I have had the opportunity to visit Lake Como, Italy many times. Lake Como is a truly breathtaking area with mountains plunging right into the lake, grand villas right on the water, fishing towns, hiking trails, and small mountain valley towns.
Below is a general overview of the area – for more in-depth info see links to more detailed posts below. For information and tips on driving around Lake Como, Italy click here (driving tips at bottom of post).
Bellagio, one of the best known towns on the lake where ladies can buy straw handbags and men can buy silk scarves. Bellagio is also home to the Rockefeller Foundation and you have a tour of the grounds and perhaps a glimpse of the villa which is off limits unless you are one of the lucky few researchers that is given the opportunity to stay there. The gardens of the Villa Melzi are close to Bellagio and provide amazing views of the lake and leave one feeling guilty for not spending more time in one’s own garden and making it look just as spectacular.
Varenna is a town that also has an amazing villa and gardens, the Villa Monastero; these are gardens that I visit over and over again and I keep taking the same photographs over and over again because the novelty of the view, the statues, the gardens… never wears off. Climb to the top of the hill, just above Varenna, and you will find castle ruins that now have towers you can climb up, a falconer, statues, and sculptures, and of course panoramic views of Lake Como.
Como is also a main city on the Lake. Como is another ritzy shopping location and a city full of bicycles. The Duomo (Cathedral) in Como is impressive, but remember, during the summer months if you want to visit the Cathedral, ladies must have their shoulders covered or else you will join the other women waiting outside for their friends or families to finish their visit to the Cathedral – not something you want to miss.
There are other towns on Lake Como that are just as noteworthy, such as Menaggio which has a pleasant walkway along the lake and some of the best gelato! Tremezzo also has a nice walkway along the water. Sala Comacina is a town with its own island! Out in the lake, just in front of Sala Comacina, is a small island which can be reached by boat to see ruins and a small white church.
Rezzonico is an adorably picturesque town with a castle that is actually privately owned and lived in but you can still stand outside the castle walls, look up at the stone tower, and stare in awe while thinking “someone lives there!” Going down steep steps between houses and arriving at the waterfront in Rezzonico is a must see, as the pastel colored houses with shuddered windows, laundry on the balconies, and stone benches is a postcard image.
Gravedona is a town with a 13th century church, Santa Maria that must be visited. One of the most amazing finds for me this summer was the Santa Maria degli Angeli church, just above Gravedona. This church has extraordinary paintings and frescos on every inch, and they are so detailed. The church is actually being restored. The cloister right next to the church is another treasure of worn frescos, a small courtyard, brick columns, and wooden beams.
Aside from the lake side towns there a small mountain towns as well, such as Barna which has a charming plaza and hidden courtyards. Breglia is a town that is not far from Menaggio and it is a starting point for many hiking trails. Monte Grona, which over looks Menaggio, is one such hike from Breglia and the views from the rocky mountain top are breath taking.
Bellano is a town that juts out in to the lake on a flat marshy piece of land and is also the location of a gorge and waterfall. From Bellano one can drive up into the mountains and into a valley with towns that are popular in the winter for skiing. Cremeno is one of these valley towns and it actually has a Swiss-like feel since the houses have steep wide roofs. Just before leaving the valley and descending into Lecco, there is the town of Ballabio which is at the foot of a mountain that you can drive up on a steep road with hairpin curves, 18 of them in fact, until you reach what you think is the top of the mountain only to find more villages and another starting point for hiking.
And then there is the Italian portion of Lake Lugano . This past summer I visited a few towns on the Italian side of Lake Lugano that were picture perfect, Castello and Oria. Castello is a town built from the ruins of a castle, which makes for an interesting exploration of a narrow cobblestone paths, numerous small courtyards, and towering houses with thick walls. Oria, a town next to Castello, is built on a steep portion of the mountain and one finds steps leading from house to house.
So the new Italy photographs added to The Monica Store this month (October 2009) encompass glimpses into of the above mentioned places. Enjoy browsing the photos and choose one as a poster or canvas print today!
For information about Lake Como and all of Northern Italy’s major lakes click here for italylakes.net