Visiting the fabulous Lake Como area in Italy by Ray Raposo

The beautiful lakeside promenade in Menaggio
Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy, located in the northern Lombardy region.
View of Varenna from the water

The upscale resort area is located about an hour north of Milan. The rather thin lake is shaped like an upside-down Y, with towns dotting the winding shoreline and the surrounding steep hillsides at the foothills of the Italian Alps. You’ll find the popular city of Como at the south of the western side and Lecco near the eastern end. Near the northern top of the lake you’ll find the lovely villages of Colico, Dongo and Gravedona. The beautiful towns at the intersection of the Y split are Bellagio, Menaggio, Tremezzo and Varenna. These incredibly charming middle lake towns are where we spent the majority of our visit to Lake Como.

Water view of the beautiful Menaggio with the mountains in the background
Peg & Ray by the lake with out hotel in the background on right

We stayed in Menaggio, one of the loveliest villages on Lake Como’s western shore. Its cobblestoned waterside promenade is surrounded by small shops, outdoor cafes and our quaint hotel. The Hotel du Lac in Menaggio (there are others named Du Lac in the neighboring towns) sits right in the Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi by the waterfront.

Part of the Menaggio Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi and its colorful building next to the waterfront

Interestingly the hotel check-in is at the downstairs Cafe Central, and the rooms are spread in the surrounding buildings. Our room, in the building named La Dependance, had great views of the lake and the square below from our two third floor windows. The restaurant cafe had everything to eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner; from tasty fresh pastries and coffee to pasta dishes and a wonderful pizza with toppings of your choice. The hotel also offers parking at a nearby street level garage, something rather useful to us, since we had driven from the Swiss Alps and later heading to Milan. Let me say that driving the narrow and winding roads leading to and around Lake Como are something that can be harrowing to experience, but the views are something to cherish forever.

Inside of Parrocchia Santo Stefano Church

From the piazza, nearby shops and pedestrian streets you can walk to the Parrocchia Santo Stefano, a modest, yet lovely church with checkerboard tile floors. If you rather stay at a larger upscale hotel, there are a few to choose from… this includes Menaggio.

The lakeside pool area of the Grand Hotel Menaggio
We visited the lakeside Grand Hotel Menaggio, its jewelry gift store and the lovely waterside pool and surrounding terrace. There’s also the Grand Hotel Victoria, with fine views of the lakefront and its elegant Le Tout Paris Restaurant. All these hotels are rated 4 Stars, yet they are quite reasonable in price… specially when you consider the incredibly beautiful lake views, and the lovely old world charm.
Some of the lovely Bellagio facades next to stairs

Everywhere you visit around Lake Como you’ll witness the most picturesque views imaginable. From Menaggio you can take a water taxi or one of the many ferries across the deep emerald green water to nearby Varenna and Bellagio and arrive there in a matter of minutes.

One of the ferries docked at Bellagio

Bellagio with it’s rainbow colored villas features a waterside long piazza where the ferry boats dock. The piazza is lined with hotels, shops and restaurants. From the piazza you have to climb one of the steep stairs, also featuring small shops, to reach the next street level. So yes, if you’re not in shape to do some serious stair climbing, you might want to skip Bellagio. You have to climb lots of steps to see its charming old church, Chiesa San Giacomo. You will have good selection of outdoor seating cafes to enjoy a drink, snack, a tasty gelato or a delicious full meal, both by the waterfront and up the hill. Many of the restaurants feature wonderful fresh fish or seafood dishes and a variety of pasta to enjoy. If you’re looking for a 5 Star hotel, Bellagio’s Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, also located by the water, would fulfill your needs at a higher price point.

Store filled pedestrian cobblestone street in Menaggio
One of the stairs of Bellagio

While most of the large waterfront villas are privately owned, there a few open to the public, including the neoclassical Villa Melzi in Bellagio and the magnificent Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo, across the lake. There are also medieval castles and luscious gardens you can visit in many of the towns along the miles long Lake Como shoreline. In Como, the largest of the lake cities, there is an imposing cathedral with a large dome and palatial interior, it is dedicated to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While the cathedral building was started in 1396, and the dome was completed in 1744, to really finish it took three and a half centuries.

Sidewalk cafe across Menaggio waterfront
If you’re looking for tremendous natural beauty, sprinkled with colorful and historic Italian buildings, a gorgeous lake and a laid back atmosphere, you definitely should add the Lake Como region to your list of dream locations to explore. We enjoyed our too short visit so much that hopefully we’ll be back to further experience this inspiring beautiful area of Italy once again in the not too distant future.
The colorful buildings of Varenna’s lakefront
Piazza fountain in Mennagio
Our Hotel du Lac room’s view of the piazza and lake
Ferry crossing the lake on way to Verenna
Ray enjoying a pizza at Cafe Centrale

All photos by Ray and Peg Raposo