Como is a famous tourist destination in Northern Italy and can be very crowded during the summer high season. That’s why you should go to Como in the winter or early spring. It’s a bit colder, but very beautiful and peaceful. As a bonus you’ll get excellent service everywhere.
The City of Como is located close to the Alps at the southwestern branch of Lake Como (Lago di Como). When people talk about Como they typically mean the city. The lake is seldom referred to solely by the name. This area has been a popular retreat for aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times.
If you stay in Milan you can easily make a day trip to Como, because the distance is only about 40 km. Trains operated by Trenord depart from Cadorna station and you’ll have at least one train departing each hour. Spending a weekend in Como is also a nice alternative, as there are many cozy small hotels and B&B’s in the town.
It’s common to visit the main attractions along the piers and in the city centre. Be sure to see at least Duomo di Como, Villa Olmo, and Tempio Voltiano. The greatest sights in Como are however located on the hills above Lake Como.
Tip No. 1: Hike up to Brunate
Instead of taking the Funicular (small cable train) up to the village of Brunate, you can also make the trip by foot. It’s a pretty tough 50 minute ascent, so you need to be in shape and have good shoes.
There are two alternative trails, one with a city view and another with a lake view. It can be difficult to find the starting point of the trails, but it’s close to the Funicular station and you can always ask locals for help. If you take the lake view trail, you'll arrive at a nice restaurant towards the end of the hike. It's called Ristorante Hotel Falchetto and they'll be happy to serve you refreshments even in January.
Tip No. 2: Taste the local Polenta in a nice trattoria
Polenta is a dish of boiled cornmeal that can be served with a variety of things, for example mushrooms or meat. It’s a traditional dish in Northern Italy and most towns and villages have their own ways of serving it.
Red wines from Piemonte can be nicely paired together with Polenta. Not all restaurants keep open during the low season, but for example Trattoria dei Bracconieri in Brunate is open in January. They serve a great Polenta and the view towards the lake is awesome.
Tip No. 3: Go to Faro Voltiano and Parco Marenghi
If you take the Funicular up to Brunate, you’ll still have energy to hike to Faro Voltiano (a lighthouse) and Parco Marenghi (a small park). These places are not too far (under 2 km) from the Funicular upper station. On the way you'll see a lot of nice things, like small winding roads and beautiful villas.
Tip No. 4: Have a glass of Prosecco on a sun terrace
Actually this is a good tip all around Italy, but it’s especially recommendable if you’re up on the hills above Lake Como on a sunny day. In March-April, which is still considered low season, it can be quite warm in the sun and many restaurants have nice terraces.
If the sun isn’t shining, don’t worry – Prosecco has the strange capacity of making any day sunny.