Como Travel Guide: The Insider Track on Where to Go and What to Do
23 May, 2017
If you’ve decided to take a trip to Como, Italy––good call. You’ve picked well. And if you haven’t––what’s the matter with you?! Book your trip already! You don’t know what you’re missing out on. But whether you fall into the first group of people or the second group, I have good news––being an honorary Italian and all, and having inside connections, I’ve got the insider track for you on how to make the most out of your trip to Como and experience it on a deeper, more authentic level. Sounds good to you? Let’s get started!
How to Get to Como
The city of Como is accessible by:
- Plane: The closest airport being in Lugano, Switzerland, but the cheapest airports being in Milan (Malpensa or Linate)
- Train: If you’re already in Italy or close to its border, Trenitalia will get you anywhere you need to go. If you are in Milan, you can also take the Trenord
- Bus: Buses and trains can cost about the same if you take the cheapest, slowest treni regionali; buses obviously take longer but service different pick-up and drop-off points than trains, so depending where exactly you want to go (see my transportation tip on Siena), you might want to opt for a bus
- Car: If you have the luxury of a rental car during your trip to Italy, then by all means get to Como by car, and make sure to make multiple stops to take in the beautiful countryside panoramas
Top 10 Local-Approved Things to Do in Como
1. Take the boat (there are slow ones called battello that stop at multiple destinations, and fast ones called aliscafo that only stop in a few areas) or the ferry (travels between Bellagio, Menaggio, and Varenna only) to enjoy a cruise along the Lake of Como. Recommended stops to include in your hop-on-hop-off cruise are Menaggio and Bellagio. If you have a full day, consider also visiting Colico at the northernmost tip of the lake. Don’t miss a sighting of the Isola Comacina, which you can also hop off at, on your way up and down the lake.
2. Journey through Brunate in the funicular for a spectacular view of the city and its Roman grid. The original Roman buildings and walls have been long gone, but the original Roman city grid is still visible.
3. Visit the Volta Lighthouse. The Volta Lighthouse is at the top of the mountain next to Brunate, so makes for a logical next stop after the funicular ride. Visit the lighthouse when there are clear skies, as there will be no view if it’s overcast. And for a more romantic visit, consider visiting during nighttime. This lighthouse has a breathtaking view of Como and nearby Cernobbio, and was built in memory of Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the electrical battery.
4. Visit the Duomo, the city’s main and most important cathedral.
5. Visit the Sant’Abbondio Basilica, a Romanesque building that features as many as 5 aisles. Saint Abbondio is the patron saint of Como. Next to the basilica are cloisters that originally housed a monastery, and have currently been adopted by the University of Insubria Department of Law, Economics and Cultures (DEC).
6. Visit San Fedele church, which was also built in the Romanesque style. If by now your are eager to see more and learn more about Romanesque architecture, I encourage you to take a trip out to the small, faraway church of San Benedetto in Val Perlana which will do your curiosity justice. However, be prepared to walk for over an hour, as the last stretch to get there is inaccessible by car.
7. Find and explore Via Milano––you will be rewarded with not only a back-to-the-past flashback of a medieval fiefdom once you cross the threshold of Porta Torre, built in 1192 and port of entry into the city for visitors from Milan, but also a grand view in Piazza Vittoria of the statue of Garibaldi, the man who unified Italy as one nation. (Note that the street Via Milano changes name at the Porta Torre.) While you’re out and about, stroll along Via Vittorio Emanuele (shown on the map below), and “La Vasca” for a real-feel of local life in Como. In following Via Vittorio Emanuele (or any other parallel street), you can also retrace your steps back to the lake.
8. Visit Villa Olmo, which features a nice park in addition to the villa. Sometimes, there are also some interesting art exhibitions taking place there.
9. Visit Villa Geno, where you can also find a spectacularly high fountain and a park.
10. Experience the local cuisine. Be sure to try a broad range of local dishes. These include:
- Risotto con pesce persico, prepared with local fish (persico) from the Lake of Como
- Polenta with rabbit stew
- Polenta e minsoltino
- La resta, an Easter sweetbread that has a small olive branch hidden at its core (sold at Pasticceria Duomo), and
- Pizzoccheri, a mouthwatering dish originating from Valtellina that is made from buckwheat pasta, swiss chard or cabbage, potatoes, a large assortment of shredded local cheeses, and sage
– Half a day for the boat cruise
– Half a day for the funicular and lighthouse
– Half a day to the entire day for city walks and sightseeing
Where to Stay in Como
There are many ways to find accommodation in Como, and needless to say, many different types of accommodation catering to a variety of tastes. Here is a special and brief mention of just two winners:
In Cernobbio, just outside of Como, is one of the most luxurious hotels in Italy and arguably in the world: Villa d’Este stands unparalleled in its splendour and comfort.
For those not quite prepared to pay the high price of a fairytale hotel, there’s a very pleasant and affordable alternative: Hotel Tre Re. This three-star hotel is fortuitously located at the very center of the city.
Happy travels! And drop me a note later to let me know how your trip went.