The drive around Lake Como is one of the most evocative journeys you can take in Italy. Covering an area of 146 km² and stretching 46 kilometers from top to bottom, Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy. It naturally forms the shape of an upside-down Y or a divining rod and is entirely within the Lombardy region.

Some of Europe’s premier lake resorts line the edges of Lake Como, and this scenic drive takes you through all of them. Starting from Como and heading clockwise, the drive takes just over four hours but is best split over two days with an overnight stay at the halfway point.

While this route can start from any of the many resorts around the lake and be taken in any direction, Como is a logical starting point because it’s the largest town around the lake and offers some of the best accommodation options. Driving clockwise ensures you are always on the side of the road closest to the water.

Though the entire route can be done in one day, splitting it over two days is preferable. Numerous beautiful gardens, charming towns, and eateries along the way will likely entice you to stop and explore.

Step One, Day One: From Como to Lenno - 40 minutes - 26 kilometers

Pass through Cernobbio, Argegno, and smaller villages. An optional stop at Villa del Balbianello takes about two hours.

Starting from Como, you head clockwise with the first town being the picturesque Cernobbio. A brief stop is recommended, but continuing to enjoy the roadside scenery is also worthwhile. On the western shore of Lake Como, the route heads north on the SS340 towards Lenno, home to Villa del Balbianello.

Between Cernobbio and Lenno, you’ll pass through several small towns and villages including Moltrasio, Carate Urio, Laglio, Brienno, Argegno, Colonno, Sala Comacina, and Ossuccio. The drive should take around 40 minutes, but you’ll likely want to stop for photos along the way.

In summer, Villa del Balbianello can be busy, and parking is limited. From the main car park just south of Lenno, it’s a one-kilometer walk, steep in places, taking about 20 minutes. Including time spent exploring the villa, this stop can take a few hours.

If visiting Villa del Balbianello doesn’t fit your schedule, Lenno itself is a charming alternative with an historic center and ample shops, bars, and restaurants. It’s also home to the Lenno Baptistery, one of the few in Italy built separately from a church.

Step Two, Day One: From Lenno to Colico - 1 hour - 42 kilometers

Pass through Tremezzo, Menaggio, Dongo, Gravedona ed Uniti, and Domaso. Optional stop at Villa Carlotta.

Continuing from Lenno, consider stopping at Villa Carlotta, a neoclassical villa with a botanical garden. It’s easier to access than Villa del Balbianello, with parking nearby. An hour or so is sufficient to explore Villa Carlotta.

Heading north from Lenno, you’ll pass through Tremezzo and Cadenabbia, both offering attractive waterfronts lined with restaurants and cafes. Just before Cadenabbia, consider a detour via car ferry to Bellagio or Varenna, two of the lake’s most famous towns.

If not taking the ferry, continue north to Menaggio, another recommended stop. Passing through smaller villages like Santa Maria Rezzonico and the laid-back Dongo, you reach Gravedona ed Uniti, worth a stop or a photo detour at Piazza San Rocco for stunning lake views.

From Gravedona ed Uniti, continue north to Domaso and Gera Lario, both worth visiting. A brief detour to the hamlet of Dascio leads to the Pian di Spagna Nature Reserve, a picturesque spot at the southern end of Lake Mezzola.

Finish the day at Colico, an excellent overnight stop with recommended accommodation at Hotel Risi.

Step Three, Day Two: From Colico to Lecco - 50 minutes - 43 kilometers

Stop at Varenna and Mandello del Lario.

On day two, head south on the eastern shore of the lake, passing through Dorio, Dervio, and Bellano, each worth a visit if time permits. However, prioritizing time for Varenna, one of Lake Como’s highlights, is essential. Spend at least an hour exploring Varenna and consider visiting Villa Monastero at the southern edge of town.

From Varenna, continue south to Fiumelatte and Lierna before reaching Mandello del Lario, a less touristy town ideal for lunch and exploring its colorful streets. The suffix “Lario” in town names refers to the ancient name of Lake Como, still used by locals.

South of Mandello, you’ll find Abbadia Lariana, popular for picnics and lake swimming in summer. Skip it if pressed for time, as there’s still much to see.

At the southeastern spur of Lake Como lies Lecco, a provincial capital like Como. Notable as the hometown of Italian author Alessandro Manzoni, Lecco offers a statue, a hospital named after him, and other tributes.

Step Four, Day Two: From Lecco to Como - 1 hour 30 minutes - 52 kilometers

Major stop at Bellagio.

The final stage includes a must-visit stop at Bellagio, considered the number one resort on Lake Como. Its narrow, charming streets lead down to the lively shore, and nearby Giardini di Villa Melzi is worth a visit if time allows.

From Bellagio, drive south for about an hour to complete the circuit. This scenic stretch offers numerous photo opportunities as you pass through villages like San Giovanni, Lezzeno, Nesso, and Careno.

Consider stopping at the hidden gem of Torno before returning to Como, where the tour concludes.

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