In the far north of Italy, you’ll find the glittering Lago di Como, a Y-shaped lake surrounded by the Alps and upscale resort towns, such as Bellagio and Lecco. Discover the best time to visit this natural gem in the Lombardy region.
Zippy supercars glinting in the sun; elaborate palazzi and warm stone-built villas lining the shore; lush, dramatic mountain ridges: it’s all very Casino Royale around the third-largest lagoon in Italy. Set against Alpine foothills – with Gothic churches, lakeside bars and abundant art galleries – Lake Como is an unbeatable stop-off for mountain hikers, après skiers and city-breakers wanting a rural retreat from nearby Milan. With Culture Trip, you can enjoy a guided boat tour of Lake Como on our specially curated 10-day Northern Italy adventure.
The best months in which to visit Lake Como are April and May. By this time, the weather is warm and mild. However, March isn’t a bad shout either, letting you miss the crowds.
The town of Como sits on the southwest arm of the namesake lake. Here, modern architecture mixes with ancient piazzas, a Gothic duomo and a silk museum. Summer is complete with a scenic funicular railway, well worth experiencing. Also, think watersports on the lake, late-night beach dancing and lidos with dawn yoga. Como is only 50km (31mi) north of Milan, so, if you’re staying in the fashion capital, it’d be rude not to pop by and see this stylish neighbour.
There are some lovely Lake Como villages to visit, too. Sail by paddle steamer to beautiful Bellagio and explore narrow, cobbled hill-streets, chock full of colourful houses with quaint lanterns and curly Italianate railings. Feeling peckish? Sink your teeth into fat arancini (deep-fried rice balls filled with mozzarella) or sip a macchiato by the water and absorb the surrounding grandeur.
Just 15 minutes from Bellagio by ferry is Varenna. Village-hop here and find the foamy-white Fiumelatte (‘milk river’); rare blooms in the old monastery’s botanical garden; and a Romanesque church with pavements made from local marble, linked by steep alleyways. There are great hiking trails too. Spot ancient cypress trees, and a medieval fortress that houses birds of prey.
Rent a boat, browse boutiques or simply admire the neat flowerbeds in Menaggio. The upper part of town still retains a medieval look and offers age-old places of worship, as well as a winning walk along walls that once bordered an ancient castle. Swim and eat at Lido di Menaggio or make a beeline for the Senagra stream bridge, where you can listen to the sound of the tumbling waterfall.
The lesser-visited inlet village of Argegno is all pastel-yellow panificios (bakeries) and green-shuttered harbourside homes. For panoramic views of the water, take the cable car to Pigra village. While here, make sure you try perch fish from the lake, as well as traditional must-eat misultin: salted fish served with toasted polenta.
Hungry for further places to visit around Lake Como? Take time out in Tremezzo, a commune on the west side and the birthplace of leading rationalist architect Pietro Lingeri. Azaleas, rhododendrons and precious artworks can be admired at neoclassical Villa Carlotta; Isola Comacina, the lake’s only island, can be visited by boat from Ossuccio beach; and, from mid-March to mid-November, you can stop by Villa Balbianello (on foot or via taxi boat), where 007 and Star Wars scenes have been filmed.
The train direct from Milano Centrale takes approximately 45 minutes.
Take the bus to Milano Centrale (one hour) and then the train to Como.
The train from Bologna Centrale takes approximately 2 hours.
The train from Genova Piazza Principe takes approximately 2.5 hours.
The train from Firenze Santa Maria Novella takes approximately 3 hours.
The train from Stazione di Venezia Santa Lucia approximately 3.5 hours.