Active Relaxation. That’s the name of the game when I go on vacation. I wanna see the sights, go where the locals go, experience new nature and landscapes and environments never breathed in by my body before. And I want to relax, but there is too much to see to relax in a pool lounge chair or a stuffy bar.
The best way I have found to stay active, see the sights, and I mean the “real sights” that mother nature has to offer, and relax all at same time is with my SUP. With the no-impact sport of SUP, I can stay active and yet keep it relaxed as I explore almost any city, countryside, town, or village with water from a different perspective.
One of the most undiscovered SUP spots in the world I have found that is perfect for active relaxation is Lake Como in Bellagio, Italy. Sure, celebrities like George Clooney and Madonna have found the old-world beauty that is Lake Como, but when it comes to SUP, this hot spot is just heating up! If the celebrities know the value of this place, then it’s high-time the SUP community does too.
Thanks to the power of how social media is bringing the SUP community together, I found Bellagio Water Sports and paddling enthusiast/owner Michele Gandola who was eager and willing to show me Lake Como and build the SUP family. Together we organized a “SUP Lake Como Adventure Day”, as a way for locals and travelers to come try the boards and draw attention to how actively relaxing this city truly is.
And after all the traveling and toting luggage half-way around the world, I could use some active relaxation.
I arrived in Bellagio after a long haul of my inflatable BiC SUP air by plane, train, and automobile, but the moment I gazed on the expansive Lake Como, lugging all that luggage became immensely worth it. Bellagio literally looks out on Lake Como from every side of the city.
The city sits on the end of a narrow peninsula and its tucked into the Italian Alps on all sides, making it cozy but expansive, and tropical all at the same time. For the active outdoorsmen (or woman) this town has it all, from ample biking, running, and hiking areas, to a fantastic rowing club, SUP rental, and of course, Italian espresso around every corner, to round out your activity.
Michele was truly the epitome of all these activities rolled up into one hell of guy. From sun-up to sundown, Mich was running, rowing, kayaking, SUPing, and of course sipping espresso long into the evening. And he certainly warranted all that caffeine. As the founder/owner of Bellagio Water Sports by day, and waiter at La Pergola restaurant by night, this guy never stops. Being born and raised in Bellagio, Mich knows first-hand all the wonders that this town holds, as well as who has the best espresso and vino.
Mich has been rowing professionally for over a decade, but just recently got into the SUP market for rentals. Kayaks were thrown in the water almost hourly, but the paddle boards, well…they just didn’t get enough play. This is where I came in. My goal as a BiC SUP Ambassador and PaddleFit Trainer Coach was to build this lake up with SUP.
And we started with our “SUP Lake Como Adventure Day”.
Our Adventure Day included:
• A demo paddling experience for the locals with the BiC SUP boards that Michele had • A beginner-friendly intro to SUP Fitness class
• A SUP and a CUP paddle to a restaurant on the lake called Ristorante La Punta, right on the point of Bellagio
• A beginner-friendly intro to SUP Yoga class
• A goody-bag of some of Michele’s favorite gifts
The demo began at 9am with the sun beginning to pour over the mountains. Myself along some local Italians, a British girl with a gorgeous smile, a Latvian lady with a lot of personality, and young intern from the USA, hit the water with excitement and gusto.
The lake was calm except for the occasional boater and sea plane, which made me think perhaps Mr. Clooney himself was enjoying the lake too. Giving some basic instruction, we paddled along the old world charm of Bellagio villas, hotels, gardens, and even the mansion where “Casino Royale” and other movies were filmed.
Next, came the intro to SUP Fitness class where I showed them all that squats, pushups, and even burpees were doable on top of a durable BiC SUP. While this workout took the “Active Relaxation” to a much more sweaty level, each of the patrons were still all smiles taking in the Italian sights, along with much more Italian air.
My favorite part of any SUP adventure is when I get to combine my love for SUP with a cup…of coffee that is. And my Italian version of SUP and a CUP, where we were paddle to the point of the peninsula to a quaint, panoramic restaurant recommended by Mich called La Punta. It took us about an hour to paddle there from the San Giovanni Boat Club where we began, passing through the harbour and watching the HydroFoil boat come in an out.
Landing at La Punta we hiked up a small flight of lake stairs from the water’s edge to ambient outdoor setting of this one of a kind restaurant. At the tip of the city of Bellagio with the 3 branches of Lake Como all around us, we sipped our espresso, and for some, Vino, and ate amazing, traditional Italian dishes like Pizzoccheri (buckwheat pasta with vegetables and a thick butter, garlic sauce) as well as fresh fish caught by the locals. After some good conversation, and a good amount of carbohydrates, we hopped back on our SUPs and paddled back.
Finally to round out the day, we cooled down with some gentle yoga on the water, and a guided mantra meditation paddle. As the sun was setting, we saluted its Itailian grandeur with sun salutations, and long-held stretches atop calm waters. I then asked each of the paddlers to choose a word, phrase, or scripture verse for their mantra meditation and one that was favorite of theirs to silently paddle back with, saying their mantra with each stroke of their paddle. The journey back was tranquil and serene, and each of them seemed to really resonate with the golden silence of the lake at sunset.
On Days 2 and 3 of my trip to Lake Como, I was honored to lead the first PaddleFit Certification training in Europe and Bellagio was the perfect setting. With Coaches from France, Sweden, Greece, Malta, and Italy, the group was as unique as our training itself. From learning how to teach paddle technique in a class setting, and lead a SUP fitness class, these coaches begged for more learning fun by the end of the weekend.
But somehow I think it was more of the allure and magic magestic-ness of Lake Como than it was my teaching they wanted more of.
Like the feeling of stepping on a SUP for the first time, there is a bit “I-want-morealreadyand-I’m-not-even-done-yet” feeling that comes over you when you first visit Lake Como. Each morning you awake from your Italian carbohydrate-laden slumber in your lakeview villa in Bellagio, you will plan your day among the water-way and wonder just how long you will be able to stay out. The lake itself beckons from it’s 3 branches of sweeping water-scape to come be active and relax atop it’s undisturbed waters.
So if you are ready to plan your Active Relaxation in Lake Como, here are some of my tips for those looking to relax in an active way:
Active Relaxation Stay:
Hotel Il Perlo Panorama is perched on the hillside of Bellagio next to the ancient site of an old mill. This hotel even claims Bellagio on their website, as “the Destination where you will never get bored”. While it might not be “on the water”, the spectacular view of Lake Como will trip you out from literally every room in the building. Still family-owned and operated after three generations, your stay is catered to be as unique as you are.
This hotel prides themselves on catering to active bicycling groups but will also arrange for SUP trips and kayak adventure with Bellagio Water Sports. From hiking trips, to wake-boarding and water-skiiing, any activity is ready for you to actively relax.
Active Relaxation Dining:
After all those fun activities, you will definitely want to load up on some of the finest Italian food that the country has to offer, while relaxing with a lovely white wine, known as Prosecco, or a tasty little cup of espresso. There are so many “fantastico” little establishments in Bellagio, that while I can’t list them all here, I’ll list some of my top picks and what to order there:
Best Lake Como Fresh Caught Fish: Ittiturismo Mella Ristorante, owned and operated by one of the only fishermen in Bellagio who cooks up the freshest catch from that day!
Best Prosecco: Far Out (as the name implies, the food here is also “Far out”, in fact, I even ordered a dish called the “Far Out” which was amazing and just that!
Best Waterfront Fine Dining: Alle Darsene di Loppia, a 5 course meal artfully presented to you in a way where you will feel like Mr. Clooney himself!
Best Espresso: Hotel Perlo wins again with espresso enjoyed on the balcony of Hotel.
Best way to get around: Alberto Del Donno, private chauffeur, airport or train station transfers, and everything in between. Great rates and he stops for espresso along the way!
Best Active Guide: Michele Gandola, Professional Rower, Certified PaddleFit Coach, Runner and Adventure Seeker, and he literally can tell you anything and everything about Bellagio and Lake Como
Best Non-Lake Place to Visit: Villa Di Melzi Gardens. And actually it is on the lake, everything is!
http://www.giardinidivillamelzi.it/GIARDINI_DI_VILLA_MELZI/HOME_PAGE.html Actively relax. Sip an espresso after a SUP session. Bring a yoga mat to the gardens and meditate. Eat some pasta after a running tour through the city. Hike up into the Italian Alps and then cool off with some gelato. Whatever you do will be your “un-doing” and by the end of this trip, you will have lost weight and gained renewed sense of being.
Written by: Jodelle Fitzwater, lover of all things SUP, coffee, and travel.