Lake Como, Italy wasn't originally on our travel itinerary.
While researching potential side-trip alternatives to our recent family travel to Switzerland, I was hoping to take our family to Paris, France, the Tuscany region of Italy, or even Munich, Germany.
Our little friend Fate intervened and somewhere along my frustrated late night travel planning, I stumbled upon Hotel Europa in Sorico, Italy, along the northern tip of Lake Como. Of all of the places I contacted and researched, something about this place felt right. I could tell you that the Trip Advisor reviews were the best I had ever seen for any hotel, the location was perfectly suited for our trip --just a few hours' drive away from Zurich, Switzerland -- and that the lure of beautiful Lago di Como was strong. Yet it was more than that: I had a strong sense that this was where we were supposed to go. My mind just thought "yes, that's it," my heart clapped with joy, and my gut nodded in agreement.
And so, after several incredibly prompt, warm, and welcoming emails from Hotel Europa's manager, Mattia Copes, we managed to secure a reservation in one of their 3-bedroom family suites during the high travel season.
Via Cesare Battisti, 4
22010 Sorico, Italy
+39 0344 / 84004
Located at the very beginning of the picture perfect Lago di Como and surrounded by the majestic Alps, Hotel Europa in Sorico, Italy is situated nicely for a relaxing, fun, warm family vacation. It is about an hour away from the larger city of Como and the popular Bellagio, which means prices are more reasonable and the area is less crowded.
To get to Hotel Europa, I suggest renting a car and driving. You could take the train into Como or Bellagio, and then take a bus to Sorico, but scheduling can be tricky, and once you've seen one of those huge buses barreling down the teeny tiny narrow and super windy streets carved into the sides of the mountains, trust me: you will not want to take a bus.
I'll be sharing photos and travel tips for Lake Como, Italy in a future post, but here's a taste of the gorgeous lake & mountain view that my family enjoyed just a short walk away from Hotel Europa:
[my family playing on the nearby shore of the lake (left) and taking in the view of the northern tip of Lago di Como, Italy (right)]
Hotel Europa has been run by the Copes family since 1973. Now the third generation is at the helm, continuing the longstanding tradition of superior service, excellent accommodations, and incomparable homemade meals in the hotel's restaurant.
When you arrive, you are greeted by a cheerful welcome area and likely by Mattia or his father. As soon as you step inside, you instantly feel at home.
The family-owned hotel has 13 spacious and airy non-smoking rooms, all with private bathrooms, televisions, and free WiFi. For families, they offer 3- or 4-bed suites, which are truly spacious compared to most Italian hotels. There is ample street parking around the hotel, and it is situated away from the busy main street, so the atmosphere is calm and peaceful here.
Between 2010 and 2012, the hotel underwent complete renovation and you'll find modern furniture and amenities in each room. Some of the rooms even have balconies that look out onto the mountains. If you've ever stayed in a traditional Italian hotel before in a large city, you'll be truly pleased with how much more spacious Hotel Europa's rooms are in comparison. With two adults and two kids, we had a lot of room to roam in our suite.
If you have kids, definitely let Mattia know, as he was able to get us into one of the rooms with bunk beds. I cannot emphasize enough how much my kids LOVED those bunk beds! As soon as we opened the door, they squealed in delight and claimed their spots. Seriously: the bunk beds were one of their favorite parts of the trip!
Mattia, who manages the hotel now, was kind enough to let us know ahead of time that there is no air conditioning, as he knows that is something American families are accustomed to. We were expecting there to be no air conditioning since it's not as common over there, but I thought it was very kind of him to mention that. There was a large oscillating fan in our room, and while it was gloriously warm outside, the inside temperature was always pleasant.
The room rates are extremely reasonable, considering the size and amenities included. We paid just 115 Euros for the 3-bedroom suite. A true bargain for a lovely hotel.
One of the things that drew me to Hotel Europa was reading all of the rave reviews about "Mama's cooking." When we travel, I honestly get tired of eating out at restaurants day in, day out. I miss homecooked meals. So when I read about Hotel Europa's ristorante, it helped seal the deal: this was THE place for us to stay.
At Hotel Europa's ristorante, there isn't a formal menu. Mattia welcomes you and guides you to your table, where he verbally lists off the breakfast offerings in the morning and the dinner dishes of the day at night. If you are staying at Hotel Europa, trust me: you will want to enjoy at least one dinner here. The homemade pastas are PHENOMENAL.
Mama Angela makes the pasta fresh each day, and sometimes during the busy travel season, twice a day. She uses the same base stand for her pasta maker that her mother used -- just one more symbol of this family's tradition in hosting visitors from around the world in their home and hotel. I love it.
With a mixture of just eggs and flour, Mama Angela uses the same base pasta dough for each pasta dish to be served that night. I was so honored to be able to watch her work. It's clear that she has a true passion for cooking, and more than that, she is very, very good at it (scroll down to the food photos below if you just can't wait!)
With this dough, she makes tagliatelle, tortelloni, and lasagna dishes.
What I love about homemade Italian food is that the perfection is in the simplicity. Real ingredients, and only the best. Italians know how to make ingredients shine without crazy combinations, huge portions, or complicated preparation. Simple is best, and Mama Angela's cooking is the quintessential essence of what Italian cooking is all about.
While we were there on our first night, I enjoyed the deliciously rich tagliatelle bolognese:
...while our kids tried a delightfully simple but tasty tagliatelle with tomato cream sauce:
You can see, my son was enjoying his tagliatelle:
[Bliss Boy dives in to Hotel Europa's Tagliatelle with Tomato Cream Sauce]
My husband ordered the tortelloni with browned butter sauce:
[Hotel Europa's Tortelloni with Mushroom Mascarpone filling]
This tortelloni is filled with a mushroom mascarpone mixture. It was fabulous! The filling-to-pasta ratio was just right, and the lightness of the sauce allowed the tortelloni to shine. Mama Angela also makes a ham and cheese tortelloni option.
On our next night, I was pleased to try --and am so glad I did -- Mama Angela's famous lasagna, which is made with a bolognese sauce and uses mascarpone instead of ricotta cheese. I love this substitution! I've vowed to use mascarpone instead of ricotta the next time I make lasagna. I doubt it will come close to tasting as wonderful as Mama Angela's but I can try :)
In addition to the pasta dishes, Hotel Europa Ristorante also offers meat options, such as the veal scallopine that my husband ordered and fully enjoyed, pictured below left.
Finally, you must cap off your meal(s) at the Hotel Europa Ristorante with the housemade tiramisu. It is a crunchy, sweet, delightful ending to a truly lovely meal.
At Hotel Europa, breakfast consists of European classics: breads, meats, cheeses, jams, Nutella (my Nutella-loving husband was happy!), and fantastic coffee and orange juice.
The ristorante prices are incredibly reasonable, with pasta dishes around 7 Euros, meat dishes at 9 Euros, and tiramisu was just 5 Euros. Such a deal for one of the best Italian meals you will ever enjoy. If you're smart, you'll dine here at least twice during your stay ;)
I have such respect and admiration for families who pass along their hotel business from generation to generation. It's a tough business, and Mattia and his family manage to run the hotel all by themselves, with a few housekeeping staff. Mama cooks every meal from start to finish, Mattia runs the front office, built the hotel's beautiful website, and serves as your waiter along with his sister, who also helps with the restaurant. You feel like you are home because this is their home, and they honestly enjoy sharing it with you.
What sets Hotel Europa apart bar none is a commitment to superior customer service. From the moment I received the welcoming email from Mattia, to the moment we drove away from the hotel with the whole family outside waving goodbye, we were made to feel like a part of their family. They are all so very kind and accommodating, and they go above and beyond to make your stay pleasant. My family will always have warm memories of our stay at Hotel Europa, and we hope to go back again someday.
If you are ever traveling to the Lago di Como region of Italy, and you want a true down-home Italian experience without the cheesy corporate hotel gimmicks and tourist prices (as you'll find in Bellagio), I highly recommend booking a stay at Hotel Europa in Sorico, Italy.
If you're traveling to northern Italy or southern Switzerland, be sure to read about our day trip to the castles of Bellinzona, Switzerland
Next Tuesday Travel installment: what to do in and around Lago di Como (Lake Como), Italy.