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Italy is the land of historic sites, incredible architecture, artistic masterpieces and beautiful cities. It is also a country of natural beauty from stunning coastline to rolling vineyard-covered hills.
However, it is sometimes forgotten that in the north of Italy there are Alpine mountains and magnificent lakes. For example, nestled at the foot of the Rhaetian Alps and surrounded by a unique environment, Lake Como is considered the most beautiful lake in Lombardy.
What is Lake Como Known For?
It is the third-largest lake in Italy after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore. Plus, at a depth of 410 meters it is one of the deepest in Europe. Shaped like an inverted “Y” and enclosed by wooded mountains, this lake is home to picture-postcard villages and breathtaking villas.
Furthermore, the air is fresh and the landscape conveys peace and tranquility. All this despite being just one hour north of Milan, Italy’s financial center.
So, it’s not surprising that it became the perfect retreat for aristocrats in the past. Over the centuries, this reputation as a place for the social elite has grown. Even today, many celebrities such as George Clooney and Madonna choose Lake Como as a second home.
The combination of natural beauty, elegance and nobility has inspired generations of artists from all over the world. Artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Stendhal wrote, painted and composed here.
Lake Como Towns and Villages
Whether on the shores of the lake or hidden in the mountains, Lake Como is scattered with small villages dotted with colorful houses and huge palaces. Here you will discover the five must-see Lake Como towns and villages.
They are all connected by a ferry service that allows you to admire the breathtaking views from the waters of the lake.
Situated at the southern end of the lake, the town of Como is a popular base from which to explore the rest of the area. It is a historic town that was of great military importance during the Roman Empire due to its strategic position.
Today, Como has reinvented itself as a tourist enclave with luxurious hotels and good restaurants. In addition to long walks along the riverbank with terraces and beautiful views, it is worthwhile to enter the beautiful medieval city.
The Duomo, the city’s cathedral, is a beautiful three-nave basilica that occupies a large square with lovely terraces. The square is a perfect place to sit and have a drink. It is a lively and bustling corner of the city but it is peaceful at the same time.
From another town square, Piazza de Gasperi, you can take the funicular up to the small town of Brunate. From here you can see the town of Como and the lake in all its splendor.
After crossing Lake Como by boat, you’ll find this pretty little village between the surrounding mountains. It is one of the closest villages to the city of Como and combines all the ingredients of history, art, nature and great restaurants.
Torno has its roots in ancient times and its period of greatest splendor was between the 13th and 16th centuries. Its main architectural gems date back to the Middle Ages.
The churches of Santa Tecla and San Giovanni are two of the most outstanding monuments on the lake. The latter has a Romanesque tower that adds uniqueness to this charming village.
Located at the point where two of the lower arms of the lake meet, Bellagio is one of the most beautiful villages on Lake Como. Known as “The Pearl of the Lake”, this ancient village exudes a stately character.
In 1800 it was chosen by the bourgeoisie of Lombardy as the location for their splendid mansions. Its strategic position in the central part of the lake made it a highly contested enclave for centuries. Important remains of ancient fortifications can still be found.
A labyrinth of steep stone stairways and narrow streets leads to the heart of the village. Its beautiful houses with pastel-coloured facades overlook the lake which is surrounded by cypress woods.
Bellagio has many restaurants where you can taste the exquisite regional cuisine, such as the Bistro Antichi Sapori. We must not forget that we are in Italy and one of the pleasures of visiting the region will always be to enjoy its prestigious gastronomy.
It is well connected by ferry to the cities of Varenna and Menaggio, so it is a perfect stop on your itinerary around the lake.
The small town of Varenna is easily accessed by boat from Bellagio. The views are incredible and it is as beautiful from a distance as it is at close range. With no more than 900 inhabitants, this traditional fishing village is located on the eastern shore of Lake Como.
Its expressive colors and its picturesque and medieval profile make it a romantic and peaceful place. Pastel-coloured façades greet you from the harbor and a charming promenade invites you to walk along the shore to the center of the village.
Several terraces of bars and restaurants entice visitors to stop for a drink while enjoying the stunning views.
Varenna has old fishermen’s houses and narrow, steep streets that inevitably lead to the water. There are also small, stony beaches where you can enjoy the sun. In addition to the small fishermen’s houses, Varenna has elegant villas with huge gardens such as Villa Monastero, very close to the historic center.
You can also walk to the Castle of Vezio, a splendid 12th-century building with incredible views over the lake.
On the other shore of the lake, in front of Varenna, lies Menaggio with its more than 3000 inhabitants. It is one of the most touristic villages of Lake Como as suggested by the number of hotels, campsites and apartments in this area.
However, its medieval past shows that it was once a walled town. It was one of the first areas the Milanese discovered and built their summer residences in the 19th century.
Its extensive lakeside promenade invites the traveler to fall in love with the city and its panoramic views. Its lively and colorful old town center consists of the main square, the Giussepe Garibaldi square, surrounded by striking façades.
The neighborhoods here are full of small shops, but you can also find high-end boutiques. Not surprising considering the number of celebrities who frequent the lake.
Book This Trip
Ready to plan your picturesque getaway to these Lake Como Towns? Start preparing with insider tips on the best shopping, hotel and VRBO accommodations, local restaurant reviews and more through TripAdvisor and Travelocity.
Author Bio: Based in France, Lucia Otero Medraño is Spanish with a master’s degree in travel journalism. She has worked in the tourism sector but her true passion is to live enriching experiences and discover amazing places around the world and write about them. In her spare time, she likes to enjoy her second passion, music.