It’s hardly surprising. Italy’s north is where the money is, and Lake Como is only a short (though mountainous) drive from Switzerland, where there’s more bank vaults than brunettes. Still, Lake Como is hardly off-limits to the budget traveller. There is excellent hiking in the surrounding mountains and there’s no shortage of hostels. Plus an all-day ferry ticket will set you back just €10, giving you plenty of time to hop from one enchanting village to the next.
For decadent villas
Lake Como is home to plenty of sprawling, decadent villas, most open to the public. The best is 17th century Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo, with a pergola woven from orange trees.
For postcard photos
You’ll leave Lake Como with killer holiday snaps and there’s a fair chance your best ones will be from Belaggio. It’s beautiful from the water; then climb its steep streets and look back over the rooftops for a hell view of the lake.
For wine bar bliss
The village of Varenna is home to a handful of intimate wine bars perfect for escaping the rain or the tourist hordes that are usually found in Belaggio. Enoteca Cava Turacciolo is a former meat-curing cave now lined from floor to ceiling with wine, ranging from €625 a bottle to €3 a glass. There’s also classy L’Orso, a converted medieval barn.
On the last ferry home, with a few glasses of red under your belt, you probably won’t bump into Clooney or Volta, but it’s a pretty sure bet you’ll be thoroughly impressed with lovely Lake Como.
Trevor Paddenburg travelled to Lake Como with Intrepid Travel ? 7354 6169; www.intrepidtravel.com). A 15-day La Dolce Vita tour of Italy, incuding Rome, Venice and Lake Como, starts at £965
There are other options at hand in the Italian lake district.
A beautiful lake, 65km long, though its shores are flatter so the views are not as spectacular. Its main town, Stresa, gets absolutely packed in summer.
Lake Di Garda
Big, developed and less scenic, this place still pulls insane crowds in summer. The water tends to be murky, though it’s popular with windsurfers.
A small, low-key lake surrounded by woodlands that tends to escape the crowds.