Discussions of solo travel were once approached with a subtle stigma which has since undergone a drastic rebrand as the epitome of ultimate freedom.
Endless lockdowns and restrictions, which now feel like a distant memory, were the driving force for the post-pandemic get-up-and-go, with over 54 per cent of travellers ready to go solo in 2023. Google searches have peaked and quadrupled since 2020.
The common misconception is that it's isolating. But, travelling solo doesn't necessarily mean you'll be, or feel, lonely.
You’re forced to look up from screens, reel things back to basics, talk to people, and fully immerse in the culture. The best part? You control how, when and what you want to do.
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When I told people I'd be heading to Lake Como, I was met with slight confusion: Lake Como? On your own? After all, the famous resort is renowned for romance, being the most sought-after wedding destination in the world.
Northern Italy’s Lombardy region has hosted the likes of Chrissy Teigen, John Legend, Emily Blunt and John Krasinski – along with George and Amal Clooney, who so happen to own a holiday home on the lakefront.
Historically, it's also welcomed some of The Greats, including Lord Byron and William Wordsworth, who described the location as "a treasure, which the earth keeps to itself."
Fast forward to 2023, Lake Como is alluring a whole new generation of traveller and is evolving with splashes of newfound flavours while staying true to its Dolce Drama roots. With spring in full bloom, I wanted to take a break from the bustling city and try it for myself.
Nestled off the beaten track in the village of Pognana Lario resides Villa Lario. Over 130 years ago, the Lombardi family purchased a stone quarry and an enclave for a port perfect for the patriarch of the family Il Signore Lombardi, an avid boat enthusiast with a passion for engine engineering.
The property was derelict for almost 30 years before being acquired by a new owner. It was then slowly turned into Villa Lario by local interior designer Pietro Castagna, who envisioned a home away from home for travellers across the world to wind down at.
Unlike most villas on the lake, Villa Lario epitomises laidback luxury that combines outstanding Italian features with modern, cosy elements weaved throughout.
Surrounded by the world's third-largest lake etched against the foothills of the Alps lies two acres of manicured gardens and a panoramic infinity pool, offering the perfect opportunity for guests to breathe, reflect and relax.
While this may sound like the antithesis of a first fun-fuelled solo trip, it provided the much-needed break I sought – a far cry from the scenes of a rainy UK.
The intimate 18-suite villa keeps wellness at the forefront of its mind. Not only does it offer complimentary yoga classes – but being the true millennial I am – I noticed the rooms had no televisions. Interestingly, this is an intentional decision to encourage guests to explore the beauty of Lake Como rather than shacking up in the room.
While it's tempting not to part ways with my newfound home comforts, I ventured out to explore other areas of Lake Como, including Bellagio and Varenna.
Admittedly, I didn't expect Italian transport to be as daunting as it was – with taxis next to none. They have to be booked in advance and come with a hefty price tag. It was an awakening to how accessible and efficient UK transport is – yet we still manage to complain about it.
That said, the receptionist soon put my mind at ease, sharing timetables and bus routes from a stop located a few minutes from the villa.
A €4 bus takes you to the cobbled streets of Bellagio in around 30 minutes. They generally arrive every hour with a more frequent timetable in summer.
Bellagio is hailed the Pearl of Lake Como, with its quaint charm filled with shops, restaurants and boutiques.
Here, I aimlessly wandered around the charming alleyways and enjoyed traditional Italian street food. Given it's a small town, you only need a few hours here, with many tourists opting for day trips from their base in Milan.
From Bellagio, I hopped on the ferry across to Varenna, a traditional village filled with colourful houses, a medieval castle and incredible picturesque views.
Villa Monastero is a must, boasting eight centuries of history, botanical gardens and a museum. Luckily, it reopened on 1st April, welcoming 1,748 visitors over that weekend compared to 700 last year.
After a long day of smashing my step count, I enjoyed rounds of aperitivos from the villa's Lounge Bar.
The Lounge Bar is located in Il Palazzo, the newly renovated villa which reopened in spring 2021. The unique layout and original fireplace provide the perfect relaxing place with no overbearing black tie dress code.
The doors open up to a marble-decked terrace looking out to the pontoon with the occasional boat passing by – a perfect taster for summer.
The head mixologist was kind enough to offer a tour of what to expect come summer, including a fresh new botanical garden to grow their own in-house ingredients to complement their drinks menu.
I was pleasantly surprised by how many solo travellers turned to the North of Italy, having met several people at the villa without it feeling forced or formal. We bonded over books and board games dotted around the villa – and even went on to enjoy a boat trip with a newfound friend I met in reception.
Come May, Villa Lario have many exciting plans to spice the season up. They plan on having a renowned DJ playing 30-minute sets from the deck (remaining mindful of families), complete with fun takes on Italian classics in the form of canapés.
The on-site restaurant provides what can only be described as a culinary experience with a modern Italian spin.
Breakfast is made up of different pairings with unique, quirky names. I opted for the I am heading to the pier to read Manzoni’s Betrothed on most days consisting of eggs benedict,pancakes and a cappuccinobefore trying out the Health Corner.
All options include assorted fresh bread, pastries and jams, plenty of tea or coffee, juices and fruit.
Come with me to Villa Lario, Lake Como📍#lakecomo #italy #solotravel #travel #villalario #fyp *gifted stay
Lake Como visitors are also welcome to book the restaurant for an unforgettable dinner at one of Lake Como's best-kept secrets. But, we must warn you that you may not want to leave once there.
As for whether I'd recommend Lake Como as a solo traveller destination? Absolutely.
While it's not your stereotypical 20-something-year-old solo travel destination, it did provide an escape and proof there's a cultural shift towards winding down and switching off.
For more information on stays and events at Villa Lario, click here.
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