I believe that change, while inevitable, is necessary. When travelling, it’s common to see beaches and picturesque views of mountains, which is why we venture to Lake Como, whose refreshing landscape and scenic lakeside spots and charming country houses provide us a change of pace and a renewed sense of adventure.
Found in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, Lake Como is a 146-square kilometer lake that runs through the town of Colico up to the towns of Como and Lecco. It’s considered the largest of its kind in the country as well as the deepest in Europe. Often called Lario in Italian, Lake Como is a perfect tourist spot for adventure seekers that want time to relax and unwind by a gorgeous lake.
There are many historical landmarks and scenery strewn all over the region, but tourism in Lake Como is normally centered around municipalities Menaggio, Bellagio, and Varenna. First on the itinerary is Isla Comacino, Lake Como’s lone island. It lies across the small towns of Tremezzina and Argegno and takes visitors through its cursed history. Local stories dictate that the former Bishop of Como cursed the island in 1175 following the land’s destructive invasion caused by Romans and Lombards. Isla Comacina was uninhabited until 1948 when three business partners decided to build a locanda on the island. The project was impeded when two of the business partners suddenly died in separate incidents, which prompted the remaining partner to perform an exorcism of fire.
Since then, Locanda Dell’Isola Comacina has only continued to prosper. To this day it remains the only inn and restaurant on the island. Moreover, the exorcism of fire is still being practiced and guests are encouraged to participate. Aside from the resort, visitors can also have fun touring the island’s different landmarks like the three artist houses commissioned by architect Pietro Lingeri, the churches of San Giovanni and Santa Maria Maddalena, and the overlooking bar of La Botte. The island is accessible by boat located in the towns of Menaggio, Tremezzina, and Argegno.
After a tour of Isla Comacina, start again in the city of Menaggio. Once a walled Roman settlement, Menaggio is an antiquated town divided into three wards named the Loveno, Croce, and Nobiallo. The main attraction is Piazza Garibaldi and its scenic lake promenade, complete with quaint shops, cafes, and boat rentals. Other notable landmarks include Villa Carlotta and the churches of Santa Maria and San Carlo.
Located along the street of Via Calvi, the Church of Santa Maria is a nineteenth-century structure rebuilt in the year 1885. The facade is adorned with a marble tombstone of Lucio Minicio Exorato and the town’s coat of arms. Meanwhile, the church’s interior features a medieval-style holy water basin, a marble altar, and numerous paintings that date back to the 17th century. The Church of San carlo, on the other hand, was built in 1614 and its most distinct feature is the belfry constructed in a Spanish style of architecture as well as the tombs of Cinzio Calvi and his wife.
Villa Carlotta was established in the 17th century as a residential mansion for the Clerici family. While not directly located in Menaggio, it’s a must-visit for its huge collection of masterpieces made by Francesco Hayez, Antonio Canova, and Bertel Thorvaldsen as well as numerous displays of statues, neoclassical furniture, and other paintings. The 17-acre land also boasts of its vast botanical garden complete with walking paths lined with palm trees, azaleas, and rhododendrons and an overlooking view of Lake Como and its surrounding cities.
Another famous city is Bellagio, which is a thirty-minute ferry ride away. Situated in the middle of the lake, Bellagio is famous for landmarks like the Villa Melzi d’Eril and Villa Serbelloni to name a few.
Constructed between the years 1808 until 1815, Villa Melzi d’Eril is a must-visit for first time travelers of the city. Originally built to serve as former vice president Francesco Melzi d’Eril’s summer country house, the house was designed by Swiss architect Giocondo Albertolli. While the villa itself is not open for public viewing, visitors can still enjoy a leisurely stroll along the winding footpaths of the villa’s vast English garden styled by Luigi Villoresi and Luigi Canonica.
Villa Serbelloni, on the other hand, is a regal 15th century structure constructed for Alessandro Serbelloni that also boasts of its fifty-acre garden. Other attractions in the area include the five-star Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, the Capuchin monastery and the Sfondrati family’s country house.
The Villas of Varenna and Como
Take another thirty-minute ferry ride from the town of Bellagio to the quaint village of Varenna. Founded as a small fishing settlement in 769, Varenna takes tourists back in time with its charming and well-preserved medieval area. Other places of interest include the Old Town and Villa Monastero, which was initially built to serve a female Cistercian convent in the 12th century. Villa Monastero eventually became a public landmark when a museum was established within its complex. Soon, it turned into a top tourist attraction with the opening of its vast garden and convention center.
A few meters away from Villa Monastero is the famous Piazza San Giorgio and its adjacent Church of San Giorgio. Erected during the 14th century in a mixed Romanesque and Gothic style, the Church of San Giorgio’s most distinct feature is its marble pavement and several collections of paintings dating way back to the 15th and 16th century. The piazza, on the other hand, offers tourists a chance to interact with the locals as they visit the plaza’s numerous restaurants, cafes, bars, and boutiques.
For the insta-savvy, Varenna presents a multitude of options with places like the cobblestoned alley of Contrada dei Sarti, the overlooking view of Passeggiata degli innamorati or the Lover’s Walk, the lake esplanade of Riva Grande, and the 10th century Church of San Giovanni Battista, considered the oldest church in Lake Como.
Wind down and end your trip in the town of Como. Hailed as the third most visited town in the Lombardy region, Como tours start at Piazza Cavour, the town’s main plaza that offers a view of the lake. Take a seat at any of the various cafes sipping on a hot cup of coffee and a hot Italian meal. Landmarks near Cavour Square include Villa Olmo, a neoclassical mansion constructed alongside the lake. Designed by Swiss architect Simone Cantoni, it once served as the summer house of the noble Odescalchi Family. It has since been open to the public during conventions and exhibitions. Moreover, adjacent to the villa is the famous Lido Villa Olmo, a public beach resort complete with pink umbrellas, reclining beds, and chairs, as well as swimming facilities, boat rentals, and fully-equipped bars perfect for a night out.
Another worthy attraction in Como is Villa Geno. The neoclassical house is known as a popular wedding venue due to its picturesque landscape along Lake Como. Villa Geno also has access to Como Fountain, famous for its water jets that can reach thirty-meters high. Visitors can have a fun day sunbathing in an adjacent lido, as well as enjoy a drink at the resort’s many bars and restaurants.
A Lakeside Sojourn
Never fear change. Continue to push your limits and be the best you can possibly be. But always remember to take your time and relish every moment. Have a fun lakeside adventure in Italy’s Lake Como.