Como’s tiny centro storico is dominated by the flamboyant Duomo ★★ (Piazza Duomo; www.cattedraledicomo.it; (tel) 031-331-2275), which combines Gothic and Renaissance architecture for two very different facades; long, narrow windows and a Gothic stained-glass rose window mark the western end, with an apse and Baroque dome added in 1744 by architect Filippo Juvarra at the eastern end. The Duomo is open daily 7:30am to 7:30pm (until 9:30pm Sun) and admission is free.
Two blocks south of the Duomo the 12th-century San Fedele ★ (www.parrocchiasanfedelecomo.it; free admission; daily 8am–noon, 3:30–7pm), stands above a charming square of the same name. Parts of the five-sided church, including the altar, date from the 6th century, and there are a few frescoes dotted in the right-hand side aisle. Como’s main street, Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, cuts through the medieval quarter and has plenty of upmarket boutiques and classy delis.
The funicular from Como leaves from Lungo Lario Trieste and runs up a steep cliff-side to hilltop Brunate ★★ and its cluster of excellent restaurants and bars, with glorious views of Lake Como glinting below. The funicular ticket office (www.funicolarecomo.it; (tel) 031-303-608; daily 6am–10:30pm, or until midnight Sat and in summer) is at Piazza de Gasperi 4. Tickets are 3€ adults, 2€ for kids under 12 (children under 110cm in height travel free). Trains depart both ends of the line every 30 minutes.
Getting There -- Trains run from Milan’s Stazione Central and Porta Garibaldi half-hourly to Como San Giovanni; the trip takes 1 hour and costs 4.80€. One-hour services from Milan Cadorna head to Como Nord Lago just off the lakefront promenade and near the ferry point and cost 4.80€.
Lake Como’s Waterfront Villages
The romantic waterfront villages of Lake Como, with their cute clusters of yellow and pink houses, majestic palazzos, and lush lakeside gardens, are easily explored by ferry or by car. Here are a few of the highlights, going clockwise round the lake.
Lenno ★★★ -- For centuries Lake Como was the playground of privileged Lombardian aristocrats (and quite honestly not much has changed). Villa del Balbianello at Lenno (Via Comoedia 5; 0344-56-110), is one of the best known of their fabulous villas, with ornate landscaped gardens and a 16th-century palace sitting high on its peninsula over the lake. (You may recognize it from its recent brush with fame as a setting in the Bond movie “Casino Royale.”) It is stuffed with priceless French furniture complemented by eclectic artwork from the travels of former owner, explorer Guido Monzino, who died in 1988 and left the villa to the Italian National Trust. Garden entrance only is 10€ adults, 5€ kids 4 to 12; garden and villa (with compulsory 1-hour tour) is 20€ adults, 10€ children 4–12 without reservations. Open mid-March to mid-November on Tuesday and Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 6pm.
Tremezzo ★★ -- On the western side of Lake Como, Tremezzo was the prestigious 19th-century retreat of the Italian aristocracy; today it is lorded over by the exceptionally expensive Grand Hotel Tremezzo (www.grandhoteltremezzo.com; (tel) 0344-42-491) and its wonderfully stylish lido on the lake. The luxuriant gardens, museum, and rich art collections of the ornate 17th-century Villa Carlotta are open to the public (Via Regina 2; www.villacarlotta.it; (tel) 0344-404-05). Admission is 10€ adults, 8€ seniors, 6€ students; it’s open late March to mid-October 9am–7:30pm (last entry 6pm); late October to mid-March 10am–6pm (last entry 5pm), though hours can vary over holiday weekends.
Bellano ★ -- Most people stop in Bellano on the eastern shores of Lake Como to visit the Orrido ((tel) 0338-5246-716; admission 3€ adults, 2.50€ seniors and under 14), a deep gorge cut out of the cliffs by the River Pioverna as it tears down the hillside. A nighttime trip down the floodlit gorge is a rare and eerie treat, and one that appears to be under threat from recent hydroelectric plans that will reduce the flow of the torrent. Opening times vary seasonally, but are roughly April to June and September 10am to 1pm and 2:30 to 7pm; July to August 10am to 7pm and 8:45 to 10pm.
Varenna ★★★ -- Adorable Varenna gives Bellagio a run for its money as the prettiest village on Lake Como, with a tumble of pink and terracotta houses in a labyrinth of narrow, cobbled streets, and smart villas clustered around the shoreline. Its winding lakeside path hangs over the water, with bars, shops, and art galleries looking over the lake. Linger a while over a glass of prosecco and watch the sun go down over the glittering water.
Bellagio ★★★ -- Photogenic Bellagio is the most popular destination around Lake Como and has just about remained on the right side of being overly touristic. The shady lakefront promenade is lined with chic hotels, bars, and cafes. Pretty medieval alleyways ascend from the lake in steep steps and are lined with souvenir stores selling expensive hand-tooled leather accessories. Just don’t expect too many bargains. Regardless of the multitude of tourists, this is still a lovely place to linger for lunch overlooking the lake.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.