LAKE COMO, ITALY
Lake Como, also known as 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 sceneries in the world.
Its characteristic shape, resembling an inverted Y, comes from the melting of glaciers combined with the erosive action of the ancient 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!
In each of these locations, as well as in the others you will find described on this website, there is no shortage of opportunities for shopping, walking in nature, visiting beautiful villas and botanical gardens, or participating in unforgettable experiences.
If this is your first time in Lake Como, don’t limit yourself to visiting only the best-known locations! Take some time to read the guides I have put together and find the destinations that best suit your interests.
For example, if you love nature, you will find plenty to do in Menaggio. Do you want to get your fill of villas and gardens? Then Tremezzina (or the mid-lake towns in general) might be the right destination for you.
But what is the best town to stay in Lake Como? It depends not only on your interests, but also on the length of your stay and your travel needs.
Here are some suggestions:
If you plan to visit Lake Como for 3-4 days and have no mobility problems, virtually any town will do. In fact, local public services will enable you to reach all other destinations comfortably.
Clearly, the central area of the lake is where most of the tourist attractions are concentrated, and therefore it is the one that tends to be most crowded in high season (this is why I also recommend planning your vacation at different times, such as April or October, when the weather is very good and the area is less crowded).
My advice, therefore, is to first figure out which towns or attractions you do not want to miss and, from there, locate the place that allows you to reach them all most conveniently. Consider that the towns in the center of the lake are all about 15-30 minutes by boat from each other, while to go from Como to Bellagio, for example, you have to consider about 1 - 2 hours.
If you only want to devote one day to Lake Como, for example because you are coming from Milan, I would choose a town that you can easily reach by train, such as Como, Varenna or Lecco (and their surroundings).
If you plan your travels carefully, you can also visit more than one town in a single day.
For example, you can reach Varenna from Milan and, from there, take the ferry that will take you to Bellagio or Menaggio in 15 minutes. Or you can reach Como from Milan and visit Cernobbio, also a 15-minute boat ride from the city.
Do you prefer flatter towns?
The alleys found in the historic centers of many cities are full of stairs.
Obviously there is the possibility of visiting these cities and their attractions without any particular difficulty, but if you still prefer the flatter cities to make the most of your experience I recommend visiting the larger cities such as Como, Lecco, and Menaggio.
Take some time to read my guides on the Lake Como’s towns that I love the most, and start planning your trip!
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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!
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.
If you come to Lake Como between mid-March and mid-November, you’ll be able to visit Villa Balbianello (Tremezzina), Villa Melzi (Bellagio), Villa Monastero (Varenna) and many other historic mansions overlooking the water.
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.
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 will soon make a section entirely dedicated to nature trails, but in the meantime I just give you a taste of some walks and some territories to explore that you will also find mentioned within the town guides:
Spina Verde Park
This park is located southwest of Como and collects many sites of panoramic, historical, and natural interest.
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.
My friends at Slow Lake Como offer a very cool experience: a 3-hour tour that will give you exclusive access to the castle and also includes an aperitivo with wine and local products and breathtaking views of Lake Como. Find out about it here!
Val Sanagra is one of the most fascinating wooded areas of Lake Como and takes its name from the river that runs through it.
A peculiarity of this area, which is divided between the municipalities of Menaggio and Grandola ed Uniti, is its still wild environment of forests, grasslands and mountain pastures.
The most convenient way to reach Val Sanagra from the center of Menaggio is to take the C13 bus and then walk for less than 20 minutes. Once you get here, you can walk along several beautiful trails.
My advice is to walk for about 20-30 minutes from the trailhead and continue pretty much straight ahead in the direction of the Vecchia Chioderia Farmhouse, where you can taste local specialties prepared with trout raised on site.
Guys at Slow Lake Como are offering a beautiful guided tour of Val Sanagra: find out now and book it here, you will be amazed!
Sentiero del Viandante
The Sentiero del Viandante is a stage trek that runs along the entire eastern shore of Lake Como, from Lecco to Colico.
It has a length of 45 km (30 miles) and is suitable for everyone, but due to its length it is recommended to divide the route into at least 4 stages.
One of the most common routes is the one that begins in Varenna. If you want to get a taste of this beautiful nature trail, I recommend visiting the Varenna tourist website, which describes some possible routes to take starting from the town center.
at a location of your choice
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):
The best time for visiting Lake Como is between March and November, because of the warm temperature that allows you to enjoy boat tours and walks. Consider, however, that summer is high season and the most popular towns (such as Bellagio and Varenna) can be quite crowdy. If you prefer a quiet period, consider visiting Lake Como in winter, spring or autumn!
The historic villas and their lush gardens, the beauty of the territory, its charming and elegant towns, the surrounding nature that allows you to take relaxing walks. Also, if you love food, you’re going to taste some typical Lombard dishes such as riso con pesce persico (rice with Lake Como fish) and pizzoccheri (a mountain dish made with buckwheat pasta, savoy cabbages and local cheese).
It depends on the area that you want to reach. If you want to reach Como city, Milan 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.
I’d suggest to spend at least 3-4 days, because there are a lot of towns and things to see and you will need time to experience Lake Como at its best. If I were in your shoes, I would plan to visit Como and a couple of other towns, a historical villa (Villa Melzi in Bellagio is one of my favourite) and I would save some time for a private boat tour!