Lake Como is one of the dreamiest locations, not just in Italy and Europe, but the world. Known as the summer stomping grounds for the rich and famous (George Clooney, anyone?), Lake Como truly is a must-visit European destination. The lake and its surrounding towns are most popular between June and September when visitors flock to the shoreline. Many would say the summer months in Lake Como are the best, when sunny days are abundant, water activities are enjoyable, and restaurants and hotels are bustling. However, I’m not a high-season traveler and truly enjoyed visiting Lake Como in the off-season.
For the last two years, I’ve been fortunate to visit Lake Como during the autumn. By most accounts, this is considered the off-season, but experiencing the charm of Lake Como without crowds, while dressed in its fall colors, is a true pleasure. Visiting Lake Como during the fall or winter does present a few challenges. For instance, some cultural sites, restaurants, stores, and other businesses are closed. However, for those who aren’t afraid to step away from the norm and experience the best of Lake Como during the off-season, this is the resource for you.
Staying at Lake Como in the Off-Season
Some hotels throughout the Lake Como region may be closed during the off-season. However, there are still plenty of options for those who want to enjoy the serenity and more local feel of the season. I stayed in two separate villas during my two stays at Lake Como. They are listed by Rent All Como, a company offering the best villa rentals in the region. Hospitable and reliable, I can’t say enough good things about the people and properties at Rent All Como.
Villa Bianca is the larger of the two homes, equipped with four bedrooms and four bathrooms. The two stories allows for plenty of privacy for groups of friends or multi-generational families. Perched on the shore of Lake Como, with direct access to the water, Villa Bianca also has a dreamy hot tub overlooking the lake, with a backdrop of the snow-capped alps–perfect for fall or winter visits. The home’s outdoor space can also be enjoyed on a mild day for an al fresco lunch or apéro on the terrace.Another bonus of Villa Bianca is the private parking directly by the house, which isn’t always the case with Lake Como homes.
Villa Visina is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom villa with a large, open living and dining room area, complete with two kitchens. Perched on a mountain, approximately 15 minutes from the city of Como, Villa Visina also has a massive swimming pool. Enjoy morning coffee on any of the covered terraces or private garden, with spectacular panoramic views over the lake and mountains.
Shopping In Como
Como is one of the larger towns in the area and will be your hub for shopping and supplies during the off-season. Most of the businesses in this town are open year-round. Be sure to stop here to stock up on groceries before heading to your villa.
Must-Visit Sites in the Lake Como Off-Season
Travelers should not be discouraged that some cultural sites, restaurants, and other businesses are closed in the off-season. There is still plenty of beauty and culture to enjoy throughout the Lake Como area.
The Cathedral (Duomo) of Como
The famed Duomo of Como is a historic landmark in Como. Its construction began in 1396, and it is full of historic statues, artwork, stained-glass windows, and architectural masterpieces.
The Villa Balbianello is a favorite architectural site located in Lenno, part of Tremezzina. The structure itself will leave you in awe, while the terraced gardens, especially in their golden autumn colors, are spectacular. Note that Villa Balbianello is open to visitors for guided tours and more between mid-March and mid-November. Arrive by foot or by ferry.
Bellagio is one of the most famous, and arguably most beautiful, towns in the Lake Como area. Many would say a trip to the area is not complete without visiting Bellagio. I agree that a day trip here to admire the waterfront villas, shop, and dine is a must. Dress warmly when visiting Bellagio in the off-season, because you’ll likely arrive by ferry, and the best way to explore the town is on foot.
Make It a Ski Trip
One of the absolute best parts of visiting Lake Como during the off-season is that it is the prime season for skiing and snowboarding in the region. The stunning Italian Alps serving as a backdrop for your villa rental are home to a variety of ski resorts. The ski season runs from the end of November to early May. There are plenty of options for visitors to enjoy in the Italian Alps and across the border at some of Switzerland’s most famous ski areas.
Cross Into Switzerland
The world’s best chocolate and cheeses are just a few miles from Lake Como. The Swiss border is a short drive from Lake Como. The city of Lugano, Switzerland can be a day trip on your visit to Lake Como, but you may want to take a few days to venture farther into the Swiss Alps, and beyond.
Alpine Village of Bormio
A ski trip may not sound appealing to those solely looking to relax on a trip to Lake Como. The Alpine village of Bormio offers that charming Alpine feel without the sore legs and costly lift tickets. Bormio offers iconic spa centers with thermal pools, Roman baths, and other spa features that have helped it become the epitome of relaxation in the Lake Como region. I suggest a visit to QC Terme Bagni for the most authentic and elegant spa experience in the area.
Get on the Water
Visiting Lake Como during the off-season doesn’t mean you have to stay off the water. A boat ride or water taxi in autumn is one of my favorite ways to photograph (and simply admire) the fall foliage. Water taxis are also fun modes of transportation from one lakefront town to another.
How to Get to Lake Como
The easiest way to get to Lake Como requires a flight and a rental car. Fly into Milan’s Malpensa Airport, then rent a car and drive to the town of Como (about one hour). The distance and driving time to other villages around the lake varies greatly depending on traffic and location.
I was a guest of Rent All Como, but in no way was my opinion swayed by the memorable views, the vexing villas, or the lovely hospitality. As always, opinions are mine.