Enjoy the sights of majestic Bellagio

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- I admit it, I’m a hodophobe. No, that’s not a typo, I’m afraid of traveling. Maybe it’s because of my many trips down unmarked one way streets, maybe it’s because my daughter suffers violently from motion sickness, maybe it’s because road signs point to nowhere in particular and road maps are just a rough guesstimate of your location in Italy. Whatever the reason, I’m uncomfortable traveling far from home; that was until my recent purchase of a GPS personal navigation system. Since then my confidence has grown and a few weeks ago my family and I boldly took to the road, GPS proudly mounted on my dash and road map safely tucked away somewhere in the trunk. About four hours away just north of Milan off the A4, lies Lake Como and our ultimate destination, Bellagio. The namesake of the grand hotel and casino in Las Vegas, and referred to as a “Kingdom on the Lake” in the most recent edition of Belle Italia.

All the towns on the lake are unique, but we chose Bellagio as our destination, partially because of its nickname the “Pearl of the Lake.” Bellagio is a throwback of a town built into the mountains that contain Lake Como. Bellagio boasts a commanding view of the water and the other lakeside villages. The town is a place where early rising means 9 a.m. and work seems optional. Families tend to their stores and take their evening strolls around 6 like clockwork. The town is a visual contrast; traditional cement and stone construction is softened with lush potted plants, secluded private gardens, and the city’s signature azalea bushes.

Hollywood recognizes what the area offers visually and the Hollywood elite have recognized the seclusion and friendly atmosphere that the area offers as well. George Lucas, the famed director of the blockbuster Star Wars series, was well aware of the area’s ability for the viewer to step into another world. The mountains and lake in Tremezzo formed the backdrop for the closing scene where Anakin Skywalker secretly weds Princess Padmé on her home planet of Naboo. James Bond fans and nearby Lenno tourists will spy one of the town’s lavish villas as a scene from the upcoming
Bond movie "Casino Royale."

Make sure you stop by one of the local pasticcerias for pastries and deserts as sweet as the families who make them. One pastry store in particular, Pasticceria Castelli di Gandola Marco, can claim their own local celebrity. Rudi, a brilliant grey poodle-mix, has a reputation as being a dog who knows how to get around. Apparently a fan of the local water taxi system for traversing the lake, one day Rudi decided to hop on a ferry and visit a nearby village. After visiting with the other local dogs across the water, Rudi hopped back on a ferry later just in time for an evening meal, and confirming his title as a Bellagio celebrity. Rudi rode for free, but it will cost you €8.50/adult or €4.50/child to ride all day to visit the lakes central towns.

Everyone here is smiling or laughing. Even when the weather threatens to turn bad, the situation becomes nothing more than an excuse to hang out with friends under an awning. A true vacation atmosphere abounds here, and not just for the romantic couple. Conquer your apprehension and slip away for the weekend to this picturesque environment.