Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy, but possibly its most beautiful and undoubtedly its most exclusive. Hitting the headlines in recent years as the home of George Clooney, the actor is merely the latest in a long line of celebrity residents in this enviable spot—luxury villas have dotted its picturesque shores since the days of Ancient Rome. Shaped like a wishbone, Lake Como is nestled in the foothills of the Alps and combines stunning scenery with colorful lakeside towns and quaint villages. Find out what to see in Lake Como and the best activities if you want to visit Lake Como for a day.
Bellagio and the “golden triangle”
The so-called golden triangle of the three towns of Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio makes a great destination for a day tour of Lake Como. Bellagio is Lake Como’s most beautiful town, but can be popular—an early start will give you the chance to wander its Instagrammable cobbled streets without the crowds. Shop in the many boutiques, stroll through the gardens of the Villa Melzi, and visit the Basilica di San Giacomo. Bellagio is the perfect place for an outdoor lunch at a lakeside restaurant. This area is home to Lake Como’s most exclusive villas, which are best appreciated from the water and can be toured by private boat.
From Bellagio move on to Varenna, which is smaller but no less pretty. Its harbor is lined with cafés and gelato shops, so stop off before climbing up to the top of the town for breathtaking views or even head to the tiny strip of beach for a dip in the lake. Finally, Menaggio’s elegant lakefront is one of the longest in Lake Como—round off your day with an aperitivo as the sun sets.
The city of Como is the largest settlement on the lake and is located at the southern tip. Easily accessible from Milan, it is a lovely mid-sized Italian town and makes a great destination for admiring the Lake Como scenery and soaking up lakeside life.
Como’s main sight is its 14th-century Gothic cathedral, with a soaring façade that is almost like Milan’s much bigger Duomo in miniature. A scenic funicular railway rolls its way up to offer stunning views across the southern part of the lake. After lunch, visit the museum that traces the history of Como’s silk industry and offers luxurious souvenirs in its gift shop, followed by a spot of shopping along Como’s elegant streets or a drink on its waterfront promenade.
Activities in Lake Como
There is no better way to see Lake Como than from the water. Although the lake is crisscrossed by a network of ferries, having your own boat will allow you to stop off in hidden corners you may not otherwise be able to reach. Whatever your preferred craft, there is something to suit everyone, from a private yacht to a glamorous classic wooden launch.
Lake Como offers a feast for foodies and a number of renowned fine dining restaurants. Many of these focus on showcasing local products, such as perch freshly caught in the lake and turned into a delicious risotto. The one Michelin-starred I Tigli in Theoria restaurant in Como is housed in a renovated 15th- century palazzo and bases its menu on oysters and other seafood specialties. The Al Lago restaurant in the Il Sereno Hotel in Torno boasts a Michelin star to match its panoramic terrace that allows you to soak up the unique scenery as you dine.
Finally, after all that food, why not indulge in some leisurely exercise with an electric bike tour that lets the battery take the strain while you enjoy the view? These fantastic bikes offer a new and exciting way to discover Lake Como’s scenery as expert guides take you along hidden roads and to local spots most tourists don’t get to see. Combine your e-bike tour with a food and wine tasting to learn about the art of winemaking in the lake region.