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The Best Way to See Italy’s Lake Como

by Rick Anderson

Lake Como, the 56-square-mile, Y-shaped jewel in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, has been a summer destination since ancient Roman times, luring nobles, church leaders, politicians, and, lately, celebrities of every stripe. In the 16th century, a cardinal named Tolomeo Gallio built on its shores an opulent residence, Villa d’Este, which is now one of Europe’s most glamorous hotels. Winston Churchill found respite in the area at the end of World War II. “An air of complete tranquillity and good humour pervades these beautiful lakes and valleys, which are unravaged by war,” he wrote to his wife, Clementine, in September 1945. Visitors today might spot George Clooney (he owns a waterside villa) or any number of the other movie stars who vacation there regularly.

From a hired launch (the best way to see Como, in my opinion), you can take in the natural scenery, stop to visit churches and tour grand villas, and have lunch in one of the lake’s charming small towns. Traveling by boat offers a unique perspective of the local architecture, so much of which was built to offer views of—and be viewed from—the lake.

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