Friendly disclaimer! We want to be as accurate as possible, but given these challenging times, we urge you to recheck that the venues are open when you decide to travel.
It’s unfair. How can one country possess such extraordinary beauty, variety, history, breathtaking sights, and gastronomical delights to boot? Yes, quite literally, it’s all in the boot of amazing Italy. And right at the top of it, is that upside-down, Y-shaped piece of heaven called Lake Como, where dolce vita is truly celebrated.
It’s got both glitzy glamour and rustic charm with 360 degree picture-perfect, eye-popping panoramas. It’s got a heady celebrity status, with possibilities of close encounters with stars like George Clooney. It’s got Art Deco villas, age-old Gothic and Renaissance architecture to explore, and old-world sleepy fishing villages with so much panache. Whether you hike or bike, drive or dive, it’s the boat rides that let you access the many nooks, as you anticipate fine food and memorable moments to capture.
Join us, as we show you why you will long to linger here forever, savouring day-long highs.
The views, yes the whews!
All it takes is a one-hour drive north of Milan. Opening up before you with its snow-capped Alps, pretty villages, villas on the slopes of mountains, and the sparkling waters of Lake Como, everything is alive with energy and calm, all at once. It feels special. Like an exclusive setting created just so the best of everything can come together.
And there’s never a dull view from any perspective. Whether it’s the indulgent high life or the rural allure of cosy cottages, it’s all authentic. We understand now why the Milanesi escape here frequently whilst famous international stars make this their hideout, getaway, and holiday home.
The landscape of Lake Como is bubbling with life. You can expect perfect hiking expeditions up forested mountains providing many interruptions as you gape upon the landscape revealing itself. Be ready to examine and capture the natural beauty, lush gardens ablaze with flowers, shades of green and blue on your way up to a view of the lake from above. We recommend you hire a guide, if you’re not a seasoned hiker. The bonus is, you’ll enjoy the sweeping views, and the sweep of history, every step of your hike.
And when all that is done, a Riva boat ride over the water is how to absorb all the best sights on the lake as you spot the many iconic villas and learn their histories.
The shareable, Instagramable
Bet you didn’t know this: Lake Como was the inspiration that led Fox Talbot, the photography pioneer, to begin inventing a way to take photographs to capture the panorama he experienced! That was way back in 1833. The yearning and frustration of not being able to share with friends exactly what he saw and felt during his honeymoon at Lake Como got him inventing the world’s first photo method – the negative-positive technique.
Then exactly 177 years later, Kevin Systrom with Mike Krieger, developed an app. An ‘instant telegram’ of sorts, named – you guessed it – Instagram. Turning even ordinary scenes into magical moments shared around the world. Now you know why artists, inventors, and explorers drew their inspiration from these tranquil settings.
So, if you are looking to get your mojo back, it’s here you should be heading. Even when there seems to be nothing happening, it’s full of frame-worthy snapshots to share.
Let’s get you started: the towering Swiss Alps like a painted backdrop, charming hamlets basking in the sun, ingeniously carved grottos in tiny nooks, people dancing on terraces in the afternoon, baskets of porcini heading for the kitchens, the shifting light on the lake, hikers eating sandwiches blissful and burnt, smart waiters serving espressos who watch faces of tourists light up to the magic, busses taking lovely ladies to church, shop windows displaying white lace, violinists practising in the backstreets, seaplanes buzzing overhead, medieval cobblestones, staircases that go direct to heaven…
Dolce vita at its best.
The villas, the villages…
Lake Como with its opulent villas was once home to explorers, artists, and opera singers. We urge you to mix villa viewing with hamlet hopping, to experience Como’s blend of grandeur with quaintness.
The lake has maintained its authenticity, serving up sleepy villages like Torno, Nesso and Laglio where rustic, family-run trattorias offer you traditional fare, with fish from the lake – especially their risotto con persico. Here are some must-sees, buildings on the lake and beautiful rural landscapes.
The pretty “pearl of the lake” Bellagio is a huge draw, but save this, the best, for last.
It’s a feeling of deja-vu at the magnificent Villa del Balbianello. Yes, James Bond was here. It’s where Casino Royale was shot. Set on a promontory jutting into the lake, this spectacular mansion has impeccably manicured grounds to enjoy a stroll as you head along the shaded path that leads to Lenno.
The charming Albergo Milano, in the historical centre of Varenna, retains the look of old lake houses, with furnishings, decorations, and areas that go back to the 17th century. Welcoming, with gentle warmth and laid-back genuineness, you’ll enjoy the rooms (most have lake views). Stroll down to the lake for a swim; and in the evening, drink in the sunset with a drink in hand.
The Grand Hotel Tremezzo is an iconic art nouveau masterpiece on the western shores of Lake Como. With views spanning the crystalline waters towards Bellagio and the Grigne mountains.
And there’s the unmissable Duomo, featuring a blend of Gothic and Renaissance architecture. This Como Cathedral with its spectacular interior boasts elaborate altar paintings, gargoyles, and a magnificent dome.
If you spot a gorgeous pink house among Lake Como’s most famous attractions, it must be Villa Carlotta. Spend a sublime afternoon strolling the grounds of lush terraced gardens with flowers that tumble towards the shores.
Wander through beautiful terraced gardens of Villa Monastero and relax on benches to enjoy the panorama – full of flora from the world over.
For stunning views over the lake, head to the ruins of the Castello di Vezio that hosts regular falconry shows.
Have drinks and dinner at Villa Làrio, a gorgeous mountainside villa where you’ll savour great drinks and delectable regional fare, as you absorb the vistas around you.
From the town of Como, catch the funicular up to the hilltop town of Brunate, where you can admire beautiful Art Deco villas and soak up gorgeous views of the lake.
And finally, to Bellagio by mahogany Riva boats that zip along the lake’s deep blue waters, as you take in Varenna’s ochre-coloured houses nestling snugly on the slopes. Bellagio is truly a treat awaiting you, with its quaint cobbled streets sprinkled with boutiques and restaurants and a lakefront promenade with lime trees. And the loveliest location on a hilltop above town is the picturesque Villa Serbelloni. It’s here you get those lasting views of the three branches of the lake.
The food, the finds!
We urge you to veer off the beaten track, deeper inland, to explore charming trattorias serving hearty and genuine Italian fare – at a fraction of the cost of the restaurants that are along the shoreline. And you’ll be spoilt for choice. These shoreline towns and villages have their own unique cuisine, all just a boat ride away. For lovers of antiques to seaside buffs, the towns surrounding the lake have just about got it all.
Foodies must head to Gastronomia Castiglioni, a family-run deli offering local and Italian specialities – olive oils, cheeses, mushrooms, and veggies preserved in oil. And to the artisanal markets of Sant’Abbondio, to stock up on traditional ingredients.
At La Fagurida you may enjoy a late lunch with a laidback family-run atmosphere, where you’ll be served traditional hearty fare with great views, high up above Tremezzo.
No doubt, the trinket shops are most popular at the Bellagio. But how about something a bit more historic like the Picci, founded in 1919? Hand crafted and designed in Como, from hand-sewn ties to handkerchiefs, find the finest selection of silk items as keepsakes. Besides, there are so many regions with antique, arts and craft markets such as San Fedele, where souvenirs and gifts for friends and family are perfect finds.