A long-distance walk around Lake Como in Italy

Using routes from Gillian Price's 'Walking Lake Como and Maggiore', ferry crossings and their own ingenuity, Carol and Jim Watson enjoyed a long-distance walk around one of Italy's most beautiful lakes, Lake Como.

Going through our bookshelves, we discovered Gillian Price's Walking the Italian Lakes (a guidebook that has since split into two volumes by Gillian Price, Walking Lake Como and Maggiore and Walking Lake Garda and Iseo). A glance at the map of walks gave us the idea that with a little bit of ingenuity we could come up with a long-distance walk around Lake Como using a number of these day walks.

We soon found that there are many long-distance trails along either side of Lake Como. We discovered that waymarking on the ground is good (although not complete) and the trails are well maintained. The one drawback is that there is very little written about the long-distance trails of Lake Como. A degree of resourcefulness was required to achieve our goal, but we always knew that if all else failed, we could get a ferry across the lake to join up the gaps in our walk.

We are delighted to say that we successfully achieved our walking circuit and enjoyed wonderful scenery, splendid and remarkably quiet villages, helpful people and very good weather.

Overlooking Lake Como, Italy
Overlooking Lake Como, Italy

We decided that the walk should start from the village of Cernobbio, a short ferry ride from Como, where we were able to join La Via del Monte Lariani route up into the hills overlooking the lake. The route is serviced by a couple of Rifugio and although the trail is steep and rugged, it gave us the views of the lake that we were looking for.

Dropping down to Argegno, we walked along to take the cable-car at Pigra for Gillian's Walk 14 to Colonno, then joined the Greenway (Walk 15 in Gillian's book) as far as Lenno. Staying here enabled us to visit the beautiful gardens at Villa di Balbianello.

The following day we re-joined the Greenway Walk as far as Villa Carlotta for another wonderful garden visit. There is a route over the hills from there to Menaggio which we had as a possibility (see Gillian's Walk 17 in reverse). Our visit to Villa Carlotta took up most of our day, so we caught the ferry to Menaggio instead.

Via the Menaggio Tourist Board site, we had obtained information about the Antica Stada Regia route to Rezzonico. We followed this route and continued on the same trail as far as Cremia. Much of the route followed the lake shore.

Enjoying breakfast of Italian coffee and pancakes
Enjoying breakfast of Italian coffee and pancakes

During a pre-breakfast stroll at Cremia, we met some English residents from a nearby village who confirmed that this lakeside path continued right along to Domasco. We took their advice and discovered that the route was a real joy, with only a short road section. Near the top of Lake Como, Domasco was our intended ferry-crossing point to Colico on the eastern shore.

Colico was a delightful place to stay. The Tourist Office gave us a map showing the directions to join up with the Sentier Viandante, the long-distance route which we would follow for the next two days. Unfortunately, we got in a complete muddle while leaving Colico. After two unsuccessful attempts at finding the route, were taken in hand by a local lady out walking her dog who led us to an access route. We had the path completely to ourselves and were able to hike the route to Dervio, Bellano and Varenna. Gillian's walks 24 and 25 cover this, albeit the opposite way round. We took the ferry across to Bellagio for the final stages of our walk.

Whilst at Bellagio, we were able to visit the third garden at Villa Melzi. All three of the gardens we visited on Lake Como were well worth the side trip. After Villa Melzi, we took the ferry down to Lezzeno where we joined the Strada Regia and followed it all the way back to Como. Gillian's route 29 was a pleasure to follow on the section between Pagnano Lario and Torno. Although well-marked, the route was completely under-used and seemed to be there for our benefit alone.

We had an excellent walk and would recommend our route around Lake Como to anyone who delights in lakeside walking and ferry crossings. Our challenge to Cicerone is to convince Gillian Price or another to make a formal route of it (or something closely resembling it), as we feel it really deserves to be walked and enjoyed by others.

Many thanks Cicerone and Gillian Price for the inspiration for our trip!

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