Lay of the Land
“The precise location of heaven on earth has never been established but it may very well be right here.”~Herb Caen
The third biggest lake in Italy and just 50 miles from Milan, Como is surrounded by the pre-Alps, which plunge from 5,000 feet into the water (which, unfortunately, is unswimmable at times due to pollution). The lake is so deep (1,300 feet; the deepest in Europe), it has an air of the unknowable; locals murmur rumors of giant mysterious creatures that reside in its depths. The cliffs are so steep that the vast majority of development is in the form of small towns that wind along the foothills close to the shore. Above, the mountains are wild, unspoiled and thickly forested. When exploring the lake by boat (the preferred method of transportation), every once in a while you will spot a lone house or church on an impossibly high hillside perch so precarious that it appears the only way to reach the front door is by parachute.
Located at the southwestern tip of the lake is Como, the region’s main town and, as a result, its most commercial. Heading north along the western coast are the towns of Cernobbio and Tremezzo (home to Villa d’Este and Grand Hotel Tremezzo, respectively), along with a number of small, charming towns in between. The southern part of the lake splits in two (picture an upside down Y), and the town of Bellagio is set on the tip of the peninsula between both sides. Similar to Como, the town attracts tourists, but its cobblestoned streets and pastel houses make it a more charming place to visit.