It may be the third largest of the Italian Lakes, but definitely not the third best. Lake Como, also known as Lario, is located at the foot of the Alps in Italy’s northern region of Lombardy. The namesake lake boasts one of the most picturesque sceneries in the world. Characteristically shaped as an inverted ‘Y’—results from the melting of glaciers combined with the erosive action of the ancient Adda river—this led to the formation of its two southern branches (Lecco and Colico).
A combo of nature, art, history and sport, and you’ve got the sacred, sexy land of Lario. Clooney, Madonna and Branson would all agree, there is hardly a place in Europe that evokes images of beauty, glamour, adrenaline, and tranquility more than Lake Como. For hundreds of years it’s been a coveted, elite destination for the rich and famous; today, that still holds true, but there are plenty of things to get into at Como for the humble tourist, too. Welcome to Lake Como, CYTIES style.
If you’re trying to have an uber-cool and contemporary stay, check into Il Sereno Lago di Como hotel on the southern side of Como. The design and decor reap style and luxury with neutral stones, bronze accents, warm walnut woods, mid-century modern furniture, and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. This undoubtedly creates an idyllic setting for lakefront gazing and natural light to seep through to take in the surreal scenery from all corners—whether through the posh and cozy lobby, on the terrace over Compari sodas, from sun loungers by the infinity pool or upstairs in its 30 spacious suites—all of which have direct access to a water view and are all accented with lake-hue furnishings. Explore the lake by boat in the property’s vintage-inspired limousine boat vessels or head downstairs to the hotel’s own Michelin Award-winning restaurant, Ristorante Berton Al Lago, for an alfresco meal lake-caught seafood and other seasonal bounty of the region.
Steeped in history within a 15th-century palace and ancient medieval walls, the Palazzo Albricci Peregrini more than matches the southern shores of its location in Como’s “old town” that boasts grace and romance. Having been mindfully updated to preserve its old world charm, its six intimate yet spacious rooms carry a minimalist design while marrying some original features—such as exposed wooden beams and old fireplaces—with some sleek modern updates—such as polished concrete floors, distressed wall textures, and plush sofas. A stay here comes with a thoughtful personal concierge service that only emphasizes its oh-so-exclusive feel. The Palazzo emits a homey vibe, with boutique hotel style amenities like the “honesty bar” and the all-are-welcome evening aperitivi. What’s more, if you’re located around plenty of shops, cafés, and restaurants to discover Como’s quaint and upscale dining and shopping scene.
Lake Como’s first motorboats ever made, dubbed “Vaporinas,” were most identifiable by their long body with sleek lines, a driving position in the bow, space in the rear for passengers, and partly covered by a glass rooftop. Built exclusively for the upper-class, these Larian boats were a symbol of elite tourism in the late 1800s and can still be seen on the lake today. Thanks to some expert design and engineering craftsmanship, the Vaporina has been updated in the same classic style but with all the modern-day technology and comfort. If you’re fiending to get on the water in one of these neocentric models, you can take a 4-hour private 007: Vaporina Boat Tour, operated by Como Classic Boats. The 007 tour includes cruising past/through the picturesque and historic towns of Bellagio, Tremezzo, Varenna, Comacina Island, and the famous Villa Carlotta. Most notably, however, is when the boat docks for a private guided tour at the famous Villa del Balbianello, an enchanting and romantic 18th-century mansion located on a wooded promontory of the lake. Its magnificent gardens and rooms have hosted writers, scholars and travelers, including the late Italian explorer Count Guido Monzino, the last owner of the Villa. The villa has been the location for countless Hollywood movies, including Casino Royale and Star Wars. Continue on to see Villa Oleandra (George Clooney’s Villa), Villa Erba, Villa D’Este, Villa Pliniana, and the Roman bridge of Nesso. If you want to ball out, book a “luxury tour” by getting aboard the Riva Super Florida to cruise through Como like the big shot that you are.
The shores of Lake Como are studded with beaches and resorts, where both locals and tourists find relaxation on the hottest of summer days. The best beaches are subdivided by area—the Como branch, Lecco branch, Colico branch. Depending on your style of beaching and where you are staying, you’ll likely find the beach that best suits your desired vibe and sunbathing needs.
You can’t go to Italy and not rent a Vespa. An obligatory must to scoot around and explore the long coastlines of Lake Como, whether tourist or local, is to rent this iconic modo di transporto on two wheels. There are a few rental providers around town including Enjoy Lake Como, which has eight brand new “wasps,” or Vespe, for you to hop on in true Italian style. If a motor scooter isn’t your thing macho man, then Lake Como Motorbikesprovides Ducati’s for rent—from the easier and lightest models to the big crosstourer—with tour options including a relacing ride around the entire lake, which takes about four to six hours, and the Alps tour, which is a bit more challenging and for the brave motorcyclist and takes about six and a half to eight hours on the bike.
With a maximum depth of approximately 410 meters (448 yards), Lake Como is one of the deepest lakes in Europe, which also makes it one of the most intense activities to do there. Whether beginner or expert diver, you can dive into the waters of Lake Como all year round, but keep in mind, the water temperature is cold, and the visibility is poor, which often makes it more difficult than diving in the sea. That being said, there are several good diving spots including Punta Spartivento in Bellagio, the wall of Villa Pliniana in Torno, and the sea horse of Onno. You can also find shipwreck sites in the depths of Lake Como. Around Lake Como several specialized scuba diving centres will help you rent equipment and organize group dives.
If you’re looking for a place to join the fray along with other kiters and boarders, the Colico branch is all you need. Easy to reach and fully equipped, the low coast of Colico is the best spot on the lake to start racing between wind and water. The wind blows all year long, and being a sunny place, you can’t find a better area to go kitesurfing, sail, or windsurf.
The Moto Guzzi Museum will definitely appeal to those with a passion for motorcycles and engines in general. The museum showcases the history and culture of the brand as the original birthplace of the Moto Guzzi Eagle in 1921. Bringing together a rich collection of over 150 exhibition pieces of production motorcycles, sportbikes, prototypes, and experimental engines, the museum lays out the history of motorcycles via displays of vehicles from different eras. The museum is conveniently located where the various villages on the lake reside that you’ll likely be touring anyway, and admission is free of charge. You’re welcome.
If you’re a fan of hiking and can’t decide among Como’s many trails, the Sentiero del Viandante hiking trail should be a top contender. Though, it is not for the out-of-shape backpacker. Being 45km (28mi) long, it is advised to break up the trip into three or four stretches at a time. But boy are the views worth it. This particular trailhead takes ramblers on foot through the east coast of Lake Como, of which the path dates from Roman times and is the most adventurous way to explore the lushly forested and rugged terrain, paired with a jaw-dropping and rewarding vista of deep blue water down below.
So you like to cook, ay? Throw on an apron and have your hand in an authentic Italian cooking class in the magical town of Bellagio, where the main branch of Como splits in two. With your own private Italian chef, you and your counterpart(s) will learn the techniques of how to prepare fresh handmade pasta with scratch bolognese sauce (the world popular ragù), as well as lasagna with pesto and tiramisu for dessert, operated through Lake Como Experiences. Meanwhile, a Pizza Training Experience, run by Slow Lake Como, is not to simply show you how to make a pizza but to teach you how to understand the healthy, raw, and homegrown ingredients used in recipes—produced mainly by local farmers, breeders, and artisans of taste. The main lesson—food is based not only on taste and nutrition in Italy but on culture, history, and passion. Then, of course, it’s time to knead some dough and make a real deal pizza with your own private pizzaiolo. The best part will undoubtedly be sitting down to enjoy your own work of art with everyone and a well-deserved glass of local wine.
Speaking of wine, there is no shortage of specialty wine shops, wine bars, vineyards, and wineries. Enjoy an all-day wine tasting at Cantine Angelinetta, located in the small village of Domaso on the northwest side of the lake. This boutique winery produces a very limited and high-quality line of hand-harvested wines, and is credited for the rediscovery of the Verdese grape, a native and peculiar grape exclusively from the Lake Como area. It’s incredibly stunning landscape is something to not feel guilty spending all day tasting wines and frolicking through the grapevines.
The narrow stone lanes framed by blooming flowers, grand terraces along the water are most notably romanticized and recognized when walking through the streets of the storybook town of Bellagio. Known as “the Pearl of Lake Como,” Bellagio is small and walkable enough that you can easily wander all its lanes on a day trip. Make the most of going in and out of the mix of boutiques/shops of artisan goods and fashion items, cocktail bars, bistros, gelaterias, and cafes—most independently run by local Larians—blended in with a few high-end designer brick-and-mortars or outlets.
You’ve seen it by road, water, and foot. Guess it’s high time to get an eagle-eye view of Como from the air. Head up with your SO or five other friends to experience the Scenic Luxury Helicopter Tour.Miles up from the ground, take mental and digital shots of the stomach-dropping and panty-dropping upside-down, Y-shaped lake, along with the unreal panoramic views of luxury villas, gardens, and mountaintops. The ride may only be 15-18 minutes but may be the best 15-18 minutes of your life.