Lake Como: Clooney’s Paradise
January 27, 2017
So here is part 2 of our series inspired by Afar Magazine’s Where to Go in 2017. This week: Lake Como. What attracted the attention of Afar? Check out Il Sereno Lago di Como, the lake’s newest luxury property. And if you have nearly $1000/night to spend on your vacation, by all means give this place a try! Even if not, read on.
I know, I know….it’s the most popular of Italy’s wildly beautiful lakes, and arguably the most stunning. It’s overcrowded, particularly in summertime. It’s where George Clooney and a bunch of other stars have chosen to have their second…or third…or fourth home. (Cloony’s piece of paradise is pictured above.) There’s a reason for this, and you’ll only get it if you go. Here are some quick facts.
Lake Como (Italian Lago di Como) has been a retreat for centuries- even Mark Twain visited Lake Como in the summer of 1867, as described in The Innocents Abroad. Many stars have filmed on the shores of Lake Como, including Alfred Hitchcock and Clooney (“Ocean’s Twelve”). It’s even served as the set for an episode of Star Wars. Charming Lake Como lures those who enjoy art, food, history, or just kicking back in one of the world’s most gorgeous places.
The stunning blue on blue landscape reminds many of a perfect undiscovered paradise. Como’s extreme blue color is due to its depth – 414 meters from top to bottom at the deepest point. The upside-down Y-shaped lake is home to scattered towns and villages along the shoreline. Where the southern and western shores meet lies the main town, Como. From here there’s a funicular up to the town of Brunate (wow views!). Where the southern and eastern shores meet, we find another large town, Lecco, which faces the less explored part of the lake. The 46-km long lake has just one island, Comacina. When invaders attacked the surrounding area around 600 AD, Lombard kings took refuge on this lone island. Today it’s a nature reserve, with hiking paths, and of course a bar and restaurant (this is Italy!). Find out more here. Note that the little island closes in winter.
Glacial Lake Como is one of Europe’s largest by surface area, making it ideal for water sports. It is surrounded by many small towns, but Bellagio, Menaggio, Varenna, Lenno, and Como are great ones to start your explorations. Lenno has a wide range of restaurants, and is known for being one of the most relaxing towns. It’s also home to the Villa Balbianello, an Italian National Trust (FAI) property well worth a visit. Next to Lenno is Tremezzina, with its art nouveau 5-star hotel that makes a great base if you can afford the splurge (less than Il Sereno, for sure!). Right next to this hotel are the priceless gardens of Villa Carlotta. Bellagio is the best-known town of Lake Como. Although beautiful and full of activities, it may be more crowded than you’d like, especially in warm months. Varenna is a much smaller town but is just as beautiful and has incredible overlooks of Lake Como.
The city of Como is at the base of the lake and is considered the heart of the region. Prehistoric man roamed the immediate surroundings for many years before it was officially discovered. Romans settled here and made it a way station to aid the expanding empire. Then, throughout the middle ages, dynasties passed the region to succeeding generations. Como has a warm atmosphere, multiple authentic eateries that boast classic Italian meals, and many shops. Silk products are still made here. Be sure to try a meal at farm to table The Market Place. We’re hearing great things about this spot.
Moving around: Public ferries and steamships are relatively fast, frequent, and inexpensive. Schedules change seasonally, so be sure to get the latest version. Some hotels offer their own boat service, a good option if you’re short on time.