Local Favorite: PolentaPolenta 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.
Some of the best things to do in Lake Como
The biggest tourist attraction in Como is the lake. It is 30 miles long (50 kilometers) and resembles a fjord. The Y-shaped lake is rather narrow, with towns scattered around its shoreline. One of the popular activities is to go town hopping as visitors travel from one the beautiful old town to the next during a trip to the area. The lake is 99 miles around (160 kilometers), and travelers 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 for a day trip, at the very least. Its cobbled lanes and promenade extend out into the lake, making it one of the most beautiful towns that surround Lake Como.
Brunate is a terraced settlement up the steep hillside surrounding the lake and is located just above Como. Reaching Brunate is easy thanks to the funicular that takes passengers up the very steep climb. Tourists are offered views of Lake Como’s southern side with mountains in the background that are absolutely stunning. At the top of the funicular is a cafe allowing adventure seekers to stop off for a traditional Italian espresso.
It is possible to reach the top of Mount Boletto after arriving at Brunate. Travelers must disembark the funicular then continue on foot, getting a great leg workout in the process. Volta Lighthouse can also be reached from Brunate and offers a great position to see out across the lake from a new angle.
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 on display with the vehicles coming from the 1920s all the way up through the 1970s.
Lake and Villa Tours
The shores of Lake Como have a good number of gorgeous villas. These include Villa Carlotta, Villa Monastero, Villa Melzi d'Eril, and Villa del Balbianello. Villa del Balbianello, which is situated in Tremezzina along the lake's western coast, is arguably the best-known one. Once a Franciscan monastery, this tranquil site has become a popular wedding venue in real life and on the silver screen. Star Wars fans should note that the wedding of Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala on the fictitious Planet Naboo in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones was filmed at Villa del Balbianello. The pristine terraces and well-manicured gardens feature on planet Earth, too, in the 2006 James Bond film Casino Royale.
Most of the villas are open to the public, so be sure to visit at least a couple during your trip. If you want to explore more villas, the easiest way to do that is to take advantage of one of many boat cruises on the lake. Many of these cruises offer a packaged deal where you can visit up to 5 villas during a boat tour of the lake. You'll find various kinds of boats, from classic wooden Riva boats to sailboats and mid-sized yachts to choose from. You'll need four to eight hours for the best tours, so plan accordingly.
Isola Comacina may seem a small island near Lake Como’s western shoreline, but it has quite the history. The wooded island was invaded in 1169 by soldiers from Como. At one time, it was also fought over by the Romans and Lombards. In 1919, Isola Comacina was gifted to Belgium but was returned to Italy a year later. More recently, it was hoped the island would be a refuge for artists and a place to create.
Today, a public boat service takes visitors out to Isola Comacina, the only island located on Lake Como. Not only are there stunning views of the surrounding waters, towns, and mountains, but the peaceful walk around the island leads to some extraordinary ruins that can be visited.
Duomo di Como (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta)
The towns around Lake Como have some unbelievably beautiful churches and cathedrals. The best of the bunch is the Duomo located in Como. The Gothic cathedral has an interesting twist compared to other churches around it. Visitors will find Pliny the Elder and Younger on either side of the cathedral’s front door. The two were Romans who lived around Lake Como and were not very pleasant to the Christians in the area.
Despite being in Switzerland, Lugano retains that authentic Italian feel, with a similar sort of vibe to the Lombardy region of Italy. Just 28km from Lake Como, you can visit both Lugano and Como in one day, or spread it across a more substantial trip. If you enjoy a hike, the surrounding mountains offer great walking routes and views across the region. Lugano's piazzas, museums, and ground-level sights are just as picturesque if you prefer a flatter walk. Oh, and don't worry about the border; Italy and Switzerland are part of the Schengen zone, so travel between each is seamless.
Ghisallo Cycling Museum
Cycling is one of Italy’s most popular sports and competes with Formula One and MotoGP as a major racing event followed by fans around the peninsula. Located in Magreglio, the Ghisallo Cycling Museum gives visitors the chance to explore the area’s rich history with the sport. Thousands of cycling fans visit Ghisallo each year, and many take to the hills around Lake Como to ride.
Next to the museum is the Madonna del Ghisallo, a 17th-century shrine with a painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 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, athletes, and designers who have impacted cycling. The Ghisallo Cycling Museum is only open from March to November.