A day tour of Lake Como with Mauro Migliavada is €170, including lunch and equipment loan. More: lakecomomotorbike.com. • villaserbelloni.com • citalia.com a corker of a view from its terrace. The path drops back down towards the lake from here, but we make a diversion to see a local landmark — the spot where Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, were executed by Italian partisans in April 1945, commemorated by a black cross set into a garden wall.
It may be a sunny country lane, but the place makes us shudder — not least because someone has laid fresh flowers — and we quickly move on to Villa Carlotta at Tremezzo. From the outside, with its white paintwork and teal blue shutters, it’s a beauty, an 18th-century masterpiece that used to belong to minor European royalty. Inside, it’s a bit of a disappointment; only one room, the bedroom of Carlotta, one of its many owners, has been preserved. The rest is simply a museum. Yet it is worth the price of entry for the view from the top-floor balcony and for the botanic gardens that surround it.
By the time we get to the dock at Cadenabbia, 8km from Lenno, aperitivi are calling us, so we hop on the ferry back to Bellagio. Standing at the front of the car deck, a thin wire rope the only barrier between us and the water, is a damned cool way to spend 15 minutes.
It’s quite tempting to while away your time in Como just pootling around on ferries — deciding, say, to pop over to Varenna for a coffee simply because, well, you can. However, the medieval old town of Como is worth a morning of anyone’s time, and it’s only 45 minutes on the hydrofoil from Bellagio. We also go to the Villa Serbelloni (not to be confused with the hotel), an outpost of the Rockefeller Foundation that sits on the hill overlooking Bellagio. It’s all very secretive — you have to book your ticket, you can’t turn up unannounced — and we only get as close as 100m from the villa, which we are warned not to photograph. The foundation aims to “promote the wellbeing of humanity” and has invited all sorts of people, from heads of state to poet and US civil rights activist Maya Angelou, to use its facilities and hold residencies.
Clare has a flight to New York to catch, so my last day is to be spent alone. I’ve found a great stand-in, though.
Pretty Varenna soaks up the sunlight, top; pool terrace at Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, above