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This picturesque region has always been popular with discerning visitors from around the world, drawn by the dramatic scenery, superb climate and grand hotels.
These lakes have been attracting visitors since Roman times and were particular popular during the 19th century, when many of the grand villas were built for the aristocracy. Lake Maggiore straddles the border with Switzerland and has three splendid islands to visit. The main resort of Stresa is an elegant town with lovely lakeside walks and stupendous views. Each of Lake Como’s towns and villages has its own unique character but all enjoy wonderful views of the lake and surrounding mountains and are connected by the ferry service. There are several beautiful villas and gardens to be visited in the area and the town of Como in the south of the lake is a great base for sightseeing further afield.
Places to see in Lake Como & Maggiore
From Lake Maggiore: Visit the Sforza Castle, the spectacular Galleria and Gothic Duomo. City guide included and free time for shopping or La Scala visit.
From Lake Maggiore: A full day tour of Lakes Como, Maggiore and Lugano.
From Lake Como: Into Switzerland and the Engadine Valley. The spectacular Bernina Express train is included.
From Lake Como: A guided visit of one of Italy’s most impressivemedieval cities.
Food & Drink
There are many different cheeses produced from the cattle grazing the lush lower slopes of the Alps; try Bettelmatt, Toma del Mottarone or Gorgonzola. The northern plains to the south of the lakes are the largest rice growing area in Italy so not surprisingly risotto is often on the menu. Cornmeal polenta is served with cheese, mushrooms or just butter. Around Lake Como you can try small sundried lake fish with your polenta, called missoltini.
In the hills around the lakes, on both the Italian and Swiss sides of the border, they make a hearty dish of pasta called pizzoccheri made from buckwheat pasta, potatoes, cabbage, cheese and butter.
There are many wines from this area including Ghemme and Gattinara, in the Piemontese area which are blends of Nebbiolo grapes. Near Lake Como you have the Valtellina, an important wine growing area and Valtellina Superiore DOCG is the most famous wine produced here.
Festivals & Events
Throughout the summer months there are concerts and events of all sorts organised in and around Stresa, many of them with outdoor food and drink. In July the Stresa Music Festival starts and hosts jazz and classical music concerts until September.
During June, July and August you can enjoy Isola Bella Nights; jump on a ferry over to the island and your first drink of the evening is included in your boat ticket. On the island you’ll find a great atmosphere with various stalls and the bars and restaurants
prepare specialities depending on the night’s theme.
Lake Como has a vibrant events calendar from nighttime fireworks, specialist markets, opera and concerts. Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbaniello often have classical recitals. The Bellagio Festival takes place during July and August with concerts, films and recitals in many of the lakeside towns.