Como has always been an area of intense activity, as it has been a crossing point between Central Europe and the Mediterranean over the centuries. Built by the Romans at the end of the Piedmont road, it was an important communication point between Rome and its northern territories. In more recent times Como became famed for its silk.
Como was the birthplace of the Roman scientists Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger, as well as Alessandro Volta, 18th-century inventor of the battery and the man who gave his name to the unit of electrical force – the volt.
- 1 IAT (Tourist office), piazza Cavour 17, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 9:00-13:00, 14:00-17:00.
The E35 motorway (toll is 1.60 for the A9 stretch, 1.10 for the A4 section, about 1.50 for the E35 section west of Milan) runs past Como from Milan, and goes on to Switzerland. There are many exits to Como; avoid Como South, choose the next ones (signed Como Nord and Monte Olimpino) for the city, and the last exit (signed ultima uscita per l'Italia) before Switzerland for Cernobbio, Bellagio and towns on the western lake shore.
The Servizio Ferroviario Regionale connects Como by train to other major cities in Lombardy (R lines). Services are provided by Trenitalia (a.k.a. Ferrovie dello Stato: FS ) and Trenord through two main stations: Como S. Giovanni (Trenitalia) and Como Lago (Trenord). There is another urban station served by Trenitalia (Albate) and three more urban stations served by Trenord (Como Borghi-Università, Como Camerlata and Grandate Breccia). A trip to Milan costs €3.60. From 2008 Como will also be connected to Milan with the line S9 of the Servizio Ferroviario Suburbano (S).
The nearest airports are:
- Milan Malpensa (MXP, tel: 02 7485-2200). 40–60 minutes drive via the autostrada toll road costing €1.60. Can negotiate with private coach firms outside airport. For the train, go to the ticket office for the Malpensa Express on the lower level of Terminal 1 and buy a ticket for Malpensa–Saronno–Como, which costs about €10. You will get two tickets, for Malpensa–Saronno and Saronno–Como. Take the Malpensa Express (which departs every 30 minutes on average during the day) for a trip of about 20 minutes to Saronno, then take the Trenord train to Como (39 minute trip). The final station is Como Nord Lago, right by the lakefront. The entire train trip will usually take between one hour 17 minutes and one hour 40 minutes. Trenord timetable.
- Milan Linate (LIN, tel: 02 7485-2200). One hour drive on toll road costing about €2.70.
Many small towns and villages surround Lake Como and it is recommended that you try to explore as many as you can whilst in the Lake Como area. It is recommend that you spend the mornings on the west side with the afternoons on the east side of the lake, that way you will always stay in the sun.
If you are travelling by car please be careful as some of the roads are very narrow. In addition you will find that most of the smaller villages have limited parking.
We would advise using public transport. The bus service is very regular and it gives you a stress free tour without negotiating any of the winding narrow roads. The centre of Como is rather compact and can be covered easily on foot.
The local public transport network comprises several lines. Some are mostly within city limits (Urbani) and some are Extraurbani (crossing city limits). (C) lines connect Como with most of the provincial centres. They are provided by ASF Autolinee .
- Line 1: Chiasso FS - S.Fermo
- Line 3: Lora - Grandate
- Line 4: S.Giovanni FS - Camnago Volta
- Line 5: S.Giovanni FS - Civiglio
- Line 6: Maslianico - Albate
- Line 7: Sagnino - Lora
- Line 8: S.Giovanni FS - Casnate
- Line 11: P.Chiasso - Sagnino - Bassone
- Line 12: Camerlata - Lazzago - Ospedale - S.Fermo - Tavernola
Buying a ticket before boarding is better and cheaper. You can buy them at newsstands, some bars and all Tabacchi. An urban ticket for 75 minutes costs €1.10. You can also buy on board but the ticket then costs €2.00.
Tickets vary depending on the start and destination stops:
- Yellow Tariffa U with green text and the words "Rete Urbana-Como";
- Green Tariffa B with black text (named start and destination, Urbani and Extraurbani);
- Green Tariffa B with red text (list of towns, Urbani and Extraurbani);
Tariffa U tickets also have the text "Valido 75'", which means it is valid for 75 minutes from when it was validated (you do this in a machine on board the bus).
Wait until the bus is about to depart before validating in order to maximise your use. You can exit the bus at one stop and get on another bus within the Como urban area with the same ticket, as long as you leave the last bus before the 75 minutes expire. The driver will likely want to see your ticket when you get on, and spot checks are sometimes done by uniformed officials. For example you can travel 20 minutes, get off, look around for 30 minutes and return on the same ticket (if the bus arrives on time).
The Tariffa B tickets with black text are usually validated by the driver tearing off the top and bottom sections. Inspectors may further validate it by punching it with a quarter circle hole - the ticket already has a circular hole in it.
The Tariffa B tickets with red text will have a list of towns, starting with Como. When you purchase it you say which town and the seller will punch a hole in that town (or have some already punched). This makes the ticket valid only for journeys between Como and the punched town, or vice versa.
Como buses do not have route plans on board, and the driver does not announce stops (you could ask nicely though). Follow the route with a map to be sure.
Ferrovie Nord Milano also provides other bus lines connecting Como to Varese.
- 2 Funicolare (funicular), Piazza De Gasperi 4, ☎ . connects the center of Como with Brunate, a small village (1800 inhabitants) on a mountain at 715 meters above sea level. The journey takes about 7 minutes and the view is worth the trip: it can also be the starting point for a stroll on the mountains.
- 3 Ferries (Gestione Governativa Navigazione Laghi). connect the town with most of the villages sitting on the shores of the lake. Their fleet consists of plain motor ferries and hydrofoils (aliscafi) the former are slower, but more open, perhaps more suitable for sightseeing, the latter are faster, make fewer stops, but they virtually have no open deck .
A taxi service is provided by the Comune di Como, local phone numbers are 031-2772, and 031-261515.
- 1 Faro Voltiano (Volta Lighthouse) (first take a funicular up to Brunate and then climb up to San Maurizio). 29m tower was erected in 1927 in honour of Alessandro Volta. Boasting some of the best views on the lake, this very high building will allow you to look down on the lake some 2000 feet below. €3.45.
- 2 [dead link] Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (Duomo), Piazza Duomo 6 (a short walk from the waterfront down Via Caio Plinio II). Como's richly decorated 14th century Gothic-Renaissance Cathedral. Note the statues of Pliny the Elder and Younger at the sides of the main entrance!
- 3 Basilica di Sant'Abbondio, Via Regina 35. A Romanesque basilica built in 11th-century; inside some 13th century frescos.
- 4 Tempio Voltiano (Temple Volta) (the round building on the waterfront). A nice stop on your stroll along the waterfront, the temple to Volta is designed in neoclassical style. It houses an exhibition about Volta (a native of Como who invented the electric battery). The front of the building showcases two statues, representing science and faith.
- 5 War Memorial (on the waterfront next to the Tempio Voltiano). An interesting building to see, it is one of the tallest structures near the water.
- City Walls. The ruins of the 12th century city walls, which encircle the narrow, winding streets of the old town. The old town is still called the "walled town" (città murata).
- 6 [dead link] Museo Archeologico Paolo Giovio (Archeological Museum), Piazza Medaglie d’Oro (Palazzo Giovio). Tu-Su 9:30-18:00. €4,00.
- 7 [dead link] Museo Storico Giuseppe Garibaldi (History Museum), Piazza Medaglie d’Oro (Palazzo Olginati). Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. €4,00.
- 8 [dead link] Pinacoteca Civica (Civic Art Gallery), Via Diaz 84 (Palazzo Volpi). Tu-Su 9:30-18:00. €4,00.
- Boat Trip. take a boat trip  on Lake Como (Lago di Como) to the picturesque villages that dot the shores of the lake, such as Bellagio, Varenna and Tremezzo. Tickets for a few of the villages near Como are cheap and can be purchased at the kiosk on the lake front. The boat stops in these villages and you can take a walk there and continue the trip with the next boat until you reach Como again. €6.
- Walk along the waterfront. Como has a pleasant walkway along the water. It passes by the Tempio Voltiano, the World War I memorial, and several beautiful villas. The path is also pleasantly dotted with gellaterias.
- Bicycle ride. Rent a bicycle and ride up the hill into Switzerland before descending to the beautiful Lake Lugano. Follow the lake north to the Swiss city of Lugano. Head east from Lugano and back across the border into Italy. When you reach Lake Como, turn south and return to the city of Como, completing the circle .
- Ice skating, ☎ . Go at the Centro Sportivo Casate, via Virgilio 16.
- Horseriding. Take a ride on horseback in the Parco Pineta di Appiano e Tradate. From Limido Comasco, just 25 minutes drive from Como. English and western style riding in beautiful woodlands with friendly English/French and Italian speaking guides. Local Centered Riding instructor available for private lessons.
- Visit the Roman Stone and Strada Regia. Torno, one of the most picturesque villages perched on this lake shore , is the starting point for the itinerary to Piazzaga. Following the red arrows to the “strada regia” and the signs to Molina, Piazzaga/Massi avelli you will take the path along a mule track, along which you can find views on the lake, a Roman stone arch and a rich wildlife. You will then get to a stone bridge on a stream and by keeping your left you will head towards the “massi avelli”, erratic boulders where tombs have been graved. You then go ahead to Piazzaga, take a nice break and eat or drink some typical and traditional food in the Crotto and enjoy the impressive view on the whole lake.Then slowly go to Montepiatto and visit the "Pietra Pendula " and go back to Torno. .
- Beaches. Discover all the towns around Lake Como where you can spend a pleasant day on the lake with the possibility of swimming in the clear waters to enjoy a day of relax and fun. Lake Como is full of lidos and beaches, so a tan on Lake Como is guaranteed. .
- Mountain ranges. Lake Como is surrounded by some imposing peaks, which are reflected in its waters and render the landscape unique. The valleys surrounding Lake Como are some of the most beautiful areas in the Prealps, rich in vegetation and populated by numerous animal species. It is a homogeneous area from which many excursions start along old military roads and trails towards mountain pastures and refuges. The Grigna, Resegone and Legnone are important mountain ranges, but San Primo and the Pizzo di Gino, which encircle the lake, become especially atmospheric and unforgettable during long summer sunsets and in the warm autumn light that encircles their contours, in winter whiteness and in the spring freshness. The mountains and valleys include the whole local area around the lake, with hills and mountain ranges that rise from the plain and enclose countryside and villages, reliefs and woods: Valsassina, Valvarrone, Valle San Martino and Val d’Esino, Val d’Intelvi, Val Menaggio, Val Cavargna, Val Solda and the valleys of the Upper Western Lario. Lake Como’s mountain ranges offer endless opportunities for excursions and trekking
Perhaps it's worth to have a look at the regional site for the local news and events in the area.
The lakeside villages are more limited with regard to clothes shopping but they do have some designer shops and shoes shops are plentiful. You will also find lots of shops with handmade crafts, and there are great for gourmet food, wine and olive oil. Menaggio and Bellagio are probably the best for shopping.
However, there are a couple of large undercover shopping centres. Foxtown is a large discounted designer outlet just over the border in Switzerland and takes approximately 20 minutes to get there from Como. There is also the Iperal shopping centre, located at the northern tip of the lake near Colico. This has an amazing supermarket as well as many other shops, sports, shoes, clothes, make-up, and electrical stores. Como has a few outlets, one of which is Bennet, located at the roundabout where the road is sign-posted to Menaggio which takes you up the westside of the lake. This is not as large as the Iperal near Colico, but it still has a good sized supermarket. On the first level you will find the Bennet supermarket along with a Geox shoe shop, Swatch shop, cafes and a few clothes shops.
Petrol is considerably cheaper in nearby Switzerland, while diesel is about the same price, so remember to top-up the car in the cheapest place.
Keep the receipt of anything purchased in Switzerland as the Italian customs may ask to see it, and if a large value item, you will need to pay the difference in the two Value Added Tax rates (approximately 13 percent).
You will be spoiled for choice when eating out on Lake Como. From small pizzerias to top-end expensive restaurants, you can be sure to find a place that suits your budget and taste. Fish predominates in the restaurants on Lake Como, as you might expect. You will also find polenta – a golden-yellow Italian cornmeal made from ground maize. Meat dishes are also on the menus; often pork, beef, chicken, rabbit or venison.
Most places to eat are open daily. Some close one day a week, but this varies. Times may be susceptible to change depending on the season.
Prices can range from €5 for a good pizza, to €25 for a three course meal in a restaurant, to a top-notch restaurant where the price can escalate to over €50 per person; it depends on whether you are eating somewhere with good food but without all the frills!
- The most luxurious restaurants in the Como Lake area are the Gatto Nero in Cernobbio, Navedano in Como, and Villa d'Este in Cernobbio.
- If you are looking for a special place, try the "Locanda" on the Comacina island.
- Eat where the Italians eat, so avoid the overpriced and often poor-quality tourist traps! Full meals for €10 or less per person is normal (starter, main course, desert, wine, coffee all included). Restaurants in the historic centre tend to be more expensive, approaching €20. Walk behind Hotel ****** and find a popular pizza-restaurant. Restaurants facing the lake are more expensive. Water from the tap is clean and free, so no need to pay for expensive bottled water.
- Cheap pub-type restaurants are at Camerlata (5 minutes by car or 10 minutes by bus) – €5 to €10 but no view.
- In Camerlata the eating house and brewpub Il Birrificio serves fine beer and meals at a reasonable price.
- Drive to the "Iper" shopping centre in Grandate (10–15 minutes from Como center) for a self-service, freshly cooked meal at its restaurant called Risto. You can expect to spend no more than €10.
- Wine is very cheap so buy it in the supermarkets (about €5 for a 3/4 liter bottle - decent quality), not in restaurants
- Crotto Piazzaga [formerly dead link] in the village of Piazzaga is a typical trattoria of the Como area serving traditional, simple cooking. It is a place to rediscover the atmosphere and tastes of the past. Try the pizzoccheri €8, or polenta e zola €6. Can cook for vegetarians if notified beforehand.
Some places reachable by foot from the central area and frequented by the locals are the following.
- 1 [dead link] Panino Buono, Via Garibaldi 8, ☎ . Italian style sandwiches, a common lunch option for people who work nearby.
- 2 [dead link] La pizzaccia, Viale Roosvelt 11, ☎ . Mid-priced pizza and an excellent selection of beers.
- Sushibar como, Via Borgovico 59, ☎ .
There's a multitude of bars and cafes along the shoreline of Lake Como. If you want to get away from the busy tourist spots, you can find quaint little bars hidden away up the many narrow streets or you can retreat further into the village. You normally pay for your drink at the till first, and then present your receipt to the bar staff and they prepare your drink. In many of the bars/cafès you are charged extra if you want to sit down with your coffee rather than stand at the counter.
In summer most people go sunbaking on the lake shore and then meet in town during aperitivo, which means buffet food for every drink purchased in a bar: depending on the owner it could be chips, pasta, pizza, fruit salad and skewers.
- Birreria, Camnago Volta, bus n 4. Open evenings. Relax in the bohemian and friendly atmosphere of this pub, where you can sit down at the wooden tables and enjoy beer (and any other drinks) and snacks. The walls are covered with all sorts of objects from around the world, musical instruments, paintings, photos etc. You are likely to hear Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel or Fabrizio de Andrè (Italian singer/songwriter) playing on the Hi-Fi system.
- 22100, Via Fiammenghino. 18:00-01:00. A cozy bar that is a meeting place for local arty people, different from the Italian fashion victims clique. Highly recommended starting from 19:00 on Sundays for aperitivo (buffet food with any drinks purchased).
- La Pinta di Volta, at the end of lungolago Mafalda di Savoia. A small chiringuito (small bar) on an amazing location just in front of tempio voltiano. Superb lake view, great choice of cocktails as well as nice aperitivo.
- 125 Pizzeria, Via Borgovico 125. Open evenings. A small pizzeria, really good for aperitivo. Live concert every Friday evening.
If you are just thirsty and looking for water, in the walled town and nearby areas there are drinking fountains just round every corner. The water is lightly chlorinated and thus safe to drink, but decent to good tasting. The one in Piazza Cavour (on the far side from the lake) is called "Drago Verde" (Green Dragon) because of its decorative shape.
- B&B Dolce Lario, Via Primo Maggio 28, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. A few km from the historical center and very close to the stations and main road.
- In Riva Al Lago, Via Crespi 4.
- Respau Eco Hostel, Via Santa Brigida e Respau, Cascina Respau di Sotto, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Located in the heart of the Spina Verde Natural Park, a few minutes bus ride from the city center.
- [dead link] Tornoalago, Via de Benzi 17, Torno. Flats, studios and villas in Torno, in a truly romantic spot on Lake Como.
- 1 Hotel delle Fiere, Via Trieste and Via Piccinelli, Mozzate, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 4-star wellness hotel in Mozzate, between Como and Milan. Double room from €70.
- 2 Hotel Plinius, Via Garibaldi 33, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 3-star hotel in Como center. Double room from €60.
There are two good wi-fi spots: the Como bar on Volta street (eight minute walk southeast from the water taxi) and the sushi bar on Bergovico street (well hidden, but worth it, it is about a fifteen minute walk south from the water taxi).
Good internet connection is at the hotel Barchelleta Excelsior.
- Isola Comacina — a small island with ruins of several byzantine churches. It was once a town that allied with Milan against Como. The town was destroyed by Como's army in 1169.
- Bellagio – take a day trip by ferry across the lake to visit the gardens of Villa Melzi and Villa Serbelloni
- Tremezzina – a town directly to the west across the lake, home to Villa del Balbianello and Villa Carlotta
- Varenna – a village on the eastern lakeshore to the north, home to Villa Monastero
- Varese just half an hour by car, an hillside and cozy city with a stunning "Sacro Monte", a devotional complex listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003
- Milan the capital of the Lombardy region, is a short distance away by train from Como S. Giovanni (40 minutes), bus or car (from 40 minutes depending on traffic).
- Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore) and Lake Lugano (Lago di Lugano) are near to Lake Como and similarly spectacular.
- Como is right on the border with Switzerland. Switzerland is not part of the European Union, but is part of the Schengen Area. You may be delayed by checks at the border, although these are infrequent and usually not rigorous. Remember your passport. There is a limit on currency brought in from Switzerland.
- Brianza the area between Como and Milan, full of little lakes and 16th, 17th, and 18th century villas