weekend away - Lake Como
Written by Martha Bakerjaian illustration by Vesa Sammalisto
Popular as a recreational destination since Roman times, Lake Como is a favourite with celebrities, the Milanese, and tourists alike. Surrounded by mountains and hills, the shoreline is dotted with lavish villas and rustic villages.
Lake Como is a perfect weekend getaway at almost any time of year, although May is the ideal month to visit. With two train stations, Como can also be easily reached by rail from Milan. From Como, ferries and buses can take you to the other towns on the lake.
On arrival, take some time to walk around Como’s historic centre and soak up the atmosphere at a café in one of its lively squares.
Silk is widely produced in Como and you can see the manufacturing process in the Silk Museum, or buy some beautiful examples to take home as souvenirs.
Take the funicular to the village of Brunate, 720 m above Como, where you’ll have great views of the lake and Alps. Be sure to try the special lake perch, often served in a risotto at many restaurants.
The lake can best be appreciated by taking a scenic boat tour. An ideal stop is Bellagio, known as the ‘Pearl of the Lake’. Located where the branches of Lake Como come together, the village has panoramic views, with the Alps visible across the expanse of water. Its picturesque stone lanes are lined with shops, gelato bars, cafés, and restaurants. Enjoy a tour of the 18th-century gardens at Villa Serbelloni Park, open from April to October, then stop for lunch on the terrace at Ristorante Bilacus, Via Serbelloni 32. A lakeside promenade leads from the ferry dock to Villa Melzi where you can see its beautiful gardens.
Other villas to visit are Villa del Balbianello, in Lenno, which was used as a set in the Star Wars movies, and Villa Carlotta, south of Menaggio. Finally, don’t miss seeing the sunset over the lake.
Where to Stay
Lake Como’s most elegant hotel is the historic Villa d’Este, 5 km from Como on the western shore. Built in 1568 for Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio as his summer residence, the villa has been remodelled to meet standards of modern luxury while retaining its past grandeur. If you choose not to stay there, be sure to stop for lunch in its restaurant and walk around the spectacular Renaissance gardens there. In the town of Como stay at the 4-star Hotel Metropole Suisse in the main square by the lake and ferry landing. In Bellagio the elegant 5-star Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is a great choice, located in a spectacular setting facing the lake.