For centuries, writers, philosophers and artists made the lakes of North Italy their favourite escape. If you’re in Milan, take a the TreNord railway line heading to Tirano and get off at Varenna, directly on Lake Como.

Today, more coveted spots at Lake Como are known for celebrity residents. Hollywood movies were shot here, too, including the Star Wars and James Bond series.

Bellagio and Varenna: Beautiful Pearls on Lake Como

If you’re seeking the solace and beauty of the lakes, Como tops the list. It’s sophisticated yet unpretentious. Cobblestone streets wiggle their way around homes and markets; the local ferry plows between towns and fishing villages, stopping for both tourists and locals.

The highlights of a trip to Lake Como could simply be a ferry cruise. From the water, you gain a stunning perspective of the Roman-style villas and Renaissance gardens.

Check in at grand hotels in Bellagio and Varenna for the finest experience, or try quieter and more local agriturismos in towns such as Domaso and Colico, farther north. Jerry Fresia, an American painter, holds art retreats in Bellagio — book early to secure your spot.

Only the eastern side of the lake has a railway connected to Milan; to explore the west, use a rental car or take the public bus, which winds its way down this very narrow yet scenic strip.

A Wine-Lover’s Itinerary in Northern Italy

Northern Italy’s Valtellina region is known for wines cultivated from the indigenous Nebbiolo grape, such as Sassella, Grumello, Inferno and Sforzato wines. The vineyards are grown on terraced steps, an age-old tradition of beautiful stacked stone walls.

In winter, prices are lower, spaces less crowded and the sunsets over snowy peaks even more breathtaking.

Some stops you should not miss:

·Sondrio
From the northern tip of Lake Como, it’s an easy 20-minute drive to reach the province of Sondrio. Here there are numerous wine tastings, wine-themed hotels and holidays designed to cater to your love of rich-bodied red wine.

·Bormio
The area of Bormio, a 2-hour drive farther down, will bring you to a place known for its healing thermal baths and luxurious spas. If you have kids, take them to the Bormio Terme, a giant thermal pool complete with slides and a spa.

·Madesimo
Ski-lovers can hit the slopes in the winter, when the temperatures drop and locals head for the mountaintops. In Madesimo, a resort town built around snow-capped peaks, the instructors speak English and German, as well as Italian.

When travelling to Italy, don’t miss the chance to enjoy the slow, still, sweet life. It’s usually away from the coast, where your dreamy home away from home awaits.