We’d been looking to take our first overseas coach holiday, and after pouring over all the brochures from Tate’s Travel we finally decided to go to Lake Como and Lake Maggiore in Italy – and boy, we were so glad we did! We picked a 7-day tour, travelling right from Park Lane, Sunderland, all the way to northern Italy!
After a hop over the English Channel and a jaunt through the beautiful French countryside, we stopped off overnight in France. On day two, we arrived at a lovely small town Cadenabbia, nestled on the shore of Lake Como in Lombardy, Italy. Cadenabbia is about 15 miles by steamer from the town of Como and is the perfect spot to explore the Italian Lakes.
Nestled in a sheltered location, close to the Swiss border, Cadenabbia is in a lovely spot – the scenery overlooking the lake is magnificent. There’s a lot of history going on as it was founded some 500 years before Christ and has had some famous guests. Cadenabbia has been visited in the past by famous characters such as Giuseppe Verdi who wrote part of his work “La Traviata” here, Queen Victoria, Kaiser William II, Archduke Nicolas II of Russia and, more recently, George Clooney lives just down the road!
Hotel Britannia Excelsior
Tate’s Travel run their trips to the wonderful Hotel Britannia Excelsior – and what a hotel it was! Recommended by Sue at Tate’s, she explained that they had been sending happy customers here for well over 15 years! The hotel is run by the Whieldon family, Ross and his wife Doriana, who have transformed this former 19thCentury Inn into a stunningly, beautiful modern hotel – with no expense spared! We were amazed at the standard of accommodation we got for our money! Really unbelievable when you consider what we paid. The hotel sits right on the shoreline of Lake Como, with fabulous views across the lake to Bellagio.
Read on for more details about the Hotel Britannia Excelsior and have a look at the pictures. It simply is breath-taking!
In the late afternoon, we explored the hotel and popped over the road to see the largest floating infinity pool/ lido area in the whole of Europe – and it belongs to the hotel too! Overlooking Bellagio, the pool area has its own bar and restaurant and is definitely the place to be. I could have stayed there all day watching the boats and steamers go by! The hotel also includes a free daily transfer by boat over to Bellagio on the other side of the lake. I’d definitely recommend a trip over there, it’s lovely.
At the hotel, we plumped for the all-inclusive deal which included free drinks (beers, spirits, wine, soft drinks…). Meals were served in the ornate Grand Dining Room. Refitted to its original look in 1914, it was like taking a step back in time, with frescos on the wall and chandeliers hanging from the ornate ceiling – it’s been restored to its former glory. The meals were excellent too – a wide choice, hot and tasty, and plenty of it. No skimping here.
After tea, we retired to the Bubbles Bar, where the bar staff served an array of classical drinks and cocktails and live music was on every night which kept us entertained no end.
We woke up the next morning with the sunlight reflecting off the lake, shining and sparkling onto our ceiling. We enjoyed a great breakfast, then headed off for the delights of our first trip.
On our included excursion we visited Arona, on the west of Lake Maggiore, where we had plenty of time to enjoy a stroll along the promenade and took a breather at a lovely little café overlooking the lake. The town was lovely, full of character with a real buzz about it. There are plenty of shops and cafes to have a look round. If history is your thing, there’s also a castle, dating from the 9th Century (now in ruins) and also a small Roman chapel.
We continued on to Baveno, where we took a short boat ride on Lake Maggiore and onto opulent resort town of Stresa. We sailed past the beautiful Borromean Islands, which lie at the centre of the lake. It was such a lovely trip and was one of the highlights of the week.
The next day we headed off to Milan, just over an hour away on the coach. Here we had plenty of time to explore – and took in the wonders of the magnificent Duomo, Milan’s cathedral church. You must see this place – it took over 600 years to create and was only finished finally in 1965! Take a peek inside as it is spectacular! Also, only a couple of minutes’ walk away is the Royal Place, and if you want to go shopping, then Milan is world famous for its designer boutiques and couture. Don’t forget your Euros though!
Bellagio, Tremezzo and Como
Day five allowed for a free day or an optional tour (pre-bookable) to St Moritz in Switzerland. Lots of other guests joined this tour for a trip on the Bernina Region Railway. We decide to stay closer to the hotel, and took advantage of the free boat trip across to Bellagio, also known as the Pearl of the Lake due to its position on the very tip of a peninsula. Bellisima Bellagio (that’s Italian for Beautiful Bellagio) is very quaint and traditional, with lots of cobbled stepped streets and narrow alleyways (you’ll need you walking shoes on). There are lots of shops selling local handicrafts, and numerous bars and restaurants to enjoy. We whiled away a couple of hours then took the boat back over to Cadenabbia and walked into Tremezzo, passing the beautiful and famous Villa Carlotta. Again, we sat in a lovely little restaurant on the lakeside, people watched whilst enjoying a glass of vino and the best of Italy’s famous gelato (ice cream to you and me).
To save time, we then jumped on a local bus onto Como which is the largest city on the lake. Much larger in size, seek out the old town, with its delightful little streets, piazzas and medieval walls. There are lots of things to see and do, including shopping, churches, gardens, museums, theatres, parks and palaces. Just go and soak up the atmosphere for a couple of hours and relax. If you have time (unfortunately, we didn’t) you could take a ride up the town’s funicular to Brunate (great for children) which offers spectacular views of the city below. Como is truly beautiful, and I’d highly recommend it.
All in all, we had an amazing time visiting Lake Como and Lake Maggiore. It was well worth the trip and with having the coach on hand, it was no effort getting round the Italian Lakes which meant that we were able to see and do so much more. It was such a fabulous holiday with spectacular scenery, an amazing hotel and great service. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Como and hope that you do too! Ciao!!