Lake Como, Italy

Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy

There are lots of great reasons to visit Como and the beautiful Italian Lake region, other than trying to track down George Clooney!  Lake Como is located in Northern Italy, basically at the border of Switzerland.  It sits in an area where lakes formed from melted glaciers, the most important of which include:  Lake Maggiore, Lake Lugano, Lake Como and Lake Garda.

Why to go:  If you’re craving a break from the chaos of the cities, join the Milanesi here for some fresh air, clean water, mountains and nice weather.  And to heighten the appeal for kids, you can even include an amusement park if you head over to Gardaland on Lake Garda.

When to go:   There are skiing options (Madesimo or even St. Moritz) not terribly far from the lakes if you do want to visit in the winter.  However, summer tends to be the most enjoyable time in this area.  With the warmer weather, you can enjoy the outdoors a bit more – walks/hikes, outdoor cafes, watersports on the lake, etc.

How to go:  The area is easily accessible by a short train ride from Milan.  There are very frequent, regularly scheduled daily trains from Milan to the town of Como.  Driving is another option and would give you a little more flexibility in terms of visiting the other lakeside towns (the down side is the inconvenience of looking for parking).

What to do:  Aside from the previously mentioned walks/hikes and watersports, you can also take a boat trip from town to town.  There are lots of charming little towns to explore around the lakes.  Top suggestions, if I had to pick three, would be Como, Bellagio and maybe Menaggio.

Como, known for its silk production, is among the largest of the lake towns and probably the most well-known and frequently visited.  One key attraction here is the funicular that you can take to the top for a beautiful view of the town and the lake below.

Bellagio is the most expensive of the lake towns and is quaint, with narrow pedestrian streets lined with unique little shops.  Be careful if driving around this town as one unknowing turn can land you in the middle of a pedestrian zone (speaking from experience, unfortunately).

Menaggio is also a lovely town to discover and not as touristy as Como or Bellagio.  It’s a good place for bite to eat in one of the cafes or restaurants in the main pedestrian square.

Other towns to include in your visit, if you have the time, include:  Tremezzo, Nesso, Varenna. Gravedona, Domaso, Bellano, Lenno, and Argegno.  All are easy destinations in the Lake Como area.

What to eat/drink:  Well, it’s Italy so you must have some gelato!  In terms of regional cuisine, fish and dishes with butter bases are famous in this area.  Of the 5 types of fish found in the lakes, the most frequently seen on menus are perch and agoni.  Risotto with fish as well as polenta meals are both also very traditional in the lake region.  And don’t forget to pair your meal with one of the many great local wines.