Top 10 Things to Do and See Around Lake Como, Italy

Lake Como offers a picture-perfect combination of nature, art and history
Lake Como offers a picture-perfect combination of nature, art and history | © Cristina Fumi Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Luca Pinelli
31 August 2020

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

Duomo of Como

Cathedral
Map View
Italy, Lombardy, Como, The Duomo, interior view
© AGF Srl / Alamy Stock Photo

Take a seat at a restaurant or bar in the square out front and admire the magnificent exterior of the Duomo and its 15th-century neogothic façade, 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

Building
mansion-2115312_1280
© EzPzPics / Pixabay

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 boasts 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

Architectural Landmark
Map View
Water taxi, Varenna, Lake Como, Lombardy, Italy, Europe
© 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

Park
Map View

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

Church
Map View
Italy, Lombardy, Como, Sant Abbondio Basilica, interior, fresco,
© 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

Museum
Map View

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

Botanical Garden
Map View
Varenna coastline with view on the Villa Cipressi Hotel from the gardens of Villa Monastero. Lake Como, Lombardy, Italy
Lake Como offers a picture-perfect combination of nature, art and history | © 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

Ruins
Map View
Fort Fuentes, Forte di Fuentes on the hill of Montecchio or Monteggiolo near Colico, Como Lake, Lombardy, Italy, Europe
© 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

Winery
Map View

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

Hiking Trail
Map View
Village of Mandonico, over Dorio, with lake Como mountains on the background, Dorio, Province of Lecco, Lombardy, Italy
© 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 August 31, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.