Now I’m back from Visiting Lake Como in northern Italy, I thought I’d write a summary post on my time there and why it’s such a great place to visit. I will be posting a lot more in depth posts with useful information I picked up along the way, but this is for anyone that might be interested in knowing a bit more about this beautiful area set in the backdrop of the Swiss Alps.
In case you can’t tell from the title, I absolutely loved Lake Como and it very much exceeded even my expectations. For a place that I’d only previously known as that really pretty lake in Casino Royale, I’ve now discovered that it’s so much more, and probably one of the most stunning and memorable places I’ve ever been to. There is so much to do, it’s a great example of Italian culture, the food is of course incredible, and it’s a place that has something to offer anyone. So in this post I wanted to share my top reasons why you should travel to Lake Como.
1 – It’s incredibly beautiful
This was the original reason I wanted to visit Lake Como. I’d seen how beautiful it looked in films such as Casino Royale and Star Wars (location pictured above), and heard it had been the home of choice for people such as Richard Branson and George Clooney, so my expectations were already high… The reality however exceeded even these high expectations. The lake is set with a backdrop of mountains all around and with views of the Alps to the North. This means you’ll have stunning views wherever you are around the lake, not to mention and at the end of the day the light filters through the mountains and makes it absolutely spectacular.
The weather is also often lovely, for example we went in October and the temperature was mid twenties throughout and absolutely perfect. Alongside the natural beauty of the lake and mountains, you’ve also got the towns and villas dotted all around the lake. Some of these buildings really do take your breath away, and I’ve got to say it’s one of the most peaceful and romantic places I’ve ever been. The beauty of Lake Como is something that really needs to be experienced, and is probably better represented by pictures than description.
2 – There’s so much to see and do
I’m not sure how long people usually spend staying in Lake Como, or what they choose to do. Perhaps people just choose to relax in the Italian sunshine and do the occasional sightseeing. We wanted to do and see as much as possible however, treating the trip as a mini ‘travel’ style break, and luckily there was plenty to do and see. Below are just some of the things you can do around Lake Como:
– Take the ferry to visit some of the lovely towns around the centre of the lake, such as Bellagio, Varenna, Cadenabbia, Lenno and Menaggio.
– Do one of the many hikes around the lake and surrounding areas. These range from a couple of hours, to full day and there are ALOT to choose from (the picture above was taken at the early stages of one of our hikes that began visiting San Martino, this viewpoint from San Martino only takes an hour or so to walk up)
– Take a day trip to visit Milan
– Visit the town of Como and take the trip up to the peak overlooking this lovely town
– Go across to the town Lugano in Switzerland which is set around a lake also.
– Visit a different part of Switzerland and take the Bernina Express mountain train through the Swiss Alps to and from the world famous ski resort St Moritz
– Do an Italian cooking class
– Visit some of the famous villas around the lake such as the Villa del Balbianello, and the Villa Carlotta. The aforementioned was used in the filming of Casino Royale and for a wedding in Star Wars.
– Rent a boat to take out on the lake
– Rent bicycles and cycle around your local area
– Rent scooters
– Or just relax at a cafe in the Italian sun with an italian coffee or Peroni
3 – Italian Culture
If you’re looking for somewhere where you can be around locals and experience a slower pace of life Italian style, then Lake Como is a great place to do it! I’ll use the town of Menaggio, where we were based as an example to try and paint a picture for you. You stroll down cobbled streets centuries old, listening to the church bells ringing around you, all whilst gazing in the windows of local shops selling all sorts. You’ll then emerge out into the town square to join locals having their morning espresso in the sunshine and reading the paper. You’ll watch folks walking their dogs along the lakeside promenade and hear people conversing in beautiful Italian. It really is good for the soul.
Lake Como is a great way to experience Italian culture away from the hustle and bustle and be amongst Italians going about their day to day lives. There are some towns that will be more catered to tourists (such as Bellagio), but I found these to be in the minority. Mostly the places around the lakes are small market towns on the water, with cafes and local shops. All provide their own unique views of the lake from their particular spot around it.
4 – Food and Drink
I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that doesn’t like Italian food, and most of these people haven’t even been to Italy. So all that pasta, pizza and ice cream you love so much in your own country, only gets better when you eat it in Italy itself! I lost count of the amount of gelato (ice cream) in every delicious flavour you could imagine. Not to mention the pizza, ravioli, pasta, spaghetti, etc etc. Yes obviously not everywhere will serve amazing food, however, you will experience some great Italian cuisine in your time staying around Lake Como if you just take the time to try different places. The restaurant above (which yes doesn’t include a picture of food but had to be included because of the incredible views), we only discovered as it was next to a mini golf, I would confidently say it might actually be the nicest mini golf restaurant in the world!
5 – You can pop over to Switzerland and the Alps
Lake Como is located between Milan and the Swiss border, and because of where the border is, from different sides of the Lake you can actually visit different areas in Switzerland. One of our favourite days, (although long as we made our own way having missed the organised tour, 3 buses, 2 trains, and a boat) was when we went up to St Moritz, the famous ski resort. The journey there alone was absolutely beautiful, but we then took the Bernina Express train back down to Italy via a completely different route. It passed lakes, glaciers, snowy peaks, and is an absolute must do if you’re in the area. I took SO many incredible pictures of this journey and it wasn’t just an Italy highlight, it was a highlight out of anywhere I’ve been. It’s definitely inspired me to visit Switzerland again, as the Alps make for some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.
I hope this has given you some information on Lake Como, and why it’s such a great place to visit. Something to note is that although you can travel there and stay on a budget, it can be an expensive place so that’s worth bearing in mind. If you have any questions about the Lake or my experience, I’ll be writing more posts on the blog shortly, or you can just pop a question in the comments.
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