A good way to access the Italian lakes, particularly Como and Maggiore, is to fly to Bergamo (known as Milan/Bergamo) by Ryanair. It is only an hour from Milan, no further than one of Milan’s main airports if you are also intending to visit the city. There is a local bus which runs every half hour from the airport to the rail station and on to the funicular, get your ticket in advance.
Bergamo is a beautiful city with a great tradition for food. It is possible to get to the lakes by public transport from there, but driving would probably be much easier. The city is in two parts the old part is the high part accessed by funicular, the business centre and transport hubs are in the lower part.
As usual check the web sites www.booking.com and www.venere.com but one to mention is The Hotel Piemontese, www.hotelpiemontese.com it is extremely good value and is close to the station and it is also easy to reach the high part of the city from the hotel.
The upper city is full of places to eat, loads with beautiful outdoor settings
Al Donizetti, Via Gombita 17/8, is a great place with outdoor seating in what was the old market, it serves dishes of cheeses and cold meats and other local specialities such as guinea fowl and rabbit, excellent value for the quality.
Ristorante Bernabo, Piazza Mascheroni 11, this place does great pizzas and a huge selection of main courses at very reasonable prices.
Café Della Funicolare, is inside the funicular station and has a terrace with great views down to the low town, reports of the food served are very good.
Como has a number of different train stations depending on whether it is TrenItalia or another smaller rail company. Both stations and the bus station are in walking distance from the town centre. The lake boats leave from the lakefront at Piazza Cavour where the tourist information office is located.
Information on sailings can be got from the timetables readily available. There are fast and slow boats which have different complicated tariffs but various types of day tickets are available.
When you do your lake trip, Mennagio is lovely and worth a mid morning stop and Bellagio is probably the most beautiful town on the lake, there are loads of expensive restaurants but Snack Bar La Laterna, Sallita Sebelloni 15, is excellent for a very good pasta dish.
Como is an expensive town with a number of big lakeside hotels, the rates will obviously depend on the season so check out the usual web sites.
L’Angolo Divino, Via Diaz 69, is an enoteca with great food and wine and very reasonable prices, highly recommended.
Ristorante Sociale, Via M Comacini 8, near the Cathedral, this appears to be a Como Institution a local bar, with some hotel rooms and a restaurant with an outdoor terrace facing the Cathedral. The food is excellent and reasonably priced and the service is friendly.
Visini, Via Ballarini 9, is a grocers, restaurant and wine bar all in one. Go in and gaze at the wonderful displays of food or have a meal outside or just stand at the bar with a glass of wine and sample the wonderful free buffet. If you are lucky enough to be there on a Saturday when some great locals meet, Stefano the owner cooks special dishes which he brings out for the customers at the bar to try, a wonderful experience.
Meson Redondo, Via Diaz 28, is a Spanish Bar which does a great selection of drinks and snacks and has very good music
Caffe Nova Comum, Piazza Duomo, is a popular evening hang out
If you arrive in Stresa by train the station is a twenty minute walk from the town centre although part of it is a pleasant lakeside stroll. The lake boats go from the lakefront opposite the town hall on the Piazza Marconi with timetables readily available. The Maggiore Express combines two train journeys and a boat journey and takes you into Locarno in Switzerland. The nearby islands of Isola Superiore and Isola Bella should be visited.
Like all Italian Lake side towns there a number of big lakeside hotels with swimming pools and gardens, check out the usual web sites as in high season this can be expensive for accommodation.
Restaurant La Botte, Via Manzinni 6, is a great little place with a wide range of food, the grilled meats are excellent as were the other dishes that we tried.
Al Buscion, Via Principessa Margherita 18, is a great wine bar with a huge and reasonable selection of wines, it also does excellent cold meat and cheese platters at very reasonable prices. Such friendly service, a gem of a place.
Just nearby is an excellent grocers, which does fantastic made to order rolls with various fillings to take away and also has chilled small bottles of wine for the complete picnic, there is a blackboard outside listing the choices.
Enoteca Da Giannino, Piazza Cardona 9, we found to be an excellent wine bar with a decent selection and various snacks, recent reports indicate unfriendly service which is a surprise.