Visit Lake Como with a Local (Food Tour)
Walking Tour of Lecco, Boat Cruise & Lunch
Lake Como is a destination on almost everyone’s bucket list, but like many trips, time is limited. So how do you get the most out of your visit?
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See Lake Como with a Local
One of the best ways to visit any place is with a local. Books and blogs can teach you a lot about a place before you visit, but the best way to experience a region and get to know a culture is by having a local resident show you.
Today, I spent the day with Elena, Laura and Alessandra of Lake Como Food Tours and I saw the sights and scenes of Lake Como from shore to shore.
I did a two-day boat and food tour with a group, but you can book a private tour, small groups or choose from their selection of experiences like biking, hiking or even cooking.
Lake Como is shaped like and upside-down Y. The western arm is considered the Como branch and the eastern arm is considered the Lecco branch. At the point where the two branches meet is Bellagio, one of Italy’s most charming and romantic towns.
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Meet and greet
We met at the designated meeting point on the lake promenade in Lecco. After introductions, Alessandra our guide gave us a brief introduction about Lake Como, the history of its formation and glacial origins. It’s one of the deepest lakes in Europe reaching depths of 414 meters in some points. Bellagio, Varenna, and Como are called le tre perle, the three pearls. Lecco is known as the birthplace of Alesandro Manzoni and as the setting for his romantic tragedy I Promessi Sposi, The Betrothed.
Doing la passeggiata
La passeggiata, usually done in the morning or after meal, is an Italian tradition that brings friends and neighbors together without the distraction of tv, music and other interruptions. We started our tour with a pleasant walk along the lake, which was an excellent way to get to know the others in the group.
Lecco offers a unique landscape of Lake Como. Across the lake are the villages of Malgrate and Valmadrera and looking north, the water expands, like a large mirror reflecting the hills and mountains framing it. Monte Barro, the Grigna, San Martino and the majestic Resegone mountains are the perfect backdrop for the deep blue waters of the lake.
On our return, we passed through the historical center of the city through the main square of Piazza Cermenati and Piazza XX Settembre where the street cafes, restaurants, specialty food shops and boutiques draw you in.
We stopped for a coffee break at the Frigerio café where we were welcomed by Patrizio with a emphatic “Buon giorno!” good morning. The topic of conversation turned to coffee and everyone had an opinion about their favorite kind, but the overall consensus was that Italian coffee is really hard to beat.
An unexpected detour
After the coffee break, I was distracted while taking photos and lost the group, but I caught up to Laura, the team leader, who was going into a wine shop. It wasn’t actually part of the tour, so I got to see a little bit of the behind the scenes of the Lake Como Food Tours operation. She needed to speak to the wine shop owner about a wine tasting event they were organizing together.
Giacomo, the owner of the Enoteca Cantun Del Vin wine shop, was very kind and I discovered he is an expert of Valtellinese wines, a specialty wine from the pre-alp region north of Lecco.
Note to self: go to one of their wine tasting events!
Scenic boat ride
After a quick lesson on Valtellina wines, we finally caught up with the group and met at the Taxi Boat dock. We went out on the Retro, their Venetian style, open-top wooden boat.
We boarded and set off in a loop along the shore of Lecco and then headed south toward the Adda River and Garlate Lake, passing the picturesque bridges and village of Pescarenico.
We passed the Isola Viscontea where Alessandra pointed out a small window over the river waters where the residents could fish directly from home! Passing Pescarenico, the old fishermen’s village, she explained the importance of the area as depicted in Alessandro Manzoni’s literary masterpiece The Betrothed.
Up in the distance above Pescarenico lays the San Girolamo sanctuary and Somasco Castle. The shore of Pescarenico is beautifully lined with boats and colorful houses, charmingly preserved like a postcard image.
Lunch at a family farm stay above Garlate
We docked and disembarked in Garlate, a small village which was well known for its silk production in the late 1800’s but also has ancient origins dating back to the second century. We took a short walk through the stone slabbed streets of the village and uphill to the hamlet of Ronco, where we stopped at the family run farm stay Agriturismo Il Ronco (a mini-bus is also available for the uphill ride).
In addition to the restaurant and guest rooms, they produce their own olive oil, have a large vegetable garden, as well as livestock and a fruit orchard. Terraced on the hills above Garlate, Il Ronco overlooks the lake and serpentine roads below. We finished the tour with a lovely lunch on a veranda overlooking the lake. An exquisite assortment of local meats and cheeses, homemade risotto with mushrooms, pears and cheese accompanied by red Barbera wine called Le Segrete.
Alas, the tour was finished, but I couldn’t go home without some of the local olive oil and marmalade, which are available at the small shop on the ground floor. A mini-bus brought us back to Lecco city center where I spent the rest of the day visiting the art gallery, shopping and relaxing.
Read also: Visit Lake Como with a Local (part 2) Full Day Central Lake Tour; Lake, Lunch and Villa Gardens Tour
I highly recommend Lake Como Food Tours. It was an absolute pleasure visiting Lake Como with them. Alessandra, the tour guide, was extremely knowledgeable and professional. Her English was excellent and she was very patient with all our questions and curiosities. Elena and Laura, who work behind the scenes, managed everything flawlessly.
For more info about tours on Lake Como:
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Photos and article Copyright 2017 Celia Abernethy | Writer, Blogger & Travel Content Creator