Como is one of the many small jewels of the homonymous Lombard lake. Very close to Milan and Switzerland, it is a must-see if you want to visit the left bank of Lake Como. For 3 days I stayed at the Hotel Rossovino in the district of Breccia, 4 km from the center of Como. I recommend it not only for the much lower prices, but also for the possibility to park your car easily, useful if your trip includes several stops by car along the lake.
The walled town of Como is closed to traffic and has elegant and picturesque squares, as well as many more monuments than you might imagine. Starting from Porta Torre, you’ll easily reach the Duomo, the Broletto (formerly the Town Hall), the Church of San Giacomo, with its distinctive facade, and then the Tempio di Volta on the lakefront.
The main attractions are the large villas that deserve mornings of exploration. The first to be reached by the Lino Gelpi walk along the lake is Villa Olmo. Built in the 18th century, it is surrounded by a large Italian garden. The villa owes its name, according to an undocumented tradition, to the pre-existing presence in the area of two distinct specimens of elm, very old and large. It was built in neoclassical style between 1782 and 1787 by the architect Simone Cantoni from Ticino, on behalf of Innocent Odescalchi, whose wealthy family in 1664 had purchased part of the property and land of the Abbey of St. Mary of Vico, called dell’Olmo.
You cannot miss a visit to Villa Balbianello, a FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) property, which stands on the small wooded peninsula of Lavedo in the hamlet of Lenno, overlooking the Gulf of Venus. The initiator of the wonders of the Balbianello was Cardinal Durini, man of letters and patron of the arts. In more recent times the property passed to Guido Monzino, entrepreneur, collector and passionate traveler, who in 1974 made of the Villa the refuge where to keep in order the memories of his explorations around the world. His daily life and lucky expeditions emerge from maps, travel instruments, books, furniture and precious and curious collections of ancient and primitive art objects. The villa is a journey in itself that manages to take you to the four continents with just the power to climb four different floors of the house decorated in full English style. Not to mention the garden, kept with meticulous care, so as to be a track of romantic views and panoramic terraces.
A last villa worth a visit is Villa Carlotta, which is located between Tremezzo, often cited as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, and Cadenabbia. Built in the early 1700s, it is one of the most famous properties on the lake, thanks to its beautiful landscape and its art collection that displays works of extraordinary beauty. Overlooking the shores of the lake, it was built at the end of the seventeenth century by the Marquis Clerici of Milan. The property then passed to Giovanni Battista Sommariva, at the time president of the Government Committee of the Cisalpine Republic established by Napoleon Bonaparte in northern Italy. Sommariva cultivated his immense passion for the arts, and in particular for sculpture, to which we owe the acquisition of works by Antonio Canova and Berthel Thorvaldsen. The villa takes its name because in 1843 it was sold by Sommariva’s heirs to princess Marianna of Prussia who gave the residence to her daughter Carlotta on the occasion of her wedding. The villa also features a botanical garden composed of more than 500 species of rare exotic plants.
In addition to the villas, the villages and small towns are real pitstops not to be missed that allow you to admire the lake from every corner. The most important, where you can also choose to visit other villas are:
- Cernobbio with Villa d’Este and Villa Erba;
- Comacina Island in the municipality of Tremezzina;
- Argegno, a small town very peculiar that will give you small and beautiful views;
- Menaggio is one of the most visited towns on the shores of Lake Como, it is located on the opposite side of Bellagio and Varenna, in the central part of the lake. It is worth a visit for its beautiful lakefront, a main square full of cafes and a small historic center to explore.
Where to eat
In Como city a very good meat restaurant is L’Antica. Here you will find salami, bread and pasta of their own production and all year round the fireplace is lit to cook fillets and grilled fiorentina. The price/quality ratio is excellent.
If instead you want to enjoy a good aperitif with appetizers I recommend Mariett 1887. It doesn’t have a view of the lake, but the spritz is good and you can enjoy some peace after a long day since it is located in a small corner of the center out of the chaos.
Finally, if you want to treat yourself to an unforgettable dinner overlooking the lake with the colors of the sunset my advice is the Imperialino Restaurant in Moltrasio. Part of the Grand Hotel Imperial you will find the magnificent dishes of land and sea of the chef Ferdinando Romano. The menu is varied and the experience will be unforgettable.