Are You Planning a Trip to Lago di Como – Italy’s Most Famous Lake?
Hello! Here you will find my ultimate travel guide for Lake Como. Use it to make your travel planning easy, logical, and enjoyable. It will also help you experience this beautiful corner of Italy in the most authentic way.
The information is organised under several topics, for example:
- Is Lake Como worth a visit?
- How to reach Italy’s most famous lake?
- Which are the best lakefront towns, the best things to do here, and the most popular guided tours to take?
There is also a section on where to stay around Lago di Como, sample itineraries for one, two, and three days, and maps to help you orient yourself. Right at the end, you will also find the best guidebooks for Lake Como and my top 5 tips for visiting Italy’s most famous lake. It’s all based on my visits to the lake over the last five years.
You can easily scroll up and down to focus just on the type of travel details about Lago di Como that you need.
Have a look and enjoy your Lake Como trip!
The information in this travel guide reflects my first-hand experience. It may contain affiliate links and if you click and make a purchase through them, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. The ads on this page help me keep this blog free and produce new travel content for you to enjoy. Full details in my Disclosure.
WHERE IS LAKE COMO?
Lago di Como is in the north of Italy and it’s part of the Northern Italian region of Lombardy. The southern shores of the lake are only about 40 km away from Milan – Italy’s second-largest city.
Shaped like an upturned letter Y, Lake Como has three thin branches which meet at Punta Spartivento. This beautiful promontory is next door to the famous town of Bellagio and opens fantastic views over the lake.
The three lake branches are named after their main lakefront towns. As such, the northern branch of Lake Como is known as Colico, the eastern as Lecco, and the western one as Como.
The mountainous area locked between the Lecco and the Como branches of the lake is called the Triangolo Lariano – the Larian Triangle (from Lake Como’s ancient name – Lario). Punta Spartivento is right at the tip of this natural triangle.
Lake Como is often affectionately called Il Uomo – or The Man – by the locals. Its outline does in fact look a bit like a man taking a large step. One of his feet rests on the town of Lecco and the other – on the town of Como.
IS LAKE COMO WORTH A VISIT?
Yes, by all means, Lake Como is worth a visit when you are in Italy. With its pretty towns, historic landmarks, and beautiful natural settings, the lake lives up to the hype.
At the same time, this corner of Italy is rich in hidden gems – from ancient Roman roads and medieval hamlets to cute lidos, splendid botanical gardens, and viewpoints offering fantastic panoramic views.
The high season arrives with thousands of shrubs in bloom – from rose bushes to rhododendrons. In winter, expect festive markets, illuminations, and ice rinks. Worldwide famous, Italy’s Lake Como is one of those destinations that need to be experienced at least once in a lifetime.
BEST AIRPORTS FOR LAKE COMO
The three most convenient airports for Lago di Como are Milan Malpensa Airport, Milan Linate Airport, and Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport.
For details about how to reach the lake from them, have a look at this exhaustive blog post:
HOW TO GET TO LAKE COMO?
Lake Como is very easy to get to from Milan and anywhere else in Italy. The best way to do it is by train and by car. Once at the lake, you can explore it by several types of transport with buses and ferries providing easy access to the lakefront towns.
For exhaustive details about reaching Lake Como and travelling around it by car, train, bus, ferry, and even seaplane, have a look at these blog posts:
BEST TIME TO VISIT LAKE COMO
Lake Como has a lot to offer in all seasons. Summer is the busiest time of the year here. This is when hundreds of thousands of people flock to the lake to enjoy day trips and longer holidays on its shores. On summer weekends, half of Milan decamps to Lake Como, too as many of the Milanesi have villas here or simply come to hike, relax, and enjoy the stunning natural setting.
If you are planning to visit Lake Como in the summer expect large crowds of both Italians and people from all over the world. On the plus side, however, all sights – from historic villas to quirky museums – are open, lots of fun events take place, and there’s nothing like taking a cooling plunge in the water, ideally in an outdoor swimming pool floating on the lake.
In winter, the lake is very peaceful and offers great opportunities to experience its heritage and nature more authentically. While some of the historic villas and several hotels either close for the low season or operate with greatly reduced facilities, there is still plenty to do around Lake Como during the cold months. Christmas is a particular highlight with festive illuminations, markets, and events. Find out more in this blog post:
To best experience what Lake Como has to offer, try to come here during the shoulder seasons. Late March to May and then late September to October are the best periods of the year to visit. Crowds are just starting to form in spring and already dispersing in autumn. The lakefront towns are full of life. From April onwards, gorgeous rhododendrons, camellias, and roses bloom in their thousands in exquisite botanical gardens and private courtyards.
The temperatures are decidedly pleasant and vary between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius. So, you can comfortably sightsee and hike around without being scorched to a crisp by the sun. The only downside to the shoulder seasons, however, is the bigger chance of rain! April and May can have respectively up to 10 and 12 rainy days while September and October usually have around eight rainy days each.
WHERE TO STAY AT LAKE COMO?
There is a huge selection of places to stay at Lake Como in any season.
You can choose from lavish historic villas that nowadays function as exclusive hotels. You can opt for a cosy B&B in the centre of a lakefront town. Or you may prefer a self-catering accommodation to enjoy a home-from-home experience.
If you are arriving by car, then make sure that your accommodation also offers parking spaces or can recommend a nearby car park. Especially, if you are planning to stay outside of the larger lakefront towns like Como and Lecco. Parking spaces in the smaller lake towns may be difficult to come across and are usually taken by the locals.
If you are relying on public transport and your accommodation doesn’t provide transfers, then make sure that you have easy access to the nearest bus stop or ferry port. You don’t want to have to walk for miles luggage in hand or depend on taxis every time you want to go to the town centre.
Here are some suggestions for places to stay at Lake Como. All come highly recommended:
Alternatively, use this map to get a quick visual idea of the available accommodation options around Lake Como, Italy. You can zoom in and out, type in your specific travel dates, and then click on the different price points for detailed information about the hotel you want to know more about.
In addition, have a look at this blog post which explains the different types of accommodation you can book in Italy. It will give you plenty of ideas to look into for the best and quirkiest places to experience here:
BEST TOWNS ON LAKE COMO
There are many beautiful towns and picturesque hamlets dotting the shores of Italy’s most famous lake. The most popular among them are Bellagio, Como, and Varenna. Yet, many more deserve a visit on account of their natural setting, panoramic views, and a cluster of must-see local sights.
This blog post will show you exactly what to expect:
HOW LONG TO SPEND AT LAKE COMO
Lake Como has a lot to offer no matter your style of travel. You may be after a peaceful and relaxing holiday with stunning lake views, a pampering experience with spa procedures and some pool lounging, an active nature break with lots of hiking, or an unforgettable day trip. Or you may just want to be able to say that you’ve been to Lake Como and understand what all the fuss is about. Any reason to visit is valid!
So, how long to spend here depends entirely on you and on the amount of time you have at your disposal.
Let’s say that this will be your first visit to the lake and you just want to test the waters. Then you can easily take a self-organised or guided day trip from Milan to Lake Como and see one or a few of the most popular lakefront towns like Como, Varenna, and Bellagio. You can also book a guided day trip around the lake taking you to some of its best sights (this one comes highly recommended).
Alternatively, you can pencil in a weekend break or an even longer stay at Lake Como. It’s a big place that easily caters to all types of travellers.
ITINERARIES FOR LAKE COMO FOR 1, 2, AND 3 DAYS
There are many ways to organise your visit to Lake Como, so take the following sample itineraries as simple suggestions:
1 Day at Lake Como – this blog post gives you five itineraries for day trips to the lake. Take your pick!
2 Days at Lake Como – Day 1: Como – Nesso – Bellagio, Day 2: Varenna and Villa Monastero – Menaggio and Villa Carlotta or Villa del Balbianello
3 Days at Lake Como – Day 1: Lecco – Mandello del Lario – Bellano Day 2: Varenna and Villa Monastero – Menaggio and Villa Carlotta or Villa del Balbianello Day 3: Argegno and Pigra – Cernobbio – Como
GUIDED TOURS OF LAKE COMO
Guided tours are a great way to visit Italy’s Lake Como if you enjoy a more structured approach to travel and would like to see the maximum in a short amount of time. Professional guides will introduce you to the history and nature of this corner of Italy and will show you hidden gems that are not always easy to discover by yourself.
Often, the price of an organised tour may exceed what you would pay if you book it all by yourself. Still, it is very reasonable if you want to have it all done for you and if you enjoy a knowledgeable service and a personal approach.
As such, this guided day trip from Milan to Lake Como comes highly recommended. It takes you to several of the prettiest corners around the lake. It also combines travel by coach and boat for the best views and the maximum range of experiences.
You can also travel to the town of Como by either car or train and then join a guided trip from there. This one packs a lot of activities in a day and takes you to the two most popular lakefront towns – Bellagio and Varenna.
While you can also do it all by yourself using the tips shared on this page and have a wonderful time, sometimes, it pays to be shown around. Especially, if it’s your first visit to Lake Como, if you have only a short amount of time, or if you find it overwhelming to find your way around in a country where you don’t speak the language.
WHAT TO PACK FOR A VISIT TO LAKE COMO
Lake Como has its own microclimate with moderate temperatures which vacillate around 26 degrees Celsius in summer and drop to around 4 to 8 degrees Celsius in winter. May and June are the wettest months in terms of rainfall and snow days in winter are very rare. Nights can get chilly in any season.
As such, no matter when you choose to visit, make sure that you pack plenty of layers. A light jacket or a cosy jersey may come in very handy during the high season. I am speaking as someone who got caught in a cold downpour in Varenna in July without a jacket because I had wanted to pack light and had assumed that summer is always warm in Italy. At the same time, don’t forget your sun cream, a hat/sunglasses, and a swimming costume.
In winter, you will want to be able to peel off a layer or two on one of those not-rare days when the sun shines bright at lunchtime and it feels like it’s spring already. At the same time, don’t forget your hat, scarf, and gloves as wrapping up warm in the evenings feels so nice.
Bringing my padded hat with ear flaps (similar to this one) was my best packing decision during my last visit to Lake Como over ten days this past Christmas. It kept me really cosy during festive market explorations and hiking around.
Always pack a pair of good walking shoes for Lake Como. Plus, hiking shoes/boots are a must when you go exploring in nature. With many of the towns and villages around the lake having steep cobbled alleys and often flights of steps instead of streets altogether, your ankles need to be well supported at all times.
Unless you are planning to visit only the towns with historic centres on flat ground (such as Como, Lecco, Cernobbio, and Menaggio), make sure that you bring an appropriate pair of shoes to allow you to safely navigate uneven surfaces and steep slopes.
BEST THINGS TO DO IN LAKE COMO
There are many amazing and exciting things to do in Lake Como. I have described them in some detail in this blog post:
Have a look at it for a useful overview of the different activities to enjoy around the lake. Otherwise, here is a handy shortlist:
Sightseeing – the shores of the lake are studded with historic villas, centuries-old churches, and excellent museums. The most well-known are the Duomo, the Volta Temple, the Civic Art Gallery, and the Silk Museum in Como, Villa del Balbianello near Lenno, Villa Monastero next door to Varenna, Villa Melzi in Bellagio, the Moto Guzzi Motorcycle Museum in Mandello del Lario, and so many others.
Hiking and Nature Exploring – it is so very easy to get close to nature around Lake Como. Hiking paths (some of which follow ancient Roman roads) crisscross the steep slopes and link the small towns and villages here. Powerful waterfalls rumble through vertiginous gorges and flow into the lake. Don’t miss Orrido di Nesso and Orrido di Bellano. You don’t even need to break a sweat to get out and about in nature here. A number of funiculars and cable cars offer the chance to enjoy sprawling lake views from the comfort of a smoothly ascending cabin.
Shopping – Lake Como is a great place to indulge in some shopping no matter if you are after the latest fashions of the best Italian brands or artisan items by local craftsmen. The area is also famous for its locally designed silk accessories. Silk has been produced around the lake for centuries and nowadays you can get beautiful silk bags, scarves, and ties for yourself and your loved ones. Don’t miss the local brand Acqua del Lario which makes perfumes, candles, and home scents inspired by the towns and vistas of Lake Como.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT LAKE COMO AND LOMBARDY
If you are considering a trip to Lake Como in particular and the Northern Italian region of Lombardy in general, you may want to also have a look at the following categories and posts on my blog:
- Lake Como – a full list of all my blog posts about Italy’s most famous lake
- Lombardy – a full list of all my blog posts about this must-see region in Italy
- 25 Best Things to Do in Lake Como, Italy
- 18 Best Towns to Visit on Lago di Como – Italy’s Most Famous Lake
- Lake Como in Winter – 10 Reasons to Visit Italy’s Most Famous Lake in the Off-Season
- 10 Reasons to Visit the Region of Lombardy in Italy
- 15 Must-See Cities and Towns in Lombardy, Italy
They are based on my first-hand experience of visiting these destinations in Italy and provide lots of practical information to help you plan your travels.
In addition, for the most up-to-date information about events and local sights, keep an eye on the official websites of Milan, the Region of Lombardy, and the major towns on Lake Como, for example, Como, Bellagio, Varenna, Lecco, and so on.
Finally, if you want to invest in a good guidebook, this one covers Lombardy, Milan, and the Italian lakes. This makes it very handy to carry around with you during your travels.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ITALY
I have been blogging about travelling to and within Italy for nine years now providing detailed and first-hand tried and tested information about the best things to do in this beautiful country. It’s all based on my close to twenty years of visiting Italy solo and with my family. Six of these years, we actually spent living in Vicenza in the north of the country.
If you are after in-depth researched and illustrated with dozens of original photos articles about Italy, have a look at the following categories and blog posts:
- Italy – a full list of all my blog posts about Italy
- 10 Reasons to Visit Northern Italy
- Veneto, Trentino, Emilia Romagna, Umbria – full lists of all my blog posts about these Italian regions
- Venice, Padua, Lake Garda, Milan – full lists of all my blog posts about these must-see destinations in Italy.
In addition, right at the end of this page, you will find a list with links to some of my most popular blog posts about many beautiful and exciting cities, towns, and regions to visit in Italy. So, just scroll down and then click on the ones you want to know more about.
MY TOP 5 TIPS FOR LAKE COMO
- Lake Como has a different appeal in every season. If you can, visit it in both summer and winter to capture its magic fully.
- Explore Lake Como’s places of natural beauty. Visiting the Orrido di Nesso and the Orrido di Bellano is a great start.
- Shop in Lake Como’s craft workshops and historic shops. From silk weaving to woodturning and perfume-making, the choice of artisan products here is excellent.
- Visit Lake Como’s historic sights. Expect centuries-old churches with precious art, elegant villas, and the chance to get close to some of Italy’s and Europe’s most interesting historic personalities.
- Taste Lake Como’s authentic food. From missultin and polenta uncia to miascia and masigott, your taste buds will be spoilt for choice.
BEST TRAVEL GUIDES FOR LAKE COMO
THANK YOU FOR READING!
MORE HELPFUL ITALY INFO FOR YOU
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