Travel to Italy - Lake Como, Verona and Lake Garda

vegan food at Haus Hiltl in Zurich
I recently returned from a two week trip to Italy and the struggle to get back into every day life is real. Italy is a beautiful country and if you're a long time follower you'll know this is just one of many trips we have taken in recent years. This time we started off in Switzerland, in fact Zurich to be specific with the main purpose of catching the Bernina Express to Italy.

This was my first time visiting Switzerland and Zurich. It's a beautiful city on a lake with the Alps as a backdrop but it's true how expensive it can be. We only had a couple of days to explore which mainly involved ferry trips and eating several times at Haus Hiltl, the world's oldest vegetarian restaurant. The food was wonderful with lots of vegan options so I dived right in. Hiltl is a buffet restaurant where you pay by the weight of your plate. Totally delicious but oh boy costly (in fairness its probably equivalent to prices in London).
Bernina Express
After two days in Zurich it was time to move on and take the The Bernina Express which known as  the highest transalpine railway in Europe and the route is a UNESCO world heritage site. We took a local train to Chur, Switzerland (not far from Zurich) to catch the Bernina Express to Tirano, Italy. The entire journey was beautiful and took my breath away especially when travelling past the glaciers and lakes high up in the Alps. As it was Summer we travelled through lush green countryside with snow capped mountains until we reach the highest peak. The journey includes spectacular sites such as the Brusio Circular Viaduct, Lago Bianco and the 136-metre-long Landwasser Viaduct. The train is comfortable with panoramic carriages that allow for unrestricted views. We pre-booked our tickets in January and it's worth planning in advance due to popularity. If you want to save money, book via German websites rather than Swiss ones for a better exchange rate. Our destination Tirano is a small Italian town in a beautiful backdrop but crowded due to its train connections. We simply stopped for lunch whilst waiting the next train to Bellano, Lake Como.
As soon as you mention Lake Como everyone feels the need to mention George Clooney! Setting aside its famous connections the lake is another stunning destination with small towns perched on cliffs at the water edge. Bellano gave the impression of a chilled out little town and seem to be off the tourist trail which was very welcome. I enjoyed the sleepiness but we could easily connect to other towns on the lake. Everyone heads to Bellagio and of course we did the same but it was too crowded and overwhelmed with tourists so we didn't stay long. Personally I preferred Varenna, a charming town with narrow streets that climb the cliffs, waterfront cafes and delightful walk along the lake edge from the ferry station to the town. We also ventured to Como, it was a couple of hours on the ferry from Bellano but well worth it. The ferry was a relaxing way to see more of the lake and then Como itself is a busy city. We wandered around, stopped for lunch, took the scenic funicular and made our return journey via train.

After four days in Bellano we travelled to Verona, staying two nights. I was completely smitten with this city and it quickly became a favourite in comparison to others in Italy. Of course no trip to Verona is complete without a look at Juliet's balcony but elbows at the ready because it's insanely overcrowded with tourists. You can see the balcony from the street if you don't fancy queuing to enter the courtyard. Verona is fully of history and it's one of those places that is beautiful to wander around with shops, churches and architecture to catch your attention. The weather hit 30 degrees in Verona so walking all day quickly became tiring so we did opt for a hop on and off city sightseeing bus. It was a welcome break from the heat and a great way to cover more ground. Of course for me the benefit to a larger city is having a wider selection of vegan options to hand. Veggie burgers and Poke Bowls were a welcomed break from Marina Pizza and Pasta Al Pomodoro.
Lake Garda
From Verona we took the train to Peschiera del Garda (Lake Garda) where we stayed our final four nights. Peschiera is a resort town and it was super busy with holiday makers, a much different vibe to Lake Como. Camping and theme parks are a huge attractions in this area of Lake Garda. Whilst staying in Peschiera we visited Malcesine and took a trip on the Monte Baldo cable car. I'm not one for heights but it was worth it for the views at the top. The town Malcesine is also pleasant to wander around and have a bite to eat. We travelled to Malcesine on the ferry which took three hours from Peschiera but it was a relaxed way to see more of Lake Garda. For a quicker return journey we caught the local bus. We also visited Sirmione known for its thermal baths and medieval castle. It is a beautiful town but very popular with tourists so if you can find a quiet spot make the most of it. There are plenty of gelato shops but I found a few a little demanding in trying to catch your attention and sample flavours. As someone with allergies you have to turn down offers and staff give somewhat annoyed glances. I found it a little intimidating but I wouldn't allow it to impact on our visit.

Once again Italy was beautiful and we had an amazing trip. A road trip holiday isn't always easy as it can become a little tiring (I was ready to get home to my bed) but I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing the two famous lakes.

Sarah x

Further links that may be of interest
Airbnb (invite link) - search for Appartamento "La Contrada" (Bellano) & lovely open space in old town (Peschiera)
Favourite for Vegan Gelato - Amorino & Romana - both have multiple locations in Italy
Favourite brand in supermarket for Allergy friendly & Vegan products - Misura