Cernobbio on Lake Como, Italy

Cernobbio, Italy

The following post about Cernobbio on Lake Como, Italy is by guest blogger Chiara from (photo is also provided by my guest).

Thanks to Chiara for the collaboration and the great information!

Sincerely, Monica


Welcome to Cernobbio!

Cernobbio is one of the most popular resort towns on the shores of Lake Como.  Lying at the foot of Mount Bisbino, Cernobbio is famed for its abundance of beautiful villas.

The most well-known of these villas is undoubtedly the nineteenth century Villa d’Este, which was once home to Caroline of Brunswick, the Princess of Wales.  Nowadays, Villa d’Este is a luxurious hotel with a view overlooking the lake. Visitors come to admire Villa d’Este’s French and Canova schools art works, as well as the fruits of Andrea Appiani‘s decoration. The villa is surrounded by a magnificent park within which there is the Pellegrino Pellegrini nymphaeum, the Fountain of Hercules and the Temple of Telemachus.

Then there is Villa Erba. In the 1920s , this splendid 17th century Villa was owned by Carla Erba, the mother of film director Luchino Visconti.  Today, it is an prestigious conference center.


Also to be found in the area are the Art Nouveau Villa Bernasconi, Villa Pizzo, and also Villa Fontanelle which was once owned by the late Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace.

Leaving from the town of Cernobbio and following a route which offers glorious views over the surrounding countryside and lake, it is possible to reach the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin which sits on the summit of Mount Bisbino at a height of 1300 meters.  Along the same 17 km long road are a number of caves, such as the 585 meter high Buco della Volpe – fox hole with its lakes and underground streams.  Then there is the Zocca d’Ass which is beneath the Alpe di Garzegallo mountain.  It is possible for visitors to enter the caves.


For more information on Lake Como and the lakes of northern Italy, and to learn about local festivals, shows, concerts, exhibitions and sporting events, visit the Italy blog (http://

If you would like to book a holiday or a short stay in the Como area, then visit the website of Vacanze Lago (, a tour operator which specialises in organising vacations in the areas around northern Italy’s lakes.

Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como, Italy

Villa Balbianello on Lake Como, Italy

Visiting Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como, Italy

Lake Como, Italy is full of fantastic villas and grand gardens, some of which are open to the public; one of the best known villas is the Villa Balbianello. Movie buffs will recognize the villa from the Star Wars Episode II and Casino Royale. You can visit the villa and gardens which I highly recommend for it is truly unique!


The History of Villa del Balbianello

– The villa has changed hands many times, below are the previous owners:

1-  The villa was built in 1787 for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini, on the site of a Franciscan monastery.

2 – In 1796 after the Cardinal’s death, the villa was bought and renovated by Giuseppe Arconati Visconti.

3- In the 19th century the villa belonged to the Porro-Lambertenghi family.

4 – After falling into disrepair in the early 20th century, the villa was bought and renovated by Butler Ames, an American military officer.

5 – In 1974 the villa was purchased by Guido Monzino, known as the leader of the first Italian expedition to Mount Everest. Monzino was an art collector as well and filled the villa with his collection.

6 – The villa was left to the National Trust of Italy by Monzino, who passed away in 1988.


When visiting Villa Balbianello, you can just visit the spectacular gardens; which provide wonderful views of the lake and towns. If you like, you can also purchase a ticket to have a guided tour of the house (not essential to the visit as the main attraction are the gardens).

** For more photos of Villa Balbianello click here!

*And to buy prints of Lake Como, Italy click here for The Monica Store.


Ticket prices for Villa Balbianello:

-The villa is open from mid March to mid November.

-Tickets for the garden are only 6 Euros for adults and 3 Euros for kids (4-12 yrs).

-Tickets for the garden+villa are 12 Euros for adults and 7 Euros for kids (4-12 yrs). There is a maximum of 15 people in a group and a guided tour is mandatory. Tours last one hour.


How to get to Villa Balbianello:

 1 –  Walking – You can actually walk to the villa. If you are driving in the area you would stop and park in the town of Lenno – there is a narrow parking lot at the edge of the town. From the parking lot you will see a path leading up the hill and through the forest, which will take you to the villa, where you will enter at the top of the gardens. The walk takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

2 – By Boat – From the parking lot at Lenno you will find a small boat at the water’s edge that takes you to the villa. (There are other boat services from neighboring towns and you can also hire a private taxi boat as well with price depending on the number of people and time needed for the boat ride). I recommend arriving by boat as it really gives you a sense of the villa and seeing it from the water is much more impressive!


For information about Lake Como and all of Northern Italy’s major lakes click here for

What to see and do in Varenna, Italy

What to see and do in Varenna, Italy – a beautiful town on Lake Como

Varenna, Italy is simply a lovely town on Lake Como. Varenna sits just opposite of Menaggio and has a view of Bellagio. The three towns (Menaggio, Varenna, Bellagio) create a constant triangle of ferry traffic and consequently are some of the biggest tourist towns on Lake Como.

All of the towns on Lake Como are unique; Varenna, as a small fishing village has a more relaxed atmosphere.


1 – Ferry and Walk into Town – Arriving by ferry is the best possible way to really appreciate the town’s location. From the ferry you will have great views of the town, seeing how it juts out into the water, admiring the brightly painted houses, and getting a glimpse of the castle at the top of the hill (hard to see at first). Plus the ferry ride gives you ample time to get at least a few dozen photos of Varenna, (Note to photographers, the light is best at sunset as the town sits on the east side of the lake).

From the ferry stop you can walk along the footpath that takes you right over the water and into the heart of the town.

* Ferry schedules can be a bit confusing but you can always be sure you are going to the right place because the stops are always announced and tickets are always checked before you board. – Ferry ticket prices are more then reasonable and round trip is always cheaper. Click here for a link to the Lake Como ferry website for more information.


2 – I suggest taking a seat at one of the cafes and enjoying the view with a good cup of cappuccino. There is always a lot to watch while seated at the cafés in Varenna – from the constant boat activity to the ferry traffic to the occasional wedding party traipsing by to get to the next photo spot (popular wedding photography town). All of the cafes are good with pizza being the best thing to order and the last gelato stand is highly recommended (by me!).

3 – From the little cluster of cafes you can continue walking through the lower part of town which will eventually lead you to stepped path. The square at the top of the town has two churches – both have incredible frescos to see. The smaller of the two churches is at the end of the square, past the hotels, at the end of the parking area.


4 – Villa Monastero – From the square, if you walk along the road going south you will reach Villa Monastero and gardens. You can walk through the gardens and tour the villa, I recommend both! Villa Monastero was built in the early 13th century and was a Cistercian convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen. The garden is very extensive and can take a couple of hours to see.

—–>Ticket Prices for the Villa Monastero in Varenna, Italy:

– To just see the gardens it is 5 euros, while to see both the villa and gardens it is 8 euros. – There are discounts for senior citizens, children, and groups of ten or more. – Summer hours are 9-7 from May to September. – October to November, and during April, the hours are 9-6.

For more information on Villa Monastero in Varenna, Italy click here for the official website (although the English translation is a bit off).

5 – Castle Vezio – Castello Vezio – The castle ruins at the top of the hill date back to the 7th century. Reaching the castle can be a challenge only because it is hard to find the signs that point the way. The castle has changed a lot over the last ten years! When I first visited the castle in 2002 it really was just a ruin that you could walk around and now it is more of a complex with a formal pathway through olive groves, an admission fee (just 4 euros), and events and a birds of prey show. If you have time and you are up for a small hike, you will get great views as you can climb up one of the towers!

—->  How to get to the Castello Vezio above Varenna, Italy:

– From the ferry stop, go straight ahead and up a little cobble stop path until you reach the street. Cross the street (if you look hard enough you will see a little yellow sign to the castle) and continue on the cobblestone path. You won’t feel like it is a correct path but if you make a sharp turn on it to the left and continue to climb up you will eventually reach a very shady path in the middle of small forest. The path goes right into the small town at the top of the hill and you have to continue through the town (following those yellow signs) to the castle. The walk up should take about 45 minutes.


On the whole, Varenna, Italy is a lovely town to visit! You can simply go to Varenna to sit in a café along the water and just admire the view. I do highly recommend seeing the Villa gardens and of course having that daily gelato!

Hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Please feel free to leave a comment and let me know of your trip to Varenna or anything that shouldn’t be missed on a visit there!


For more photos of Varenna, Italy click here for my stock photography website with photoshelter.

And for framed photos, canvas prints, books, and more on Lake Como, Italy click here for The Monica Store.

Travel tips for Lake Como, Italy

View of Bellagio, Italy.

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.

>For canvas prints and framed photos of Lake Como, Italy click here to visit The Monica Store and select a travel photo print today!

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.

>To read more travel tips including where to shop in Bellagio, Italy click here.


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.

>Read more travel tips about Varenna on Lake Como, Italy including tips on how to get to the castle and ticket price info for Villa Monastero.


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.

**To see more photos and buy prints of Italian towns on Lake Como, Italy visit Monica Goslin Photography now.


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.

>Read more about the Italian town of Gravedona on Lake Como, Italy click here for part one on Gravedona.


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.

> Read more about towns to see on Lake Lugano by clicking here.


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