Lake Como, or Lago di Como, located in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, is one of the country’s most renowned destinations. The Y-shaped lake has a 100-mile shoreline with several charming villages. Contrary to popular belief, a trip to Lake Como is not as simple or straightforward as a single town you can visit for just a few hours. With its stunning natural beauty and a lake surrounded by lush greenery and towering mountains, you’ll want to take the time to fully explore the area during your trip.

Among its most famous landmarks are the Villa del Balbianello and the town of Bellagio, both of which attract visitors from around the world. But there are some hidden gems that are only widely known by locals that we’ll share with you in this blog post. 

Traveling to Lake Como offers a range of experiences for all types of travelers. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy activities such as hiking, cycling, boating, and watersports, while those seeking relaxation can unwind by the shoreline or enjoy a lakeside meal at one of the many picturesque cafes. 

Lake Como appeals to travelers seeking natural beauty, cultural immersion, outdoor activities, and culinary delights. Its accessibility from major cities like Milan makes it a popular choice for both domestic and international visitors looking to experience the best that Italy has to offer. That’s why we’re here to provide you with a complete local guide on everything you’ll need to know for a relaxing trip to Lake Como! 

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When Should You Visit Lake Como?

Choosing the right time to visit Lake Como can greatly impact your overall experience. Lake Como has become a very popular destination for international and domestic tourism, so it depends on the experiences you want to have. 

Summer is, of course, peak season in much of Italy, and Lake Como is no exception. While the days are long and the weather is perfect for lazy days on the shore, you will experience pretty thick crowds in many areas, especially in tourist hot spots like Bellagio and Varenna. If you do choose to visit in the summer, it’s important to book everything as far in advance as possible. 

While the winters are quiet, temperatures can be below freezing in Northern Italy, and many restaurants and shops are closed during this time. However, the snow-capped mountains are certainly a sight to see. 

For most people, we recommend visiting in either April or October. Both the fall and the Spring offer thinner crowds along with temperate weather conditions allowing for outdoor activities. 

Another consideration could be events and festivals, like the Como Film Festival in July or the Como Citta della Musica Festival in September. 

Ultimately, the best time to visit depends on your personal preferences and desired experience. If you need help making the decision, read more about the best times to visit Italy here!

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Getting Around Lake Como and Transportation

Navigating Lake Como and its surrounding areas is relatively easy, thanks to the region’s efficient transportation network. The primary modes of transportation include ferries, buses, trains, and private vehicles, each offering its own advantages for exploring the area. 

Ferries are a popular choice for traveling between towns and villages along the lakeshore, providing scenic views of the lake and easy access to waterfront destinations. The ferry service operates regular routes throughout the day, with stops at major towns like Como, Bellagio, and Varenna, making it convenient for visitors to hop between different locations. Additionally, private water taxis are available for those seeking a more personalized and flexible transportation option.

In addition to ferry services, buses offer an affordable and efficient means of getting around Lake Como and its surrounding areas. You can purchase tickets onboard or at ticket offices in major towns, with options for single fares or multi-day passes depending on their travel plans. 

Alternatively, renting a car provides the flexibility to explore Lake Como at your own pace and venture off the beaten path to discover hidden gems and scenic viewpoints. However, it’s worth noting that parking can be limited in popular tourist areas, especially during the peak summer season, so it’s advisable to plan ahead and arrive early to secure a parking spot.

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Dining in Lake Como

Eating authentically in Lake Como can be difficult, as many touristy locations attempt to attract customers with more well-known favorites like cacio e pepe or bolognese ragu. But with the surrounding lake’s bounty of fresh seafood and the rich history of Northern Italian cuisine, you want to eat like a local during your stay. From high-end restaurants to no-frills lakeside eateries, we’ve got several hidden gem favorites to share. 

  • Vincenzo Dasciano Cafe: Looking for a picturesque breakfast or light lunch? This bistro was designed by renowned visionary designer Vincenzo Dasciano. Inspired by the Art Nouveau style of the early 1900s, you’ll be charmed by the eccentric details and vibrant florals. 
  • Figli dei Fiori: An old greenhouse turned into a bohemian, industrial dining experience surrounded by the lush greenery of Lake Como. The kitchen offers a fresh spin on regional favorites. 
  • Il Beccaccino: If you’re looking for an eco-friendly restaurant with a view of the mountains, Il Beccaccino in Sorcio is the place for you. Enjoy the chef’s fresh-caught fish and a unique floating bar made from a restyled old boat. 
  • Il Gatto Nero: The perfect spot for a romantic lakeside dinner. With a panoramic stone terrace and a lounge surrounded by lush florals, the signature regional dishes with fresh-caught seafood are the cherry on top of the scenery. This particular destination is well-known for its popularity amongst high-profile celebrities such as George Clooney. 
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Where to Stay

Choosing the right accommodation can greatly enhance your experience while visiting Lake Como. Whether you prefer luxury hotels with panoramic views or cozy bed-and-breakfasts nestled in charming villages, Lake Como offers a range of accommodations to suit every traveler’s preferences. 

  • Filario Hotel: Just a few miles from Bellagio’s central location, the Filario Hotel offers panoramic views and a private beach—the only hotel with a private beach on the entire western shore. The hotel was designed to fit in with the surrounding landscape, with all the facades made with Lombard stone. 
  • Vista Palazzo: The only five-star hotel in the city, boasting a panoramic rooftop bar/restaurant and hospitality awards. 
  • Agriturismo Treterre: A rustic farmhouse with an infinity pool and a rustic chic restaurant located between an enchanted forest and a hill overlooking Lake Como’s valley. Designed for peace and tranquility, this off-the-beaten-path destination will charm you with its farm-to-table cuisine. 

The accommodations you choose in Lake Como truly depend on the experience you want. Lake Como truly has it all in terms of experiences, with options for rustic bed-and-breakfast style stays, agrotourism, and high-end boutique hotels. 

Each village offers a different experience in terms of specific towns. Of course, Bellagio is the most iconic destination in Lake Como and is ideal for a home base due to its central location between the lake’s two branches. Many people arriving by train arrive in Como City at the southern tip of the island, and while it is one of the largest settlements with several accommodation options, its location makes it less than ideal for exploring. 

Villages such as Nesso, Tremezzo, and Varenno often fly under the radar of these iconic destinations, but each holds some of the most breathtaking views and even the most beautiful villas, such as Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi in Varenna. 

where to stay in lake como

Cultural Experiences, Outdoor Activities, and Historical Sites to Visit in Lake Como

Exploring Lake Como is about much more than admiring its natural beauty. The villages of Lake Como each offer their own unique historical treasures, cultural experiences, and outdoor adventures. 

  • Talea Lake Como: A vintage greenhouse with a brocantage shop where events, workshops, and charming organic brunches come to life among flowers and ancient ceramic objects. Each week, the owners come up with a new activity for guests, whether it’s brunch on a porcelain table or a workshop on dying fabrics with natural color. 
  • The Gardens of Villa Melzi: One of the most iconic and Instagrammable locations in Lake Como. Embellished with many works of art and a vibrant botanical garden exploding with colorful blooms, this historic, picturesque location is a must-visit. 
  • Medieval Castles: Visit medieval castles and fortresses overlooking Lake Como, such as Castello di Vezio in Varenna and Castello Baradello in Como. Explore historic ramparts, towers, and dungeons while enjoying panoramic views of the lake and surrounding countryside.
  • Historic Churches: Discover the rich religious heritage of Lake Como by visiting historic churches and religious sites. Admire architectural masterpieces like the Duomo di Como and the Basilica of San Giacomo in Bellagio, each showcasing unique artistic and cultural elements.
  • Via Ferrata: Experience the thrill of climbing Lake Como’s rugged cliffs and rock faces on a Via Ferrata adventure. Guided tours are available for all skill levels and offer breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
  • Artisan Workshops: Visit traditional artisan workshops in villages like Bellagio or Varenna to watch local craftsmen at work. Learn about traditional crafts such as silk weaving, pottery, or wood carving, and even try your hand at creating your own masterpiece.

And don’t forget the serendipity of simply wandering around a village, exploring the cobblestone streets, and soaking up the atmosphere of everyday Italian life! 

Lake Como is an excellent setting for your Italian vacation, but if you’re looking to explore more of beautiful Northern Italy after your trip, why not take a small group tour with local guides? You’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in UNESCO Heritage sites and enjoy the wine-soaked valleys of the rolling Prosecco Hills. 

You don’t have to choose between the quintessential boat rides on Lake Como and escaping the crowds to experience Italy like a local – you can have the best of both worlds by touring with a local expert! 

Ready to get off the beaten path and experience an authentic slice of Northern Italy? Choose your itinerary!

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