Lake Como has it all. The pace is slow; the air is sweet. Painters have tried to capture its beauty, but you have to see the lake for yourself to know that a timeless place like this still exists. Step into centuries-old churches, serene monasteries and historical castles. Discover hidden wine cellars and quaint marketplaces. Once you've visited Lake Como, chances are good that you'll want to make it your home away from home, too. It's a perfect vacation, especially for seniors.
Summer is high season and the most expensive time to visit, but there are also more options for sightseeing, and restaurants that stay open late. During autumn and winter, you get to see the lovely lake without the hordes of tourists. The lake's light changes during winter, and the mountains are tipped with snow, making it even more magical.
There are many excellent choices when it comes to dining. Every few hundred meters is a small ristorante serving local dishes. Try an Agriturismo for generous portions prepared traditionally. These are usually restaurants with on-site farms where they source ingredients and encourage eco-tourism. For intimate dining, great choices include La Baia in Cremia on the western shore, La Voglia in Colico in the north and Locanda Dell'Isola Comacina on the little island in the middle of the lake.
Accommodations range from budget campgrounds and cozy bed and breakfasts to ornate villas on grand estates. The lakeside villages of Bellagio, Varenna, Tremezzo, Menaggio and Como town itself are popular with vacationers. You could choose to come and experience a holiday here and then inquire about real estate. When you buy property on Lake Como, you're sure to see returns on investments right away. During the high season, you could even rent your home to vacationers for a good price.
Lake Como's proximity to Milan's three international airports makes getting there easy. Taxis from Malpensa airport charge a flat rate to the lake, and there are also car rentals and the Trenord, the quick rail express.
Here are ten things you shouldn't skip when you visit — or retire to — Lake Como.
The Lombardy area is known for exquisite wines from hand-harvested vineyards planted along the hilly slopes. Around the lake itself in towns like Domaso, you can find local cantinas (cellars) where the wine comes straight from vineyards just above.
Do as the Romans did and bathe in the local mineral springs. You can find thermal spas nearby in Bormio, just a 90-minute drive north of the lake. Try the invigorating hot springs of Terme Bagni di Bormio or Bagni Nuovi, one of the largest thermal parks in the Alps.
You don't have to go far for a good hike; just take any footpath from the villages. The Pian di Spagna on the north end is a protected nature reserve. Depending on your fitness level, choose different paths around the lake to switch up the intensity. You can download maps for the northern tips.
Tasty freshwater fish from the lake are usually on the menu in local restaurants. On weekends, just before sunset, you may spy a handful of fishermen waiting for a catch. Join them if you can. Fishing tours are offered regularly as well if you want guides to take you directly to the hotspots.
Get around with ease as you leisurely pedal your way through tranquil trails. You can rent bikes at low daily rates, too. Try bike tours with a guide to learn about the history of the paths you cross.
Lake Como is just over two miles wide, so you can get to the other side in a short time by taking the public ferry. Use it to go shopping in Bellagio or to visit lovely Varenna, with its lakeside promenade built onto the cliff overlooking the water. Boats come and go daily, so check schedules.
Some of the top ski resorts nearby include Madesimo, accessed in an hour's drive. Just 85 miles from Milan, it's an idyllic part of Sondrio province. Bormio town is a ski resort with plenty of hotels and a historical center. Many skiers also head to duty-free Livigno, known as "Italy's Little Tibet."
Vacationers often paddle their tiny row boats, go sailing or join yacht clubs in the area. In the summer, regatta races bring excitement to the lake. You can enjoy the view or try sailing for yourself. Visit sailing clubs in Colico town or Domaso town.
The bigger towns of Como, Bellagio and Menaggio have art galleries and cultural shows throughout the year. One specific gallery that is a must-visit is Pinacoteca Civica, a civic art gallery that dates back to the 17th-century and houses a vast collection of famous works. To experience art workshops or art holidays, learn plein air painting techniques with Impressionist painter Jerry Fresia, an American artist in Bellagio.
Bellagio is famous for its silk and artisanal ceramic sets. Local produce like cheese, wine and meats can be bought at fresh markets in almost every village. Supermarket Iperal even has options for online shopping and door-to door delivery. Their branch in Colico is housed in a large shopping mall, where you can also find Italian luxury brands.
Can't wait to start planning your trip to idyllic Lake Como? Allianz can protect you with trip insurance, which means you can focus entirely on having fun. That should make your first dolce vita experience a great one.