I’m not sure why it took me so long to get to Lake Como. I’ve traveled to Italy seven times, but kept passing it up for coastal destinations like Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast and Puglia because I always thought seaside charm was more my jam. Well, I finally made it to Italy’s deepest lake, home to spectacular villas, colorful hamlets and scenic gardens. And now I’m smitten. Lake Como truly is a summer dream destination, and I’m sharing my complete travel guide to help you plan your visit. Below you’ll find my favorite villages, villas, the best Lake Como hotels, Airbnbs, restaurants, swimming spots, viewpoints and more.
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Stunning views of the lake from Villa Balbianello. OUTFIT DETAILS: Anthropologie dress linked here.
There are so many beautiful statues at the villas on Lake Como.
FOUR TO FIVE DAYS. Lake Como is one of the most serene destinations in Italy, and you’ll want to explore at a relaxed pace to really enjoy the surroundings and soak in the ambiance. There are several towns, hamlets and villages to visit, but all are tiny and it’s possible to see multiple destinations in a single day. Four to five days is the ideal amount of time to explore both well known and lesser known villages, enjoy a boat day, visit the a few villas and eat at the best restaurants.
Linguine, lobster and cherry tomatoes at Giacomo Al Lago.
MAY TO SEPTEMBER. May through September is high season. Prices for lodging are high, but this is the warmest time of the year, and the most pleasant time to visit. Oddly enough, May and June also get the most rainfall. There’s a lower chance of rain in July, August or September, but Lake Como will be busier at this time. If you want to see the purple wisteria around Lake Como, visit in April when the flowering plant is in full bloom.
Nesso is a vibe. Amazing place to anchor a boat and spend the afternoon sunbathing, swimming and jumping off the bridge.
Waterfall views from the Ponte della Civera.
Bellagio might be the most iconic destination on Lake Como. The picturesque village is home to scenic cobbled lanes and stairways lined with charming boutiques, gelato shops, cafes and restaurants – Salita Serbelloni is the most famous passageway. Bellagio is small enough to visit as a day trip, but its location between the lake’s two branches make it the ideal home base for exploring the surrounding region.
Como is the largest settlement on Lake Como, the city where most visitors arrive by train. It’s perfectly lovely, and has the most options in terms of lodging, food and shopping, but its location on the southern tip of the lake isn’t the most ideal location for exploring the region.
A lovely little village that takes a mere hour to explore after a visit to Villa del Balbianello. The main square is home to the octagonal shaped Church of St. John and Baptisery of St. Stefano and a delicious gelateria.
Mennagio is one of the most scenic settlements to approach by water. Colorful old buildings cluster around the waterfront where the white bell tower of St. Stephen’s Church rises up out of the rooftops.
Nesso flies under the radar and is often overlooked by Lake Como visitors on a tight schedule. The hillside village is so tiny that it can be explored in a mere hour, but chances are you’ll want to spend an entire afternoon in Nesso when you discover its shoreline gems. Orrido di Nesso is a waterfall gorge that divides the village into two, and the Civera Bridge serves as the gateway to the falls. The arched stone bridge has all the feels of a fairytale, a popular spot to jump into the water. And there are picturesque stone steps that lead into the lake for swimming and sunbathing.
A small commune on the western shore of Lake Como, and a mere ferry ride away from Bellagio. The main boulevard borders the shoreline where the jetty, restaurants, shops, Grand Hotel Tremezzo and Villa Carlotta are all within walking distance of each other.
Varenna is my favorite destination on Lake Como. The little village sits on the eastern shore where you’ll find some of the loveliest viewpoints on the lake. A colorful façade of yellow, orange and red buildings paint an incredible scene for visitors approaching by boat in search of postcard perfect views. Varenna is also home to two of the prettiest villas on Lake Como – Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi.
Warm pool days in Varenna.
Lake Como feels like an Italian dream on a warm summer day.
VILLA DEL BALBIANELLO (LENNO)
The 18th century villa is breathtaking. Carve out a full morning for a leisurely stroll through the terraced gardens to explore every nook and cranny of Villa del Balbianello. Don’t miss the lush pathways, stone sculptures, the portico, a boat dock covered in ivy and absolutely sweeping views of Lake Como and the surrounding mountains. It all feels like a scene from a movie, I guess it’s fitting that both Star Wars and James Bond were filmed here. Advance tickets can be purchased here.
Villa del Balbianello sits on the outskirts of Lenno. When you exit the ferry, walk to your left following the water until you see the sign for the villa. At the sign there are two options to reach the villa: pay a few Euro to join a water taxi (five minutes) or a free walk through the park (15 minutes). I opted for the walk, not realizing how stunning the villa is to approach by water until I did the return by water taxi. I highly recommend using this service both directions.
VILLA CARLOTTA (TREMEZZO)
Villa Carlotta is located on the banks of Tremezzo, just steps away from the ferry jetty. The villa now serves as a museum, and ticketed entry includes access to both the museum and the botanical gardens. For me, the garden is the highlight. It’s quintessential Lake Como – spectacular fountains, a lemon citrus tunnel, scenic gates, perfectly trimmed hedges, fountains and blooming azaleas and rhododendrons. Advance tickets can be purchased here.
VILLA CIPRESSI (VARENNA)
A functioning hotel set in a 17th century villa overlooking a beautiful botanical garden that can be visited by outside guests. Pathways wind their way through the terraced garden where lush greenery spills down into the lake. Don’t miss the grand cast-iron gate that opens up to a set of stone steps that lead into the water (this is the villa’s private boat jetty). Villa Cipressi is prettiest in April when the purple wisteria is in full bloom.
VILLA MELZI (BELLAGIO)
This is a 19th century neo-classical villa located in Bellagio. It isn’t nearly as popular as the villas in Lenno, Tremezzo or Varenna, but worth a quick visit to see the gardens and lake views while in Bellagio.
VILLA MONASTERO (VARENNA)
This expansive handsome villa is the neighbor to Villa Cipressi on Lake Como’s eastern shoreline. Villa Monastero sits perched over a terraced garden bursting with plants, trees and flowerbeds including agaves, palms, wisteria, magnolia, citrus, roses and more. One of the prettiest private boat docks sits in front of the villa – stone columns rise up from a set of stone steps that lead down to the water. Advanced ticket information here.
VILLA OLMO (COMO)
A grand neo-classical villa on the banks of Como that dates back to the 18th century. The wide open grounds of Villa Olmo aren’t as picturesque as its northern neighbors, but the towering main building is a sight to see.
Exploring the little pedestrian lanes of Bellagio.
Bellagio is very central on Lake Como – a great home base to explore the lake’s surrounding towns and villages.
Delicious bruschetta at Ristoro Forma e Gusto.
Sauce selections at Dai Viga Pasta Fresca.
COMO CENTER APARTMENT (COMO)
Loft apartment located in the heart of Como walking distance to shops, restaurants, the ferry jetty and bus station. Como Center Apartment is small, but very clean, modern and cozy.
DIVINA VITA APARTMENTS (VARENNA)
Divina Vita offers guests one of the loveliest views in Varenna. The apartments open up to small balconies with decorative metal railing that overlook Lake Como (the Deluxe Apartment has a particularly lovely view). There are only five apartments, and they book up months in advance.
This might be the most quintessential hotel stay on Lake Como. Grand Hotel Tremezzo towers over the western banks of the lake facing Bellagio across the water. It’s completely reminiscent of vintage Italy, and looks straight out of a Wes Anderson film. The hotel’s lakefront is an absolute vibe adorned with bright orange and white sun beds, umbrellas, chairs and tables. There is a pool on the lake, and the hotel is conveniently located next to Villa Carlotta and the Tremezzo ferry jetty.
HOTEL BELVEDERE (BELLAGIO)
Hotel Belvedere sits perched on the hill above Bellagio where beautiful gardens, an infinity pool and umbrellas slope down the property’s rolling hills. The design is classic Italian, and the property grounds + views are the main draw to staying here. Rooms are clean, albeit a bit dated. It’s a 10-minute walk to reach the Bellagio town centre.
HOTEL DU LAC (BELLAGIO)
In terms of location, it doesn’t get more convenient than the waterfront in Bellagio. Hotel Du Lac sits on the main boulevard where restaurants, gelato shops and the ferry terminal are mere steps away. That said, the rooms are standard, nothing particularly special, and there isn’t much in terms of lakefront serenity on this busy street.
IL SERENO (TORNO)
One of the few contemporary properties on Lake Como. Il Sereno is a beautiful modern property that looks more urban than classic Italian. Rooms are ultra luxe with wood paneling throughout the bedrooms and bathrooms, stylish furniture pieces and muted color palette.
LE RONDINELLE (BELLAGIO)
Affordable apartment in Bellagio in a spectacular location – the balcony sits above Vecchio Borgo Restaurant, overlooking the charming little square. The building is old, but the apartment is up to date. It’s no frills, but simple and clean. Good option for anyone looking to stay in Bellagio on a budget.
MANDARIN ORIENTAL, LAGO DI COMO (BLEVIO)
If you’re looking to splurge on Lake Como, Mandarin Oriental is the place to do it. Set in a 19th century villa, the five-star property offers guests a selection of rooms, suites and villas. Beautiful property, and impeccable service.
MENAGGIO HISTORICAL STUDIO (MENAGGIO)
This charming studio sits in a 600-year old building, but has been completely transformed into a beautiful little apartment. The white walls, tile, furniture and linens make the modern space feel bright and airy. Menaggio Historical Studio is an Airbnb Plus property. A great deal in Mennagio if you can snag it!
PALAZZO ALBRICCI PEREGRINI (COMO)
Palazzo Albricci Peregrini is a 15th century palace that has been completely converted into a boutique hotel. The rooms have loads of character boasting timber beam ceilings, stone stairways, cobbled floors, frescos and a gorgeous courtyard garden. The property sits in the heart of Como, a short stroll to restaurants, shops and the water.
Passalacqua is a small luxury property located in the little village of Moltrasio. The hotel is lovely, particularly the gardens. A small pool sits on the terraced lawns surrounded by picturesque sunbathing umbrellas, as well as perfectly manicured hedges, palms, trees and fountains. The rooms and suites are stunning – absolutely bursting with Baroque design opulence.
SUMMER & WINTER DOLCE RISVEGIO (PERLEDO)
This Airbnb Plus apartment has all the cozy feels of a lakeside cabin. The space is bright and airy thanks to the white interiors, wood plank ceilings and large glass sliding doors. Property is located in Perledo, a small village above Varenna.
VILLA LIBERTY (COMO)
Villa Liberty is located in Como, a 20-minute walk to the heart of the town. The villa dates back to 1910, but has been converted into a boutique hotel. Rooms are spacious, simple and modern – a solid mid-range option if you’re staying in Como.
VILLA MARINA (BELLANO)
A beautiful lakefront house in Bellano with a private beach and umbrellas for guests. Villa Marina sits in a historical house, and while the rooms aren’t the most modern, they are bursting with charm and character. The cozy spaces include wood beam ceilings, stone fireplaces, mahogany wardrobes, etc.
Vista Menaggio Centro is a beautiful Airbnb Plus property located in the historical centre of Megaggio. The beams, door frames, window frames, coat rack, desk and bed frame are all made from similar colored dark wood that pops against the bright white space – feels very open and airy. The apartment is two bedrooms, and overlooks the heart of town.
VILLA MOJANA (BELLAGIO)
Villa Mojana is all about rustic luxury. The villa houses six rooms, all boasting hard wood floors, wood canopy beds and white linens. The rooms are beautiful, but the grounds are what really make the property shine – lush greenery, marble white sculptures, an infinity pool, white loungers and views of Lake Como.
Sweet corners in the village of Lenno.
AL PRATO (VARENNA)
Al Prato might be the best restaurant in Varenna. The menu is always changing, but usually includes fresh pastas, seafood and meat. Reservations recommended – the restaurant is tiny!
BAR II MOLO (VARENNA)
Absolutely charming bar / cafe on the Varenna waterfront that faces picturesque views of the village and a little beach. This place is very popular during high season, expect a long wait for a table.
BISTROT ANTICHI SAPORI (BELLAGIO)
Casual restaurant in Bellagio that offers a nice variety of Italian dishes including bruschetta, pastas, pizza, meat and fish.
DAI VIGA PASTA FRESCA (BELLAGIO)
Affordable, delicious pasta shop located on a tiny square in Bellagio. Dai Viga Pasta Fresca is a quick-eat establishment where guests select a fresh pasta and a homemade sauce, and the food is ready within a few minutes.
GELATERIA DEL BORGO (BELLAGIO)
The tastiest gelato shop in Bellagio is located at the top of the village. Flavors change daily, but a sampling of options include passion fruit, mango, chocolate, mint, coffee and more.
GIACOMO AL LAGO (TREMEZZO)
My favorite restaurant on Lake Como is lakefront at Grand Hotel Tremezzo. The outdoor restaurant bursts with retro Italy vibes, surrounded by sun beds, umbrellas, tabletops and chairs dripping in the property’s signature orange + white color palette. Seafood is the restaurant’s specialty – highlights include linguine with lobster and cherry tomato sauce, spaghetti with clams, fresh sea bream, gnocchi with langoustines and more.
LA LOCANDA TREMEZZO (TREMEZZO)
Casual spot that sits on the main road in Tremezzo. Menu includes a selection of tasty homemade pasta dishes, as well as fresh seafood.
PIAZZA ROMA COMO (COMO)
Little spot in Como that serves delicious fresh pastas, as well as a few seafood and meat options.
RISTORO FORMA E GUSTO (BELLAGIO)
Lovely little restaurant with tables on an alleyway in Bellagio. Risto Forma e Gusto serves all the classic pizza, pasta and calzone dishes – very affordable. The bruschetta appetizer is a must.
TRATTORIA SAN GIACOMO (BELLAGIO)
This little restaurant sits at the top of the steps on Salita Serbelloni, the most photographed location in all of Lake Como. If you can get one of their tables outside, the ambiance is a 10/10.
The most iconic street on Lake Como is Salita Serbelloni, in Bellagio.
The most scenic way see Lake Como is by boat. The three options for getting around on the water are the public ferry, self-drive boat rental and boat rental with a captain. I’ll quickly breakdown all the options below:
The ferry system is frequent with lines that connect the most popular villages and towns on the lake including Bellagio, Cadenabbia, Como, Lenno, Menaggio, Nesso, Tremezzina, Varenna and dozens more. Ferry tickets can be purchased at the small jetty kiosks, no need to book in advance. Current ferry schedules here.
BOAT RENTAL (SELF-DRIVE)
It’s possible to rent a boat on Lake Como, even if you do not have a boat license. These boats are small and fairly straight forward to operate. The self-drive option gives you the most freedom to explore the lake. I highly recommend anchoring at the Civera Bridge in Nesso for an afternoon of jumping, swimming and sunbathing. Rental prices range from €75 to €350 (excluding fuel), depending on length of time. Boats can be rented from Lake by Boat, Cadenzanni Lake Como Boat Rental, Lake Como Boat and Como Lake Boats.
PRIVATE BOAT (W/CAPTAIN)
Private boat rental with a captain is the most expensive option for exploring Lake Como. Prices vary based on length of time and type of boat (the iconic wood panel boats are more expensive). Rental companies include Non Solo Barche, Como Classic Boats, Taxi Boat Varenna and Bellano Water Taxi.
The ferries make it quick and easy to get around Lake Como.
The prettiest boat dock I’ve ever seen at Villa Balbianello.
Lake Como sits in the Lombardy region of Italy, easily accessible, but a world away, from the bustling big city of Milan. Most visitors arrive by train, usually disembarking in Como or Varenna, and then using the ferry system to move around the lake.
It’s also possible to explore Lake Como by rental car. While less direct than the ferry, a car offers more flexibility to stop and explore some of the region’s lesser known hamlets and villages that aren’t easily accessed by ferry or bus.