Lake Como

Lake Como
Lake Como
View from lakeside near Villa Olmo
Location Lombardy, Italy
Coordinates 46°00′N 9°16′E / 46°N 9.267°E / 46; 9.267Coordinates: 46°00′N 9°16′E / 46°N 9.267°E / 46; 9.267
Primary inflows Adda River, Mera River
Primary outflows Adda River
Catchment area 4,509 km2 (1,741 sq mi) [1]
Basin countries Italy, Switzerland
Max. length 46 km
Max. width 4.5 km
Surface area 146 km²
Average depth 154 m [1]
Max. depth 410 m
Water volume 22.5 km³
Residence time 4.5 years [1]
Surface elevation 198 m [1]
Islands Isola Comacina
Settlements Como, Lecco (see article)
References [1]

Lake Como (Lago di Como in Italian, also known as Lario; Lach de Comm in Insubric; Latin: Larius Lacus) is a lake of glacial origin in Lombardy, Italy. It has an area of 146 km², making it the third largest lake in Italy, after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore. At over 400 m (1320 ft) deep it is one of the deepest lakes in Europe and the bottom of the lake is more than 200 metres (656 ft) below sea-level.

Lake Como has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times, and a very popular tourist attraction with many artistic and cultural gems. It has many villas and palaces (such as Villa Olmo, Villa Serbelloni and Villa Carlotta). Many celebrities have or had homes on the shores of Lake Como, such as Matthew Bellamy, Madonna, George Clooney,[2] Gianni Versace, Ronaldinho, Sylvester Stallone, Richard Branson, and Ben Spies. Lake Como is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy.[3]



Aerial view of the juncture between the three arms of Lake Como

The lake is shaped much like the character "Y". The northern branch begins at the town of Colico, while the towns of Como and Lecco sit at the ends of the southwestern and southeastern branches respectively. The small towns of Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna are situated at the intersection of the three branches of the lake: a triangular boat service operates between them.

Lake Como is fed in large part by the Adda River, which enters the lake near Colico and flows out at Lecco. This geological conformation makes the southwestern branch a dead end, and so Como, unlike Lecco, is often flooded.

The mountainous pre-alpine territory between the two southern arms of the lake—between Como, Bellagio and Lecco—is known as the Larian Triangle, or Triangolo lariano. The source of the river Lambro is here. At the centre of the triangle, the town of Canzo is the seat of the Comunità montana del Triangolo Lariano, an association of the 31 municipalities which represent the 71,000 inhabitants of the area.


A view of Lake Como from the lighthouse in Brunate.
The old town of Careno.

The lake's name in Latin is Larius, Italianized as Lario, but this name is rarely used; it is usually called Lago di Como (literally "Lake of Como"). In guidebooks the lake may be variously described as "Lake Como", "Lake of Como", or "Como Lake." The lake's name comes from the town of Como, known to the Romans as Comum.

While the town of Como is referred to as "Como", the lake itself is never referred to solely by this name. (This is not true of another lake in Italy, Lake Garda, where "Garda" may refer to either a town on its shores, or the lake).

Lakeside villas

Villa d'Este.

The lake is well known for the attractive villas which have been built here since Pliny the Younger constructed the Comedia and the Tragedia. Many have admirable gardens which benefit from the mild climate induced by the stabilising presence of 22.5 km³ of lake water and are able to include tropical as well as temperate plants.

The Villa Carlotta was built for the Milanese marchese Giorgio Clerici in 1690 and occupies a site of over 70,000 m2 (753,474 sq ft) at Tremezzo, facing the Bellagio peninsula. An Italian garden, with steps, fountains and sculpture was laid out at the same time. The villa was later sold to the banker and Napoleonic politician Giambattista Sommariva. Stendhal was his guest in 1818, and his visit is recalled at the start of La Chartreuse de Parme. In 1843 it was purchased by Princess Marianne of Nassau as a wedding present for her daughter Carlotta, after whom the villa is now named. The latter, together with her husband, Georg II of Saxen-Meiningen laid out the woodland landscape park in Romantic style. The villa today includes a museum of agricultural implements as well as important works of sculpture by Sommariva’s friend Antonio Canova and by Luigi Acquisti.[4]

The Villa d'Este, at Cernobbio, was built in 1568 by Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio, a native of the town. In 1816–17 the villa was home to Caroline of Brunswick, estranged wife of the Prince of Wales and shortly to become Queen Consort of King George IV of the United Kingdom. The landscaped gardens in the English style are a product of this period. Later in the century it was turned into a luxury hotel. Today the Villa d’Este is known for attracting celebrity guests.

The Villa del Balbianello, famous for its elaborate terraced gardens, lies on a promontory of the western shore of the lake near Isola Comacina. Built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery, it was the final home of the explorer Guido Monzino and today houses a museum devoted to his work.

The Villa Melzi, at Bellagio was built in the neo-classical style by the architect Giocondo Albertolli in 1808–10 as the summer residence of Francesco Melzi who had been vice-president of the Napoleonic Italian Republic. The park includes an orangery, a chapel, statues and a Japanese garden, and is planted, as often on lake Como, with huge rhododendrons. Nineteenth-century guests at the Villa included Stendhal and Franz Liszt.[5]

The Villa Serbelloni, also at Bellagio, houses the Bellagio Study and Conference Center, a residential center set up and managed by the Rockefeller Foundation since 1959, which operates a 'scholar-in-residence' program for scholars from around the world. This is believed to have been the site of Pliny the Younger’s villa ‘Tragedia’. Its well-known park was created at the end of the eighteenth century by Alessandro Serbellon.


Lake Como weather is generally mild. It is known for its Mediterranean-like climate where tropical and sub-tropical plants can grow year-round. In the winter, the lake helps to maintain a higher temperature in the surrounding region. Average daily temperatures range from about 13 °C (55 °F) in December to 30 °C (86 °F) in July. Water temperatures can reach an average of 24 °C (75 °F) during the month of July. Snowfall is erratic and primarily affects the higher elevations. Rainfall is heaviest in May and lowest during the winter months.


The steamship "Concordia" and the car ferry "Plnio".

The Lake Como ferry service is a highly developed public transport system linking the dozens of small towns and villages dotted around the perimeter of the Lake. A motorized service began in 1826 when a steamship with sails, the “Lario”, was launched by the newly established Società privilegiata per l'impresa dei battelli a vapore nel Regno Lombardo Veneto. Since 1952 the system has been run under the auspices of a government organisation called first the Gestione Commissariale Governativa and subsequently the Gestione Governativa Navigazione Laghi, which is also responsible for services on Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda.[6][7]

Today there are three main services: -‘Motorship’ services up and down the western branch and northern end of the Lake (between Colico or Piona and Como town), with additional shuttles to the mid-lake area. -‘Fast services’ that follow broadly the same route but use quicker hydrofoils, stop less frequently and cost extra. -‘Ferries’ that run only between the hugely popular mid-lake villages of Menaggio, Bellagio and Varenna, plus Cadenabbia. Some of these boats carry vehicles as well as passengers.[8]

Sacro Monte di Ossuccio

Chapel 5 of Sacro Monte di Ossuccio. Disputation with the Doctors

The Sacro Monte di Ossuccio ("Sacred Mount of Ossuccio") is located on a hillside slope between olive groves and woods along the western edge of Lake Como facing Isola Comacina. Fifteen Baroque inspired chapels, built between 1635 and 1710, and dedicated to the Mysteries of the Rosary are dotted along the way that leads to the Monastery. This building is the last in the chain and is dedicated to the Coronation of the Virgin. In 2003, the Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy, including that of Ossuccio, were inserted by UNESCO in the World Heritage List.

Recreation and tourism

As a tourist destination, Lake Como is popular for its scenery, wildlife and spas.[9] It is a venue for sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.[10] In 1818 Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote to Thomas Love Peacock: "This lake exceeds anything I ever beheld in beauty, with the exception of the arbutus islands of Killarney. It is long and narrow, and has the appearance of a mighty river winding among the mountains and the forests".[11]


In 2007 it was reported that Lake Como was too polluted to swim in, with colony-forming units of bacteria at 68 times the safe limit for bathing. This pollution level presents a risk of skin infections, dermatitis and even salmonella to bathers. In 2008 it was reported that the upper lake was suitable for swimming.[12]

Places on the lake

The Parco Meier, a public garden at Tremezzo
Cities and villages on Lake Como
Western shore
from North to South
South shore
from West to East
Eastern shore
from North to South

References in literature

Depictions in popular culture

  • The 1995 movie A Month by the Lake was filmed in various locations around Lake Como.
  • Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002 film): Some of the scenes that take place on planet Naboo were shot at Villa del Balbianello including the clandestine marriage of Anakin Skywalker and Padmé.
  • In the film Ocean's Twelve, the infamous thief Francois Toulour, a.k.a. The Night Fox, resides in the Villa Erba estate in Lake Como, where he has several encounters with Daniel Ocean, his rival thief.
  • Locations around Lake Como appear several times in the James Bond movie Casino Royale: Villa del Balbianello plays the hospital where James Bond recuperates, and in the final scene, Bond hunts down Mr. White at his Lake Como estate, Villa La Gaeta.
  • Gwen Stefani's music video "Cool" was filmed around Lake Como.
  • In the episode "Chuck Versus the Honeymooners" of the television series Chuck, Morgan Grimes casually chats with Interpol agents about Lake Como, which he studied extensively on his flight to Europe, and realizes they are not from Interpol when one of the agents makes a mistake by identifying an annual boating festival as "palaces" instead.


Lake Como seen from Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo, near the centre of the lake.
Lake Como seen from the city of Como.
View of Lecco and the Lake of Como, branch of Lecco, from "Ciresa plain" on Mt. Barro.
Shoreline of Como from inside Lake Como


  1. ^ a b c d e "Laghi italiani". Istituto Italiano di Idrobiologia. Retrieved 2006-11-17. 
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ See Infoparchi, Villa Carlotta;, Villa Carlotta; Macadam, Alta
  5. ^ See Infoparchi, Villa Melzi.
  6. ^ Massimo Gozzi, ‘History of Navigation on Lake Como’, Gestione Governativa Navigazione Laghi, 2007, pp 1–2.
  7. ^ ‘General Management’, Gestione Governativa Navigazione Laghi, 2007.
  8. ^ ‘Autumn Timetable 2009’, Gestione Governativa Navigazione Laghi.
  9. ^ Lake Como holidays,, April 20, 2010
  10. ^ 2006 Kiteboard Pro World Tour event, Lake Como,, June 6, 2006
  11. ^ Francis W Halsey, ed (1914). Seeing Europe with Famous Authors. VIII. Funk & Wagnells. 
  12. ^ Italy's posh resort lakes so beautiful, so polluted,, July 27, 2006
  13. ^ M.G.H. Poetae Karolini Aevi, I, pp. 42-43:


External links

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