The most beautiful Italian lake?
Whether you arrive from Switzerland in the north, Italy’s east or from Milano by train, you’ll always remember your first impression of Lake Como. Spectacular scenery, magnificent villas and stunning views will take your breath away.
We think Lago di Como is the most beautiful Italian lake. And so far, we haven’t found its rival in the rest of the World either.
The lake located in the Northern Lombardy close to the Swiss border has a glacial origin, which is the reason for its unique Y-shape. Surrounded and protected by mountains, the Mediterranean climate offers perfect conditions for subtropical plants including citruses, cypress and olive trees. You can enjoy the scenery from a ferry.
Or you can hike your way up to one of the mountains and get an amazing bird’s perspective over the Lago.
We liked the hike to the Monte Grona peak (1736 m a.s.l.) on the western bank very much. The trek starts a few kilometres behind Menaggio. From Menaggio, follow the signs for Plesio and Breglia. At the end of the road, there is a hikers’ parking spot. From there trek towards the mountain hut Rifugio Menaggio and continue for Monte Grona.
The path is well marked. Take the steeper trek “Via diretta” to the top and protect your knees on the way down by using the gentler “Via normale”.
The vistas are truly magnificent. Not only you can admire the area of Lake Como, but you can see the Swiss Lake Lugano on the other side of the mountain range.
The hike takes around for hours. It’s worth the effort.
A word of advice: There are some trail parts with loose stones. Wear solid shoes, no matter how hot it is.
Architecture & Villas
Lakeside villas are probably the number one attraction. Be sure to visit Villa Carlotta and its beautiful botanical gardens in Tremezzo.
The first owners were the reputable silk merchants Clerici. In the 19th century, the property was sold to the wife of Prince Albert of Prussia. If you can arrange it, visit in spring when all great flowers bloom.
The Renaissance Villa d’Este in Cernobbio, once a summer residence of Bishop of Como, is now a luxury hotel.
The amazing Villa del Balbianello in the municipality of Lenno appeared in Casino Royale as a recovery place for James Bond after his torture. It was also featured in Star Wars II Attack of the Clones. National Trust of Italy maintains it. Check their website for opening times before visiting.
Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio settled perfectly in the middle of the lake’s tip grants an excellent panoramic view of the lake’s arms. Although it now serves as a luxury hotel, the garden opens to the public once a day except Mondays. You can get the tickets in Promobellagio Office.
And let’s not forget George Clooney’s Villa Oleandra in Laglio. You probably won’t be able to see it from inside, but ferryboat captains often slow down a little, so the guests can have a closer look. If you want to get really near, drive to Laglio and walk down to an accessible boat pier on the lake.
There are many more villas in the towns on both branches of the lake. It’s up to you how much time you bring to explore them.
For real architecture enthusiast, a visit of the Cathedral Santa Maria Maggiore in Como is a must.
All towns and villages are conveniently connected with ferry boats and buses.
We don’t need to write about how delicious Italian cuisine is. Whether you prefer to dine in one of the trattorias close to the vibrant Piazza del Duomo in Como, or you rather fancy chilled atmosphere of Harry’s Bar on Cernobbio’s promenade, you can do nothing wrong.
If you are looking for a private romantic place a little away from the touristy hustle and bustle with fantastic food, try Ristorante Momi in Blevio.
You can dine directly at the lake. Amazing!
Because of good thermic wind called Breva, Lake Como offers perfect conditions for wind and kitesurfing. However, if you only prefer a dip in the water, it could get difficult. The villas’ accesses to the lake are mostly private. Only community piers and some small beaches are opened to the public. For example, in Menaggio, you’ll find Lido Giardino with a swimming pool.
Where to stay
Lake Como offers everything from hostels through B&Bs to super luxury resorts in the old villas.
We stayed in a lovely family run hotel La Griglia. It’s a short uphill drive from Argegno on the lake’s western bank. You should try their restaurant as well – a real joy for food lovers.
How to get there
The closest airport is Milano. There is a regional train service from Milano Centrale Station to San Giovanni Station in Como operating many times per day.
However, if you like driving, the five-mountain-passes-route from Munich to Como through Switzerland or vice versa is an ideal road trip.
Stay tuned for our favourite European destinations.