Lake Como is the third largest of the lakes in Italy. Measuring approximately 46 kilometres in length, it may not be as large as it’s neighbours Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore, but it is surprisingly deep. Measuring over 400 metres in depth, it is in fact one of the deepest lakes in the whole of Europe. The very bottom of Lake Como sits more than 200 metres below sea level. The lake has been enormously popular for centuries, particularly amongst the aristocratic elite and in more recent times, this popularity acquired celebrity status when George Clooney purchased a villa on its shores. Nowadays it’s popularity has expanded to the masses, offering as it does a wealth of things to see and do. Whatever your age or whatever your tastes, it makes the perfect holiday destination.
Take a flight in a sea plane
There can be no better way to appreciate the spectacular scenery that Lake Como offers than by air. Lake Como is home to the only seaplane school in Europe. Visitors can enjoy the chance to fly above the water to explore the hidden corners of the lake followed by a landing practically anywhere on the water. For those with a passion for flying, you can even take it a step further and enjoy lessons. Whilst this may not be an option for the feint hearted or for those with a fear of heights, if you are brave enough to take to the skies, you will have the most incredible experience.
Enjoy a cable car ride
It’s not always necessary to take to the air to enjoy spectacular views of the lake. Instead, visitors have a number of options to head up the hillsides that surround it. Probably the most well known of the cable car rides on Lake Como is the Como – Brunate funicular. The journey takes 7 minutes and the views from the top are breathtaking. However, other cable cars do exist including one that takes visitors from Argegno to the pretty village of Pigra. This will take you from 200 to 850 metres above sea level in just 5 minutes. At the top you are once again rewarded with spectacular views of the lake and, if you keen on walking, several fantastic hiking routes start from this spot.
Have lunch in Varenna
Varenna is situated just a boat stop from it’s much more famous neighbour – Bellaggio – but we think it’s the real star of the lake. It is such a pretty village on the Eastern shores of Lake Como, characterised by narrow cobbled lanes running between traditional fishermen’s houses that lead up from the pretty waterfront and stone beach. You won’t be fighting with the number of crowds you would find in Bellaggio and it offers a much more authentic experience with just as much beauty to appreciate.
Marvel at the wonders of Villa Carlotta
Villa Carlotta is home to both a fascinating museum and botanic gardens. Visitors should set aside at least a couple of hours to appreciate the abundance of rare plant species within the 8 hectares of grounds along with the rhododendron and azalea woods, the bamboo gardens, rock gardens and century old cedars and sequoias. It truly is a garden lovers delight. And don’t forget to leave more time to explore the art collection within the villa. Those stepping inside the museum will be treated to an array of artwork and 18th century period furnishings that date back to the time when Princess Marianne of the Netherlands purchased the estate as a wedding present for her daughter Carlotta when she married the Duke of Sachsen Meiningen, George II.
Visit the gardens at Villa del Balbianello
Villa Carlotta is not the only villa we recommend you visit during your stay. Lake Como has a plethora of stunning historic villas and gardens to visit. One of our favourites is Villa del Balbianello, famous for its intricate terraced gardens. Perched on a wooded peninsula projecting into the lake, it has served as the backdrop for numerous famous films including the 2002 epic ‘Star Wars: Attack of the Clones’ and the 2006 Bond film ‘Casino Royale’.
Take a boat trip
The easiest way to explore Lake Como is by boat. The public boat network is wonderfully efficient and extremely easy to navigate, with boats regularly criss-crossing the lake. However, there is nothing better than taking to the water yourself. There are plenty of opportunities to hire a boat without the need for a license. What is more, opting to cruise around the lake on your own will allow you to view the numerous elegant villas that are dotted along Como’s shoreline that aren’t open to the public and which aren’t visible from the road.
Get out on the water!
Not surprisingly, the lake offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy watersports. From kite-surfing to canoeing and from windsurfing to wakeboarding, there are a number of watersports centres situated in the North of the lake which offer the chance to learn some new skills thanks to the wind that blows up from the South commonly known as the ‘Breva’.
Como is the largest of the towns on Lake Como and well worth a visit. Take a stroll around it’s charming centre with its plethora of boutique shops, bars and restaurants. It is also home to several historic mansions and monuments as well as the Cathedral on Piazza Duomo.
Whether you are a beginner or a pro, you will be able to enjoy the opportunity to enjoy rock climbing on the limestone cliffs that rise up from Lake Como. The best time to experience this adventure is either in the Spring or Autumn, away from the heat of the Summer season. There are a number of rock climbing schools based on the lake with the main rock climbing centres being the Antimedale and Erna walls, both near Lecco, the Palestra di Roccia near Menaggio and the Placca del Ghez near Varenna. Here, you can start your climb from the beach and so cool off in the lake waters when you finish.
Hike one of Como’s trails
The countryside around Lake Como is simply breathtaking and it’s worth immersing yourself in nature by hiking one of the many trails on offer. There are trails to suit families with children up to much more difficult routes for only the most serious of hikers. The best place to find out about routes is to visit the local tourist information office. However, one recommended route is the 6km trail from Bellano to Varenna. The latter forms part of the much longer Sentiero del Viandante, an old mule track that dates back to Roman times and is just over 45 km long but the stretch from Bellano to Varenna will take just 2.5 to 3 hours to complete. For those looking for something suited to the smaller legs of younger children, try the path that leads from Griante up to the slopes to the church of San Martino. There are some steep drops so you will have to be careful with little ones but the walk takes only an hour and you will be rewarded with spectacular views from the summit right across the lake towards Varenna and Bellagio.
Enjoy a history lesson in Mezzegra
Mezzegra is a real working Italian village, with narrow cobbled lanes, alleyways to explore and old buildings typical of this region. It’s also where Mussolini spent his last night once captured and where he was subsequently executed. Those who wish to learn more about the events should look for the black cross that marks the spot where Mussolini and his mistress, Claretta Petacci, were shot dead by resistance fighters in 1945, two days before the suicide of Adolf Hitler.
People watching in Menaggio
Menaggio is one of the most well known of the towns that nestle on the Western shores of Lake Como. It’s definitely worth relaxing in one of the many cafes in its main square – Piazza Garibaldi – to enjoy a spot of people watching.
Jo Mackay is Director of Bookings For You.If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.
Jo Mackay is the owner of Bookings For You. Bookings For You is a family run company specialising in apartment and villa rentals in Italy and France. The company currently have over 300 holiday rentals in Italy including villas in Puglia, the Italian Lakes, Tuscany, Umbria and Le Marche as well as villas to rent in Provence, Normandy and Acquitaine in France. The company pride themselves on their high levels of customer service.
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