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Lake Como
View from lakeside near Villa Olmo
Location Lombardy, Italy
Coordinates 46°00′N 9°17′E / 46°N 9.283°E / 46; 9.283Coordinates: 46°00′N 9°17′E / 46°N 9.283°E / 46; 9.283
Primary inflows Adda River, Mera River
Primary outflows Adda River
Catchment area 4,509 km² [1]
Basin countries Italy, Switzerland
Max. length 46 km
Max. width 4.5 km
Surface area 146 km²
Average depth 154 m [1]
Max. depth 410 m
Water volume 22.5 km³
Residence time 4.5 years [1]
Surface elevation 198 m [1]
Islands Isola Comacina
Settlements Como, Lecco (see article)
References [1]

Lake Como (Lago di Como in Italian, also known as Lario; Lach de Comm in Insubric; Latin: Larius Lacus) is a lake of glacial origin in Lombardy, Italy. It has an area of 146 km², making it the third largest lake in Italy, after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore. At over 400 m (1320 ft) deep it is one of the deepest lakes in Europe and the bottom of the lake is more than 200 metres (656 ft) below sea-level.

Lake Como has always been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people ever since the Roman times, and a very popular tourist attraction, which boasts many artistic and cultural gems. It is famous for its numerous villas and palaces (such as Villa Olmo, Villa Serbelloni and Villa Carlotta). Currently, many celebrities have or had homes on the shores of Lake Como, such as Matthew Bellamy, Madonna, George Clooney[2], Gianni Versace, and Sylvester Stallone. Lake Como is widely regarded as being one of the most beautiful lakes in the world[3].



Aerial view of the juncture between the three arms of Lake Como

The lake is shaped much like the character “Y”. The northern branch begins at the town of Colico, while the towns of Como and Lecco sit at the ends of the southwestern and southeastern branches respectively. The small towns of Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna are situated at the intersection of the three branches of the lake: a triangular boat service operates between them.

Lake Como is fed in large part by the Adda River, which enters the lake near Colico and flows out at Lecco. This geological conformation makes the southwestern branch a dead end, and so Como, unlike Lecco, is often flooded.

The mountainous pre-alpine territory between the two southern arms of the lake—between Como, Bellagio and Lecco—is known as the Larian Triangle, or Triangolo lariano. The source of the river Lambro is here. At the centre of the triangle, the town of Canzo is the seat of the Comunità montana del Triangolo Lariano, an association of the 31 municipalities which represent the 71,000 inhabitants of the area.


A view of Lake Como from the lighthouse in Brunate.

The lake's name in Latin is Larius, Italianized as Lario, but this name is rarely used; it is usually called Lago di Como (literally "Lake of Como"). In guidebooks the lake may be variously described as "Lake Como", "Lake of Como", or "Como Lake." The lake's name comes from the town of Como, known to the Romans as Comum.

While the town of Como is referred to as "Como", the lake itself is never referred to solely by this name. (This is not true of another lake in Italy, Lake Garda, where "Garda" may refer to either a town on its shores, or the lake).

Lakeside villas

Villa Carlotta.
Villa d'Este.
Villa del Balbianello.

The lake is well-known for the attractive villas which have been built here since Pliny the Younger constructed the Comedia and the Tragedia. Many have admirable gardens which benefit from the mild climate induced by the stabilising presence of 22.5 km³ of lake water and are able to include tropical as well as temperate plants.

The Villa Carlotta was built for the Milanese marchese Giorgio Clerici in 1690 and occupies a site of over 70,000 m² at Tremezzo, facing the Bellagio peninsula. An Italian garden, with steps, fountains and sculpture was laid out at the same time. The villa was later sold to the banker and Napoleonic politician Giambattista Sommariva. Stendhal was his guest in 1818, and his visit is recalled at the start of La Chartreuse de Parme. In 1843 it was purchased by Princess Marianne of Nassau as a wedding present for her daughter Carlotta, after whom the villa is now named. The latter, together with her husband, Georg II of Saxen-Meiningen laid out the woodland landscape park in Romantic style. The villa today includes a museum of agricultural implements as well as important works of sculpture by Sommariva’s friend Antonio Canova and by Luigi Acquisti. [4]

The Villa d'Este, at Cernobbio, was built in 1568 by Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, a native of the town. In 1816–17 the villa was home to Caroline of Brunswick, estranged wife of the Prince of Wales and shortly to become Queen Consort of King George IV of the United Kingdom. The landscaped gardens in the English style are a product of this period. Later in the century it was turned into a luxury hotel. Today the Villa d’Este is known for attracting celebrity guests.

The Villa del Balbianello, famous for its elaborate terraced gardens, lies on a promontory of the western shore of the lake near Isola Comacina. Built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery, it was the final home of the explorer Guido Monzino and today houses a museum devoted to his work.

The Villa Melzi, at Bellagio was built in the neo-classical style by the architect Giocondo Albertolli in 1808–10 as the summer residence of Francesco Melzi who had been vice-president of the Napoleonic Italian Republic. The park includes an orangery, a chapel, statues and a Japanese garden, and is planted, as often on lake Como, with huge rhododendrons. Nineteenth-century guests at the Villa included Stendhal and Franz Liszt [5]

The Villa Serbelloni, also at Bellagio, houses the Bellagio Study and Conference Center, a residential center set up and managed by the Rockefeller Foundation since 1959, which operates a 'scholar-in-residence' program for scholars from around the world. This is believed to have been the site of Pliny the Younger’s villa ‘Tragedia’. Its well-known park was created at the end of the eighteenth century by Alessandro Serbellon.


Lake Como weather is generally mild. It is known for its Mediterranean-like climate where tropical and sub-tropical plants can grow year-round. In the winter, the lake helps to maintain a higher temperature in the surrounding region (since water releases heat energy more slowly than air). Average daily maxima range from about 13 °C (55 °F) in December to 30 °C (85 °F) in July. Water temperatures can reach an average of 24°C (75°F) during the month of July. Snowfall is erratic and primarily affects the higher elevations. Rainfall is heaviest in May and lowest during the winter months.


The Lake Como ferry service is a highly developed public transport system linking the dozens of small towns and villages dotted around the perimeter of the Lake. A motorized service began in 1826 when a steamship with sails, the “Lario”, was launched by the newly established Società privilegiata per l'impresa dei battelli a vapore nel Regno Lombardo Veneto. Since 1952 the system has been run under the auspices of a government organisation called first the Gestione Commissariale Governativa and subsequently the Gestione Governativa Navigazione Laghi, which is also responsible for services on Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda.[6][7]

Today there are three main services:

  • ‘Motorship’ services up and down the western branch and northern end of the Lake (between Colico or Piona and Como town), with additional shuttles to the mid-lake area.
  • ‘Fast services’ that follow broadly the same route but use quicker hydrofoils, stop less frequently and cost extra.
  • ‘Ferries’ that run only between the hugely popular mid-lake villages of Menaggio, Bellagio and Varenna, plus Cadenabbia. Some of these boats carry vehicles as well as passengers.[8]

Sacro Monte di Ossuccio

Chapel 5. Disputation with the Doctors

The Sacro Monte di Ossuccio (‘’Sacred Mount of Ossuccio’’) is located on a hillside slope between olive groves and woods along the western edge of Lake Como facing Isola Comacina. Fifteen Baroque inspired chapels, built between 1635 and 1710, and dedicated to the Mysteries of the Rosary are dotted along the way that leads to the Monastery. This building is the last in the chain and is dedicated to the Coronation of the Virgin. In 2003, the Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy, including that of Ossuccio, were inserted by UNESCO in the World Heritage List.

Recreation and tourism

Lake Como is a popular tourist destination. It is a venue for sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.[9] In 1818 Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote to Thomas Love Peacock: “This lake exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty, with the exception of the arbutus islands of Killarney. It is long and narrow, and has the appearance of a mighty river winding among the mountains and the forests”. [10]


In 2007 it was reported that Lake Como is too polluted to swim in, with colony-forming units of bacteria at 68 times the safe limit for bathing. This pollution presents a risk of skin infections, dermatitis and even salmonella to bathers. In 2008 was reported that the upper lake is suitable for swimming. [11]

Places on the lake

The Parco Meier, a public garden at Tremezzo
Varenna, on the eastern shore of Lake Como.
Cities and villages on Lake Como
Western shore
from North to South
South shore
from West to East
Eastern shore
from North to South

References in literature

  • Alessandro Manzoni chose to start his "Promessi Sposi" with a great description of Como Lake.
  • Fabrice del Dongo, the protagonist of The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal, is born and raised near Lake Como.
  • Mark Twain visited Lake Como in the summer of 1867. He describes the lake and its environs at length in The Innocents Abroad, which recounts a lengthy pleasure excursion to Jerusalem.
  • Paul the Deacon, a Lombard grammarian and poet of the 8th century, wrote one of his better known poems in praise of Lake Como.[12]
  • The character of Victor Frankenstein marries Elizabeth in the vicinity of Lake Como in the novel by Mary Shelley.
  • The lake is referenced by Jean in August Strindberg's magnum opus play Miss Julie.
  • Ernest Hemingway's character Lieutenant Henry in Farewell to Arms talks about taking a vacation to Lake Como
  • Nassim Nicholas Taleb references the lake in his book "The Black Swan", regarding a meeting he was to have for a brainstorming session for the Department of Defense. He refers to it at "fake Como".
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky mentions Lake Como in his novel: Notes from Underground

Depictions in popular culture

  • Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002 film): Some of the scenes that take place on planet Naboo were shot at Villa del Balbianello including the clandestine marriage of Anakin Skywalker and Padme.
  • Ocean's Twelve (2004 film): The infamous thief named Francois Toulour, a.k.a. The Night Fox, resides in the Villa Erba estate in Lake Como. Here, he has several encounters with Daniel Ocean, his rival thief, in which Ocean reveals how he stole the real Coronation Egg.
  • Casino Royale (2006 film): James Bond recuperates at a hospital in Lake Como after he had been tortured by Le Chiffre. This is also where Bond starts a short love relationship with Vesper Lynd, the treasury agent. In the end scene, Bond hunts down Mr. White at his estate on the lake.
  • Gwen Stefani's music video "Cool" was filmed around Lake Como.


Lake Como seen from Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo, near the centre of the lake.
Lake Como seen from the city of Como.
View of Lecco and the Lake of Como, branch of Lecco, from "Ciresa plain" on Mt. Barro.
Shoreline of Como from inside Lake Como


  1. ^ a b c d e "laghi italiani". Istituto Italiano di Idrobiologia. Retrieved 2006-11-17.  
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ See Infoparchi, Villa Carlotta;, Villa Carlotta; Macadam, Alta
  5. ^ See Infoparchi, Villa Melzi.
  6. ^ Massimo Gozzi, ‘History of Navigation on Lake Como’, Gestione Governativa Navigazione Laghi, 2007, pp 1–2.
  7. ^ ‘General Management’, Gestione Governativa Navigazione Laghi, 2007.
  8. ^ ‘Autumn Timetable 2009’, Gestione Governativa Navigazione Laghi.
  9. ^ 2006 Kiteboard Pro World Tour event, Lake Como,, June 6, 2006
  10. ^ Francis W Halsey, ed. (1914), Seeing Europe with Famous Authors, VIII, Funk & Wagnells,  
  11. ^ Italy's posh resort lakes so beautiful, so polluted,, July 27, 2006
  12. ^ M.G.H. Poetae Karolini Aevi, I, pp. 42-43:


External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Lake Como is situated in Como (Province) in Lombardy, Northern Italy. It is part of the Italian Lake District. Popular with visitors for well over 100 years for its combination of fresh air, water, mountains and good weather, it's still worth a visit.
The lake
The lake


The Lake is shaped rather like an inverted 'Y', with two 'legs' starting at Como in the South-West and Lecco in the South-East, which join together half way up and the lake continues up to Colico in the North. The first few kilometres of the 'legs' at the southern end of the lake are relatively flat, but Lake Como becomes more mountainous as you head northwards into the Alps. Some of the nearby peaks go slightly above the tree-line so the views are really impressive. In the winter, there is skiing in the nearby valleys.

The area around Lake Como, or "Lago di Como" in Italian, is pretty characteristic. It has a kind of flair and sense of history that tends to impress its visitors in a sense deeper than only from a touristic point of view. It has been appreciated for its beauty and uniqueness for ages, and even as early as the Roman Times. Its atmosphere and natural surroundings have been the inspiration for an important part of the creation of Naboo, in the Star Wars movies. (In the same way as the atmosphere in Tozeur and Matmata have been recreated in Episode IV, "A New Hope").

  • Como - At the southern end of the lake, the lake's main town is a good base and although not as attractive as some of the other towns, it remains an elegant resort. The town has a population of roughly 80,000 people. And has Roman or pre Roman origins.
  • Tremezzo - Beautiful little town, right across from Bellagio. Main attraction is Villa Carlotta with its splendid botanical garden and nice waterfront.
  • Menaggio - The main town on the Western Shore, it's an attractive town and not as touristy as Bellagio and Varenna opposite. It has a Youth Hostel (but it's often full at weekends). Has a nice pedestrian only area with coffee shops, gelaterias and restaurants. Also has a lake-front mini golf with a snack bar.
  • Nesso - A very small town about half way between Como and Bellagio on the western "leg" of the lake.
  • Bellagio - Very attractive town at the junction of the two 'legs' of the lake. Can be expensive. This is the busiest of the tourist oriented towns. Bellagio is a hub for the boat service on the lake.
  • Varenna - Another attractive town on the Eastern shore opposite Menaggio and Bellagio. Worth visiting for the attractive and relaxing gardens of Villa Cipressi and Villa Monastero. Varenna also has the remains of a castle where a falconer gives shows occasionally. The castle is a steep hike, with a rise of many hundreds of vertical feet.
  • Bellano - Just north of Varenna on the east side. Nice non-touristed town, with a pedestrian only area in the town center. In the Italian tradition, most stores are closed from noon/1:00PM until about 3:00PM. Bellano was a silk production center but those factories are now closed. The orrido (gorge) is geologically impressive but most of the tremendous flow is now directed into a powerhouse.
  • Colico - nice views at the top of the lake, but the town's not that attractive. There is a WWI fort with guns nearby, but is only open one day per week.
  • Lecco - the town at the end of the south-eastern branch of the lake. Population of roughly 25,000 people.
  • Isola Comacina
  • Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo, if you like impressive gardens
  • Menaggio e Cadenabbia Golf Club, just a few km inland from Menaggio, where George Clooney is said to be a member
  • Market days - Como on Saturdays. The market is located at the town's Medieval walls. Lenno on Tuesday mornings. Dongo has a market once a week.


Good internet connection is at the hotel barchelleta Excelsior.

In Como, there are two good wi-fi spots. the como bar on volta street and the sushi bar on bergovico street (well hidden, but worth it). the como bar is an 8 minute walk Southeast from the water taxi and the sushi place is about a 15 minute walk south from the water taxi.

Get in

The main access to the lake is from Milan and Bergamo. It is also possible to cross the border from Lugano (Switzerland), and arriving at the lake at Menaggio. In the North, the lake can be accessed through the Splügen pass (closed from end of autumn to the beginning of spring), or from St. Moritz, both entering from Switzerland.

By train

Regular trains run from Milan to Como (beware it has 2 stations: Como San Giovanni and Como Lago). Trains also run from Milan and Bergamo up the Eastern Shore from Lecco to Varenna and Colico and then on to Sondrio and St. Moritz. Station Como San Giovanni is a little bit outside the downtown, but there are a number of buses that stop there, and one can buy tickets at the Tabac in the station for a few Euros, or walk to to the center of town.

Overnight sleeper trains run from Amsterdam via Duesseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt and Basel stopping at Como San Giovanni on their way to Milan. Similar daytime trains also run.

Get around

By bus

Frequent buses run up the Western Shore from Como to Menaggio. A few then continue on to Colico.

By Boat

Several boats and hydrofoils a day travel all the way up the lake from Como to Colico stopping at most of the towns en-route.

There are also frequent service between the 'triangle' of towns in the centre of the lake - Menaggio, Bellagio & Varenna.

In season, there is a boat service for the central lake. [Bellano, Lenno, Villa Carlotta and Tremezzo in addition to Menaggio, Varenna and Bellagio.] Runs hourly 9:00AM to 6:00PM.

Less frequent boat/hydrofoils travel down the Eastern Leg to and from Lecco.

Timetables are available at tourist information offices, at the quayside or online[1].

By train

Fairly regular train run up and down the Eastern Shore from Lecco to Varenna and Colico

By car

Roads run up and down most of the shores. On the Western Shore, road works are common and travel duration can vary greatly. You can expect to average 40-60 km/h. Despite the construction of new tunnels, the road on the Western Shore still crosses the centre of many villages. Avoid the road if you are not a keen driver and dislike hairpins, steep inclines, sharp bends, and heavy traffic. (Fatal) accidents, often involving motorcyclists, are common.

By Motorcycle

Mandello Lario, on the east side just above Lecco, is the headquarters for Moto Guzzi, one of Italy's most popular motorcylce manaufacturers. They offer a museum in Mandello as well. The entire lake area is popular with motorcyclists from all over Europe.


Prior to or during your visit to Lake Como it is suggested that you look at the local news site[2] which has all the local news and events that are happening around the lake.

  • Take at least one Boat Trip. The most popular tourist towns seem to be Bellagio, Menaggio, and Varenna. Gravedona and Domaso (in the north) and Bellano, Lenno, and Argegno (mid-lake)are also worth a stop (no more than two hours required for each).
  • Go up the funiculare (hillside trolley). From the top you can enjoy the spectacular view, go to Brunate, or hike over to the Volta Lighthouse for an even better view.In Como, one of the really spectacular old lakeside villas is an art museum and is an easy walk from the Como boat ramps.
  • Try a round of golf or tennis at the Villa D'Este or Monticello golf clubs, or some water sports on the Lake. There are two locations that rent motor boats. Lower horsepowers do not require a boating license.
  • Gelato. Many of the small towns around the lake have excellent gellateria's. This dessert/snack is wonderfully flavorful and perfect for enjoying from a bench at the side of the lake.  edit
  • The Lake Como Greenway is an almost 4 mile walkway on the west side on the lake. While some parts are not lake-front, it is mostly lake-front and its route near Bolvedro/Tremezzo goes thru a very nice lake-front park. The best towns to join the green way are Lenno and Tremezzo.
  • Villa Carlotta. in Tremezzo offers great views of the lake from its large gardens which are famous for the wide varieties of plants. The villa is also a museum containing a number of sculptures and artworks  edit
  • Locanda dell'Isola Comacina on Isola Comacina
  • Creme Caramel in San Siro
  • La Baia in Cremia


This is not a destination known for its singles scene.

Every town should have at least one bar or cafe available.

Bellagio probably offers the greatest number of bars and Cafes. Bellagio also offers a wine-bar (enoteca). There are one or two open-air, lakefront bars if the weather is good.

Some of the regularly scheduled lake boats have small, staffed beer and wine bars. In addition the is one 'cocktail' boat built in a retro steam boat style. Also, the Orione was commissioned in 2005, with three full levels and is the largest boat in the fleet. The Orione operates the length of the lake and offers beer and wine as well (They also offer full evening meals for people that board in Como in early evening).

The nearby Sondrio valley is a well known wine producing area. It is not Tuscany, but some of the local wines are quite good.

  • Varenna - Albergo Olevedo, lake-front, typically half-pension only.
  • Menaggio - Garni Corona, on Menaggio's main pedestrian plaza.
  • Beware of wild boars in the forests surrounding the lake
  • Expect motorcyclists to overtake in a seemingly suicidal manner
  • Be aware that water tests in 2007 showed the lake has 68 times the accepted level of colony forming bacteria[3]. This poses a risk of skin infection to bathers. It is thought to be the result of poor waste management and treatment in the surrounding area.
  • Make sure your car is in good condition, especially your tires, brakes, and handbrake, because of the steep and bendy nature of the roads
  • Locals love tailgating "slow" tourists. Allow them to overtake you, so you can follow them safely
  • Do not try to swim across the lake

Get out

In the winter, you can visit the Madesimo skiing area in the north by car, on the road to the Splügen pass. It is approximately a 60-90 minutes drive from the Menaggio area. Make sure your car is prepared for winter weather conditions.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

COMO, LAKE of (the Lacus Larius of the Romans, and so sometimes called LARio to the present day, though in the 4th century it is already termed Lacus Comacinus), one of the most celebrated lakes in Lombardy, Northern Italy. It lies due N. of Milan and is formed by the Adda that flows through the Valtelline to the north end of the lake (here falls in the Maira or Mera, coming from the Val Bregaglia) and flows out of it at its south-eastern extremity, on the way to join the Po. Its area is 552 sq. m., it is about 43 m. from end to end (about 302 m. from the north end of Bellagio), it is from 1 to 21 m. in breadth, its surface is 653 ft. above the sea, and its greatest depth is 1365 ft. A railway line now runs along its eastern shore from Colico to Lecco (241 m.), while on its western shore Menaggio is reached by a steam tramway from Porlezza on the Lake of Lugano (8 m.). Colico, at the northern extremity, is by rail 17 m. from Chiavenna and 42 m. from Tirano, while at its southern end Como (on the St Gotthard line) is 32 m. from Milan, and Lecco about the same distance. The lake fills a remarkable depression which has been cut through the limestone ranges that enclose it, and once doubtless extended as far as Chiavenna, the Lake of Mezzola being a surviving witness of its ancient bed. Towards the south the promontory of Bellagio divides the lake into two arms. That to the [south-east ends at Lecco and is the true outlet, for the south-western arm, ending at Como, is an enclosed bay. During the morning the Tivano wind blows from the north, while in the afternoon the Breva wind blows from the south. But, like other Alpine lakes, the Lake of Como is exposed to sudden violent storms. Its beauties have been sung by Virgil and Claudian, while the two Plinys are among the celebrities associated with the lake. The shores are bordered by splendid villas, while perhaps the most lovely spot on it is Bellagio, built in an unrivalled position. Among the other villages that line the lake, the best-known are Varenna (E.) and Menaggio (W.), nearly opposite one another, while Cadenabbia (W.) faces Bellagio. (W. A. B. C.)

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Simple English

Lake Como (Lago di Como in Italian ),is a lake of glacial origin in Lombardy, Italy. It has an area of 146 km², making it the third largest lake in Italy, after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore.

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