Mention Lake Como and most people think of George Clooney, Mel Gibson or Madonna. For centuries, Lake Como has inspired poets, novelists, composers and movie stars with its beauty from Mark Twain to Winston Churchill, Elizabeth Taylor and Clark Gable. A picturesque region with charming villas, lovely gardens, cobblestone villages and the snow-covered Alps provides the backdrop for several things to do in Lake Como.
Lake Como is a famous Italian landmark in Lombardy, the third-largest lake in Italy and one of Europe’s deepest. The closest large city is Milan, which is 40 km to the north, while around the lake there are several towns including Como, Belaggio, Tremezzo, Menaggio, Lecco and Cernobbio.
- 1 Lake Como
- 1.1 Lake Como Towns
- 1.2 20 Incredible Things To Do In Lake Como
- 1.2.1 1- Eat Fish The Local Way
- 1.2.2 2- Lunch At Locanda Isola Comacina
- 1.2.3 3- Drink Italian Coffee
- 1.2.4 4- Follow The Dessert Trail
- 1.2.5 5- Go Hunting For George Clooney
- 1.2.6 6- Visit Villa d’Este
- 1.2.7 7- Have A Drink At Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni
- 1.2.8 8- Learn About Luchino Visconti at Villa Erba
- 1.2.9 9- Visit The Museum At Villa Carlotta
- 1.2.10 10- Gaze In Awe At Villa del Balbianello
- 1.2.11 11- Explore Bellagio
- 1.2.12 12- Visit Villa Monastero
- 1.2.13 13- Visit Tempo Voltiano
- 1.2.14 14- Gaze At The Porta Torre
- 1.2.15 15- Ride the Como Brunate Funicular Railway
- 1.2.16 16- Cruise Around The Lake
- 1.2.17 17- Visit the Como Duomo
- 1.2.18 18- Go Hiking At Bellano Gorge
- 1.2.19 19- Drink Verdese Wine
- 1.2.20 20- Visit Castello di Vezio
Lake Como Towns
Most visitors to Lake Como pass through Milan and as the region is not far from this city, you can easily do a day tour to Lake Como, Bellagio and Varenna.
|Towns||Lake Como Attractions||Suggested Tours|
|Como||Como Cathedral, Volta Museum, Villa Olmo||Como Walking Tour |
|Bellagio||Old Town, Villa Serbelloni, Villa Melzi, boat tours||Lake Como and Bellagio Day Trip|
|Varenna||Church of S. Giorgio, Vuilla Monastero, Castello di Vezio, boat tours||Lake Como Cruises|
|Tremezzina||Isola Comanica, Villa Carlotta, Villa Balbionello, boat tours||Lake Como Cruise|
|Menaggio||Old Town, lake promenade, boat tours||Lake Como Cruise|
|Nesso||Nesso gorge, town centre, Strada Regia walk||Lake Como Tours|
|Gravedona||Church of Santa Maria del Tiglio, Alessandro Volta’s house, Palazzo Gallio, Santa Maria delle Grazie||Lake Como tour from Como|
|Argegno||Church and roman bridge, Argegno Pigra cable car||Lake Como Wine Tours|
|Cernobbio||Villa Erba, Villa Bernasconi, Villa d’Este||Lake Como day tour from Milan|
20 Incredible Things To Do In Lake Como
Food lies at the heart of Lake Como’s culture and the communities around the lake are filled with family-run eateries that dish up delicious local fare.
1- Eat Fish The Local Way
The local fare is delicious and wholesome but if you’re looking for a typical traditional dish try Lavarello, which is a white fish commonly served fried with a squeeze of lemon.
There’s also a delicacy called misoltino, which is a tinned dried fish preserved with bay leaves.
Albergo Ristorante Silvio has wonderful views and a menu prepared from traditional recipes of the Ponzini family.
The family of professional fishermen have been dishing up fresh fish since 1919.
Other local foods popular in Lake Tahoe include polenta, cheese and desserts. One of the best ways to taste authentic local food is to dine in a local’s home, which you can book here.
Albergo Ristorante Silvio is at Via Carcano 12, Bellagio.
2- Lunch At Locanda Isola Comacina
A special location on a private island in the middle of the lake, Locanda Isola Comacina has a simple menu that hasn’t changed since 1947.
Even though the food is homed cooked, it is a haunt for a who’s who of Hollywood.
Yes, George Clooney has been here!
The first course is usually an antipasto of tomato and lemon accompanied by fresh vegetables and prosciutto.
Then the food keeps coming.
There’s salted beef, fresh trout, free-range chicken and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
The final course is somewhat of a ritual where the host burns brandy in a pot while recounting the island’s history.
Locanda Isola Comacina is at Ossuccio, Lago di Como. If you don’t have time to dine at the restaurant, explore the island while on a cruise.
3- Drink Italian Coffee
4- Follow The Dessert Trail
As Lake Como has many excellent pastry shops and bakeries, hunting for the best pastries is one of the things to do in Lake Como for foodies.
The region also has its own traditional desserts such as La Miascia, which is a kind of local pudding made with stale bread, La Cutizza, the local version of lemon pancakes, and local drink La rusumada made with eggs and wine.
Here’s a Lake Como food and walking tour that might help you find the best places to eat.
5- Go Hunting For George Clooney
George Clooney paid €11.7 million for the 25-room Villa Oleandra in Laglio, Lake Como.
Some of the luxuries at Villa Oleandra include an outdoor theatre, swimming pool, tennis court, gym, pizza room and a garage large enough for all of his motorcycles.
To catch a glimpse of the Hollywood heartthrob, your best bet is to hang out at Harry’s Bar (Piazza Risorgimento, Cernobbio) or Il Gatto Nero (V. Monte Santo 69, Cernobbio).
6- Visit Villa d’Este
Villa d’Este is one of the world’s most luxurious hotels but before opening as a hotel, it was the home of several European aristocrats including Caroline Brunswick, Princess of Wales.
The gardens are a stunning display of topiary hedges, colourful flowers, terraces, temples and fountains.
The hotel is opulently decked out with antiques, Murano chandeliers and marble statues.
Rooms have a historical feel and have opulent old-style furnishings and heavy drapes.
Villa d’Este is at Via Regina, Cernobbio.
7- Have A Drink At Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni
Lake Como’s grand hotels are legendary and staying in luxury is quite an experience.
Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is Bellagio’s most luxurious hotel and is located right by the lake.
The dining terrace serves up scenic views as well as fine food.
The hotel has a museum-like interior, with a plush decor of frescoes, gold-gilded paintings, antique Persian carpets and imperial-looking furniture.
Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is at Via Roma 1, Bellagio. Check the latest prices of a room here.
8- Learn About Luchino Visconti at Villa Erba
Villa Erba is a popular wedding venue and has a museum devoted to Italian movie director Luchino Visconti.
The villa was the director’s childhood home and has an impressive display of memorabilia of his career.
Located on the lake with stunning gardens, the villa was used as the set for the movie Ocean’s Twelve.
Villa Erba is at Largo Luchino Visconti 4, Cernobbio.
9- Visit The Museum At Villa Carlotta
Villa Carlotta was built in the 17th century and has seven hectares of geometric Italian gardens.
The villa was once owned by Princess Marina from the Netherlands (wife of Prince Albert of Prussia).
The museum is a treasure house of 19th-century art and sculptures.
Another attraction in Tremezzo is the Church of St Maria, which is famous for its Madonna Nera statue.
Villa Carlotta is at via Regina, Tremezzo, Como.
10- Gaze In Awe At Villa del Balbianello
Remember Star Wars? Built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery, Villa del Balbianello was used as a location in Casino Royale and Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones.
You arrive by boat at the pier of Villa Balbianello and wander along the winding path through stunning Italianate and English gardens to the terrace filled with statues and urns.
The view of the lake, mountains and forest from terrace is absolutely stunning.
This was where Padme Amidala and Anakin Skywalker tied the knot and where Daniel Craig’s James Bond recovered in Casino Royale.
The terraced garden with cypress trees, azaleas and rhododendrons (visit from April to June to see them in bloom) are soothing to wander around.
Inside, the villa has crystal chandeliers and 18th-century antiques.
Villa del Balbianello is at Via Guido Monzino, Tremezzina. This cruise of Lake Como will take you there.
11- Explore Bellagio
Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna are three towns connected by ferry.
With narrow cobbled lanes filled with shops and cafes, Bellagio is one of the prettiest villages by the lake.
Bring your credit card as the shops are upmarket and sell quality clothes and Italian leather belts, bags and shoes.
Other things to do in Bellagio are to admire the stunning view at the top of the staircase on Salita Serbelloni and visit the 12th-century Basilica of San Giacomo.
Villa Melzi d’Eril is a short walk from the Bellagio jetties and is worth visiting for its stunning gardens.
Constructed in 1808 for an associate of Napoleon, there’s a Japanese garden, a grotto and an Orangerie with a collection of Roman busts and Etruscan tombs.
This cruise of Lake Como will take you to Bellagio.
12- Visit Villa Monastero
Another lovely villa to visit, Villa Monastero in Lecco has beautiful terraced gardens with green hedges, Cedar trees from Lebanon and Cyprus.
Growing in the gardens are unique and rare plants such as the Mexican blue palm, Chilean wine palm, the Montezuma pine.
With 900 plant specimens, including a substantial collection of English roses, Wisteria and a few types of oak trees, the garden qualifies for Botanical Garden status.
In the 17th century, the Mornico family bought a nunnery and turned Villa Monastero into a private home.
The property now belongs to the province of Lecco and is open for everyone to enjoy.
Of course, there’s a lovely view of the lake and mountains from the villa too and Varenna nearby is home to authentic Italian eateries and gelato bars.
Villa Monastero is at Corso Matteotti, 3, Lecco.
13- Visit Tempo Voltiano
Tempo Volto Museum in Como is dedicated to Allessandro Volto, who invented the electrical battery.
Completed in 1927 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the scientist’s death, Tempo Voltiano (Volto lived most of his life in Lake Como until he passed away in 1827).
Displays in the museum include scientific instruments used by Volto, his personal items and awards.
14- Gaze At The Porta Torre
The Porta Torre in Como is a tower and gate that has guarded the entrance to the city since 1192.
The Romanesque-style 40-m high military building is part of the town’s walls and is a historic monument in Como worth a photo stop.
Porta Torre is at Via Cesare Cantu, Como.
15- Ride the Como Brunate Funicular Railway
The Como Brunate funicular railway is a single track funicular that has transported passengers between the city of Como and the village below wince 1894.
The seven-minute trip from Brunate offers stunning panoramic views of the lake and the Swiss Alps.
Many popular tours include a ride in this funicular along with other attractions in Lake Como. Here are a few tours:
16- Cruise Around The Lake
You can drive around the lake but the most pleasurable way of exploring Lake Como is to go on a cruise.
Most cruises will allow you time at the most popular villas, such as Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello.
Isola Comacina, Varenna and Bellagio are other places a cruise is likely to stop at. Take a look at this luxury cruise of Lake Como.
You might also like this range of cruises around Lake Como too.
17- Visit the Como Duomo
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta or Como Cathedral is a stunning Gothic cathedral built from the 14th to 18th centuries.
Building started 10 years after the Milan Cathedral.
Tapestries from Florence, Ferrara and Antwerp were added to the interior during the 16th and 17th centuries along with paintings by Bernardino Luini and Gaudenzio Ferrari.
The cathedral, along with a few other churches and the broletto (town hall) make up a cluster of Romanesque buildings in Como.
18- Go Hiking At Bellano Gorge
Escape the crowds at Bellano, which is a quieter town with the natural attraction of Bellano Gorge.
The Gorge was formed 15 million years ago by erosion and is a good spot for a hike, with footbridges and boardwalks that hug steep cliffs.
The Bellano ravine is a natural wonderland of waterfalls, caves and lush vegetation not far from Varenna (the train will get you there).
19- Drink Verdese Wine
Lake Como’s main wine-growing area is in the hills of Montevecchia hills and the northern part of Lake Como.
The wineries in the region are boutique and usually family run.
Types of grapes grown here include merlot, rosseia, sangiovese and verdese, which is a unique white grape variety native to Como and Lecce.
20- Visit Castello di Vezio
Visiting Castello di Vezio is one of the things to do in Lake Como to complete a fairytale visit.
The castle was a military fortress built by Queen Theodelinda of Lombardy to defend the region.
It has a tower, dungeon (with resident ghosts?) and a permanent exhibition featuring the Lariosaurus, which is a prehistoric marine reptile that was discovered near the castle.
Demonstrations of falconry are held at Castello di Vezio, which is at Via Del Castellano, Perledo, Lecco, and open between the first Saturday of March until the 1 November.
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