Lake Como holidays draw jet set crowds to the shore for neoclassical architecture, café culture and the Italian wow factor
In a pocket of north Italy you'll discover a place where age-old frescoes remain preserved; immaculate Italianate gardens are preened to perfection and life on the lake is as splendid as you could imagine. Lake Como holidays are a Mediterranean dream of breathtaking food that tastes as fresh as the glacier lake it came from, and splendid villas with rose gardens that look like they’ve come straight out of a coffee table book. There are lunches in centuries-old villas, spa treatments overlooking the lake, white-glove service in the evenings and lakefront nightcaps under a purple sky.
Lake Como has always been a sun-kissed playground for the rich and famous – think classic cars racing along peachy-coloured towns, effortlessly stylish Michelin-starred restaurants in fairytale courtyards and cobblestoned streets walked by everyone from Vincenzo Bellini to Alfred Hitchcock. The nouveau rich race their speedboats here while the locals happily get by sailing from village to village. There’s rustic charm in family-run trattorias where saffron risotto and home-made ice cream are served up as authentically as the atmosphere, and private wine tastings in an historic castle in Bergamo. Discover perpendicular gardens, 16th-Century palazzos and a decadent alpine setting as you rise by funicular some 1600 feet above the lake to the summit of Mount Brunate. Whether you’re arriving by boat to the jet set town of Bellagio, picking up Italian-made cashmere at Falconeri or launching your private water limousine from Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s private jetty for a Champagne sunset cruise; you’ll know you’ve landed on your feet in extravagant Italian style.
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Best time to visit Lake Como
• The best time to head to the lakes is from April to October when days are brighter and sunny
• During the summer months the number of visitors rises, especially during August when most Italians go on their holidays; the lakes' water is generally warmer in July, August and September making these the prime swimming months
• There is often rainfall during the summer and nights are cooler than you might expect following hot days
• From November to March, lakeside beaches and outdoor swimming pools are not always open and the temperature can fall quite low; temperatures fall to single figures between December and February.
Lake Como holiday highlights
There are the magical views of the Grigne mountains, Villa Carlotta’s spellbinding Italianate gardens and some of the prettiest streets in all of the Italian Lakes in the exclusive towns of Bellagio, Menaggio, Tremezzo and Varenna. Shop along Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, visit the 11th-Century Romanesque Basilica of San Giacomo and take time to stroll through Villa Melzi’s breathtaking park. Pescallo in Bellagio is the perfect spot for kayaking and waterskiing, and Lido di Cernobbio is a great place to while away the day at the beach club or in the elegant pool.
History and design buffs will love Il Duomo di Como Gothic cathedral filled with art, frescoes, tapestries and sculptures – the cathedral took hundreds of years to build and is an intriguing blend of architectural styles. We also love San Fedele church for its dazzling stained glass and intricate frescoes. For a different perspective of Lake Como, take the the funicular up to Brunate for panoramic views over the Alps, the historic centre and Brianza plain.
Take a boat trip around the shores of exclusive villas and celebrity homes, and find a pretty pebbled inlet to sunbathe. Visit the fairytale Villa of del Balbianello to see the beauty captured in films such as Casino Royale and Star Wars, take a speedboat to Isola Comacina to dine in the middle of Lake Como on a beautiful wooded island or tour the dungeons and 12th-Century Castello di Vezio.
Where is Lake Como?
In the far northwest of Italy in the Lombardy region, Lake Como sits very close to the Southern Alps and the border of Switzerland. It’s the third largest lake in Italy, and one of the deepest in Europe. There are dozens of towns and villages dotted around the lake’s shores – the most famous is Bellagio, known as the Pearl of Lake Como.
Speedboat, yacht, ferry… the best way to see Lake Como is to take to the waters. Once you've arrived at each charming town or village, it's easy to walk around.
Buy famous olive oil tried and tested at the oil press in Lenno, delicate printed silk scarves and ties renowned throughout Lake Como, and beautiful hand-made Italian leather shoes found on nearly every corner in Bellagio and Menaggio. Expect master artisans producing unique silk bags and leather goods, independent boutiques tucked down secrets streets offering bespoke suits and tailored shirts, and of course designer labels like Fendi, Valentino, Prada and Yves Saint Laurent. There’s no huge department stores here, it’s all about suave little secrets and treasured finds.
Food and drink
Lavarello lake fish, tender cutlets of lamb and osso buco – you’ll be lavished with decadent regional Lombardy offerings everywhere you go. There’s an enchanting lakeside café culture under chic umbrellas with an aperitivo or coffee, gelato flavours in every colour, and plenty of pizza and fresh pasta to keep the kids happy. Experience opulent dining in magnificent villas under renowned chefs, rustic trattorias with flavoursome wild game and bold reds on the menu, and stylish hillside restaurants perched in the perfect spot for panoramic lake views. Nightlife here isn’t about busy bars and clubs (although there are a few, plus casinos); it’s more a refined late-night stay at a restaurant, enjoying after-hours drinks overlooking the midnight blue shores.