We left Bellagio on the car ferry, crossing the lake on the ten minute sail to Cadenabbia - the ferries are efficient and although the process of ticket buying and boarding is it's own style of Italian chaos, they run exactly to time, all the time - so if you miss one, chances are you won't be waiting around long.
Just down the road (less than a 5 minute drive) from Cadenabbia is the famous Villa Carlotta - a beautiful stately home and botanical garden with majestic views over the lake,
It's categorized as a museum as the villa now houses art works by Canova, Thorvaldsen, Migliara and Hayez (lets pretend we've all heard of them) in addition to pieces of furniture from the time of the various owners - but to be honest it's all about the gardens and the views.
Go early to avoid the crowds who are bussed in on day trips from Milan, and allow an hour (MAX an hour and a half) to stroll around and take it all in. Once you've had your fill, hit the road through Tremezzo and onwards to Lenno for lunch!
A quieter village on the western stretch of the lake, Lenno's waterfront promenade coasts a little inlet, offering beautiful panoramic views from Villa Balbianello (another grand old house) right over to Bellagio. On Tuesday mornings, a local market takes over the pavements selling everything from fresh produce to knickers and bras - perfect for a walk, coffee break or some people watching while you enjoy a lazy lunch in one of the restaurants facing the lake.
As the market wrapped up around 2pm, so did we, and continued our journey along the road back towards Como and our home for the night at Casa Santa Stefano in Cernobbio. Popular for it's proximity to Como and some of the most famous, grandest hotels, Cernobbio is a great jumping off point for the rest of the lake and a vibrant little town in itself. Our accommodation took us up the hill, away from the hustle and bustle at the lake shore, to an oasis all of our own.
I found Casa Santa Stefano by chance - I think I typed "boutique hotels Como" into Google and stumbled upon some pictures of it before deciding immediately that I wanted to stay there, without a single care where it was! Luckily it turned out to be in the perfect location for our road trip as we were heading further afield the next day, so without hesitation I booked a room for the night. I booked direct (and definitely got the best rate as a result, with free cancellation until a couple of weeks before we were due to arrive) and the process could not have been simpler or more pleasant - a sign of things to come!
Checking in we were informed that the guest house, which has just 4 rooms, operates more like a b&b than a hotel, and essential once you've arrived you're left to enjoy the house as if it were your own - with a stunning pool deck, honesty bar, lounge, incredible room and stunning contemporary decor, it was the perfect place to relax and kick back for the afternoon.
Peeling ourselves off our sun loungers for a game of banangrams over a couple of birra's.
Before freshening up and venturing out into the fresh evening air in search of pizza! Just up the hill from the hotel was a charming local restaurant, serving some of the best food we ate all week. Stunning views across Como and the beautiful lake as well and friendly waiters and local diners, it was just what the doctor ordered and so different from the "touristy" vibe in Bellagio.