Lake Como: Luxury Travel Guide to Italy
Touring Bellagio, Como & More
Lake Como’s first luxury vacation home was built in the 1st century A.D., when Pliny the Younger became so enamored with the glacial lake and its mountain views that he kept two villas there. The lake is no less enchanting today.
Nestled between ancient rocky slopes and jagged alpine peaks, Lake Como is one of the deepest lakes in Europe. Although Lake Como is surrounded by the unspoiled natural beauty of the hills and mountains, along its shores are some of the most luxurious villas in Italy.
Captivating historic villas on Lake Como
Longfellow, Tennyson, Liszt, and Bellini all vacationed on Lake Como; many of the villas they visited still exist today and continue to inspire artists and art lovers with their magnificent estate gardens, statuary and palatial interiors.
Villa Carlotta, built in the 17th century, features an expansive formal Italian garden with ornamental fountains and sculptures; its own wooded park; and a museum of agricultural implements.
Villa del Balbianello is celebrated for its perfectly preserved 18th-century interiors and spectacular terraced garden, a perfect setting for private wine tastings, dinners and weddings.
The 16th-century Villa d-Este is now a luxury hotel/spa and favorite destination of film and rock stars. The villa’s beautifully maintained English gardens are available for touring.
The grounds of the less-well-known but very enchanting Villa Ciressi and Villa Monasero, both in Varenna, also boast professionally maintained gardens of Mediterranean and tropical plants as well as notable statues and bas-reliefs.
Private tours and events at these and other historic villas can be arranged.
Shopping and Dining in Lake Como
The shopping in the Lake Como region is extraordinary, especially for designer couture, Italian gold jewelry and other exclusive luxury goods. Locally made silk scarves and ties are renowned the world over; silks and other sumptuous textiles can also be bought by the bolt. And don’t forget, the fashionable boutiques of Milan and St. Moritz are no more than a couple hours’ drive away, depending on where you’re staying.
There are not-to-be-missed traditional bistros specializing in local freshwater fish, meat and polenta dishes; ultra-chic restaurants with sophisticated menus and five-star service; and an abundance of cafes from where one can soak up the continental atmosphere while sipping an espresso or a glass of good Italian wine.
Nightlife on Lake Como ranges from the tranquility of a starlit sail, to the drama of an open-air opera, to the exuberance of an all-night discothèque.
Most of the fine-dining restaurants and evening entertainments are most quickly — and much more romantically — reached by boat. The road that connects all the lakeside towns is often congested; visitors to the Lake Como region will enjoy their stay, not to mention the views, much more if they do most of their traveling by water taxi, traghetto, private boat rental or sea plane.
Lake Como’s Bellagio and Menaggio: Lakefront Treasures
Visit the lakefront towns of Como, Bellagio and Menaggio for their lively piazzas surrounded by historic buildings, churches and museums. You’ll find the shopping intimate, with numerous small shops and boutiques carrying specialty goods and one-off fashions. In summer, there are many scheduled outdoor concerts and choir performances.
The smaller lakefront villages are also charming and well worth exploring. The well preserved downtown areas are mostly closed to automobile traffic and are generally not crowded with tourists, so you’re able to become part of the local rhythm and experience the authentic customs and traditions of the region.
The easiest way to reach any of the lakefront villages and towns is by ferry, then continuing on foot through the narrow cobblestone roads that wind their way to the village centers.
Milan and St. Moritz: Lake Como Day Trips
Milan, one of the world’s major commercial centers as well as a fashion and design capital, makes for a very cosmopolitan day trip. In addition to its style inspiration and fashion shopping opportunities, Milan’s long history can be explored through its many museums, historic buildings and other examples of exquisite architecture, not to mention many restaurants, bistros and cafes. A trained and registered private walking guide is highly recommended.
Another suggested day trip is just over the border to St. Moritz, Switzerland. Although most famous for its winter sports, St. Moritz’ glacier landscape provides spectacular views year-round. The Segantini Museum alone is worth the trip. Of course, St. Moritz also offers world-class shopping.
If you like bargains, on your return from St. Moritz, stop at the designer outlets in Lugano — or plan a separate day trip to the designer outlets in Sondrio.
It’s beautiful outside
Thanks in part because it’s protected by the Alps on the North, the climate around Lake Como is mild and sunny, even sub-tropical in parts, making it perfect for outdoor recreation.
Certainly the lake itself provides a magnificent venue for water sports and boating, including swimming, speedboating, waterskiing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, canoeing and sailing. Lakefront beach clubs — the one in Lenno is exceptional — provide swimmers and sunbathers with changing rooms, rest rooms, traditional beach lounging beds and cafes.
The region’s hills and mountains have hiking and climbing trails for a variety of fitness and experience levels as well as roads for scenic drives. In Bramante, one can take the funiculare to the top of the hill and walk the scenic trails along the ridge line.
Paragliding and horseback riding are also popular ways to enjoy the region’s natural beauty. Bicycling around the lake, sharing the narrow roads with automobiles, is recommended for serious cyclists only.
Some of the best golf courses on the continent are located in the Lake Como region of Italy. The Menaggio & Cadenabbia Golf Club, founded in 1907, is an English-style par 70. The natural terrain, steep inclines and narrow fairways create a challenging course; the sweeping view of the Alps and Lake Como create a dramatic backdrop.
La Pinetina Golf Club is cut into a forest and lies on 158 acres of breathtaking, unspoiled Tradate-Appiano Gentile parkland.
Le Robinie is Italy’s only Jack Nicklaus-designed, U.S.-style golf course. Lake Como itself provides a few of the unique and challenging water hazards.
And the Villa d-Este’s golf course, seat of the Italian Open, is one of the most challenging par 69s in Europe. The countryside course was designed by Peter Gannon.
Rent Italian Villas on Lake Como from Homebase Abroad: Vacation Home Rentals
Homebase Abroad has a select Portfolio of Lake Como luxury rental villas and comprehensive vacation planning services. With 13 years of experience planning villa rental vacations in the Lake Como region, Homebase Abroad has insider information about the best restaurants, shops and attractions. Homebase Abroad can procure tickets, plan itineraries based on your special interests, arrange for private guides… Homebase Abroad has the familiarity with the region, local contacts and expertise to create a custom luxury Italian villa vacation that meets all your requests and exceeds your expectations.
For information, including availability, please call Homebase Abroad at 781-639-4040 or UK: +44-20-7084-6374 to consult with a director who would be happy to answer all your questions and make suggestions as to how your luxury villa vacation could be customized and made especially memorable.
Click here to view our online portfolio of Lake Como villa rentals.