Lake Como Travel Guide
After Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore, Lake Como is the largest and one of the most popular lakes in Italy. With the area boasting beautiful scenery and set in the foothills of the rolling snow-covered Alps, Lake Como is a perfect place to indulge and get away from the hustle and bustle of a crowded city.
In addition to many artistic and cultural highlights, a number of impressive historic villas run along the idyllic shores, some of which have been converted into luxury hotels and contribute to the magnificence of this unique destination. While the lake itself provides spectacular views of the surrounding area, various little towns such as Bellagio, Tremezzo or Varenna boast their own charm and entice tourists to a stopover and stroll along their magical narrow streets.
There is a great variety of activities to choose from in the area of Lake Como. Why not rent a bike and explore the lakeside while enjoying a nice breeze or hire a sailing boat and cruise in style? Of course, you could also go hiking and discover nature via the Lake Como Greenway, which follows the edge of the lake and crosses through the charming lakeside park.
Did you know?
Lake Como is said to have its own version of the Loch Ness monster. Several alleged sightings of a beast called 'Lariosauro' have been reported, a name taken from a fossilised dinosaur found in the lake in 1830.
- Flight time from London: 1 hour 55 min
- Milan–Malpensa Airport: 84km from the city centre; transfer time about 1 hour 19 min
- Currency: Euro
Como is the largest town on the lake and entices you with its charming historic centre. Stroll along the main street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, and admire tiny Renaissance churches, palaces and ancient wooden houses. Learn about the city's tradition of silk making and its roots to the Gauls and the Romans. After that, ride the funicular up to the top of Brunate hill for some breathtaking views.
The area known as Centro Lago, where the three towns of Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio sit on three different shorelines, is definitely the most beautiful part the lake.
Cyprus groves, stunning villas with magical gardens, earth-toned buildings, steeped cobbled lanes and altogether unspoilt regions are what you can expect from Bellagio. It is located at the very tip of the peninsula so it is a very convenient trip by boat. But why not stay in Bellagio for a while and visit one of the lovely festivals or outdoor markets?
Varenna is a charming town on the eastern part of the lake which used to be a fishing village. Climb up the hill of the Castello di Vezio and enjoy stunning views of Lake Como and the pretty lakeside villages or visit one of the magnificent gardens.
The vibrant resort of Menaggio provides marvellous hiking opportunities, walks and trails. The main attraction is a bit further out of town, the Villa Carlotta, which is the most famous villa on the lake, built in 1643 and holds many romantic paintings, statues and Empire furnishings. There are also beautiful gardens lined with orchids, banana trees, cacti, palms, and a fern jungle.
Sacro Monte di Ossuccio (Sacred Mount of Ossuccio) was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and sits along the western part of Lake Como, surrounded by lovely olive groves and forests. Fifteen Baroque chapels, all built between the years of 1635 and 1720, line the path up to a monastery dedicated to the Coronation of the Virgin.
A multitude of bars and cafes are situated along the shoreline of Lake Como. However, if you want to get away from the busy tourist spots, you can find quaint little venues hidden away up one of the many narrow streets. Alternatively, you can retreat further into the village, where you can find bars/trattorias such as TexSara in Menaggio, where you can feel part of the community.
'Foxtown' is a large designer outlet just over the border in Switzerland and takes approximately 20 minutes to reach from Como. There is also the 'Iperal' shopping centre, located at the northern tip of the lake near Colico. This has an amazing supermarket as well as many other shops including sports, shoes, clothes, make-up, electrical stores etc. Como has a few outlets, one of which is Bennett, located at the roundabout where the road is sign-posted to Menaggio.
Fish dominates the restaurant menus on Lake Como (as expected). You will also find that polenta and gnocchi are two other popular dishes to be found in the local dining venues.
Meat dishes like pork, beef, chicken, rabbit and venison are also on the menu, though.
Bar Café Rossi is one of the most charming waterfront cafes in Bellagio, situated in the town's main square. Choose to enjoy your meal outside or in the lovely Art Nouveau dining room. A fine choice of pastries, sandwiches and excellent wines are served alongside splendid house coffee.
Ristorante Barchetta, in Bellagio, is known for fresh lake seafood, such as delicious perch or angler fish and everything is served in a delightful bamboo-enclosed heated terrace. Away from the seafood, there are excellent traditional Italian dishes such as ravioli with goat's cheese, topped with pear sauce; savoury risotto with hazelnuts and pistachios; or baby lamb chops with rosemary.
Vecchia Varenna is a very romantic restaurant in Varenna, which manages to blend superb local cuisine with a marvellous lakefront charm. A pretty stone-floored room and a covered terrace overlooking the water is set up for you to enjoy local herbs and vegetables, tagliolini laced with caviar, risotto combined wild mushrooms and lavarello (a white fish from the lake), or grilled trout stuffed with radicchio risotto.