Lake Como, declared “our greatest lake” by the Roman poet Virgil, continues to enchant visitors with its timeless allure. For thousands of years, the lush green hillsides have gracefully descended into the sparkling waters, showcasing hues of cobalt blue and emerald green. The lake is adorned with grand villas, and picturesque towns grace its shores, creating a perfect blend of glamour and understated beauty.
While Hollywood may not have initially put Lake Como on the map, the destination’s popularity among A-listers and jetsetters has undoubtedly propelled it into the limelight. Beyond the glitz, Lake Como boasts a humble side that deserves as much recognition. Here, we explore some of the best activities to indulge in at Lake Como, ranging from well-known attractions to hidden gems every traveler should discover.
Visit Como’s Historic Centre
Clinging to the southwestern pocket of the lake, Como serves as an ideal starting point for exploration. The city’s historic center is enclosed by remnants of a 10-meter-high medieval wall, offering charming pedestrian streets, elegant courtyards, and landmarks such as Piazza San Fedele and the 15th-century Duomo. The lakeside features Daniel Libeskind’s Life Electric sculpture, paying tribute to Como-born scientist Alessandro Volta.
Explore the Silk Museum
Learn about Como’s rich silk history at the Silk Museum, showcasing the city’s evolution into Italy’s silk capital during the 19th century. The museum, located near the Setificio silk trade school, presents a comprehensive exhibit detailing the silk production process, from silkworm feeding to garment creation.
Discover Villa del Balbianello
Explore Villa del Balbianello, an 18th-century complex situated on a lakeside peninsula in Tremezzina. Recognizable from films like James Bond and Star Wars, the villa is a captivating destination. Other noteworthy villas include Villa Monastero in Varenna, Villa Serbelloni Gardens in Bellagio, and the Baroque gardens of Villa d’Este in Cernobbio.
Stop by Villa Carlotta
Villa Carlotta, with its regal pastel pink facade, boasts a 20-acre terraced garden showcasing over 500 plant species. The villa’s museum features intricate frescoes and exhibits neoclassical sculptures and Romanticism paintings. Its captivating history includes ownership by the prominent Clerici family and a later association with a Prussian princess.
Each town along Lake Como’s shore offers its own enchanting experience. Stroll along the Lover’s Promenade in Varenna, marvel at Orrido di Nesso’s cascade, explore Bellagio’s quaint streets, or follow in Leonardo Da Vinci’s footsteps at Villa Pliniana in Torno.
Take a Boat Ride
Experience the lake’s charm from the water by taking public ferries or joining group boat tours. Private boat tours, such as those offered by Como Classic Boats and Lake Como Boat Tours, provide a personalized exploration. Discover sights like Varenna Cemetery, Nesso’s Ponte della Civera, Grand Hotel Tremezzo, and Villa Oleandra.
Explore the International Museum of Vintage Boats
Delve into Lake Como’s maritime history at the International Museum of Vintage Boats. With 400 vessels on display, the museum offers a comprehensive view of the lake’s nautical heritage. A dedicated exhibition to Ernesto Riva, known as the “Ferrari of Boats,” highlights the craftsmanship of Riva’s hand-manufactured wooden boats.
Visit Isola Comacina
Explore the historic Isola Comacina, the lake’s only island, known for its Roman-era ruins and picturesque landscapes. The island, once neglected and later rediscovered, features the remains of San Giovanni Romanesque church and 1930s artist residences.
Experience the Orrido di Bellano
Witness the natural beauty of Orrido di Bellano, a 15-million-year-old gorge on the lake’s upper eastern shore. The gorge, known for its 20-meter-high waterfall, offers a captivating walk through multi-level walkways, passing ponds, smaller cascades, and ancient rock formations.
Visit Borgo Corenno Plinio
Step back in time at Borgo Corenno Plinio, a medieval hamlet with a nickname “the village of 1000 steps.” Explore the main piazzetta, a 12th-century church, and a medieval castle. Descend through stone buildings and stone steps to reach the historic stone pier at lake level.
Discover I Vetri di Bellagio
Explore I Vetri di Bellagio, an artisan glass shop in Bellagio, known for its vibrant glass creations. Established in 1952, the shop’s two floors showcase a dazzling array of glass items, from lamps to ornaments, creating a year-round festive atmosphere.
Ride a Funicular
Enjoy panoramic views by taking funicular rides to elevated points. Funiculars departing from Lecco, Argegno to Pigra, and Como to Brunate offer breathtaking vistas of the lake and surrounding landscapes.
Don’t miss the natural wonders of Lake Como. Explore hiking trails that crisscross the hillsides, including the 10-kilometer Greenway connecting several towns. Visit public beaches like Dongo, Lierna, Abbadia Lariana, San Giovanni, and Onno for a refreshing swim.
Lake Como’s timeless beauty, coupled with its rich history and diverse attractions, ensures an unforgettable experience for every traveler. Whether enjoying the glamour of historic villas, exploring charming towns, or embracing the tranquility of nature, Lake Como offers a perfect blend of sophistication and natural splendor.