COMO – a Lake to Like

I love Italy: The gelato, the papagalli, the dolce far niente. Somehow my head got tangled in these clichés like a fork in a heap of spaghetti.

Sail and motorboats quay at Colico, the Northernmost village at Lago di Como - a lake to like
Sail and motorboats quay at Colico, the Northernmost village on Lake Como’s shores.

Funny thing is: On my frequent trips to Bella Italia, I actually find these clichés reflected in the reality around me.

Getting to Milano overflying the Alps.
Getting to Milano overflying the Alps. Do you recognize this picture? It’s my blog’s title picture.

Bella Italia begins right in the North as soon as you cross the Alps. Here are also the famous North Italian lakes which are i. a. Lago di Orta, Lago Maggiore, Lago Lugano, Lago di Como, and the largest one, Lago di Garda – listed from West to East.

Lago di Como – a Lake to Like

Of these lakes, me and George Clooney like Lago di Como best.

He has proved his love by buying Villa Oleandra in Laglio for 10 million Dollars from John Heinz. That’s the man who has made billions by preparing salsa from pomodori.

And I prove my love by introducing this deep blue jewel to you.

Lake Como
Overpowered by nature: Sumptuous green mountains along deep blue waters.

All the above-quoted lakes are longish and stretch from South to North. Lake Como is different – it’s in the shape of an inverted Y, i. e. it looks like ⅄.

Although there are many charming places along the shore waiting for your visit, I’ll introduce those located at the extreme points.

I’m starting with Como at the tip of the lower Western part, continuing with Bellagio at the angular point. Then, I’m going all the way up to the most Northern point which is beautiful Colico. Finally, I return South to the Easternmost point where the town of Lecco is located.

Since coming from Milan, you can reach many places on the lake also by train – at least on the Western shore – your stay can vary from a one-day trip to….a lifetime.
But realistically speaking, depending on your plans, I’d suggest one week.

There are many towns and villages to be visited; given their size, exploring would be an exaggeration. Whereas enjoying is exactly what you will do.
Strolling along narrow streets and alleys while the tastiest ice cream is melting on your tongue. Sipping one of uncountable espressi or latte macchiati in small cafés.
Cooling off in one of the churches.
And having the nicest view of the lake’s deep blue water at every corner.

Como

This is exactly what you can do in Como, the town that generously shares its name with the lake.

How To Get There

Getting to Como is really easy. There are trains from Milan almost by the hour – and they take a bit over an hour.

If you just flew in, you even don’t need to go downtown. You can catch the train right at the Malpensa airport’s train station.
However, not so if you landed at Linate airport.
From there you have to go first either downtown or by direct shuttle to Malpensa.

Check your connection and all relevant info on trenitalia’s website.
It’s really good and reliable.

Buon Giorno, Como!

San Fedele in the town of Como
Looking through one of the historic center’s narrow alleys at San Fedele.

The old part of Como is on the lake and really small.

Como
Como is cute and molto italiano outside of the historic center’s limits, too.

Besides strolling and shopping and eating and drinking, you can visit smaller museums such as the Museo Civico and the Pinacoteca. However, I would save that for rainy days – and this is coming from me, the biggest art aficionado under the sole.

Cathedral in Como
Como’s cathedral – not as huge as the one in Milan, but for such a small town quite impressive.

There are nice buildings to be seen just walking. For instance, the Duomo, the cathedral. Or the over 1000 years old church San Fedele as well as the over 800 years old Porta Torre, the portal on the historic quarter’s Eastside.

Along the Largo Gianfranco Milio towards the Porta Torre in Como.
Along the Largo Gianfranco Milio towards the Porta Torre, the fortified tower, built in 1192.
(Nicolago, Comotorre, marked as public, details on Wikimedia Commons)

Como’s Ancient Glory

The most alluring attraction, of course, is the lake with its elegant promenade and the harbor where the cruise ferries are waiting for their passengers.

But before we set sail, let’s walk South along the lake where there is the Tempio Voltanio. This neoclassic building from 1927, dedicated to Como-born Alessandro Volta, inventor of the electric battery, is housing a museum.

Tempio Voltanio in Como
Beautiful Tempio Voltanio right next to the lake.
(Photo: Daniel Case (talk), Tempo Voltiano from southwest, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Keep walking around the lake to get to the Passeggiata di Villa Olmo. This scenic promenade runs between the lake and some of the most beautiful neoclassicist mansions and villas. And at the end, there is the Queen of them all, the Villa Olmo.

Villa Olmo in Como
Looks like a castle, but is only a Villa…..Villa Olmo.

For those less culture and arts-oriented folks, there is a Lido, a public swimming pool, a few steps from the Villa Olmo. If it’s too crowded, the tanners and swimmers have to go about 3 kilometers further up to the Lido di Cernobbio. If you don’t feel like walking, there is the bus N6 taking people from Como to Cernobbio.

Where To Stay

Obviously, there are many different lodging options – from a cheap B&B to a luxurious five-star hotel.

I stayed at the B&B Ai tre Leoni*, ten minutes walk East of the center. It was a nice experience to stay in a non-touristy neighborhood and experiencing real Italian life.

If you prefer to stay closer to the action, for instance, the Hotel Tre Re* is an excellent option. Located close to the main pier, this building was originally a private residence of the Vitani family. Later, it became a convent and was eventually transformed into an elegant yet affordable hotel.

Brunate

An activity not to be missed when visiting Como is a short ride by funicular uphill to the village of Brunate.

The funicular going from Como to Brunate.
Here you see the swath in the lush vegetation where the funicular is going up from Como to Brunate.
(Photo: Rehman Abubakr, Como-Brunate funicular – June2016, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Brunate is not only a very charming, picturesque village. It also grants the most breathtaking views of Como and the lake.

As soon as you get off the funicular station, you’ll spot the Chiesa Sant’ Andrea Apostolo, first mentioned in the 14th century.
Next to it are many small restaurants and shops.

Chiesa Sant' Andrea Apostolo in  Brunate above Lake Como
Chiesa Sant’ Andrea Apostolo is greeting Brunate’s visitors on their arrival.

To get the best view, you have to do a bit of walking. And yes, the trouble with views is that they are uphill.

So let’s go.

Turn right into the small path at the Hotel Vista Lago Brunate and keep walking straight up about 15 minutes till you get to Chiesa San Maurizio.

Chiesa San Maurizio in Brunate above Lake Como
Chiesa San Maurizio right in the center of the San Maurizio neighborhood. The trail that goes up to the Faro Voltiano begins right across the parking lot.

Take a Good Look Around

Turn left and keep walking up a forest trail till you get to the Faro Voltiano, the Voltiano tower. Right next to it is the observation deck. And at this point, I won’t disturb you any longer, but let you catch your breath after the walk.
I’m sure it will be taken away by the views, anyway!

 Lake Como
Breathtaking view from the observation deck around the Faro Voltiano on the mountains and sumptuous greenery….
 Lake Como
….as well as on the lake and Tavernola village – and many, many mountains in the backdrop.

If you cannot part and want to spend the night in Brunate, the Hotel Vista Lago* is your best option….I mean, the name says it all, doesn’t it?!

Crossing the Lake

Although you could move around in buses and on the eastern shore even by train, one of the nicest and unmissable things to do when vacationing by a lake is – going on the lake. Of course, by boat.

Lake Como
At the harbor of Como. Taking a ferry across the lake is certainly one of the summery highlights of a trip to lake Como.

There are various options like cruises with stops at various places – albeit, only during high season starting end of May. Also, there are trips between towns.

On this website you can check hours and prices. On the one hand, it’s pretty informative, telling you facts about the lake’s length and depth and suggesting attractions in the different villages. On the other hand, though, it’s a bit misleading. There is for instance written that going from Como to Colico takes four hours.

Are We There Yet?

Therefore, once aboard, I’ve made myself comfortable, took out my book and my phone, and my water, expecting to relax for the next four hours. Well, after about two hours, the boat docked at…Colico! Thus, I had to jump and quickly pack all my stuff to hop off board before the ride continued.
Hence, it took about two hours.

Lake Como
Taking a trip into a picture postcard.

So I suggest you use their page for getting a rough idea of where to go and what to do.

Once you’re there, you walk to the pier well ahead of your trip and ask the people selling the tickets what your options are. If you are in Como only for one day, you just go to the pier when you please since you won’t have too many choices, anyways.

Don’t worry, you’ll certainly be able to go on a boat trip – and you won’t regret it, it’s dreamy…just ask George.

Villa del Balbianello on lake Como's Western shore
Villa del Balbianello on the lake’s Western shore, short before you get to Bellagio.

Bellagio

One of the most picturesque – and also most visited – places on the lake is Bellagio, located at the angular point of the lake’s ⅄.

Bellagio
The lakefront promenade of Bellagio, one of the most visited towns on Lake Como.
(Photo: RiccardoT, Bellagio dal traghetto – panoramio, CC BY 3.0)
Basilica of San Giacomo in Bellagio
Basilica of San Giacomo
(Photo: RaminusFalcon, ChiesaSanGiacomo, CC BY-SA 3.0)

It’s amusing and relaxing to stroll up and down the lakefront promenade or taking a drink at one of the cafés overlooking the lake. And, of course, watching people walk by.

After this break, it’s time to hike up to the historic center which is located at a higher level.

Up here, the main attraction is definitely the Romanesque Basilica Of San Giacomo.

Needless to say that at Bellagio, too, there are some ancient aristocratic villas.

Bellagio’s Villas

One of the most impressive ones is certainly Villa Serbelloni. Built as a castle, it eventually became a country residence and was transformed into a villa at the end of the 15th century. Only in the 19th century, the structures were remodeled into a hotel. Today, it also serves as a venue for conventions and study tours. Its impressive park stretches all over the town’s promontory from where you have a grand view onto the lake’s two branches.

Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio
Majestic Italy: Villa Serbelloni, nestled between cypresses.
(Photo: trolvag, Villa Serbelloni, Bellagio, Como, Lombardia, Italy – panoramio, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Another imposing, Neo-classical building is the Villa Melzi. It was built in the early 19th century for Count Francesco Melzi, then vice-president and Chancellor of the Kingdom of Italy.

Villa Melzi in Bellagio
Artists such as Stendhal and Liszt as well as Royalties like Francesco I and Ferdinand of Austria were guests of noble Villa Melzi.
(Photo: Paebi, Bellagio Villa Melzi, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Besides those two jewels, you shouldn’t miss the other modest housings like Villa Trivulzio. It was built in the 18th century and is located in a grand English-style park. Or Villa Trotti, built in an eclectic neo-Gothic style, adorned with Moorish decorations.
Yes, there is definitely a reason why especially during the Summer the streets and alleys of Bellagio are pretty busy.

If you choose to stay in Bellagio overnight and just found a diamond mine then you might consider treating yourself to a night at the Villa Serbelloni*.

All those who are currently not rich can stay for instance at the also very posh Hotel Du Lac*, located right across the pier, overlooking the lake.

Bellagio
Arriving at sublime Bellagio.

Colico

Hidden all the way in the North, Colico is probably the most relaxed place on Lake Como.

Colico
Colico’s pier is far from being an industrial harbor.

Actually, the village of Colico is much less picturesque and posh than the other places. However, it’s totally worth the visit for the serene, beautiful surroundings where you can hike and cycle for hours.

Cyclists at Colico
Getting ready for the grand tour around Lake Como.
Colico's outback
Colico’s outback. All you hear are the birds chirping and the cicadas clittering.

An Italian Vacation

Then, once back to town, you can stroll along the promenade. Relax for a while on a bench and just lay your eyes on the majestic mountains in the backdrop of the green-blue lake where colorful sails move indolently across the still waters. VACATION!

Lake Como in Colico
Colico – this picture says it all.

Colico is also the best place to take a dip in the lake since it has some natural beaches. At the other places, you have to go to a Lido which is nice, but also a bit costly.

Here in Colico you just look for a place on the grass under a big tree, take out your book – or take a nap. On the northern shore, there is even a stretch of sandy beach in front of the meadow. But since there the water is easily accessible, that’s where all the families are staying. Hence, it’s packed and noisy and you might get hit on the head by a ball.

Aperitivo in Italy
Aperol Spritz – the taste of Italian Summers.

Eating, Resting, Shopping

Right in front of the pier are a couple of restaurants and an ice cream parlor. Obviously, it’s nice and very Italian to hang out here especially in the early evening when it’s Aperitivo-time.

Order a nice drink like an Aperol Spritz and they will give you a plate full of niblets with it – that’s Italia!

If you are still hungry, you can order – who would have guessed? – a pizza which is really good and – considering the location – quite reasonably priced.

Sunday market in Colico
Nicknack along the shore. The ‘real’ market is taking place Sundays on the main road.

Sunday is the grand market day in Colico. There are stalls along the Via Nazionale from the train station all the way into town. It’s not at all touristy, it’s rather like an open-air department store. They are selling household appliances and underwear, tools and Italian leather goods, jeans and sweets.

Accommodations in Colico range from a campground with beach access to to upper-middle-class hotels in the town center.

Hotel Risi* is located right on the shore and their comfortable rooms are reasonably priced.

Lecco

It might be easier to just keep travelling by boat from Colico. While during high season, that’s a great option, till the end of May it’s basically impossible.

Train Station at Colico at Lago di Como - a Lake to Like
Everything – even the old train station – is scenic in Colico.

Ooops, does this mean you get stuck there?

Even though it wouldn’t be the worst place to get stuck, there’s no need to worry.

There are regional trains going from Colico i. a. to Milano by the hour.
Also, they do stop in Lecco, which is good since this southernmost point of the lake’s Eastern leg is absolutely worth a visit.

Lago di Como at Lecco
Taking a walk along Lake Como.
 (Photo: Giovanni Marinelli, View of Lake Como from Lecco, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Lecco has almost 50,000 inhabitants which is a little over half of Como’s population.

However, Lecco deems less dreamy.

Palazzi

Albeit, at the historic center are some sober yet elegant buildings from the 18th century. This Neo-Classical style from the era of the Viscounts dominates the architecture of all of the Lombardian settlements around Lake Como.

Bergamo Alps and the Valsassina Valley at Lecco
It’s not the city as such, it’s the sensational setting amidst the Bergamo Alps and the Valsassina Valley that makes a visit to Lecco worth a while.
(Photo: No machine-readable author provided. GôTô assumed (based on copyright claims)., Lecco-4-16-04-2006, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Among these ancient palazzi, Palazzo Belgioioso, built in the 18th century, is one of the most impressive. Today, it houses the municipal museums.

Another one is Villa Manzoni. This mansion belonged to poet Alessandro Manzoni’s family until 1818. Manzoni spent periods of his infancy and youth at this house. Today, it is communal property.

Villa Manzoni in Lecco
Villa Manzoni
(Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/renaud-camus/ Renaud Camus, Villa Manzoni, CC BY 2.0)

Since it’s only 50 kilometers from Lecco to Milan, I don’t assume that you will spend the night there. But if you choose so, Hotel Alberi* is a good, comfortable and relaxed option

More On Italy

Back from the dreamy lake to reality and need some ideas and guidance for Milan?
No problem, check out this post.

Only have a couple of hours there until you travel on? Here’s a 24 hours itinerary.

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91 Replies to “COMO – a Lake to Like”

  1. Italy is our fav country to visit! We haven't made it to Lake Como area yet but it's definitely on our bucket list. We hear really great things about it! Didn't know George Clooney lived there! Museo Civico would definitely be a place we'd want to visit because we love learning about history!

    1. Italy fav country?! Same here! I don't know whether Clooney really lives there, but he has a villa there. If he ever needs a house-sitter, I'd volunteer 🤩

  2. Como always strikes me as being the hangout for filmstars so I am not surprised about George Clooney! Isn't that Cathedral wonderful – it's charming!

    1. Actually the tourist crowd was very mixed – lots of local day trippers, lots of cyclists (especially around Colico). It's very, very pleasant

  3. Thanks for the wonderful post! I've never been to Como but i've been told it's amazing! I really need to get to Italy!

  4. I didn't know you could reach Lake Como so easily via train from Milan. I haven't been to this region of Italy in many years, but it has been high on my list of places to visit.

    1. There are trains by the hour and it takes about 90 minutes. Really a piece of cake (an ice-cake that is, of course, made of gelato 😉

  5. So gorgeous! I have heard that Lake Como isn't really a budget destination. How true is that?

    1. According to my experience as part of the poverty jet set (thanx for this one, Douglas Coupland), you can find reasonably priced accommodation and food basically everywhere (Switzerland and Scandinavia are challenge, but even there I survived). You might have to compromise: When I was in Como, I didn't stay in the center, but at a small B&B about a fifteen minute walk from the lake. Same in Colico.

  6. It’s one of my favorite places in Italy! It is just so pretty and I love the drop of the mountains as well. Love your pictures!!

    1. Yeah, well, it's hidden all the way up in the North…I went there by pure incident on my way to Milan, though.

  7. You have nicely detailed what to see in the area of Lake Como and around. Italy is pretty. I would love to spend some time in the lake followed by strolling by the Passeggiata di Villa Olmo – I found the promenade really lovely. Thanks for the share.

  8. Italy is SO beautiful. I'm torn between going to the Pyrenees or somewhere in Italy later this year… maybe you've convinced me to check out Lake Como.

    1. There are various lakes really close to each other in that area, so I would give it a shot 😀

  9. We stayed in Como and visited Brunate and Bellagio back in 2015. It was so beautiful…we absolutely loved it! Your pictures and content really brought me back. Thanks for sharing. (We were hoping to couchsurf at George and Amal, but alas, they stood us up. 🙂 )

  10. I love destinations like this where you get the best mix of everything – culture, food, the outdoors. Como looks so beautiful and this post reminds me I still need to visit it on another trip back to Italy!

  11. Visited Italy three times but I have not been enthused by its lakes. I guess George Clooney saw what you saw, too. Looks like a great place to live.

    1. To be honest, I've always been an Ocean-kinda-person, but since I had only a couple of days before my Italian class in Milan, I bit the bullet and went to Como….and what can I say: mesmerizing!

  12. I love Italy, and have always wanted to visit Lake Como. It's so beautiful, and the fact that George Clooney is obsessed with it is enough reason for me!

  13. Como is definitely one of my favorite places in Italy, I'm in love with that lake since I was there for the first time. I would like to go back, you brought me some good memories, thanks for that! 🙂
    Have you been to Lugano (Swiss) it's half an hour or hour from Como and it's really nice 😀

    1. No, haven't been to Lugano. I believe that it must be very nice – but probably it will be more expensive than the Italian lakes since in Switzerland, you do pay a high price for all that beauty 😉

  14. I LOVE Italy! It is one of my favourite places on earth! I go at least once a year. I have extremely fond memories from a solo adventure around Lago Maggiore! It is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been! Great post!