●IC Bellagio – 35 Via Paolo Carcano (Bellagio); 011-39-031-952-059; icbellagio.com; tour-guides, in particular, & travel assistance, in general.
●Castadiva Resort & Spa – Via Caronti 69 (Blevio); 866-539-0036; castadivaresort.com/en; request Room #1103 at 19th Century Villa Roccabruna, resort’s centerpiece.
●Grand Hotel di Como – 41A Via per Cernobbio; 011-39-031-5161; grandhoteldicomo.com/en; set in large park framed by mountains; pool.
●Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni – 1 Via Roma (Bellagio); 011-39-031-950-216; villaserbelloni.com; romantic setting; on promontory where Lake Como divides; built in 1850 as patrician family’s holiday villa; main white marble staircase arrives between 2 giant gilt candelabra at sitting rooms’s entrance; in larger, towering Renaissance-style stone fireplace, can have coffee and gaze out at lake; average breakfast buffet in magnificent room; 3 massive gold chandeliers repeated into infinity in giant mirrors at each end as cherubs disport themselves among flowers on high ceiling; room 152 is 310-360 euros night, with bed and breakfast for 2 (among more modest rooms with lake view); suites start at 800 euros; room 133 has columns and antique furniture; outside are swimming pools, tennis courts, and lakeside gardens.
●Hotel Silvio – 10 Via Carcano (Bellagio); 011-39-031-950-322; bellagiosilvio.com; operated and owned by same Ponzini family for almost century (since 1919); hotel and restaurant completely refurnished, as well as most rooms, most with great views over Lake, surrounding mountains, Villa Melzi, and Church of St. Mary; fully non-smoking.
●Hotel Villa Stupenda – 3 Via Lecco (Bellano); 011-39-034-181-0386; villastupenda.it; understated suites overlook harbor; contemporary.
●Relais Regina Teodolinda – 58 Via Vecchia Regina (Laglio); 011-39-031-400-031; relaisreginateodolinda.it; 1800s building; garden overlooks lake; 6 suites, simple but stylish.
●Villa d’Este – 40 Via Regina (Cernobbio); 011-39-031-3481 or 031-348-834; villadeste.it; former cardinal’s lakeshore villa; flawless; 16th Century frescoes; 152 one-of-kind rooms; terrace has lovely views; 25 parkland acres, 3 restaurants, 3 pools, and 8 tennis courts; spa.
●Loom Cafe – 2A Viale Roosevelt (at La Tessitura); 011-39-031-321-666; conceptstore.latessitura.com.
●Navedano – Via Giuseppe Velzi (Como); 011-39-031-308-080; ristorantenavedano.it; 19th Century windmill converted to restaurant; in summer, seek table on outside terrace; order bouquet di mare.
●Pesa Vegia – 7 Piazza G. Verdi (Bellano); 011-39-034-181-0306; pesavegia.it; in pink villa; molecular gastronomy.
●La Piazetta – 6 Piazza Roma (Argegno); 011-39-031-821-110; piazettargegno.it; best pizza; crunchy, buckwheat, thin crust.
●Ristorante Mistral – 1 Via Roma (Bellagio); 011-39-031-956-435; ristorante-mistral.com; try peacock breast-stuffed ravioli.
●Ristorante Silvio – 12 Via Carcano (Bellagio); 011-39-031-950-322; bellagiosilvio.com; glass-walled; fresh seafood; owner Cristian Ponzini among few with fishing rights on lake, passed down in family for generations.
●Veranda – 40 Via Regina (Cernobbio, at Villa d’Este hotel); 011-39-031-3481 or 031-348-834; villadeste.it; excellent seafood.
●A. Gi. Emme – 16 Via Independenza (Como); 011-39-031-264-096; agiemme.com; children’s and women’s clothing.
●A. Gi. Emme – 4 Via Vittorio Emanuele (Como); 011-39-031-264-211; agiemme.com; women’s clothing.
●A. Gi. Emme – 91 Via Vittorio Emanuele (Como); 011-39-031-264-096; agiemme.com; men’s clothing.
●Azienda Agricola Poppo – Frazione Biosio (Bellano); 011-39-034-182-1362; olive oil.
●Fondazione Antonio Ratti – 19 Via per Cernobbio (Sucota Villa); 011-39-031-338-4976; fondazioneratti.org; silk.
●Mantero – 74 Via Alessandro Volta; 011-39-031-3211; mantero.com; 100 year-old silk company.
●Orefice – 16 Via Regina (Cernobbio); 011-39-031-512-053; sartoriaorefice.com; custom tailors to Americans (Clark Gable) and European aristocracy.
●Piona Abbey – at Mt. Legnone’s foot (Colico, on Olgiasca Hill); 011-39-034-194-0331; cosmetic creams, honey, liquors, and medicinal herbs, all naturally packaged and produced by monks.
●Ratti Factory Outlet – 17 Via Cernobbio; 011-39-031-233-262; silk products.
●La Tessitura – 2A Viale Roosevelt; 011-39-031-321-666; conceptstore.latessitura.com; Mantero silk products.
●Vanini Osvaldo – 10 Via Silvio Pellico (Lenno); 011-39-034-455-127; oliovanini.it; olive oil.
Sights & Sites
●Fondazione Antonio Ratti – 19 Via per Cernobbio (Sucota Villa); 011-39-031-338-4976; fondazioneratti.org; silk museum.
●Locanda dell’Isola Comacina – Comacina; 011-39-034-455-083; comacina.it/isola/isle.htm; open since 1947; only serves 1 menu – which is excellent.
●Piona Abbey – at Mt. Legnone’s foot (Colico, on Olgiasca Hill); 011-39-034-194-0331; 11th Century CE; region’s 1st monastic community dates back to 7th Century CE; Abbey contains capitulate room, church, cloister, and shop hosting Piona-monk-made products; Prior Bonaccorso de Canova had Cloister built between 1252-1257; in shop, cosmetic creams, honey, liquors, and medicinal herbs, all naturally produced.
●Villa dei Balbianello – Via Comoedia (Lenno); 011-39-034-456-110; fondoambiente.it/beni/villa-del-balbianello.asp; 20th Century explorer, Guido Monzino’s former residence; must see.
●Villa Melzi – Lungolario Manzoni (Bellagio); 011-39-033-9457-3838; giardinidivillamelzi.it; heavenly white villa sits just on Bellagio’s outskirts; its park is filled with exotic and rare plants; open to public.
●Hotel Gardesana – 20 Piazza Calderini (Torri del Benaco); 011-39-045-722-5411; hotel-gardesana.com; from 1452 to present; Serenissima Republic of Venice (1405-1797) built for Council meetings, presided over by Lake Captain; illustrious 20th Century guests: Beniamino Gigli; Gabriele D’Annunzio; Angelo Dall’Oca Bianca; Winston Churchill; Max Ernst; André Gide; Vivien Leigh; Lawrence Olivier; Stephen Spender; Louis Trenker; Maria Callas; Vittorio Gassman; Fabio Testi; Jacques Piccard; Kim Novak; Isabelle Allende; Horst Tappert; Spain King Juan Carlos; and Germany President Horst Köhler; recently, completely restored.
●Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli – 38-40 Via Rimembranze (Gargnano); 011-39-036-579-8000; villafeltrinelli.com; 1 of top European hotels; resembles private country manor; 21 suites and 8 acre garden; restaurant; yacht.
●Lefay Resort & Spa – 118 Via Feltrinelli (Gargnano Brescia); 011-39-036-524-1800; lefayresorts.com; tucked away amid 11-acre nature park; gorgeous spa.
●Locanda San Verolo – Costermano; 011-39-045-720-0930; sanverolo.it; 13 airy rooms with oak wardrobes; beige stone country farmhouse; good restaurant.
●Hotel Savoy Palace – 2/4 Via Zanardelli (Gardone Riviera); 011-39-063-529-0588; gardalake.com/place/hotel-savoy-palace-gardone-riviera.
●Villa Aradio Hotel & Resort – 1 Via Navelli (Salo); 011-39-036-542-281; hotelvillaarcadio.it; in 13th Century former convent; pretty, jasmine-covered, outdoor terrace, which looks out over lake.
●Villa del Sogno – 107 Via Zanardelli (Gardone Riviera); 011-39-036-529-0181; villadelsogno.it; just 200 metres from Garda Lake beach, in splendid position sloping down to lake; romantic fin de siecle villa surrounded by large centuries-old park, planted with tall trees and flowering gardens with superb terrace overlooking lake; built in 1904 by Viennese silk industrialist, in neoclassical style; suites have antique furniture, valuable carpets, majolica, large Central European paintings; restaurant, Il Sogno; American Bar on terrace, open-air swimming pool, tennis court, private car park, sauna, solarium, and whirlpool.
●Ristorante Gardesana – 20 Piazza Calderini (Torri del Benaco); 011-39-045-722-5411; hotel-gardesana.com.
●Ristorante Osvaldo – 5 Piazzale Marinai d’Italia (San Felice del Benaco); 011-39-036-562-108; take boat from Sirmione, if possible; try barbecued lake fish.
●Ristorante Taverna Kus – 14 Contrada Castello (San Zeno di Montagnna); 011-39-045-728-5667; ristoranteveronatavernakus.it; hilltop tavern with outdoor tables set in lush garden; try fresh ribbon pasta with goose ragu or creamy chestnut soup.
●La Tortuga – 3 Via XXIV Maggio (Gargnano); 011-39-036-571-251; 7 tables; Michelin star; reservations required; intimate and low key.
●Comincioli – 10 Via Roma (Puegnago del Garda); 011-39-036-565-1141; comincioli.it; olive oil.
●Guerrieri Rizzardi Azienda Agricola – 4 Via Verdi (Bardolindo); 011-39-045-721-0028; guerrieri-rizzardi.it; vineyard; tours by appointment.
●Vassalli Pasticcerie – 84/86 Via S. Carlo (Salo); 011-39-036-520-752; pasticcerie-vassalli.it; Salo’s foremost confectioner; try hazelnut torte.
Sights & Sites
●Isola del Garda – isoladelgarda.com; private island accessible by vaporetto; Villa Borghese Cavazza grounds open to public; Venetian, neo-Gothic-style villa.
●Il Vittoriale degli Italiani – 12 Via Vittoriale (Gardone Riviera); 011-39-036-529-6511; vittoriale.it; Italian eccentric and poet, Gabriele D’Annunzio’s former mansion; museum; large gun boat wedged into mountainside garden.
●Rimbalzello – 28 Via Trento (Salò); 011-39-036-521-020; rimbalzello.com; park on lake where can rent umbrellas and swim in pool; in between Rimbalzello and Hotel Savoy is where Villa Besana is or was (General Karl Wolff’s quarters during WWII).
Stresa (Isolas Bella, Madre & Superiore (Pescatore))
●Agriturismo la Capuccina – 19B Via Novara, Loc. La Capuccina (Cureggio); 011-39-032-283-9930; lacapuccina.it; lovingly decorated, 8 rustic, chic rooms.
●Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees – 67 Corso Umberto I (Stresa); 011-39-032-393-8938; borromees.it; elegant and luxurious; landmark since 1800s; where Hemmingway set section of Farewell to Arms.
●Hotel Pironi – 35 Via Marconi (Cannobio); 011-39-032-370-624; pironihotel.it; beloved by design buffs; 12 rooms; original frescoes and antiques offset by modern fuschia pillows and yellow lampshades; downstairs, vaulted wine cellar has been converted into stylish bar.
●Hotel Verbano – 2 Via Ugo Ara (Isola Superiore (Pescatore)); 011-39-032-330-408); hotelverbano.it; affordable and charming.
●Villa Crespi – 18 Via G. Fava; 011-39-032-291-1902; villacrespi.it; built in 1879; turreted, Moorish-style estate; Michelin-starred restaurant.
●La Dispensa – 10 Piazza Municipio (San Felice del Benaco); 011-39-036-555-7023.
●Piccolo Lago – 87 Via Filippo Turati (Verbania); 011-39-032-358-6792; piccololago.it; Michelin starred; known for Piedmontese specialities; try beef with goose liver sauce.
●Ristorante Casa Bella – 1 Via del Marinaio (Isola dei Pescatori); 011-39-032-333-471; isola-pescatore.it; intimate; reserve table in cozy, wood-paneled dining room or on rooftop terrace (views of neighboring Isola Bella).
●Ristorante Milano – 2 Corso Zannitello (Verbania); 011-39-032-355-6816; ristorantemilanolagomaggiore.it; in red-roofed villa; dining room unchanged since 1850s; classical Italian.
●Ristorante Villa Crespi – 18 Via G. Fava; 011-39-032-291-1902; villacrespi.it; Michelin-starred.
●Ferry – based at Piazza Marconi (in Stresa); get 3-island pass (more economical) and only buy from public Navigazione Lago Maggiore.
●Alessi – 6 Via Privata Alessi (Crusinallo); 011-39-032-386-8648; alessi.com; company’s only factory store (includes museum).
●Lanificio Luigi Colombo – 263 Via Novara (Romagnano Sesia); 011-39-016-383-2373; cashmere pieces.
●Loro Piana – 484 Via Novara (Romagnano Sesia); 011-39-016-382-6875; loropiana.com; cashmere blankets, bolts, and sweaters; outlet.
Sights & Sites
●Borromean Islands – Isola Bella (opulent 17th Century Borromeo palace); Isola Madre (18th Century palace) and 8-acre botanical garden; Isola Superiore (Pescatore), home to tiny fishing village.
●Gambarogno Riviera – line of villages in Switzerland that extend to Italian border.
●Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso Ballaro – 5 Via Santa Caterina (Leggiuno); 011-39-032-264-7172; 12th Century church perched on rock above lake.
●Locarno – Switzerland; take ferry (reserve for fast ferry).
●Monte Mottarone – highest peak in area, accessible by cable car; from summit, can see all 7 lakes in Lombardy and Piedmont.
Bakeries, Coffee, Ice Cream, Juice & Tea
●Agri-Gelateria – 5 Via Domodossola (Orta San Giulio); 011-39-033-9230-3342; gelato made from organic milk.
Bars & Nightclubs
●Enoteca al Boeuc – 28 Via Bersani (Orta San Giulio); 011-39-033-9584-0039; candlelit, old-town treasure; excellent for wine by glass; cheese and meat platters and Piedmontese favourite, bagna cauda (hot dip of anchovies, butter, garlic, and olive oil in which you dip vegetables).
●Hotel San Rocco – 11 Via Gippini (Orta San Giulio); 011-39-032-291-1977; hotelsanrocco.it; housed in former convent; direct lake access and lovely, waterside patio.
●Villa Crespi – 18 Via Fava (Orta San Giulio); 011-39-032-291-1902; hotelvillacrespi.it; most elegant local hotel; 14-room, Moorish confection built in 19th Century by Italian trader upon return from Middle East.
●Agriturismo II Cucchiaio di Legno – 10 Via Prisciola (Orta San Giulio); 011-39-032-290-5280; 500m stroll beyond train station; delicious local dishes, including risotto, fresh lake fish, and salami and cheese from surrounding valleys; dine alfresco on vine-draped patio overlooking herb-planted garden.
●Ristorante Villa Crespi – 18 Via Fava (Orta San Giulio); 011-39-032-291-1902; ristorantevillacrespi.it; 2 Michelin stars; modern Mediterranean cuisine.
●Holiday Homes at Orta – lakeorta.com; short-term apartment rentals.
Sights & Sites
●Isola San Guilio – access by ferry; 275 ms long and 140 ms wide; most famous building on island is 12th Century Basilica of Saint Giulio, close to which is “Old Seminary” (1840s), now Benedictine monastery; picturesque; takes name from local patron saint (Julius of Novara), who lived in 4th Century’s 2nd half.
●Orta Beach Club – Via Domodossola (Orta San Giulio); 011-39-032-290-5199; ortabeachclub.com; lakefront building, located 1 km from town center; during day, beach services; in evenings, cafe, pizzeria, and restaurant.
●Sacro Monte di San Francesco Orta – Orta San Giulio; sacrimonti.net; Roman Catholic devotional complex on San Nicolao Hill; on UNESCO World Heritage list; complex construction, dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, began in 1583; project, by Capuchin friar Cleto da Castelletto Ticino, involved 36 chapels, of which only 20 built; until 1630, mostly Mannerist in style, but, from mid-17th Century, Baroque and other influences predominate; construction ended in 1788.
VARESE (includes Brinzio & Castronno)
●Al Borducan – 43 Via Beata Caterina Moriggi; 011-39-033-222-2916; borducan.com; open in 1872 and recently restored.
●B&B Il Parco e gli Alfreschi – 27 Via Finacara; 011-39-033-222-5549 or 011-39-033-2167-0943; ilparcoegliaffreschi.it; luxurious villa built in 1902.
●Al Borducan – 43 Via Beata Caterina Moriggi; 011-39-033-222-2916; borducan.com; opened in 1872 and recently restored; make sure to sit on terrace and sip house Elixir (orange and herb liquor).
●Ristorante Montorfano – 74 Via del Santuario; 011-39-033-222-7027; ristomontorfano.it; traditional local cuisine on terrace with breathtaking view.
●Chiara Palumbo – 15 Via Sacro Monte (Castronno); 011-39-034-5133-1019; turismo.arteparte.com/sitoinglese/index_english.html; private art and history tours.
Sights & Sites
●Campo di Fiori Regional Park – 40 Via Trieste (Brinzio, headquarters); 011-39-033-243-5386; parks.it/parco.campo.fiori/Epar.php; overlooks Varese provincial hills and Po River Plain; delimited in north and northwest by Valcuvia, in east by Valganna, and in south by Varese (town) and road leading to Laveno; contains 6 nature reserves and 8 “natural monuments”; 16 trails.
●Center of Spirituality – Piazza Paolo VI; 011-39-033-222-7678.
●Museo Baroffio – Piazzetta Monastero; 011-39-033-221-2042; museobaroffio.it/inglese.html; codices, liturgical objects, and paintings.
●Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Monte – 21 Via Dell’Assunzione; 011-39-033-222-9223; sacromonte.it.
●Via Sacra – 1.6 mile “sacred trail”; wends through mountainscape, passing 14 rosary-devoted chapels.
●Villa Menafoglio Litta Panza – 1 Piazza Litta; 011-39-033-228-3960; surrounded by splendid grounds extending over 33K sq ms, Villa Panza looks out over Varese from Biumo Superiore hillside; Villa changed hands several times after Marquis Panza’s death in 1769, until, in 1823, residence & other surrounding properties acquired by Pompeo Litta Visconti Arese (descended from among Milan’s most illustrious & wealthy lineages); he underwrote new alteration and entrusted their implementation to Luigi Canonica (Piermarini student), official State Architect during Napoleonic period; he added Reception Hall and outbuildings wing, designed to house carriage house & stables; after neglectful period, in 1935, Biumo complex purchased by Ernesto Panza di Biumo, who began restoration work, entrusting it to architect Piero Portaluppi; after Ernesto Panza’s death, Villa passed to his children, Giulia, Alessandro, Giuseppe & Maria Luisa; among 4, Giuseppe lived there & loved it more than others, linking Varese Villa to his famous modern art collection, now partially distributed among leading international museums; in early 50s, having moved to US where came into contact with abstract expressionist movement pioneers; when he returned to Italy, delved deeper into new American & European trends; began buying Robert Morris, Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, James Turrel, Maria Nordman, Robert Irwin & Dan Flavin; in 1996, Giuseppe Panza decided to donate entire property to Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano (FAI).