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The best things to do in
Lake Como

Language:   Italian

Currency: EUR

Sales Tax: 22%

A Lake Como visit is a different Italian getaway from the sprawling streets of Rome, art museums of Florence, or the crowds in Naples. Situated in Italy’s northern region, the area combines the beauty of the country’s third-largest lake with views of quaint towns and snowcapped mountains. Bordering the lake to the south is Como, which is just 30 miles north of Milan. It is easily reachable, allowing travelers to fly into Milan and enjoy the numerous things to do in Lake Como shortly after arriving.

The city of Como exhibits Roman architecture, allowing visitors to explore its old town and orderly streets. Piazza Cavour is a popular lakefront square in Como where locals and tourists congregate. The Roman influences are apparent in the buildings surrounding the square.

The small towns around Lake Como offer places to let time slow down. The tranquility of the area is ideal for tourists seeking a peaceful getaway. There is nothing quite like staring across the water at the Grigna, Resegone, and Legnone mountains. Of course, summertime is the most popular time to visit as lake activities take center stage. Here are some of the best things to do in Lake Como:

Some of the best things to do in Lake Como

The Lake

The Lake

The biggest tourist attraction in Como is the 30 mile (48 km) long lake. The Y-shaped lake has interesting towns scattered around its shoreline. One of the most popular activities here is town hopping. Visitors usually travel from one beautiful old town to the next during a trip to the area. The lake is about 106 miles (170 km) in perimeter, and tourists can take their time when exploring its surroundings.

Como is located on the lake’s southern tip, but it isn’t the most popular town to visit. Instead, Bellagio is where many travelers go to stay or visit on a day trip. Its cobbled lanes and promenade extend out into the lake, making it one of the most beautiful towns close to the lake.

Brunate

Brunate

Brunate is a terraced settlement up the steep hillside surrounding the lake and is located just above Como. You can visit Brunate via the funicular that takes passengers up the steep climb. The town has stunning views of Lake Como’s southern side with mountains in the background. At the top of the funicular is a cafe allowing adventure seekers to stop off for a traditional Italian espresso.

You can get to the top of Mount Boletto after arriving at Brunate, but you have to go on foot. The Volta Lighthouse, dedicated to Alessandro Volta, is another place to enjoy wonderful views.

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d'Este

Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d'Este

The Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este is a motor show for vintage and classic cars. It has been held the last weekend of May in the town of Cernobbio since 1929. The event doesn’t just show off classic cars. Many car manufacturers attend the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d’Este to show off their latest models.

Usually, only 50 cars are displayed, and the vehicles' manufacture dates range from the 1920s to the 1970s. Since Villa d'Este is a hotel that isn't open for public tours like other popular Lake Como Villas, the motor show is an excellent opportunity to explore the grounds of the famed villa. You can also book a room at the hotel during your visit as it is a highly-rated place to stay.

Lake and Villa Tours

Lake and Villa Tours

Bellagio

Bellagio

Perhaps the most popular town in the region, Bellagio stands as the quintessential "Pearl of Lake Como." The city has been enchanting visitors for centuries with its timeless charm, boasting elegant villas, lush gardens, and a picturesque lakeside promenade.

Bellagio began to stand out under the Roman Empire for its unique tranquility and beauty. Many Roman aristocrats, including Virgilius, had summer villas in or around Bellagio. Take the time to visit the inspiring Villa Melzi d'Eril, surrounded by lush gardens and overlooking the lake. The neoclassical villa designed in the 17th century showcases beautiful sculptures and artworks.

For an opulent stay in Bellagio, indulge in the luxurious Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, which started out in 1850 as a grandiose holiday villa for a noble Italian family. It is now under the management of the Butcher family and has been running for over 150 years as a luxurious hotel hosting the likes of Al Pacino, the Rothschilds, and J.F. Kennedy.

At the top of the hill in Bellagio, you'll find Villa Serbelloni, a breathtaking villa with grounds filled with heartwarming shrubs and trees. Not to be mistaken for the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, this hilltop villa is one of many villas worth visiting in the region

Isola Comacina

Isola Comacina

Isola Comacina is the only island on Lake Como. It is a treasure trove of natural beauty, history, and cultural intrigue. At one time, it was fought over by the Romans and Lombards. It was also a fortress during the Roman and Byzantine eras, and later became a major religious and political site

Duomo di Como (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta)

Duomo di Como (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta)

An interesting part of the church is the large bell tower on the southwest side of the building. It is very similar to the one at Basilica of San Fedele which is just a four minute walk away.

Menaggio

Menaggio

Menaggio is on the western shore of the lake. This beautiful town combines natural beauty with recreational activities to offer an exhilarating time away from city life.

Boasting breathtaking historic walks along the shore and botanical gardens hidden in higher hamlets, Menaggio easily wins the hearts of nature lovers.

Golf lovers should visit the Menaggio & Cadenabbia Golf Club, the second-oldest golf club in the country. Founded in the early 20th century, the 18-hole gold course offers charming views of the city and the lake.

Menaggio also becomes the scene of a musical event every August with its international Guitar Festival. This event attracts musicians and music lovers from all over the world.

Lugano

Lugano

Despite being in Switzerland, Lugano retains that authentic Italian feel, with a vibe similar to that of the Lombardy region of Italy. Just 28km from Lake Como, you can visit Lugano and Como in one day or spread it across a longer period. If you enjoy hiking, the surrounding mountains offer great walking routes and views across the region.

If heights don't appeal to you, Lugano's piazzas and other ground-level sights are just as picturesque. Best of all, you don't need to worry about the border. Italy and Switzerland are part of the Schengen zone, so travel between the countries is seamless.

Ghisallo Cycling Museum (Museo del Ghisallo)

Cycling is one of Italy’s most popular sports. It competes with Formula One and MotoGP as a major racing event followed by Italian fans. The Ghisallo Cycling Museum is located in Magreglio just south of Bellagio. The museum allows visitors to explore the sport's rich history in the region.

The museum contains exhibitions featuring some of the most famous cyclists in the world. It also has information on some of the sport’s lesser-known individuals, such as journalists, and designers who have impacted cycling. The Ghisallo Cycling Museum is only open from March to November. Thousands of cycling fans visit the museum each year, and many take to the hills around Lake Como to ride.

Varenna

Varenna

Varenna is a traditional village on the eastern shore. It offers a peaceful escape with its narrow streets and stunning lake views. Visitors will love wandering through this quintessential yesteryear village.

You'll find breathtaking beauty all around Varenna, such as gorgeous walks that blend history and nature around the lake and elegant historic villas.

Villa Cipressi, just next to Villa Monastero, is a 4-star hotel surrounded by historic terraced gardens. The vibrant flora and captivating scenery make it the perfect spot for wonderful holiday photographs and dream-worthy destination weddings.

Castello di Vezio

Castello di Vezio

If you’re willing and able to embark on a 30-minute hike up the hill from Varenna, you’ll be rewarded with something special. The sublime views of the lake, surrounding hills, and mountains from Castello di Vezio. The medieval castle was built in the 12th century and has served different purposes while it was functional. These include a military outpost and a dungeon.

You can also enjoy the daily Birds of Prey demonstration offered by a falconer. Because of the presence of these birds, animals are not allowed at the castle. The castle is closed whenever it rains, so keep this in mind to avoid walking up only to be denied access.

Lake Como continues to grow as a travel destination as local and international travelers seek an escape to Italy’s glorious natural areas in the north, rather than the bustling cities of Florence, Rome, and Milan. Thanks to its natural beauty, quaint towns, slow pace, and outdoor activities, Lake Como is a growing travel destination that shouldn’t be overlooked.

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Polenta

Local Favorite: Polenta

Polenta is a popular dish eaten in the northern region of Italy. It is a common item found on menus around Lake Como and one you will find served as a side dish to a meat or fish meal. Polenta comes from cornmeal and is served in multiple ways from hot to cold, sliced, creamy, or even baked. That versatility of polenta is part of its brilliance. Polenta originated in northern Italy and was mostly eaten by poor families from the peasant and working classes. It was very simple, which made it cheap to acquire, yet it was fulfilling.

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