Lake Como for Kids

[Download Itinerary]

We started our Italian Adventures at Lake Como [14 to 18 October 2015]. We had planned to make this trip way before we had children and since it did not happen then, we made sure we put it on the list this time round. This is our biggest and final trip for 2015. Every October, the daddy of the family will have to make a trip to Italy for an Annual General Meeting and I will join him on an European getaway. We would take the chance to visit London, Switzerland, Germany and its neighbours, making our 13-hour flight worth the while.

This trip was more of a defiant attempt to relive our globetrotting days when it was just us two that made the family. I did not consider the flight hours, the time difference, the accessibility nor the weather from the children's point of view. I was very optimistic and kept assuring Meyer that all these factors should not be a deterrence to our travels. We will manage and we certainly did! We survived Italy with an easy flight, beautiful photographs and jubilant kids but dog-tired jet-lagged parents *grins* who agreed that our future travels shall not exceed more than two hours in time difference. Until they are older...

Must-Knows when travelling in Italy:
  1. The roads can be small; very tight! If you are going to drive, get a tiny car like a Fiat 500 because although the autostrade (highways) are wide, you can get yourselves into tight situations on the roads. We rented a [manual drive] MPV to fit six people and it was a dinosaur in an Italian context! 
  2. They are left-hand drive so if you are not a confident driver, just take the train. However, we found it rather easy to get used to the driving even though I sometimes look for the gearbox on my left!
  3. Research on kids-friendly restaurants. Please do that for part of your planning because not every restaurant welcomes children (they welcome dogs more than kids). Not that they will send you on your way but they may not have high-chairs or a children's menu. Don't even think of plastic plates, cups or cutleries alright? They do not have it.
  4. Italians love children. They do not get to see many little Asian toddlers walking in their streets so they got really intrigued with Ewan and Faye. We were often stopped just so they can say Ciao Bella! Ciao Bello!
  5. Gypsies. As much as you could have been stopped by friendly people to play with your children stay vigilant. They could be targeting your belongings (children included). You never know who are being genuine and who are there to make a cut.
  6. Bring a Stroller or Carrier. We brought a kick-scooter to Australia and found that it worked perfectly for our little traveller. In Italy, I'd suggest a carrier or a stroller instead. With its cobbled-stoned pathways, the kick-scoot will not last a day.
  7. Raincoats and Boots! We brought along boots and raincoats for the children because we shall not let any kind of weather stop us from all that we've planned. I wasn't ready to just sit in the hotel or car watching the Italian rain pitter-patter away.
As with all my travel blogs, I shall begin by sharing our choice of accommodation. We spent five days in a four-star hotel right in front of lake in Como itself. I have a soft spot for historical buildings and this property we chose is set in a restored Art Nouveau palace. As we entered the driveway of the hotel, my heart skipped a beat at its grandeur and impressive facade. It literally depicts its name.

PALACE HOTEL is situated in a prime location. Within its 5-minute-walk-radius, you will find the Como Lago train station, Funicular, the Cathedral, a shopping street, park, playground, street market and even a MacDonald's! They have 62 rooms - 4 junior suites with lake view, 2 executive rooms with view of the Cathedral, 38 double classic rooms with city view and 18 lake view rooms - which meant comfortable uncrowded spaces in the public areas.

This historical Art Nouveau palace is composed of the Plinius building and the Pianella wing. We were housed in the Plinius building in what they call, an apartment. It consists of a Junior Suite and a Classic Room (perpendicular to one another) that can be converted into one connecting family room by opening both individual doors and sharing one main door. It was perfect for us because we were travelling with grandparents. The children had access to both rooms quite easily and had a great time running to and fro more than 50sqm of space plus a huge outdoor patio to play in. The living area of the Junior Suite was thoughtfully converted into a bedroom for the children with a playpen and a single bed! We also got to enjoy the sights of the lakefront on our balcony and that was such a luxurious treat.


With an opulent facade like that, you would have expected a lavish hotel reception. Unfortunately, they don't. The historical Palatian outlook hollers Grand Hotel but the lobby portrayed itself well to its award i.e. a 4-star hotel. Nothing disappointing at all because the welcome to the hotel was personable and genuine.

Not only were we assisted with our check-in procedures, the staff who attended to us acknowledged the children's presence as well. I appreciate it when hotel staff take an effort to connect with my children and treat them as little guests. They received tickles, fist bumps and hair ruffles! 


At the restaurants, we were spoilt with good food and a very beautiful ambience. The murals and chandeliers were lavish! We were given a very special menu for Ewan's dinner on our first night in the hotel. The menu did not include pizza which Ewan announced he wanted that evening. The maitre d' offered any kind of pizza Ewan wanted and will have the kitchen made specifically for the kid.

He asked, "So! Just tell me, what ingredients you would like to have on your pizza."

Ewan replied, "Bum bum!" and burst into an euphoric laughter.

Oh my son. He picked up this phrase from his aunt when he accidentally rolled a wheel over her foot. She yelped, "Ouch! Bum Bum!" and he got stuck to it ever since, finding it a hilarious conversational word to use just to make people laugh.

The maitre d' had a great time with Ewan and came back with a pizza. With a straight face, he professionally described Ewan's order, "Little Sir, this is your pizza order. It contains ham, pineapple and wait! Listen carefully, BUM BUM!"

We laughed till our tummies ached by this dinner presentation! I definitely appreciated the efforts in making the kid felt grand in a fine-dining restaurant, which he probably wouldn't be welcomed in if it was a full-house. Well, the crowd got bigger by the minute and Ewan got noisier. We didn't want to disturb the rest of the adult guests who wanted an elegant dinner experience and so I whisked both children back to our suite to finish up the Bum Bum pizza.


At 180 (S$268) a night in its Classic Plinius city view room, inclusive of breakfast, it is all within our budget to indulge in a beautiful property without spending half our month's salary on. 

Tip: You are allowed to bring your food back to your room halfway through your meal if your child is throwing a tantrum or getting sleepy at the restaurant. However, do bring it up yourself because there will be a service charge for delivery otherwise. This seemed to be a norm throughout Italy.

Address:
Lungo Lario Trieste 16
22100 Como

Website:
http://www.palacehotel.it/en

Contact:
info@palacehotel.it


FUN WITH KIDS IN LAKE COMO
ONE
FUNICOLARE COMO-BRUNATE is a mere 5-minute walk from Palace Hotel. Is a funicular railway that connects the city of Como with the village of Brunate in Lombardy, Italy. The line has operated since 1894, and is used by both tourists and local residents. To put it simply, it's an electric tram just like the Peak Tram we are all so familiar with in Hong Kong.

It was originally operated using a steam engine and later converted to an electric motor in 1911. The line is 1,084 metres long, of which the lower 130 meters are in a tunnel. There are two intermediate stops served on request but of course, we went straight to the top. There are two cafes, a couple of kiddy rides and a gallery opened for public viewing of the haulage machineries.


The 7-minute long ride in itself was a treat for the children. They were very excited to be able to sit in a vehicle  with front-view seats, watching the uphill climb through tunnels and foliages. I, on the other hand, was eager to meet the 1927 lighthouse of San Maurizio. Little did I know, the shuttle bus that brings tourists up to the lighthouse is not in operation on weekdays. We could have taken the 1 hour hike route to it but with little children and grandparents, it was out of the question. Not to mention, it begun to drizzle almost immediately on arrival.

Tip: Plan your visit well. On a weekend morning and you will definitely be able to hop onto the shuttle bus to the Lighthouse.

Website:
http://www.funicolarecomo.it


TWO
CHASING DUCKS is one of the activities every Italian recommended when I was researching for Kids-Friendly activities. Well, not exactly chasing them but duck-watching and duck-feeding. Lake Como has a large variety of fish and bird species. Many bird species populate the lake area like diving ducks, swans, cormorants, gulls and herons. Do not underestimate a child's attention span. When it comes to animal watching, they can spend a considerable amount of time by the lake. In fact, we had such a hard time peeling them off the waters.

Tip: Bring a long loaf of bread!



THREE
PLAYGROUNDS can be found everywhere in Italy! Hit a park and you will find a playground. There is a park around the bend where we stayed at Palace Hotel. It is covered with Free Wi-Fi which allows joggers, walkers, passer-bys and parents who need to be connected stay connected! I could photograph the children and send them across to the grandparents in Singapore via WhatsApp - totally realtime communication. We even attempted a successful FaceTime session!


Never underestimate the power of a playground. Whether it is a single swing or a fortress of never-ending fun, they seem to draw children to them like bees to honey. My son has his eyes fixated to bright primary colours and can point out a playground even when we drive at 100km/hr. We didn't even know about this playground until he screamed:

"PLAYGROUND MOMMY!"

And so, I strongly suggest you do some research on playgrounds wherever you are heading because it'll bring a lot of joy to the whole family. I made a friend on Instagram (@franzonimary) and she writes at Playground Around The Corner (mostly in Italian though). She inspired me to look out for Playgrounds in Italy and if you are ever lost (playground-lost), download her app to look for playgrounds in your vicinity!

Tip: How about a picnic by the playground which overlooks the harbour peppered with private yachts and a mountain backing your photographs?

Address:
Along Lungo Lario Trento, Como, Italy


FOUR
BOAT RIDE. I had intended to charter a boat for 60-minute at Lenno with Igor. He was recommended so many times in my research for boat trips that I made sure we locate him no matter where he might be!

He operates the Boat and Water Ski Rental at Lido de Lenno (Lido means Beach; so he operates at the Beach at Lenno) and charges a rate of 40 (S$60) for an hour. This is a self-drive rate and the grandparents were totally thrown off-guard when we said we wanted to self-drive, Without A Licence! Oh yes, it seems like an easy thing to do and Igor can quickly show us the steps to handling a small speedboat. Alas! It RAINED and the beach was closed in winter. 

Good thing we managed to do a boat ride at the end of the day. We took a hike up to Villa del Balbianello, a 1789 villa made famous from location shooting for Casino Royal (2006) and Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones (2002), and were brought back to Lenno via a Taxi speedboat. It costs 10 (S$15) per adult for a 5-minute commute. Not cheap but it was an experience that got Ewan grinning from ear to ear! He didn't have to pay a fare. We brought only Ewan along because it was raining and not an easy trip for Faye to take.

Address:
Lido de Lenno



FIVE
TRAIN RIDE in Bellagio. I factored this in the itinerary just for the kids. Bellagio is a small village at the tip of a long hilly promontory between the two southern branches of Lake Como. It is deemed the Pearl of Lake Como. In all honesty, I don't find it exceptionally beautiful. I had expected a lot more than what I saw because of all the hype created for this little town. Nonetheless, the children had their fun share of a motorised train ride. The adults, on the other hand, didn't quite enjoy the ride. I found it too pricey for a quick round-a-bout that didn't showcase much of Bellagio. Or maybe it did and Bellagio didn't impress me much.


Rates:
5 for adults
2 for children aged 2 to 8 years old

Address:
Right outside the Ferry Terminal

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/TrombettaExpress

Email:
info@trombettaexpress.it


Our little Travel companions 
October 2015 - Ewan at 3 years old and Faye at 16 months old 
Click on our Travel tab to read all about our tips and tricks
including our Verona for Kids post!


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Comments

  1. I really salute you and your hubby for making the trip to Lake Como so interesting and fun for the kids! Such a blessing to be able to soak in the atmosphere of the grand Hotel Palace and enjoy the sceneries around the hotel. Thanks for sharing this lovely travelogue :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Danessa! We are quite crazy to attempt this trip because the kids are still so small. The husband proclaimed, "Next year if you are coming with me to Italy again, NO KIDS!"

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  2. So fun! I want to go!! But I can't imagine the long flight with my children...

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  3. The flight was very easy actually. They slept half the flight! haha but no matter what, it's going to be tiring with young children.

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  4. The "Bum Bum" tickled me too. And it's always nice to receive such good hospitality. Thanks for sharing as I wonder if I will ever travel to Lake Como anytime soon..... :)

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    Replies
    1. I know. This post won't be very popular because not a lot of people might go that way for a holiday but if they do, here's the itinerary that has been tried and tested!

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  5. We were THAT close to taking a trip to France with Laurent, until someone reminded us of this monster called time difference haha but oh, looking at all the lovely photos and knowing that beautiful memories were forged, I'm sure your Italy trip was well worth the jet lag!

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    Replies
    1. Ya it was worth the jet-lag =) though we won't do it again! had

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  6. What a beautiful, beautiful place!! And so many lovely memories for the kids and you. I love your Black & White photos! We are holding off going to Europe until the kids are older - like 10 or 12 years old so they can remember and appreciate the trip. Makes the money we spent worthwhile... haha..

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    Replies
    1. Oh I think your children are big enough now! Really, our children are a lot smarter this generation. Not like us before, gong gong one. But I still remember my trips from 3 years of age. All our trips with Ewan, he still recalls them quite well leh. hhaa time to go! But 12 years old for the big brother can be a good Post PSLE trip =D

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  7. Lake Como is such a beautiful destination and I was surprised at how affordable the hotel rates are. I've never thought Italy can be kids-friendly but so wonderful to read your travelogues, very succinct and full of practical tips!

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    Replies
    1. Yes I was surprised too. For such a beautiful historical property, I couldn't believe it. Lake Como isn't really a very kids-friendly place as compared to Verona. I'd recommend a couple trip =) when the kids are older to be left behind. Thanks for enjoying my travelogues!

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  8. What a beautiful place for vacation. I bet you did lots of research on the child friendly places for you holiday. But if given a choice, I'll be contented to just go with hubby :)

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    Replies
    1. Hhah I WANNA JUST GO WITH HUBBY TOO! Next year he says =)

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