Lake Como, also called Lario, is a pre-alpine Italian natural lake of glacial origin falling in the territories belonging to the provinces of Como and Lecco, whose capitals rise in two southern ends of the respective branches. It consists of three different sectors, usually called branches: Como and Lecco basins, almost symmetrical, and the wider Colico basin located to the north. It is located about 50 km north of Milan.
It is the deepest lake in Italy, the one with the largest perimeter extension and the third for surface and volume.
Popular refuge for rich and aristocratic people since Roman times, it is still one of the privileged tourist destinations, so much so that in 2014 it was considered the most beautiful lake in the world by the online newspaper “The Huffington Post”, for its microclimate and for the its environment dotted with prestigious villas and villages.
Lake Como, in addition to being made famous by Alessandro Manzoni who set the novel I promessi sposi on the Lecco shore, includes a typical rowing boat that has become the lake’s symbol over time: the Batell, more informally known as Lucia in memory of Lucia Mondella’s escape from Lecco.
The Cathedral of Como
It is one of the most beautiful monuments in northern Italy and is one of the symbols of the city that gives its name to the lake. It is the Gothic cathedral built in Italy, an imposing monument that with its façade and its interiors tells the story of the city.
The Como-Brunate Funicular
On board a small train, from the provincial capital we arrive at the village of Brunate, which offers a very suggestive panoramic point on Lake Como.
Take a ferry from Ostuccio and reach the only island on Lake Como: in two hours you, will be able to discover all its lush nature, the magical glimpses of the lake and what remains of a Roman Basilica that was destroyed in 1169 when the island was razed to the ground by the inhabitants of Como, putting an end to the prosperity of the island, once a political hub, a religious center and a military opposition.
On Lake Como, you can also discover a wilder and less known side. Bellano Gorge is a natural gorge, formed 15 million years old, crossed by the impetuous Pioverna stream. Between waterfalls and walkways fixed to the rocks, the show is truly indescribable and suggestive.
Two winds blow hard on Lake Como: they are the Tivano and the Breva, which make the water a very popular place for kite surf enthusiasts, who meet in Dervio, or in Colico, in the Alto Lario. All the schools in the area also offer basic courses, for those who want to at least try to surf the waters of the lake.
Villa del Balbianello
In Tremazzina you cannot miss a walk in the garden of the Villa del Balbianello. This elegant and romantic dwelling was commissioned by Cardinal Durini in the 18th century, and over time has hosted numerous writers and travelers up to its last owner, Guido Monzino, an adventurous explorer. Its location, the interior furnishings and the wide variety of garden plants make this villa a real jewel, capable of taking your breath away.
Here, where Como and Lecco branches come together, we find the magical Bellagio where colourful alleys that climb up the promontory, elegant gardens, boutiques and craft shops will leave you speechless.
The beautiful municipality of Bellagio is a Lombard village overlooking Lake Como. An enchanting tourist and cultural destination, Bellagio is famous for its truly exclusive geographical position: the village is located on the northern end of the Lariano Triangle, right where the two branches of Lake Como branch off. Topped by the Alps, this enchanting municipality is one of the most visited places in the Como area, along with Blevio and Descio.
What to see in Bellagio, pearl of Lake Como
The town of Bellagio is home to around four thousand inhabitants and belongs to the mountain community of the Lariano Triangle. The territory of Bellagio is quite large and presents an incredible variety of landscapes and naturalistic glimpses due to its peculiar position, straddling the hills, the lake coast and the Alps. The highest peaks in the area are Monte San Primo, Monte Palanzone and the Corni di Canzo.
Villa Serbelloni and Villa Melzi
Among the most fascinating aspects of this village there are undoubtedly its enchanting villas, famous all over the world for their pomp and for their well-kept gardens. One of the most famous is Villa Serbelloni, one of the symbols of the municipality of Bellagio.
It is a splendid seventeenth-century villa built on the ruins of a previous castle that was destroyed. Villa Serbelloni currently acts as a venue for prestigious international conferences and is also an important and prestigious hotel.
For tourists, the external part is accessible, characterized by enchanting and well-kept gardens, where it is possible to admire plants of all kinds walking quietly in the labyrinth of its small paths. Currently the villa belongs to the Rockefeller foundation in New York, which came into possession of the building during the twentieth century. From Villa Serbelloni, it is possible to reach another important historical building, the Capuchin convent.
Another beautiful villa on the territory of the municipality of Bellagio is Villa Melzi, located on the western coast of Lake Como. The villa is currently inhabited and therefore can only be visited in some of its parts. Near this enchanting building it is possible to visit a small museum which houses numerous archaeological finds, paintings and ancient pottery. There is also the possibility to visit its enchanting, verdant and luxuriant outdoor area.
The immense green area of Villa Melzi houses finds of great artistic and historical value, such as the Egyptian statues that adorn the garden or the ancient urns of Etruscan origin. The outdoor garden even houses a Venetian gondola, which arrived here in Bellagio by Napoleon’s will, and an enchanting neoclassical chapel. The whole park is dotted with statues, busts and works from different eras, which blend with the gardens and plants in an atmosphere of pure enchantment.
Basilica of San Giacomo and Church of San Giorgio
We also advise you to visit the important basilica of San Giacomo, a church built in the twelfth century, which houses numerous pictorial works of some importance. The basilica, structured on three naves, has a beautiful bell tower, the subject of numerous renovations, as well as the facade of the church. Among the most important works of the basilica we point out the valuable Deposition of Jesus in the sepulchre, attributed with some certainty to Perugino.
If you have time you could also make a short visit to the church of San Giorgio, also dating back to the XII century, which houses inside a wooden statue depicting the Madonna of the belt, which represents one of the religious symbols of Bellagio and is always the subject of a great popular devotion. This statue is in fact carried in procession during the village festival, which is celebrated in September.
What to do in Bellagio
If you are on Lake Como, a boat tour is a must.
From Bellagio, the Tour of the Lake Center starts, a 2-hour excursion that will take you to the most beautiful places in the center of the lake, including Menaggio, Varenna, San Giovanni (a hamlet of Bellagio), Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo and Lenno.
Since we are talking about some of the most renowned villages of Lake Como, it is worth getting off the boat and visiting at least a couple of them. Set yourself the right time to wander around the historic centers and enjoy the beauty of these landscapes, considered among the most beautiful in the world.
Another tour, but more suitable for water sports lovers, is the kayak tour of Lake Como. Two-hour excursion from Pescallo di Bellagio beach which passes along the Rockefeller and Villa Serbelloni cliffs. If you are not an expert, there is no need to worry: a guide will prepare you for the adventure.
What is certain is that you will find yourself admiring a well-preserved and uncontaminated green area with the mountains and hills that form the backdrop and the splendid villas of Lake Como to accompany you.