About an hour north of Milan, and nestled deep in the cradle of the Swiss Alps, lies the breathtaking Lake Como. Centuries of beautiful scenery, genteel pace, and gracious living have lured people to the shores of Lake Como since the days of Julius Caesar. Often recognized as a playground for the rich and famous, the towns along the shores of this Italian beauty beckon one and all to relax, enjoy and take in the sights which have charmed many a visitor.
Navigating Lake Como
The preferred, and most efficient, way to visit the colorful towns and ancient villages set amidst hillside and shoreline, is by ferry boat, or water taxi. Even the smallest of these quaint hamlets provides a marina so residents and visitors can disembark and enjoy.
On the southwest tip of Lake Como sits the city of the same name. Como, Italy is a majestic city full of magnificent examples of architecture, which spans centuries. The Gothic Roman Cathedral, second century Romanesque church of San Fedele, 19th century villas and Renaissance palaces are just a few of the architectural treats in Como. There’s even a medieval bell tower, which has been lovingly restored through the centuries.
While strolling the city streets of bustling Como, be sure to visit the enchanting family-owned shops, stop into a cafe and view life unfolding, or enjoy a respite along the waterfront promenade as you reflect on your time in Como.
Bellagio and Her Villas
Perched on a peninsula, and cloaked in luxury, it’s easy to see why Bellagio is referred to as the “Pearl of the Lake”. The many riches of the region are available in Bellagio. Shop for jewelry, silk, pottery and Italy’s one-of-a-kind treasures. Enjoy a refreshing gelato in the old world elegance of a sun drenched square.
Bellagio is home to the spectacular Villa Melzi. While the villa is privately owned, the proprietors have opened the awe-inspiring gardens to the public. A tour will delight visitors with the finest example of English style gardens, alongside terraces full of rare and tropical plants and trees. Artifacts dating back several hundred years are also on display throughout the villa’s gardens.
Also located near the city of Bellagio, Villa Balbienello is a lovely home, on the tip of a small, wooded peninsula, high above Lake Como. The grounds of this 18th century villa are open to tourists. The villa’s loggia showcases the heart of the lake, and a panoramic view of much of the Lake District. Terraced gardens echo the elements of Lake Como as they spill down the hillside to the shore.
Facing the peninsula of Bellagio is the Villa Carlota, boasting 17 acres of lush gardens. The 17th century villa also houses a museum. Dedicated to the flora of the region, the botanical gardens are home to heirloom varieties of flowers as well as centuries old trees, a rock garden, classic sculpture and much more.
A Walk through Cernobbio
For all the bustle of Como, and the luxury of Bellagio, Cernobbio offers a slightly different vibe. The narrow main street and family-filled piazza, the welcoming trattorias and the residential buildings provide this town, which borders Switzerland, with a neighborhood atmosphere. The treelined waterfront and quiet streets make Cernobbio a perfectly walkable town. Many wealthy residents make their home is Cernobbio, evident in some of the more opulent villas throughout the town.
The Charm of Varenna
If Bellagio is the Pearl of Lake Como, Varenna is surely a jewel of similar prominence. A small fishing village, dating back to the 12th century, Varenna has a population of just under a thousand residents. Centrally located along the eastern shore of Lake Como, Varenna isn’t as developed as many of it’s neighbors, leaving a lush natural playground that is particularly popular as a destination for “Luna de Miele” or, honeymoon.
The steep lanes, romantic, pine-shrouded promenade, and old-world piazza are just some of the sights for which Varenna is known. Kissed by the alpine breezes, this unpretentious town and it’s relaxed lakefront cafes offer the ideal spot to sip your favorite beverage and take in the beauty of Lake Como.
Do you picture yourself seating and watching these amazing views? Here is a Lake Como Itinerary