After Paris, we hopped on a TGV train to Milan. We missed our connection to Varenna and instead of waiting 2 hours, got on a different train to Lake Como. After we got off, I realized that when Roomie “grabbed my stuff” and I grabbed his, my backpack was left behind heading for Zurich. We took a bus (but should have taken a boat) to Bellagio where we were staying for 2 nights to relax after lots of sight seeing in Paris.
After arriving, I needed some serious wine. Roomie ordered a liter of the house red which was only $14 euro with the best view in town. Wine is cheap abroad if you order the house. I think it tastes great, too!
Roomie has been every where in Europe and while this was my first visit, I insisted we visit at least one destination he had not been to of his choosing. He chose Lake Como and I selected Bellagio.
We stayed at the Hotel Bellagio, which was super cute, perfectly located and had the friendliest staff ever. It was also really reasonably priced. They recommended a delicious spot for dinner called Bilacus that served the best pasta of the trip in my opinion. Order the bolongnese, you won’t regret it! After our first Italian dinner, we learned that we did not need an appetizer, two pasta dishes, two main course meals and dessert.
Bellagio is a small town that was adorable. Our weather was rainy and 60F which was not ideal for the vacation-esque spot. We browsed the local shops, enjoyed the local cuisine, tasted wine and hiked around the small village.
For lunch on our second day, we headed to Varenna across the lake. We popped into Varenna Cafe and I was happy to enjoy a large and healthy salad!
Back over at Como, we did a small wine tasting with a meat and cheese plate before dinner. We each sampled three wines and noshed in the yummy sampler. We should have known it was going to spoil dinner but the rainy day had us hunting for indoor activities.
The bar/restaurant was tucked away on a side street build into what looked like a cave.
We had dinner at a local spot recommended by our hotel that was not as good as the first night but still delicious. I ordered the seafood frutti di mare. I asked for Parmesan cheese and the waiter thought I was crazy. i think I may have offended him.
We were originally going to stay in Como for three nights but I was tipped off that I might get bored if the weather was not great. It was chilly and overcast so I was happy we just did the two night. Next up was Florence for a quick 24 hour visit.
We took a quick 20 minute ferry to Varenna and caught a train to Milan where we boarded a very nice train for the 90 minute journey. We chose to travel by train from Paris to Rome to see the country side. I kept getting sick from motion sickness so next time, we will probably just fly.
We stayed at Hotel Globus in Florence, a convenient and cheap option close to the train station. We dropped off our bags and then headed to Zsa Zsa for lunch. We ordered a yummy pepper side dish that tasted like a sweet pepper caponata. So good. I also quickly realized that I like french bread. Italian bread at our 6th spot was still mediocre…
For my meal, I ordered eggplant parmesan. I was happy that it was not breaded and fried but tasted similar to what I order at various US Italian restaurants. Good and affordable, waiter spoke English and you could tell many of the other patrons were foreign, too.
We walked around the small city, enjoying a busy street life once again. Florence is much smaller than I imagined. Like Paris, it was filled with lines so we admired most of the city from the outside given our limited time.
We climbed up a steep hill to a park with a David replica to a look out point that allows you to view the city from above. Italian cities are quite beautiful from above as they have no tall buildings and are very spread out.
Dinner was the most interesting experience. I was told to go to Acqua Al 2 by probably 8 really good friends. It was the only restaurant I knew we had to go to. We were even told what to order. Seemed like a no brainer. When we walked in, we realized everyone was American and overheard everyone talking about ordering the pasta flight and balsamic or blueberry steak.
We thought the blueberry sounded funky so we went with the balsamic and pasta flight. I feel bad saying this because so many good friends told me to go here but this was the least satisfying restaurant we visited in all of Europe. The steak was a well cooked filet doused with overly sweet balsamic glaze. Seriously, think a full cup of sticky balsamic glaze just dumped on top of steak. The first three pasta dishes were just plain bad. They tasted like boxed risotto and just not good. I think the last two were the best but by that time I was already underwhelmed and had my mind made up. We also got a salad flight that had three different salads. I liked two of them and roomie enjoyed one but they were overly dressed and nothing creative.
This place must have been great when my friends were studying abroad or traveling right out of college circa 2005-2010. The woman sitting next to us however was a teacher and came here every year. She went for lunch that day and came back for dinner. Were we crazy or did we just order wrong? It wasn’t expensive so we cut our losses. Similar recommendations from the same friends proved spectacular so I think Acqua has just passed its prime and thriving off of word of mouth US visitors.
The next day, we were off to Rome!