Although there are many lakes in Italy, the most famous are those in the area knows as the Italian Lake District in the north of the country. The 50 km long Lake Como, with its two "legs", is a perfect destination for an Italian driving/hire car holiday.
The drive from the UK is easy and motorway all the way to Como itself. If you take the route through Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland, via the Gothard pass/tunnel, the journey takes just 8 hours from Calais and avoids many expensive French motorway tolls. For a route, go to the RAC and download one for free.
If you prefer to fly, there are 3 airports to choose from. The closest to Como is Milan Malpensa, followed by Linate and then further afield, but still only just over an hour from Como, is Bergamo's Orio al Serio or Milan-Bergamo as Ryan Air have renamed it (it isn't actually even in Milan). You can then simply pick up a hire car on arrival. The drive to Como is straightforward and well sign posted – go to this directions page for more information. It will take you between 40 minutes and an hour to drive to the town of Como, which lies at the southern end of the western branch of the lake and makes a great starting-point for a driving tour.
Here are details of just some of the places that you can visit by car when visiting Lake Como.
Lake Como by car – Como town
Como town is a great place to stay for a day or two. Its historic attractions include the Duomo, Como's Cathedral, which dates back to the fourteenth century. There is also great shopping and many other historical sites in this beautiful walled town.
Como's museums include the Museo Didattico Della Seta, which traces the town's silk-making history, and Tempio Voltiano, a neo-classical temple which houses items related to the work of physicist Alessandro Volta, who lived in Como.
You can also take a break from your hire car by relaxing in one of the cafes in Piazza Cavour or taking a boat trip on Lake Como itself to admire the stunning lakeside villas, including Villa Oleandra (George Clooney), Villa Fontanella (ex-Versace) and Villa Casinella (Richard Branson)
Lake Como by car - Bellagio
Once you have explored Como, head north-west to Bellagio, nestled in the fork of the southern part of Lake Como. It will take you about 40 minutes to drive from Como along the vertiginous narrow roads to Bellagio.
Bellagio was one of the first internationally-known tourist resorts in Italy and is known as "the Pearl of the Lake". Park your hire car and stroll through the cobbled streets, wander along the lime tree and oleander-lined promenade and stop for a bite to eat in one of Bellagio's many restaurants.
The famous Hotel du Lac, which overlooks the piazza on the lakefront, and the historic five-star Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni, will give you a taste of the opulence and glamour traditionally associated with Bellagio.
Lake Como by car - Bellano
On leaving Bellagio, you can drive southwards along the eastern leg of Lake Como and then north, back up the other side of the lake, or you can take your car on the ferry from Bellagio to Varenna. The town of Bellano is about five minutes' drive from Varenna.
Bellano is a pretty village, situated on the lakefront, and you can wander through its streets and alleys, and see some beautiful examples of medieval and Baroque architecture. There are also some excellent restaurants in and around Bellano.
Lake Como by car - Menaggio
You can either continue to drive north from Bellano to the far end of Lake Como and then drive southwards along the west shore of the lake, or you can take your car on the ferry to Menaggio.
Menaggio is a small, but popular, tourist resort, which has hotels, restaurants and a beach. It has an attractive town square and you can take a stroll along the lakeside promenade. There are also plenty of sporting activities available in and around Menaggio.
Lake Como by car – Lake Lugano