Bellagio is situated at the tip of the Punto Spartivento, the ‘point which divides the wind’ and is known as ‘the pearl of the lake’. You can reach Bellagio by car (a bit of a hair-raising journey) or alternatively by boat which is a more relaxing alternative. You are spoiled for choice as you can see magnificent views of the mountains to the east, west and also the snow-capped mountains to the north along the Swiss Border.
This is a picturesque town with cobbled alleys, porticos and stepped streets that lead up from the lakeside. There are many beautiful buildings along the lakeside all pastel shades with red roofs. In the Middle Ages, Bellagio was a small town fortified by walls and a castle. The bell tower of the Basilica of San Giacomo is all that survives of the fortifications.
In the 19th century, Bellagio saw the beginning of tourism. Count Francesco Melzi chose this town to build his summer home here, a luxurious villa on the west coast near Loppia. The Milanese aristocracy soon became curious of this village and it wasn’t long before they flocked to this amazing town on the lake. News of this wonderful place soon spread attracting many famous people; the Austrian Emperor and Francis I who stayed in Villa Serbelloni, Villa Trotti and Villa Melzi. Thereafter followed Emperor Ferdinand I, Archduke Ranieri and Minister Metternich (who arrived from Varenna on the lake’s very first steamer the “Lario”) and thereafter it was known as the place to be. Carriage roads were then built to connect Bellagio to the magnificent villas and palaces and into the town centre. Eventually a main road was built connecting Bellagio to the town of Erba.
Many villas and gardens were constructed in Bellagio during this period due to its growing popularity and it was known as the place to be seen for aristocrats. Over the following years artists, politicians, intellectuals, scientists and even royalty came to visit and to date, Bellagio is one of the ‘must see’ places in Lake Como. One of the most famous guests of the century was the musician Franz Liszt.
Therefore this town is extremely popular with tourists and can become overcrowded in the summer months but regardless of this, it should still be on your itinary of ‘places to visit’. There are some wonderful hotels and restaurants by the lakeside where you can sit and watch the world go by. Two of the main villas on Bellagio are Villa Melzi and Villa Serbelloni (now owned by the Rockefeller Foundation).
There are many things to see and do in Bellagio; visiting churches, museums, villas & gardens or even take a historical tour around the town or a nice walk along the suburbs.