately define this gorgeous destination (though we definitely had to see both sites)!

day 1

We landed in Milan, rented a car (#adventurous), and drove to Lake Como, about 45 minutes outside the city.

Within 30 minutes of driving, the landscape drastically changes from urban to lush foothills of the Alps.

We found ourselves lodging in a charming historical villa turned hotel called Villa d’Este, in Cernobbio, which has a stunning garden as its centerpiece.

There were a couple things we set out to do with our few days in Como: eat, visit the surrounding towns, see the Floating Piers at Lake Iseo, and eat more.

Let's start with the Floating Piers.

This was the most epic art installation I've ever experienced. For sixteen days this year, Italy's Lake Iseo was reimagined with "The Floating Piers". We were able to experience Christo and Jeanne-Claude's work of art by walking across 100,000 square meters of shimmering yellow fabric that connected two points of the coast with the Island of San Paolo.  It actually felt like we were walking on water, or as one of the artists quoted: "It's perhaps like walking on the back of a whale." I agree. So do the swans.

The next day, we drove to the town of Comacina, where we took a tiny boat taxi to reach Isola Comacina, a small wooded island of Lake Como. Here we ate at the historic restaurant Locanda dell'Isola Comacina. The menu at this gem hasn't changed for over 75 years. Like most great Italian food, the cuisine was very fresh, simple, and delicious.

From there we drove to Villa Balbianello. This gorgeous villa, built in 1787 overlooks Lake Como. Here we took the guided tour and learned all about the villa's last inhabitant, the explorer Guido Monzin and his conquests around the world. My takeaway was that Guido was super paranoid. Or, that he really enjoyed the game of hide and seek. He had the most surprising trap doors and secret passages that would take this childhood game to another level. MOST IMPORTANTLY, Casino Royale was filmed on his lawn:

In real life, it's a bit anticlimactic, but what a view: 

Next stop, the town of Bellagio.

We arrived by ferry. The central piazza is quite touristy, but cute. We strayed from the touristy part to have lunch at La Punta, a small trek up the hill with breathtaking views.

When we returned to our tour of the piazza, we stumbled into a hip cocktail bar tucked away in a tiny street. After chatting with the gracious owner, we learned that they had opened only a month prior. It was so new that no tourists actually knew about it. We were very pleased with our "discovery."

They had a great cocktail list, with a bottomless cheese and charcuterie board served on the house. Negroni has been my go-to cocktail in Italy, but the server introduced me to the “Tarino,” the predecessor of the Negroni. Even more delicious.

To return from Bellagio to Cernobbio, we found ourselves on a private boat tour with a young, hip captain named Giacomo:

  Giacomo striking a pose.

Giacomo striking a pose.

It was a winning experience. We got to truly take in the beauty of all the coastal towns and even see Mr. George Clooney’s villa, as well as the villa where John Legend and Chrissy Teigen got married.

 

Now, for the food.

Here are a few of our favorite restaurants:

Dinner at Terza Crotto - a quaint restaurant in Cernobbio that sits on the terrace of a tiny inn. It’s not really known for its view or its scene, but the food was superb. Everything they brought us was off-menu per the chef’s recommendation, after we discussed what we were craving and what produce had been brought in fresh that afternoon.

Albergo Ristorante Giardo - We were craving pizza on our 2nd night in Lake Como, and this place was recommended by our hotel. We were so happy we went here. We sat in a charming candlelit terrace in the back, surrounded by locals and not one tourist (which always pleases us). The pizza was amazing. We each devoured one of our own:

La Cucina Di Esla in Como. Como is a large town (much larger than Cernobio) with several piazzas. We decided to meander through the town for a late dinner (think 10:30pm) and stumbled into Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini. We walked into the most bustling restaurant (with locals) of them all, La Cucina Di Esla. Food was on par with previous restaurants, but we were more pleased with the lively scene. 

Gatto Nero Cernobbio - This romantic spot had the best dinner view and menu illustrations yet:

Already dreaming ...

...of the next time my husband and I can sneak back to Lake Como. It was not only a beautiful and relaxing trip, but also culturally enriching AND had some of the most delicious food we have ever had! An incredible romantic getaway to celebrate our last moments of freedom before filming!