How to have a perfect (rainy) day at Lake Como

Loving Bellagio and Varenna, despite the rain…

Early morning, last day of Italy trip. Bed stumble, groggy walk, window peek, cringe. Wet roads…not on Lake Como day! But if you travel shoulder season to Europe, like us, a frequent drizzle will be a constant companion, so its best to make your peace with the clouds. You can’t change the weather, but you can certainly change the shape of your facial muscles. Brave the rains with a smile!

Two hours later. Stubborn dark skies. Hoodie check. Umbrella check. Street-bound. And train-bound. Milano Centrale to Varenna-Essino. Window seat, hazy view. Weaving along the Lombardy countryside, is that a faint silhouette of an enchanting town in the distance? And the lakes under that chiffon cloak of mist… mmm, right about now. Eyes back to Kindle. Quick glance later. Visibility has improved. Glimpses of Varenna as the train curves along the track, in-and-out of tunnels. Hope elevator.

Breathe in lungfuls of crisp autumn air, as you walk downhill under thick lush cypress and pine to the waterfront. Varenna tempts, you resist. Focus, focus. Its still dry, must catch a boat to Bellagio first. There’s one every half hour. Play mentalist with the unsuspecting clouds…go away, go away, just for today. 

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Soon, you’re floating in the shadow of the Alps encased in Italy’s Lake District. Several long, deep breaths. Gaze at the horizon dotted with green islands. Graceful lakeside villas of the rich and famous. Drool time. Imagine the colours of the landscape in the sun. Clooney’s pad, somewhere? Blink and miss…because in 10 minutes flat, you’re de-boarding at Bellagio, ‘Pearl of Como’. Could they have coined a more apt catchphrase?

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Bellagio is posh, swanky and old-world. Aristocratic villas converted into grand harbour-front hotels…art nouveau ironwork breaking the softness of the pastel shades. Colorful houses in pale pink, peach, tangerine, lemon and ochre with contrasting green shutters, clinging at absurd angles to the wooded hill behind. You feel pampered without a reason. Skip the cafes, restaurants and arcaded boutiques on Via Garibaldi. Postpone that indulgence spirit for now. 

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Linger along the flower-embellished lakefront path leading to Villa Melzi. You’re a guest at the 19th-century summer residence of Francesco Melzi d’Eril, (vice president of the Italian Republic during the early 1800s). This is one impressive neoclassical villa guarded by stone lions. With more than its share of generously proportioned botanical gardens. Avenues of plane trees. Profusion of bright azaleas and rhododendrons. And a hidden Japanese waterbody. Chin up, haughty expression…no one’s looking.

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Stroll along the endless multi-level sloping grass mounds. Mimic the stance of dreamy marble statues. Search out the grotto. Pretend you’re virtuoso composer-pianist Franz Liszt writing his famous Dante Symphony in the delightful Arabian pavilion. Watch a newly married couple walk past or daydream on those delicate wrought-iron chairs. The mist hangs over the steel-grey waters. Clouds kiss the hills. Are you even noticing that raindrops are still falling on your head? Who cares. You’re in Como!

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Your jeans are damp and your shoes are squeaky. And don’t even get started on the limp hair. But you can’t get enough of this ogling, can you? More eye-candy awaits in the town. So, head for that long flight of gently inclined cobblestone steps going up from the main street. Large, rough, round, slippery, pebbly steps. Rain on your head. Umbrella in your hands. A neon green rain jackets walks past. You’re actually loving the weather! Hey, isn’t this the famous street with the lamp?

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Go mmmmm at a Italian trattoria. Wander into the criss-cross maze of narrow streets. More charming when you call them by their Italian name (contradas). Stare at iron-grill balconies. Gaze at vine-covered doorways. Measure your height against elegant arched entrances. Find fluttering Italian flags. Take a gelato stop. (Make that two). Go up one flight. Down another. Fantasise about driving a yellow Beetle. Wander more. And when you’ve lost your heart to Bellagio, remind yourself that Varenna is waiting.

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If Bellagio is the glamorous, air-brushed cover gal, Varenna is the unaffected, alluring girl next door. Still spotless, faultless, like a generous painter’s imagination. No fancy boutiques or swishy promenade, just a quaint fishing village atmosphere draping the air (minus the fishy smell, of course). And something far better than a parking lot of swanky cars…a pretty boardwalk! The Lovers’ Path, as it is called, runs along the edge of the lake upto the historic center. Pause under the red-painted, wisteria-draped canopy and renew your vows. Write a poem. Hold hands. Become the subject of a picture. Hum your favorite tune. Or just smile. Everything works.

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Just a handful of people around. Enjoy the solitude. Explore the two 19th-century villas with beautiful gardens (Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero). Test your lungs by hiking up to Castello di Vezio. Or just follow our league…repeat the Bellagio routine. Up and down long flights of steps. Notice how they curve slightly in the middle. Catch the shadow of light on the smooth stones worn out over time. Capture every inch of prettiness in your camera. And memorise with your mind’s eye. The crispy curl of the russet fallen autumn leaf. A little piazza overlooked by 14th-century Church of St. George. A sundial on a wall. Church bells in motion. A half-open church door. It just doesn’t end. 

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When your legs start protesting, return to the waterfront and find a table with a view at Varenna Caffe. Coffee, cake and tranquility. Hypnotic rippling of the lake, soft lapping of the waves, a red boat bobbing in the distance on the grey water. Life on Lake Como. Imagine everyday exotic in this little postcard town. Board-walking home every evening. Watching the sun go down over the silvery surface of the lake. Sounds of silence. A fresh breeze. Who needs meditation when you have this? 

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But tick tock, tick tock, you have a train to catch for Milan. And suddenly, a miracle! The clouds part gently and the sun peeks through. Yassssss! A brilliant blue would never evoked so much divinity. And look at that view! No wonder artists have been inspired by Lake Como ever since the 2nd century BC. Definitely calls for some more pictures. So, take home some exquisite portraits of your own.

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Lake Como on a rainy day

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95 thoughts on “How to have a perfect (rainy) day at Lake Como

  1. Hey, I love your descriptives in this post. In addition, I feel like this is one of the most important things for travelers to learn: sometimes you’ve got to take what the weather (or another key element of travel) gives you and make something good out of it. Attitude trumps obstacle.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How great that the sun came out at the end for you! We loved Como though didn’t visit Villa Melzi, one for next time! It must be nice to see Varenna too as a less crowded alternative.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rainy days (especially when you’re on travel) can be such a bummer. But.. after looking at your photos and the way you described Lake Como, the weather was really not a hindrance to enjoy it! Lake Como looked awesome! And the sun did come out! ❤ ❤

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  4. I know the rain makes touring a bit less pleasant, but I love the moodiness behind your photos. And the colorful old world architecture still shines through. I would love to walk those cobblestone streets and also enjoy an Italian trattoria as the world goes by. Everything intrigues me, from the statues in the parks to the waterfront. Now I want to go! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. i like it more when rains…it gives you a different experience of a destination. Lake Como looks beautiful with rain…your images makes this destination more beautiful for me….

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love the north of Italy – Was in Como as a little girl – I think we were driving my sister to a school in Southern Germany and my mum decided to drive through Italy. I have really good memories of that trip.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rain is one of the things I hate when travelling. I’m impressed on how you make Lake Como interesting even if its raining. I heard a saying in Europe “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing”. That’s why, people still go outside even if its raining. 😀

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  8. Even though it may have been gloomy, the beautiful surroundings still came through in your pictures. Have not been to the northern part of Italy yet, but it looks gorgeous. If nothing else, the place inspired your creativity. Great approach to telling your story 🙂

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  9. Lake Como is quite a beautiful city. The country side is gorgeous. Honestly, I could even tell it was raining if that the weather wasn’t good based on your pictures. I’m in Ljubljana right now and it won’t stop raining in fact it’s rain now…again. All you can do is dress properly and try to enjoy.

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  10. I love how you enjoyed the place and made the most of your time even when it’s raining! Sometimes it’s how we look at things that are presented to us. Your photos are lovely, too!

    Like

  11. Wow, this is such a lovely place to amble around, but seemed that you were unluckily enjoying the place because of the weather. But I also love how you made way to enjoy the place despite of the weather condition. I haven’t been here and if I get the chance will surely traipse my feet here. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

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  12. I feel like the rainy brings a whole different kind of beauty to this place. I hate the fact that I couldn’t visit here on my trip to Italy, I heard it is amazing. I bet you really enjoyed yourself there, the solitude you said would be just what I need right now!

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  13. Oooooo. Its really a turn off at many places when it starts raining… One of my trips was majorly ruined thanks to rain! But then there are some trips, esp to natural beauty places, its just made more beautiful. Reminds me of the trip to Richmond Park – the greenery and hundreds of deers in the drizzle, it was just perfect. Glad you had a great time inspite of the rain and good that finally the clouds cleared up.

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  14. You have such great attitude about the weather and your quote ‘brave the rain with a smile’. The view is definitely hypnotic, drinking your coffee getting lost in the beautiful mountain view and lake. Such a lovely location, rain or sunshine 🙂

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  15. I went to Lake Como in May last year and had a full week of rain! The sun finally came out on the afternoon we headed back to the airport, so I had a brief glimpse of what it looked like when the mountains weren’t hidden beneath grey cloud and mist – I definitely need to go back and experience it more in the sunshine!

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  16. This looks like the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon in Lake Como. I’ve never been but the rain wouldn’t stop me from exploring just like it didn’t stop you. I’d probably keep going, wet/squeaky shoes and all, no matter what. Stopping at Varenna Caffe was a brilliant idea. I could sit at a cafe and watch the world go by for hours on end. Lovely post.

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  17. Love Lake Como. You got to see a lot despite the weather. It’s still a beautiful spot even when it’s a bit overcast. Great you saw Villa Melzi. I’ve been twice and still haven’t seen the villa.

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  18. Looks like you still had a wonderful day even if it was rainy! Always so great when you can have a fun day despite the weather. Love the photos–Lake Como looks so beautiful and I’ve heard so many wonderful things about the area! The lakefront path leading to Villa Melzi looks really great!

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  19. Your experience brings to my mind the saying of making lemonades if life gives lemon. On a rainy day and you still achieved this lot. What this means is that there is a lot to Varenna & Bellagio. I’d love to visit. And the lake is just too lovely.

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  20. Congratulations! This is the first time I’ve seen photos of Lake Como without the picture-perfect but OH-so-already-done-a-million-times blue skies and sun!! So your article really stands out in the plethora of Oh-how-wonderful-it-was-at-Lake-Como posts that go on at tedious length about how awesome it is – yours actually SHOWS how awesome it is!! Fabulous!!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. One advantage of visiting a place when it’s shiny is that it makes the buildings shiny and glossy! I’m tempted to visit Lake Como this winter as it’s close to my route. It’s good I don’t have to worry about the weather, it looks beautiful whatever!

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  22. This is such a cool post as I think the weather can really spoil our plans sometimes. I had rainy weather in Lisbon and Florence and I think you just have to suck it up, and your post has proven to be that lake Como can be super even in the rain! There is something quite romantic about it all I think. Thatnks for all your Lake Como recommendations, I hope to visit very soon.

    Liked by 1 person

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