Taking advantage of this particular period when one could not travel abroad, I finally went to explore the Lake Como!! It seems incredible, especially considering the proximity to Milan, but I had hardly ever been there. Now I can say that I fully understand the Americans (or foreigners in general) who often answer the question “What did you like most about Italy” to “Lake Como”. It is a truly fascinating place that can satisfy practically everyone. There are the city of Como and the villas (with their magnificent gardens) for lovers of history and architecture, there are mountains and super-panoramic walks for lovers of outdoor sports, there is the lake for those who love relaxation and water sports, there are luxury hotels and restaurants for those looking for romantic atmospheres and gourmet cuisine .. and much more. You can go there during the day, for a weekend or for several days and you won't be bored!
How to reach Lake Como and how to get around
Lake Como can be reached very easily from Milan both by car (50 km from Milan from Como) and by train (40 '). Unlike the Lecco shore, here there is no railway line that runs along the branch of the lake, but you can move comfortably from Como to other locations (and from one location to another) by boat. At this link you will find all the info on routes, timetables and prices.
What to see on Lake Como
Como: the city of Volta and Villa Olmo
Como it was probably the biggest surprise! A very beautiful, elegant, romantic and well-kept city to which I have dedicated an entire article. Find all the info on what to see and where to go in the article "Como: what to see in one day".
Villa del Balbianello: on the set of Star Wars and 007
As a great lover of historic villas, Lake Como is a kind of Holy Land for me. Overlooking the lake there are in fact some of the most beautiful villas (and gardens) in Italy. Many villas are private alas and not open to visitors (such as George Clooney's famous villa in Laglio .. just to give an example), but many others can be visited and are truly magnificent. Villa del Balbianello is something incredible and it is no coincidence that it has been chosen as the set of several films including "Star Wars" and "007 Casino Royale". The villa is located on the tip of a small peninsula in Tremezzina (30 km north of Como), an enviable position that makes it one of the most scenic villas on the lake. The villa was built by Cardinal Durini at the end of the 700th century on the remains of a small Franciscan convent (of which the façade of the church with the two bell towers remains). After several changes of hands, the villa was acquired in 1974 by the explorer Guido Monzino, son of the patron of the Standa and the Upim, who then left it in his will to the FAI (luckily for us!). In addition to the apartments, you can visit several other rooms where the art collections and memories of Monzino's explorations are collected. The highlight, however, is the terraced garden, which follows the course of the land in an impeccable way, with many trees and hedges trimmed and artfully designed, from which you can enjoy a magnificent view of the lake and the Comacina island.
The villa can be reached on foot or by taxi-boat. On foot there are 2 different paths that start from the parking lot, one short of 1 km (along the Panoramic road) and one longer than 2,5 km (along the Dosso di Lavedo path) that runs through the woods. The taxi-boat service instead leaves from Lido di Lenno and costs 8 euros return or 6 euros one way. My advice is to get there by taxi-boat and then back on foot (or vice versa). Reaching it by boat you will have the view of the villa from the lake and it is really worth it. To visit the villa (especially now, in the period of Covid ..) you should buy the ticket online from this site, at least you won't have any surprises! The Villa + Giardini ticket (recommended!) Costs 15 euros.
Villa del Balbianello – Via Guido Monzino 1, Tremezzina
Villa Carlotta: museum and botanical garden
A few kilometers after Villa del Balbianello there is another of the most famous villas (and gardens) of Lake Como, Villa Carlotta. The villa was built by the Clerici marquises at the beginning of the 700th century, but reached its peak with the next owner, Gian Battista Sommariva. It was he who transformed a part of the Italian garden into a romantic park and embellished the villa with Neoclassical works of great value by Canova, Thorvaldsen and Hayez. In the mid-800th century the villa was donated as a wedding gift to Charlotte of Prussia and George II and it was the latter who further enriched the garden with many botanical species. After the Second World War the villa was requisitioned by the Italian State and entrusted to the Villa Carlotta organization. The gardens of the villa are famous for magnificent and colorful flowering of rhododendrons and azaleas in spring (you can see over 150 varieties!), but the garden is beautiful all year round. At the entrance they will give you a map with the 2 routes that you can take to visit the immense botanical garden, depending on the time you have available: a short route of 45 'and a longer one of 90'. The ticket (12 euros) also includes a visit to the museum located inside the villa. TO this link you will find the opening hours and all prices.
Villa Carlotta – Via Regina, 2 – Tremezzina
Trekking on Monte San Primo and Sentiero del Viandante
Around Lake Como there are countless possibilities to make magnificent and super scenic treks. I recently made two really beautiful ones: the ascent to Monte San Primo (find info and description in the article "5 beautiful treks near Milan") and the Path of the Wayfarer (find all the info in this other article). These are 2 classic trails in the area, much loved by both locals and Milanese, but the opportunities for walking in the midst of nature in these parts are truly endless !!
Bellagio and Villa Melzi
Bellagio it is located at the point where the two branches of the lake meet to close what is called the “Larian triangle”, and is undoubtedly one of the most known and loved places on the lake, especially by foreigners. The prices here are quite high (over the years, in fact, they have been calibrated on a wealthy international clientele), but there is no doubt that it is definitely a place to visit when exploring the lake. The center of the village is made up of narrow cobbled streets full of boutiques, restaurants and clubs, and noteworthy are also Villa Serbelloni (now not open to visitors unless you stay in the luxurious Hotel Villa Serbelloni) and Gardens of Villa Melzi (magnificent English gardens, which are home to many species of trees and an orangery). The best time to visit it in my opinion is sunset (both in summer and winter): seeing the sun disappear while sipping a good glass of wine on the lakefront is an experience not to be missed!
Hotel on Lake Como: the Filario Hotel
Lake Como has always been synonymous with wonderful and exclusive structures and my advice is to treat yourself to some healthy luxury in one of these dream hotels if you decide to stop in the area for the weekend. I have been to Filario Hotel & Residence, a beautiful boutique hotel located in Lezzeno, a few kilometers outside Bellagio (very convenient to reach Monte San Primo and right in front of the Villa del Balbianello). The hotel has 13 rooms, all very bright, and two suites, the junior, of 65 m2, and the grand suite, of 95 m2. Both have a private pool and an infinity terrace overlooking the lake, plus all the comforts for an extra luxury stay of course. The property also has a private beach with nice canopies for sunbathing and one infinity pool really impressive. Let's say that, if you want to treat yourself to a weekend of relaxation, luxury and good food, this is the perfect place !! In reality there is not even an offer for those who want to enjoy the lake by doing sports. Aside from hiking, the hotel also offers kayaks and paddle boards. The catering is absolutely up to par and includes the Ristorante Filo, led by Chef Alessandro Parisi, for a gourmet offer (with a beautiful terrace) and the Beach Bar Yeast Side, where you can eat quick and tasty dishes or an excellent gourmet pizza (try the one with raw scampi and burrata .. simply to scream!).
Restaurants on Lake Como
In addition to the excellent Filo restaurant (inside the Filario Hotel, see paragraph above), there are several more "simple" restaurants worthy of note in the area, among which I want to point out:
- Trattoria La Moltrasina (Moltrasio): one of the most famous and popular taverns in the area. Rustic atmosphere and simple but well cooked food.
- Acquadulza (Tremezzina): very nice minimal-hipster place with a nice outdoor patio where you can eat first and second courses of fish or meat (excellent burgers) accompanied by craft beers.
- Plinio Restaurant Hotel (Lenno): I ate at this restaurant after visiting Villa del Balbianello and enjoyed it very much. The cuisine is from the lake (I finally ate the perch risotto for the first time!), Simple but well done and you eat right on the shore of the lake .. which never hurts!
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