Fun things to do in Bellagio

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    Villa Melzi gardens
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    by SallyM

Most Viewed Things to Do in Bellagio

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    A Leisurely Boat Ride Around Lago di Como

    by starship Updated Aug 17, 2013

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    On one day with very fair weather, our group chartered a boat to show us around Lago di Como. While the boat looked quite small from the outside, inside it was quite roomy and comfortable with cushioned seats and could hold probably about 20 people. On the aft end of the boat there was enough outdoor seating for about another 6 to 8 people.

    Our "pilot" told us about each little town, or remarkable building we cruised by such as the Villa Carlotta, the Villa Monastero, the Villa Balbianello, the estate formerly owned by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and more. (Note: Villa Balbinello was the setting of James Bond's recovery in the latest remake of "Casino Royale"). We had a rather short stop at the beautiful lakeside village of Menaggio just when the sun burst forth. We had about an hour to explore on our own or stop at one of the sidewalk cafes for some refreshment.

    Lago di Como, relatively speaking, covers alot of territory as it is shaped like an upside down "Y" with the arms being called "Como" and "Lecco." Except for Varenna, the arm that we explored was the "Como" arm. You can see some of the exceptional sights in my "Off the Beaten Path" tips.

    I can't say with certainly the cost of the boat trip, but as we had about 25 people or so, I think it costs between 15 and 25 Euros with tip per person. It was more than worth the cost, even if I would have had to pay, which I didn't. It was a great experience.

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    Torre delle Arti Bellagio

    by SallyM Written Jul 31, 2013

    This tower dates from the eleventh century and was formerly part of the town's defences. Now the space is used for temporary exhibitions.

    In the lower part of the tower is the small Comune di Bellagio information office, where you can buy tickets for the Villa Serbelloni tour.

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    Villa Carlotta

    by SallyM Updated Jul 29, 2013

    The famous Villa Carlotta is an easy trip across the lake from Bellagio.

    The villa was built at the end of the 17th century for the Clericis (a powerful Milanese family). It was bought in 1801 by Gian Battista Sommariva (politician, businessman and patron of the arts) under whose ownership the villa became an important stage on the Grand Tour. In the second half of the 19th century Princess Marianne of Nassau bought the villa and gave it as a present to to daughter Carlotta on the occasion of her wedding (1850) to Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen. Sadly Carlotta died in 1855. Georg was a botanist and made many improvements to the park, which is particularly famous for the rhododenrons and azaleas which flower in the spring.

    The Gardens
    The gardens are extensive. The maps provided at the ticket office provide a key to the many different species that can be found here, which in addition to rhododendrons and azaleas include ferns and bamboos. Ferns are planted in a steep valley containing a stream, whilst bamboo is planted in an oriental style garden. The grounds also contain a 19th century tower and a small exhibition of historic agricultural implements. The cobble paths can be steep in places.

    The Villa
    There are 10 rooms on the ground floor, mainly exhibiting art. On the ceiling of the Sala di Amore e Psiche are frescoes of Apotheosis of Napoleon the Emperor which are the sole survivors of the wartime bombing of a large decorative cycle done by Appiani for the Royal Palace in Milan in 1808.

    There are stairs to the second floor, or you can take the lift, which is itself a historical relic. The rooms on the second floor contain furniture from the Saxe-Meiningen period, together with exhibits of modern art (glasswork by Lucio Bubacco when we visited).

    No photography is allowed inside the villa.

    Admission is €9, or €6.50 for National Trust members. There is a cafe in the grounds, which serves hot dishes at lunchtime (€7 for a plate of pasta) and a small gift and bookshop at the exit.

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    Ferry ride to Cadenabbia

    by SallyM Written Jul 29, 2013

    It's very quick and easy to get to Cadennabbia using the regular car ferry service (€4.60 one way), but I didn't like Cadenabbia itself as much as Bellagio or Varenna. One of the downsides is the fairly busy road that runs along the side of the lake. Although there is a road by the lake in Bellagio, it is much less busy at it serves the town only, and has one-way traffic.

    The former Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Konrad Adenauer (1876-1967), had a holiday home in Cadenabbia – the Villa Collina. A statue by the lake commemorates this, showing him in holiday mode.

    The main reason for taking the trip to Cadenabbia though is to visit the Villa Carlotta, which lies between Cadenabbia and Tremezzo. Turn left on leaving the ferry.

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    Museum of Navigational Instruments

    by SallyM Written Jul 21, 2013

    This museum is located in the hamlet of San Giovanni, approximately 25 minutes walk from Bellagio.

    It's a private collection occupying three floors of the building. A small museum, but interesting. The first floor focuses mainly on octants, and the later, more accurate, sextants. The next floor contains astrolabes and chronometers. I found the top floor most interesting, with telescope, and ship’s logs on display. Several of the latter are in English.

    The museum is open during the summer from 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. and admission costs €5 a head.

    It's about 25 minutes' walk from the centre of Bellagio. If you are visiting the Villa Melzi it would be a good idea to combine the two, as you can walking through the villa grounds avoids a section of road with no pavement which is not particularly pleasant to walk down.

    San Giovanni is also served by 5 lake ferries a day.

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    Historical Walking Tour

    by SallyM Updated Jul 19, 2013

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    You can pick up a free historical walking tour leaflet (available in several languages) from the Tourist Office. I obtained mine from the little Bellagio town office in the old medieval defensive tower, but you should also be able to get one from the official tourist information office at the ferry terminal, which is a better idea, as that is where the route starts from.

    Following the route takes about an hour and includes:
    - A stone column showing the height of the water when the lake flooded in 1829
    -Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni
    - Punta Spartivento (the 'point' of Bellagio's triangle, from which you can see all three arms of the lake)
    - The Basilica of San Giacomo and surrounding piazza
    - Via Garibaldi
    - The 'Salita Serbelloni' - a wide flight of steps leading down to the lake, which was once the medieval defensive ditch
    - The Town Hall
    - St George's Chapel, with a bell tower built over the Genazzini Steps (Salita Genazzini)
    - The Villa Gothica (a neo-gothic building which started out as an Anglican church before being converted to private apartments)
    - The park
    - The Hotel Metropole, which was the very first hotel in Bellagio, opening in 1825.
    Other walking tour leaflets are available, including a 2 hour walk around the suburbs of Bellagio (Pescallo, Loppia and San Giovanni) and a 2.5-3 hour tour of the hamlets on the eastern side of Bellagio.

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    Villa Serbelloni

    by SallyM Updated Jul 17, 2013

    The Villa Serbelloni (not to be confused with the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni - see below) is owned by the Rockefeller Foundation, and can only be visited as part of a guided tour. Tours run twice a day at 11.00 a.m or 3.30 p.m. You buy tickets from the Comune di Bellagio information office (located in the medieval defensive tower in the piazza near the church) shortly before the tour. Tickets cost €9.

    Our guide made it very clear from the outset, that the gardens do not contain flowers (it’s an arboretum), that it’s not possible to visit the villa itself, and that everything inside is modern so there is nothing to see anyway. As a a trained botanist, she was able to point out the species on the tour. We also had various stops en route at which she explained the history of the villa.

    Count Alexander Serbelloni inherited the property and built the current villa in the nineteenth century, but he most of his energy on the park, visiting Kew Gardens to obtain specimen trees. After his death his heirs leased and later sold it to a Swiss-German Hotel Company, who already operated a hotel in Bellagio. The existing hotel was renamed the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, and the villa was used as an annexe.

    In 1930 they sold the villa to the American heiress Ella Walker, but insisted on keeping the name for their hotel (hence the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni).

    Ella Walker restored the park and villa. When she was in her 50s she married Prince Della Torre e Tasso (who was far more wealthy than she was, and somewhat older). They were both involved in charitable work and she had worked for the Rockefeller Foundation in her youth. She died in 1959 after addressing a conference at the Rockefeller Foundation in New York. The villa was bequeathed to the Foundation, with the stipulation that they could not sell it for 1,000 years, must keep the park as it is, and allow tours twice a day. The Foundation use the Villa for conferences on child poverty and environmental concerns and also invite eminent academics to spend a month on sabbatical (there are various studios around the grounds where the academics work).

    Near the top of the promontory is a grotto, which was used as a cold store. Right at the top is a ruined Ostrothic fortress, supposedly built by Theoderic, who was elected king of the Goths in 475. An archaeological dig found remains of a Roman villa beneath, which is believed to have been owned by Pliny the Younger.

    Note: Security is tight and visitors must remain their group. Photography is permitted, except for one part of the grounds near the villa itself.

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    The Historic Villa Serbelloni

    by starship Updated Jun 29, 2013

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    The Villa Serbelloni, not to be confused with the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, is a grand and historic estate situated on about 50 acres of land covering most of the promontory on which the town of Bellagio nestles on the lakeside. This estate was a gift to the Rockefeller Foundation which now calls the villa and its surrounding land the Bellagio Study & Conference Center.

    This was the beautiful place where I was privileged to work and stay for a week. I still can't believe I was there as the people coming to this place are a select few. Scholars, writers, artists, and others come for conferences or residency periods where they confer, study, write or engage, in one way or another, in an intensely productive period. Those granted a residency are invited to stay in suite of rooms in the villa itself, while others stay in various buildings throughout the property. The property is gated and guarded as you might imagine.

    The pinkish building in the first accompanying picture shown is not the villa, but one of the other lodging buildings on the property. I was assigned a room in one of these buildings (Sfondrata) along with others attending our conference. All rooms or residences were lovely, but some had spectacular lake views and others a view of the hillside. From my room I had a view of the hillside and grape arbors. Each day we took breakfast in the common room of our building while lunch, cocktails & dinner were taken in the villa itself, as were all sessions of our conference. (See additional pictures--and hope I don't get in trouble for this.) If you can, imagine the interior with long logias, antique furniture, a small library, and a beautiful roof-top terrace as a lunch setting.

    As the pictures here show, the villa's property has been beautifully landscaped and is tended by a bevy of gardeners and caretakers. Tours can be had of the estate's gardens only which last for approximately an hour and a half. These tours must be booked ahead of time. Tours leave daily except Mondays from April to the beginning of November from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. or as scheduled and as weather allows. Tours begin from the square near the Basilica of San Giacomo.

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    Take a Stroll

    by basstbn Written Mar 10, 2013

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    Don't worry about making a check-list of sites to visit in Bellagio. This charming visit is about something else - relaxing, enjoying a sunny day by the lake, unwinding!

    Bellagio is for folks who are content to take a walk, the sit a spell in a sidewalk cafe with a tea, or coffee, or vino, or aperativ. Then repeat. Pretty simple really, and that's the best part. My tips, then, are a collection of photos taken while doing just that.

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    Walk Bellagio's Salita!

    by Gillybob Written Jul 8, 2012

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    Bellagio is located within the split of Lake Como and comprises of lakeside and hills. It spreads over a ranging area and gives great views in all directions, especially with the Alps in the distance, to the north.

    Through Bellagio, you will find a number of Salita (stairways) which go up the hillside to further areas of the town. These Salita lead you from lakeside, up to further shopping, as well as up to residential areas of the town.

    Walking the Salita gives you a great insight into the local people and how they live, as well as introducing you to some of the 'off the beaten path' sights.

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    Bellagio Public Library

    by Gillybob Updated Jul 8, 2012

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    Whilst wandering through the streets of Bellagio, we came across the Biblioteca Popolare. It wasn't open whilst we were there but there were sun umbrellas folded outside and a quiet rest area in front of the building.

    There was also an ornamental fountain, which was cooling to the feet - as Sue discovered!

    During the Bellagio Festival, this is a venue for talks, debates and concerts.

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    Chiesa di San Giorgio

    by Gillybob Written Jul 8, 2012

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    The small Romanesque church of San Giorgio (Saint George) can be found next to the Town Hall in Bellagio. This church dates back to between 1080 and 1120.

    The side walls of the church are built from blocks of stone with loopholes in the small portal representative of the style at that time. Originally the apse and altar faced east but were subsequently moved to the opposite side, making the entrance opening to the street.

    In the interior you will find the status of Our Lady of the Belt which is traditionally carried in procession in September each year as part of harvest celebrations. A chapel adjoining the church (built in 1658) is home of the Brotherhood of the Belted.

    Also inside is a fresco dating from the 11th century, the Madonna of the Girdle.

    The church has a bell tower which straddles Salita Genazzini, through which you can walk to the town's public library.

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    BELLAGIO WATER TAXIS

    by LoriPori Written Jul 1, 2012

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    Tour one of Italy's jewels, Lake Como, in a custom-made Italian Boat. The third generation business BELLAGIO WATER TAXIS has a fleet of stunning wooden boats.
    Private and group tours are offered - one-hour - two-hour - half-day or full-day excursions. English-speaking drivers are available.

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    TROMBETTA EXPRESS - BELLAGIO TOURIST TRAIN

    by LoriPori Updated Jul 1, 2012

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    If you don't feel like walking around in the heat, try the TROMBETTA EXPRESS - BELLAGIO TOURIST TRAIN. The Train starts near the Ferry and stops at various points along the way.
    It runs all day from 9:30 to 23:00, every 40 minutes.

    Tickets can be purchased on board.
    Adults - one way - 5 Euros
    Child - one way - 2 Euros

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    Stroll through the gardens at Villa Melzi

    by Herkbert Updated Jun 24, 2010

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    How to describe Villa Melzi? How about a relaxing place where you can explore the beauty of English gardens in Bellagio. The gardens of Villa Melzi are just a short walk from the town center. You walk along the lakefront enjoying the views and then make your way into the gardens and the views become even more beautiful.

    The lush landscape is incredible. The grass is meticulously manicured and there are so many species of trees and flowers, you can look in any direction and see nature at its best. There are places along the way to sit down and just soak in the beauty.

    Follow the path to make sure you loop around the entire garden area, including the upper areas where the views over the lake are spectacular. This place is a photographers dream.

    Admission price is 6 Euro per person.

    Hours: h. 9.30-18.30 from March 28th up to 30th of October

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