As I stepped off the train at the Como station and breathed in the unpolluted mountain air, I immediately knew that Lake Como was my new favorite place in all of Italy. Located in Lombardia, one of Italy's northernmost regions, it borders Switzerland and is surrounded by the Alps mountains. The calm blue body of water is considered Europe's largest lake, stretching 30 miles from north to south and almost 1,350 feet deep. It is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of Milan.
By train, Como is about 45 minutes (25 miles) north of Milan's Central Station. I bought a one way ticket for around 3 euros on trenitalia.com (this is the official Italian train ticket website, so if you want to avoid buying last minute tickets at the train station, but them here and show the ticket code on your phone to the conductor on the train).
My mom and I took the boat from Como to Bellagio and Varenna. We used the public ferry service. This was the easiest way to get around, and it offered the best views along the way as shown in the photo above. The boats run a few times each hour during the day. The timetable can be found here.
There is also a funicular that takes you from Como up 500 meters in the mountains, into a village called Brunate. If you're looking for views of the entire lake area, this is your solution! A round trip costs only 5.50 euros.
Walk: The Greenway Del Lago Walk. Starting in the village of Colonno and ending in Griante, this trail includes the villages of the charming Sala Comacina, Ossuccio, Lenno and Mezzegra over the course of 10 and a half kilometers. The walk is suitable for all ages, as it only ascends about 100 meters. Walkers will be able to enjoy picturesque nature scenes the entire way.
Swim: Lido di Lenno, a man-made "beach" in the village of Lenno offers a child friendly place to swim during the day and a fun entertainment atmosphere at night. Although, it does cost money to rent a sunbed.
Shop: If you want to find more authentic, cheaper, and less touristy shops that sell local wines and cold pressed olive oils, wander uphill into the towns and away from the lake area.
See: Villa Carlotta and Edenic botanic garden in the town of Tremezzo. In the spring, there are 150 varieties of the azalea flower alone. The 300 year old villa has been partially converted into a museum open to the public. It features neoclassical and nude sculptures like those of Cupid and Pysche.
Things to Do
Eat and Drink
Lombardia is famous for polenta and risotto while the lake region is famous for fish. Be prepared for lots of fish risotto, shrimp, and seafood soup, cooked with Lake Como's freshly caught lavarello, a type of white fish. While in the area, don't forget to try the renown Italian olives as an apertivo in the early evening.
Wines from the region will often be from the nearby vineyards of Montevecchia and Domasa, so look for these on the labels. Franciacorta is the best sparkling white wine of the region, while Valtellina is the most popular red wine.
When to Go
While we went in August and enjoyed it, the area was crowded and I ended up with a sunburn on my cheeks. Perhaps September or October would have been the best time to go, when some of the tourists have left and it is not so humid (although I love the humidity). I am sure that with all the nature, the autumn is a beautiful mix of fiery reds and opulent golds. In the winter, many people come here for skiing in the nearby valleys, though most everything on the lake is closed.
We were able to see Lake Como in a day, so I cannot recommend any hotels. I do, however, think it was much more economical to see it in a day and avoid those George Clooney villa type prices.