Explore Lake Como like a local. Here are some insider tips for enjoying an authentic and unforgettable trip.
Long before George Clooney moved to these shores, Lake Como was already an inspiring destination for novelists, poets and painters. The labyrinthine streets and stairways twisting through lakeside promenades offer a fairy-tale setting with voluptuous villas that attract the international jet set and gardens that seem straight out of a storybook.
For the price of a glass of Terre Lariane, you can spend an evening in one of the quaint villages overlooking the water, picturing yourself in the shoes of James Bond.
Lake Como's strong tourism industry has made it a sought-after destination for those looking for luxury and authenticity. You'll find a blend of hotels that feel like the ultimate opulent dream, artisan workshops, charming little houses, and lush nature. Here we have some suggestions to help you experience Lake Como like a local.
What to do in Lake Como like a local
Picturesque villages, sumptuous villas and the rural life that flow around the luxury of certain settings embrace each other in a sinuous and unique natural environment.
Lake Como boasts that je ne sais quoi that used to attract cultured European travellers in the past. Still, it maintains a discreet and aristocratic reputation.
Although many are familiar with the famous towns of Bellagio, Cernobbio, Lecco, and Tremezzina, numerous secret and secluded areas await discovery. These hidden gems offer a glimpse into the region's rich history and can be easily uncovered.
In case you're planning a trip and fancy to experience Lake Como like a local, our article has got you covered! We've gathered seven unique ideas to enhance your visit, including reaching a secret beach where you can soak up the sun or swinging on a special bench in a truly enchanted location.
7. What to do in Lake Como like a local: going to markets
Mercatini, markets, and fairs: if you want to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of Lake Como like a local, start with the events and meeting places that are most popular among the citizens.
For instance, a market is held every Wednesday in Albate on Via Falciola. From Viale Battisti to Viale Varese, Mercato Mercerie is held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, while Mercato Coperto in Via Mentana 5 operates every day except Sunday.
If you're a fan of antiques, you won't want to miss the first Saturday of each month in Piazza San Fedele. That's when the antique market takes place, offering a treasure trove of unique finds. And if you're more interested in handicrafts, be sure to check out the market held on the following weekends in the same square.
But that's not all - throughout the year, there are a variety of events and fairs to enjoy, including the Easter Fair and the Book Fair.
Moreover, the Fair of Sant'Abbondio, between the end of August and the beginning of September, is a kermis that livens Como streets with the agricultural market and the historic livestock fair. So no matter when you visit, there's always something to see and do in this vibrant city.
6. Sipping a cappuccino in Varenna
The line of houses with their vibrant facades reflecting on the water may initially make you think of Cinque Terre or some other seaside village. But no, we're actually on Lake Como, and Varenna is a must-see destination for anyone exploring the area.
This charming town has some truly breathtaking panoramic views, especially at sunset when the water reflects the colourful buildings in a very romantic way. And speaking of romance, don't miss the Lovers' Promenade - a footbridge leading to the town centre where you'll find cosy cafes steps away from the water.
Take a moment to indulge in a coffee or aperitivo before joining the crowd of noisy (and stylish) locals and tourists. And be sure to visit Villa Monastero, which boasts a stunning botanical garden, and Vezio Castle - now home to a rescue and training centre for birds of prey.
5. Swinging on a panoramic swing
Ready for a breathtaking adventure? Head to Mount Berlinghera and experience an awe-inspiring view of Lake Como from dizzying heights. To start your journey, make your way to the church of San Bartolomeo in Sorico and simply follow the signs.
As you trek uphill, you'll pass through lush woods, sprawling meadows, and picturesque pastures before finally reaching your destination: a sublime viewpoint where a charming wooden swing stands out like a throne.
After a few minutes of relaxation and capturing your picture-perfect moment, it's time to get back on the path and continue climbing to the mount's top.
Brace yourself for a steep ascent to a height of 1930 meters, but don't worry - the route to Bocchetta di Chiaro, where you'll find the swing, is also accessible to hikers of all levels, including families. So what are you waiting for? Lace up your shoes and set off for an unforgettable adventure!
4. Watching the sunset from Brunate
If you're looking for a diverse perspective on Lake Como, taking the funicular from Como to Brunate is a must-do. Brunate, a charming hill town famous since the 18th century as a popular tourist resort among Lombard holidaymakers, is a true surprise.
The panoramic view is incredible from almost anywhere, and if you want to make a lasting impression on someone special with a sophisticated and poetic atmosphere, that's definitely the right place to go.
Anyway, to get the best vistas, head to the Faro Voltiano and see Lake Como like a giant heart-shaped mirror. To get to the lighthouse, simply follow the signs and walk up the slope for about thirty minutes until you reach the tall octagonal tower, a tribute to Como's illustrious citizen, Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the electric battery. The monument is open to visitors, so climb the 143 steps of the spiral staircase and enjoy the breathtaking 360-degree views.
3. Visit Villa del Balbianello
If you're a fan of movies like 007 and Star Wars, you'll feel like in a familiar place when visiting Villa Balbianello. To start your journey, drive to Lenno and leave your car at the Mercato car park in Tremezzina - it's free and conveniently close to your destination.
A short walk away, you'll find a lovely pedestrian path that leads to the stunning Villa del Balbianello, which is so beautiful it looks like a movie set. And it's no wonder that Hollywood has been captivated by its allure.
The villa was built in the 18th century by Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini, and has since been a haven for scholars and intellectuals. The gardens surrounding the villa are sensational, with vibrant flowers, impressive sculptures, and romantic corners waiting to be explored.
Take in the stunning view from the Loggia, and then set off for a leisurely stroll along the lakeside promenade to the tourist office. Here, hop on a ferry and head to the nearby town of Bellagio, which is just as charming and enchanting as you've heard.
2. Discovering a medieval village
Corenno Plinio is an adorable borgo that takes tourists back to medieval times. The village boasts an ancient castle, narrow streets, and stone houses adorned with multicoloured doorways and flower-decked balconies. It's more secluded than neighbouring towns, meaning it's the right place to escape the hustle and bustle of the cities crowded with holidaymakers.
One of the main attractions is the parish church dedicated to St Thomas of Canterbury. The old harbour, a short distance away, is also worth a visit. From here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the village which is simply stunning. Moreover, continuing to the belvedere, you'll discover a series of viewpoints offering a breathtaking coast view.
Although Corenno Plinio is suitable for a quick visit of just an hour, it's worth stopping by the only restaurant in town to sample the delights of local cuisine. Whether you're a history buff or simply need a peaceful getaway, this is a must-see destination.
1. Going to the beach
Embrace the local culture and bask in the beautiful weather by lounging on a cosy deckchair by the lake. With a whopping 170 kilometres of coastline, you'll have access to plenty of equipped lidos and even hidden, isolated beaches.
In Rezzonico, for example, in addition to wandering around the pleasant centre with its crenellated tower and low porticoed buildings, access a small white pebble beach impeccably framed (and protected) by the town.
If you visit Tremezzina, then don't miss the green beach at Ossuccio. It's located near the church of Santa Maria Maddalena, the one with the jewel-like bell tower that often appears on search engines when typing 'Lake Como'. This spiaggia is unique because you can lay your towel on a soft lawn shaded by olive trees. Feeling adventurous? Take a motorboat from the nearby jetty to Comacina Island and explore secluded beaches and wild coves.
For a more off-the-beaten-path experience, head to Careno, a tranquil shore located in the municipality of Nesso, on the eastern part of the lake. You can easily get there by boat, or if you're up for a bit of a walk, take a stroll through the charming, ancient streets of the small village. Just be mindful of the steep slopes and steps along the way. It's definitely worth it though, for the stunning views and peaceful atmosphere.