I am Carolina Hatfield, a junior at Tennessee Tech studying abroad in Milan, Italy.
Milan is best known for its world-famous cathedral, the top shopping galleria, fashion week and renowned art, but just outside of the city is Lake Como, a hidden gem.
The first weekend I was in Milan, some friends and I took a train ride to Lake Como. The lake is surrounded by breathtaking mountains in an area known as the Larian Triangle and stretches 56 square miles, close to the border of Switzerland.
Italy is hot in August, but the weather in Lake Como is slightly cooler making for a very comfortable visit.
After arriving by train, we took an hourlong bus ride along the coast to the town of Bellagio. The tiny, old roads wound along the side of the mountains, sometimes only leaving enough room for one vehicle to pass at a time.
Along the way, we passed old churches and small villages and villas, some of which are owned by celebrities like George Clooney, Madonna and Sylvester Stallone.
Upon arriving in Bellagio, we ate at a small Italian restaurant nestled in one of the tiny alleyways paved with cobblestone. Italian cuisine is one of the most famous in the world and much different from the “Italian” we have in America. From spaghetti to gnocchi or tortellini to pizza, you can’t go wrong with anything on an Italian menu.
We continued on the cobblestone streets and explored the little shops. The town is sprinkled with little stores selling authentic Italian leather, delicatessens and gelato shops.
Next, we ventured to the other side of the lake, taking a ferry across to the western shore then walked to Villa del Balbianello for a tour.
The villa has a fascinating history of uses and owners, but is most famously known for being a major location in the filming of “Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and “Casino Royale.” It was exciting to stand in the exact place of some of my favorite scenes.
We ended the day with a light dinner and a ride back to Milan Central Station.
Lake Como is the perfect day trip if you ever find yourself with free time in Milan. With the hustle and bustle of the big city, the lake is an excellent way to relax and take in the natural beauty that Italy has to offer.