Often regarded as the most idyllic waterfront destination in all of Italy, the Lake Como area surrounds travelers with fairytale-like views including sparkling waters, lush gardens, and majestic villas covered with ivy, all set against a majestic, mountainous backdrop. A dreamy paradise, Lake Como’s landscape pairs the manmade and calculated with the wild and natural to create a fusion of manicured gardens set against free-growing vineyards, orchards, and groves. Considered by everyone from scholars to artists to celebrities as a timeless destination – one that evokes an air of old-time authenticity and undeniable beauty – Lake Como attracts tourists from all over the world. While Summer crowds can take away some of the vintage feel, the spirit and character of the area is never diminished. Travelers to Lake Como come for the views of the elegant villas and spectacular nature but stay for the local charm, lakeside restaurants, and romantic atmosphere.
Nearly 30 miles long and one of the deepest lake in Europe – 1,350 feet – Lake Como has been heralded as a “Garden of Eden” of sorts for centuries. Its characteristic “Y” shape not only makes this glacier basin recognizable worldwide but also lends a wide variety of views, weather, architecture, and landscape to be experienced along its shores.
Travelers can take boats, car ferries, and vaporetti(water buses) to explore the lake’s villages. Main towns such as Bellagio, Cernobbio, Tremezzo, Varenna, and of course, Como all offer breathtaking scenery, unique activities, shopping, sightseeing, and more.
GEOGRAPHY & CLIMATE
Located in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy, Lake Como is the most renowned lake on the Italian peninsula, despite being the third largest. Though Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda are larger, Lake Como’s status as the most gorgeous and deepest lake in Italy has contributed to its achievement of becoming the country’s most popular and most traveled lake. Fed primarily by the Adda River, its 100 miles of shore feature lush flora, staggering rock formations, unspoiled farmland, and views of the Italian Alps.
In terms of weather, Lake Como is categorized as a humid subtropical micro-climate. Due to its location in Northern Italy, expect mild and pleasant temperatures in the spring and summer with colder temperatures in the fall and winter. Rainstorms can occur on summer nights, and snowfall in the winter is not uncommon at higher elevations. This unique climate for the area allows for a variety of vegetation to thrive, including trees such as laurel oak, cypress, evergreen, juniper, spruce, and olive. The lake is known for local production of olive oil on a small scale, namely on the Isle of Comacina, near the lake’s Western arm, which is called Zoca de l'Oli, or “Basin of Oil.”
The most characteristic aspect of Lake Como’s climate is its breezes. Travelers will notice an almost constant breeze in the area, occasionally growing into medium or even strong winds. The lake’s position between the Alps and an area known as “pre-Alps” lends itself to these winds, which are so consistent and steady that local captains, fishermen, and sailors can count on common winds called the Larian Nautics. Interruption to the schedule of key winds, like the Tivano – which blows North to East during early hours of the morning – and the Breva – a wind which blows from the South specifically between 10:30AM and 11:30PM – serve as signs to the locals of impending storms.
WHEN IN THE LAKE COMO AREA
When visiting the Lake Como area, travelers can get the most out of their time there by exploring the lake’s vast shores and visiting the iconic villas that dot the lake’s edges.
One of the best ways to experience the towns and villages alongside the lake is by taking the local ferries and water buses. Cruising across the lake allows visitors to immerse in the local atmosphere as they travel from town to town admiring remarkable villas and impeccable gardens. In order to properly experience the treasures of Lake Como, travelers will want to dedicate at least a few days to leisurely explore the lake by boat. While traveling by boat is the best method of transportation for sightseeing, those who like to drive may enjoy getting lost in the winding roads around the lake and taking in the beautiful scenery.
No matter how you choose to explore the lake, be sure to visit the namesake city, Como, which sits on the western arm of Lake Como. Not far from Milan, Como features an incredible city center with historic buildings, such as Villa Olmo, and museums, including the Silk Museum. On the Eastern arm of the lake, be sure to stop in Lecco – this side of the lake’s main city. Other great places to visit include Abbadia Lariana – a quaint and lovely town featuring a small shipyard – as well as villages such as Bellagio, Tremezzo, Varenna, Colico, and Gravedona.
To truly take in the prestige and luxury of Lake Como, travelers must make time to visit the many villas along the coast. For hundreds of years, it is these stunning villas – characteristic of the romantic history of the area – that have attracted the likes of royalty, celebrities, and influential artists to the shores of Lake Como. In Cernobbio, key villas are Villa Erba and Villa d’Este – both of which display a classic style of architecture.
Today, Villa Erba is part of a larger exhibition center. Its rich botanical park features historic plants that change with the passing of the seasons. The villa was constructed in the nineteenth century following the Mannerist style of architecture. Of particular interest to lovers of film are the rooms of Italian director Luchino Visconti, who spent his childhood summers at Villa Erba.
Villa D’Este, on the other hand, is now a luxury hotel. Constructed in the sixteenth century as a royal residence, Villa D’Este is considered to be one of the most remarkable examples of architecture from this time period. From the grand architecture to the breathtaking interior art and 25 acres of elaborate gardens, Villa D’Este embodies Lake Como’s old-world charm.
Villa Carlotta, located in Tremezzo, features a stunning Italian Garden, Romantic Garden, and Agricultural Section as well as a museum with works by Thorvaldsen, Migliara, Canova, and Hayez. One of the best times to visit Villa Carlotta is in the spring, when many of its flowers, such as the rhododendrons, are in bloom, though the other seasons of the year offer plenty of splendor as well.
In Lenno, explore the Villa del Balbianello, famous for both its terraced gardens and appearances in such films as “Casino Royale,” “Star Wars: Episode – Attack of the Clones,” and “A Month by the Lake.” Located on a peninsula, this elegant eighteenth-century building offers unbeatable views of the picturesque lake. Structures such as the Loggia Durini, an arched loggia covered with climbing fig, and the darsena, the dock, offer perfect opportunities for romantic photos.
Each of the lake’s many villas and towns feature stunning examples of architecture and artistry of Lake Como’s historic past, amidst the unparalleled landscape that has made the area so legendary.
Lake Como, therefore, is an ideal destination for those travelers seeking a place with a magical atmosphere that is extraordinarily beautiful from a natural standpoint. The area is perfect for long nature walks with options ranging from challenging hiking trails to gentle lakeside paths. Additionally, the constant and reliable presence of the local winds makes Lake Como an interesting destination for those who love aquatic sports such as windsurfing, kitesurfing, and sailing. In fact, it is quite common to see colorful sails dotting the panorama and darting across the waves. For an unforgettable vacation filled with nature and relaxation, look no further than the radiant shores of Lake Como.