LAKE COMO, ITALY
the best things to do

Lake Como, locally known as Lago di Como or Lario, is the third largest Italian lake (after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore). Located at the foot of the Alps, Lake Como offers some of the most romantic and picturesque scenery in Italy.

Its characteristic inverted-Y shape comes from the melting of glaciers combined with the erosive action of the Adda river. This led to the formation of the two southern branches that culminate in the cities of Como and Lecco, in the middle of which lies the famous Bellagio.

❗You will be surprised to learn about the many things to do on Lake Como, especially if you decide to stay more than one day!

The distances between towns are such that you can visit at least 3 or 4 villages by local transportation, and you can lose yourself among enchanting villas and gardens, relax with a private boat tour or on your favorite beach, and even rejuvenate with a healthy nature walk.

Ready to go? Enjoy your tour of Lake Como, Italy!

Lake Como, Italy: best things to do
Lake Como, Italy
If you can, visit Lake Como in the off-season!
Lake Como is a true corner of Italian paradise that attracts tourists from all over the world, especially during the high season (late May to late September). My advice is, if you can, to visit Lake Como during the low season (for example, in April or October) to have a more relaxing and authentic travel experience.
What are you looking for in Lake Como?

Sights & things to do

VISIT THE PEARLS OF LAKE COMO
Many destinations to discover

Riva Grande, Varenna, Lake Como
Riva Grande in Varenna, on Lake Como

The perimeter of Lake Como is dotted with charming villages and towns where there is no shortage of opportunities to shop, take nature walks, visit beautiful villas and botanical gardens, or participate in unforgettable experiences.

The most popular – and therefore busiest – destinations are definitely Bellagio, Varenna, and Como, but don’t limit yourself to visiting only the best-known locations!

Here is a brief overview of my favorite towns in Lake Como: I recommend that you spend some time reading the guides I have put together so that you can find the destinations that best suit your interests.

Como

Como City, Italy
Como City, Italy

 

Como, the main city of Lake Como in Italy, enchants with its perfect mix of culture, architecture and natural beauty. The city center is compact and flat, and major attractions and the lakefront are within walking distance from the train stations.

Como's medieval walls enclose charming alleys and squares that are home to traditional restaurants and stores, markets selling local produce, and impressive houses of worship such as Como Cathedral.

In the lakefront area, where the pier is located, you can visit the temple to Alessandro Volta and the large park surrounding the neoclassical Villa Olmo. On the opposite bank, you can take the funicular railway to Brunate.

If you love nature trails, you'll find several easy ones within Spina Verde Park. From Como you can easily reach the other towns on Lake Como by bus and ferry.

Bellagio

Lungo Lario Manzoni, Bellagio's lakefront
Lungo Lario Manzoni, Bellagio's lakefront

 

Bellagio, a vibrant gem an hour or two away from Como, dazzles with its lively town center, bustling with typical stores and colorful, step-laden alleys in true Italian style.

Explore the Park of Villa Serbelloni and the Gardens of Villa Melzi, and then stroll through the charming hamlets of Pescallo and San Giovanni, each offering a glimpse into Bellagio's authentic charm.

Reach Punta Spartivento to enjoy stunning views of the three branches of Lake Como and central area towns (such as Varenna, which can be reached in 15-20 minutes by boat).

Varenna

Passeggiata degli Innamorati, Varenna, Italy
Passeggiata degli Innamorati, Varenna

 

Varenna, a short boat ride from Bellagio and easily accessible by train from Milan, offers a charming lakeside promenade - the famous Passeggiata degli Innamorati - that leads to the small bay of Riva Grande, where you will find plenty of cafes, restaurants and local craft stores.

Spend a few hours exploring the botanical wonders of Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi, whose gardens weave a tapestry of colors along the lakefront.

Nature lovers can take rejuvenating hikes to historic sites such as Castle of Vezio or along the Sentiero del Viandante, experiencing incredible views and discovering local history.

Tremezzina

Lenno lakeside promenade and Golfo di Venere
Lenno lakeside promenade and Golfo di Venere, Tremezzina

 

Tremezzina is the union of several large hamlets (including Ossuccio, Lenno and Tremezzo) each with its own attractions and features, which I invite you to discover in the dedicated guide.

Among other things, Tremezzina is home to two of the most beautiful villas on Lake Como: Villa Balbianello, a museum and set for international films and weddings, and Villa Carlotta, a museum and botanical garden.

If you have a few hours to spare, explore the area along the Lake Como Greenway, an easy walk that also passes through Tremezzina's oldest villages and places of historical and religious interest. The mountains above Tremezzina also offer many more challenging trails.

Menaggio

Menaggio lakeside walk, Italy
Lakeside walk of Menaggio

 

Menaggio has a lively town center, which develops around Piazza Garibaldi and leads to the elegant and long lakefront, where there are several bars and restaurants.

Explore the characteristic hamlet of Loveno, home to Villa Vigoni, and Nobiallo, a picturesque fishing village.

In addition, if you want to taste the true flavors of the area, you can reach the typical huts and farmhouses of Val Sanagra and Monte Grona with walks that start a short distance from the historic center.

Lecco

Piazza XX Settembre - Lecco's town center
Piazza XX Settembre, Lecco

 

Lecco, less frequented by international tourists than other Lake Como’s towns, is an ideal destination for those who want to experience Lake Como away from the typical high season crowds.

The city, perfectly connected to Milan by train, boasts one of the most beautiful walks along the lakefront. Its historic center, full of bars and restaurants, encloses buildings with obvious traces of its history.

The city is famous for its various ‘Manzonian locations‘ mentioned in the renowned Italian historical novel The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni.

TAKE A BOAT TOUR
Board a boat and enjoy your trip

Boat trips and tours are something that I’d definitely recommend to anyone who wants to experience Lake Como at its best.

📷 Whether you visit Lake Como for a day or stay longer, board a boat, relax and enjoy the view of the lake from a unique perspective. Take a power bank with you because you will take so many photos!

Boat tours are basically of two types: public or private. Here’s how they work.

Public boat service

The local public navigation company (Navigazione Laghi) provides several routes that connect all of the most popular towns along Lake Como’s shores, at a convenient price. The ideal service for getting from one city to another during your Lake Como vacation. Learn more about public boat service on Lake Como!

Private boat tours

With a driver at your disposal, you have the chance to choose your favourite itinerary and the length of your cruise. If you are traveling with your better half or with your friends, take a private boat tour and experience Lake Como at your own pace, maybe at sunset and with a fine bottle of prosecco!

RELAX ON A BEACH
Beaches in a breathtaking scenery

A beach on Lake Como
A typical beach on Lake Como in Italy

If you visit Lake Como in the summer, be sure to visit the beautiful beaches on its shores.

Lake Como’s beaches are the perfect place to relax during hot summer days and, in some cases, also offer the opportunity to go sailing or windsurfing (particularly on the northern branch of the lake).

Beaches can be found in every corner of Lake Como, but if you are looking for clean and pure waters, I recommend going to the central and northern parts of the lake.

Of course, the public beaches in the most popular towns are especially busy during the summer, not only by tourists but also by locals.

Therefore, if you want to reserve a cozy spot, you’d better get up early and get to your favorite beach before it is full. Alternatively, reserve your sunbed at one of the lake’s many lidos to experience your day in total comfort.

Start planning your holidays!

A few tips for your stay in Lake Como

VISIT A HISTORIC VILLA
The best Lake Como's villas and gardens

Villa Balbianello, Lake Como, Italy
Villa Balbianello, Lake Como

If you come to Lake Como between mid-March and mid-November, you’ll be able to visit Villa Balbianello, Villa Melzi, Villa Monastero and many other historic mansions.

A paradise for those who love gardens in bloom and magnificent historic residences!

In the summer, these villas very often host classical music events or guided tours that will introduce you to the history of the place and trivia related to the people who lived in the villa or contributed to its construction.

Sometimes these mansions have special openings in the off-season as well, so if you plan to visit Lake Como in winter I recommend that you check their official websites.

Villa Balbianello, Tremezzina

Villa del Balbianello, in Lenno (hamlet of Tremezzina) is one of the most famous and fancy villas on Lake Como.

Not only a location for luxury events and weddings, but also the set of incredible movies such as Star Wars and Casino Royale.

The villa is mainly open from mid-March to end of November, and it’s closed on Mondays and Wednesdays (except on holidays). 

Gardens of Villa Melzi, Bellagio

The Gardens of Villa Melzi, in Bellagio, welcome visitors among centuries-old trees, Japanese-style ponds, colorful plants from around the world and more.

Also not to be missed are the distinctive Arab-style temple and the museum, which traces the history of the villa and surrounding area through the centuries of its existence. 

Villa Melzi and its gardens, open from March to October and located at a ten-minute walk from Bellagio's town center.

Villa Monastero, Varenna

Villa Monastero, located in Varenna, was once an old monastery that later became a patrician residence.

The villa attracts tourists from all over the world because of its beautiful botanical garden which contains many species of rare plants and stretches for more than a mile along the lake shore.

When visiting this famous villa, you will also have the opportunity to see Casa Museo, a museum that collects four centuries of history in an elegant setting with fine decorations and furnishings.

Villa Carlotta, Tremezzina

Villa Carlotta, in Tremezzo, is surrounded by a vast botanical garden full of ancient trees and exotic plants, palms, rhododendrons and azaleas.

I’d suggest you to visit Villa Carlotta in springtime, during the blossom period. This is definitely the best time to soak up the scents these beautiful gardens can offer!

Villa Carlotta is also famous for its art collection. An important museum original neoclassical furniture, as well as valuable masterpieces by Antonio Canova, Francesco Hayez, and Bertel Thorvaldsen.

TAKE A WALK IN NATURE
Discover the lesser-known side of Lake Como

Not everyone knows that the hills surrounding Lake Como hide hundreds of trails of various types and suitable for walkers with varying degrees of experience. In a great many cases, there are typical restaurants along these trails where you can taste the true flavors of the area.

I have just created a section on hikes and walks around Lake Como (continuously being updated) that I invite you to look at. Each route I have described offers information about highlights and facilities you can find along your walk.

Here are some areas and walks you might explore during your stay in Lake Como:

Spina Verde Park (Como area)

Spina Verde Park is a protected forest located southwest of Como, and gathers many sites of panoramic, historical, and natural interest.

The perfect place to escape the hottest hours of summer and taste traditional dishes at one of the area’s huts.

One of the most interesting attractions is the tower of Castello Baradello, which can be reached by following a path that starts from Piazza San Rocco, near the town center, and leads to the tower in about 30 minutes.

Lake Como Greenway (central area)

The Greenway del Lago di Como is a walking route of 11.5 km (7 mi) in one of the most picturesque areas of western Lake Como.

It follows the ancient Via Regina, the road that was built by the Romans to connect Como with territories beyond the Alps.

The Greenway, which passes through the villages of Colonno, Sala Comacina, Tremezzina and Griante, offers splendid views and examples of architecture, villas and gardens (e.g., the unmissable Villa Carlotta). 

A great opportunity for anyone to see Lake Como from a different perspective.

Val Sanagra (central-northern area)

Val Sanagra, also known as Val Senagra, is a vast area rich in flora, fauna and ancient rural settlements included between the municipalities of Menaggio and Grandola ed Uniti.

It takes its name from the stream that flows through the valley and creates beautiful waterfalls often topped by fascinating Romanesque stone bridges.

Val Sanagra is an ideal place to retreat on hot summer days, sheltered from the crowds that characterize Lake Como‘s most popular destinations in high season.

In fact, in addition to offering trails suitable for most people, the valley is also home to a farmhouse where you can taste local products or stay overnight, and an eco-museum for a different kind of day out.

Stays & experiences

Experiences & tours

Make your trip a unique experience!​

Venetian Limousine
2 hour boat tour with
Venetian Limousine
Como, Bellagio & 1 hour boat tour from Milan
Cooking class in Bellagio
Cooking class experience
in Bellagio
4h tour on a Venetian Limo with visit to Villa Balbianello
4h tour on a Venetian Limo & visit to Villa Balbianello
Villa Monastero, Varenna
5 hour boat tour with visit to three villas

LEARN HOW TO GET AROUND
All the info you need to plan your transfers

Train from Malpensa to Como
Train from Malpensa airport to Como

There are many different ways to get around Lake Como. In general, I recommend that you avoid moving by car and carefully plan your travel with the different services offered by public transportation.

First of all, how to get to Lake Como? As you can imagine, it all depends on where you start from and where you want to get to. Read this article to find out how to get to Como, Bellagio and Varenna from the main airports and stations in Milan.

I mentioned these villages because they are the most visited, but it is still possible to reach the other lake destinations by the following means of transportation (note: in the following articles I provide an overview of the various services, but then I recommend that you use services such as Google Maps and official company websites to plan your commute):

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
About Lake Como, Italy

Where is Lake Como in Italy?

Lake Como is located in the northern part of Italy, in the region of Lombardy.

It is situated approximately 45 kilometers (28 miles) north of Milan, one of Italy's major cities. Discover how to get to Lake Como from Milan.

Why is Lake Como so famous?

Lake Como is famous for several reasons, including its stunning natural beauty, charming lakeside villages, and historic villas.

Lake Como has long been a favorite destination for celebrities, including actors (such as George Clooney, who owns Villa Oleandra in Laglio), musicians, and other prominent figures.

How many days do you need in Lake Como?

The number of days you might want to spend in Lake Como can vary based on your preferences, interests, and the pace at which you like to travel.

However, many visitors find that spending 2 to 4 full days in the Lake Como region allows for a fulfilling experience. Here's a suggested breakdown:

  1. 2 days: with two days, you can explore the main towns around the lake. This allows you to enjoy the charming streets, visit historic villas and gardens, take a boat ride on the lake, and savor local cuisine.

  2. 3 days: adding an extra day gives you more time to explore the surrounding areas, perhaps taking a longer boat trip to more distant parts of the lake or venturing into the nearby mountains for some hiking. You can also dedicate more time to visit additional villas and museums.

  3. 4 days or more: if you have more time, you can delve deeper into the Lake Como region, visit smaller villages, and experience a more relaxed pace. Additionally, you might have the opportunity to take day trips to nearby attractions, such as Milan or the Swiss border towns.

What is the best time of year to visit Lake Como?

Clearly, the best time to visit Lake Como depends on your preferences and what activities you have in mind. You can choose the time of year you prefer based on the following variables:
  • Ferries and buses to their fullest potential: between May and September
  • Opening of villas and gardens: between April and October
  • Best months for swimming and water sports: between June and September
  • Best months for trekking: April, June, September, October
  • Best months for skiing: between December and February
  • Months of great tourist chaos: July and August
  • Cheapest months: between November and March (excluding the Christmas period)
By crossing your interests with your budget, you can find the best time to visit Lake Como!

Which airport is closest to Lake Como, Italy?

It depends on the area that you want to reach. If you want to reach Como cityMilan Malpensa Airport is probably the best choice (read here how to get from Malpensa to Como). 

Milan Linate Airport is probably the best if you want to get to Bellagio, Lecco and Varenna. However, all the Milan airports allow you to reach Lake Como’s towns quite easily.

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kevin Sullivan

    I am looking to visit the Lake Como area towards the end of March. Looking to see if shops and restaurants will be open as well as if there will be ferry service available to get around to the different towns, namely from Bellagio to Menaggio.
    Thank you.

    Kevin Sullivan

    1. Alessandro - Lake Como Travel

      Hi Kevin, yes you don’t have to worry! Stores and restaurants will be open, and ferry service regularly operating. Wishing you a good vacation on Lake Como!

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