7 Things to see on Lake Como
Do you want to know what to see when you visit Lake Como in northern Italy for the first time? What has always been defined as the sea of the Milanese in recent years, has become increasingly popular among foreign tourists, including Brits. George Clooney bought a lakeside villa in a small village (Laglio), and as a result this historic lake has begun to attract tourists from all over the world.
In fact, in addition to the famous villas that house celebrities, there are many more things to see on Lake Como. Picturesque villages nestled between the shores of the lake and the high peaks of the Alps are the perfect setting for a relaxing break, surrounded by the freshest air, and even fresher water.
Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy and, on the map is easily recognisable thanks to its characteristic upside down "Y" shape. On both shores of Lake Como you can enjoy views of captivating and charming little villages, beautiful villas and gardens decorated with flowers, that await visitors in search of tranquility and culture. So let's dip in and see what else lies beyond its stunning shores.
What to see?
One of the first things to see on Lake Como, is precisely the city that gives its name to the lake. It is a small, quaint town with a lot of history due to its location right on the border with Switzerland. It is worth visiting the Silk Museum, where you can learn more about the textile tradition, famous for its past production of silk. It is also the birthplace of Italian architectural and artistic rationalism where there are several examples of rationalist architecture, such as the Novocomum, the Casa Giuliani Frigerio, the Memorial to the Fallen and the former House of the Fascists.
In addition to the modern architecture in Como you can also admire the more traditional architecture: the Cathedral of Como (the Duomo) or the Palace Broletto are great examples. Another monument that must be visited in Como is the Castello Baradello, erected by Barbarroja in 1159. And for a relaxing stroll you can visit the Villa Olmo.
Just at the tip of the promontory that separates the two branches of Lake Como, Como and Lecco, there is a small, but very famous town, known to many as Bellagio. This village lies between the deep waters of the lake and the lush forests of oak, fir, beech and chestnut trees. Bellagio is a city of gardens, with many parks and green spaces (except the old town), where you can find many types of plants/flowers and even olive groves. It goes without saying then that the best time to visit is the spring or summer months, so you can indulge in nature.
The centre of the city of Bellagio is an intricate succession of narrow streets that ascend the slope of the promontory, until reaching the point known as Spartivento. This is the point where the two branches of the lake merge into one.
Be sure to visit Villa Melzi & Villa Serbelloni and its parks, where you can admire azalea flowers, and walk trails that meander in the green, enjoying breathtaking views of the lake at the same time.
Mezzegra is a village of great historical importance, a place known to tourists and locals for being the place where Mussolini, the facist Italian leader in the days of World War II was executed, along with his mistress Claretta, after being intersected and captured on Lake Como. This happened in the town of Mezzegra, this little known village that centres around a beautiful church on top of the hill overlooking the water. When visiting Lake Como this is where we stayed, and it was the perfect base to explore the surrounding areas of the lake with ease. Beautiful, traditional Italian buildings, cobbled lanes, narrow alley ways and a feeling of the old world of Italy, with the local life & culture happening all around you.
Comacina Island is a small island located in the middle of the lake, in the branch of Como, between the Argegno and Lavedo peninsula. This island has been inhabited since antiquity, and has always been an important centre of the lake area. Many battles were fought here in medieval times, until it was razed by Barbarossa and consequently abandoned, uninhabited for a long period of about 800 years. Hence it claims the nickname of "Pompeii del lago".
Currently on the island there is a fabulous restaurant, the "Locanda dell'isola". Be sure to make a stop to "taste" the island of Comacina, whose restaurant has not changed its menu of 1947.
Another important attraction on Comacina is its yearly festival, which takes place on the last weekend of June every year. The festival on the lake, known as "Sagra de San Giovanni" is a spectacular display of fireworks and music, bringing together the Italian community for a night of great food, togetherness and dancing.
Since 1894, a funicular connects the city of Como with the small town of Brunate, called the "balcony of the Lario". Thanks to its privileged position on top of the mountain that overlooks Como from the lake, here you can enjoy the best panoramic views around.
The zip-trip itself is already an experience, because it climbs steadily up the steep slopes of the mountain, a journey of just over 1 km and a maximum slope of 55%. In addition to the view of the lake from Brunate, you can also enjoy a great view of the Alps, even catching a glimpse of Monte Rosa on a clear day.
The city of Lecco is the second largest of the lake and is the place that inspired Alessandro Manzoni in his masterpiece "The Boyfriends", a classic piece of Italian literature. In addition to the Manzoni Museum in Lecco, in the house where the writer spent his childhood, you can also visit:-
- The Cathedral of San Nicolás
- The Bovara Palace
- The Town Hall
- The Azzone Visconti Bridge
- The Old Market Square or XX Settembre square
- The Visconti Tower.
This is one of the main centres of Lake Como and one of the more commercialised parts of the lake from a tourism perspective. Since the days of old, this was the place chosen by noble families of Como and Milan to spend their summer retreats. The best thing about Menaggio is its beach, its lido, and the long walk along the lake. Also from Menaggio, thanks to its strategic location, you can visit many of the interesting scenic routes in the area.
Born around a small ancient Cistercian monastery, today Cernobbio is one of the most elegant tourist centres in the area - a picturesque town, whose old town is the Piazza del Risorgimento. This elegant dwelling overlooks the lake, whose area is dotted with mansions and sumptuous villas listed below:-
- Villa Erba
- Villa d'Este (now a hotel)
- Villa Bernasconi in Art Nouveau style
- Villa Pizzo and Villa Fontanelle.
The town of Varenna, located in Lecco offers two things to see on Lake Como: the lakeside walk and the nearby Castle of Vezio. The walk takes place along the lake, passing through elegant arcades, and is recommended for all. The castle of Vezio is about 30 minutes walk from the centre of Varenna, and in addition to the castle itself, offers performances by falconers and one of the most beautiful views of this branch of Lake Como.
Other things to see on Lake Como
If you have more days of rest at the lake, then you can visit other places like:-
- Villa Balbianello near Ossuccio,
- Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo,
- Villa Monastero in Varenna,
- Montecchio Fortress
- Piona Abbey in Colico,
- Pigra by cable car from Argengno.
All of the above are great places to adventure to on your visit to Lake Como. Check out my previous blog here, to find out all about the story of our romantic weekend getaway to this beautiful part of Italy, that is a must see for everyone.