Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como is one of those destinations that feels as if it is too good to be true. It feels like a fairy tale that you have stumbled into. While it has popularized throughout history by the rich and famous that visit (or own) villas on the lake, your time in paradise does not have to come with an outrageous price tag.
There are a few reasonably priced accommodation options around the lake. However, there is no other place around Lake Como's shore like Varenna. While lesser known than the ritzy and infamous Bellagio, Varenna has more charm, (and better gelato). Of the handful of hotels in this small town, I decided to trust the opinions of travel guide author, Rick Steves. Not only does he recommend the family-run Albergo Milano as a quality hotel option, but he writes that the restaurant there by the name of La Vista is the best in town. The owners are a couple, one Italian and the other from Switzerland. You will often see the wife throughout the day at the front desk, while the husband (and chef) operates around the restaurant. La Vista is a fine dining option and is popular with visitors who aren't event staying at the hotel. Be sure to arrange a dinner reservation upon, or if possible, before arrival. My recommendation is that you look up when the sunset will be, and schedule your reservation just before that time. It's a wonderful setting to cap off your day while dining alfresco with the sun setting across the lake and slowly disappearing behind the Alps.
Even if you decide not to dine at La Vista, every morning complimentary breakfast is served on the same terrace. There is a buffet set up just inside, and a staff member will come to your table to offer you a cappuccino or espresso. The morning views are a relaxing as the night before, and it is a perfect way to start your day.
Rooms are simple, yet charming. Depending on which room you book, you may even have your own balcony where you again, can take in the lake and gardens that surround you. The front desk is closed late at night and the doors are locked. However, each room has a key you can get from reception from the main hotel entrance in case you prefer to wander around after hours. If you are out in the day, be sure to tour the nearby Villa Monastero, which offer some of the most majestic gardens you will ever encounter for a small ticket fee of 5 euros. Near the hotel by the lake, stop by Bar Il Molo for the best gelato I have ever come across. It so good (and cheap) that we kept coming back for more every day. Bar Il Molo is also a restaurant with alfresco dining on a patio next to the lake. I recommend having your appertivo here so you can relax and just be content with the dream-like surroundings. Just remember, this is the place to throw aside the itinerary and just be content with the beauty of the lake.