How to get the most out of a holiday to Lake Como

Portia Jones

Portia Jones

Charming Lake Como* located in the Lombardy region of Italy* feels like the grandest of the Italian lakes with neoclassical villas, ritzy hotels and romantic lake-front restaurants.

Scenic Tremezzo
Scenic Tremezzo © LianeM - Adobe Stock Image

Here, Italian grandeur meets deep blue lake waters and spectacular alpine vistas with dreamy views best enjoyed while sipping a classic Aperol Spritz and feasting on Cicchetti (think Italian tapas).

There are also plenty of small towns and fishing villages to discover dotted around this inverted 'y-shaped' lake, with the city of Como, with its historic centre, and plentiful hotels, serving as an excellent base.

Getting to Lake Como: browse the latest offers on breaks with TUI Lakes & Mountains*, the exciting outdoor adventure arm of TUI* holidays.

Explore Lake Como's towns

Lake Como is best explored by boat, and both public ferries and private boats allow day trippers to visit the many lakefront towns and villages without the need for a car.

Dubbed "The Pearl of the Lake", Bellagio* is one of the most popular spots on Como's southern shores. With its narrow, cobbled streets packed with boujie wine bars and ochre-coloured boutique stores, it's easy to see why visitors flock here.

Bellagio on the shores of Lake Como, Italy
Bellagio on the shores of Lake Como, Italy © Michal Ludwiczak - Adobe Stock Image

Head to Salita Serbelloni, one of the most photographed passageways in Bellagio, for alfresco dining, shopping and views of the old town centre when you reach the top of the sloping medieval street.

Rainbow-coloured Varenna is a quieter option compared to busy Bellagio. Bask on the sun-baked shoreline with creamy gelato, wander the blooming botanical gardens at Villa Monastero and have a leisurely, lakeside stroll along the boardwalk.

Visit historic villas

Lake Como is home to some of the most opulent villas in the world where historic art, architecture and beautiful gardens blend seamlessly.

Villa del Balbianello is one of the more famous villas in the region as it served as a filming location in the Bond film Casino Royale (2006) and in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002).

View from the terrace at Villa del Balbianello
View from the terrace at Villa del Balbianello © E55evu - Adobe Stock Image

Over in Tremezzo*, the exquisite, 17th-century Villa Carlotta houses elegant botanical gardens and a museum, whose collection includes impressive works by Francesco Hayez, Antonio Canova and Bertel Thorvaldsen.

Created as the summer residence of Francesco Melzi d'Eril, neo-classical Villa Melzi in Bellagio is surrounded by statues and exotic foliage, including Japanese maple trees and cedar trees, alongside blooming azaleas and rhododendrons. Join one of the guided tours during the warmer months to get a peek inside the stately museum, chapel and gardens.

Get out on the lake

Glide along pristine waters on a SUP board and soak up those soaring mountain views. Several companies in Lake Como offer kayak, SUP and sailing rentals during the high season, so you can easily explore the shoreline at your own pace.

Group excursions are also available and can be booked through your hotel, tour company, or kayak and sailing clubs that operate out of the villages and towns.

Thrillseekers can also try out more exhilarating activities such as windsurfing, water skiing and wakeboarding and zip along a picturesque lake landscape.

Find culture in Lake Como's museums

Culture is at the heart of Lake Como and there's plenty to be found in its historic museums, villas and grand galleries.

The Museo della Seta Educational Silk Museum offers an insight into Como's long textile industry and skilfully displays the entrepreneurial tradition of silk-making and showcases heritage machines, looms and fabric samples.

Navigation instruments at Bellagio Museum
Navigation instruments at Bellagio Museum - photo courtesy of Bellagio Museo

For Renaissance-era art, head to the 17th-century Pinacoteca Civica which houses a vast collection of sculptures and paintings, including the 16th-century Portraits of Illustrious Men collection by Paolo Giovio.

Pretty Bellagio also has several small galleries and museums, including creative hub Tower of the Arts and the curious Museum of Navigation Instruments, packed with vintage telescopes, compasses and solar clocks.

Sip local tipples on a wine-tasting tour

Lake Como has a small number of verdant vineyards nearby, centred around the Montevecchia Hills and North Lake Como, where you can sample high-quality local vino in leafy surroundings.

In the Valtellina region, north of Lake Como, red wine made from the Nebbiolo grape, is produced, while a range of white, red and sparkling wines are produced in the south.

The best way to learn more about the region's winemaking traditions and history is to book a wine-tasting tour where you can sip on samples paired with local produce.

Two of the most charming wineries you can tour include Azienda Agricola Sorsasso and Cantine Angelinetta, both based in northern Lake Como.

Explore the wine cellars and the tasting rooms, visit the vineyards, and meet knowledgeable wine producers.

Visit historic churches & monasteries

Religious heritage is abundant in Lake Como and the wider Lombardy area, with towering churches and tranquil monasteries that have opened their creaky doors to visitors.

One of the most impressive spiritual sites is the Basilica of Sant'Abbondio which originally dates back to the 5th century CE, making it one of the oldest churches in Como. Its current Romanesque structure, however, was built in the 11th century.

Known for its ecclesiastical frescoes, intricate carvings and colourful stained-glass windows, the Basilica also features twin bell towers and a plain façade, an unusual architectural style for that age.

Como's Duomo, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, is one of the more striking landmarks in the city.

Renaissance and Gothic styles can be seen here including intricate stone carvings, a rose window and a distinctive green copper dome. Inside, several important works of art are housed including a remarkable polyptych by the artist Bernardino Luini.

You can also find several monasteries in the wider area, including the isolated Monastery of San Benedetto, a 9th-century medieval abbey located on the southern slope of Mount Galbiga.

Go hiking in the hills

Hiking the trails around Lake Como is one of the best ways to experience panoramic views of the lake while escaping the crowds. Greenway del Lago di Como is one of the most scenic hikes around the lake and passes by sleepy villages, lavish villas and gardens over its 10 km stretch.

Hiking on Monte Bregagno
Hiking on Monte Bregagno © Nikokvfrmoto - Adobe Stock Image

The Sentiero del Viandante is a longer Roman Road 45 km trail on the east coast of Lake Como that can be completed in sections.

Hikers can enjoy a variety of landscapes during their trek, from forests and pastures to rugged outcrops and lakeside promenades.

For a more challenging hike head to the summit of Monte Grona, which stands at 1,736 meters. There are several strenuous trails to the summit that include steep climbs and rocky passages that require ropes and technical climbing ability.

From the top, you'll be rewarded with a panorama of the alps and the lakes of Como, Lugano and Piano.

Weather in Lake Como

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall

The above guide shows the weather in Como. Find out more about the weather across the Italian lakes.

Ready to discover Lake Como? Check out the latest deals on holidays to Lake Como with TUI Lakes &' Mountains.

TUI sale: up to £250 off summer 2024 holidays

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Portia Jones

Portia Jones

Portia Jones is a freelance travel journalist and host of "The Travel Goals Podcast". Based in Wales, Portia specialises in adventure travel, destination guides and solo travel guides. She writes for a wide range of publications including the Mirror, the Western Mail, loveEXPLORING, Women & Home and Bradt Guides.

Article updated on Wednesday 4th October 2023 in: Adventure Europe Excursions Nature

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