© Shutterstock

Serene Waters: Lake Como

Like pearls on a string, dreamlike 15th-century villas line the shores of this lake in Northern Italy, where Verdi composed La Traviata, and many other cultural masterpieces came to life. In between, numerous picturesque villages dazzle visitors with their incomparable charm to this day.

August 16, 2022

"I own several villas on the shores of this lake, but there are two that I particularly like. One is perched on a rock overlooking the lake, the other actually touches it.” When Pliny the Younger raved about his property on Lago di Como in a letter to a friend, he had no idea that the lake would be a bustling centre of attraction for the rich and beautiful two millenia later. Until the 1980s, the “Lario,” as the locals call it, was relatively sleepy and quiet. Its banks were mostly occupied by palazzi belonging to families who had made money from the silk trade.

Comer See

Mediterranean meets subtropical: Lake Como's special climate allows plants such as palms, citrus fruits and olive trees to thrive. © iStock

Every now and then, artists, intellectuals and politicians would come to the beautiful lake: Verdi composed "La Traviata" Winston Churchill came here to paint, Konrad Adenauer wrote his memoirs here and Alfred Hitchcock shot his first film (Pleasure Garden, 1925) on the property of Villa d’Este, the first hotel to open on Lake Como. Then, on the heels of the late fashion designer Gianni Versace, the fashion crowd flocked to the Northern Italian lake, which is located a mere hour outside of Milan. Soon, celebrities like Madonna, Elton John, Michael Douglas and – most prominently – George Clooney followed suit. The latter helped the lake to international fame with his purchase of Villa Oleandra, an 18th-century mansion in Laglio. When visiting Lake Como, you should definitely take a boat trip across the lake and marvel at the beautiful villas with their splendid gardens on its shores. Perhaps you’ll even glimpse a Hollywood star.

Comer See

In terms of size, Lago di Como may only be the third largest lake in Italy, but in terms of elegance and glamour, it is definitely number one. © Blagovesta Bakardjieva/

On land, you can get stunning impressions by going for a walk along the Riva Romantica, the approximately eight-kilometre-long stretch of shore between Cernobbio and Laglio. The path will lead you through the centres of old villages, past churches, aristocratic villas, gardens and small squares. The town with the most beautiful panorama, however, is Lecco: the rugged mountains surrounding it make the place absolutely unique – and invite you to venture to dizzying heights along the hiking routes. Romantics may recall the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as they stroll through picturesque Varenna, where the 19th-century American poet rhapsodized about Lake Como: “Sweet vision! Do not fade away; Linger until my heart shall take; Into itself the summer day; And all the beauty of the lake.”

Lago di Como

The houses on the shore of the lake captivate with classic Italian charm. © Shutterstock

Good to Know

  • From Como, you can take a funicular up to the mountain village of Brunate and enjoy stunning views of the lake.
  • Every spring, vintage car lovers gather for the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este festival.
  • The pilgrimage site of Sacro Monte di Ossuccio on the western shore has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2003.
  • Isola Comacina: The only island at the lake has been uninhabited since Bishop Vidulfo cursed it in 1175. Today you can (safely) visit excavations here.

This article appeared in the Falstaff TRAVEL issue Summer 2022.

Scroll to Top