Nestled against the Swiss border in northern Italy, Lake Como is breathtakingly beautiful – a glistening lake framed with lush Mediterranean foliage, snowy alpine peaks and deep green valleys. Its unspoilt natural beauty is complimented by magnificent villas, exotic formal gardens and centuries-old villages set on quaint cobbled streets.
Shaped like a Y, Lake Como is 46 km long. The main city is Como and along the lake’s shore there are many charming villages including Bellagio, Lenno, Varenna, Tremezzo and our village, Cernobbio.
The region has been inhabited since prehistoric times, but became important only under the Roman Empire, due to its strategic geographic location. Over 2000 years ago, the Romans used the lake as their favoured retreat. The first recorded settlement was in 49BC, when Julius Caesar populated it with 5000 “colonists” and named the lake “Larius”.
The most famous sons of Como are the two Plinys – Pliny the Elder, author of the celebrated Natural History in 37 books; and his nephew, Pliny the Younger, a Latin prose author – and of more recent times scientist, Alessandro Volta, founder of the battery.
Holiday villas have been popular on the lake since the first century AD when Pliny the Younger had two villas, one called Comedy, the other Tragedy. In the 19th century, Longfellow came to Lake Como to write, as did Tennyson. Composer Franz Liszt visited in 1837 and wrote his Dante Fantasia; Bellini wrote his opera Norma; and the dancer Taglioni lived at Blevio.
Until World War 11, the lake provided paradise and comfort for the well-heeled who holidayed in the wonderful villas. Villa Carlotta, Villa del Balbianello, Villa del Pizzo, Villa Melzi, Villa Olma and Cernobbio’s own Villa Erba and Villa D’Este played host to the who’s who of the time.
But, when Mussolini and his mistress Claretta Petaco, were captured at the town of Dongo and shot in nearby Mezzegra in 1945, travellers shied away from Como. Twenty years later, a new crop of elegant and famous began to move in and today the lake’s most beautiful villas are the private getaways of the likes of George Clooney, Richard Branson, Rupert Murdoch and the Versace family.
Como, just four kilometers from Cernobbio, is a beautiful town with a population of 80 000. The old part of the city remains intact and unspoilt and most of the streets are closed to all but pedestrian traffic.
Como is known as the silk capital of Italy and has a particularly buoyant industry in furniture manufacture and design.
Visitors will love walking the streets of Como, enjoying the many elegant stores, museums and galleries, taking a coffee in one of the many piazzas and gazing at the beautiful Duomo and Broletto – and then catching a ferry home to our village of Cernobbio.