Top Things to Do and See Around Lake Como, Italy

The garden of Villa Cipressi Hotel shows the biodiversity of each region in Italy
The garden of Villa Cipressi Hotel shows the biodiversity of each region in Italy | © Cristina Fumi Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Luca Pinelli
24 September 2021

In the Lombardy region of northern Italy, Lake Como comprises many villages and villas that are worth a visit. Whether you are looking to explore history at the duomo, or venture onto the water, the lake and its environs are the perfect choice for an Italian holiday. Here are a few suggestions if you’re undecided.

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Duomo of Como, for magnificent architecture

The ornate nave, with arches, intricate ceiling panels, a dome and stacked chairs on the floor in the Duomo of Como
© AGF Srl / Alamy Stock Photo

Take a seat at a restaurant or bar in the square out front and admire the magnificent 15th-century neogothic façade of the Duomo, including sculptures of Pliny the Elder and the Younger. The interior doesn’t disappoint either – with more than 400 years in the making, it spans architectural styles. Entrance, of course, is free.

Villa del Balbianello, for a mixture of impressive art and nature


This estate, on the western bank of the lake, offers an enchanting view of the area. Accessible by boat or via a short hike, the late 16th-century villa sits in a lovely garden with an assortment of beautiful flowers and greenery, creating a combination of art and nature that is hard to find elsewhere. It is a must-see for nature and history buffs.

Taxi Boat Varenna, for a boat trip on the lake

Architectural Landmark
Water taxi boat on the water with the town of Varenna behind, on Lake Como
© godrick / Alamy Stock Photo

This service offers short or long trips from Varenna to various attractions on the lake. The shortest tour is that of Varenna, lasting half an hour, and the longest is called George’s tour, which takes you past the villas dotting the shoreline, including George Clooney’s, in Laglio (2.5hrs). The boatman will also give suggestions as to where to have lunch or dinner on the lake.

Jungle Raider Park, for adventure enthusiasts


Jungle Raider Park – which has two different locations in Civenna and Margno – is an adventure park with everything from ziplines to bungee jumping out in nature. It has seven different levels of difficulty, including paths specifically designed for children or beginners – or those feeling a little less daring.

Basilica of Sant'Abbondio, for history lovers

The frescoes on the dome depicting saints in Sant Abbondio Basilica in Lake Como
© Tibor Bognar / Alamy Stock Photo

The Basilica of Sant’Abbondio dates back to the 5th century CE, making it one of the oldest churches in the area; however, the current Romanesque structure was built in the 11th century. The simple decor is balanced by a highly ornamented apse, with frescoes dating back to the mid-14th century. The building was constructed over different periods, so you can see how it was shaped by the trends of each era and understand more about the history of Como.

Museum Moto Guzzi, for motorcycle fans


This museum will definitely appeal to those with a passion for motorcycles and engines in general, as it lays out the history of motorcycles via displays of vehicles from different eras. Admission is free of charge, and it is conveniently situated if you are touring the various villages on the lake.

Botanical Garden at Hotel Villa Cipressi, for gardens with a view

Botanical Garden
The gardens of Villa Monastero, with a view of the Villa Cipressi Hotel and Lake Como in Varenna
The garden of Villa Cipressi Hotel shows the biodiversity of each region in Italy | © Cristina Fumi Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

Part of the wonderful lakeside Hotel Villa Cipressi that was built in the 1400s, the Botanical Garden is open to the public, whereas the rest of the building belongs to the hotel and its restaurant. The century-old garden, running down to the lake, features an abundance of plants and flowers that nature lovers will adore. It is spread over different levels that overlook the water so you get lots of beautiful views.

Forte di Fuentes, for seeing a Spanish fort

The ruins of Forte di Fuentes, dotted with trees and with dramatic mountains in the background near Colico, Lake Como
© REDA and CO srl / Alamy Stock Photo

This historic fortress is significant in that it represents one of the few remains of the Spanish dominion of the area. Dating back to the 17th century, it sits on the northern part of the lake, near Colico. If you are interested in local history, this really is a must, as walking through what used to be a stronghold, inclusive of a square and a church, will unravel tales of war and culture to boot.

Enoteca Principessa, for wine tasting


This winery can be found in Bellagio, where the lake divides into two branches. The proprietor is very knowledgeable and friendly and will guide you through his wide selection of great local wines. It is also possible to purchase wines and have them shipped home, even if you live on another continent. This place is definitely worth a stop-off if you fancy sampling one of Lombardy‘s most famous exports.

Sentiero del Viandante, for the best hiking

Hiking Trail
Stone buildings in the village of Mandonico, near Dorio, with snow-capped mountains in the background
© mauritius images GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

If you are a fan of hiking and can’t decide among Como’s many trails, this should be a contender. It is 45km (28mi) long, so it should be broken up into three or four stretches. Taking ramblers through the east coast of Lake Como, the path dates from Roman times and is the perfect way to explore the beauty of nature and art in the area.

These recommendations were updated on September 24, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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