My Lake Como Travel Guide will help you decide what to see, where to stay and most importantly where to eat if you visit this beautiful and unique place.
Lake Como, in Italy’s Lombardy region, has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times. This upscale area known for its stunning scenery, set against the foothills of the Alps. The lake is shaped like an upside-down Y and a popular tourist destination for sailing, hiking or simply adoring the beauty of this exceptionally beautiful scenery.
There are countless of villas around the lake, many owned by celebrities and super rich people from all over the world. Some of them are open for visitors but some only visible from the lake therefore a boat trip around the lake is a must.
Here is the top 5 sights you must see while you are at Lake Como!
Where to stay at Lake Como?
Lake Como is stretching over 46 km and its shore offers plenty of wonderful places to stay. The best way to explore the lake is to choose a base and use the ferry network for short trips. I recommend to stay either in Menaggio, Bellagio or Varenna which are well connected with each other by ferry for town hopping and offer plenty of things to see and do. If one of these towns are out of your budget which can easily happen, I recommend to stay close by, but still close by the lake.
Hotel Villa Aurora
Take the road from Como towards Bellagio to reach this charming hotel. Whether you want to catch some sun on their private beach or stay active and try some of the available water sports, Hotel Villa Aurora is a perfect choice. They also have a restaurant onsite which is so popular that we have seen plenty of people arriving by boat from other parts of Lake Como.
I suggest to pick one of the rooms in between the lake and the road to experience the most beautiful sunset from your private balcony. We loved our room, it was simple yet very comfortable overlooking to the surrounding mountains and the lake – all this on a way more affordable price than Bellagio for example close by.
What to do at Lake Como?
AC Boat rental
Address: Lungolago, Viale Benedetto Castelli, 22017 Menaggio CO Website
An easy and glamours way to see all the stunning villas on the shore of the lake is to hire a motorboat and I can tell you, it was the best experience since we started our trip in Italy. Each boat can take up to 6 passengers which makes it an affordable and a remarkable experience for everyone.
The great thing is that you do not need a licence for hiring a motorboat! We got a 5 min quick introduction from the crew regarding how to operate the boat; left, right, back and forward, it`s so simple and the boat is surprisingly stable. It`s easy to navigate on the lake and all boats are fitted with GPS tracking system so the rental team know where you are. We also got a map with all the villas and sights highlighted on it and some recommendations on where to go and what to see.
We took the boat for 3 hours from Menaggio and that was perfectly fine to see all the great spots on the West side of the lake, like Villa del Balbianello, Isola Comacina, George Clooney`s house (of course!). Our favourite was Villa la Cassinella, the most stunning house on the lake with an extremely pretty garden. We then decided to head to Varenna to catch the sunset. Varenna looks unreal and it’s the prettiest town on Lake Como in my opinion. Watching it from our private boat in the lights of the sunset is the most memorable experience we had during our travel in Italy.
Where to eat at Lake Como?
Da Luciano – Bottega e Caffe’
If you drive from Como towards Menaggio there is a small village called Laglio, where you can find this hidden gem – one of the best rated places at Lake Como according to GoogleMap. We learnt that the place is a former butcher shop which has been converted into an Italian deli and cafe shop, now run by the younger generation.
Make sure you grab a table outside next to the lake with the most stunning view and order some cheese or ham platter with a refreshing drink or coffee. The place was full of locals, actually we were lucky to found a table, it is a always a good sign! Oh and I have to mention that George Clooney happens to have his summer house just around the corner. I am sure he did take into consideration the dining options before deciding on where to buy his house! I would certainly purchase a house next to Da Luciano!
Como as such is referring to both a city in the in southern tip of Lake Como and also the Lake itself. It’s known for the Gothic Como Cathedral, a scenic funicular route up to the hill and a waterfront promenade. Como as the city is sort of the entry point driving from Milan and while its centre is extremely pretty one can get rather confused in regards to where to eat. Understandably there are plenty of restaurants in the city many offering not more than average tourist standards, however Comi107 is one of the refreshing exceptions!
A bit away from the crowd but still in the center presenting fine dining experience on a very attractive price point in Como standards. Quality? Way above standards! I love the whole concept from the plates, the menu to every single dish we tried. Contemporary Italian cuisine where each dish is a plate art providing taste and visual experience at the same time. We did not try the wines but I love how the great selection of wine bottles are part of the interior design!
The salmon tartare melon gazpacho is something I never tried together before. I has certainly been one of the most memorable taste experience in Italy so far. The ravioli is absolutely out of this world, clearly not your average spinach ricotta ravioli… it is stuffed with cod and sour cream and served in green shisho cream, beautifully presented like all the other dishes. The octopus OMG, I have to try octopus whenever I see it on the menu and this one with sweet potato, goose bacon and confit cherries does not disappoint the octopus lovers! For dessert I went for the chef´s recommendation which was his signature baba with passion fruit and chocolate sauce, a generous size goodness!
Pasticceria Cassera Moretti
Address: Via Carlo Camozzi, 12, 22017 Menaggio Instagram
This family run business opened just 2 years ago and already super popular among the locals due to the high quality home-made pastries and friendly, beautiful atmosphere. Beyond some traditional sweets like croissant or their signature sugar bun called Maritozzo they also offer a wide range of modern pastries; macarons, mousse etc. The place is right in centre with a peaceful inner garden which makes it a perfect spot to have some sweets and coffee during or after sightseeing.
Beside the earlier mentioned maritozzo brioche kind of bun (so soft!! amazing) I of course had to try the pistachio croissant which has a wonderful pistachio cream filling, perfect for breakfast. Following some breakfast pastries we went straight into afternoon pastries in a few minutes and wow they are well worth the calorie. Pistachio mouse and particularly their signature hazelnut chocolate crunch dream (called corteccia) is absolutely a something you have to try when in Menaggio.
Address: Via XX Settembre, 10, 23829 Varenna Italy Website
Veranna is a super charming town on the Lake Como and should be one everyone´s list to visit for sure. However when it comes to dining, it felt way too touristic for my taste and we were not really sure where to spend our lunch. We found II Cavatappi based on GoogleMap reviews. In general I really recommend to check reviews along with Tripadvisor.
At touristic places like Lake Como there are many super nice looking restaurants with horrific reviews so make sure you pay attention to reviews to avoid disappointment.
II Cavatappi is a brilliant, traditional restaurant with full of character and a super attentive and professional staff. The small terrace in front of the restaurant is overlooking to beautiful narrow alley, that gives Veranna`s character. The Italian menu influenced by the local cuisine is absolutely top notch with dishes like Fettucine with duck ragout and pecorino cheese or the orecchiette pasta with swordfish (below). We had one of the most delicious dishes here during our trip and I warmly recommend this place to anyone visiting Veranna.
Gelateria del Borgo
Address: Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, 46, 22021 Bellagio
Bellagio is one of the highlights of Lake Como lying in the middle part of the lake that divides Lake Como into two, offering great view to the mountains and Varenna. Exploring the town is an easy walk on the small cobblestoned streets with plenty of good restaurants and shops. We have only spent a couple of hours here and thought the best way to explore the city is with gelato in our hands.
The place we have chosen is called Gelateria del Borgo has 20-30 different flavours, the hardest part is always to chose only 2-3! We had the best ice cream at Lake Como in this place, the flavours are not overwhelming, the coconut particularly had a super authentic, natural taste. Gelato is almost always a good idea especially now that you know where exactly to eat!
It is not the first time we visit Lake Como and won`t be the last. Scenic villages, beautiful viewpoints, stunning scenery and wonderful dining are just some of the key reasons why we fell in love with this part of Italy a long time ago. The way how the big mountains surround the lake along with the beautiful villas and gardens make the whole place absolutely magical. It`s one of the most popular destinations in northern Italy and well worth the visit.
Have you been to Lake Como before? What are your favourite spots?
Are you considering visiting other parts of Norther Italy? Read my Milan Guide in here!