Lake Como is the most popular of the Italian lakes where all the superlatives of a vacation in Italy seem to exist side-by-side set against the back-drop of enchanting alpine vistas. Palatial villas line its shores, the flora drapes in shoreline and cute lakeside villages where wisteria, bougainvillea, and rose-laden belvederes frame the scenery.
Not the largest of the Italian lakes, and certainly not the cleanest as it has been assaulted by hordes of tourists over the years it still retains the title of Italy's most beautiful Lake. Even Italians, who are spoilt for beauty in their own country have a special place in their hearts for Lake Como which is also the location for a popular Italian soap opera.
The idyllic climate to be found at Lake Como is an ideal one for gardeners and one of the big attractions of Lake Como are the Villa Gardens that line its shores. These date back to two important periods that mark the evolution of Lake Como as a tourist resort.
Firstly, during the Renaissance period the gardens of Como were given a distinct taste and order that reflected the character of that period. Secondly, in the 19th Century, it was the English who took the gardens in a new direction with their love of natural wildness and the introduction of new plants and flowers from around the globe. Along with the olive groves and vineyards the natural beauty of Lake Como has been enhanced by man.
Lake Como is some 30 miles long and is also Europe's deepest lake reaching depths of over 400 metres. It's located within a relatively short driving distance from Milan, and the Milanese are frequent visitors to the Lake at weekends from the spring until fall months. Along with the rest of the world visiting Como, like most of the Italian Lakes it's best to travel by water when needed, or perhaps best to find one idyllic location away from the crowds and to stay there during your time on Lake Como.
The principal attraction of Lake Como is the town of Bellagio, where the Lake divides into three branches and where the views of the lake are quite exceptional. Bellagio can be visited by ferry from the lakeshore and it acts as a hub for water transport to other parts of the lake. And therefore is the ideal base to explore Como.
Apart from the natural beauty of Lake Como and its delightful Villas & Gardens, the lake has been famous for many centuries for its production of silk. There are also delightful Romanesque churches to discovered around the Lake shore. The other principal towns of Lake Como are Varenna, Tremezo, Cernobbio and Como.
At Varenna, a short ferry ride from Bellagio you'll find the Villa Monastero home to one of the most beautiful gardens found at Lake Como. At Tremezzo, explore the Villa Carlotta whose numerous gardens include rare species of flowers and plants from around the globe, and its interior includes delightful sculptures by Canova arguably the greatest of Italian sculptors.
At Cernobbio, north of Como, take a boat ride along the lake shore to see the numerous private villas and gardens that are closed to the public. Perhaps ponder staying a night or two at the Villa D'Este the legendary lakeside resort and home of the rich and famous who visit Lake Garda. The 16th Century villa is one of the most luxurious hotels in Italy.
Como is the main commercial city of the Lake equipped with a railway station and narrow cobble streets that wind themselves down to the Lake shore. Part idyllic lake shore town, and part industrial it can be utilized as a base for visiting Lake Garda where budget accommodation can be found.
Weather & Climate at Lake Como
Lake Como is located in northern Italy, bordered on the south by the Lombardian plains which seem to invite in the summer months the warm winds originating from Africa & the Sahara. Its northern shore faces onto the Alps and the valleys carved by previous glaciers in the winter act like wind tunnels bringing down the cold winter air in the form of heavy winds that can make the waters of Lake Como rise up like the waters of an open sea.
In the winter everything closes down and its not an ideal time to visit the lake. The best times to visit are the Spring & Fall months when the climate is ideal, the clear blue skies create the ideal visibility and the flora of Lake Como is at its best. Apart from holiday weekends you'll find Como relatively tranquil and this time of year is the ideal time to venture off-the-well-beaten path to hike and walk amongst the hills and mountains that surround the Lake.
In the summer months, the climate of Lake Como can be very hot and humid, and often these months the high pressure of southern air clashing with the colder mountain air can create thunderstorms on a regular basis. Also, the roads around the Lake can be overrun with Italian and German tourists making it hard going for the tourist looking for a relaxing vacation. If you visit during the summer months try to utilize water transport to get around the lake to avoid delays in traffic and also to enjoy the true beauty and serenity of the Lake. In fact, travelling by water is probably the best way to travel around the Lake from Spring to Fall.
Tourist offices at Lake Como
Info Point Como - via Albertolli, 7 tel: +39 031 304137 open daily 9 am to 6 pm Info Point Como San Giovanni Railway station tel: +39 3420076403 open daily 9 am to 5 pm
Other tourist offices located at Lake Como that offer free maps and other tourist information include:
Bellagio, Piazza Mazzini tel: +39 031 950204 open 15th March - 14th November 9:30 am to 5:30 pm Varenna, Via IV Novembre, 7 tel: +39 0341 830367 summer opening hours 10 am to 6 pm Lecco, Piazza XX Settembre, 23 tel: +39 0341 295720 open 9:30 am - 5:30 pm Cernobbio, Piazza Risorgimento tel: +39 031 399341 open seasonally 10 am - 5 pm