Where History And Beauty Collide: Lake Como, Italy Travel Guide

Last Updated on 24 Apr 2024 by Fiona Perisone

Escape to a world of timeless beauty and medieval charm with a visit to Lago di Como. The third largest Lake in Italy, Lago di Como, is a breathtaking display of breathtaking scenery, historic architecture, and opulent villas that seamlessly blend into the landscape.

Indulge in the splendor of nature with a stroll through magnificent botanical gardens, or explore the charming postcard-perfect towns that dot the Lake's shores. Step into a world of luxury and beauty as you explore the area's lavish mansions, each one more magnificent than the last. Or, let the breathtaking scenery take your breath away as you admire the Lake's majestic peaks and crystal-clear waters. Whether you're looking to soak up the sun, marvel at the rich history, or simply relax and unwind, there's something for everyone in the Lake Como region.

Discover the ancient villas that line the shore, take a scenic boat ride on the serene waters, hike the surrounding mountains for stunning views, or relax and soak up the sun in one of the many charming cafes along the lakeshore. And when you're ready to wind down, retire to a cozy villa or boutique hotel, where you can revel in the tranquility of this serene paradise.

Below, we'll talk about the places to go and things to see on your Lake Como vacation! So pack your bags, and let Lake Como whisk you away on a journey you'll never forget

Best Time To Visit Lake Como

The Lake Como area enjoys a sort of microclimate, and the Italian heat joins with the crisp mountain air and the breeze off of the Lake. However, the most popular time for a Lake Como vacation is between March and November, when the temperature is warm enough to let you enjoy all of the water activities without the slightest bit of chill.

Keep in mind, however, that summer is also the busy season! If you'd rather explore the Lake Como area without the crowds, schedule your visit during the brief shoulder seasons (from March to April or October to November).

Top Attractions

Villa Melzi

Villa Melzi

While this villa is closed to the public, it's still one of Lake Como's most popular tourist attractions. The gardens are unique and beautifully maintained, with many exotic and rare species.

Villa Balbianello

Villa Balbianello

The terraced, lush gardens of Villa Balbianello are absolutely incredible. It's often used for private events, such as weddings and similar ceremonies. In fact, it was used as the film set for the James Bond film Casino Royale and parts of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones! From the terraces of this villa, you can enjoy a nearly panoramic view of the Lake and the lakeside towns.

Villa Carlotta

Villa Carlotta

Not far from the Villa del Balbianello is the massive Villa Carlotta. A fine arts museum and beautifully landscaped gardens are located here. This villa offers spectacular views over the Lake's shores and nearby mountain pastures.

Villa Monastero

Villa Monastero

This villa was an old monastery but is now an international conference center. It houses botanical gardens that contain many species of rare plants. Each room of the Casa Museo portion of the villa has been furnished in period pieces, allowing you to "step back through time."

Castello di Vezio

Castello di Vezio

Come to Lake Como and explore an actual Medieval fortress! Located on the promontory where the two branches of the Y meet, the castle terrace gives the best Lake Como view. The castle is filled with "ghosts," which are really white plaster sculptures. There are also many falconry shows put on at the Castello di Vezio and a permanent exhibit of the extinct Lariosaurus of local legend.

Spina Verde Park

Spina Verde Park

Just southwest of Lake Como is Spina Verde Park - a real treat for vacationers who love nature! You'll enjoy amazing views and can explore the 6th-century military tower of Castello Baradello. This protected forest contains many trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Ruins of the ancient Golasecca culture can also be found in the park.

Sacro Monte di Ossuccio

Sacro Monte di Ossuccio

The "Holy Mount of Ossuccio" is a hillside sanctuary surrounded by olive groves. The path up to this monastery is dotted with 15 Baroque chapels, each dedicated to a mystery of the Rosary. You're rewarded with great views from the sanctuary at the top of the hill!

Things To Do

lake como boat tour

Take A Boat Tour

Of course, boat tours are a perfect way to see the sights of Lago di Como! There are many public boat trips available, but it's worth it to book a tour on a private yacht. You'll enjoy the beautiful landscape while your guide highlights the region's fascinating history. Many private boat tours will include small stops at special locations, so check their itineraries and see if one strikes your fancy!

Como cafe

Eat Some Delicious Food

You'll enjoy some traditional Lombard dishes here that you'll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere! These include riso con pesce persico (rise with Lake Como fish) and hearty pizzoccheri (pasta, cabbages, and cheese).

Street cafe in Lake Como

Explore The Towns

Many towns are located on Lake Como's shore, and each is worth visiting! Here's a quick overview to map out your day trips.

Como City - The main town of the lake region, Como is worth a day of exploration! The large Como Cathedral sits in the historic Piazza Duomo, and the whole city is filled with historic buildings and museums.

Bellagio - Located on the point between the two branches of Lake Como, Bellagio is one of the most beautiful towns on the Lake. Villa Melzi is located here.

Varenna - The gardens of Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi can be found here, as well as the Castello di Vezio.

Tremezzina - This town on the eastern shore is a result of the recent merger of Lenno, Mezzegra, Ossuccio, and Tremezzo. Here is where you'll find Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello.

Menaggio - This ancient town has the longest lakefront on the western shore. The landscaped gardens along the Viale Benedetto Castelli make it a beautiful place to take in the Lake.

Nesso - Split by the Nesso gorge, the stream that runs through this small hamlet is a fun place to spend an afternoon.

Argegno - Argegno overlooks Lake Como at its deepest, so it houses the largest and oldest harbor of the Lake Como region. The town is split into two parts, connected by an ancient stone bridge. See the lake shore sites from its cable car!

Cernobbio - Cernobbio has a whimsical "secret garden" and is home to some of the most famous villas of the Lake Como area, such as Villa d'Este.

Gravedona - If you're looking for a peaceful trip, we recommend visiting this small town on the northern branch of Lake Como. It is filled with charming architecture and ancient churches.

Helicopter Tour

Take A Helicopter Tour

Book a private helicopter flight over the Lombardy lake district and end it with a gourmet dinner on the shore! Is there anything more elegant? From way up there, you'll see the other nearby lakes - Lake Lugano, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Garda.

Where History and Beauty Collide: Lake Como, Italy Travel Guide

Enjoy A Nature Walk

There are many ways to tour the area, but the best way to take in Lake Como's breathtaking scenery is to get up close and personal with it with a nature walk! There are many trails around the region, and the ancient Sentiero del Viandante trail is the most fascinating. This trail dates back to Roman times, and you'll spot ruins of castles along its 28-mile length. Because it's so long, it's best to split the trail up over multiple days, enjoying the mountain huts run as refuges along the route.

Where To Stay In Lake Como

Each of the towns around Lake Como offers beautiful hotels for visitors to stay. The Lake is famous for its extravagantly lavish hotels, and the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Il Sereno, and Mandarin Oriental hotels top many lists. However, if you're looking for something simpler, many of the other towns around the Lake offer charming lodging options. Since hiking the nature trails around Lake Como is a popular way to explore the region, some of the towns offer well-maintained hostels for backpacking travelers.

Where Is Lake Como Located?

Lake Como is located in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. It has a unique upside-down Y shape, formed by the melting of ancient glaciers that formed two rivers that joined up and eventually turned into this beautiful Lake. Lake Como sits at the base of the Alps.

How To Get To Lake Como, Italy

Typically, you'll get to Lake Como from Milan, Italy, and you'll fly into the Milan Malpensa International Airport, which connects to most major European cities. From there, you'll take the Malpensa Express train into Milan, then take the train from the Saronno station into Como Lago.

Transportation Within Lake Como

Many public transportation options are available to help you get around Lake Como!

On the lake's western side, you'll use buses and boat services to get from one town to another. There are no train services on the western side of Lake Como. On the eastern shore, however, you can zip from town to town using the trains. To get from one side of Lake Como to the other, use one of the many boat and ferry services. Boat services connect each of the ports around Lago di Como, so it's easy to move from town to town.

The towns of Lake Como are typically small and were built before cars were widely used. Most of them can be explored on foot, bicycles are available, and car rentals are available. You can even rent out vintage cars to explore Lake Como in style!

Of course, the large network of nature trails means you can travel around Lake Como on foot if you'd like!

Golden Tips

Exploring City Center

The city center is where most of the lakeside towns are flat, and so are easily accessible to any tourist. However, some of the northern towns are situated in the foothills of the Alps, and the charming alleyways and colorful side streets are steep and contain many steps.

Plan Your Day Carefully

You'll likely be using the public transportation system around Lake Como frequently! Be sure to plan your days carefully because you'll be switching from train to bus to ferry, perhaps all in a single day.