Lake Como shoreline

Our guide to Lake Como, Italy: boat tours, floating pools and James Bond.

This beats paradise all to hell

– Ernest Hemingway

Where is Lake Como?

Shaped like an upside-down Y, Lake Como is located in Italy’s northern region of Lombardy. Sitting at the base of the Alps and labelled as the third-largest lake in Italy, Lake Como’s deep blue water and stunning vistas have captured the hearts of many travellers, many of whom return to discover more of it as the years pass. This is an ancient glacial lake whose popularity goes back to Roman times. Strung about with villas and palaces (the 18th c. lakeside marvels of Villa Olmo and Villa Carlotta among them), its balmy microclimate and glamorous prestige are the stuff of legend.

As well as the unique experiences available to families, couples and solo travellers on trips to Lake Como in Italy, our favourite resorts serve as the perfect place to reside in while visiting the area, boasting glamorous marble bathrooms, floating pools and waterfront balconies. Read our guide below to find out our favourite experiences, where to visit and where to stay on your Italian trip here.

Boat tour of Lake Como
Villa Balbianello, James Bond

One visit to Lake Como isn’t enough. But it’s a start.

Glitzy, glamorous, and effortlessly easy-going, Lake Como is at the centrepiece of the Italian ‘lake district’, a region of TK that encompasses the lakes of Maggiore, Lugano, Como, Iseo, and Garda. Each has its own charm and character, as well as a distinctive array of towns, hotels, restaurants, and bars. Ultimately, this is where the well-heeled come to rest and play, though its glamorous roots go deep into the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An air of faded grandeur and old-fashioned mystique surround its waters, bays, and lake-side villas. The larger settlements of Bellagio, Varenna, Menaggio, and Cadenabbia have their own secrets to share. Family-run trattorias and jaw-dropping views among them, or the pretty gardens of Villa Melzi. Other sites have their own historic resonance. This is where Mussolini and his mistress, Claretta Peracci, were captured – kept under guard at a villa in Mezzegra.

Over the years, its historic visitors include such luminaries as the King of Italy, the Queen of Romania, the Prince of Prussia, the Duchess of Genoa, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, the King and Queen of Portugal, the Aga Khan. And Ernest Hemingway, who spent much time here while convalescing in 1918 from wounds sustained on the Italian Front. He rowed, he played billiards, he wrote. He even had time for a ‘transalpine’ love affair. To put it another way, the region just has that certain something – a kind of mystical allure that can’t be bottled or replicated.

The most beautiful towns in Lake Como

It takes some four or more days to properly navigate the outline of Como, though even then you risk missing out on some of its more secluded and special settlements and villages. Boats also depart regularly, though we would recommend enjoying your own private boat tour. On land (hilly, precipitous, and deeply romantic), you can walk a serenely sublime trail that reveals view after effortless view; from Colonno to Griante, via the villages of Sala, Ossucio, Lenno and Comacina. Our local guides will be entirely at your disposal should you want to find Como’s best kept secrets (a common enough phrase in travel, but we really mean it).

When to go to Lake Como

The region is famed for its microclimate, though the best time to visit Lake Como is always during the summer. The water is warm and the temperatures balmy. Travelling either side of the summer will mean smaller crowds. Of course, we’ve designed our trips to keep you away from the tourist spots and heavier-worn areas, preferring instead Lake Como’s more exclusive and well-hidden corners.

Lake Como: Varenna
Lake Como

What to do in Lake Como

A private boat tour around Lake Como

Aboard your private Riva yacht, you’ll take to the glistening water with a local guide to explore Lake Como. Backed by the Italian Alps and lined with pretty pine trees, boat tours of Lake Como are the perfect way to soak up the panoramic views and get an introduction to the area. Dating back to the last Ice Age, you’ll learn all about Lake Como’s fascinating history as you glide past waterside villages, elegant estates and Comacina Island. Our favourite pit-stop on this tour is at the romantic Villa del Balbianello as seen in the 007 film, Casino Royale. Perched on the tip of Dosso d’Avedo peninsula, you’ll get the chance to follow in the footsteps of James Bond as you wander the glamorous gardens of the 16th-century estate. Back on the motorboat, you’ll make your way to a remote corner of Lake Como for a secluded picnic packed with all your favourite snacks and a bottle of champagne.

Take a vintage Alfa Romeo out for a spin

Enjoying the palatial luxury of Grand Hotel Tremezzo, we’ll hand over a set of keys to your own vintage car. Head downstairs where we’ll have a gourmet picnic and map waiting for you as you set off on one of our favourite drives, stopping off wherever your heart desires. This way, you can enjoy Lake Como at your own pace. Stopping where you will, choosing your own path. We’ll recommend some idyllic eateries and views, but the rest is blissfully up to you.

Hiking in Lake Como
Lake Como by private helicopter

Hike the ancient Sentiero del Viandante trail in Lake Como

Measuring 45km in length and dating back to Roman times, the ancient trail of Sentiero del Viandante is scattered with captivating castle ruins and alive with wild flora and fauna. Best split into a couple of sections throughout your stay, our favourite stretch is from Bellano to Varenna due to its breathtaking scenery and peacefully quiet path. After the initial incline up to Vezio Castle, often said to be the most strenuous part too, the old mule track levels out, making for a leisurely and picturesque walk along Lake Como’s eastern shore. In between the old stone walls, olive groves and traditional farmhouses, this seven-kilometre hike offers many bird watching viewpoints and picnic pit stops from which you can admire the stunning views.

Enjoy a private helicopter tour of Italy’s lake district

We love this one. On a grand and beautiful morning, your pilot will take you on a private helicopter flight over the Lombardy section of Italy’s lake district, finishing with a gourmet dinner on the sunlit shores of Lake Maggiore. Soaring high above the ground, you’ll get the perfect birds-eye view of Lake Como, Lugano, Maggiore and the smaller surrounding lakes. If you wish to see more of the lake district, we can arrange for your pilot to fly you east for a day trip to Lake Garda, the country’s largest lake. In the surrounding towns of Lake Garda it’s easy to get lost in the history of ancient castles, sip on wine at local wineries and sunbathe on the beautiful beaches.

Curious about Lake Como?

Private boat tours on Lake Garda, sunset hikes along Lake Como’s shores and champagne picnics on Comacina Island; these are just some of our favourite lake experiences in Italy. Click below to start planning your bespoke trip to Italy’s lakes or scroll down to see our top hotels in Lake Como.

TAKE ME THERE

Where to stay in Lake Como

The lake is famed for its hotels. But we’ve worked closely to hand-pick only the best of the best.  Head below to read about our favourite properties on Lake Como, Italy’s sublime northern treasure.

Elegance at Grand Hotel Tremezzo

Standing glamorously on Lake Como’s western shore, Grand Hotel Tremezzo is among our favourite hotels in northern Italy due to its stunning location and elegant antique furnishings. With lake-view suites offering butler service, an outdoor hot tub and a private terrace, candlelit dinners on your balcony are the norm. After a morning spent strolling around the beautiful botanic gardens at Villa Carlotta just down the road, head back for an afternoon of relaxation in the hotel’s spa or a swim in the floating pool. In the evening as the sun slowly sets over the Grigne mountains, Tremezzo’s roof terrace acts as the perfect setting to enjoy some fresh ravioli and a bottle of bubbly.

Stay in style at Il Sereno

Sitting on the lakefront in the postcard-perfect town of Torno is Il Sereno, one of Lake Como’s most modern hotels. Boasting 30 elegant suites, each features floor to ceiling windows looking out over the beautiful lake, allowing the sun to pour through in the early morning.  In between a soak in the freestanding bathtub and a photograph over your waterfront balcony, the 60-foot-long infinity pool and Michelin-star restaurant await your arrival downstairs. Freshly caught fish from the lake, a seven-course tasting menu and world-class Italian wines; what more could you want?

Grand Hotel Tremezzo
Il Sereno hotel

All things marble at Mandarin Oriental

One mile from Il Sereno Hotel in the small village of Blevio lies the lavish 19th-century villa, Mandarin Oriental. Laced with contemporary decor and marble mantlepieces, it will soon become evident as to why the Mandarin Oriental played home to many Italian opera stars. Choosing from the gorgeous array of rooms, suites, penthouses and villas you’ll be met with fresh flowers, sunken bathtubs and plush king-size beds. After a traditional massage in the wellness spa and some al fresco dining on the lakefront, it’s time to explore the lake via seaplane.

Interested in Italy?

Whether it’s a boat trip on Lake Como, a walking tour of Leonardo da Vinci’s work in Milan or a morning at Gladiator School in Rome; we’ve scoured the corners of Italy to bring you the most bespoke and engaging experiences possible. Check out all our Italian itineraries and get planning your bespoke trip.

TAKE ME THERE