They are the landing of a dream, the starting points and the arrivals of a wonderful journey to discover Lake Como. Alongside the historical homes, the villages by the water offer corners of absolute sweetness. Every day an unforgettable stage to discover the beauty of the lake from the gold triangle that includes Tremezzo, Bellagio and Varenna – to the north area that from Griante Cadenabbia goes up to Piona through Menaggio and Gravedona, and the south towards Lenno, stopping at the Comacina Island and then on to Cernobbio and Como.


Worldwide known as the “pearl of Lake Como” and just 10 minutes boat distance form Grand Hotel Tremezzo, Bellagio is suspended like a pendant on the promontory where the lake’s western and eastern arms split and head south. It’s impossible not to be smitten by Bellagio’s waterfront of bobbing boats, its maze of steep stone staircases, red-roofed and green-shuttered buildings, dark cypress groves and rhododendron-filled gardens. It sits at the crux of the inverted Y that is Lake Como; the Como and Lecco arms of the Lake wash off to port and starboard. Once in Bellagio you cannot miss Villa Melzi with its English style park, the Basilica di San Giacomo in the center and the viewpoint Punta Spartivento For a spectacular view of the lake and its three branches.

Comacina Island

Once the site of a Roman fort and medieval settlement, Lake Como’s only island forms its own little bay with the mainland. When the Lombards invaded northern Italy, the island held out as a Byzantine redoubt. The medieval settlement was razed by Como in 1169 as punishment for its loyalty to Milan. Today, as silent witness to this terrible event, lie the scant ruins of the Romanesque Chiesa di Sant’Eufemia. Since 1947 Locanda dell’Isola has been serving the same abundant set menu on the south side of the island, within a dinner characterised by the “exorcism by fire” ceremony to ward off the excommunication of the island declared by the Bishop of Como back in the 12th century.


4 km north of Tremezzo, Menaggio has a cute cobblestone old centre. The central square overlooking the lake has a couple of cafes that are perfect for lake-gazing and people-watching. Stages of considerable interest in the path to the discovery of Menaggio are the Villa Mylius Vigoni, the church of Santo Stefano, the walk way between via Fabbri, via Castellino da Castello and via Strecioum, and from there to the bridge over Sanagra, one of the most picturesque. It is possible to take a minor road out of Menaggio for Plesio and then follow a walking trail for about two hours to the Rifugio Menaggio. At 1383m altitude, the views down over the lake are ample reward for the climb.


A beguiling village bursting with florid plantlife, exotic flowery perfumes and birdsong, is a short ferry ride away from its rival in postcard beauty Bellagio. Its pastel-coloured houses defy the standard laws of physics, seemingly gripping for all they’re worth to the steep slopes that rise from the lake. From the ferry land, a 15-20 minute stroll follows the shore south and cuts up to Piazza San Giovanni and the town’s main attractions, Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero with their magnificent gardens. Not far from Varenna is the hamlet of Vezio, dominated by the ruins of the 13th century Castello di Vezio. From this one-time fortified watch tower gaze down upon Varenna and over the lake.


Behind a gently curved bay on the lake is where Gravedona spreads out. It is a small medieval town nestled between the water and a rock. Gravedona, its bank, its castellum is a stop not to be missed in the discovery of Lake Como. To not be missed is the late 12th century Chiesa di Santa Maria del Tiglio, square-based and with apses protruding on three sides, with its usual bell tower, octagonal at the top, that rises from the centre of the facade.


In front of Gravedona, on the shore of Lecco, is Piona and its known Benedictine Abbey. The church is a Romanesque gem that the Cluniac order raised, there are attractive 13th-century frescos, but the star is the 13th century, irregularly shaped cloister, a rich example of transitional style from Romanesque to Gothic; it’s an oasis of peace. The monks who live here today enjoy incomparable views west over the lake to Gravedona and the snowcapped peaks behind it and to the north. in addition to the historical and artistic treasures, Piona offers a beautiful sandy beach and several restaurants that allow you to savor the simple and tasty cuisine of the lake.


The shoreline of Cernobbio, a graceful town 5Km north of Como (served by frequent boats and buses from Como), comprises a compact quarter of old houses just off the lakeside piazza and is laced with a series of fine villas fronting the water. Following signs out of central Cernobbio, take a scenic drive that winds 17Km up through the residential villages behind Cernobbio to Monte Bisbino, a fabulous lookout spot.


Como, which was established by the ancient Romans, is surrounded on three sides by medieval walls. The atmospheric “Città Murata” is the old, formerly walled quarter, today a dense grid of narrow pedestrianized lanes full of shops and little bars and restaurants. The city is a compendium of the beautiful things that the lake has to offer. There are magnificent churches (the Duomo Cathedral, but also Sant’Abbondio and San Fedele churches), historical villas and gardens (Villa Olmo and Villa Geno) luxuriant vegetation (Spina Verde Park), and fabulous panoramic spots such as Brunate which can be reached by way of an antique cable railway.

Moltrasio e Laglio

The lower lakeside road (Via Regina Vecchia) skirts the lakeshore out of Cernobbio and past a fabulous row of 19th- century villas (all private property) around Moltrasio. Winston Churchill holidayed in one (Villa le Rose) just after WWII and another is owned by the Versace fashion dynasty. A few kilometers north, the villa-lined hamlet of Laglio is home to the star George Clooney (he lives in Villa Oleandra).