Small town of Lake Como, Italy – Part One
Lake Como, Italy is full of small towns that are often missed by tourists who only have a few days and see the main locations: Como, Bellagio, Varenna, and Villa Balbianello (all of which you can read about on this blog). But if you have the time and enjoy seeing charming Italian villages then read on.
I have spent a lot of time exploring Lake Como, Italy and I have seen the main attractions and continue to explore the smaller, less-known areas as well. Towns to see on Lake Como between Como and Menaggio:
The towns to see between Como and Menaggio on Lake Como, Italy
Cernobbio is an elegant town on Lake Como, not far from the city of Como. Every September the town hosts an international economic conference, the Ambrosetti Forum.
— Most notably is the Villa d’Este in Cernobio. The villa was built in 1568 for Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, as his summer residence. The villa has 25 acres of gardens and since 1873 it has been a luxury hotel. The hotel also includes two private villas. The Villa Cima was built in 1814 by Caroline Brunswick, Princess of Wales and the Villa Malakoff was built in 1860. For more information you can click here for the official website for the Villa d’Este and you can select English for the language.
*It is said that the security at the hotel is very intense and unless you are a hotel guest you can not get into the gardens. However with the right clothes and a nice smile, you can have lunch or coffee at one of the restaurants and then walk through the gardens.
Moltrasio is a fairly large town right on the water and climbing up the mountain to the main road. If you start at the water’s edge (at the ferry stop and where the local road goes through town, also known as the Lungo Lago road) you will see the Posta Hotel. Go to the left of the Posta Hotel to find the paths that lead up into the town and that will take you to the main church. I do recommend eating lunch at the Posta Hotel restaurant, which has a nice outdoor seating with views of the lake and ferry stop and their salads and pasta dishes are very fresh (their Caprese salad is one of the best!).
Ossuccio and Sala Comacina
The towns of Ossuccio and Sala Comacina kind of run into each other and both are very charming. You can walk through the towns and make sure to find the path along the water. These towns have the main road of traffic cutting through them and no sidewalks on that road, so at times walking is a bit hair raising to say the least (just make sure to hug the wall of any building you are walking next to).
— Ossucio is home to the pilgrimage site of Sacro Monte. You can walk up to the church from the main road, it is all up hill, and past houses full of life-size diagrams of biblical scenes.
— Sala Comacina is a town with it’s own small island. Make your way down to the water to find the boats that will ferry you to and from the island where you can have lunch at the restaurant and then walk the entire length of the island and visit the ruins of a monastery from the 12th century.
Tremezzo is a lovely town and there is actually a sidewalk wide enough for two people right along the water. Tremezzo has a rather grand feel, especially as you reach the northern end of the town where the main road is lined with impressive hotels. I recommend walking along that sidewalk which takes you by the marina and into the public gardens which has a nice little café and a lovely grand fountain.
These towns are good for a nice stroll, popping into the local church to see the paintings, and having a drink or a gelato before moving on to the next town.
– Plus to see photographs of the individual towns you can click on the town name.
How to get to these small towns:
Most of these small towns do have ferry stops but not frequently so you really have to check schedules, or you could be stranded in one very small town for hours. Renting a boat and seeing the towns from the water is another nice was to travel and see more of what the lake has to offer.
And of course you can always rent a car, but in order to rent a car and drive around Lake Como, let along Italy, you have to be prepared for very narrow and windy roads.
A note on driving around Lake Como, Italy (in case you missed the last post on this).
– If you are trying to get from one town to another quickly, you should take the main road. However for a more picturesque route that takes you through towns you would take the lower road – Lungo Lago, along the lake.
Driving along Lake Como is a unique and mostly teeth clenching experience. While driving along Lake Como you have to be extremely vigilant of motorcycles darting in and out of cars and the packs of bike riders in their sleek gear and colorful uniforms that you will encounter all throughout the day and on every road and at every turn. Not to mention that driving through the towns on Lake Como means narrow streets between houses where really only one car can fit.
If you get stuck behind a tour bus, you are in a for long and slow ride as that bus tries to scrape between buildings and by cars (literally). Note other driver’s expressions as they see a tour bus or truck coming towards them. In fact some cafes in these small towns open right onto the main street and if they can squeeze a few tables right by the road they do. I honestly think the road side cafes are for the locals to watch the traffic and look for the terrified expressions of the tourist drivers; local entertainment for sure!