Lake Como stretches for 50 kilometres in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy. Despite its glamorous reputation as a playground for the rich and powerful, Lake Como is a great destination for any budget that can be visited on custom tours of Italy. Lively and busy in summer, tranquil in winter, the area is a delight to explore all year round. Here are some suggestions on what to do on Lake Como.
Explore small towns and villages
Some of Italy’s prettiest towns cluster on the lake’s shores. Bellagio, the most famous of them all, offers superb views in any direction you look. It oozes affluence and elegance, with luxurious boutiques and chic restaurants lining its picturesque streets. Menaggio has a lovely mix of 19th century buildings in the Italian alpine style and medieval narrow alleys, picture-perfect squares, charming cafes and elegant lakeshore promenades. Tremezzo located on the sunniest, western, shore of the lake is famous for its opulent villas and gardens. The small village of Varenna retains the air of authenticity with its old fishermen’s houses and narrow alleyways.
See grand gardens
The are around Lake Como is famous for its spectacular gardens, many of which are open to the public. The 18th-century palace Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo boasts a fine art collection and the hillside gardens filled with colourful flowers. Villa Monastero in Varenna is surrounded by a magnificent park with citrus, cypresses and pine trees and has terraced gardens overflowing with Mediterranean and tropical plants. Villa Del Balbianello and Villa Melzi are two other splendid gardens well worth a visit.
Hop on a cable car
The Funicular Railway linking the town of Lake Como and Brunate was built in 1894 and is a great way to admire panoramic views in the area. As you slowly move along the railway, you can see the lake, pretty towns and the Alps on the horizon. In Brunate, you can have a drink and go for an easy walk to see the fifteenth century former convent Eremo di San Donato or nearby lighthouse.
Take a boat ride
Turing the lake on a boat is the best way to tour the area and take in the majestic panoramas. You can hop on and off the frequent boats and ferries to explore the towns on the shore and relax in one of the charming lakeside cafes.
Photos via Flickr by: Diana Rasador, Roman Harak, Pete Labrozzi.