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. Until the end of the 1980s, Como was 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.
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.
Como has good train connections with Italy and Switzerland (which is just next to the town). It has two main stations: Como San Giovanni and Como Lago - both used to get into the town. Tickets can be bought at ticket machines in stations - be prepared to use these instead of going to a ticket office, as not many can be found open. Trains are run by different companies, including SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) and Trenitalia (owned by the Italian state).
- 3 Como San Giovanni. San Giovanni is just outside the edge of the old town, and has connections on to Zurich in Switzerland to the north, Lecco to the east, and Milan to the south. It is the last station in Italy before the Swiss border crossing, with Chiasso being the next station on the other side of the border.
- 4 Como Lago. Como's other main station - with trains to Milan and Saronno.
- 5 Como Borghi. The next station on the line from Como Lago - less useful for most travellers, as it is further from the main attractions and hotels in town.
Como has no airport of its own, but nearby Milan has several, including Malpensa and Linate. Connections between Milan and Como are easy to make: bus shuttles run between both airports and the centre of Milan (for up to around 10€ per person) - from where trains can be caught from one of Milan's train stations to one of Como's train stations.
- Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP IATA). 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 1 hour 17 minutes and 1 hour 40 minutes. Trenord timetable.
- Milan Linate Airport (LIN IATA). 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, spending 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.
Roads in the area outside Como are narrow, and parking in some of the nearby villages and towns can be limited, so public transport can be better when visiting these places, especially when a bus ticket can only cost around 4€ per person.
The centre of Como, however, is rather compact and can be covered easily on foot. Bikes (and electric scooters) are popular with locals, and can be a quick way to get around - the town's tourism website explains how bikes can be hired.
The local public transport network comprises several lines. Some are mostly within city limits (Urbani) and some are Extraurbani (crossing city limits). Bus lines starting with 'C' are the extraurbani ones, which are the ones to catch to go to the nearby lakeside towns. They are provided by ASF Autolinee [dead link].
Tickets can be bought at the 6 Como bus station next to Como Lago station, in tabacchi in the town centre, or on the bus (but at a higher price).
The urbani lines run from the centre of Como to Cernobbio, the Swiss border, the villages to the south of Como, and from the top of the funicular into Brunate.
The extraurbani lines run from Como town centre up along both sides of Lake Como - some others go to the eastern (Italian) end of Lake Lugano, across towards Lecco, and down to the south of Como - the C10 goes along the west of the lake up to Colico via Menaggio, and the C30 goes up the east to Bellagio.
When boarding a bus (if tickets have already been bought), the driver 'validates' the ticket by tearing the perforated end of the ticket off and putting it in a small box at the front. 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, and check town 'welcome' signs out of the window while travelling.
Bus stops all have a QR code which can be scanned to show the next buses leaving from the stop.
Ferrovie Nord Milano also provides other bus lines connecting Como to Varese.
- 7 Funicolare (funicular), Piazza De Gasperi 4, ☏ , fax: . Takes people from the center of Como to Brunate, a small village (1800 inhabitants) on a mountain just to the east of Como at 715 m 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 - take a 36-min trek to the Faro Voltiano for great views of the lake. In the summer, trips run roughly every 15 minutes, late into the night. €3 one way, €5.50 return.
Being on the edge of a large lake, taking a boat/ferry can be an easy way of getting around. The Gestione Navigazione Laghi is the company which runs boat services on the lake, and Como has its own boat port.
- 8 Como port, ☏ , toll-free: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This company operates ferries and cruises on Lake Como, which connect Como to the other towns and villages on 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 walk up 36 min to San Maurizio). Daily 08:00-19:00. 29-m 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. The views are much better than from the free terrace below. €2 adult; €1 child.
- 2 Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (Como Cathedral), Piazza Duomo 6 (the main entrance is for prayer and religious services only; the tourist entrance is round to the north side of the building), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 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. It was featured on the Italian 10,000-lira note before the introduction of the euro.
- 5 War Memorial (Monumento ai caduti) (on the waterfront next to the Tempio Voltiano). An interesting, imposing, 33-m-high building, it is one of the tallest structures near the water. Built in the 1930s to honour Italian soldiers killed in World War I.
- 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 Museo Archeologico Paolo Giovio (Archeological Museum), Piazza Medaglie d’Oro 1 (Palazzo Giovio), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. Museum showing the history of Como - also features Egyptian and Greek artefacts. €4.
- 7 Museo Storico Giuseppe Garibaldi (History Museum), Piazza Medaglie d’Oro (Palazzo Olginati), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. Opened in 1932, another museum featuring Como's history. €4.
- 8 Pinacoteca Civica (Civic Art Gallery), Via Diaz 84 (Palazzo Volpi), ☏ , fax: . Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. The building was constructed in the 17th century, and has been an art gallery since the 1980s. It exhibits sculptures, portraits, and tapestries by famous artists. €4.
- 9 Fontana di Villa Geno (walk along the lake edge, and when near there, go through the public garden to reach it). Large fountain that - when switched on - can be seen from Como. Worth a walk along the edge of the lake to see it, however, it may not always be on.
- 10 Villa Olmo, Via Simone Cantoni, 1, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Built in the early 19th century, this is an impressive, ornate palace, owned by the town of Como. The lakefront gardens are open to the public. The building is open to the public to visit the beautifully decorated but unfurnished rooms, except during special events. Free.
- 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 (queues for tickets can get quite long, so it may be a good idea to go in the morning). 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 (buses also run to most of these villages, however, which may be a cheaper alternative). Prices vary on destination and whether you take the 'fast' or 'slow' boat; a day pass that covers most of the lake by slow boat costs €25.80.
- 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 - you can walk as far as the Villa Olmo to the west and the Fontana di Villa Geno to the east quite easily, which on a sunny day would give great views over the lake.
- Bicycle ride. Rent a bicycle and ride up the hill into Switzerland before descending over the other side 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. Or you could do as the locals do, and use a bike to explore the city of Como itself.
- Hike in the mountains. Take the funicular up to Brunate, then (after seeing the Faro Voltiano) hike through the nearby mountains for great views of the area. See the signs and maps at the top of the funicular for routes, but remember to bring a lot of water in summer, as it can get very warm and sunny.
- 1 Centro Sportivo Casate (Casate Sport Centre), ☏ . Sports centre, with swimming pools (including an outdoor one), volleyball courts, etc. It has activities on in the winter too, including ice skating.
- 2 Piscina Sinigaglia, Viale Sinigaglia, 2, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. The town's indoor swimming pool, next to the football stadium, good if you want to swim lenghts - if you want outdoor swimming however, go to the lido. Around €5 per person.
- 3 Lido Villa Olmo, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Daily 09:00-21:00. Lido on the edge of Lake Como just next to Villa Olmo - gives travellers the chance to swim in the lake, which is very tempting on hot summer days. The lido also features a bar, and entrance can be pre-booked online at their website. €5.50 for an afternoon; €8.50 for a whole day..
- 4 See a football match at Stadio Giuseppe Sinigaglia. Home of Como 1907, the town's football club which plays in Serie D. At a capacity of just over 13,000, it may be nice to see a match while in the town if one is playing at the time. The stadium was built in the 1920s, and is named after a Como local and former soldier.
- 5 Fly in a seaplane, Via Masia 44, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. If you are in Como, you'll quickly notice the regular seaplane flights over the lake. Aero Club Como offer private seaplane flights for visitors, as well as pilot training. Even if you don't actually book a flight, it's well worth passing by the hangar to have a look at the sea planes.
- The rest of Lake Como: you can see some of the lake from Como, so why not explore the rest of it? Take a bus or boat, or drive or cycle to the other small villages and towns along the lake.
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 [dead link] 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
Some places reachable by foot from the central area and frequented by the locals are the following.
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 lakeshore 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.
- [dead link] B&B Dolce Lario, Via Primo Maggio 28, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A few kilometers 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, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 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, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 4-star wellness hotel in Mozzate, between Como and Milan. Double room from €70.
- 2 Hotel Plinius, Via Garibaldi 33, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 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