Exploring Lake Como in Italy: The Ultimate Guide

Exploring Lake Como in Italy: The Ultimate Guide

Exploring Lake Como in Italy: The Ultimate Guide

Lake Como

Lake Como, in Northern Italy’s Lombardy region, is an upscale resort area known for its dramatic scenery, set against the foothills of the Alps. 

The lake is shaped like an upside-down Y, with three slender branches that meet at the resort town of Bellagio. 

At the bottom of the southwest branch lies the city of Como, home to Renaissance architecture and a funicular that travels up to the mountain town of Brunate.

The most scenic views

Driving along the mountainside from Bellagio, then turning inland, the first thing that strikes me is that nearly every village looks as if it is an artistic rendering of what it would have looked like when the Sixties came to Italy. 

The villages in this part of Italy have been divided into hamlets or what the locals call “little villages” and “big villages.” The little villages are built into the sides of hills and contain typically a church, a small public square, and usually a cafe where a local band may be playing. 

The big villages, though more spread out, look like miniature versions of the big cities in the north, but with beautiful terraced gardens and parks of varied sizes in front of many of them.

Traditional villages

For a glimpse into local life, head to the historic towns of Lake Como, like Como, La Ragnina, Olmi, Menaggio, Gaggia, and Lecco, all of which are surrounded by the lake. 

Among the resorts in the traditional village of Amenta, which has its own medieval castle, Villa d’Este, a nine-room property on Lake Maggiore. Dotted throughout the villages are ruins of palaces, churches, villas, castles, abbeys, monasteries, mansions, and other properties built by the wealthy. Read more: 

These Are the Weirdest Places in Italy Even hotels incorporate the spirit of the countryside into their design: Stay at the four-star Menaggio Resort Hotel, in the lake’s centre. 

Designed by New York-based design firm Zaha Hadid Architects, the hotel features five villas around the lake, each designed for privacy.

Delicious food

When we visited in late June, Como’s most popular culinary highlight was undoubtedly the pecorino del Marco, the famous cheese from its Italian neighbour, Lake Iseo, which looks like a shell. 

Stuffed into a light-yet-tender breadcrumb, it’s glazed in a generous amount of vin santo and baked until crisp on top and soft in the middle. 

For an interesting twist on the cuisine, consider the local cuisine, which is rich in fish and vegetables. 

Try Il Ditta Veneta, a restaurant in Bellagio that serves branzino, a tender flatfish; bagna cauda, a traditional broth made with garlic and olive oil; and lentils with potatoes, sausage, cheese, and bacon. 

Balancing Act To get the best possible view of the spectacular scenery, find an outdoor bar for a cocktail or cold beer.

Activities around the lake

When it comes to sightseeing in Lake Como, there is no shortage of things to do and see. 

The lake is home to dozens of beautiful, sprawling hotels, from huge historical resorts to intimate boutique hotels. 

Visitors to the area have even reported sightings of a massive black leopard roaming the outskirts of Como. 

Some of the most famous hotels on the lake are Madonna Delle Grazie, which looks more like a Roman villa than a hotel; 

Hotel d’Angleterre, which was designed by the same architect that built the Palace of Versailles; the Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, a charming, modern retreat; and the New Belmond Cap Juluca, the first-ever resort in the Caribbean. Tourists have their pick of excursions in Lake Como.


Like its cousin, St. Barts, the Italian Riviera is as synonymous with luxury as it is with beach houses, luxury yachts, and beautiful people. 

However, some of the most luxurious homes in Italy can be found along Lake Como in Northern Italy’s Lombardy region. 

This is also the birthplace of the Italian stylist Giorgio Armani, so there are a great number of great names on this list. Lake Como is home to some of the most spectacular and glamorous luxury homes you can find in Europe.

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