Lake Como is one of the largest and most beautiful lakes in Italy. During the warmer months, it is full of aquatic activities and a “dolce vita” atmosphere. A combination of stunning scenery and chic style attracts Hollywood celebrities, including George Clooney, who can be spotted riding around in his Riva boat, as sleek and fast as a Ferrari.
However, it’s not just movie stars that flock here. Milan is only 90 minutes away, which is why it’s such a popular getaway for trendy city dwellers looking for a refreshing lake breeze when it’s hot in the city.
As the days get colder, the crowds grow thinner and the pace slows down. Cultural attractions and a natural environment of peaceful hills and serene forests attract attention. The pristine peaks of the snow-capped Alps add a wintery feel.
Como is one of the many charming towns that surround Lake Como. With shops, restaurants, hotels, and attractions open year-round, it’s a great base for exploring. The low season lasts from mid-October to Easter, offering an authentic experience with a lot of latitude. Hotel rates are lowered with the thermometer, making it easy to mark a room at a reduced price.
Here are 10 ways to enjoy Lake Como out of season.
Take the funicular to Brunate
With an eye full of dramatic landscapes, straddling the funicular the steep mountain side up to Brunate is an attraction in itself. It takes just seven minutes to arrive in this picturesque village with Liberty-style architecture, a lighthouse and stunning views of Lake Como and the Alps. Although it rarely dives below freezing by the lake, Brunate’s high elevation brings a suggestive wintry pinch of powdery white snow.
Take a ferry
Locals depend on an inexpensive network of year-round ferries for transport. For tourists, ferries are a perfect perch for sightseeing, leaving plenty of time to soak up the elegant lakeside villas built to blend in with the natural landscape. Hop off wherever you like, stopping at story-telling hamlets such as Cernobbio, home to Villa d’Este. This iconic hotel is closed in winter, though its imposing lakeside position, park-like grounds, and architectural grandeur are worth a visit.
Contemplate public art
Enjoy public art without crowds. Contemporary sculpture by Daniel Libeskind “Electrical Life“pays homage to the legacy of hometown hero Alessandro Volta. Volta invented the battery, hence the word tension. Made of stainless steel,“ Life Electric ”boldly juts out into the lake, brilliantly reflecting the water, sky and mountains, elements of the striking landscape of Como.
The fresh air and a thick layer of snow make Valsassina a favorite spot for winter sports enthusiasts. Located east of Como in the province of Lecco, Piani di Bobbio-Valtorta has groomed trails for downhill skiers and snowboarders. The Piani di Artavaggio pasture is a beautiful place to savor the frozen panorama and the unspoiled tranquility, perhaps on snowshoes.
Sleep like a royal
One night in a five star Vista Palace is an aristocratic immersion. Its 18 sumptuous rooms and suites are sumptuously decorated with Dedar fabrics, Italian marble and bathtubs. Guests are personally pampered by the butler Alberto, who has perks like a pillow menu. There is a welcome drop in room rates in low season.
Head to the penthouse for an aperitif or a splurge-worthy dinner in Sottovoce, with sublime lake and mountain views. Bartender Alessandro’s remarkable cocktails range from classic to creative, while talented chef Stefano Mattara’s modern interpretation of Italian cuisine draws attention to seasonal produce from the fertile fields and unspoiled valleys nearby.
Buy your heart’s content
Como was once a major producer of silk. Today, production has migrated to neighboring industrial areas, although a small amount of high-quality silk is still produced here. Family owned A. Picci is a boutique in the heart of the city. One glance at its colorful display case of matching scarves, ties and accessories made from Como silk, and it will take willpower to resist a purchase.
Taste hearty local cuisine
Traditional valley cuisine dominates winter menus with strengthening dishes like polenta and meat stews reflecting Como’s northern position. TO Osteria del Gallo, owners Giuseppe and Rosanna De Toma pride themselves on serving hyper-local produce, including rustic stone-ground cornmeal, succulent wildflower honey and paper-thin slices of Valtellina Bresaola, beef jerky the air.
Customers order from a handwritten menu that changes daily. The hearty dishes are complemented by Terre Lariane, the local wine available in ruby red, golden yellow and powder pink.
Visit the Christmas market
From the end of November to January 6, Como welcomes Città dei Balocchi, an Old World Christmas market. Buildings and monuments are illuminated with twinkling lights, mulled wine perfumes the air and live music blares. An ice rink adds festive fun, food stalls offer the chance to sample traditional delicacies, and handmade crafts make a great excuse for shopping.
Visit without crowds
Explore Como’s Old Town, its cobbled pedestrian-only streets lined with shops and restaurants. Marvel at Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, built from 1396 and spanning over 300 years. One of the most eye-catching cathedrals in northern Italy, it’s an eclectic mix of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles with a towering dome, precious tapestries, and an altar made of marble, onyx, and bronze.
Legend says that those who touch the little frog carved into the wall of the left entrance will be lucky, adding a hint of whimsy.
A century ago, the luxurious silk of Como was in demand around the world. A visit to Silk Museum highlights the historic and central role of Como in the manufacture and trade of silk. Visitors get an in-depth look at every step of production, from silkworm farming to on-loom weaving to finished fabric samples, as well as an understanding of the impact of this industry on the economic and social development of Como.