Lake Como: itinerary to discover historic villas and gardens

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Itinerary on Lake Como, to discover gardens and historic villas between Ossuccio, Lenno and Bellagio.

Romantic landscapes of Manzoni’s memory, villas overlooking emerald waters and secret gardens where exotic flowers sprout and ancient trees grow. Lake Como is a succession of places where history blends with the romanticism and elegance of the noble residences that starting from 1700 have begun to enrich the landscape of this corner of Lombardy.


Perched on the slopes of the mountains like small colorful nativity scenes, the picturesque villages that characterize the valleys overlooking the lake will surprise you with their ancient charm and their mild and relaxed atmosphere. In each of them are hidden historical and cultural treasures of rare beauty and to discover them you can take the Greenway, a panoramic walk of about 11 kilometers which, following the ancient Via Regina, winds through the villages of Colonno, Sala Comacina, Ossuccio, Lenno, Mezzegra, Tremezzo and Griante.


Village of pre-Roman origin, located in the Municipality of Tremezzina, it strikes for the privileged view of the Comacina Island, the only island on Lake Como, and for the architectural complex of the ancient Hospitalis di Stabio, along the Via Regina, which includes the ancient church of Santa Maria Maddalena and its bell tower. In ancient times the complex, the first records of which date back to 1169, it was intended to welcome the poor and pilgrims. Today it is one of the most suggestive points of the Greenway.

In the village, moreover, you can also visit the Sanctuary of the Vergine del Soccorso, located on the mountain above the town and dating back to the sixteenth century, which houses a statue of the Virgin much venerated by pilgrims and faithful, and can be admired from the exterior Villa Balbiano historic residence, built by Cardinal Tolomeo Gallio at the end of the sixteenth century, then renovated and embellished by Cardinal Durini during the eighteenth century, today used ad a location for luxurious weddings.

Villa Balbiano. Photo by Sara TripOrTrek


The only island on Lake Como, it has always been the protagonist of the territory’s history. In Roman and early medieval times it was a military outpost as well as an important religious center. It was abandoned following battles, looting and fires and, starting from 1900, it has become an archaeological site of great interest for lovers of the early Middle Ages. Walking along the 600-meter-long island, you will have the opportunity to admire the lake and the villages that overlook it from a unique perspective. The island can be visited from March to October and is connected to the villages by boats that connect the shores of Lake Como every day.

Comacina Island. Ohoto by Sara TripOrTrek


An enchanting village located on the Tremezzina coast and blessed with a mild climate all year round, it houses treasures that are worth a visit and overlook what is called the Gulf of Venus. Following the path of the Greenway, descending from the mountain towards the lake, these are some of the wonders that can be admired:

  • Acqua Fredda Abbey
  • Villa Monastero Pax
  • Villa del Balbianello

Acqua Fredda Abbey Built by the Cistercian monks of Morimondo in the 12th century and located at about 300 meters above sea level in a panoramic position, the Acqua Fredda Abbey dominates Lake Como. Its name derives from a nearby source of water that still gushes near the sanctuary visited every year by visitors and faithful from all over the world.  

Villa Monastero Pax. Photo TripOrTrek

Villa Monastero Pax Traveling along the Greenway through the ancient village of Lenno, you can admire the entrance to Villa Monastero from the outside overlooking the lake shore. Hidden by mighty ancient walls, the villa, now a private residence where it is possible to celebrate weddings, between 1209 and 1211 was chosen as a place of retreat and prayer by the Benedictine nuns from the monastery of Saints Faustino and Giovita once existing on the Comacina Island. . The nuns renovated the old oratory and built the new monastery here, which was suppressed in 1786.

Villa Balbianello It is one of the most beautiful and famous villas in all of Lake Como. It was a home as well as a meeting place and residence for nobles, writers, adventurers and today it is a common good, managed with great care by the Italian Environment Fund. To access it, you can easily book tickets (15 euros for adults) through the Musement platform, a fast and reliable service that allowed me to skip the line. The position of the villa, on the tip of the Lavedo peninsula, offers a privileged view of the lake. The history of the villa has its roots at the end of the eighteenth century, when Cardinal Durini chose to build a dwelling of “delight and leisure” on the small wooded peninsula that extends from Lenno towards the lake.

Villa del Balbianello, lago di Como. Photo di Sara TripOrTrek

Over the centuries, the villa changed owners until the arrival of Guido Monzino, entrepreneur, collector and passionate traveler, who in 1974 made the historic residence a refuge where to keep the memories of an adventurous life that led him to be the first Italian on top of Everest. The environments of Villa Balbianello alternate architectural elegance and relics of exotic adventures, in a mix of objects and rooms that make this villa unique in its kind.

The spirit of Monzino, who left the villa at Fai in 1988, still lingers in every corner of the house and in its gardens where the romantic avenues lead the visitor to the discovery of wonderful corners overlooking the lake. The beauty and wonder of the Balbianello, which can also be accessed by lake through a private navigation service, were the key that prompted many Hollywood directors to set famous sagas here, such as Star Wars and 007.

Bellagio. Photo di Sara TripOrTrek


It is considered the pearl of Lake Como, so beautiful that its details were a source of inspiration for the construction of the homonymous hotel and casino in Las Vegas. This lively town located on the northern end of the Larian Triangle, can be easily reached thanks to the boats that connect the various locations of the lake and offers visitors the opportunity to discover wonderful views, but also villas and gardens of inestimable beauty such as Villa Melzi.

Villa Melzi was born as the summer residence of Francesco Melzi D’Eril, vice president of the Italian Republic at the time of Napoleon (1802-1805). The villa, in neoclassical style, is surrounded by an immense park embellished with statues of classical art, centuries-old and exotic plants.

An enchanting place, suspended in time and overlooking the lake, which offers moments of peace and wonder. In fact, walking in the gardens of Villa Melzi is one of the most pleasant experiences that can be done visiting Bellagio, here, among colorful flowers and ancient trees, the musician Franz Lieszt and the writer Stendhal also found inspiration, who were among the illustrious guests of the residence , now privately owned.

Villa Melzi. Photo di Sara TripOrTrek


Legend has it that, in addition to Loch Ness, Lake Como is also inhabited by a legendary monster: Larrie. Its first sighting dates back to 1946 and over the years there have been numerous reports that warned of the presence of an unknown creature. Sometimes it was spotted as a very long animal, other times it was short, others said it looked like a marine dinosaur.

The myth was so fueled that the bizarre creature was associated with Lariosaurus Balsami, a reptile that lived in the waters of the lake over 200 million years ago and of which the Museum of Natural History, before the 1943 bombing that destroyed it, kept the fossil of a specimen 1 meter and 30 centimeters long. Truth or fantasy, when you observe the soft ripples that form on the water of Lake Como, be careful because it could be Larrie.

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