I really appreciate all the nice comments. Although much of the experience driving in Italy isn't really as hairy as it looks initially, there are definitely times when you have to thread the needle.
Hmm, staying in Bellagio actually complicates things somewhat if you're thinking of going for a drive. The reason is that the roads are narrow and the distances, though not far, take a relatively long time to cover. Being way out on the peninsula, as Bellagio is, means your best bet to get to the more populated west shore of the Como leg of the lake means a couple of rides on the Traghetto or car ferry. Could be a fun experience or a costly hassle, depending on your point of view. I honestly wouldn't classify driving around the lake as a relaxing, top-down experience. It really demands your full attention and concentration, especially with tour buses on the road.
You can also do what I (and I suspect a lot of experienced visitors to the lake) did, and that's put the car in the garage and take the Vaporetto (passenger ferry) where you want to go. The towns are all pretty small and the interesting stuff tends to be within an easy walk of the ferry landings.
My favorite eating spot in Bellagio is Hotel Ristorante La Pergola, which requires a bit of a hike up and over the spine of the town and down to the little port on the opposite of the peninsula. For me, it's what Bellagio ought to be: that gorgeous location (just looking the opposite direction from the main part of town) and without those hordes of people just like you, all trying to get a table and a waiter's attention. You can pretend it's your own secret discovery and because it's so small, probably have the place mostly to yourself.
My overall favorite eating place on the lake is Pizzeria Giardino in Cernobbio, just a stone's throw from Villa d'Este. Completely unassuming from the front, it has no view at all, but serves my favorite pizza in the whole wide world: you can taste every ingredient. They also have a full menu of very nice dishes and a very fine wine list. The decor is very upscale as well, which you wouldn't expect from the name, and although always busy, service is good.
Attaching a picture of the ambience you'll enjoy at La Pergola (that's Varenna in the distance), and the food you'll enjoy at Pizzeria Giardino.
Last edited by boothguy; 07-09-2011 at 11:37 AM.