The names Balbianello, Villa Balbianello.

Any James Bond fans reading this? Remember the scene in Casino Royale where Bond is recuperating in the garden of a hospital? Vesper is there and the swiss banker arrives by boat to get the code.

That “hospital” is Villa Balbianello, overlooking lake Como and it’s an absolute stunner.

We bussed it the 15 minutes from our campsite, La Fornace to Bellagio and spent another 15 minutes deciphering the overly complicated ferry timetable. Both Garda and Como ferry services have been poorly designed and chaotic to say the least. Eventually we found the right pier and piled on a ferry to Lenno.

As luck would have it, it was market day in Lenno. I needed some new sports socks. 6 for €4, bagged. That’s how I roll.

The entrance to the Villa was all the way around the pretty harbour which was lined with small speed boats and the occasional sail boat.

If we lived somewhere like this we would defo have a little boat to pootle around the lake. Maybe go say hi to George and Amal.

Villa Balbianello stands on a steep promontory jutting out into the west side of lake Como. The villa was left by the Italian exporer, Guido Monzino, to the Italian National Trust when he died in 1988. We watched a 30 minute video about his life and exploration accomplishments that culminated in saying Balbianello was his ultimate legacy. Some legacy.

It was a 20 minute woodland walk to get up and over the hill from the ferry terminal at Lenno to the villa entrance. It had a totally private and secluded location that gave it a sense of exclusivity. We were grateful of the shade as once again the lakes had delivered a scorcher.

Entrance was €10 each for the garden or €20 for garden and guided tour of the villa. We opted to make the most of the sunshine and nail the gardens.

From the moment we entered we were blown away by the immaculate gardens and the stunning views across the lake.

The gardens are landscaped over multiple levels which added to the drama. We could see why this was used as a location for Casino Royal and Star War II: Attack of the Clones.

Exposed on three sides, the villa had beautiful terraces with sweeping views of the water. It even had its own private jetty for boat access.

There was a separate outhouse which formed a private study and library and had an incredible double balcony with ivy trained up the walls and pillars.

Everything about the property and gardens was ornately designed and immaculately presented with wonderful bursts of colour.

Being a tourist was thirsty work. We grabbed a quick drink and ice cream whilst waiting for the ferry in Lenno.

Once back in Bellagio we found a lovely little trattoria with a cool table right outside in the cobble stone street.

We finished off the day with tasty pasta dish and a few games of Uno. Emily is on a winning streak. Time to think of some different strategies me thinks 🤔.

we arrived back to the campsite to catch a pretty cool sunset sky.

Lake Como – Bellagio

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We left the sosta in Bergamo and headed north to lake Como which took a couple of hours. We had our sights set on a particular campsite and we were just setting off for it when I received an email telling me that they had no availability. We had been warned multiple times that August was super busy and we’d be mad to attempt to tour the lakes during this time but this was our first hiccup. Back to plan B and after a couple of phone calls to a new campsite in a different location we changed our route and got going.

Having missed our turn off (thanks satnav), we ended up driving up and over a mountain range that led down onto the lake side of Como which was a dramatic entrance. The road down was very steep with hairpin bends all the way. We stopped for a photo.

As the road opened up onto the lake we were stunned by its beauty. Huge mountains all around reflected in the water of the still, glassy lake. Lake Como is in the shape of an upside down Y, with three relatively thin bodies of water. This meant that unlike Garda, we could see the banks and towns on the other side.

We couldn’t believe our luck as we were directed to our pitch at La Fornace campsite which was directly in front of the lake, offering awesome views all around. Our nearest town Oliveto Lario was a ten minute walk and had nothing more than a post office and bakery. We were blissfully isolated with nothing but nature around us. We spent the rest of that afternoon chilling out and going for dips in the lake. The campsite had a lovely, laidback vibe and a great little bar and pizzeria with a nice outdoor area. We ended up eating here a couple of times and it was delicious. We had to keep pinching ourselves that we were lucky enough to find a campsite with space and have lakeside views.

The next day we got the bus into the nearby town of Bellagio. It was a Sunday and there were only 4 scheduled for the whole day but it turned up bang on time. Situated just a few miles north the bus only took 20 minutes which I was thankful for because the journey was pretty stressful. The road was insanely narrow, squeezing down to one track at times and the bus careered around sharp bends like it was on rails. Occasionally the driver would sound his horn as a warning to drivers coming in the opposite direction but this did very little to slow them down and just on this one journey we had about three near misses where all the passengers made concerned “ooh” and “eeek” noises.

Bellagio is absolutely stunning. With cobbled lanes that rise up the steep town hills and then tumble back to the lake front, it makes for a great place to wander. We explored all the shops and walked to the small harbour which marks the middle of the lake where the three fingers of water meet.

Bellagio has amazing flower beds all over town and the buildings are meticulously tended to. It was impossible to not be charmed by its gorgeous lanes and grand hotels.

We found a gorgeous little restaurant for lunch which was filled with locals (always a good sign). It was a traditional trattoria with a beautiful terrace overlooking the warren of lanes below us. We shared a tasty ravioli with porcini mushroom sauce to start. So simple but so delicious and absolutely caked in butter I’m sure.

I had a slow cooked pork belly for lunch and Gary plumped for saltimbocca which is pan fried veal wrapped in Parma ham and sage. Being in the van we are restricted to stove top dinners or BBQs, and whilst I think I’m relatively creative with dinners, it was great to have something roasted and oven cooked for the first time in months!

We walked off our tasty lunch with a stroll around the grounds of the neoclassical Villa Melzi which had a prime lake front location. The grass was a wonderfully lush bright green colour and cut and edged with precision. There was a small Japanese water garden with acers and coi carp.

The summer house doorways framed the lake wonderfully and we had a great time taking in the sights.

We got the last bus back to the campsite and sat outside watching the sun go down.

The next day dawned very gloomy but we’d already decided to have a quiet one based at the campsite so it didn’t particularly matter. It proceeded to bucket down all day which wasn’t ideal (I had to put my cross-lake swim off), but did enforce complete relaxation. It actually turned quite cold with a chilly wind so we hunkered down in the van, watching films and drinking hot chocolate. As Gary keeps insisting, it’s really important to have total shut off days and we certainly recharged our batteries ahead of another day exploring the lake.