Waterfront of Varenna at Lake Como seen from the lakeside, Lombardy, Italy
April 24, 2018

Exploring Italy’s Lake Como

Situated in an idyllic region of northwest Italy, Lake Como is set within picturesque hillsides and mountains.  An ancient retreat, Lake Como has welcomed many travelers coming to relax at its lapping shores of enjoy views of the Alps as well as the towns of Como and Lecco.

The lake has been historically famous for its beautiful shore-side villas since the days of Pliny the Younger.  The climate and lake water allow gardens to bloom with both temperate and even tropical plantings.  Some of the lake’s most attractive villas include Villa d’Este, Villa Carlotta, Villa del Balbianello, Villa Melbi and Villa Serbelloni.  Some have been the retreats of princes and princesses, but all have been painstakingly maintained and add to the illustrious beauty of the locale. The landscape around Lake Como is pretty characteristic. It has a kind of flair and sense of history and has been appreciated for its beauty and uniqueness for ages, and even as early as the Roman times.

A long and narrow expanse of water, Lake Como was formed by glacial erosion.  One of Europe’s deepest lakes, it is the third largest lake in Italy.  In some spots the lake extends four hundred meters deep.  Located within Lombardy, Lake Como features many resorts that cater to vacationers.  The lake is noted for its wishbone shape.  The town of Colico lies on the northern branch of the lake while Como and Lecco lie to the south.  Other towns such as Bellagio, Menaggio, and Varenna are located near the middle.

Bellagio is one of the most attractive towns at the lake, and can therefore a bit expensive and over-crowded. It’s the busiest of the touristy towns and a hub for the boat service on the lake. Attractions and landmarks of the town include Villa Melzi, (Via Melzi d’Eril) and Villa Serbelloni, at the upper part of the historic centre, not to be confused with the nearby Grandhotel Villa Serbelloni, which has the same name.

Varenna is a pretty lakeside village in the central part of Lake Como. Traditionally it’s a fishing village with colorful houses and villas built close to each other just below a mountain. The main attractions of the village are the two picturesque botanical gardens in Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi.

Menaggio is the main town on the western shore and not as touristy as Bellagio and Varenna opposite. The town has as a nice pedestrian-only area at the lake-front with shops, coffee-bars, hotels, ice-cream parlours and restaurants.

A variety of boats and hydrofoils travel all the way up Lake Como from Como to Colico stopping at most of the towns en route. There are fast and slower services and some that only travel short distances, stop at fewer places, but go more frequently, like the services between the towns in the centre of the lake, Menaggio, Bellagio and Varenna. Timetables are available at tourist information offices and the ticket offices at the lakefront.

Vacationers have a variety of recreational opportunities on the lake.  Windsurfing, sailing, and kite surfing.  Travelers enjoy exploring the lake shores as well as the towns and their charming markets.  Hillsides offer unsurpassed views of the lake and nearby mountains.  The northern regions of the lake offer wilder, more untamed stretches of beauty, while the southern regions offer resort life and recreational activities that suit a variety of tastes.

Since Lake Como weather is humid subtropical and the temperature around the lake are higher than the surrounding regions, it can rain quite a lot in Spring and Autumn. Rainfall is heaviest in May and lowest during the winter months. So to avoid the seasonal crowds I would recommend visiting Lake Como in late summer.

Have a safe journey!