Charming and picturesque, Italy’s lake region is one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe. However, out of its five lakes, Lake Como is undoubtedly the most irresistible. A magnet for the rich and famous who want to avoid the tourist crowds of the Amalfi Coast or the south of France, Lake Como dazzles with breathtaking beauty and majestic villas. The third-largest lake in Italy and one of the deepest lakes on the continent, this stunning body of water has the shape of an inverted Y. Framed by the impetuous Alps, Lake Como is one of the most beautiful summer destinations in Europe, an oasis of relaxation for both celebrities and mere mortals.
How to get to and around Lake Como
Lake Como awaits just a short trip from Milan, in the north of Italy, close to the Swiss border. The best idea to get to and around Lake Como is to rent a car. However, you can also get there by train from Milan. Expect to find the usual narrow and winding Italian roads in the area, as well as a lot of traffic, especially if you’re visiting in the summer. Lake Como is not only beloved by foreign tourists, but it’s also a favorite weekend destination for the Milanese.
If you don’t have a car, water taxis provide the necessary transportation on Lake Como. In the summer, the lake is invaded by car ferries and water taxis that take tourists from one town to the other. Tickets are available at the ferry terminals. The region is also served by buses that connect the main towns of Como and Lecco and have several stops along the way.
What to do in the summer at Lake Como?
Summer is the peak season at Lake Como, so expect crowds of tourists and lively towns. The good news is that summer is also the season with the most things to see and fun things to do. From gardens in bloom to summer events, Lake Como delights visitors with an extravaganza of attractions.
Visit the romantic towns and villages
An idyllic retreat for couples and artists, Lake Como boasts scenic little lakeside towns and villages. Start with the region’s capital, Como, situated at the base of the lake. Often overlooked by tourists, Como rewards curious tourists with a plethora of Italian restaurants and shops, as well as romantic walks along its promenade. Moreover, the town has a pretty medieval city center and a vibrant ambiance.
The most famous town in the region, Bellagio is a destination loved by posh tourists. The town boasts elegant boutiques, luxury villas, and exclusivist restaurants, but its main attractions are its fabulous gardens at Villa Serbelloni and Villa Melzi, and the romantic cobbled streets built on its slopes.
If you want to enjoy an idyllic setting without the crowds of Bellagio, Varenna is your best choice! This sleepy fishing village is for some the jewel of Lake Como’s crown, a fairy tale destination home to colorful houses and an enchanting medieval center. Moreover, Varenna has a small harbor that offers superb views and is the perfect setting for a dinner under the stars. One of the most visited attractions in Varenna is Villa Monastero and its gorgeous gardens, as well as Castello di Vezio, from where visitors can admire lovely views of the lake.
Stop and smell the roses
Lake Como’s villas mesmerize visitors with some of the most beautiful gardens in Italy. One of the most popular attractions in the region is Villa Carlota, in Tremezzo, once the residence of the Prussian princess, Carlotta. Today the villa is open for visitors and enchants with a floral spectacle dominated by the presence of cypress trees, a giant sequoia, a Japanese garden, as well as an extravaganza of tropical plants.
Villa Balbianello awaits in Lenno with fabulous 18th-century furniture and an impressive art collection. However, tourists come here mostly for its flawless gardens and the fact that the villa was a setting for movies like Casino Royale and Star Wars Episode II. If you visit Bellagio, you shouldn’t miss a tour of Villa Melzi’s gardens, a beautiful illustration of a traditional English-style garden. The garden enchants with lake views, as well as a water lily pond and an Orangery.
Enjoy lake cruises and beach days
Summer is the ideal season for cruises on Lake Como. A lake cruise delights passengers with superb views of the lakeside towns and is a great way to admire famous villas. Most cruises depart from Como, Bellagio, and Varenna and offer various itineraries. Lake Como has a few wonderful beaches known as “lido” — which are actually bathing areas by the lake. Lido di Cernobbio awaits behind Villa Erba and has an Olympic-size pool, as well as a bar and a gourmet restaurant. Lido di Bellagio takes the beach experience to the next level with white sand, beach chairs, and gazebos, while Lido di Lenno attracts sunbathers with its sandy beach and gazebos, and adds a fabulous lounge bar to the experience.