Suggest Lake Como for families seeking an Italian getaway with options for outdoor activities. // © 2015 Thinkstock
When visiting Italy, many families choose Florence for its amazing art and food or Rome for its energy and historic sites. But this time around in Italy, my family wanted a relaxing, scenic vacation without the high prices, fast pace or crowds of the larger cities. Lake Como — or Lago di Como in Italian — turned out to be the ideal match for us.
Lake Como is Italy’s deepest lake and one of its most popular tourist attractions. Large and picturesque, this body of water is surrounded by towering mountains and hillsides, giving visitors stunning views from almost anywhere.
Main Towns on the Lake
If you’re short on time, head straight for the towns of Bellagio and Como. Bellagio, Lake Como’s large and ritzy tourist town, features panoramic views of the water and the area’s biggest hotels. Go for a stroll on the lakeside promenade while enjoying gelato from one of many local gelaterias. For a more classic city feel, Como offers museums, gardens, palaces and Como Cathedral.
All around Lake Como, families can bike, paraglide, swim, hike, windsurf and go boating during most of the year. Skiing is an option in winter. Museum lovers should visit the new Museo della Fine della Guerra in the town of Dongo or the Educational Silk Museum in Como. Popular tourist town Bellagio offers shoppers colorful streets filled with local artisan shops and famous, brand-name stores.
For a true Italian experience, stay at one of the area’s smaller, family-owned hotels, such as Hotel Europa in Sorico. Located on the northern edge of Lake Como, Hotel Europa has been managed by the Copes family for three generations, and owner Mama Angela cooks everything for the restaurant by hand.
The hotel has comfortable rooms that are designed specifically for families, plus it’s located within walking distance from the lake and a free community pool.
Almost every town surrounding the lake has at least one pizzeria, wine bar and full restaurant, and children are welcome at almost all of them. One of our favorite restaurant discoveries was Albergo Ristorante in Dongo. The spacious venue offers indoor and outdoor seating and a varied menu in Italian, English and German. Its ingredients are fresh, service is excellent, and the environment is comfortable and relaxing for families.
Lake Como is located right on the Milan to Switzerland train line, so the easiest way to get there is by train. Once there, the best way to experience the region is to rent a car and to take ferries (such as Navigazione Laghi Ferry) from town to town. But slow down: The streets surrounding Lake Como move with the landscape, making them narrow, windy and sometimes very steep. Plus, it’s just that kind of vacation.