On Lake Como between dreamy villas and villages to discover.
The landscape of Lake Como combines mountains, forests, flower-filled parks and clear waters overlooked by dreamy villas and villages to explore.
The best way to visit? By boat. A boat taxi system connects all the main resorts on the two branches of the lake.
In the centre is Bellagio, the pearl of the Lario, but it isbut one of the jewelson these shores.
In Lecco with Alessandro Manzoni
You will see the most beautiful panorama here, because Lecco is surrounded by mountains. Don't miss the Basilica di San Nicolò whose 96-metre-high bell tower can be seen from every point in the city and the Torre Viscontea, the only remnant of a vanished castle.
In Lecco you’ll find Villa Manzoni, which belonged to the writer's family until 1818 and houses the Museo Manzoniano. And speaking of Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed): from Lucia's house in Lecco, a route starts along Manzoni's places that reaches the castle of the Innominato above Vercurago.
The villas of Bellagio
Bellagio stands on the central promontory of the lake and has been considered a fascinating place for centuries by visitors from all countries. Here stand some of the most beautiful villas overlooking the water, such as Villa Serbelloni, which dates back to the 16th century and over time has welcomed guests such as Leonardo da Vinci or Queen Victoria. Also worth a visit is the neoclassical Villa Melzi d'Eril, whose park was much loved by the composer Franz Liszt.
Varenna Lovers' Promenade
In Varenna, you arrive by boat to take the Lovers' Promenade that connects the shore to the village. The centre is a labyrinth of stairs and alleyways offering romantic views of the lake. To visit: Villa Monastero and Vezio Castle, which dominates the village from above and offers an incomparable view. While you are in Varenna, make a trip to Bellano to visit the Orrido, a gorge you can walk through on footbridges suspended between water and rock.
In Colico among forts, abbeys and water sports
At the foot of Mount Legnone, the highest peak in the Lario region, lies the village of Colico, inhabited since pre-Roman times. Thanks to the gentle wind blowing on this part of the coast, it is the perfect place for water sports on the lake. But don't forget to visit the 17th century Fort of Fuentes built on the hill of Monteggiolo and, not far from the village, the 7th century Abbey of Piona. Here the monks prepare honey and liqueurs.
From Menaggio to the Isola Comacina
Menaggio's lakeside promenade overlooks a beautiful panorama of the opposite shore. A 20-minute walk from the centre takes you to Villa Mylius Vigoni while an uphill road leads to the fortified castle. Also stop at Villa Carlotta, which preserves and enhances a unique historical, artistic and botanical heritage. On the way down to Isola Comacina, stop at Lenno on the Gulf of Venus to visit Villadel Balbianello built in the 18th century on a promontory that once housed an older Franciscan monastery.
The best view of Isola Comacina you will get when walking around Santa Maria Maddalena di Ossuccio: it is the photo spot not to be missed for those who love to shoot. If you are in the area on 24 June, stop until it gets dark for the Lumaghitt, the fireworks on the water for St John's Day.
Como, Cernobbio and Laglio
One cannot say one has visited Lake Como without a tour of the town that gives it its name. Personalities such as the two Plinii in Roman times and Alessandro Volta, to whom the Volta Temple is dedicated, were born here. Worth visiting: the Duomo, the last Gothic cathedral in Lombardy, the Broletto and the city tower, the Basilica of Sant'Abbondio outside the ancient walls and the Ermo di San Donato founded by the Benedictines in the 15th century. Not to be missed are the Baradello Castle in a panoramic position and Villa Olmo, one of the most beautiful on the lake.
Cernobbio is home to other splendid villas: Villa Erba, Villa Bernasconi and Villa Pizzo. But the star of this side of the lake is Villa Oleandra, frequented by Hollywood celebrities since George Clooney bought it in 2002. The village that hosts it, called Laglio, is quite delightful. Many paths lead from here to the Colmegnone mountain. The most beautiful is the one that leads to the Buca dell'Orso Cave, a karstic cavity with an underground lake.
Villa Pliniana, a story of love and ghosts
Among the villas overlooking Lake Como, this is the one with the most fascinating history. If the walls of Villa Pliniana could talk, they would tell of the forbidden love between the Prince of Belgiojoso and Princess Anne-Marie Berthier, both already married. They escaped and found refuge on this shore where they lived in complete isolation for nine years. It is said that every night the two lovers would dive naked into the lake, wrapped only in a sheet. Those who saw them from the other side were convinced that the villa was inhabited by a ghost.