Only 30 minutes from Milan, Lake Como offers a unique beauty of landscape, history and lifestyle all year round. A scenery of villas and gardens, parks and forests, with lush vegetation and a mild climate, attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world every year. There are also villas turned into grand hotels and mansions that have become good retreats for Hollywood actors, including George Clooney’s famous one.
The shape of the lake resembles an inverted ‘Y’, with three thin branches converging at Bellagio.
At the far end of the south-western one is Como, known for its examples of Renaissance architecture and for a rack railway that climbs to the mountain resort of Brunate up to an altitude of 700 m, from where one can admire the region’s impressive panorama. The success of the area is due to the beautiful city of Como, with its picturesque alleyways and gastronomic specialities just waiting to be sampled in one of its countless restaurants. To experience the views of Lake Como to the fullest, you can board one of the traditional ferries from Como town to nearby Bellagio. Here you can visit the historic Villa Melzi, a neoclassical-style residence surrounded by a botanical garden overlooking the lake, then Villa Serbelloni and Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo. The latter is an 18th-century mansion famous for its museum housing works of art and its gardens that owe their fame above all to the spring blooms of azaleas and rhododendrons.
On a wooded promontory overlooking the lake is the Villa del Balbianello, managed by the FAI-Fondo Ambiente Italiano, which was chosen for the filming of ‘Casino Royale’ and the love scenes of ‘Star Wars II’.
Alternatively, head to the northern branch of the lake to visit the ancient Cistercian Abbey of Piona.
Villa d’Este, the pearl of the lake
Villa d’Este, which celebrated its 150th season in 2021, is the iconic 5-star luxury hotel located in Cernobbio, on Lake Como. The property is part of Villa d’Este Hotels, a benchmark in international luxury hôtellerie and member of “The Leading Hotels of the World”. The Group also includes the five-star Villa La Massa, on the banks of the Arno, and the two four-star Palace Hotel and Hotel Barchetta Excelsior, in the centre of Como and overlooking the lake.
Considered one of the finest expressions of mid-sixteenth-century architecture, transformed into a hotel in 1873 and set in a 10-hectare park, Villa d’Este is a symbol of timeless luxury and eternal elegance. It offers 152 rooms and suites divided between the “Edificio del Cardinale” and the “Padiglione della Regina” and 4 private villas. Villa Belinzaghi was also recently acquired, which is to undergo a complete restoration.
Villa d’Este offers three restaurants: the elegant ‘Veranda’ with its refined cuisine, the ‘Grill’ for more informal dinners and ‘Il Platano’, open in the summer months, with its casual atmosphere. These are complemented by ‘Bar Canova’ and ‘Sundeck’, open in summer. The hotel also includes a Beauty Centre and a Sporting Club with a heated indoor swimming pool, gym, sauna, Turkish bath, squash court, electronic golf, putting green, life course and 8 tennis courts. The famous floating pool on the lake is heated and, not far away, there is one dedicated to children.
InfoVilla d'Este, Via Regina, Cernobbio, CO, Italia
Villa del Balbianello: between art and nature
In Lenno, on the shores of Lake Como, Villa del Balbianello is a splendid example of a perfectly preserved 18th-century residence and today a protected property of the FAI-Fondo Ambiente Italiano. A vast and well-kept garden surrounds the elegant and romantic Villa and provides a unique setting in every season, thanks also to the breathtaking view of the lake. The Villa, which can also be accessed via the lake, overlooks a promotorio directly on its waters, and it is also because of this evocative atmosphere that it was chosen by director George Lucas as the location for some of the filming of the famous Star Wars saga.
InfoLenno, CO, Italia
Open daily (except Mon and Wed non-holiday), from10am to18pm
Como and its surroundings
Lake Como takes its name from the city of Como. “Must-visit” sights include the Gothic Duomo, the Romanic basilicas of San Fedele and Sant’Abbondio and the neoclassic Villa Olmo. Lying just a stone’s throw northwest of Como is Cernobbio, a small fashionable resort frequented by the wealthy of Europe because of its deluxe hotel Villa d’Este and Villa Erba where director Luchino Visconti spent his childhood. The latter boasts a museum that can be visited subject to reservation (www.villaerba.it).
Continuing north, we find Isola Comacina a jewel of art and nature, rich in Mediterranean vegetation and one of the most important archaeological sites of the dark ages in Northern Italy (www.isola-comacina.it). In nearby Tremezzo, don’t miss a visit to the Baroque-style Villa Carlotta, featuring an Italian garden and sculptures by Canova. At the junction of the southern arm of the lake lies Bellagio, also referred to as the pearl of Como, set in a strategic position to soak up the lake’s famous panorama.