Visit Lake Como in a hire car - Lake Como tourist attractions
Lake Como is one of the most popular and versatile tourist attractions of the Lombardy region in northern Italy.
Located in approximately an hour drive from Milan, the Lake Como is known for its uparalleled beauty, offering breathtaking views of the lake and the mountains, a remarkable historic heritage and the fame of a ‘playground for rich and famous’.
A simple drive amid lush greenery along the banks of Como Lake banks is already an attraction itself and several places on the way – towns, villages or lakeside villas are well worth to stop at.
Fiat 500 - a popular hire car for a daytrip from Milan to Lake Como.
An own means of transportation, for example a hire car picked up in Milan, is often the most convenient way of exploring the Lake Como area at your own pace.
Lake Como at the foot of the Alps
Lago di Como, also referred to as Lario, is nestled at the foot of the Swiss Alps in the so called Lake District in the north of Italy, where also Lake Maggiore, Lake Lugano and Lake Garda are found.
The third largest lake in Italy and one of the deepest in Europe, Lake Como is shaped like an inverted ‘Y’ letter. The town of Colico is located at the tip of its northern arm, Como lies at the tip of the western arm and Lecco – at the tip of the eastern arm. Bellagio, another major town of Como Lake area is located in the intersection of the lake’s southern arms.
Como tourist attractions
The town of Como is the administrative capital of the province and often the first stop on a Lake Como driving tour.
Fairly small in size, with the population of approx. 84,000, Como offers a surprisingly wide choice of attractions for visitors.
Como Cathedral (Il Duomo), is the most spectacular representation of Como’s historic heritage, although art lovers will surely like to visit some of the town's old churches featuring magnificent frescoes, paintings and tapestry from across different ages.
If your time allows it, take at least a day to explore the town and admire its elegant architecture and landscaped parks, or visit Como’s museums. The proliferous life and work of Como-born Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the battery is honoured in Tempio Voltiano Electricity Museum, as well as in the Volta Lighthouse. Take the funicular to the lighthouse to get the best views of Como waterfront.
Bellagio - the Pearl of Lake Como.
The town of Bellagio is situated on the promontory which separates the southern arms of Lake Como.
Due to this picturesque, privileged location, providing the most spectacular panoramic views of Lake Como and the Alps Bellagio is often referred to as ‘the pearl of Lake Como’.
Scenic waterfront with its many cafés and elegant open air restaurants is a perfect place to take in the stunning panorama of the lake. For a more complete experience of Bellagio, take a historic tour to Borgo, Bellagio’s old town. Remember, however, that town is best to be visited on foot, as there are virtually no streets in the old quarter, only narrow and often steep stairways.
The sophisticated Bellagio is a perfect day-trip destination. If you are planning to stay for the night here, please remember that the choice of accommodation in Bellagio is restricted mostly to 5 star hotels and luxury guest houses. Much more options are available when it comes to dining in Bellagio. For culinary connoisseurs, Michelin-starred Mistral restaurant is Bellagio’s finest.
Bellagio and Varenna video-guide:
Take advantage of Bellagio’s location and hop on a ferry to some of the other interesting towns on the banks of Lake Como, such as Varenna, Menaggio or Tremezzo. Many of the ferries allow vehicle transportation, so you will be able to continue your trip on the opposite side of the lake.
Find more information about Lake Como ferries - timetableas and fees.
If you don’t wish to transport your car on a ferry, water taxies and hydrofoil are also a convenient and often cheaper solution.
Located on the tip of the eastern branch of Lake Como, Lecco is greatly an industrial city. Curious travellers may find here, however, some historic and modern attractions.
Amongst the most famous landmarks of Lecco are: the Neo-Gothic Bell Tower, the Cathedral Duomo San Nicolo, Villa Manzoni and the bridges over the Adda River (the Azzone Visconti Bridge/Ponte Vecchio and the Kennedy Bridge). DO not miss out on Villa Manzoni, open for public and the pleasant lakeside promenade of Lecco.
Lake Como villas
The area of Lake Como was a popular location for aristocracy already in the Roman era. The numerous splendid villas located along the banks of the lake are a reminder of the times when nobility and Italy’s wealthiest families were residing in this charming corner of Lombardy.
Most of Lake Como villas are surrounded by picturesque, landscape gardens. Some of the estates, owned by private or public trusts are open to public, others have been transformed into hotels or wedding venues, but most are private properties, reaching sky-high prices on the real estate market.
Amongst the most famous Lake Como villas open for visiting are:
Villa del Balbianello. This magnificent property with the characteristic terraced gardens, located in Lenno was used in as the filming set for Casino Royale James Bond movie and Star Wars (The Attack of the Clones). The villa is owned by a non-profit trust, the Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano (FAI). Tours of both interiors and gardens are available at moderate price (EUR5 for the garden tour and EUR 11 for the combined gardens and villa tours). Find more information about Villa Balbianello on the FAI website.
Villa Manzoni. Located in Lecco, Villa Manzoni belonged to the family of Alessandro Manzoni. The interior of the villa, transformed into a museum of the Italian poet and writer, can be visited.
Villa Serbelloni. One of the most emblematic buildings of Bellagio, Villa Serbelloni is owned and managed by the Rockefeller Foundation which operates in it a conference and residency programs for scholars from all over the world. A large part of Villa Serbelloni has been transformed into a hotel. The foundation opened the stunning gardens of Villa Serbelloni for visitors.
Lake Como celebrities
The sophistication and discreet glamour of Lake Como has proved very appealing to famous and wealthy.
George Clooney is probably the most popular of the international celebrities who own a property in the area (Villa Oleandra in Laglio). While strolling the streets of Como you may often get a glimpse of Hollywood’s ‘eternal bachelor’ (George Clooney used to be known), well liked by the locals and made Como’s honorary citizen.
The list of other notable, though maybe not so down to earth personas frequently seen in Como Lake area include names as: Madonna, David and Victoria Beckham, Sasha Baron Cohen, Liam Gallagher, David Hasselhof, Richard Branson, Donatella Versace and Silvio Berlusconi. View map of Lake Como celebrities.
Weather at Lake Como
The area of Lake Como owns it unique character greatly to the distinct microclimate of this part of Lombardy.
Despite its proximity to the Alps, Lake Como enjoys a mild, Mediterranean-like climate. The weather in Lake Como area is attenuated by the presence of the large body of water of over 56 sqm.
Pleasant temperatures in the summer (between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius) and relatively high temperatures as for this part of Europe in the winter (usually round 5 degrees Celsius in the coldest months) allow for tropical species of plants to flourish, adding to the charms of Lake Como.
For more detail see Lake Como weather chart.
How to get to Lake Como - Milan airport car hire
Lake Como area can be easily reached from Milan, as well as from all the three airports serving Milan area.
If you are picking your hire car at one of the Milan airports, see below the approximate distances to the most popular locations of Lake Como:
- distance from Milan Malpensa Airport to Como: 34 miles / 55 km (approx. 40 min by car)
- distance from Milan Malpensa Airport to Bellagio: 52 miles / 84 km (1h 20 min by car)
- distance from Milan Bergamo Airport to Lecco: 25 miles / 40 km (50 min by car)
- distance from Milan Bergamo Airport to Como: 40 miles / 63 km (1h 20 min by car)
- distance from Milan Linate Airport to Como: 35 miles / 57 km (50 min)
A useful tip: when on a self-drive tour of Lake Como, it is recommended to explore he west side of the lake in the morning and the east side in the afternoon - this way you will get the best sun exposure and perfect lighting for the pictures of Lake Como’s one of a kind landscapes.