Lake Como (also known as “Lario”) in Italy’s Lombardy region is the third largest lake in Italy and one of the country’s most spectacular destinations. The lake itself is shaped like an upside-down “Y”, and its shores are home to beautiful towns and villages, opulent villas, and lush gardens.
Along with dramatic scenery, Lake Como offers visitors a number of unique and unforgettable experiences. Here are some of the best things to see and do in Lake Como:
1. Spectacular Boat Rides
One of the best ways to explore Lake Como is on a boat tour. You can choose between public and private excursions, which both offer a fantastic way to see the beautiful towns located along the lake’s shores.
Public Boat Tours: Lake Como’s public navigation system is called Navigazione Laghi, which provides a number of boat routes that connect popular towns like Como, Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio with motorships, hydrofoils, and ferries. You can choose between one-way, full-day, and six-day tickets depending on how long you plan to stay in the area.
Private Boat Tours: A private boat tour on Lake Como will provide you with a driver who is at your disposable. This allows you to choose your itinerary and destinations, as well as the length of your boat tour. There are a number of private boat tour companies to choose from in the lake’s south-western, central, and northern areas
2. Outdoor Adventures
Lake Como is the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors and is a popular area for cycling, hiking, sailing, water skiing, kayaking, and more!
Cycling: There are a number of beautiful cycling routes around Lake Como and bikes can be rented in towns like Bellagio, Como, and Varenna. Another great option for cyclists of all skill levels is a cycling tour that takes you through the area’s small villages and past ancient villas.
Hiking: You can surround yourself with the beauty and nature of Lake Como on a walk or hike in the mountains, along the 10km Lake Como Greenway, and through local villages and parks. Some popular hikes in the area include from Sala Comacina to the Alpe di Sala, to the Abbey of San Benedetto, and from Pigra to Alpe di Blessagno.
Kayaking: Explore new corners of Lake Como by kayak or canoe, which you can rent in different sporting centres around the lake or as part of a group excursion. You can explore the north of the lake from Domaso, the middle of the lake from Bellagio, or even venture to the nearby Brianza Lakes for your kayaking adventure.
3. The Como-Brunate Funicular
The city of Como is connected to the hilltop village of Brunate by a funicular railway that’s been in operation since 1894. Brunate is known as “the balcony of the Alps” and a ride up to the village will quickly show you why. The funicular offers beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and Lake Como below, and once you arrive in Brunate, you can enjoy even more views from 720m above sea level.
Duration and Price: The funicular journey takes approximately 7 minutes. For adults, a single ticket costs 3 euros, while a return ticket costs 5.50 euros.
4. Visit Villa Carlotta
Villa Carlotta is a beautiful villa and museum with an incredible botanical garden in the town of Tremezz on Lake Como. The villa is situated at the top of the terraced garden, where you’ll find beautiful views of Bellagio and the surrounding mountains.
Two of the villa’s three floors are open to the public, and display sculptures by Canova, Thorvaldsen and other famous artists, along with spectacular pieces of furniture, which belonged to various owners throughout time.
The 20-acre garden is made up of a number of different sections and consists of more than 150 varieties of azalea, exotic plants, rhododendron and other beautiful flower varieties. There is also a bamboo garden and many different tree varieties like redwoods and palms.
Price: An adult ticket to Villa Carlotta costs 10 euros.
5. Journey to Isola Comacina
The small wooded island of Isola Comacina is the only island on Lake Como, located just off of Tremezzina, near the lake’s western banks. You can reach the island by boat from many spots on Lake Como, and enjoy the island’s archaeological sites, artists houses, Romanesque style church, and characteristic restaurant.
How to get there: Navigazione Laghi – Lake Como’s public navigation system – can easily get you to Isola Comacina and back. If you’re already in Tremezzina, you can also take a taxi boat to the island from Ossuccio – you get on near the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena and buy your ticket once onboard.
6. Walk up to Castello di Vezio
Castello di Vezio is a centuries-old castle located near Varenna and Perledo. You can hike up to the castle along a steep cobblestone path from Olivedo at the northern end of Varenna, which takes approximately 30 minutes. Another way to get there is on a path along the Sentiero Scabium, which takes about 40 minutes.
Once you reach the castle, you can take in the stunning views of Lake Como below, explore the tower garden and WWII military hideout, and visit the fascinating exhibitions inside the castle.
Price: A full price adult ticket for Castello di Vezio costs 4 euros.
7. Villa del Balbianello
The Villa del Balbianello sits on the tip of Dosso d’Avedo – a small wooded peninsula in Lenno that overlooks Lake Como.
This magnificent villa is famous for its terraced gardens, which you can tour along with the elegant house. A number of movies have filmed at Villa del Balbianello including the popular James Bond movie, Casino Royale.
How to get there: The villa can be reached by taxi boat from Lido di Lenno. You can also walk there from the center of Lenno, which takes approximately 30 minutes.
Price: An adult ticket to enter the villa and garden costs 20 euros, while an adult garden-only ticket costs 10 euros. The villa is closed to the public on Mondays and Wednesdays.
8. Explore Lush Gardens & Parks
Luxurious summer estates and villas dot the shores of Lake Como and many of them are home to remarkable outdoor gardens. Tropical plants thrive in Lake Como’s environment thanks to a unique microclimate, and there’s no shortage of lush foliage and spectacular flowers in the area’s many impressive gardens and parks.
While some of the villas and their gardens are private, there are a large number that are open to the public, along with fantastic local parks. This includes:
- Villa del Grumello Park
- Teresio Olivelli Park
- Villa Melzi Gardens (entrance fee of 6.50 euros per person)
9. Spend Time in Bellagio
At the crux of Lake Como’s inverted “Y” sits the town of Bellagio, known as “the pearl of Lake Como”. Its unique location, picturesque villas, gardens, and cobbled stairways make it a remarkable place to visit and explore and has earned the town its reputation as being one of the most beautiful towns in Europe.
While here, you can explore the incredible Villa Serbelloni Gardens on a guided tour, visit the Lombard-Romanesque San Giacomo Church, take a plein air painting class, or simply relax and take in the remarkable scenery.
10. Discover the Town of Varenna
The town of Varenna is a fishing village that dates back to the eleventh century, and is a jewel amongst the towns of Lake Como. Spend some time strolling through the town’s characteristic alleyways and take in breathtaking views from the picturesque waterfront.
Varenna is the perfect destination for people looking to experience a romantic and relaxing getaway full of natural beauty and charm.
How to Get to Lake Como
There are a number of quick and convenient ways to reach Lake Como and the surrounding towns from Milan:
By train: You can take a train from Milano Centrale station to Como S. Giovanni station, which takes approximately 45 minutes.
By car: You can drive from Milan to Como, which takes approximately 1 hour.
By bus: You can take a bus from Milan’s Centrale bus station to Como’s S. Giovanni bus station, which takes approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Experience Lake Como with Savour Italy Tours
Come and discover the beauty and magic of Lake Como with us on our In the Land of Amarone & Prosecco small group tour, which is a remarkable 10-day journey through Italy’s spectacular northeast regions: Lombardy, Veneto, Trentino, and Friuli!