Italian Lakes District | Como, Varenna, Menaggio & Bellagio
Discover lakeside beauty with dramatic views of the Alps.
Lake Como villages combines easy access to the outdoors with the comforts of picture-perfect towns surrounded by views of the Alps.
Hike through pastures and meadows before ascending to the ridge line along the Italian- Swiss border with views of Gran Paradiso, Monte Rosa and Matterhorn.
Trek along ancient roads to hilltop churches, medieval villas and mountain huts serving delicious Italian specialities.
If Lake Como is best known for its lavish Villas, authentic Italian cuisine, and romantic lakeside views, then its best kept secret is the accessible alpine beauty of the dramatic surrounding mountains. Glacially carved over 10,000 years ago and forming the shape of an upside-down Y, Lake Como’s “Middle Lake” offers exquisite accommodations, genuine culture, historical perspective, and surprisingly remote and beautiful day hikes at the foot of the Alps. These mountains are so revered that a little-known hut system exists among the open meadows, Faggi groves, and high ridges that run along either side of the lake, some of which you visit on your daily sojourns from the famous lakeside villages.
Our lake-centered point-to-point hiking route begins in Varenna, the northern-most town, and ends in Como. We start with a loop hike in Varenna, then circumnavigate the spectacular middle of the lake, and finally head south to Como, offering waterfront views by night and incredible scenic vistas by day. Transfers by water taxi allow you to enjoy the tranquility and calm beauty of the lake. The hikes start at the eastern Le Grigne range, whose high mountains are known as the Lario Occidentale Range, which runs along the ridge that forms the border of Italy and Switzerland.
Finally we make our way to the ridges and mountains that form the surrounding Larian triangle, which separates the two lower legs of the lake. Starting in the waterfront town of Varenna, hike in the Grigne range, get the most comprehensive views of the European Alps, and on clear days, it is possible to not only see the Bernina Massif in Switzerland, but also giant Monte Rosa and the unmistakable shape of the Matterhorn far in the distance.
After two nights in Varenna, we ferry to the ancient Roman commerce town of Menaggio. The hike in this area tops out at a high mountain refuge, where we enjoy a regional cuisine lunch and amazing views across the lake towards the Grigne range. The day ends with a ferry to a beautiful lakeside hotel in Lenno where we enjoy fine amenities and dinner.
Departing Lenno, we hike up to an 11th century, medieval Benedictine monastery. Descend past the World UNESCO site of the “Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin of Rescue”, and a final descent down to Ossuchio, a town dating back to Roman times. We continue via ferry to the waterfront town of Bellagio, with its winding streets, decadent villas, and fantastic Italian silk shops.
The final hike takes us on a lovely all day outing from Bellagio to Como. Ascend through scenic hamlets en route, and enjoy lunch at a mountain refuge passing through a magical forest. Ramble along ancient Roman paths offering breathtaking views across Lake Como. We grab a funicular at the end of our hike and descend into Como where we overnight in the old town.
Travel independently to Varenna. Overnight in a lovely hotel in the center of town. Meet your guide(s) for drinks and welcome dinner.
Today’s hike is a pleasant ramble through the high alpine environment of the Gringa Massif. Traverse beneath the Piancaformia ridge to the Rifugio Bietti for lunch and stunning views. For a truly challenging return, we climb to the Bocchetta Guzzi behind the refuge. We taxi back to our hotel in Varenna via taxi.
Distance: 6 miles. Elevation gain: 1500 ft.
We begin today’s hike with a water ferry ride to Menaggio and a short taxi ride to the small town of Breglia in the hills above Menaggio. Our hike takes us to a rifugio where we enjoy a delicious lunch of regional Italian cuisine served with some of the best views of the lake.
Distance: 5 – 8 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 2000 – 3000 ft.
Today’s hike takes us to the heart of the valley, where we hike through pastures and meadows before ascending to the ridge line along the Italian- Swiss border. Our goal is a lookout point on Monte Generoso, the highest mountain peak in the Canton of Ticino, where we enjoy sweeping, panoramic views above Northern Italy. Enjoy views of the lake’s region, Gran Paradiso, Monte Rosa and Matterhorn.
Distance: 7.4 miles Elevation gain/loss: 2090 ft.
Our hike today takes us along an old Roman road to the 11th century Monasterio San Benendetto. We return to Lenno via the Madonna al Soccorso, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If time allows we will hike up to Rifugio Buffalora on the ridge. We end the day with a ferry to our hotel in Bellagio.
Distance: 6 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 2000 ft.
Today’s hike offers spectacular hiking and scenery along mule or cart tracks built and used by the Romans along with easy rambling trails. After gather- ing picnic lunch supplies we take a taxi ride to Piana dei Sormano. Follow a meandering carriage road and trail thereafter to Passo Bocchetta di Molina where we enjoy our lunch. We continue all the way to the Brunate funicular just above Como for a pleasant ride into Como where we spend our last night.
Distance: 8 miles. Elevation gain/loss: 1000 ft.