The resort is backed by huge mountains, and its well worth taking some time to explore the little villages that are perched on them. Good idea would be to get a picnic lunch from the Iperial supermarket and then take the little bus up the mountain from Dongo to Germasino. After exploring the village (250 inhabitants!) walk along the mountain road through Stazzona and on past the church to Brenzio. Take time to see inside the churches at Germasino, Stazzona and Brenzio. Stop along the way and have your picnic lunch as you gaze at the spectacular views of the lake from such a high position.
There is also a small restaurant in Brenzio. The walk down the mountain is lovely and brings you out at Consiglio di Ruma close to Gravedona and the Iperial supermarket.
If you are even more active, then visit Domaso, the next town up the lake as this is the water sports centre for the lake and you can get involved and hire equipment and boats etc. There are loads of restaurants there too and huge camping sites. Great for the younger ones and early teens.
Ristorante Cardinello is situated at one end of the main lakeside promenade, close to the little harbour and sailing club. The restaurant has three sections to it. One main one where you can see the pizza oven at work, then there is the more select wine bar and then the outdoor area overlooking the small square and lake. I prefer the wine bar area especially for evening dinner, but then if you are younger than me perhaps the pizza oven area and if the weather is warm, the outdoor area. The staff are so welcoming and helpful and the food is superb. You simply MUST try the lake fish as its local.
Above the restaurant there are self catering apartments which are quite reasonably priced.
Favorite Dish: I love the atmosphere there and the slightly noisy 'buzz' as families and groups of youngsters all enjoy each others company in the main area as the pizzas are baked. Being an older person, though, I prefer to eat in the wine bar area which is a little less crowded and slightly more sedate. There are times though when they have large private parties there and often they can get boisterous but fun. They sometimes try to draw everyone in to their celebrations. Its a great place to meet with the locals.
I like the lake fish as its always very fresh and perfectly cooked, as well as served with a warm smile and welcome.
Throughout the summer months there are FREE concerts at the Palazzo Gallio, but it pays to check up well in advance and see what is on and when.
Check out the web site: http://www.larioonline.it/lagodicomo/lagodicomo.asp?name=Palazzo%20Gallio
There are also FREE concerts at other venues around the lake in Alto Lario.
Also check out the 'panorama' viewing area as the locals sometimes put on impromtu musical concerts at the last minute. These are super on a warm summer evening.
Dress Code: Smart casual. Italians like to dress-up a bit for the evening and 'promenade' along the lakeside.
For Lake Como most people arrive at one of the Milan airports. Whichever one you choose, if you are relying on public transport then you will no doubt take the train. If arriving at Malpensa, then the 'Nord' train will take you to Como with one change at Sarono. The station at Como is right by the lake and just a short walk will lead you to the boat departure point for Gravedona.
If Linate airport, then catch the shuttle bus to Stazione Centrale in Milan and then the train from there to Colico. This is the same if you arrive at Bergamo airport, now increasingly being known as Milan (Orio). From Bergamo catch the shuttle bus into Bergamo town. It sets down at the rail staion. There are regular trains from there to Colico with only one change at Lecco.
At Colico you have a choice of either buying bus tickets at the station and catch the blue bus around the lake to Gravedona, or walk down to the lakeside and get the boat or Aliscafo across to Gravedona. It really depends on which hotel you are staying at as the bus is best for Hotels Regina, Crotto Regina or La Villa, but for Hotel Lauro you are better to get the boat across due to the difficult road from the bus stop (See dangers tip)
It seems a fiddly journey but you wont regret it.
There aren't too many shops in Gavedona other than a few smaller one and two larger food stores. For fun shopping though, try the street market 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month. Just down the road in Dongo, the street market is 1st and 3rd Thursday of each month - but only in the morning. Otherwise try the huge street market in Como every Saturady all day.
What to buy: Anything that is made in Italy! Silk in Como though as this is the silk making city
What to pay: As little as possible. Don't be afraid to haggle a little. You will soon know when to stop.
If you are practising your italian then you will need to know that in this area people hardly use the word please (per piacere) as this suggests a begging attitude, requesting a very special favour. In everyday use, they usually end every request with 'thank you' (grazie) So asking for a coffee would be: un cafe grazie.
While talking of coffee, italians don't usually take capuccino during the day, only at breakfast. So if you want to look and act like a real italian, ask for a 'cafe normale, grazie' which is that small dark coffee. It is usual to have it quite sweet, or sometimes with a 'sambuca' or 'anice' added to it.
If you plan to walk around Gravedona a lot, take care on the main road at the back of the resort as this is the main road from Colico to Mennagio and can be very busy with intermittent sidewalks. The road can be very narrow in parts and the buses are very wide and fast, so it can be frightening, especially around the area from Hotel La Villa down to Palazzo Gallio. If staying at hotel Lauro, and on public transport, its better to travel across from Colico on the boat rather than the bus. For Hotel La Villa, the bus around the lake is better. Take care
Luggage and bags:
With the advent of cheap flights and small carry-on baggage, its even more important to make certain that the small amount of clothes you may be taking will look fresh for every occasion.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Take outfits that are interchangeable and compliment each other. Tops that can match any other clothes for example. Mix and match to make it look like you have brought loads of outfits when really its not. Sensible walking shoes are essential. Don't let fashion dictate your comfort especially if planning to walk a lot. Even though italians love dressing in the evening, in Gravedona its never high fashion its simple, colourful, comfortable smart casual.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Don't forget that italy also has shops, just like back home. You don't need to carry EVERYTHING with you as you could buy some when you get there. If you are on special medication though, it pays to make certain you have sufficient with you and keep it on your person in case your baggage goes to another country in error! Carry a doctors prescription with you to show the pharmacy what you would normally be taking. It helps both of you. Don't forget to get your medical card in advance to receive European free health care.
Take the local bus to Dongo and then the smaller local bus up the mountain to Germasino. Walk from there through Stazzona and take the road past the church towards Brenzio. Fantastic views with seating areas along the way, but its a long walk, so buy a picnic at the Iperial supermarket in Consiglio di Rumo before you go. The road leads you right along the mountain and back down into Consiglio di Rumo, which is just before Gravedona. You wont regret it!
Whether you like water or not, you really should take one of the slow boats around part of the lake. Its like a mini cruise and has all ammenities on board. There is nothing quite as impressionable as being on the lake looking back at the land, especially Gravedona as you arrive. With the backdrop of massive mountains dwarfing the resort it is so impressive.
Also you must climb the steps to the 'panorama' area to look over the resort as hundreds of thousands of tourists have done before you. Yes I know its such a 'touristy' thing to do, but no visit to Gravedona is complete without it.
Then again you simply MUST try the hand-made ice cream on the lakeside at Gelateria La Carapina. The owner speaks perfect english, but the ice cream is definately, true italian.
Fondest memory: I remember with the most fondness, my very first visit as the Aliscafo slowed down and lowered back into the lake water as it slowly came alongside the Gravedona boat point and stepping onto Gravedona ground for the very first time. That was many years ago, but I still get that same feeling each time I go back. Try it you will love it.