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Like in the movies
Access
Lake Como by car
Lake Como by boat
Staying at the lake
Sightseeing
Villa del Balbianello (Tremezzina)
Villa Carlotta
Villa Melzi and gardens
Como
Greenway
Sacri Monti
Activités
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Lake Como - travel story (activities, photos,...)

Lake como visit

Category: Roadtrip italy[b]
[b]
[b]

Like in the movies

[b]In 2014 I was looking for a destination within reasonable distance to travel by car, offering both the opportunity to be at ease to rest and to go for a walk in the nature. While playing with Google Maps, I came across the lakes region in the north of Italy and more particularly Lake Como. This lake alone is a concentrate of Italy with its beautiful landscapes, turquoise water, small villages with narrow streets, nature, climate, food, warmth of its inhabitants but Lake Como is also the jet-set, glamour, luxury boats, sports cars, scooters and places made famous by the movie industry. That was enough to keep us busy for a few days.[b][b][b]Date of stay: [b]June 2014[b][b][b]How much time should you spend: [b] 3 to 6 days[b]
[b][b][b][b]

Access

[b]Lake Como is located at the northern end of Italy, a few kilometres from the Swiss border. The lake has the shape of an inverted Y and you can go around by car, the full journey around the lake is more than 140 km. Milan is 45km away, you can take the plane to Milan and rent a car from there. However, if you want to drive with your vehicle, the road through Switzerland is the most convenient one but you will have to pay a vignette to cross Switzerland (even if you don't stop along the way). A word of caution, don't go to Lake Como with a car that's too wide, streets are sometimes really narrow and scary to drive through, Italians are driving in it at full speed which makes it even worse. The slightest hesitation while driving will generate some protest, you will quickly understand that you are in Italy. Your first contact with the local population may therefore be a bit harsh.[b][b][b][b]You can go around the lake by car, it's the best way to discover the surroundings and stop when you want it. The only limitation is that yo can't really stop where you want, areas where you can stop and admire the landscape are very rare. You will have to use the paid car parks around cities and then walk from there. You can also easily rent a boat and sail around the lake, that might be a worthy alternative.[b][b]Lac de Côme Como lake[b][b]

Lake Como by car

[b]As I said earlier, the car is still the easiest and cheapest way to discover the Lake Como region but driving in Italy remains a special experience, especially if you cross Switzerland before reaching Italy. The contrast between the two countries is very striking. Should you be afraid of it? If you are a stressed out driver, Italy is probably not for you. [b][b][b][b]

Lake Como by boat

[b]Once you arrive at the lake you will have many possibilities to travel by boat. Either by taking one of the many ferries that cross the lake from one end to the other, or by renting a boat. Ferries are really floating buses, they are clearly not cruise ships. We took the ferry to cross the lake and visit Bellagio, it's the fastest way if your accommodation is on the west side of the lake but it's not very glamourous. We then rented a boat to discover the area from the lake.[b][b]I had never rented a boat before, Lake Como was my first experience. I thought it was going to be easy because it was a lake, I was a long way from the truth. After a few brief explanations about the boat's operation, I set out on the lake with a smile and wind in my hair, but the smile didn't last very long. I had taken a boat powerful enough not to drag like a snail but it was without taking into account waves and wind. I was quickly put into difficulty, the waves were seriously rocking the boat and the furrows caused by the ferries made the problem even worse. When the waves weren't a problem, it was the front of the boat that was hitting the water hard. It took me about ten minutes to start mastering the boat. The two tips I can give is to put the passengers in front of the driver to put some weight in front of the boat and move forward at a higher speed to avoid getting carried away by the waves or the furrow of the ferries. [b][b]Once you have mastered the boat, you can discover the lake at your leisure and stop whenever you want. If you have time and you're not afraid of water, boat can become an interesting (but much slower) alternative to the car. You can't stop where the ferries stop, but there's nothing to stop you from drifting off and admiring the scenery. If you want to make the complete tour of the lake, you'll have to rent the boat for the day and before embarking on the adventure, test the boat for an hour or two because if you have difficulty manoeuvring the boat on the lake you'll have to fight with the water for a full day. [b][b]You will find many boat rental companies along the lake, compare prices and negotiate, you should be able to get away with less than 100€ for 2 hours. Unless you just want to test the pipe on the water, less than 2 hours doesn't make much sense.[b][b]It is also possible to take the ferry around the lake and stop at the most interesting places. It takes about fifteen euros to cross the lake in its north-south axis. You will find the schedules below. By using the ferry as a bus you probably won't have enough time to go around the lake, the ferry is slow and at each stage you will have to wait for the next passage.[b][b][b][b][b][b]Lac de Côme Como lake[b][b]

Staying at the lake

[b]Outside the conurbations you will not find many hotels and the few hotels available are quite expensive, you will find many villas rented by private individuals and this is probably the best way to enjoy your stay.[b][b]I had rented a villa, or rather the ground floor of a large villa where the two floors above were occupied by the owner's family. The villa was located on the edge of a village, it had a terrace and a lovely small garden with a view of the lake. The house was well equipped without being exceptional, but in this kind of place you live mainly outside. We had our meals on the terrace with a view of the lake, the setting was green and the air was full of scents from flowers. Although the villa was located away from the main road, the place was not particularly quiet. Between the noise coming from the family living above, the scooters, the boats in the lake and the birds singing, moments of silence were rather rare except at night. [b][b]There are several web sites where you can find accommodation around the lake, you have the usual booking.com (see below) but also real estate agencies managing the real estate assets of the region or sites grouping individuals like AirBnB or Abritel. Although I usually prefer staying in an hotel, lake Como is much more suited to stay in a villa or apartment.[b][b]Lac de Côme Como lake[b][b]

Sightseeing

[b]The lake is obviously the main attraction and for that reason alone, the area is worth a detour. However, it is important to know that nothing has been laid out for pedestrians, so it is not possible to walk along the lake outside the towns and villages. Priority has been given to the road and there are few places where people can walk. The scenery is superb, it's indisputable but air pollution is very present, you can clearly see a kind of brownish fog floating over the lake. Sometimes you can't even see the other side of the lake. Most of the photos where you can see the lake without pollution were taken a few years ago or by a windy day. Is that a problem? No, I wouldn't go that far but for those who like to take pictures, it will spoil the fun a little. [b][b][b][b]

Villa del Balbianello (Tremezzina)

[b]If you only had to do one thing at Lake Como, I would advise you to visit the Villa del Balbianello, this place is absolutely beautiful. The villa was built on the site of a monastery and was gradually transformed by its owners over time. The villa is perched on a large rock and is composed of two levels arranged like stairs. The construction is quite original and the setting is superb. The villa can be visited (only with a guide), it mainly contains the period furniture of one of its last owners, the visit gave me the impression to visit a house of a famous explorer who brought back all kinds of objects from his travels. [b][b]Lac de Côme Como lake[b][b]The villa is surrounded by a beautiful Italian garden, everything is arranged to enhance the beauty of the place. Trees are pruned to the milimeter, statues are placed everywhere, lawns are impeccably maintained, flowers add a touch of colour and of course the plunging view on the lake only accentuates the whole. [b][b]Some scenes from Casino Royale and Star Wars II were filmed in the gardens. The villa can also be rented for private parties or weddings but you'll need deep pockets, this place is rented by very rich people. A Russian couple had rented the villa on the evening of our visit to celebrate their wedding, they were not the kind to sleep in a 2-star hotel. They represented the cliché of an old rich old man who married a young blonde doll, all in a flashy environment so that everyone can see them. [b][b][b][b][b][b][b]

Villa Carlotta

[b]A few kilometres from the Villa del Balbianello, Villa Carlotta is another imposing villa you can visit. The style of the villa is completely different, both in the building (classical style in the shape of a large rectangle) and in the gardens. The villa Carlotta can also be visited but the garden is probably more interesting. The garden is composed of several different universes and even if it is perfectly maintained like that of the Villa del Balbianello, the vegetation is much denser and wilder. Lovers of beautiful plants will find their happiness there. The tour of the garden can take one to two hours, walking at ease, and the house can be visited quite quickly.[b][b]Lac de Côme Como lake[b][b]I preferred the Villa del Balbianello but it is very subjective, both villas are worth the detour and their proximity makes it possible to visit both villas the same day. Light for photography is weaker for the Carlotta villa because most of the paths in the garden are shaded by vegetation. If you want the best light you should probably visit Villa del Balbianello in the morning and do the villa Carlotta in the afternoon.[b][b][b][b][b][b][b][b]

Villa Melzi and gardens

[b]The Villa Melzi and its gardens (also called i Giardini di Villa Melzi) are located on the other side of the lake compared to the two villas mentioned above. Located next to Bellagio, the easiest access is by boat because the road is clearly not the shortest way to get there. The villa and its gardens are visible from the lake when you arrive by boat and it's clearly worth a look.[b][b]Other shore, other atmosphere. Bellagio is a small, flashy town where you must fight to find a place on the terrace in summer. The villa Melzi is a little away from the hustle and bustle. The gardens stretch along the lake and the layout of the area is very different compared to Villa Carlotta or Villa del Balbianello. The gardens here are more original and exotic, you no longer feel like you are in Italy. Here too the garden is more interesting than the villa, it is possible to get lost for an hour or two without any problem, to see more if you hang around a bit.[b][b]Lac de Côme Como lake[b][b]I preferred this garden to that of the villa Carlotta, we were there at the end of the afternoon and a storm was brewing. The atmosphere was charged with electricity and the heavy clouds were pouring the first rains on the other side of the lake. Here too, a married couple had chosen the place to immortalize their union.[b][b]Visiting the three villas on the same day must be possible but I don't recommend it because the distance between the villa Melzi and the other two villas will force you to hurry.[b][b][b][b][b][b][b][b][b]

Como

[b]Como is the largest city in the region (83,000 inhabitants) and is located at the southern end of the lake. The city is interesting without being exceptional, you can devote half a day or even a whole day to it by taking your time. Going to Como will bring you back in a more urban atmosphere, it's crowded, busy and parking your car is a challenge in peak season.[b][b]Como can be used as a base for a boat trip that will take the day, you can start from Como to go around the lake and come back in the evening. On the other hand, you won't have the time to stop everywhere and visit the most interesting things at each stop, so you should see this kind of trip as a cruise but without luxury. Ferries are basically floating buses.[b][b]What to visit in Como? First of all, there is the cathedral and the historic district around it. Let yourself be tempted by the home-made ice-creams sold in the small streets near the cathedral, it's a tourist trap but there is no harm is getting caught as long as ice cream is delicious.[b][b]You will find other religious buildings in the same neighborhood, such as the Di San Fedele Basilica or if you prefer older buildings, you will find remains of Roman baths nearby as well. If you're not interested in this type of activity, there's also the Como-Brunate funicular that will give you a view of the region from above. The starting point of the funicular railway is close to the port.[b][b][b][b][b][b][b][b]

Greenway

[b]The greenway is a pedestrian path between Griante and Colonno on the left bank of the lake. The path crosses several picturesque villages and allows you to visit this part of the lake on foot. I walked along this path from Ossucio to Colonno and even though the view of the lake is superb, the path was not in very good condition. Sometimes I had to go down the main road that doesn't have a sidewalk and then to climb and descend a number of stairs. This path is therefore not very suitable for people with reduced mobility or children. I did the walk on a sunny and very hot day, take some water with you if you do the same as there weren't any shops along the way.[b][b][b][b][b][b][b][b]

Sacri Monti

[b]At the back of Ossucio there is a narrow paved road that allows you to go up the slope of the mountain on which the village has settled. The path is in bad condition but it's a good thing because it prevents cars from driving there. It's a steep slope but once you are at the level of the sanctuary, you'll be rewarded, the view is superb. Here too, at the time of our visit, the whole thing was pretty badly maintained but if you have good legs and shoes, it shouldn't be a problem.[b][b][b][b][b][b]If you want maximum sunshine and minimum rainfall, choose July/August. On the other hand, the temperature should not be overlooked because for a few years now, the temperature has been around 40°C and this can quickly become unbearable. In June 2014 we had daily temperatures between 35 and 40°C, impossible to walk around noon because it was too hot.[b][b][b][b][b]

Activités

[b][b][b][b][b][b][Hotels loc="Lac de Côme" region="1427"][b][b][b][b][b][b][b][b][b]
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