Ristorante Bilacus – Bellagio, Como, Italy

To end our day of exploring Bellagio – we ended up at Ristorante Bilacus for dinner. Definitely make a reservation for the terrace if you are going here. We didn’t make a reservation but we were very lucky and someone didn’t turn up for their table (which had the most stunning view!) so we were able to sit outside on the terrace.

IMG_4874
view from our table – look at that mountain!
IMG_4887
Had to take this cheesy shot with that view in the background!
IMG_4868
I was not exaggerating about their love of bread sticks in the Italian Lakes

We started with a trio of seafood platter which had a fish pate, octopus salad and prawn cocktail and a meat platter which had a mixture of ham, salami and thinly sliced roast pork. Both were delicious!

IMG_5011
Seafood trio and meat platter to start
IMG_5037
The meat platter

For our mains we shared a Grilled King Prawns, a Prawn Linguine (needed a pasta dish as well but wanted seafood) and a side salad. It was all perfection and I am currently drooling as I write this and think back about the flavours.

IMG_5027
Grilled King Prawns
IMG_5044
Prawn Linguine
IMG_5046
Our feast for mains
IMG_5012
Tasmorcan Barbera D’Asti 2015 was gorgeous – recommended by the waiter

The service were great! There were the perfect amount of attentive but still left us to enjoy ourselves without pushing us to order or pay the bill quickly.

We shared the Panna Cotta for dessert – which was refreshing and light after all that food.

IMG_4891
Panna Cotta dessert
IMG_5035
The Terrace

It was honestly one of the most enjoyable dinners – everything from the service, the atmosphere, the food. I definitely recommend making a booking if you are in Lake Como.

IMG_5033
The Terrace

http://www.bilacusbellagio.it/index.html

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g187834-d1228496-Reviews-Ristorante_Bilacus-Bellagio_Lake_Como_Lombardy.html

Advertisements

Adventures in Lake Como, Italy

After Lake Garda, we continued our long-Easter-weekend-Italian-Lakes trip in our little Fiat 500 over to Lake Como for the next three nights.

Lake Como is a beautiful, clean, clear lake just off the Alps which makes it stunningly scenic. The natural beauty of the lake along with the colourful, rural, mini towns situated around the Lake makes it like something out of a film.

IMG_4913
The ferry port in Lezzano
IMG_4915
The church in Lezzano
IMG_4853.JPG
View of Lezzano village from a Ferry

We stayed in Lezzano, a peaceful, rural, little town right next to Bellagio. It was honestly the most peaceful and scenic place I have ever been to. We would go down to the town store and get bits for breakfasts and it there were restaurants dotted around down by the Lake which you had to do some exploring to discover. There are no late night bars or big groups of tourists everywhere and it just felt very low key like the beautiful views were our own little secret.

IMG_5074
The view from the beach outside our apartment in Lezzano

Below are some photos from the apartment that we rented in Lezzano and our private terrace where we had breakfast with the most stunning view.

We spent our first day in Bellagio, which was a buzzing, colourful, little town that is situated on a hill so there are great views from the top of the town. It was lovely to explore and go in and out of all the little stepped alleyways, shops, and art galleries. We sat on the lake in the sunshine to have our aperitivo for a little break before continuing with our exploring, then finished off the day there with dinner and drinks.

IMG_4758
Beautiful Bellagio
IMG_4783
Gelato time in Bellagio
IMG_4791
Bellagio
IMG_4792
Bellagio
IMG_4807
Aperitivo at Bar Sanremo, Bellagio – sitting out in the sunshine on the Lake
IMG_4808
Bar Sanremo, Bellagio

On our second day we drove around the Lake to Como Town which was a very big, busy and beige town in comparison to the colourful towns that we had been to so far. We actually couldn’t find anywhere to park because it was so busy so decided to keep driving to Cernobbio. Cernobbio was beautiful and quite grand as a town.

We continued driving up into the mountainous village – up and up we drove up the teeny tiny winding road until we came to Gatto Nero for a 3 hour lunch, which I will talk about in my next blog post.

The drove back to Lezzano and spent the rest of the day in our quite, mostly private beach outside out apartment to watch the sunset before dinner.

IMG_5092
Watching the ferry leave us when we got off at Isola Comacina

On our third day we decided to go ferry hopping. We jumped the first ferry that came to our port and got off at the first place it arrived at – which was Isola Comacina – the only island on Lake Como.

It is a beautiful island with so much history. It was a commune for women years and years ago so we explored all the ruins there. The views all around us from the top of the hill in the middle of the island of the colourful villages across the waters were breathtakingly beautiful.

IMG_5145
Views from the top of the hill at Isola Comacina
IMG_5155
Back onto the ferry for more ferry hopping

We got back onto the ferry after exploring the island and it was really scenic and really relaxing just sitting outside on the ferry and seeing all the different, colourful villages along the way.

IMG_5159
Scenic ferry views
IMG_5162
Arriving in Torno

We decided to get off at Torno for a late lunch and a bit of exploring. As we arrived at the port we were welcomed with the grand looking church, colourful boats and buildings, and a very blue sky.

IMG_5166
Exploring Torno
IMG_5170
Late lunch at Bar Italia in Torno

Our three days in Lake Como were absolutely gorgeous and every time I look back at the photos of the scenery, I still feel like it was something out of a film and I cannot get over the beauty of it. The mountains surrounding the clear, sparking lake, with the mini, colourful, rural villages that are situated all around the lake – all of this make it a truly beautiful place to visit.

I would love to go again in the summer, explore another side of the lake, and go swimming!

 

Touring and Wine Tasting at the Onepio Winery – Desenzano Del Garda, Italy

They say “while in Rome, do as the Romans do”, so while in Lake Garda, we went wine tasting in a vineyard.

The owner, Ilaria Accordini, comes from a wine producing family and after a few years of staying in different wineries around the world, she has decided to start her own winery in the Lombardy region.

IMG_4601
The vineyard
IMG_4599
The Vineyard

Ilaria showed us around the vineyard, talking us through the farming and her background in the wine production industry, while we sipped on the chilled Onepio Lugano wine.

Ilaria has put together all her knowledge that she has gained from working in vineyards all around the world and wanted to created high quality, unique wine at her modern winery – and she has definitely achieved this.

IMG_4597
The Vineyard
IMG_4593
Their products

After the tour, the wine tasting began. We had some risotto which was made with the Amarone and Ilaria talked us through all the wine in front of us.

IMG_4603
Wine tasting with wine infused risotto
IMG_4605
Amarone infused risotto
IMG_4609
Wine and cheese pairing

Then the cheese came out and some more wine to taste.

IMG_4611
The beautiful Italian cheese selection
IMG_4623
The smells that you can pick up are in these little glass jars

Below are our 3 favourite wines:

IMG_4624
The Lugana
IMG_4617
The Amarone
IMG_4607
The Ripasso

I would definitely recommend a trip to Onepio if you are in the area. Around July or August or even September are probably the best times to go so that you are able to see a much more fruitful vineyard than we saw – they were just getting started for the new season when we went in April.

It costs 30 Euros to tour the vineyard and for wine tasting and Ilaria is a really great host!

 

http://www.onepio.it/en/

Villa Pioppi Restaurante – Sirmione, Lake Garda, Italy

As the sun went down in Sirmione, we walked from the old town over to Villa Pioppi. It is a gorgeous boutique hotel and restaurant which has a swimming pool and beautiful terrace on the lake that faces the sunset.

IMG_4706
Walking into Villa Pioppi with the sun setting behind
IMG_4726
The pool and the restaurant behind
IMG_4727
More of the pool and lake
IMG_4723
The restaurant

We sat down at a table outside, facing the lake. Sitting on a terrace on Lake Garda, wine in hand, facing the sunset – what an absolute dream! It was so peaceful and tranquil and an incredibly stunning way to end our day.

IMG_4722
Our sunset view at dinner

Eventually we ordered dinner – we weren’t rushed to pestered to order food as soon as we got there – so we were able to really relax and have a drink while taking in the views.

We ordered two starters (a mozzarella and tomato salad and a tuna tartare) and shared a pepperoni pizza for our main.

IMG_4729
Mozzarella and tomato salad
IMG_4730
Tuna tartare
IMG_4731
Tuna tartare
IMG_4733
Pepperoni pizza

IMG_4735

The food was all absolutely delicious and full of flavour. It was a really great evening and I definitely recommend going for dinner while you are in Lake Garda.

IMG_4737
Before the restaurant started filling up with people
IMG_4740
Dinner vibes
IMG_4743
Leaving Villa Pioppi

 

http://www.villapioppihotel.com/en/

http://www.villapioppihotel.com/en/restaurant

 

Trattoria Alessi – Desenzano del Garda, Italy

We stayed in Desenzano, which is a colourful, seaside-like, small Italian lake town on Lake Garda, and on our first night we walked around the streets looking for somewhere that wouldn’t be touristy and unauthentic. We wondered through all the small, winding, colourful streets and stumbled upon Trattoria Alessi.

It was exactly what we were looking for! We very happily sat down outside in the colourful, little, wonky, side street.

IMG_4543
The colourful little street
IMG_4546
Sitting outside at the restaurant
IMG_4563
Dinner vibes

We were given the usual basket of bread and bread sticks. Now, I have a couple things to say about these baskets of bread. Firstly, they absolutely love their bread sticks before dinner. I don’t think we went anywhere in Lake Como or Lake Garda where these were not given to you. Secondly, they love to give you bread, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, but not any dish to put the oil and balsamic onto, so you will need to ask.

IMG_4549
The Lasagna

We ordered our favourite Italian dishes. Jack had the Lasagna and I had the Spaghetti Pescatore – both absolutely delicious – which we washed down with bottle of a simple Pinot Noir.

IMG_4585
The Spaghetti Pescatore

Once we had finished our meals we still had some wine to finish off but this area of the restaurant was closing up, so the waiter showed us into another area of the restaurant which lead into a (what we thought was a secret) garden area. It was a buzzing little atmosphere with everyone finishing off their last drinks from their dinners.

An absolutely hidden away gem – and so glad we stumbled across it!

 

http://hotelalessi.com/resort/trattoria-alessi/

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g194965-d1812674-Reviews-Trattoria_Pizzeria_Alessi-Desenzano_Del_Garda_Province_of_Brescia_Lombardy.html

Travels to Lake Garda, Italy

We spent the Easter weekend exploring the Italian Lakes and chose to go to both Lake Garda and Lake Como. We landed in Milan Malpensa, picked up our rented our very Italian car (a tiny little Fiat 500) and made our way over to Desenzano, a little town on the south west shore of Lake Garda, where we had booked our hotel for two nights.

There were a lot of motorways and very un-scenic views involved in this almost 2 hour drive to Lake Garda, but when we finally saw the beautiful Lake glistening in the sunshine in front of us we were very excited to have arrived. We parked, checked in, changed into more appropriate clothes for the gloriously sunny, 24 degree Celsius day, and headed out to walk around to see what Desenzano had to offer.

We walked up to the lake and onto the pebbled beach and I was amazed to see how crystal clear the water was as the soft waves pushed it in and out. It felt very much like going to the seaside in the South of France. We sat on the pier with our legs dangling out over the water watching the swans and ducks go by and taking in the peacefulness of it all – before heading off to find a somewhere to eat lunch in the sunshine.

IMG_4468
Desenzano del Garda
IMG_4512
Desenzano del Garda in the sunshine

We wondered through the streets passing the colourful little buildings with their colourful shutters and on the windows until we found Bar Pizzeria Gelateria Cristallo facing the gorgeous Porto Vecchio and the Lake.

IMG_4473
Ponte Vecchio
IMG_4527
Bar Pizzeria Gelateria Cristallo

After a long lunch we set off to see the Castello di Desenzano. It sits grand amongst the colourful low rise buildings that surround it.

IMG_4538
Castello di Desenzano
IMG_4539
Castello di Desenzano
IMG_5019
The beautiful little streets of Desenzano
IMG_5042
Pre-dinner drinks at Piazza Cappelletti

Overall Desenzano is a peaceful, gorgeous and colourful little town. I would definitely recommend staying here if you go to Lake Garda.

The next morning after breakfast we set off to a Vineyard for a tour and some wine tasting (which will be blogged about soon) before spending the rest of the day in Sirmione. Sirmione is a little town with a lot of history. It is a thin, long road that goes into the Lake and at the end of this road, you walk across a moat, through a castle entrance to then enter the old Sirmione town.

IMG_4641
Castello Scaligero
IMG_4659
Sitting on a pier to take in the gorgeous views

The old town is buzzing and full of people, like ourselves, being tourists and exploring.

IMG_4666
The busy Sirmione Old Town
IMG_5018
Found a spot in the Square in the sunshine for some drinks and nibbles before exploring the castle

We ended up finding a suntrap in the Square by the Ferry Port where we decided to stop for a drink – but every time you order an alcoholic beverage somewhere in Lake Garda, you will get nibbles to go with them – usually some crisps and olives but if you go between 5pm and 7pm you will get bread, bread sticks (they LOVE a bread stick), cheese and ham. It was lovely just sitting in the sun and watching the world go by around us.

There were gelaterias on every corner, thermal baths and spas, colourful shops and restaurants everywhere you look and some ginormously large lemons – all the things that Sirmione is famous for.

Unfortunately we didn’t try any lemons and we didn’t have a chance to go into the thermal baths, but we did have a fabulous time walking around the old town and going into the castle to see all the views.

IMG_4685
Views from the castle looking out to the Lake
IMG_4684
More lake views from the castle
IMG_4692
Views from the top of the castle looking down into the old town
IMG_4693
Views from the top of the castle looking out to the lake
IMG_4694
More lake views from the castle

If you do have the chance, definitely go for a day to explore this gorgeous area of Lake Garda.

Where to go? What to do?

  • Have a day to stroll around Desenzano town
  • Go to Castello di Desenzano
  • Find a vineyard to do a winery tour and wine tasting
  • Try some Lake Garda Lemons
  • Enter Castello Scaligero in Sirmione
  • Go to a thermal bath (historically used by the Romans here) in Sirmione
  • Take a boat ride around Sirmione
  • Have an Aperol Spritz (or other beverage) during aperitivo time
  • Go for a walk, run or bike ride along the Lake
  • Have lots of pasta
  • Relax

 

Where to stay?

We stayed in Hotel Bonotto in Desenzano which was perfect for what we needed it to be. It is a well-priced 3 star hotel with wifi, free parking, a safe in the room, breakfast included and it is a 2 minute walk from the lake. What more did we need?

The staff were great at helping us out to find our way around, giving us tips on where to go, and helping us out with what we needed for our stay.

Breakfast is served in the restaurant on the top floor which has floor to ceiling windows and a large terrace overlooking Lake Garda as well as the castle and rest of the town. Breakfast is continental with a choice of fruits, cereals, breads, cheeses, hams and boiled eggs as well as the teas, coffees and fruit juices. There was one morning when I was at breakfast and there was a bottle of prosecco as one of the drink options in the buffet, but it was a little too early for me, plus we were off to Onepio Vineyard afterwards.

Below are photos of our room and gorgeous views from the roof terrace at breakfast.

http://www.hotelbonottodesenzano.it/en/

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Hotel_Review-g194965-d2090589-Reviews-Hotel_Bonotto-Desenzano_Del_Garda_Province_of_Brescia_Lombardy.html

 

The Stag – Hampstead, London

One sunny weekend recently we went for a walk, a very long walk, from Finsbury Park to the top of Hampstead Heath and down to Gospel Oak. Towards the end of our walk we ended up in a pub called The Stag for a late lunch/dinner.

As it was a sunny day – the large beer garden in the back was heaving with people and so we sat inside which was also buzzing with people at the bar coming in from the garden to order drinks etc. We chose a little booth and table (the only free space as it was rammed).

We shared the Scotch Egg, the Beef Carpaccio and the Beef Rib with Slaw.

IMG_3964

We weren’t really sure what to expect as none of us had eaten there before and we were pleasantly surprised. The food was all delicious and presented very well.

IMG_3967

Definitely recommend if you are in Hampstead Heath and looking for a place to eat in the area.

IMG_3965

 

http://www.thestagnw3.com/