Lake Como (Italy) is located in the region of Lombardy a few miles away from the Swiss border. This beautiful glacial lake, in the shape of a Y is encased at the foot of the Alps between green and steep hills.
It offers some of the most beautiful sceneries in the world and attracts millions of tourists each year. Then, it becomes difficult to enjoy this splendid environment.
It is however possible to discover the Lake, its medieval villages and luxurious villas away from the crowds. So here are a few walks and hikes off the beaten path in this post on our Travel blog Heulys.
Note that we have also visited Bergamo, Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta during our trip in Lombardy. If you plan to stay around Lake Maggiore area, read our walks and visits of Lake Maggiore.
Visit the Eastern shore of Lake Como
Lecco, Lake Como, Lombardy, Italy
1. Hiking on the Wayfarer’s Path, along the hill side of Lake Como
Also called “il sentiero del viendante” in Italian.
Along the montainuous slopes of Lake Como, an old mule track runs between the small towns of Varenna and Bellano. It allows the visitors to discover Lombardy’s typical landscapes while admiring the opposite bank of the Lake.
Varenna being the starting point of this beautiful walk, we visit the village that has kept all its authenticity. For exemple, Villa Monastero, luxurious palace with elegant gardens deserves a visit.
From the center of Varenna, we take the somewhat steep path that leads to Castello di Vezio, perched above Varenna, and first stop of the itinerary. Built in the 8th century, it is the testimony of the military fortifications in the region. But above all, from the castle’s terrace, wonderful views of Lake Como and the village of Bellagio, on the opposite shore of the lake, can be savoured.
Below, we contemplate the red roofs of the village.
The path runs along Lake Como, on the woody hills. Hiking on the Wayfarer’s path allows us to discover bucolic landscapes: old settlements, small chapels, ancient villages and medieval bridges crossing streams.
The path gets near the railway station of Bellano. We cross the quiet village to reach the shores of Lake Como. Then, we come back by the local train to Varenna.
2. Hiking in the Grigne Range
The eastern shore of Lake Como is bordered by the wild Grigne Range (7900 ft). Outdoor activities such as mountaineering and hiking are numerous. They offer exceptional views of the lake and its surroundings.
Starting from Lecco, we reach Piani Resinelli (4170 ft) by a winding road. This wooden plateau is the starting point of many trails towards the 2 main ranges: Grigna Settentrionale and Grigna Meridionale.
We follow the Sentiero delle Foppe, that leads to the Refuge Rosalba. The climb turns out to be somewhat steep but what a panorama at the finish! From there, we have a striking view on The Resegone, mountain with a jagged summit. The landscapes, as magnificent as wild, take on a mysterious appearance at the arrival of the fog.
3. Taking some height on Lake Como in a funicular
The city of Como is beautiful and attracts throngs of tourists. Another excellent way to admire Lake Como and its surroundings while escaping the crowd is to “climb” up to Brunate. This village is “perched” on top of the mountains, 2300 feet above the lake level. How to get there ?
– by car,
– on foot (about one hour),
– or by the funicular located at the entrance of Como, Piazza De Gasperi. It joins Brunate in a few minutes.
We walk quietly in the village and admire the magnificent palaces, for example the Villa Pirotta and the Villa Cantaluppi Giulini in Art Deco style. Then we visit Chiesa di Sant’ Andrea, a superb pink baroque church.
A belvedere offers a magnificent panorama of the lake, the Alps and the Po Plain of Italy.
Brunate is also the starting point for many excursions to Mount Piatto.
Visit the Western shore of Lake Como
Menaggio, Lake Como, Lombardy, Italy
4. Climbing Monte Generoso
Monte Generoso (5600 ft) stands along the rocky ridge that delimits the border between Switzerland and Italy.
It can be reached:
– by cog train train which connects in about 40 minutes the Capolago Station (South of Lake Lugano) to Bellavista station. Then we continue 15 minutes on foot to the top of Monte Generoso.
– Or on a hiking trail starting from the small town of San Fedele Intelvi.
We choose to climb on foot to enjoy one of the most beautiful summits of Italy.
The hiking path:
After having quietly visited the medieval village of Argegno on the shores of Lake Como and taken a wonderful cable car ride up to Pigra, we drive to San Fedele Intelvi. At the entrance to the city, at the bus station, a signpost indicates 3:30 hours walk to the summit of Monte Generoso. But continuing by car on Via Monte Generoso, there is a car park located on the edge of a wood and a meadow, on the left hand side of the road (1). It is one of the starting point of the walk. And we gain an hour of uninteresting walk. (It is even possible to drive even higher on the same road, and park the car at Alpe Grande Orimento, near the bar restaurant).
(1) From the parking lot, at the edge of the woods, the hike goes through a beautiful forest of chestnut trees. The trail climbs gradually and overlooks magnificent pastures. Finally, the summits of Lombardy and Piedmont stand out on the horizon. The march is more engaging as you approach the summit. But what a satisfaction when we reach the goal! Because of its geographical position, its summit offers an exceptional 360-degree view of the entire region, including Lake Lugano, Lake Como and the Pre-Alps. The view is grandiose. Despite the mist we observe the lakes and pre-Alps territory mountains.
5. Hiking in the Parco Val Sanagra
The Parco Val Sanagra, declared Local Park in 2005, lies in between 1000 ft and 6500 ft altitude in the back country of Menaggio. This valley offers many hikes that unveil the typical landscapes of Lombardy.
From Menaggio, at Piazza Garibaldi, we go on foot to discover the Rogolone, symbol of the park. The Rogolone is a large oak declared Natural Monument. According to the inhabitants, it is the oldest tree in Europe.
We stop in front of remarkable churches and luxurious villas, such as Villa Mylius Vigoni.
Then, the path crosses a large meadow, called Piamuro and follows down the curbs of river Sanagra. Its shores reveal ancient vestiges of artisanal activities related to the use of water.
The trail goes downward into a wood and then leads us into the meadow where the Rogolone is located. What a beautiful tree indeed! It measures 82 feet in height and more than 26 feet in circumference.
The serene atmosphere is perfect for a picnic near the large oak.
Then, we take the road back to Menaggio and walk along the shores of Lake Como.
6. Discovering the wild side of Lake Como
The northern shore of Lake Como, uncrowded, offers magnificent walks and visits. Some small towns have an important historical and patrimonial heritage.
From Menaggio, we take the road that leads to Lake Lugano, on the mountainside.The road crosses Dongo, a town that recalls an episode of World War II: Mussolini and some of its supporters were arrested and executed on April 27, 45. The old town is also home to the Romanesque Church of St. Maria di Martinico.
Then, in Gravedona, the magnificent church of Santa Maria Del Tiglio is one of the most important Romanesque buildings in the province. Built in the 12th century, it is decorated with magnificent frescoes.
Further north, we visit the picturesque village of Domaso. Sunset put a pinkish hue on the mountains.
Finally, as we approach the northern end of Lake Como, the landscape becomes unrecognizable. The rustic houses take place to the comfortable hotels. The mountains, strewn with mists, rise steeply above the dark waters of the lake. No ferry on the water, just a few wooden boats waiting to cross the waters.
Lake Como has become dark and wild.
To conclude, don’t travel to the North of Italy without stopping by Lake Como. Your visit will be a charming experience! In this post, we have featured a few hikes and walks that enjoyed us. We hope you will feel the same.