Lake Como is on the bucketlist of many, and after visiting the beautiful region myself in November, I can really see why George Clooney comes so often to his lakeside Villa Oleandra. But Lake Como is large, and the roads are narrow so travel around the lake is slow-paced. Therefore it’s best to know which villages are worth a stop and which aren’t. Let’s see what are the best villages around Lake Como.
On the road from Como to Bellagio, you’ll come across the small and cozy little town of Nesso. It’s the perfect place for those who want to enjoy Lake Como but without all the tourists. The town is split in half by the famous Orrido di Nesso – or Nesso Gorge – with a waterfall that snakes into Lake Como. Best view of the waterfall is from the Ponta della Civera, which in itself is also a popular subject to photograph! I have to add that this town has a countless amount of steps. Every alleyway is essentially a very long staircase. But if you’re up for it, I highly recommend getting lost in the streets of Nesso!
Bellagio is located quite central in the Lake Como area, and it’s where the tree branches of the lake meet. Bellagio is way more popular than Nesso and is known for its cobblestone streets and century-old buildings. The idyllic Bellagio is the best place to enjoy a gelato or espresso with a view of Lago di Como.
Just before you enter Bellagio, you’ll come across Villa Melzi, overlooking the lake and surrounded by lush gardens. Definitely worth a visit! The road next to Villa Melzi is also the place where you best park your car. Finding a parking spot can be a pain in the ass around Lake Como, especially during high season. So you can park your car there and walk the last bit towards the city center.
From Bellagio, you can take the ferry to Cadenabbia or Varenna, both on other sides of the lake. Taking the ferry saves you a couple of hours driving on narrow roads. That’s why it’s one of the best villages around Lake Como.
Lecco lies at the southeastern branch of Lake Como and is one of the bigger towns you’ll find around the lake. Its location near the mouth of the river Adda is stunning: Lecco lies right in front of a mountainous background. Real postcard material right there! The best pictures you can make from across the lake, near the town of Malgrate. From there, you have a superb view of Lecco in front of the rugged mountains.
I saved the best for last! From Lecco, make your way up north along the eastern bank of Lake Como and you’ll come across Varenna, a fishing village from the 1100s. Varenna is where you’ll go if you seek peace and tranquility, away from other more touristy places. The waterfront is rather small but definitely one of the most beautiful you’ll find around Lake Como. There are some good restaurants to enjoy the views over lunch.
You can park your car on the road towards Varenna, or in the parking lot near Villa Monastero. It has a well-preserved historical center full of cobblestone alleyways and a few historical churches, like the church of San Giorgio. The botanical garden next to Villa Cipresi is worth a visit too!
So there you have it! Obviously there are many more lovely villages around Lake Como but I just picked out my favorites. I hope to have inspired you to pay these towns a visit!
Just be careful, driving in Italy can be a little tricky sometimes, but after reading my tips for driving in Italy you should be just fine!
If you’re looking for a place to stay in the region, I highly recommend Hotel de la Ville in Monza. This luxury hotel is located about an hour away from Lake Como and your ideal starting point to explore Lombardy. Check out my complete review of Hotel de la Ville for more.