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Overview

Few places are so endowed by nature as Lake Como and its steep green shores. Shaped like an inverted Y, the lake’s three arms are long and narrow, with shores rising steeply to mountains except at the far northern end. Its main city is Como, at the southern tip of the western arm, a small city whose fortunes were made on silk. Its duomo (cathedral) is one of the finest examples of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic, and at the other end of the architectural spectrum several landmark modernist and Art Nouveau buildings are in Como and Cernobbio. Because of the lake’s natural beauty and mild year-round climate, it has been a favorite ...

Few places are so endowed by nature as Lake Como and its steep green shores. Shaped like an inverted Y, the lake’s three arms are long and narrow, with shores rising steeply to mountains except at the far northern end. Its main city is Como, at the southern tip of the western arm, a small city whose fortunes were made on silk. Its duomo (cathedral) is one of the finest examples of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic, and at the other end of the architectural spectrum several landmark modernist and Art Nouveau buildings are in Como and Cernobbio. Because of the lake’s natural beauty and mild year-round climate, it has been a favorite setting for villas since the Romans escaped to its shores from the summer heat of Verona and Brescia. The Tremezzina Riviera has an especially mild climate, which the extensive gardens of Villa Carlotta take advantage of, filled with camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and exotic trees. Just south, on a peninsula surrounded by the lake, baroque Villa Balbianello is set in terraced gardens. More gardens are in chic Bellagio, in an almost perfect lakeside setting at the tip of the peninsula where the three arms of the lake join. Built in terraces, its narrow streets climb past balconied buildings with trendy shops and pleasant cafes. Villa Serbelloni’s 19th-century gardens extend to the top of the promontory, landscaped to frame views across the lake to the Alps. Northern towns are worth exploring to see the dramatic gorge of Orrido di Bellano and the beautiful monastery of Abbazia do Piona. Towns around the lake are connected by boats.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Barbara Rogers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring, when the rhododendrons at Villa Carlotta are in full bloom; winter climate is mild, but often rainy.