Como is the administrative capital of Como province, in Italy’s Lombardy region. Close to the picturesque Lake Como and renowned Alps resorts, Como is a hugely popular tourist destination about 40 kilometres north of Milan and an hour or so from Malpensa Airport.
What to do in Como?
Como is a stunningly beautiful Italian city and it is easy to spend a whole day simply wandering around its attractive streets and squares.
It is also the perfect location for nature lovers, with numerous opportunities for exploring the countryside, either floating on the water or hiking across the hillsides.
The Piazza del Duomo is an excellent place to start your exploration, as it is home to both Como Cathedral, with its Gothic and Romanesque architecture, and Broletto (or old town hall), which is the new tourist information office. While there, you can enjoy a coffee and pastry at one of the pleasant cafés and get your bearings.
Piazza Vittoria is another must-see. It was named after the Austrian surrender of the city in 1859, and you can view an impressive monument to General Giuseppe Garibaldi, who was leading the Italian troops at the time. It guards the Porta Torre gateway, which marks the entrance to the mediaeval centre of Como. Visit on a Saturday or Tuesday or Thursday morning to browse around market stalls packed with antiques and hand-crafted items.
For the most stunning view of the lake, head towards Piazza Cavour and the Brunate cable car. It will take you up 715 metres for breathtaking views of the whole city, providing you go on a clear day.
Weather in Como
Como is deemed to have a “humid subtropical” climate. Winters are foggy, damp and cold, but relatively short; and summers tend to be hot, heavy and humid, with occasional mountain winds and dramatic thunderstorms clearing the air temporarily.
Spring and autumn are typically considered the most pleasant times to visit, with the air warm and still, but less muggy and oppressive.
Transport in Como
Como is an excellent base for exploring other towns and villages around the lake, with many different leisurely ways to travel between them. Boats are the most immersive form of transport: slow batellos are favoured by camera-wielding tourists while the aliscafo services offer faster routes. From the central lake area you can also take a car ferry (traghetto) across the lake.
It is possible to get a bus along the western shore, with routes running between Como and Bellagio, and Como and Colico (via Tremezzina and Menaggio). Trains run along the eastern coast, stopping in Varenna and Sondrio. You can also catch a train from the central lake area into Milan.
Bellagio and Varenna
Just three kilometres apart, on opposite shores of Lake Como, Bellagio and Varenna offer excellent options for a relaxing break or more active trekking holiday, combining the glistening beauty of the waters with the looming majesty of the Swiss Alps.
Located about 30 kilometres north of Como, Bellagio is popularly known as “The Pearl of Lake Como”, with local tourism authorities inviting visitors to enjoy “breakfast by the lake lulled by the gentle waves, a walk in the shade of the ancient arcades, visits to gardens and villas, sports activities, and new art and culinary experiences.” Hiking tracks of varying degrees of difficulty are available around and above Bellagio on the Larian Triangle.
Varenna is a convenient gateway to Lake Como, with trains running approximately every two hours from Milan’s Stazione Centrale. The town is connected to the other lake resorts by passenger ferries, while a car ferry crosses to Bellagio and Menaggio (on the far shore).
Varenna’s alleys and old fishermen’s cottages have an understated charm, contrasting with more overtly tourist-orientated destinations in the region. The town has a picturesque waterfront, and is ideal for chilling-out by the lake and visiting Villa Monastero and Villa Cipressi’s attractive gardens.