The Best Lake Como Travel Guide

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The 10 Best Things To Do

10 Must-Do Things for an Unforgettable Lake Como Experience

Lake Como, Italy's enchanting jewel, beckons travelers with its stunning landscapes, historic charm, and an array of activities to indulge in. Here are ten experiences that promise to make your visit to Lake Como truly unforgettable:

  1. Cruise on Lake Como

 the image of a speed boat viewed from the top, traveling through the water with a wakeStart your journey with a relaxing boat tour. Admire the grand villas, lush gardens, and the picturesque shoreline from the tranquil waters of the lake.

Types of Cruises

  • Ferry services: the lake offers an extensive network of ferry services that connect various towns and villages. It's an affordable and convenient way to explore the region.
  • Private tours: for a more intimate experience, consider booking a private cruise. These tours often come with knowledgeable guides who can provide insights into the lake's history and landmarks.
  • Dinner cruises: some operators offer evening cruises with dinner on board. This romantic option allows you to enjoy a meal while the sun sets over the lake.

Best Time to Cruise

  • Lake Como is at its scenic best during the spring and summer months. From April to October, the weather is pleasant, and the gardens surrounding the villas are in full bloom.

Evening Cruises

  • Consider an evening cruise to witness the sunset over Lake Como. The play of colors on the water and surrounding mountains is a breathtaking sight.

Highlights Along the Way

  • Villa del Balbianello: this iconic villa, famous for its terraced gardens, has been featured in movies like "Star Wars" and "Casino Royale." It's a must-see.
  • Villa Carlotta: explore the villa's botanical gardens and art collections. Don't miss the azaleas and rhododendrons in spring.
  • Bellagio: often called the "Pearl of Lake Como," Bellagio boasts charming streets, artisan shops, and incredible views.
  • Varenna: visit the picturesque town of Varenna, with its colorful houses and serene ambiance.

Cruising Lake Como is an experience that combines natural beauty, history, and culture. As you glide across the serene waters, you'll understand why this destination has captivated travelers for centuries.

Top Boat Tours

  1. Visit Villa del Balbianello

Charming house on Lake Como's shore with Villa del Balbianello viewExplore this stunning villa, famous for its terraced gardens and breathtaking views. It's a favorite location for movie directors, and you'll quickly see why. This historic villa, often referred to as one of the most beautiful on the lake, boasts a unique blend of natural beauty, art, and architecture that will leave you utterly enchanted.

History and Architecture

Originally built in the 18th century on the site of a Franciscan monastery, Villa del Balbianello is renowned for its elegant architecture. As you approach the villa, you'll be captivated by its terraced gardens, adorned with meticulously trimmed hedges and vibrant flowers. The villa's interiors are equally impressive, with rooms decorated in a style that reflects the tastes of its former owners.

Movie Magic

Film enthusiasts will recognize the villa from several famous movies, including the James Bond film "Casino Royale" and "Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones." It's not hard to see why filmmakers are drawn to this stunning location.

Gardens with a View

The villa's gardens are a horticultural masterpiece. Take a leisurely stroll through terraced pathways, each offering panoramic views of Lake Como and the surrounding mountains. Be sure to visit the romantic "Loggia Durini," a covered terrace where you can relax and soak in the breathtaking scenery.

Guided Tours

To truly appreciate the history and beauty of Villa del Balbianello, consider joining one of the guided tours offered. Knowledgeable guides will walk you through the villa's history and its impressive collection of art and artifacts.

Getting There

Access to Villa del Balbianello is typically by water, making it an exciting part of your Lake Como adventure. You can take a boat from nearby towns like Lenno or Tremezzo, and the journey alone is a scenic delight.

Villa del Balbianello Tours

  1. Bellagio Exploration

 The vibrant colors of Bellagio Street, which overlooks Lake ComoStroll through the charming streets of Bellagio, often referred to as the "Pearl of the Lake." Discover artisan shops, delightful cafes, and hidden treasures. Bellagio is a must-include destination. Here are some of the best things to do in this enchanting town:

Stroll Along the Waterfront

Begin your Bellagio adventure with a leisurely walk along the waterfront promenade. As you amble past quaint cafes and boutique shops, you'll be treated to stunning views of the surrounding mountains and the crystal-clear waters of Lake Como.

Villa Melzi Gardens

Explore the exquisite gardens of Villa Melzi, an early 19th-century villa that's a testament to neoclassical architecture. The serene lakeside gardens are adorned with sculptures, lush vegetation, and scenic paths that lead to a charming lakeside chapel.

Visit the Park of Villa Serbelloni

This historic villa offers guided tours through its extensive gardens. The highlight? The panoramic viewpoint at the tip of the peninsula, where you can take in breathtaking vistas of the lake.

Shop for Local Treasures

Bellagio is known for its artisanal shops and boutiques. Peruse them for locally crafted goods, including silk products, ceramics, and delicious treats like olive oil and Limoncello.

Gelato Break

Treat yourself to some authentic Italian gelato from one of the gelaterias in town. It's a delightful way to cool down on a warm summer's day.

Bellagio's Churches

Explore Bellagio's historic churches, including the Basilica of San Giacomo, which houses beautiful artwork and offers a quiet retreat from the bustling streets.

Bellagio Festival

Check if your visit coincides with the Bellagio Festival, which features music, art exhibitions, and cultural events, adding an extra layer of charm to your stay.

Top Bellagio Tours

  1. Greenway of Lake Hike

Captivating town by the lake with mountains, red rooftops, and greenwayLace up your walking shoes for a scenic hike along the Greenway of Lake. This 10 km trail winds through quaint villages, offering captivating lake views. It's not just a hike; it's an adventure through time and terrain, allowing you to explore charming villages, historic sites, lush forests, and captivating lakefront vistas.

Why Greenway Hiking is a Must-Do

  • Scenic beauty: the Greenway boasts ever-changing panoramas. From dense forests of oak and chestnut trees to open lakefront promenades, each section offers unique views of the lake, surrounding mountains, and charming villages.
  • Historic villages: along the trail, you'll encounter several picturesque villages like Lenno, Mezzegra, Tremezzo, and Colonno. These charming hamlets are home to historic churches, quaint squares, and hidden gems waiting to be discovered.
  • Villa del Balbianello: the Greenway leads you to Villa del Balbianello, an iconic villa with stunning terraced gardens and a rich history. It's a must-visit spot for anyone interested in architecture and botany.
  • Lakefront picnics: there are plenty of scenic spots along the trail where you can stop for a picnic. Enjoy a leisurely lunch while taking in the breathtaking lake views.
  • Cultural insights: informational panels along the route provide insights into the area's history, culture, and biodiversity. You'll gain a deeper appreciation for the region as you walk.
  • Photography paradise: the Greenway is a photographer's dream. Capture the beauty of Lake Como, the colorful villages, and the lush greenery to create lasting memories.

How to Start

You can begin your Greenway adventure from various points, but one popular starting point is Lenno. From here, the trail takes you through the stunning Villa del Balbianello and offers easy access to cafés and restaurants.

  1. Villa Carlotta

Stunning white building with fountain in Villa Carlotta, seen from botanical gardensImmerse yourself in art and nature at Villa Carlotta. Explore the botanical gardens and marvel at the vast collection of art and sculptures. A Glimpse into History:

Built at the end of the 17th century by the Milanese Marquis Giorgio Clerici, Villa Carlotta was named in honor of his wife, Charlotte. In the 19th century, it passed into the hands of the Sommariva family, renowned art collectors. Today, this historic villa stands as a testament to their love for art and beauty.

Art and Architecture

The villa itself is an architectural marvel, boasting neoclassical design elements and an elegant façade. As you explore the interiors, you'll encounter rooms adorned with stunning frescoes, sculptures, and period furnishings. It's a journey through time, offering glimpses of Italy's artistic heritage.

Botanical Wonderland

While the villa's interiors are impressive, what truly sets Villa Carlotta apart is its extensive botanical garden. This 20-acre paradise is home to an incredible array of plant species from around the world. Stroll through avenues of towering cypress trees, admire the vibrant blooms of azaleas and rhododendrons, and wander amidst centuries-old trees.

The Grand Staircase

One of the most iconic features of Villa Carlotta is the grand staircase that leads down to the lakefront. Lined with statues and framed by greenery, it's a place where you can pause for a moment and take in the stunning lake views.

The Camellia Collection

If you visit in spring, don't miss the villa's renowned camellia collection. The flowering camellias paint the garden with shades of pink, red, and white, creating a dreamlike atmosphere.

Getting There

Villa Carlotta is easily accessible from many towns around Lake Como. You can take a ferry or a leisurely lakeside walk from nearby Tremezzo. It's a destination worth dedicating a few hours to exploring.

  1. Water Sports

The kayaker, amidst their journey, is captured entering one of the charming towns surrounding Como LakeFor the adventurous, Lake Como offers various water activities like windsurfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Feel the thrill as you ride the lake's gentle waves. You can immerse yourself in the crystal-clear waters and explore a variety of aquatic activities that will add a splash of adventure to your visit.

Kayaking

Paddling your way across Lake Como in a kayak is a serene and immersive experience. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced kayaker, you'll be captivated by the ever-changing scenery, from charming lakeside villages to lush greenery.

Sailing

With its gentle breezes and expansive waters, Lake Como is a sailing paradise. Rent a sailboat or join a sailing excursion to glide across the lake's surface, taking in panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and historic towns.

Swimming

On a sunny day, there's nothing like a refreshing swim in Lake Como's clean, clear waters. Many towns around the lake have designated swimming areas with facilities, making it easy to take a dip and cool off.

Windsurfing

If you're seeking an exhilarating challenge, try windsurfing on the lake. With the wind in your sails and the stunning landscape as your backdrop, you'll find this sport both thrilling and rewarding.

Kitesurfing

Lake Como's strong winds make it an ideal spot for kitesurfing. Whether you're a seasoned kiter or a novice, there are schools and rental shops around the lake where you can take lessons or gear up for an adrenaline-pumping ride.

Fishing

Fishing enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities to cast their lines into the lake's waters. Lake Como is home to a variety of fish species, including perch and trout. Fishing permits are usually required, so be sure to check local regulations.

Top Water Sports Tours

  1. Taste Local Delicacies

 a table with a plate of food, including a white shell-shaped dish filled with local fishExploring the local gastronomy is an essential part of your visit, offering a chance to savor the authentic flavors of this enchanting region. 

  • Risotto al pesce persico: Lake Como is renowned for its perch, and one of the best ways to enjoy it is through "Risotto al Pesce Persico." This creamy risotto, featuring locally caught perch, saffron, and white wine, is a true culinary masterpiece.
  • Missoltino: prepared by salting and drying local fish, typically agone, missoltino is a traditional dish that dates back centuries. It's a unique and savory treat that pairs perfectly with a glass of regional white wine.
  • Pizzoccheri della Valtellina: while not directly on Lake Como, the neighboring Valtellina region is known for its pizzoccheri. This hearty pasta dish is made with buckwheat noodles, cabbage, potatoes, and a generous layer of melted cheese.
  • Taste local cheese: the area around Lake Como produces some outstanding cheeses. Don't miss out on trying Bitto, a semi-hard cheese from the Valtellina, or the creamy taleggio cheese, often served with honey or local preserves.
  • Visit local trattorias: Lake Como is dotted with charming trattorias that serve up regional specialties. These family-run restaurants provide an authentic dining experience where you can sample a variety of local dishes.
  • Gelato by the Lake: strolling along the lakefront, you'll find gelaterias offering a delightful selection of gelato flavors. A scoop of gelato on a sunny day is the perfect way to cool off and satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Fresh lakeside fish: enjoying a meal of freshly caught fish is a must. Many lakeside restaurants offer "pescato del giorno," which features the catch of the day prepared in various delicious ways.
  • Experience aperitivo: join the locals in the Italian tradition of aperitivo. Typically held in the early evening, it involves enjoying drinks and small snacks at a bar or café. It's an excellent way to unwind and socialize while sipping on regional beverages.
  • Cooking classes: if you're a food enthusiast, consider taking a cooking class. You can learn to prepare traditional Lake Como dishes, allowing you to take a taste of Italy back home with you.

Top Food Tours

  1. Biking Adventures Around Lake Como

Biker enjoying Como Lake's scenic view amidst mountainsLake Como's breathtaking scenery isn't just to be admired; it's an invitation to explore. One of the most exciting ways to do this is by hopping on a bike and pedaling through the picturesque landscape that surrounds the lake. Here's why biking should be on your list of the top things to do around Lake Como:

  • Panoramic views: biking around Lake Como treats you to some of the most awe-inspiring vistas. Imagine winding roads with the deep blue lake on one side and soaring mountains on the other. Every turn reveals a new postcard-worthy view.
  • Varied terrain: whether you're a seasoned cyclist or a casual rider, Lake Como offers a range of biking experiences. There are flat, lakeside routes that are perfect for leisurely rides, as well as challenging mountain trails for the more adventurous.
  • Charming villages: as you pedal, you'll pass through charming villages and towns that seem frozen in time. Stop for a coffee in Bellagio, explore the narrow streets of Varenna, or enjoy a gelato in Menaggio. Biking allows you to soak in the local culture at your own pace.
  • Historic sites: Lake Como is rich in history, and biking is an ideal way to explore it. Visit historic villas like Villa Balbianello or venture up to the medieval town of Perledo. You'll stumble upon ancient churches, fortresses, and hidden gems.
  • Bike rentals: if you didn't bring your own bike, don't worry. Many rental shops offer a variety of bicycles, including e-bikes for an extra boost on the hills. They often provide maps with recommended routes.
  • Biking events: depending on when you visit, you might have the chance to join one of the area's cycling events. From leisurely group rides to challenging races, there's something for everyone.
  • Lake Como by bike: whether you're cycling along the lakefront promenades, conquering mountain passes, or simply meandering through charming streets, exploring Lake Como by bike is an adventure that promises memories and vistas you'll treasure forever.

Top Bike Tours

  1. Go Wine Tasting in Valtellina

two wine glasses brimming with red wine, set against the backdrop of a tranquil lakeWhile Lake Como itself is a spectacular destination, the surrounding regions offer hidden gems waiting to be explored. One such treasure is the nearby Valtellina wine region, an absolute paradise for wine enthusiasts. Here's why you should consider going wine tasting in Valtellina:

  • A wine region with a view: Valtellina is nestled in the heart of the Italian Alps, and its vineyards are dramatically terraced along steep mountainsides. As you sip on local wines, you'll be treated to breathtaking vistas of terraced vineyards against a backdrop of rugged alpine peaks.
  • Unique terroir and grapes: the region is famous for its Nebbiolo grape variety, known locally as Chiavennasca. Valtellina's unique terroir, with its mineral-rich soils and varying altitudes, imparts distinctive flavors to the wines. The result is elegant, structured red wines that are unlike any others in Italy.
  • Sforzato wine: one of Valtellina's standout wines is Sforzato, made from Nebbiolo grapes left to dry for several months before fermentation. This process concentrates the flavors, resulting in a rich, full-bodied wine with notes of dried fruit and spices. It's often compared to Amarone, a renowned Italian wine.
  • Visiting local wineries: there's no better way to experience Valtellina's wine culture than by visiting local wineries. Many of these family-run estates welcome visitors for tours and tastings. You'll have the chance to meet passionate winemakers, explore centuries-old cellars, and taste a variety of wines.
  • Food and wine pairing: in Valtellina, wine tasting often goes hand in hand with delicious local cuisine. Be sure to try pizzoccheri, a buckwheat pasta dish, paired with a glass of Nebbiolo. Other regional specialties include bresaola, a type of air-dried beef, and mountain cheeses.
  • Scenic drives: the journey to Valtellina is an adventure in itself. Whether you're approaching from Lake Como or Milan, you'll traverse winding mountain roads with awe-inspiring scenery at every turn. Plan for leisurely drives with plenty of photo stops.
  • Valtellina wine trail: for a comprehensive wine-tasting experience, consider following the Valtellina Wine Trail. This self-guided itinerary takes you through the region's top wineries, offering insights into winemaking traditions and opportunities to sample the finest wines.
  • Year-round appeal: while Valtellina is stunning in the summer, it's equally enchanting in the winter. The snow-covered vineyards create a magical landscape, and you can enjoy warm hospitality and robust red wines in cozy winery cellars.

Venturing into the Valtellina wine region is a delightful detour from the typical Lake Como experience. Whether you're a seasoned wine connoisseur or just appreciate a good glass of vino, Valtellina's wines and landscapes are sure to leave a lasting impression on your visit.

Top Wine Tastings Tour

  1. Discover the Waterfalls of Nesso

A small town nestled amidst picturesque houses is adorned by the captivating Waterfalls of NessoLake Como's enchanting beauty is not limited to its calm, azure waters and charming towns. Just a short drive from the bustling city of Como, you can uncover a hidden natural gem: the waterfalls of Nesso. Here's why you should include a visit to Nesso's waterfalls in your Lake Como itinerary:

  • A natural spectacle: the waterfalls of Nesso are a breathtaking display of nature's power and beauty. Carved into the rugged terrain by centuries of flowing water, the cascades tumble gracefully into the lake below. Their pristine white waters create a stark contrast against the lush greenery, making it a picturesque sight.
  • Romantic setting: Nesso's waterfalls have long been a favorite spot for couples seeking a romantic getaway. The serene atmosphere, the sound of rushing water, and the verdant surroundings create a perfect backdrop for a leisurely stroll or a heartfelt picnic.
  • Photography paradise: if you're a photography enthusiast, Nesso's waterfalls are a dream come true. The interplay of light and shadow, the constant motion of the water, and the rich colors of the surrounding vegetation provide endless opportunities for capturing stunning images.
  • Easy accessibility: unlike some natural wonders that require arduous hikes, Nesso's waterfalls are easily accessible. A short walk from the village center brings you to a bridge with a splendid view of the falls. It's an excellent spot for taking in the scenery and snapping memorable photos.
  • Village charm: Nesso is a quaint village perched on the shores of Lake Como. Exploring its narrow alleys and stone buildings is a delightful experience. Don't forget to visit the iconic medieval bridge, Ponte della Civera, which offers another perspective of the waterfalls.

When visiting Lake Como, don't miss the opportunity to discover the enchanting waterfalls of Nesso. Whether you're seeking romance, tranquility, or simply a glimpse of nature's majesty, this hidden gem has it all.

Experiences and Tours

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