Lake Como, or Lago di Como as the Italians call it, is famed for its scenery combining the placid lake with rugged mountains. Nestled in hills and mountains, Lake Como forms part of the northern Italian Lake District and lies between Milan and the Swiss border. The Y shaped lake is dotted with interesting villages and towns to visit. So whether you want peace and tranquillity, outdoor fun or gentle strolls then this is the place for you.
For those that enjoy leisurely wandering through beautiful old towns, taking in the sights, and enjoying a coffee in the sun then a pleasant ferry trip around the lake is for you. While you are traveling, you can enjoy the lovely backdrop provided by the myriad of beautiful villas that line the lakeshore. The ferry service is a modern public transport system linking the dozens of small towns and villages scattered around the lake edge and it is the easiest and most tranquil way of visiting these many towns.
What to visit
If you are traveling by train then Como is an excellent base. It is a walled town and its historic center has lively squares and good cafes. You also enjoy a pleasant evening stroll along the lake edge promenade. From Como you can reach the village of Brunate by funicular. It is 720m above Como and is great for hiking trails and beautiful views of the lake and the Alps. Sitting atop of a crag some 200m above Como and surrounded by olive groves and woodlands is the Sacro Monte di Ossuccio. The pathway to the monastery is lined by fourteen baroque-inspired chapels, built between 1635 and 1710, and dedicated to the Mysteries of the Rosary.
Known as the lake pearl, Bellagio is gorgeously set where the three branches of Lake Como come together. It’s easily accessible by ferry or bus from other cities on the lake.
Menaggio, against the mountains, is a lively resort with a lakeside promenade with many outdoor activities. Fans of swimming, windsurfing, walking, hiking, and rock climbing will love it here. Notable among the lakeside villas is Villa Carlotta. It is located south of Menaggio and here you can enjoy walks among its stunning gardens. Inside it is decorated with original 18th-century furniture and artworks. In the village of Lenno you can find Villa del Balbianello and it is famed for its elaborate terraced gardens.
Filled with quaint narrow alleyways and streets below a castle the fishing village of Varenna is worth visiting.
Activities on Lake Como
The Lake Como area offers activities for all types of enthusiasts, both on and off the water.
Probably one of the most exciting water sports on offer is kite surfing. Due to the Breva wind and the wide, sandy beaches the northern end of the lake is ideal for this type of fun. Equipment can be hire from Kite surfing centers where you can also take classes. These are available for beginners up to advanced level.
The afternoons between March and June are the best time of year for this and, as with kite surfing, you should head to the northern part of Lake Como. Here you will find ‘surf city’, Domaso, and it has the best Breva conditions. If this is too crowded for you then head to Pare at Lecco or other good spots at Colico, Dervio, Gera, Lario, Sorico or Rezzonico.
If you prefer something more sedate and would like to visit the towns under your own steam then perhaps sailing is more for you. Most sailing courses are for adults but children’s courses are also available.
Biking and Trekking
For those who prefer ground activities, biking or trekking is an enjoyable and easy way to access the natural trails that lead to beautiful destinations in the mountains and by the lake. Trails wander around the lakesides in each town and lead to secluded beaches with clear, calm waters. Bikes can be rented at most hotels and also at many water sports centers.
How to get to Lake Como
Milan’s Malpensa Airport is 65km away. The Malpensa Express takes you from airport to Saronna, from here transfer to the Le Nord train to reach Como.
Lake Como is on the Milan to Switzerland train line. The train stops in the town of Como, the main town on the lake. Alternatively, take the Ferrovia Nord Milano which runs only between Como and Milan.
The E35 motorway from Milan towards Switzerland passes Como and there are many exits to towns around the Lake.