Located at the foot of the Italian Alps and fed by numerous Alpine tributaries, Lake Como is one of the most picturesque holiday spots in Italy. With beautiful lakeside resorts, a surprising range of fantastic activities and must-see sights to visit, Lake Como is one of Lombardy’s hidden gems.
Lake Como is just under 50 km from Northern Italy’s chic fashion capital, Milan, and is a stunning holiday spot that’s popular with tourists, Expats and locals alike. Also known as Lario, Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy and has a maximum depth of over 400m making it one of the deepest in Europe.
Lake Como – An Overview.
The leafy shores of Lake Como and cobblestone streets give the area a fairy tale atmosphere and as you walk past the shops you’ll be impressed by the abundance of silk products on offer.
Lake Como has a long history of being at the center of the Italian silk industry and consequently you can pick up some lovely scarfs, blouses and other fashionable silk items to remember your stay by. The origins of the settlements by the lakeshore date back to the Roman era, something which can be seen by the well ordered grid patterns of the streets.
Lake Como has been a retreat for wealthy elites since Roman times but today it is a popular destination for tourists from all over Italy and the wider world. There are a huge range of cultural treasures around the shores of the lake as well as stunning palaces and villas including, among others, the famous Villa Olmo, Villa Carlotta and the Villa Serbelloni.
The lake itself is shaped like a letter ‘Y’. This was caused by the erosive actions of melting Alpine glaciers as well as the Adda River. This ‘Y’ shape makes up what is called the ‘Larian Triangle’ at the center of which is the regional capital, the small town of Canzo.
Things To Do During Your Stay In Lake Como.
Lake Como is an amazing destination that is well loved for its picturesque landscapes, flora, fauna, spas, luxury hotels and local cuisine. It is a very popular destination among tourists and expats. For more active visitors Lake Como is also a hotspot for windsurfing, kitesurfing and sailing. There are also hiking trails that wind through the stunning ancient forests that rise up around the shores of the lake.
In the surrounding countryside of Lake Como there’s an abundance of farms that produce olive oil, cheese, milk, salamis and honey. Tourists to Lake Como often enjoy visiting these farms to learn about the processes that go into the making of these local specialties but also to purchase fresh items to take home with them.
Cathedral Di Santa Maria Assunta.
Located in Como, on the Southernmost tip of the Western branch of the lake, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is a stunning example of gothic architecture at its very best. Built in the 14th Century, the impressive cathedral looms over the Piazza Duomo with its marble face being decorated with stone carvings and a beautiful rose window.
Strangely, instead of Christian saints, the statues that are located on either side of the cathedral’s main doors depict Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, who were elite Romans that used to live in the area.
The cathedral is widely considered to be one of Italy’s best examples of the architectural transition from the Gothic style to the early Renaissance period. Inside the cathedral the polychrome paintings and the side altars that were installed later, create a powerfully harmonious atmosphere. While you’re there you can also climb up the 18th Century dome to enjoy views across the town of Como.
Although the museum has a fairly unassuming façade, within its walls is housed a superb collection of Neolithic and Roman artifacts. These incredible artifacts were largely unearthed in the surrounding areas of Lake Como and give a fascinating insight into the history of the region.
The collections incorporate elements from the pre-Roman, Neolithic period as well as the Roman times which gives an interesting overview of the way the region has developed over the centuries. There are also rooms which exhibit local traditions and customs of Como as well as a popular display of regionally produced handmade lacework.
Basilica Di Sant’Abbondio.
Located a short walk from central Como, the Basilica di Sant’Abbondio is an 11th Century basilica built in the unique Lombardy Romanesque style of the period. The basilica is one of the best examples of the legendary ‘Maestri Comacini’ who were widely respected stone masons of the period. Originally, on the outside of the basilica there were intricate stone carvings but they’ve been brought to the Museo Civico to protect them from weather damage.
The narrow interiors of the building are decorated with stunning Gothic era frescos which have remained in excellent condition throughout the centuries. It’s a lovely place to visit in Como and if you want to stop for refreshments on your way there are plenty of family run cafes and restaurants where you can rest or have some lunch.
Take The Funicular Up To Brunate From Como.
Brunate is a terraced settlement that is located almost directly above Como. To save you walking up the steep slope it’s great to catch the funicular to Brunate where you’ll have excellent views across the lake and can spend the day exploring the town. During the summer months it’s also a popular place for tourists and visitors to rent an apartment during their stay beside Lake Como.
There’s lots of great hikes that set off from Brunate, although if you want a more relaxing day trip you can have lunch at one of the cliff side restaurants that overlook the lake and the stunning mountain scenery.
This spectacular neoclassical temple was built in memory of Alessandro Volta, the Como born inventor of the electric battery. The electrical term ‘voltage’ is also named after the scientist and inventor. It was the work of Alessandro Volta that first allowed the flow of a continuous electrical current which makes the importance of his contribution to science hard to overstate.
The temple contains a museum that exhibits items and memorabilia from the scientist’s life as well as one of the first versions of an electric battery! You can also see some of the scientific instruments that he used in his work which might be particularly interesting for visiting families with children.
The Tempio Voltiano was built in the late 1920s and funded by the famous industrialist Francesco Somaini to commemorate the inventor’s death 100 years earlier in 1827. The location of the temple against the backdrop of the lake strikes an impressive memorial to the great scientist and his world changing achievements.
Ferries And Boat Trips On Lake Como.
Lake Como has a highly developed transport system that incorporates boats and ferries that shuttle locals and tourists from town to town along its shores. There are frequent ferries that take cars and passengers from Tremezzo or Menaggio on the lake’s Western shores to Varenna and Bellagio as well as other towns and villages en route.
Before you plan a trip across the lake you should always check the timetables, particularly in the low season when most services tend to run less frequently.
The municipality runs three main types of service on the lake. There are Motorship services that run a shuttle service along the Western branch of the lake as well as to the North and mid-lake towns and villages. These are slow moving, cheap and give you the chance to take in the scenery at your leisure.
There are also fast services that follow similar routes but use hydrofoils instead of motorships so they stop less, cost more and won’t give you so much of a chance to appreciate the views. Lastly, there are ferries that only shuttle between the more popular mid-lake towns including Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio and Cabenabbia. The ferries carry cars as well as passengers so they’re perfect for tourists taking a day trip to other parts of the lake.
Best Places To Stay In Lake Como.
There are many towns and villages along the shores of Lake Como each with its own personality, character and charms. These are the best 5 towns to visit during your stay on the shores of Lake Como which you have to see to experience all the area has to offer.
This elegant resort is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Southern end of Lake Como. Most tourists to the area arrive in Como and then travel onwards throughout the lake to visit other towns and villages during their stay. The beautiful town has a plethora of cultural gems and historical sites of interest with hiking trails and water sports centers on the shore. Ideal for couples, families and solo travelers, Como is one of the lake’s most common places for tourists to stay.
While Como has some extremely luxurious hotels and villas to stay in you can also find great accommodation on a budget, ranging from hostels to small hotels. The town’s wine bars and lounges make it an active place after dark while during the day there’s plenty to see and do.
Nestled amongst forested mountains with stunning views across the water, this is a major town and travel hub on the Western side of Lake Como. Menaggio is a beautiful laid back location with a lot of things to do. There’s excellent shopping, gelateria, restaurants and arcades with souvenirs and local arts and crafts to remember your visit by.
With a pedestrian only center Menaggio has a great selection of options for entertainment and eating out. If it’s your first time visiting Lake Como then Menaggio is a great choice for your stay. There’s great hiking in the surrounding landscapes and you can even take a quick trip across the border to visit the Swiss Alps while you’re there.
Tremezzo is located in the center of Lake Como and is best known for its splendid waterfront and the beautiful botanical gardens. Ideal for families who are visiting the province, Tremezzo is the perfect spot for a lakeside Italian vacation. The town of Tremezzo is ideal if you want to get back to nature or enjoy the lake’s beach and the surrounding forests.
Located in the center of the lake, Bellagio is packed with luxury villas and restaurants, an active nightlife and a major tourist hotspot. It’s probably the best known town on the lake and is a must-visit during your trip to the area.
Bellagio has the very best nightlife in the area and is packed full of nightclubs and chic wine bars. Perfect for young travelers who want to experience the tranquil beauty of the lake during the day while being able to let their hair down on the dance floor at night!
Varenna is a charming town on the Eastern shore of the lake with incredible views of the mountains. It’s located on the opposite shore to the busier Menaggio and Bellagio so it’s better for a quiet getaway in a quaint rustic atmosphere where you can really enjoy the Dolce Vita.
Varenna is also good for travelers who want to use the town as a base for further explorations of the province by car, train or bike. There’s also an array of activities to try in Varenna that include falconry! You can also go biking or hiking along the shoreline or relax in a waterfront cafe during the day.
One Of Europe’s Premier Holiday Destinations.
There is no doubt that Lake Como is one of the most scenic locations on the European continent and it’s fascinating ancient history only adds to the mystique and charm of the small towns that line the shores of the lake.
The colorful, picturesque towns strike an exquisitely beautiful panorama that surrounds the forested shores of the lake. The local municipalities manage the excellent ferry services so you can easily travel around the area with ease on day trips or further explorations of the province.
All in all, Lake Como is an ideal holiday destination for couples seeking a romantic getaway, solo travelers and families looking for an action packed vacation by the shores of the lake.