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Lake Como

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Lake Como is one of the famous Italian Lakes destinations, just half an hour from noisy, bustling Milan, in the north of Italy. Lake Como is long (50km), very slender and extremely deep. The southern end forks into two long ‘legs’, with the picturesque town of Bellagio situated on the promontory between them. Like the other Italian Lakes, Lake Como has been popular as a resort since the days of the Roman Empire. For centuries visitors have admired the blue lake waters and relaxed in luxurious villas in the wooded lakeside slopes above. Today, most of the scenic towns around the shores of Lake Como are popular for the wide variety of sports the lake area has to offer: wind surfing, swimming, water skiing, swimming and hand gliding.

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Lake Como is a jewel-like oasis of tranquility, a magical combination of lush Mediterranean foliage and snowy alpine peaks. Como is a lively and pleasant town with an appealing historical centre and a scenic location at the southern end of the east branch of the Lake. The impressive cathedral (Duomo), like most in Italy, was built and added to over a period of centuries, so you can admire Gothic and Renaissance features including some fine tapestries and paintings. The town’s earlier cathedral (built in the tenth century), San Fedele, is another fine sight, as are the tall nine-hundred-year-old gateway, Porta Vittoria, and the Romanesque church Sant’Abbondio. The town’s art gallery (Pinacoteca) is also worth a visit. For a short trip out of town, take the funicular up to Brunate above Como, where you can enjoy spectacular views. If you’re a hiker, take the footpath up to Monte Boletto.

villa-carlottaTravelling along the western perimeter of the lake, you can stop in at the Tempio Voltiano, a surprising classic temple with marble columns and mosaic floors. A bit farther on are the beautiful formal gardens and park of Villa dell’Olmo, a sumptuous lake home named after an elm forest mentioned by Pliny the Younger in the days when Como was a flourishing Roman outpost.

From Como, it’s just a short drive to Cernobbio, whose old town features a delightful collection of picturesque houses and narrow alleys. Nearby is one of the grandest hotels in all Europe, the Villa D’Este, whose rooms are almost like museum galleries. A few minutes away is Toriggia, where you can visit Villa Passalacqua, a late 18th-century home where Vincenzo Bellini once stayed.

As you travel north you’ll see Como’s only island, Isola Comacina. The best day of the year to take the ferry over to the island is the week end after June 24th, when St. John’s Day is celebrated with a mass at Santa Eufemia’s basilica, followed by a costumed procession and night-time fireworks.

bellaggioLake Como is renowned for its exquisite villas, and probably the most famous one is Villa Carlotta, a perfect combination of luxurious interiors (beautiful stuccos, lovely ceiling frescoes and a great art collection, including an Eros and Psyche by Antonio Canova) and luxuriant exteriors (over 500 species of plants, trees and shrubs from all over the world).

Tremezzo is another lovely lakeside town. There’s a classic lakeside promenade, as well as many wonderful old villas (some of which have been converted to hotels), and it’s from here you can take a car ferry over to Bellaggio and Varenna, on the opposite shore.

Varenna may be the most picturesque town on the lake, its steep winding alleys lined with charming homes, flowering balconies and lace-curtained windows. Just above it is the ancient castle where Theodolinda, Queen of the Lombards, is said to have died in the 7th century. Two famed villas to visit here are Villa Cipressi, with terraced gardens cascading right down to the shores, and Villa Monastero, a true showcase.

menaggioOn the southern shore is Bellaggio, la perla del lago (the pearl of the lake), considered by many to be the most beautiful town in all of Europe. Its narrow cobbled streets, breathtaking views, impeccable homes and glorious villas make it a most enchanting spot.

Bellano is located on the eastern shore of Lake Como. This small town, has escaped mass tourism and is surrounded by a lovely landscape characterized by beautiful lakeside walks. The old town centre is characterized by interesting tight alleys with medieval houses, arches that date back to the 17th century and Baroque courts.

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Hotels

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Grand Hotel Tremezzo
www.grandhoteltremezzo.com
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Castadiva Resort and Spa
www.castadivaresort.com
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Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni
www.villaserbelloni.com
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Hotel Royal Victoria
www.royalvictoria.com
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Hotel Villa Flori
www.hotelvillaflori.com
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Grand Hotel Menaggio
www.grandhotelmenaggio.com
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Hotel Barchetta Excelsior
www.hotelbarchetta.it

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