Lake Como is an absolutely magical place. If you are wondering what to see and do in Milan, this large lake, located in the north of the city bordering Switzerland, is favored by the orography of the Alps, which make it an unparalleled landscape. It is shaped like an inverted "y" and is surrounded by mountains and forests that form a dreamlike postcard. So much so that the area has become a paradise for many artists and celebrities who have in their luxurious villas their resting place.
In addition to its natural charm, Lake Como is surrounded by small and pretty villages on its shores where tourists are already part of the daily life of the region. The excursion to the lake from Milan is undoubtedly one of the most popular that can be made, since it is only an hour's drive away. A good plan to visit them is to take the car and drive around the lake, but to know which are the key points where it is worth stopping you have to know them beforehand.
1. Visit the city of Como
The first stop to visit the lake must always be Como. This city that gives its name to the lake is located in the southernmost part and plays host to all those who visit it. It is worth spending a few hours to see the city before leaving and going deeper into the lake.
Among the highlights of Como is its Duomo. A three-nave basilica dating from 1740, it is one of the largest churches in northern Italy. The same square where it is located is also one of its attractions as it is surrounded by palaces and beautiful buildings.
In the same city there are also sections of its ancient medieval wall of the twelfth century. But in my opinion the best that Como offers are its views of the lake. But to enjoy them we must climb the funicular that leaves from the Gasperi square that takes us to the town of Brunate located on the mountain next to the city.
From here the views of Lake Como are spectacular and a perfect starting point for our tour. To know which is the best way to get to Como from Milan I leave you this link.
2. Take a boat or the car to the village of Bellagio
The town of Bellagio is located right in the center of the lake, on the point that divides it in three. Its privileged location made it one of the strategic points of the area and one of the most important. This is reflected in the remains of the fortresses and fortifications that still remain. The town is a marvel. Full of colorful houses on its steep cobblestone streets, Bellagio enjoys one of the best views of the entire lake.
To reach Bellagio from Como there are two options. Either by boat from the port of the city of Como or take the car and drive along the road along the lake.
It takes about 50 minutes to cover the 30 kilometers that separate Bellagio from Como, but the views you will see are spectacular. Taking into account that from Bellagio you will probably take the boat to go to other towns, I recommend you to go by car.
3. Possibly the most beautiful village on lake Di Como: Varenna
All the villages on the shores of Lake Como are extraordinarily beautiful. There is a kind of competition to determine which is the most beautiful village and here Varenna has the advantage.
Many, including myself, point to this small village as the most beautiful on Lake Como. There is no shortage of arguments.
Varenna is a fishing village of less than 1000 inhabitants that has conquered all who visit it thanks to its environment, its colorful houses, its views and elements such as its two churches whose bell towers greatly embellish the views along the lake.
In the same village you can also enjoy several restaurants and bars with terraces that, for the average of what is in Lake Como, can be considered economical.
The most efficient and advisable way to reach Varenna is to take a boat from Bellagio.
4. Panoramic views from Vezio Castle
The castle di Vezio is located next to the village of Varenna but it is worth commenting separately. And is that this place has absolutely privileged views of Lake Di Como.
The castle of medieval origin was built to defend and control some of the villages of the lake and for this it has a high rectangular tower. From this tower you can enjoy what are surely the best panoramic views of the lake thanks to its strategic position.
The castle is only open to the public from March to October and visiting it is very economical. The entrance fee is only 4 euros. Although architecturally not particularly striking, in addition to its views it has several qualities.
For example in its tower there is a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Lariosaurus, a marine reptile that was discovered in the lake near the location of the castle. There is also a show of birds of prey which for many is the main attraction of the place, along with its views of course. To access the castle we have to climb a small path that leaves from Varenna.
5. Get to know the stately village of Menaggio
On the opposite shore to Varenna is the town of Menaggio. This is one of the busiest towns in the area and one of the most touristic. There are countless hotels, hostels, campsites and tourist apartments that make it the ideal place if you want to spend a few days on Lake Como. Not for being more touristy is less beautiful.
Menaggio is a very stately village with several of the most spectacular villas and buildings in the area. The best thing is the walk along the lake from which to enjoy the views.
On clear days we can see the village of Varenna on the other shore. Another attraction of Menaggio is its small center full of stores, restaurants and good atmosphere.
6. The villas of Cernobbio
Cernobbio is a town of just over 7000 inhabitants located next to the city of Como and boasts some of the most spectacular villas in all of Lake Como.
These villas are the symbol of the region, spectacular mansions and palaces with gardens worthy of a royal palace. And the most outstanding ones are mainly located in Cernobbio.
The most beautiful and important are Villa Erba, a 19th century palace that today serves as a conference center, Villa Pizzo, which has a magnificent display of 17th century frescoes, and Villa D'Este. The latter is the most famous as it is a 5-star hotel that has been recognized as the best hotel in the world and is as beautiful as it is prohibitively expensive.
From the village there are also some very nice hiking trails for hikers but with a drop of more than 1000 meters. But in exchange you will have incredible views.
7. The hidden jewel of Lake Como: Nesso
It is difficult to know all the villages of Lake Como because they are so many and so beautiful. That's why some of them are always left behind. One of those that are often forgotten is the small town of Nesso. Which is a mistake. The charm of this small town is considerable and often goes unnoticed.
Its main attraction is its small medieval bridge, the Ponte della Civera, which crosses the Orrido di Nesso. A very narrow canyon where two streams converge and flow into the lake with a beautiful waterfall. In addition to this point, it is worth strolling through its streets, admiring the facades of its houses and enjoying the view of the lake. It is in its own right the hidden gem of Lake Como.
8. Ossuccio and Comacina Island
The only island in Lake Di Como is Comacina Island off the coast of the village of Ossuccio. You can visit it starting from this village and thus get to know the mysteries and places related to this list.
In 1170 the famous pirate Barbarossa invaded the island and later the bishop of Como cursed the island saying that anyone who set foot on it would suffer a violent death. After this the island was abandoned fearing this curse and leaving its buildings abandoned.
Today it can be visited without fear of any curse by taking a boat from Ossuccio. On the island are preserved the ruins of its castle and the basilica of Santa Eufemia and other buildings that were part of a project to re-inhabit the island.
The village of Ossuccio is also worth a visit, especially the Sacro Monte della Beata Vergine del Soccorso. A sanctuary that, together with the 9 chapels along its access route, was declared a Unesco world heritage site.
9. Feel like James Bond at Villa Balbianello
I have already pointed out that the Villas are the symbol of Lake Como. For in the same village of Ossuccio at the tip of a small peninsula is a movie villa.
The Villa Balbianello is a place of cinema among other things because it has been filmed scenes of movies like James Bond or Star Wars. The visit to the villa is a bit expensive, the entrance fee is about 20 euros, but it is really worth it.
Villa Balbianello is made up of two buildings connected by secret passages. The first building is a loggia where the tomb of Guido Monzini, a famous explorer who was one of the last owners of the villa, is located. The second part is the house built on the cliff from an ancient monastery of which the facade and its two small bell towers are preserved.
But what really captures the visitor is its beautiful and well-kept garden with perfect views of the lake.
10. You can't miss Tremezzo
Last but not least on this list is the beautiful town of Tremezzo. It is situated at the foot of Mount Tremezzo, from which it takes its name, and is well connected to towns such as Varenna, Menaggio and Bellagio.
Of this village it is worth mentioning the Villa Carlotta, although it is a little far from the village. One of the most outstanding villas of Lake Di Como as its gardens are formed by galleries full of flowers and very striking decorative elements.
As far as the town is concerned, what is most striking is the Tremezzo hotel. This hotel is in the largest and most spectacular building in town and is famous for its floating pools on the lake itself. The town is full of colorful streets and green squares that can be explored on foot or by making use of the tourist trains that run through the streets.