A Guide to Lake Como's Highlights: Villas, Promenades, and Aperitivo Spots

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 18, 2024 08:30 AMNews
White building near body of water at the lake Como
White building near body of water at the lake Como. Source: unsplash

The western branch of Lake Como, officially known as Lario, is renowned for its romantic villas and scenic promenades in the picturesque city of Como. This northern Italian lake, the third largest in Italy, has been a magnet for visitors since the 18th century, including European nobles on their grand tours. Its historical significance dates back to Roman times when Julius Caesar founded the city of Novum Comum.

Spring is an ideal time to visit Como, as the recently reopened waterfront promenades invite leisurely strolls. The city center is dominated by the Duomo di Como, a stunning gothic cathedral, and nearby Teatro Sociale and Via Vittorio Emanuele II offer cultural and shopping delights. Visitors can find unique silk products, a tradition dating back to the 15th century, at boutiques like A Picci.

A walk along Passeggiata Lino Gelpi provides breathtaking views of the lake and shorefront gardens. This scenic path, named after a 19th-century mayor, is a prime spot to watch seaplanes land and enjoy the spring blooms. Continuing along the waterside road leads to Cernobbio, a popular resort town where locals dine at Harry’s Bar or the hillside Il Gatto Nero, known for its exquisite regional cuisine and lake views.

Exploring Lake Como by water offers a different perspective. Ferries connect Como to the northern shore, but for a luxurious experience, mahogany speedboats by companies like Como Classic Boats are a must. One of the prettiest villages along the western shore is Torno, home to the world’s top hotel, Passalacqua, and historic Villa d’Este.

Further down the shore, Villa Carlotta and Villa del Balbianello are must-visit sites. Villa Carlotta boasts a 20-acre botanical garden, while Villa del Balbianello, perched on a promontory in Ossuccio, offers stunning views. Ossuccio itself is a gateway to Isola Comacina and the UNESCO-listed Sacro Monte di Ossuccio, providing a picturesque blend of natural beauty and historical charm.

Three Highlights Not to Miss in Lake Como

  1. Teatro Sociale: This 19th-century theatre in Como will host an open-air production of Puccini's "Turandot" this summer, celebrating the composer's legacy.
  2. Villa Carlotta: Known for its expansive botanical garden, Villa Carlotta features monumental trees, a citrus tunnel, and vibrant azaleas that bloom in May.
  3. Isola Comacina: The lake's only island, rich with olive, linden, and laurel trees, hosts the San Giovanni Festival in June, reenacting historical events with a spectacular firework display.
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