There are few places I’ve traveled where I feel so completely at ease as the Lombardy region of Italy. I’m not sure if it’s the quality of the air, the familiarity of the way people look, the food or something all together different, but Lombardy certainly speaks to my soul.
While Milan and Bergamo are both wonderful places to explore Italian art and culture, there really isn’t anything much better than getting away from the cities and visiting Lake Como, one of the most beautiful lakes in the world and a crown jewel of Italian masterpieces. Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy.
Lake Como is shaped like a large inverted Y and has nine major towns and dozens of small villages along its shores. The easiest town to reach is Como since one can get a train from Milan, Bergamo, or elsewhere for next to nothing. The transfer station is at Monza on the outskirts of Milan, and from there you have a direct journey to San Giovanni train station in Como. Since the journey is only a few hours and incredibly cheap (6.25 Euro each way from Bergamo) this makes for an incredible day trip. Another option is to come from Lugano, Switzerland through Chiasso.
Of course if you want to stay (and trust me, you will want to stay), there is a great variety of hotels and hostels in Como and the surrounding towns that offer everything from luxury to simplicity.
Lago di Como sits at the base of the Alps and the top of the inverted Y sits amid gorgeaous alpine scenery. For those who are curious, Como is a border town with neighboring Switzerland.
Como was a popular destination as far back as the Roman era and has a considerable history even before that. Touristic sites include the beautiful lakeside mansions and the Sacro Monte di Ossuccio or Sacred Mount of Ossuccio which is part of a group of chapels leading to a monastery and a UNESCO world heritage site.
Tremezzo, Griante, Menaggio, Nesso, Bellagio, Verrena, Bellano, Colico, Lecco, and Cernobio are the other towns that surround Lake Como. Perhaps you thought the Bellagio was only a casino in Las Vegas?
It’s a beautiful little Italian town, and like all the towns and cities around Lake Como, it has gorgeous villas, lush botanical gardens, and incredible churches. But the big draw is the views of the lake and the Alps surrounding it.
Getting around Lake Como is easy. If you have a car, motorcycle or bicycle, the roads are just fine. Buses are cheap and frequent between the towns, but the best way is to take the boats. Like Istanbul, this is a region that relies on ferries to move from one place to another.
If you are interested in more than historic sites, Lake Como offers a huge variety of outdoor activities, from sailing, boating, hiking, camping, walking, strolling along the water, fishing and even kite surfing or flying lessons!
Finally, for a reader and writer like me, Lake Como is a special treat (not to mention as a geek, I appreciate that I’m actually at Star War’s Naboo) but- in literature we have:
Victor Frankenstein married Elizabeth in the vicinity of Lake Como in the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Fyodor Dostoevsky mentions Lake Como in his novel Notes from Underground.
In addition there is Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities which has Maria Ruskin escape from New York to Lake Como and The Poems and Fragments of Catallus, In Praise of Como, Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed , The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal, August Strindberg’s magnum opus play Miss Julie, Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan, Samuel Beckett’s play Endgame, and Gladys Theodora Parrish Huntingdon’s novel Madame Solario. There are certainly many more – and did I mention it’s also Naboo in Star Wars?
One thing for certain: it’s a beautiful and relaxing place and I look forward to my next visit. I might even write a book there. Either way, I know I’ll enjoy it.
Story and Photos by Vago Damitio
This article was originally published on Vagobond.com