Lake Como is an unmissable destination for art and culture lovers, and it has been attracting visitors of all walks of life for centuries, from aristocrats in Roman times to politicians such as John Kerry, celebrities such as Madonna, and everyday people with widely varied interests and holiday checklists.
Although you could practically spend a whole holiday on the lake, if you are looking for some cultural highlights and are hoping to investigate the history and traditions of the region a bit more in depth, you should visit some of Lake Como’s surrounding towns and cities. With stunning sights and architecture, as well as some mouth-watering cuisine, here are our favourite spots to visit.
This quaint little village sits on the edge of a promontory, looking out onto lush green hills and sparkly blue water. Whether you base yourself here for the rest of your trip or just visit for a morning or afternoon, you will find yourself lost among the picturesque streets, the eye-catching boutiques, and the friendly cafés offering creamy, refreshing ice cream into the night.
Whether you catch a boat to sail around the lake or stay ashore, make sure you keep some time aside to pop in to the Basilica di San Giacomo, a Romanesque church with beautiful frescoes and impressive statues, and to visit Villa Serbelloni’s gardens, from where you can enjoy unrivalled views of Lake Como and take a relaxing stroll among lovely flowerbeds and impressive water features.
Tours of Villa Serbelloni’s gardens run from April to early November, Tuesday to Sunday, between 11:00h and 15:30h. Entrance fees are €8.50 per person.
Situated on the southern edge of the western branch of Lake Como, the town of Como is the largest one surrounding the lake and the most important historically. Although it may seem a bit out of the way if you’re staying further north, you should try to make some time to visit, as its old town showcases some impressive architectural feats, such Como’s part-Renaissance part-Gothic cathedral, built between the 14th and 18th centuries, and the Porta Vittoria, an impressive gateway that defended the old town walls.
Much busier than some of the smaller towns around Lake Como, Como itself has a bigger local population, helping it feel bubblier and more lived in, and it offers a bigger variety of restaurants, cafés, and bars to explore according to your specific tastes.
With amazing transport links, the small resort town of Menaggio is a great place to set up base at. Ferries arrive from both the northern and southern ends of Lake Como daily, so you can go out and explore the lake itself as well as some other nearby towns and villages before coming back for the night. Menaggio’s promenade and harbour are lovely to wander around on a warm summer afternoon, sit in a café with a cold drink or a delicious espresso, and watch the sun set on the horizon.
One of the main things you’ll notice upon arrival at Varenna are the old-style fishermen’s houses running along the shore – a mixture of white and brightly coloured buildings that immediately take you back in time. Although it doesn’t have as many fancy restaurants or shopping options as some of its neighbours, Varenna is beautiful in its own simple, unpretentious kind of way. Its stone beach is popular with families and the more mature crowd alike, and there is a distinct take-it-easy atmosphere as you walk around the village’s cobbled streets.
With two wonderful gardens in Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi and a lovely walkway along the lake’s shore, Varenna feels like it’s there to make sure you take time out to relax during your holiday. Its cafés are charming and friendly, its gelateries offer superb ice cream in both traditional and exotic flavours, and its bars and restaurants offer typical northern Italian cuisine cooked to perfection.
If you want to venture out a bit further, the Castello di Vezio watches over the town and hosts falconry displays, among other events, and offers wonderful views of Varenna and Lake Como alike.
How to Get to Lake Como from Malpensa Airport
Airport transfers between Malpensa Airport and any Lake Como resort can easily be booked with Shuttle Direct, providing you with convenient and comfortable transportation once you land in Milan. The journey is pretty straightforward but its duration varies depending on where in Lake Como you decide to base your stay. Reaching the town of Como, at the southernmost edge of the lake, takes only 40 minutes, while reaching the lake’s middle point takes around one hour and a half. Reaching the northernmost resorts takes just slightly longer.
Once you have set camp at one of the resorts, you can book taxis with Shuttle Direct that will drive you between the different towns you’d like to explore throughout your stay.
About Shuttle Direct:
Offering low cost transfers between a huge number of airports, train stations, ports, and tourist destinations throughout Europe and North Africa, Shuttle Direct has been providing excellent transport services and customer experiences for more than 30 years. Both new and regular clients appreciate our promptness, efficiency, and reliability.