Lake Como Attractions Lago di Como
SituationLake Como (Lago di Como or Lario), the Roman Lacus Larius, lies 50km/31mi north of Milan between the Lugano and the Bergamo Alps.
Narrow and fjord-like, the lake fills the glaciated valley of the Adda, which flows through it from end to end. From its northern end to its southern tip at Como the lake is 50km/31mi long; at its half-way point, between Menaggio and Varenna, it is 4km/2.5mi wide; it has an area of 146 sq.km/ 56 sq.mi; and its greatest depth is 410m/1,353ft, making it the deepest of the lakes of northern Italy.SceneryOn the southwest arm, the Lago di Como, are numerous villas surrounded by beautiful gardens. The rather more austere southeast arm, the Lago di Lecco, with the outflow of the Adda, is less crowded with visitors. On the steep hillsides bordering the lake, rising to 2,610m/8,613ft in Monte Legnone, are plantations of chestnuts and walnuts, the green of their foliage contrasting strongly with the grayish tints of the olives. The inhabitants live by fishing and by industry (ironworking, marble-quarrying, textiles).Boat servicesBoat services (from Bellano throughout the year): Between Colico and Como, with varying ports of call on both sides of the lake; between Bellano and Como; between Varenna and Lecco. In summer there are also hydrofoil services.
Round the Lake (250km,155 miles)
Leave Como on the Lugano road, going northwest and in 2km/1.25mi turn into SS 340, which runs up the west side of the lake. On the right of the road is the Neo-Classical Villa Olmo (1782-97; damaged by fire 1983); now used for exhibitions, concerts and congresses; fine views from the park.
Lenno, the most southerly place in the district of Tremezzina, over which towers Monte Crocione (1,641m/5,415ft). From here an attractive visit can be made to the Punta di Balbianello or Punta d'Avedo, a long promontory projecting into the lake, with the Villa Arconati (late 16th century; access only by boat), from the terrace of which there are beautiful views.
Tremezzo is a popular resort in a warm and sheltered situation on Lake Como. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Villa Carlotta (formerly Sommariva, named after Charlotte, Duchess of Meiningen, mother of an earlier owner; now the property of the State). The palace built in 1747 contains Thorwaldsen's famous marble frieze of Alexander the Great's triumphal entry into Babylon, and sculptures by Canova. The gardens are a riot of southern vegetation (azaleas in bloom in May).The garden is laid out on steep terraces leading down to the lake.
Cadenabbia (201m/663ft) has a Romanesque church, many villas and a beautiful lakeside promenade.
Menaggio (203m/670ft; pop. 3,000) is one of the most popular resorts on Lake Como. After this the road passes the rocky walls of the Sasso Rancio.
Dongo (208m/686ft) is the place outside which Mussolini and his mistress Clara Petacci were caught by partisans in 1945 while fleeing to Switzerland. They were shot on the following day at Mezzagra, near Lenno.
Gravedona (201m/663ft) has a Romanesque-Lombard church of Santa Maria del Tiglio (12th century).
Gera Lario (208m/686ft) is the most northerly place on Lake Como. 4km/2.5 mi beyond Gera Lario the road joins S.S. 36, coming from Chiavenna, which runs down the east side of the lake to Milan.
Colico (209m/690ft) is dominated by the mighty Monte Legnone.
Abbey of Piona
The abbey of Piona, an old Cluniac monastery, with a fine 11th century church (restored), contains Byzantine frescoes and an interesting Romanesque-Gothic cloister (1257).
Dervio (202m/667ft), from which a detour can be made to Monte Legnone (2,610m/8,613ft: 18km/11mi by road, then 4 hours' climb).
Varenna (220m/726ft), situated on an promontory at the mouth of the Valle d'Esino, with beautiful gardens and quarries of black marble; magnificent views of Bellagio on a promontory and of the three arms of the lake. The Villa Monastero (park) is occupied by the Italian Institute of Hydrobiology.
Mandello del Lario
Mandello del Lario (214m/706ft) is on a delta running far out into the lake at the foot of the jagged Grigna Meridionale, with one of the largest motorcycle factories in Italy (Moto Guzzi).
Lecco (214m/706ft) is an industrial town magnificently situated at the southeast tip of Lake Como, at the outflow of the River Adda. In the Largo Manzoni is a monument to the novelist Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873), author of "I Promessi Sposi", the scene of which is partly set in Lecco. East of Lecco are the Piani d'Erna (1,329m/4,386ft), reached by cableway or by road. To the north is the Piano dei Resinelli (1,272m/4,198ft), from which the Grigna Meridionale (2,184m/7,207ft) can be climbed (2.5 hours). At the southwest end of Lecco we leave S.S. 36 and turn right into a road which runs below the precipitous slopes of Monte Moregallo (1,276m/4,211ft), passing through a number of tunnels.
Bellagio (229m/756ft), a very popular spa on the west side of the Punta di Bellagio, one of the great beauty spots of the north Italian lakes. On the promontory is the Villa Serbelloni, with a park (conducted tour) from which there are views of the three arms of Lake Como. Farther along the road are the park of the Villa Melzi and the gardens of the Villa Trotti.
Below the road on the right, in Molina bay, is the Villa Pliniana (1570), named after a spring mentioned by Pliny the Younger which daily changes its level.