The 42 best sights of Lake Como and the city – description and photos

Lake Como

Lake Como is located in the northern part of Italy, in the region of Lombardy. It is second in size to the neighbouring Garda and Lake Maggiore but is one of the deepest lakes in Europe. The narrow, meridian-lengthening lake in the south is divided into two arms. Italians, who love figurative comparisons, think it looks like a vigorously paced man with legs in the towns of Como and Lecco and a nose in Domaso.

The shores of Como have been a favorite vacation spot for aristocrats since Roman times. Today’s Italian and foreign celebrities like George Clooney, who bought a villa here, continued this pleasant tradition. For mere mortals, Lake Como also has something to offer: water sports and ballooning, walks in the landscaped gardens, budget excursions around Como and the coastal towns by boat.

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Video: Lake Como

Geography of Como.

The Alps protect the shores of Como, which appeared in time immemorial as glaciers melted, from cold winds from the north, so the climate here is milder than in other parts of Lombardy. The bottom of the lake is 200 meters below sea level, the maximum depth of the reservoir reaches 400 meters. In the north, near the town of Colico, the alpine river Adda flows into Lago di Como, with mountain streams along its perimeter. Around the middle, near Bellagio, the lake splits into two arms. The length of Como is more than 45 km, the width varies from 4.2 to 0.65 km. The gentle southerly breeze “breva” and the night “tivano” which blow during the whole year, do not usually disturb the tranquility of the waters, but there are some surprises in July and August: there can be treacherous storms on Como which affect the schedule of boats and ferries.

Natural attractions

The main reason for the popularity of Lake Como – magnificent views: the rocky, wooded shores, red-tiled roofs of village houses, old villas and castles, flowering gardens from March to October. On the north shore, at the mouth of the Adda and Mera rivers, is the Pian di Spagna Nature Reserve, a flat wetland between Lakes Como and Medzola.

Pian di Spagna Nature Reserve

At the southern borders of the reserve there are comfortable campsites located directly on the shore or within walking distance of the lake. At La Torre Camping in Sorico, campers are offered RVs or microhouses with verandas, hot and cold water, Wi-Fi, and laundry facilities. Guests can do wind and kitesurfing, horseback riding, paragliding and hang gliding. Camp La Riva, with its own outdoor pool, is set up on the Mere River. On the opposite bank is La Grande, which entices guests to bring their pets. The season at the campsites on Lake Como opens in March and lasts until November. The room costs about 10 euros per night, but all services, such as electricity, are paid separately. Guests are offered boats and launches, fishing and swimming accessories for rent.

Pebble Beach on Lake Como

Beaches of Lake Como

The lake has few sandy beaches, one of the few is located near the town of Lierna on the eastern shore. In the rest of Como, narrow strips of shore are covered with pebbles, and near Lecco, near the eastern “leg”, the rocks even come close to the water. The most visited beaches with developed infrastructure – in the area of Bellagio. The water of Como is cool, the best time for swimming is July and August. Swimming is recommended along the shore to avoid cold currents.

Handcrafted attractions around Como

If travelers do not have enough time to see all the sights of coastal cities and towns, they are advised to pay attention to the place Como, once competing with Milan for dominance in the region. Today it is reminded of its former glory by the Baradello fortress rising over a 430 metre hill, or rather the square watchtower of the 6th century and the chapel of St Nicholas which remains of it. The Gothic cathedral of Como was built on the site of an earlier Romanesque one in the fourteenth century, the interior was renovated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The building, which reaches a height of 75 meters, is in the shape of a Latin cross. Inside the temple it is possible to take photographs, but not during church festivities.

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Old places of worship are also preserved in other parts of Lake Como. In Gravedone, on the northwest shore, tourists can see the Romanesque church of Santa Maria del Tillo, built in the XII century in white marble and black stone. Inside, the floor with mosaics of V century with black-white-red patterns and fragments of medieval frescoes remained from the previous buildings.

Mount Ossuccio – UNESCO World Heritage Site

It is not the natural monument itself that has received protected status, but the Baroque chapels on it. The rock, 419 m high, is situated 25 km north of the town of Como, on the western shore of the lake, in the municipality of Ossuccio, opposite the island of Comacina. Once worshiped the goddess Ceres, in the XVII-XVIII centuries, 14 chapels with 230 terracotta statues of saints, leading to the last building, the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, were erected on the site of the sanctuary on a single plan.

Comacina Island

Comacina, the only island on Lake Como, is small – only 600 meters long and 200 meters wide. In the twelfth century, during the Ten Years’ War between Como and Milan over trade routes, the island was set on fire and the inhabitants were forced to swim away from the burning ruins. To commemorate this event, every year on the Sunday closest to June 24, hundreds of toy boats with lighted candles are launched into the water. After the defeat, the island was deserted for a long time, the medieval buildings falling into disrepair. Residents returned to Comacina only in the Baroque period, then appeared the church of San Giovanni. Hotels for tourists began to be built in the twentieth century.

Villas and castles of Como

In the region of Perleda on the eastern shore of Lake Como a well preserved castle di Vezzo of XII century. However, tourists are more interested not in a harsh medieval structure, and the show of birds of prey, taking place daily in the garden from 10 to 16 hours from March to October. You can admire the swiftly diving buzzards, owls and hawks for only 4 euros. The respectable Castello di Lierna, 6 km to the south, differs from the austere walled stone building. The Milanese fought for the right to occupy it back in the 12th century, but then the locals simply used the sturdy foundation to build over it residential buildings, giving it a cozy bourgeois look.

Sculpture of a ghost on the wall of Castle di Vejo Villa Carlotta on Lake Como

On the shores of Lake Como there are many impregnable private villas, but some of the most interesting from an architectural point of view, are open to visitors for only 6-9 euros. The Villa Carlotta, built in the seventeenth century in Tremezzo, on the western shore of the lake opposite Bellagio, deserves attention. The complex looks most spectacular in the spring, when a hundred and fifty species of azaleas bloom in the garden. In the building itself there is a unique collection of Canova statues. Equally famous is the garden at the neoclassical Villa Melzi, open to tourists from late March to November.

On the promontory of the commune of Ossuccio, right on the coast, at the foot of a forested mountain, rises the Villa Balbianello. Built at the beginning of the XVIII century on the ruins of a Franciscan monastery, it has become a living set for many film projects – Italian classics, one of the series about James Bond, an episode of “Star Wars”. The villa’s last owner, Guido Monzino, a famous explorer who conquered the North Pole, opened a museum in the house, which displays objects of Inuit life, Indians of Argentina, Masai, Tibetans, valuable collections of Venetian glass and English furniture.

Video: Surroundings of Lake Como

Lake Como activities

Lake Como is the only place in Europe where you can get a hydroplane pilot’s license after spending six months of personal time and more than 10 thousand euros. Ordinary tourists prefer an easier way – for 80 euros to take a passenger seat for a half-hour flight over Lake Como in a hydroplane. The town of Como has a year-round diving training center with a diving pool and kayaking courses. For lovers of the classics there is a school of rowing. The lake has a lot of excellent places for fishing, but to fish on their own can only be after buying a special permit worth about 30 euros per year.

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There are many hiking trails in the vicinity with detailed maps, accessible signs and markings. You can also take the funicular from Como to the commune of Brunate in just 7 minutes. The line was opened back in 1894 and has since been completely rebuilt. The cable car runs every 15-30 minutes with 4 stops. Despite the disposing terrain, there is no skiing near Como – the nearest resort is an hour and a half north of the lake.

Funicular from Como to the commune of Brunate

Stores and restaurants

Lake Como towns can’t surpass Milan in the range of goods and prices, but there’s plenty to do here as well. On the shores of the lake, farmers breed mulberry silkworms, which provide the raw materials for elegant scarves and colorful ties. Numerous restaurants offer mostly Italian cuisine, including fresh fish.

Information for tourists

Excursion boats ply on Lake Como. The cost of a day trip from Como to Nesso with stops for sightseeing is 15 euros. For longer stays it is advantageous to purchase season tickets for river transport. The tourist season begins on Como in late February, after the carnival, the main attractions are opened in late March. In November, life slows down again in anticipation of spring.

How to get there

Travelers usually arrive at Lake Como from Milan from Central Station by electric trains that run every hour. From Switzerland, there is an expressway through Colico to the north.

Attractions of Lake Como

Lake Como sights

Lake Como (Lago di Como) is the third largest lake in Italy after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore, and one of the most beautiful places in Italy.

For centuries, the lake has been fascinating with its enchanting beauty. The picturesque nature, charming towns, luxurious villas, parks and gardens after visiting them are remembered for a lifetime.

One would assume that only millionaires have a rest on Como. This is partly true, because on the shores of the lake are the villas of famous and wealthy people from around the world. But this does not mean that the lake can only rest on them. Everyone has the right to come to Como and admire its beauty.

After all, the lake is located in a beautiful place – it is surrounded by mountains on all sides, and on its shores are placed beautiful and comfortable small towns and villas, which are buried in the green trees, bushes and flowers.

The most beautiful part of Lake Como is its central part. There are small authentic Italian towns Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio, as well as the most beautiful villas of the lake – Melzi in Bellagio, Carlotta in Tremezzo and Balbianello in Lenno.

Bellagio

Bellagio

Bellagio

Bellagio is the most beautiful and most visited town on Lake Como. It boasts a truly unique geographical location. And at first glance it seems that it is on an island. But it is not. Bellagio is on the central promontory of Como, at the point where all three arms of the lake meet.

The charm of Bellagio lies in the superb panorama, as it is from here you can admire most of Lake Como.

The stretch of shore on which the town is located is famous for its extremely rich nature and scenery. You can take long walks through the narrow streets and picturesque staircases going up the slope.

In addition, this city has always been loved by the European aristocracy. Its streets are decorated with many beautiful villas and luxurious estates with huge gardens and parks, in which grows a large number of flowers and trees.

Villa Melzi

Villa Melzi

Villa Melzi

One of the villas of Bellagio is Villa Melzi with its vast park. It was built in 1810 in neo-classical style, commissioned by Francesco Melzi d’Eril, Vice-President of the Italian Republic.

The park of the villa is on several levels and is laid out on the lake shore and descends directly to the water. It is decorated with Mediterranean and exotic plants and trees: cypresses, camellia, ginkgo, elms, cedars, elephant palms, bamboos, azaleas, rhododendrons.

All this plant wealth is favorably complemented by a series of beautiful Egyptian, Etruscan and Roman sculptures, as well as a Japanese pond with aquatic species of plants.

The villa is privately owned, so only the garden is accessible to visitors.

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The official website of Villa Melzi for up-to-date information.

Villa Serbelloni

Villa Serbelloni

Villa Serbelloni

No less imposing is Villa Serbelloni, which also has its own luxurious park. It is near the town wharf of Bellagio, so this villa is very visible from the water.

On this site, around 1850, work began on the construction of a luxurious villa for a noble family from Milan, which was built in neoclassical style.

A short time later, in 1872, the villa was converted into a hotel. And now, for almost 150 years, there is one of the most famous and prestigious hotels in the world – the Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, which is managed by the third generation of the Boucher family.

Therefore, it is possible to visit the villa building only by reserving a stay there.

The garden is also closed to the public, so it can only be accessed with a guide in a tour group.

For information about such a tour, contact the Promobellagio Tourist Office, located in Bellagio on Piazza della Chiesa 14.

Varenna

Varenna

Varenna

Varenna is a beautiful and quiet town, formed on the site of a small fishing village. It is next to the train station Varenna-Esino, which you can easily reach from Lecco, Bergamo or Milan by Trenitalia trains.

Varenna is lovely and charming thanks to its ancient streets that diverge in different directions from the square, but also to the beautiful nature and the total tranquility that fills this city.

The main attraction in Varennes is the old Gothic church of St. George which dates back to the 14th century and which is situated in the center of Varennes.

Villa Monastero

Villa Monastero

Villa Monastero

Villa Monastero, on the outskirts of Varennes, boasts a spectacular promenade, gardens, alleys and terraces.

Until 1567 it was a veritable monastery, but it has since been almost entirely rebuilt and transformed into a country residence.

The garden, made up of roses, citrus trees and conifers, stretches along the shore for almost two kilometers so you can take long walks admiring the beautiful views of Lake Como.

Villa Monastero Botanical Garden is open to the public: 1-2-3-4-5-6-12-19-26 January from 10-30 to 16-30; 2-9-16-23 February from 10-30 to 16-30; March: daily from 10-00 to 17-00; April: every day from 10-00 to 18-30; May through August: every day from 10 a.m. to 7-30 p.m.; September: every day from 9-30 to 7-30 p.m.; October (through November 1): every day from 10 a.m. to 6-6 p.m.; November 8-15-22-29: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; December 6-7-8-13-20-26-27-28-29-30-31: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Villa building is open to the public during the same hours as the garden, but not on all days. In March and April, the building is only open Friday through Sunday; in May, Thursday through Sunday; in June, July, September, and October, every day except Monday.

The cost of a ticket to the garden is 8 euros, children from 12 to 18 years old are 3.50 euros. Tickets for the garden and the villa building cost 10 euros, children aged 12 to 18 euros 5 euros.

For up-to-date information on opening hours and entrance fees, please visit the official Villa Monastero website.

Castello di Venezio

Castello di Venezio

Castello di Venezio

High above Varenna, the ancient castle-fortress of Castello di Vezio (Castello di Vezio) rises for a thousand years.

The castle was built on the site of ancient Roman fortifications in 1100, during the reign of the legendary Lombard queen Theodolinda. Today it is a fragment of the medieval castle walls and a tall square crenellated tower.

From these walls, and especially from the observation tower, there are splendid panoramic views of the central part of Lake Como.

In the castle there is a bird nursery consisting of falcons, hawks and other birds of prey, with which performances are held, in which you can see a real falconry or just admire the flight of birds.

Castello di Venezia is open to the public only in good weather daily from the first Saturday in March to the first Sunday in November. Opening hours in March and October: Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Opening hours in April, May, and September: Monday through Friday 10-00 to 18-00, Saturday and Sunday 10-00 to 19-00. Opening hours in June, July, and August: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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For up-to-date information on opening hours and prices, visit the official website of Castello di Venezio.

Menaggio

Menaggio

Menaggio

The town of Menaggio is located on a small headland and is considered one of the most picturesque towns on Lake Como.

The heart of Menaggio is considered the central Piazza Garibaldi. From there you can walk to the other main attractions of the town, the church of Santa Marta, with a Roman memorial plaque of the 1st century A.D. and the church of San Stefano, built in the XVII century, which contains paintings of the XVI-XVII centuries and a silver cross of the XVI century.

Special attention should be paid to the elegant promenade of Menaggio, which stretches from Piazza Garibaldi for almost one kilometer. It is from here that Lake Como opens up in all its splendor.

Villa Carlotta

Villa Carlotta

Villa Carlotta

Not far from Menaggio, in Tremezzo, is one of the most beautiful villas of Lake Como, Villa Carlotta.

It was built by the Milanese banker Giorgio Clerici in 1690. Later, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Italian politician Giovanni Battista Sommariva bought the villa. Under him, the villa reached the peak of splendor, enriched by numerous works of art, and part of the garden was turned into an extraordinary romantic park.

The next owners, Princess Charlotte and her husband George of Saxe Meiningen, also added further works of art to the decoration of the villa.

The halls of the villa contain sculptures, bas-reliefs and paintings, while the top floor contains the original furniture of the last owners.

The villa is surrounded by a beautiful Italian-style garden with an elegant fountain at the entrance, boxwood hedge and rare exotic plants. The garden is astonishing with its great variety of rhododendrons and azaleas of more than 150 varieties.

Villa Carlotta is open daily. Open Monday to Friday from 11 am to 6 pm, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm.

For up-to-date information on opening hours and entrance fees, please visit the official Villa Carlotta website.

Villa Balbianello

Villa Balbianello

Villa Balbianello

Not far from Villa Carlotta in Lenno you will find the even more beautiful Villa del Balbianello. It is situated in a very beautiful and picturesque place on the rocky promontory of Lavedo, which juts out into Lake Como.

The villa was built in 1787 for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini. After the cardinal died in 1796, the villa came to be owned by his nephew Luigi Porro Lambertengi.

Then the villa changed a few more owners. In the 19th century it was bought by Giuseppe Visconti Arconati, who rebuilt the villa, reconstructed the loggias and landscaped the garden.

Unfortunately, the Arconati Visconti family was slowly dying out and in the following years Villa Balbianello began to fall into disrepair, until in 1919 the American General Butler Ames became the owner of the villa. He restored the villa by carrying out serious restoration work, preserving the interior and the antique furniture belonging to the Arconti Visconti family.

After Butler Ames’ death in 1974, the villa was purchased by Guido Monzino, a well-known Milanese entrepreneur, collector of art and antiquities, a passionate traveler who led the first Italian expedition to Everest.

Monzino restored the villa, making room in part of it for his personal collection of art and objects brought back from his travels and expeditions over the years.

After the death of the explorer in 1988, the villa was taken over by the Fondazione Nazionale della Italia, which now makes the villa available for film and commercial shoots, weddings, corporate events and photo shoots.

Villa Balbianello is surrounded by a magnificent park with a vertical structure. The highest point of the villa, the terrace, offers a magnificent view of Lake Como: on one side the Gulf of Venus and the Tremezzina, on the other side the Gulf of Durini and the only island of Lake Como, Comacina.

Villa Balbianello is open to the public every day except Mondays and Wednesdays from mid-March to mid-November. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10-30 to 16-30, Saturday and Sunday from 10-30 to 17-30.

For up-to-date information on opening hours and costs of admission, visit the website of the National Foundation of Italy.

Como City

Como

The town of Como, which has the same name as the lake, is located at the end of the southwest arm of Lake Como. It is situated in a picturesque setting, surrounded by the foothills of the Alps.

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The historic center of Como is the Cavour Square. It is decorated by the Duomo di Como which was built in 1396 upon the project of Lorenzo del Spazzi and its construction was ended only in 1740.

Such a long construction period was not in vain. As a result, the cathedral now impresses with its extraordinarily expressive architecture, in which the best of Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance can be seen.

The magnificient marble facade, the grandiose dome with a height of 75 meters as well as the rich interior of the Cathedral leave no one indifferent.

In Piazza Cavour you can also admire the Broletto Town Hall. This palazzo with its Gothic façade of polychrome marble was built in 1215 and was the old residence of the rulers of Como.

The Basilica of Sant Abbondio is another attraction of the city of Como. This Romanesque church, lined with light stone, was built in the early centuries.

For five centuries it served as the residence and treasury for the higher ranks of the church and as a burial place for deceased bishops.

Away from the central part of Como, on a hill 400 meters high, rises the medieval Castle of Baradello (Castel Baradello).

From here you can admire a beautiful panorama of the city, as well as the lake, the valley and the Alps.

To see all the beauty of this part of Lake Como, take the cable car to Brunate, where there is a wonderful observation deck. It offers stunning views of the lake, the town and the beauty of the villas and gardens nearby.

The Brunat cable car schedule can be viewed on the official website.

Lecco

Lecco

Lecco

Moving by boat or by car from the southwest arm of Lake Como to the southeast, we reach the city of Lecco. This ancient and quite large city is ready to offer you a lot of attractions.

The Basilica di San Nicolò a Lecco, built in the XVIII century in neo-Gothic style, is one of the must-see tourist sites in Lecco.

Also worth seeing is a peculiar symbol of Lecco – the octagonal bell tower, 96 meters high, whose construction was completed in 1904.

The sights of Lecco are and old bridge Visconti (Ponte Visconti), built in the XIV century, which is a complex multi-arched construction, and the famous promenade Lecco, walking along which you can enjoy the views of the lake and the mountains.

The funicular station is located not far from Lecco, which takes travelers up to 1300 meters to the peak of Piani d’Erna. From here, as well as from any other observation point on Lake Como, there is a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.

Nesso

Nesso

Nesso

The small town of Nesso is located along the road leading from Como to Bellagio. The old authentic streets of the town and the beautiful local architecture are closely intertwined with the picturesque nature of the area.

But the main attraction of Nesso is the Orrido waterfall (Orrido di Nesso). This is the place where the two rivers Tuf and Nose merge to form a falling stream into the waters of Lake Como.

Going down the main road to the lake through the narrow and winding streets of the town you will reach the medieval Roman bridge of Civera from where you can admire the waterfall in all its beauty.

Griante

Church of St. Martin

Church of St. Martin

Not far from Villa Carlotta and the town of Menaggio is the small and lovely town of Griante .

It is notable mainly because next to it, on the side of a mountain, is the church of St. Martin (Chiesa di San Martino). And from here, from this church, one of the most fascinating views of the central part of Lake Como.

To find this viewpoint, from the lake one must go up to the central part of the town, and then follow the path signposted Chiesa di San Martino.

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