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top five guide: lake como, italy

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

Menaggio, Lake Como, Italy May 2022

Well, it turns out that the Clooneys are right: Como is one-of-a-kind. We spent a summer weekend exploring this idyllic lake and its picturesque towns. The whole time felt like one of those "is this real life?" moments, a place that truly looks like the postcards and social media photos. If you find yourself in northern Italy, I highly recommend planning a visit!

Here are my top five tips for a trip to Lake Como:

Residence Molinari Airbnb View Lezzeno Lake Como Italy June 2022

1: where to stay

Lake Como is huge, which can make it challenging to figure out where to stay. I suggest searching for stays around the towns of Bellagio, Menaggio, and Varenna. This trio of cities is clustered around the most beautiful portion of the lake and is well serviced by the ferry system. We stayed at Residence Molinari (pictured), a stunning yet relatively affordable rental in the quieter town of Lezzeno, which is about a 10 minute drive from Bellagio. It had parking for our rental car, which made it easier for us to get to the Bellagio ferry stop when needed. Another popular option is the Grand Hotel Tremezzo across the lake in Tremezzo.

Famous Bellagio street steps Lake Como Italy June 2022

2: day trips by ferry

While your exact location isn’t incredibly important (I would put personally more emphasis on the view), what is important is having access to a ferry stop during your stay. Ferries run continuously throughout the day across the lake, and a one-day pass is just €15. We took the ferry from Bellagio to visit the Menaggio and Varenna, which I would also recommend. Bellagio is the largest town and was our personal favorite for shopping and strolling (walking up Salita Serbelloni is a must), but all have their own unique charm and are worth a visit.

Girl on boat cheers prosecco Lake Como Italy 2022

3: boat rental

If the ferry ride isn’t enough for you, I recommend renting a boat! We rented a boat through Boat Hire Bellagio and had a seamless (and surprisingly affordable) experience. If you’re not comfortable driving a boat yourself, there are also many captained boat and private tour options. For us, taking a self-guided cruise was the perfect way to explore more of the lake on our own terms and truly appreciate its beauty. Pro tip: pick up some prosciutto, cheese, and Prosecco in advance to have yourself a sunset picnic. Truly what Como dreams are made of.

Aurora Ristorante Lezzeno Lake Como Italy Restaurant View 2022

4: aurora ristorante

Unfortunately, the large amount of tourists in this area means that there are more than a few tourist-trap restaurants that are high on price and low on quality. In general, I think it is reasonable to be just a bit skeptical of restaurants with lake views, especially if they are in high foot traffic areas. That said, Aurora Ristorante is an exception. This lovely restaurant is set in the quieter, romantic town of Lezzeno, and offers great pizza and wine with sweeping lake views. Be sure to make a reservation or you might get turned away!

Al Prato Varenna Restaurant Lake Como Italy 2022 Tomato Soup

5: al prato

When we visited Varenna, we almost stopped for lunch at the first place we spotted: a crowded, clearly touristy spot overlooking the lake. Our spidey senses told us to keep walking, so we instead walked around the corner and stumbled upon Al Prato. This turned out to be an excellent decision! This tucked away gem is the perfect spot for a more sophisticated lunch or dinner. Save room for dessert and, while we didn't have one, make a reservation to be safe! The restaurant isn't very large.

You can't always do it all, so one thing we didn’t do but wish we had:

Explore the beautiful villas. Como has long been home to the rich and famous, and it is no surprise that you can find some truly stunning villas and mansions along its shores. Some of them have been turned into museums and tourist attractions, allowing commoners like us to peruse their impeccable gardens and well-decorated halls. Places like Villa Balbianello in Tremezzo and Villa Monastero will be at the top of our list for a future Como trip.


Steve Levine
Steve Levine
Apr 27, 2023

Gotta recommend taking the funicular (incline train) from the town of Como to the delightful old village of Brunate. Costs about 5 euros RT. The view of the lake and the villas and the mountains from about 1,000 meters up is outstanding. There are a number of quaint cliffside cafes where you can enjoy a drink, snack, or meal while you take in the vista.

Rachael Levine
Rachael Levine
Apr 28, 2023
Replying to

Wonderful addition, thank you for contributing! Sounds lovely.

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