How To Plan A Sublime Lake Como Vacation, According To Insiders

Grand Hotel Tremezzo

Renowned for their sprawling scenery, charming towns and storied hotels, the Italian lakes never lose their magnetism. Below, hoteliers from three of the most beautiful places to stay in Lake Como share their expert recommendations for a lake vacation like no other. By KATIE BERRINGTON

Whether approaching the hotel’s grand exterior from the lake or residing in a Lake View Prestige Room, guests will find enchanting views at every corner of Grand Hotel Tremezzo

The secret spots

“The top of the hill at the back of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo is called Belvedere, which literally means ‘watching beauty’, [and delivers] incredible views,” shares Valentina de Santis, the owner and CEO of recently opened Passalacqua and the legendary Grand Hotel Tremezzo. “It is there that Bobo – the hotel mascot bear – always waits for me with open arms, making me feel at home, making me happy, and filling my heart with Lake Como love.”

For Carlotta Fontana, of Villa d’Este Hotels, her most-loved spot in Lake Como is Cascata Villa Pliniana, a waterfall that “dominates the ancient Villa. It is a really special place – I found it only this year, even though I’ve been on the lake ever since I was a little girl. This spectacular waterfall is definitely worth seeing.”

Villa d'Este’s beautiful Mosaic House, which overlooks stunning landscaped gardens

The once-in-a-lifetime experiences

“Lake Como is one of the few places in Italy that offers the opportunity to experience a flight aboard a seaplane,” says de Santis. “So, if you want to admire the area from the sky in all its majesty, and you are not scared of riding a small plane with just a few seats and enjoying the fresh breeze coming from open windows while in the air, this is a very rewarding and adrenaline-inducing experience that you should not miss.”

Meanwhile, Fontana recommends taking “a boat tour of the most beautiful villas, such as Villa Carlotta, Villa del Balbianello or Villa Olmo. These historic villas are incredibly beautiful and elegant, and represent true masterpieces of architecture, all surrounded by stunning formal gardens. From Villa d’Este, you can take a ride on our 100%-electric wooden boat to enjoy the atmosphere of the lake, reach the villas or admire the majesty of the mountains.”

Lake Como is surrounded by beauty, so head to the center of the lake by boat, where you can admire Como, Lecco and Colico

The unmissable views

“In my opinion, the most beautiful view is from the mountains around the lake – there are many walks that, with little effort, allow you to get to scenic spots with breathtaking vistas. From there, you can have a 360-degree view over the whole lake,” says Fontana.

One of de Santis’ favorite hikes on the lake takes you from Tremezzo along a winding path to reach San Martino, “a little church that looks like it has just been dropped on a perch of rocks. From there, you can look out and let the marvel embrace you. Sky, water, mountains – the most perfect combination – makes it the most whimsical place I know,” she says. “If you want another perspective to admire the lake from, I suggest going to Como town to take the cable car to Brunate, and then from there enjoying a short but steep walk up to the lighthouse, Faro Voltiano. It is from here on clear days that your eyes will be able to embrace the vastest views you can imagine, embracing the lake, the Alps, Switzerland and as far as Milan and Monte Bianco. It is enriching.”

Take in the sights at sunset to capture the romance of Lake Como’s architecture

For the height of relaxation

“Take a boat and let the waves rock you around. It is the quintessential way to live the real dolce vita on the lake,” shares de Santis.

“First of all, a lakeside walk is a must to enjoy the beauty of the landscape,” recommends Fontana. “Another very relaxing activity is to visit the gardens of Villa Balbianello, which are known all over the world (scenes in Star Wars: Episode II were even filmed there). And, in the summer, sunbathe by the floating pool at Villa d’Este – the first on Lake Como – before enjoying a sunset stroll through the park, which has countless varieties of plants and flowers.”

The local delicacies

Whenever de Santis has friends visiting Lake Como for the first time, she always makes sure they have a toc experience. “Toc is a unique kind of polenta preparation that belongs to the traditions of Bellagio and that you can find only here. To enjoy a good toc, you must have the patience to wait while the ‘Maestro del Toc’ blends the three ingredients this special delicacy is made of: cornflour, butter and local cheese. But the few hours are worth the wait! You should taste the result using only a wooden spoon and your own hands, accompanied by local salumi, plenty of red wine, plus great company and tons of laughter.”

“Como has its own unique dishes that must be sampled,” adds Fontana. “In the past, Lake Como traditionally had simple and traditional cuisine, with the main ingredient being lake-caught fish, which is very good with risotto. Missoltini is also a Como delicacy – it’s a small flat fish found in the lake, which is salted and air-dried in the sun. Another unmissable experience is Veranda restaurant in Villa d’Este – the beauty of the place, the elegance, the view of the lake or wonderful park accompany the authentic Italian cuisine of chef Michele Zambanini. The terrace is a fabulous place to people-watch whilst sipping a negroni and soaking up the sun, too.”

Something only insiders know

“Perhaps not everyone knows that it is possible to look at the whole of Lake Como from a precise point,” Fontana shares. “If you reach the center of the lake by boat, you can admire all three branches: Como, Lecco and Colico.”

“Many people don’t know that it is beautiful even in wintertime,” adds de Santis. “It is famed for being a summer-holiday destination, but only locals really know the beauty of the lake when it is transformed into the most magical winter wonderland.”