Introducing Como: the Jewel in Italy’s Crown
- Head up to Volta Lighthouse in San Maurizio by taking the Como-Brunate funicular.
- Take a boat trip around the lake to explore its towns and villages.
- Check out Como’s shops, restaurants and bars.
Simply put; Como is beautiful.
Sweeping statement? Sure – but it’s totally justified!
Located in Northern Italy and surrounded by the imposing peaks of the Lugano Prealps, this small town is only a short train journey (nine minutes) from Chiasso in Switzerland and lies on the shore of its eponymous lake.
Myself and a friend were staying in Milan for a long weekend and after we’d toured the city we decided to venture out to Como for the day.
We caught the Trenord from Milan Porto Garibaldi towards Chiasso (€8.40) and alighted at Como San Giovanni Railway Station (1 hour).
Como has for centuries stood as a great beacon light of glamour in Northern Italy, set in the shadow of the Rhaetian Alps with breathtaking lakeside vistas.
Lago di Como, or simply, Lake Como has attracted the wealthy elite of politics, business, entertainment and sport from around the globe for hundreds of years. From George Clooney and Gianni Versace, to Sylvester Stallone and Madonna, the lake has been a popular retreat for the rich and famous since Roman times.
Como has ample eateries serving authentic Italian cuisine, shops selling the finest in Italian silk and an impressive network of ferries that give tourists and natives the opportunity to explore the lakeside towns and villages.
Como Cathedral (< 1 hour)
While the piazza outside Como Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta; Duomo di Como) is stunning, head inside the Cathedral to find the real treasure and admire the beauty of the architecture and artwork.
The cathedral sits at the centre of the town and dominates its skyline when seen from above (more on that later)…
Interesting fact: the cathedral is one of the most important buildings in the region and is commonly described as the last Gothic cathedral in Italy with construction having started in 1396.
*If you check out the northern entry to the Cathedral you’ll see the ‘door of the frog’ – named after the sculpture on the door which depicts a frog trying to catch a butterfly. Apparently, if you touch the 15th century sculpture it’s said to bring good luck.
Lake Como (6+ hours)
English romantic poet Percy Shelly once declared: “Lake Como is the most beautiful lake I have ever seen”, and one can’t help but agree!
The lake can be seen from the cathedral and is a hive of bustling activity, with many people enjoying its deep chestnut forests and lakeside attractions and activities.
From the impressive villas and gardens, to the mountainside towns and valleys, Lake Como is a scenic hotspot – and a must visit if you’re in the region.
If you want the FULL experience then head down to Navigazione Laghi to buy tickets for a boat trip.
If you’re planning on exploring then I recommend getting circular tickets (this will allow you to make intermediate stops between the ports and give you chance to visit each). We purchased tickets for the Como-Nesso route (€14.70).
The journey took in views of Tavernola, Cernobbio, Blevio, Moltrasio, and Torno (the latter of which I will be sure to explore more next time).
Although, we didn’t have time to visit the beautiful lakeside town of Bellagio (which I’ve heard a lot of great things about) – I’ll be sure to visit during my next trip!
Como-Brunate Funicular (4+ hours)
If you have a spare few hours then I highly recommend taking the Como-Brunate Funicular up to the mountainside town of Brunate which lies 500m above Como.
Brunate is the quintessential Italian village, with colourful buildings and stalls, ancient architecture, small restaurants and drinking fountains located in its small piazza.
As soon as you disembark the tram-like vehicle, make sure to check out the viewing point directly in front of the funicular because from here you can get panoramic views of the lake and the Swiss-Italian border.
Brunate to Faro Voltiano, San Maurizio – a gruelling trek! (4-5 hours)
If you’re up for a challenge, I recommend taking a walk up to Faro Voltiano (Volta Lighthouse).
However, traversing its steep slopes and winding roads is a difficult task!
(A bus is also available which runs from Brunate to San Maurizio).
It’s a 26 minute 1.8km walk from the funicular to Volta Lighthouse, but just before you get to the summit, check out the pizzeria at the top! The food here is delicious (and fresh!) so make sure you pay a visit.
But it gets better.
Go one step further and pay the €2 fee to enter the lighthouse and on a clear day you will be able to see from Milan to the Apennines.
From lizards to birds of prey, there’s also some great opportunities to check out some of the local wildlife.
In hindsight, we probably should have decided to stay in Como – rather than Milan – for the duration of the break so we could travel around its winding shoreline to visit each of the small lakeside towns and villages.
No wonder that for hundreds of years romantic landscape painters, poets, writers and tourists have flocked to this part of Italy!
This short break has made me want to sample more of Lake Como’s hidden lakeside gems (which means a return trip is definitely on the cards!).
Suggested Como playlist: