Lake Como (Lago di Como; also called: Lario) is situated in the provinces of Como and Lecco in Lombardy, Northern Italyand is part of the Italian Lake District. It has been popular with visitors for well over 100 years for its combination of fresh air, water, mountains and good climate.
The lake is shaped like an inverted ‘Y’, with two ‘legs’ starting at Como in the south-west and Lecco in the south-east, which join together half way up, and the lake continues up to Colico in the north. The first few kilometres of the ‘legs’ at the southern end of the lake are relatively flat, but Lake Como becomes more mountainous as you head northwards into the Alps. Some of the nearby peaks go slightly above the tree-line so the views are really impressive. In the winter, there is skiing in the nearby valleys.
The area around Lake Como is pretty characteristic. It has a kind of flair and sense of history that tends to impress its visitors in a sense deeper than only from a touristic point of view. It has been appreciated for its beauty and uniqueness for ages, and even as early as the Roman times. Its atmosphere and natural surroundings have been the inspiration for an important part of the creation of Naboo, in the Star Wars movies. (In the same way as the atmosphere in Tozeur and Matmata have been recreated in Episode IV, “A New Hope”).
Lake Como tourism portal gives some other information on the area.
Map of Lake Como
- Bellagio – very attractive town at the junction of the two ‘legs’ of the lake. Can be expensive, over-crowded and ‘touristy’, a bit like Venice. The busiest of the tourist-oriented towns and a hub for the boat service on the lake. Mooring of boats prohibited!
- Colico – nice views at the top of the lake, but the town is not that attractive. There is a WWI fort with guns nearby, open one day a week.
- Como – at the southern end of the lake, the lake’s main town is a good base and, although not as attractive as some of the other towns, it remains an elegant resort. The town has a population of 80,000 people and has Roman or pre-Roman origins.
- Esino Lario – a mountain village that has been selected to host the Wikimania conference in 2016
- Lecco – the town at the end of the south-eastern branch of the lake. Population of 45,000 people.
- Menaggio – the main town on the western shore, it’s attractive and not as touristy as Bellagio and Varenna opposite. Parking your car is a nightmare. It has a youth hostel (often full at weekends). Has a nice pedestrian-only area, around two squares at the lake-front or Lungolago with shops, coffee-bars, hotels, ice-cream parlours (gelaterie) and restaurants. Along the lake-front there’s a mini-golf with a snack-bar.
- Moltrasio – a village in the southwestern leg of the lake
- Nesso – a very small town about half way between Como and Bellagio on the western “leg” of the lake.
- Perledo – a village close to Varenna
- Torno – a town in the southwestern leg of the lake
- Tremezzo – beautiful little town, now part of Tremezzina, and right across from Bellagio. Main attractions are Villa Carlotta with its splendid botanical garden and nice waterfront, and nearby Villa del Balbianello.
- Varenna – another attractive town on the eastern shore opposite Menaggio and Bellagio. Worth visiting for the attractive and relaxing gardens of Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero. Also has the remains of a historic castle (Castello di Vezio) where a falconer gives shows occasionally. The castle is a steep hike, with a rise of many hundreds of vertical feet.
- Isola Comacina – an island near Tremezzina
Southern Lake Como district
The southern part of the district contains the northern part of the historic land of Brianza, which lies between this district and the Grande Milano district. This is a wealthy and mostly industrial and residential area.
Paderno d’Adda and its surroundings, with the old San Michele bridge and Leonardo’s connections
Montevecchia and the Curone park, which offers great views on the entire Po Plain, and is therefore known as the Tetto della Brianza (Brianza’s rooftop)
The main access to the lake is from Milan and Bergamo. It is also possible to cross the border from Lugano (Switzerland), and arriving at the lake at Menaggio. In the North, the lake can be accessed through the Splügen pass (closed from end of autumn to the beginning of spring), or from St. Moritz, both entering from Switzerland.
Regular trains run from Milan to Como (beware it has 2 stations: Como San Giovanni and Como Lago). Station Como San Giovanni is a little far from downtown, but there are a number of buses that stop there. You can buy tickets at the tobacconist in the station for a few Euros, or walk to the center of town.
Overnight sleeper trains run from Amsterdam via Duesseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt and Basel stopping at Como San Giovanni on their way to Milan. Similar daytime trains also run.
Trains also run from Milan and Bergamo to Lecco, some of them also continue up to the Eastern Shore to Varenna and Colico and then to Sondrio and Tirano.
Frequent buses run up the Western Shore from Como to Menaggio. A few then continue on to Colico.
Several boats and hydrofoils a day travel all the way up the lake from Como to Colico stopping at most of the towns en route. There are fast services that travel faster, stop at fewer places and cost more. Less frequent boat/hydrofoils travel down the “Eastern Leg” between Bellagio and Lecco.
There are additional frequent services between the ‘triangle’ of towns in the centre of the lake – Menaggio, Bellagio & Varenna. In season, there is a boat service for the mid-lake (Bellano, Lenno, Villa Carlotta and Tremezzo in addition to Menaggio, Varenna and Bellagio). Runs hourly 9AM to 6PM.
Timetables are available at tourist information offices, at the quayside or online from Gestione Navigazione Laghi.
If you want to discover Lake Como by yourself, you can rent a 40Hp motorboats to drive without any ship’s license. If you stay in Menaggio, Bellagio, Tremezzo, Cadenabbia and Varenna you can contact AC BOAT (www.acboatrentals.com). Good rates and service and very nice boats.
On Lake Como a railway is available only on the eastern shore of the lake, with stations between Lecco and Colico. Regional trains stop in all stations; while direct trains only in few of them; the stations on Lake Como are: Lecco (also direct trains), Abbadia Lariana (some direct trains), Mandello, Lierna, Fiumelatte, Varenna (the name of the station is Varenna Esino at it is actually located in Perledo – also direct trains), Bellano (also direct trains), Dervio, Dorio, Piona, Colico (also direct trains). From south to north, the railway line connects Milan to Morbegno, Sondrio and Tirano (in Valtellina); in Colico another line allows to reach Chiavenna in Valchiavenna.
Direct trains depart from Milan central station; while regional trains from Milan Porta Garibaldi. In general there is a direct and regional train every two hours, which means that basically there is either train every hour; the service is more intense in the morning and evening (for commuters moving in the morning towards Lecco and Milan and in the evening from Lecco and Milan); it starts at around 6am from Milan and it finishes with the last train from Milan at 9.20pm. It is important to take attention to the different timelines during weekdays and weekends (there is also a winter and summer timeline); in general through trains are not a reliable mean of transport on the lake by night.
The railway on the eastern shore of the lake is a convenient mean of transport also to reach other destinations on the lake. Considering the fast direct trains from Milan to Varenna (the name of the station is Varenna Esino) take around 1 hour, from Varenna is the possible to connect by boat to other towns, such as Bellagio, Menaggio, Tremezzo with frequent boats and other towns with less frequent boats.
Roads run up and down most of the shores. On the Western Shore, road works are common and travel duration can vary greatly. You can expect to average 40–60 km/h. Despite the construction of new tunnels, the road on the Western Shore still crosses the centre of many villages. Avoid the road if you are not a keen driver and dislike small roads, hairpins, steep inclines, sharp bends, and heavy traffic. (Fatal) accidents, often involving motorcyclists, are common.
The Eastern Shore is served by the SS36 highway, a two-lane fast road that connects Milan and Lecco to Colico and the adjacent Valtellina region. Be aware that there are no exit other than Lecco, Bellano and Colico. The other villages are served by the old shoreline road, which offers good views to the lake but it’s also a bit challenging, due to its small lanes, sharp bends and dark tunnels.
Parking in some areas can be problematic, especially if you have a big car. A small car can be much more convenient for both traveling and parking.
Mandello Lario, on the east side just above Lecco, is the headquarters for Moto Guzzi, one of Italy’s most popular motorcycle manufacturers. They offer a museum in Mandello as well. The entire lake area is popular with motorcyclists from all over Europe. If you want to hire a Scooter you can contact lakecomoscooter.com which offers 125cc Honda Scooters.
On Como lake you can ride with rental bike shops available for easy biking itineraries and rental services without guide, bikes can be rent with special accessories and with free delivery at hotels and B&B.
- Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo offers great views of the lake from its large impressive gardens which are famous for the wide varieties of plants. The villa is also a museum containing a number of sculptures and artworks.
- Villa Monestero in Varenna
Tours and excursions in Lake Como
- Sentiero del Viandante (Lierna)
Boat and plane trips
Take a boat trip. The most popular tourist towns seem to be Bellagio, Menaggio, and Varenna. Gravedona and Domaso (in the north) and Bellano, Lenno, and Argegno (mid-lake) are also worth a stop (no more than two hours required for each).
Take a flight over the lake. Aero Club Como offers flights in seaplanes.
Hiking, skiing and water sports
The nearest skiing area is the Piani di Bobbio site. This is a quite basic resort, with easy and intermediate downhill ski slopes. This is the nearest ski area from Milan and a very good one for beginners (but not very thrilling for experts).
Hike in the mountains. There are various paths, from the easiest one to the most strenuous, and many mountain huts and resting points. Most paths offer spectacular views across the lake and sometimes it is even possible to see both Lake Lugana and Lake Como from the same place, such as Monte Grona. The tourist office in Menaggio has a wide selection of possibilities. Lecco is also a good base to start a hike, particularly because you can reach many starting points without a car. You can also find good sites for rock climbing.
Try a round of golf or tennis at the Villa D’Este or Monticello golf clubs. Menaggio e Cadenabbia Golf Club, just a few km inland from Menaggio, is where George Clooney is said to be a member
Do some water sports on the Lake. There are two locations that rent motor boats. Lower horsepowers do not require a boating license.
More water sports: in most of the lakeside towns, you will find opportunities to rent various kinds of boats. Many towns also have sailing and/or (kite) surfing schools. Water skiing is possible from some towns.
The Lake Como Greenway is an almost 4 mile walkway on the west side on the lake. While some parts are not lake-front, it is mostly lake-front and its route near Bolvedro/Tremezzo goes thru a very nice lake-front park. The best towns to join the green way are Lenno and Tremezzo.
- Cablecar Argegno – Pigra (Bus C10 to Argegno, or ferry). Take a cable car then hike down to Colonno (~2h).
- Como on Saturdays (at the town’s Medieval walls)
- Lenno on Tuesday mornings
- Dongo has a market once a week.
Gelato – many of the small towns around the lake have excellent gellaterias. This dessert/snack is wonderfully flavorful and perfect for enjoying from a bench at the side of the lake.
- Locanda dell’Isola Comacina on Isola Comacina
- Creme Caramel in San Siro (parking may be problematic)
- La Baia in Cremia
- Trattoria Il Pontile, Musso
- Pizzeria Laguna Beach in Pianello del Lario
This is not a destination known for its singles scene.
Every town should have at least one bar or cafe available.
Bellagio probably offers the greatest number of bars and Cafes. Bellagio also offers a wine-bar (enoteca). There are one or two open-air, lakefront bars if the weather is good.
Some of the regularly scheduled lake boats have small, staffed beer and wine bars. In addition the is one ‘cocktail’ boat built in a retro steam boat style. Also, the Orione was commissioned in 2005, with three full levels and is the largest boat in the fleet. The Orione operates the length of the lake and offers beer and wine as well (They also offer full evening meals for people that board in Como in early evening).
The nearby Sondrio valley is a well known wine producing area. It is not that known as Tuscany, but some of the local wines are quite good.
Where to stay in Lake Como
- Youth Hostel “La Primula” in Menaggio is perhaps the only youth hostel in the region.
- Contradalunga Bed and Breakfast, Abbadia Lariana.
- Lettings Lake Como (Menaggio, Tremezzina). Lake Como Villlas Rental
- Villa d’Este, Via Regina, 40, Cernobbio. Villa d’Este is located in the small town of Cernobbio, on the bankside of Lake Como. Villa d’Este was in the past the residence of the Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio and nowadays it’s an elegant luxury Hotel, famous all over the world.
- Grand Hotel Imperiale Resort & SPA at Moltrasio
- Beware of wild boars in the forests surrounding the lake
- Expect motorcyclists to overtake in a seemingly suicidal manner
- Make sure your car is in good condition, especially your tires, brakes, and handbrake, because of the steep and bendy nature of the roads
- Locals love tailgating “slow” tourists. Allow them to overtake you, so you can follow them safely
- Do not try to swim across the lake: It’s larger than it seems, cold and very deep. If you want to try, there are special events where locals and tourists can try this challenge safely with support boats and rescue teams. Ask the tourist office.
In winter, you can visit the Madesimo skiing area in the north by car, on the road to the Splügen pass. It is approximately a 60–90 minutes drive from the Menaggio area. Make sure your car is prepared for winter weather conditions. If you don’t mind driving a little further, it is also possible to visit St. Moritz and its ski slopes in Switzerland. However, the Maloja pass is part of the route to St Moritz. Although it is kept open throughout the winter, adverse weather conditions may force it to be closed on some days. Smaller skiing resorts in the area are Chiesa and Valgerola.
Already eleven Corona Infections at the Pope’s Swiss Guard
In the Vatican, seven other members of the pope’s Swiss Guard tested positive for the corona virus . This increased the number of demonstrably infected guardsmen to eleven, as the Swiss Guard announced on Thursday. All infected people had been isolated, the message said. The brightly uniformed guards protect Pope Francis and his residence.
A major corona outbreak among the guards could therefore also be dangerous for the Pope, 83 years of age belongs to the risk group. The Argentinean pope had part of his right lung removed at the age of 21 due to severe pneumonia but he is considered relatively healthy for his age.
The Catholic media platform “Vatican News” reported in early October that the guardsmen had been asked to “be careful when dealing with the Pope” because of Corona. Face mask and social distancing are required, however a young man who was interviewed about his recruit swearing in (October 4th) said that Francis had already shaken his hand.
Corona measures in Italy – Italy reacts to the 2nd Wave of Covid-19
Italy introduced a nationwide facemask requirement in the open due to the increase in new infections. If you don’t wear a mask when leaving your apartment, you risk a fine of up to one thousand euros, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte recently announced. You do not need to wear a face mask when you are doing sport. The regulations do not apply in private rooms or in places where only one family is staying. Children under six years of age are also exempt from this obligation.
In view of the rising numbers, Italy’s Minister of Health Roberto Speranza also ordered mandatory tests for travelers from Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
Another measure taken by the government shows how deep the shock of the first wave of more than 30,000 deaths still sits: It passed a law that prohibits the Italian regions from adopting measures that are less restrictive than those taken by Rome. However, you have the option of setting even stricter rules. Some regions, such as Lazio and Campania, had already decided that the public must wear a facemask.
Lombardy Coronavirus Covid-19 Outbreak – Cases Quarantine Deaths Stats to Italy
Lombardy or Lombardia is a northern region of Italy, and with 10 million people is the most populous one. Producing 1/5th of Italy’s GDP, it is also the mightiest economically. Geographically, Lombardy encompasses both Alps and Prealps in the north, and relatively flat plains in the south along the river Po and its tributaries. Between them there are many scenic lakes, and the alpine backdrop makes even the low-lying cities picturesque and the air rather fresh.
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Lombardy is heavily industrialized, although most of the industry is actually not heavy, but rather mid-sized specialized machinery-building and other assembly and engineering firms, as well as consumer industries such as foodstuffs and apparel. The regional capital, Milan, is Italy’s second-largest city and the foremost centre of commerce and a global fashion capital. Smaller cities also have considerable economic might, and have had so for many centuries, hence Lombardy is the region of Italy with the most UNESCO World Heritage List sites – and simply, a lot of history and scenic views to explore and enjoy.
- Lombardian Alps and Prealps (provinces of Bergamo, Brescia and Sondrio)
- Lake Como (provinces of Como and Lecco)
- Southern Lombardy (provinces of Cremona, Lodi, Mantova and Pavia)
- Grande Milano (provinces of Milan and Monza and Brianza)
- Milan (Milano, the capital of the province) – shares with Paris the title of fashion capital of the world, and is Italy’s second city.
- Bergamo – a fairytale pastel-coloured city perched atop a hillside, and the gate to Bergamo Alps
- Brescia – a major industrial powerhouse since the Ancient Roman times, and a UNESCO World Heritage List
- Como – the city that gave the name to the popular lake
- Cremona – home of Stradivarius violins, but also a wealth of ornate romanesque architecture
- Lecco – a little and charming city situated on Como’s lake.
- Mantua (Italian: Mantova) – the Ducal Palace has a cycle of frescoes by Mantegna that no art lover should miss.
- Sondrio – the northernmost provincial capital situated amidst alpine mountain ranges
- Varese – capital of the namesake province full of lakeside resorts, just 30 minutes from Malpensa airport
- The magnificent lakes of Lake Como – take boat trips in the shadow of the Alps to the picturesque villages of Bellagio, Varenna and Tremezzo – Lake Maggiore, Lake Garda and Lake Lugano.
- The tiny village of Erbusco, home of the award-winning wines of Franciacorta and L’Albereta, the country inn of Gualtiero Marchesi, one of Italy’s premier chefs
- The peninsula of Sirmione, on the south shore of Lake Garda
- The Caves of Catullo, an archaeological site of a former Roman villa situated on the tip of the Sirmione peninsula
- The Sirmione Spa, the largest privately owned thermal treatment centre in Italy
- Val Camonica : UNESCO heritage site, medieval towns, castles, holy art in churches, roman sanctuary and theatre/amphitheatre, ski sports.
- Oltrepò Pavese : Wine region in the utmost southern part of Lombardy, 70km from Milan, part of the Pavia province, medieval towns, castles, stunning views.
The Longobardis occupied the Peninsula in the 6th century, and the territory has been named after them ever since.
Lombardy is a prosperous region with fertile soil and a temperate climate. As in Piedmont, the Po Valley is the site of much heavy industry. High mountains in the north, marking Italy’s frontier with Switzerland, provide excellent skiing and climbing.
Three of Italy’s four busiest airports are in Lombardy:
- Milan Malpensa Airport is an intercontinental airport, and Italy’s second aviation hub after Rome Fiumicino. It has multiple direct connections to Africa, Asia and North America, as well as across Europe, where it is served by both full-service and low-fare carriers.
- Milano Linate is Milan’s city airport, served by business-oriented flights to European major commercial centres, as well as a dense Italian domestic network.
- Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport is served almost exclusively by low-fare carriers, taking advantage of its proximity to both Milan and the Alps.
Despite only Linate being in the city and province of Milan, all three airports are marketed as serving the city. One can easily get to other destinations in the province from them, without necessarily changing in Milan. There is also a small airport in Brescia, which in recent years has seen next to no scheduled traffic.
Travel by train to Lombardy
Road and train links connect the region with Switzerland. As Switzerland is not part of the EU, there is a possibility that you will be delayed by checks at the border, although these are infrequent and usually not rigorous. Remember your passport.
There is a relatively dense railway network connecting cities and towns in Lombardy, although the layout is intricate and getting from one place to another may not be straightforward. You should be able to reach your destination within 1 or 2 hours by train. Otherwise, buses and minibuses link important destinations, especially those popular with tourists. Hubs are usually in regional centres, as well as near major railway stations and airports; you can try to change there if there are no direct connections. Regional train network is entirely managed by Trenord.
Regione Lombardia offers a good travel planner that lets you query the whole public transportation system.
If you plan to travel a lot, it might be worth buying a io viaggio ovunque in Lombardia pass ticket. Those tickets let you travel without limit on the entire public transport system in Lombardy, including regional trains, buses and city public transportation systems, but excluding some ferry boat lines. Although expensive, they can easily be a cheaper option than regular tickets if you travel long distances. Passes are sold at railway stations (at ticket box or automatic vending machines) and at ATM automatic vending machines. You can buy 1, 2, 3 or 7 day passes (16€, 27€, 32.5€, 43€ respectively – February 2020).
The railway company Trenord offers some good travel packages, under the Trenord Free Time name. The package usually includes a ticket to an attraction or a trip proposal and a train ticket to get to the destination. Most of them are really useful only if you depart from Milan. It’s worth to take a look at the offers as they can also suggest you some new or lesser known itinerary that you may like.
As the Autostrada A4 runs across Lombardy, with the road system radiating from its junctions, you can get around by car as well. The A4 frequently gets congested though and traffic jams can be long and excruciating, especially around Milan. Be aware that Italians drive fast and make no allowances for foreigners, so be sure you are OK with keeping up with the traffic and occasional displays of impatience from other drivers.
Milan, Bergamo and Brescia have efficient and extensive public transportation systems.
What to see in
- Milan Fashion Weeks draw crowds of fashionistas to Milan every year.
- La Scala in Milan is a mecca for opera aficionados.
- You can enjoy water sports or more relaxed boating on the lakes.
- The Alps offer opportunities for hiking or skiing.
Lombardy’s most famous culinary inventions are minestrone soup and osso buco (literally “ox knuckles”). To the west of Milan lie miles of rice fields, where the rice for risotto alla milanese is grown. Other typical dishes of the area include salumi (cold cuts) and polenta.
As in many other areas of Northern Italy, the aperitivo (pre-meal drink with appetisers, for which a small supplement might be charged) is very popular.
The wineries in Franciacorta, around Erbusco, produce many excellent wines. The region has been elevated to the status of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Other remarkable zones for wine are Oltrepò Pavese (which is the zone around Pavia on the south banks of Po river) and the countrysides around Garda Lake.
Valtellina also produces excellent wines, famous for their strong taste and flavour.
As every big city in the world, Milan has also many high quality restaurants, wine bars and Enoteche (wine store) where you can find high class wines from all over the world.
Where to stay in Lombardy
Large cities, like Milan, Bergamo or Brescia, are important business centres, so they have sizeable bases of business-oriented hotels. They are local hubs with connections to destinations within their provinces, and getting between them is also reasonably quick via a variety of means of transportation (trains, express buses or cars across the A4). Do note that accommodation in Milan is generally expensive, and prices skyrocket during major events or fairs, such as the Milan Fashion Week.
Destinations along the lines of the lakes, as well as those in the Alps, are popular with tourists, so you will find a variety of accommodation options there, from luxurious resort hotels to simple B&Bs.
While Milan features many of the usual tourist traps and con acts, as well as sizeable number of pickpockets due to the number of tourists there, other destinations are generally safe, and you can feel secure and welcome there. Do note, however, that in case you need to contact the police they can have very limited English skills and also may not be able to help foreigners much.
To the east is Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto, to the south is Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont is to the south and west. Switzerland lies to the north.
Current Covid-19 Infections in Italy, Lombardy
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Timeline of Covid-19 Infections in Italy, Lombardy
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Lucca is a city of some 90,000 people in Tuscany. Its long history goes back to Etruscan and Ancient Roman times, and...
Bruneck Brunico Coronavirus Covid-19 Outbreak – Cases Quarantine Deaths Stats South Tyrol Südtirol
Bruneck (Italian: Brunico) is a city in South Tyrol in South Tyrol, Italy. Understand Bruneck was first settled back in the Stone Age. Objects found (such...
Pavia Coronavirus Covid-19 Outbreak – Cases Quarantine Deaths Stats to Southern Lombardy
Pavia is a city in Lombardy, home to one of the oldest universities in Europe (founded in 1361) and many interesting churches....
Cortina d’Ampezzo Coronavirus Covid-19 Outbreak – Cases Quarantine Deaths Stats to Veneto Italy
ortina d’Ampezzo, is a ski resort in Italy Understand The most famous, fashionable and expensive Italian ski resort. Even in summer,...