Part of the Italian Lake District, Lake Como has been a popular holiday destination since the time of the ancient Romans. Attracted by shimmering waters, majestic Alpine vistas and the magnificent luxury villas in Lake Como are an elite crowd, including everyone from famous celebrities to successful businessmen and women from around the globe.
Shaped like an inverted ‘Y’, Lake Como is set in the shadow of the Rhaetian Alps and hemmed in on both sides by steep wooded hills. At the southern end, the lake forks into two long ‘legs’ with the picturesque town of Bellagio situated on the promontory between them. Europe’s deepest lake at almost 1,350 feet, Lake Como is 47 km long north to south and can be easily reached by train from Milan in about 40 minutes. The southern end of the lake is relatively flat but the terrain becomes more mountainous as you head north towards the Alps. The winding shoreline is dotted with ancient villages as well as palatial villas backed by impressive gardens, a number of which are open to the public.
Car ferries and vaporetti (water buses) traverse the lake in season, making it easy to explore the main towns. At the southern end of the east branch of Lake Como is Como itself, a lively and pleasant town with an appealing historic centre, impressive Romanesque cathedral and several fascinating churches. Spectacular views stretching as far as Turin and Monviso can be admired from the top of the funicular and football fans can enjoy watching the Como football team play in the stadium near the lake. A major draw is beautiful Bellagio, a picturesque town where the lake’s two ‘legs’ converge, fringed by cypresses and with many charming cafes and restaurants along its shores. On the western shore, Menaggio is a good base for swimming, walking and cycling whilst Varenna on the eastern shore offers a peaceful and relaxed spot to unwind. The fjord-like eastern branch of Lecco is a modern industrial town based on the steelworks and silk industry and offers good opportunities for serious mountain walking.
The best way to explore Lake Como is by boat, sailing from east-to-west or drifting along one of the lake’s three forks.