Lake Como travel guide

Find some of the best places to stay or eat while staying around Lake Como, with Rosalind Ormiston’s guide to the highlights of the area…

Photos by Provincia di Como Servizio Turismo unless otherwise stated

gravedona palazzo

Lake Como was colonised by the Romans in the 2nd century BC and has been a haven for relaxation and vacationing ever since. It was called Lacus Larius by the Roman poet Virgil (70-19 BC) – and indeed is still sometimes referred to as Lario. It was mentioned in the letters of the Roman senator Pliny the Younger (61-113 AD), who is said to have owned a villa on the shores of the lake and whose uncle, the natural historian Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), was certainly born in Como.

Lake Como is Italy’s third largest lake, after Garda and Maggiore, and is the only one of those three to be entirely within the region of Lombardy. Shaped like an inverted Y, at its northern end, on the eastern bank, is the town of Colico. At the southernmost point of the western spur is Como, while Lecco lies at the southernmost tip of the eastern spur. Beloved Bellagio (right) is on the peninsula where the two spurs of the lake meet.

A short drive up from Milan brings you to the lakeshore road where in the 19th century small fishing villages began to expand to become modern lakeside resorts. The ancient town of Como, the ‘capital’, is known for the traditional local industry of silk-weaving, with busy silk shops in the centre and factory outlets on its perimeter. From here you can board a ferry to many lakeside towns between here and Colico, nearly 30 miles away. Alternatively, you can follow the route by car. Here are some places to look out for if you’re planning a trip…

Where to stay

Hotel Excelsior Splendide
Three-star hotel set in a 1907 Art Nouveau building on the lakeshore promenade, close to the ferry stop and water taxi location. Fabulous views.
Via Lungo Lago Manzoni, 28
22021 Bellagio

Grand Hotel Cadenabbia, Lake ComoGrand Hotel Cadenabbia
Originally a private villa, many of the rooms in this 4-star hotel (left) have lake views; the rooftop restaurant serves an excellent menu, and the exquisite outdoor bar overlooks the lake – perfect for an aperitif.
Via Regina, 1
22011 Cadenabbia di Griante

Hotel Villa Flori
Renovated in 2011, this 4-star hotel occupies an historic villa built by the Marchese Raimondi in the 19th century. It is set right on the lakeside between Como and Cernobbio.
Via Cernobbio, 12 – 22100 Como

Vista Palazzo
An opulent 18-room hotel with the town’s first rooftop restaurant, Sottovoce. The salmon-pink building, overlooking the lake, is in the Venetian style. It’s Como’s premier five-star accommodation but has no swimming pool or spa.
Piazza Cavour, 24 – 22100 Como

Hotel Ristorante La Darsena
Family-run lakeside hotel with a good restaurant and excellent views of the water. Three stars.
Via Regina, 3 – 22016 Tremezzina

Hotel du Lac
Four-star hotel right on the eastern lakeshore. A private villa built in 1823 and restored in the mid-20th century with attention paid to maintaining the ambience of its former life. The perfect location from which to explore Lake Como.
Via del Prestino, 11 – 23829 Varenna

Where to eat 

Osteria del Gallo
An intimate family-run osteria. The menu, which is renewed daily, reflects the fresh local produce.
Via Vitani, 16 – 22100 Como

Il Ristorante Splendide, Bellagio Hotel Excelsior
Splendide’s lakeside restaurant/café has a superb menu to match the fabulous view across the lake. (See ‘Where to Stay’.)
Via Lungo Lario Manzoni, 28
22021 Bellagio

polenta and missoltiniLido di Cadenabbia
Enjoy a fabulous selection of fresh Italian local dishes and wine from the menu, with views of the lake, and lido pool on site.
Via Regina, Cadenabbia

Azienda Agricola Sorsasso
Local produce superbly prepared, with Sorsasso wines and the best service.
Via Gaggio 1/Bis – 22013 Domaso

Il Ristorante Du Lac
Enjoy a delicious culinary experience seated on the terrace or in the lakeside garden of this fabulous restaurant/hotel in Varenna. (See ‘Where to Stay’)
Via del Prestino, 11 – 23829 Varenna

More info

Rosalind travelled to Lake Como as a guest of TUI ‘lakes and mountains’ holidays, via easyJet from Gatwick to Milan Malpensa airport, and transfer to Cadenabbia, staying at the lakeshore 4-star Grand Hotel Cadenabbia. TUI has flights to Lake Como available from various UK airports, and many hotels in which to stay on Lake Como.


For more info about the area, don’t miss Rosalind’s top 10 things to see and do in Lake Como

You’ll also find plenty more inspiration in our Como archive