The main thing you’ll want to see in Lake Como is the lake itself, which is best done from the water. The ferry boats, which connect different towns and attractions around the lake, are an inexpensive way to experience boat life, but it’s worth indulging in a private boat tour. Book a trip with Bellagio Sailing, which allows you to unwind out on the water and fully explore the area. Many of the hotels, including Hotel Grand Tremezzo, also have their own motorboats, which can be booked by guests to traverse the lake.
Bellagio is one of the best-known areas of Lake Como, primarily accessible by ferry or boat. It has plenty of shopping (look for the silk scarves made in Como), restaurants and charming little streets to explore. While in the area visit I Giardini di Villa Melzi, a private home that opens its lush lakeside gardens to the public from March. On the other side of the hill, seek out Pescallo, an adorable little town where you can sip an Aperol spritz alongside boat docks.
Lake Como is all about historic villas, which overlook the lake from all sides. Several iconic villas are open to guests, including Villa del Balbianello, which you’ll recognize from the Star Wars prequels and Casino Royale. Located on a peninsula, the villa, formerly owned by a rich explorer who accumulated a massive collection of artifacts and furnishings from around the world, offers guided tours and truly insane views. In Tremezzo, Villa Carlotta features a museum and botanic gardens worth an afternoon. The gardens, best in the spring and summer, are extensive, with paths leading you through bamboo forests and colorful blooms that look like something out of Dr. Seuss.
In Como town, look for the Como Cathedral, a gothic building with impressive rose windows, and the Como Gate Tower, which was built in 1192. History buffs should seek out the Museo Archeologico Paolo Giovio, an archeological museum that recounts the history of the area with artifacts from ancient Greece, ancient Rome and prehistory. After you explore Como, hop the funicular to Brunate, a small hillside town with impressive views—which are best glimpsed from one of the restaurant terraces. The town is known as the “balcony of the Alps,” which means there are several nearby hikes and walks. Head to San Maurizio from the funicular stop, the beginning of what is known as the “La Dorsale del Triangolo Lariano” trail, which runs nearly 20 miles (you don’t have to trek the entire thing).
7 Charming Italian Towns You Haven’t Heard Of