Are you wondering what are the best things to do in Lake Como? I visited various towns surrounding Lake Como on our way to Bellagio during our 2-week Interrail trip around Europe. Lake Como is a very picturesque region of Italy. Hence, it was one of the trip highlights of our trip, my husband and I as well as our friends did enjoy our visit to Lake Como.
About 84,000 people call the commune of Como, located in northern Italy, home. Como is considered by many to be one of Lombardy’s most picturesque and beautiful locations. The magnificent Lake Como, which begins on the city’s northern edge, frequently casts a shadow over the neighborhood.
Since the Bronze Age, Celtic tribes have made their home in and around Como. The Romans conquered the area in the first century BC and incorporated it into their empire. It served as a major hub for commercial activity and trade during the Middle Ages. During this development period, a defensive network was built, including a number of watch towers; one of these towers is still standing today (The Baradello). Following its conquest by the French and the Austrians, Como was finally incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy in 1859.
Today, Como is a well-known tourist destination where tens of thousands of visitors take in the breathtaking Lake Como and the surrounding natural beauty. The city is home to numerous historic structures, upscale eateries, and significant museums. Numerous lovely towns and villages surround the lake, including Cernobbio, Menaggio, and Bellagio.
I would like to share with you my top picks for the best things to do in Lake Como. I strongly recommend these if you are planning your trip to this beautiful part of Northern Italy.
Here are the best things to do in Lake Como, Italy:
Bellagio, which is about a 50-minute drive from Como, is another location you must see when travelling around the lake.
Spend a good few hours after you’ve parked exploring the cobblestone streets, quaint restaurants, and waterfront promenade. It’s beautiful, and you could easily relax here for the entire day (if not longer, if you want to take it slow).
Bellagio is regarded as one of the most picturesque and lovely towns on Lake Como. This town is situated where the three Lake Como arms converge, so the views are unmatched and you can see every part of the enormous lake. The promenade at La Punta also offers some of the best photo opportunities in the region.
There are numerous high-end stores, lovely gardens, and outstanding restaurants located within the town itself. Consider visiting Bellagio by boat, strolling the promenades, and taking in this picture-perfect location.
The Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is one of Bellagio, Italy’s top hotels. It is one of Bellagio’s only five-star luxury hotels, one of Lake Como’s oldest, and most opulent hotels. Even if you are not staying at this hotel, you can visit the lovely gardens and fantastic location by the lake. Rich and famous people adore this location. There are rumours that Robert De Niro frequents this location.
If you want to know more about Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, I made a separate hotel review article about our stay. You can read it here — Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni: A Luxury Hotel Review in Lake Como (Italy).
2. Water Taxi Boat Ride
Como offers boat tours. On one hand, you can be on and off the lake in a few hours with a highlight reel. Full-day tours let you explore at a leisurely pace with plenty of stops. No matter the tour or boat, Lake Como is a must-see.
However, if you want flexibility, Lake Como boat rental is the key, especially if you want to avoid tourists, or love being on the water.
With a boat rental, you can explore secluded coves and hidden beaches, drop anchor and swim in the lake, or cruise around at your leisure. Some boat rentals come with a captain who will show you around the lake and make recommendations.
If you’re confident enough to drive (and have the necessary boating license when relevant), you can explore Lake Como to your heart’s content. It’s the perfect way to see the region from a different perspective!
Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day on a yacht, motorboat, or water taxi limousine or an adventurous afternoon exploring hidden caves and coves on a motorized dinghy, a boat rental on Lake Como will leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
3. Punta Spartivento
At La Punta Spartivento, visitors can take in picturesque vistas of Lake Como.
La Punta Spartivento, which offers a stunning panorama of Lake Como, is just one of the many breathtaking vantage points that can be found in the Bellagio area, as you are already aware.
It is about a ten-minute walk from the dock where the ferries arrive and is situated at the very end of the Bellagio village. It should come as no surprise that many tourists consider this to be their favourite location in Bellagio given the presence of mountains in the background that are part of the Alps.
However, even if you do nothing more than walk through Bellagio, you will have more than enough opportunities to view the lake, particularly if you walk toward the upper part of the town. And because there are so many beautiful vistas, there is no shortage of restaurants where you can sit back, relax, and take in the view.
One of the many magnificent villas that can be found around Lake Como is the Villa Monastero, which can be found in the town of Varenna. Because of its breathtaking appearance, it should come as no surprise that this is likely one of the most photographed locations in Varenna.
A museum can be found on the premises, and visitors can take advantage of the beautiful botanical garden that surrounds the main building. Between the months of March and November, the villa and its gardens are open for tours.
In addition, the town of Varenna is home to its very own fortified stronghold. If you want to see some of the most breathtaking views of Venice, a visit to Castello di Vezio is well worth the effort, even though it requires you to climb a hill.
In a manner analogous to that of Villa Monastero, the castle is open to the public from March through November.
5. Como Cathedral (Cattedrale Di Santa Maria Assunta)
The enormous Como Cathedral (Duomo di Como), an eclectic structure fusing Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, is located in Piazza Duomo, the city’s central square.
The primary place of worship in the city of Como is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, also called the Como Cathedral. One of the most significant structures in the area. It is frequently referred to as the final Italian Gothic cathedral.
A few significant tapestries can be found inside, along with others from the 16th and 17th centuries that were produced in Ferrara, Florence, and Antwerp. Additionally, there are several works of art by Bernardino Luini and Gaudenzio Ferrari from the 16th century.
You won’t fully understand why this church is hailed as Italy’s best representation of the 14th-century transition from Gothic to Renaissance styles until you step inside. The main altar’s deeply carved rose window and side altars’ polychrome painting and gilding “update” their more dated appearance, but the contrast is pleasing. Climb to the 18th-century dome if you’re fit.
6. Villa Olmo
Walk along the picturesque Passeggiata Lino Gelpi (which begins just a few steps from the War Memorial) to reach the impressive Villa Olmo, a neoclassical building that dates back to 1780. This is the perfect excursion for anyone who enjoys visiting historic villas.
The Villa Olmo property truly has it all, including an Italian-style garden with a view of Lake Como, an English-style back garden for lounging, and interior rooms that are adorned with paintings, statues, and valuable stucco decorations. And do you wish to learn the most wonderful thing? That there is no charge for entering either the villa or the gardens that surround it.
During the summer season (early April to late September), the park is open daily at 7 am and stays open until 11 pm. During the winter season, the park closes earlier at 7 pm (early October to late March). The interior is open for tours from Tuesday through Sunday, between the hours of 10 am and 6 pm.
7. Villa Del Balbianello
If there is one thing you shouldn’t miss in Lake Como, it’s the breathtaking Villa Balbianello. Lake Como is known for its opulent villas. This villa exudes classic elegance and charm thanks to its lovely gardens and stunning views of the lake’s western shore.
This promontory is accessible via a lovely trail that winds from Lenno Bay through some lovely woodland; this walk is a highlight and is ideal for hikers.
The Baroque villa complex known as Villa Balbianello, which is situated on the Punta, was built over the site of a monastery in the 18th century. Even James Bond 007 Casino Royal and Star Wars: The Clone Attack chose to film some of their episodes here because it is so incredible.
Although staying here is unfortunately not an option, you can tour the gardens, look at the architecture, and discover more about its intriguing former owner, Guido Monzini, who led the first Italian expedition to Mount Everest. His memory is being honored in a museum on the villa’s upper floor, which even houses the sleigh he rode to the North Pole in!
8. Cisterian Abbey of St. Mary of Piona
The location of the Abbey of Piona, which is panoramic and remote, has a long history. A small peninsula with the Como Lake encircling it and the Alps in the distance. An oratory for Santa Giustina was built in this mysterious location in 610 A.D.
A first church, constructed in the Romanesque style and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was dedicated in 1138. It was later expanded and decorated. The current priceless cloister, the heart of the abbey, was constructed in 1252.
Currently, the abbey is home to Cistercian monks. They live by the adage “Ora et Labora,” which means to work and pray. To support themselves, the monks run the abbey, tending to the crops and producing and selling their own goods.
In the morning and afternoon, visits are free. A guided tour can also be requested in advance. Daily holy masses are held in the church.
9. Go Hiking
The region is renowned for its numerous hiking trails, even though that isn’t why the majority of tourists visit Lake Como.
One of the simple routes with lovely views for a leisurely Sunday walk is the hiking trail on Monte Bisbino. There is no specialized equipment needed. The Monte Bisbino mountain is situated at a height of 1325 meters. The route begins in Cernobbio (Via Della Liberta) and travels through the Rovenna neighborhood. The road gets a little narrower after Rovenna. Around it is a birch-spruce forest.
The Grigna is a portion of a mountainous massif that stretches from the towns of Lecco to Bellano and rises up from the eastern arm of Lake Como. The Grigna Settentrionale (North Grigna) and the Grigna Meridionale are two distinct peaks on the massif that divides Lake Como from the Valsassina (South Grigna). The Grigna Settentrionale rises 2,410 meters (7,907 feet) above sea level and is also referred to as simply Grigna or Grignone. At 2,177 meters/7,142 feet, the Grigna Meridionale (also spelled Grignetta) is a little lower.
With a height of 1436 meters, Monte Palanzone is the second-highest mountain in the region after Monte San Primo. A chapel in the shape of a pyramid was built on the summit in 1900 by the Como-based Circle Alessandro Volta and restored in 1981 and 2002 with help from the alpine group Palanzo.
You can see Lake Como and the Po Valley from the summit. The restaurant at the Mount Palanzone Refuge, also known as the Riella Refuge, which is situated at the base of the peak, offers a traditional Alpine menu.
Just a few kilometres away from Bellagio is Mt. San Primo (1682 m), whose summit offers an unmatched view. 5 kilometers of ski slopes are served by 2 ski lifts, and there is also a slope for bobsledding and sledging. The highest mountain in the Larian Triangle, San Primo, provides a breathtaking view of Como’s Prealps thanks to its strategic location.
Sentiero del Viandante, which runs from Abbadia Latriana to Piantedo on the eastern shore of Lake Como, is another well-known hike. This multi-day trail has a length of about 45 km and is from the Roman era. You can hike part of the trail, but the entire trail would require a separate trip to Lake Como.
10. Funicular Como Brunate
Want to take in the magnificent view of Como? Visit Brunate, a town that has a hilltop location 715 meters (about 2,345 feet) high and offers a view of Como.
A small town called Brunate is situated in the mountains above Lake Como. You can take a fantastic funicular train that climbs the mountain and stops at Brunate if you travel to the eastern edge of the lake close to the city of Como.
You can get to Brunate quickly by taking the Como-Brunate cable car, which departs from Piazza Alcide de Gasperi, which is a short distance from the Como Lago train station.
The views from this town, which are simply magnificent once you get to the top, allow you to take in both the splendour of the Lake and the city of Como. You can relax and breathe in the crisp mountain air on one of the many terraces and restaurants that offer breathtaking views.
For those who are feeling particularly daring, a two-hour hike will take them to Mount Boletto’s summit, where they will have even more breathtaking views of this enchanted locale.
Additionally, from Brunate, you can walk for about 20 minutes to get to the Faro Voltiano (Volta Lighthouse), which is open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., with the exception of non-holiday Wednesdays (closed in case of bad weather).
11. Villa Carlotta
If you want to enjoy a leisurely day of sightseeing, one of the best things to do in Lake Como is to go to Villa Carlotta.
Villa Carlotta is amazing for its lush gardens and famous paintings and sculptures. It is located in the Tremezzina Riviera, a popular Lake Como destination for tourists.
The best time to visit the gardens is currently in May, when the entire landscape is ablaze with the stunning camellia and rhododendron blooms.
Rhododendrons in various colors and ancient cedars are among the many rare trees and plants that make up the renowned botanical garden. There is enough to keep you occupied for hours, regardless of the weather, as well as a fantastic museum with an impressive art collection.
In addition, there is a fantastic museum nearby with an impressive art collection, so no matter the weather, there will be plenty to keep you occupied for hours. A bookstore, a welcoming café, and a serene picnic area with breathtaking views are also available at the museum.
Lecco, which is located roughly a half-hour drive from Bellagio, is most likely going to be either your first or last stop on Lake Como (depending on which way you drive).
As we made our way to Lecco from Milan, via Como, and further up the coast via Bellagio, it was our final stop before arriving there.
When you get to this location, make it a point to check out the Palace of Fears, which is a museum that features thousands of displays and a really cool collection of contemporary art. You could easily kill a few hours inside.
In addition, be sure to pay a visit to the revered Basilica of San Nicola, which dominates the landscape of Lecco. It is believed that the location has hosted a religious structure of some kind for the better part of the past thousand years.
Getting hungry? Visit Trattoria Corte Fiorina, which is conveniently located in the middle of the city. Their freshly made ravioli featuring fish from Lake Como is a delectable dish.
Make plans to spend the evening at the absolutely magnificent Lecco Theatre by purchasing tickets in advance. Even though it’s an amazing place to visit, you should probably brush up on your Italian before going there.
I hope that helped you in planning for your visit to Lake Como. You will not regret visiting this beautiful part of Northern Italy! You never know, you might bump into George Clooney on your visit here.
Have you been to Lake Como? Which part is your favourite? Let me know in the comment box below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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