The outstanding scenery surrounding Lake Como consists of miles and miles of mountains and Victorian Villas.
There is so much to explore around the lake among the towns and villages. From botanical gardens, gorgeous waters and historic cathedrals, you won’t be short of things to do while you are there. I found it really hard to narrow down my favourite things to do from the couple of visits I have taken to Lake Como. So to help create the list you are about to read, I enjoyed these places so much that I have either already visited them twice, or I would definitely go again. So, let’s begin…
So first, we are off to Isola Comacina, the only island on the lake situated off the little village of Sala Comacina. To get there, you can get a boat from one of the locals in the harbour of the village. Alternatively, you can get the slowboat or hydrofoil as mentioned in one of my previous posts. When I last visited the island it was €15 entry to the main part of the island.
The island has a stunning walk where you can expect to see plenty of tiny lizards and a collection of archaeological sites and churches. The walk is more than it may seem with plenty to see and take in. Once you have been around the island there is a little cafe next to where the ferry comes and goes. I enjoyed sitting there and looking back on the western shore and watching the boats go by.
Giardini del Tempio Voltiano
Next, we are off to the City of Como, where there is a gorgeous park with memorials, sculptures and a mini-museum. There is a walkway that takes you to a sculpture in the centre of the harbour and the paths around the park are lovely and relaxing to walk around. There is a bar/cafe that sells food and drink in the park, and I love to grab one of their coffees and a panini to find a spot in the sun and relax while I eat.
Cattedrale di S.Maria
Next, is the Cattedrale di S.Maria in the City of Como. Just a few minutes walk into the city from the waterfront, this 14th century Gothic Cathedral is full of gorgeous interiors, artwork and tapestry. To enter, a donation to the Cathedral is preferred, I have always given €2.
Inside there are statues, art and a stunning dome roof to admire. Alongside that, there is plenty of information towards the back about the history behind it’s Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque elements.
I didn’t know Funicolare Como-Brunate existed the first time I visited Como, and I’m so glad someone told me about it because the views are stunning. The funicular railway runs up the mountain for a walk that passes a church, huge villas and gardens. There are a couple of paths you can take that all lead to a panoramic point, giving you stunning views of the lake and its surroundings. You can also walk to Faro Voltiano – a lighthouse high up in the mountains.
I Giardini di Villa Melzi
You cannot miss these botanical gardens. Surrounded by trees, plants, sculptures and a 19th Century Villa, I Giardini di Villa Melzi is my favourite thing to see and do in Bellagio. I believe I paid €8 for entry and it’s worth every penny. It’s on a slope like everything else around the lake and the views from the top paths are breathtaking. There is also a path overlooking a Japanese Koi Fish pond and plenty of small hidden areas to explore.
Shopping in Bellagio
Bellagio is full of fun quirky little shops. While they may not be everyone’s cup of tea and you may not race to purchase something, the steps and alleys are lovely to walk around with a subtle hustle and bustle. There are hidden alleys with either more shops or it leads you to another road in Bellagio that you haven’t yet seen. I love walking around it all as it’s just one hectic maze.
Parchetto della Punta
Parchetto della Punta is where I have gone both times I have visited Bellagio. Normally a day in the town is a lot of walking and there’s no such thing as a flat terrain around the Lake, meaning your feet can start to hurt even in the comfiest of trainers. After a day of being on my feet, I like to come to this park to lay my head down onto my bag and just watch the world go. The park is situated at the very point of where the river breaks into two and overlooks stunning waters and snow-topped mountains. The perfect way to unwind and end a busy day.
Villa del Balbianello
The Villa del Balbianello is probably my favourite within this entire list. Not only is it used for the planet of Naboo in Star Wars (sorry, not sorry for the nerd talk) and where James Bond recovers during Casino Royale. Situated down a lane just outside of Lenno, the Villa is full of art and history with the grounds giving you the best views on the lake. The history and stories behind the villa are really interesting and I highly recommend you pay additional for entry to the house and a tour (€15) to learn more about the powerful families that lived there. This includes Count Guido Monzino, an explorer they sold the estate to. The house is full of things he donated and added to his house that was collected on his explorations.
Greenway del Lago di Como
Greenway del Lago di Como is a hiking trail that goes from Colonno to Grante at about 6 miles (10km) long. Passing through Sala Comacina, Ossuccio, Lenno, Mezzegra, Tremezzo and Griante. It is a long walk and some of it is high up and exposed, so water, suncream and perhaps a hat are something I highly recommend, especially in the hotter months. It is quite a long walk with a varied terrain, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. That being said, you can join and leave the trail at any of the towns/villages it passes through.
The greenway is a fantastic way to take in the spectacular landscapes surrounding the lake. Along the way, you will pass churches, villas, massive gardens while being surrounded by mountains. This walk also includes Lenno where I recommend below for swimming.
Swimming in the lake
Finally, you can’t visit Lago di Como without swimming in the lake. Both times I have been were in mid-June and the water temperature is warm… once you’re in it anyway. Wherever you are staying may have little hidden alleys leading to the water which is great if you want privacy. There’s a lovely spot near the church in Argegno you can use which is away from all the boats. My favourite place has got to be in Lenno (as marked on the map). There are steps and an area out of the way from passers-by for your belongings. The best part is it overlooks the Alps so clearly in front of you. It’s overwhelmingly beautiful.