Lake Como is one of the most important Italian lakes. It is a scenic destination frequented by aristocrats since Roman times, the lake is still a favorite tourist destination. In 2014, it was considered one of the 20 most beautiful lakes in the world by the news website HuffPost, for its microclimate and for the quality of its surroundings, dotted with prestigious villas and villages.

The lake is shaped like an inverted 'Y', with each branch having its own main town: Como for the southwestern branch, Lecco for the southeastern branch, and Colico for the northern branch. A small island, Comacina, is located in the Como branch.

Located at the mouth of the Valtellina, it is crossed by the Adda, a tributary of the Po. Its banks are used by the roads that give access to the Splügen Pass, the Maloja Pass, the Bernina Pass, the Septimer Pass and, to the east, the Stelvio Pass.


Reaching a maximum depression of 418 m between the towns of Argegno and Nesso, Lake Como is the deepest lake in Italy and the fifth deepest in Europe. It is also the largest lake in Italy (170 km) and ranks third in terms of surface area (145 km2 ) and volume (23.37 km3 ). It reaches a maximum length of 45.7 km between Gera Lario and Como, while its width varies from 650 m, between Careno and Laglio, to 4.4 km, between Cadenabbia and Fiumelatte. The watershed covers an area of 4,552 km2 on Italian soil and 487 km2 on Swiss soil, for a total of 5,039 km2 , the highest point of which is Piz Bernina, on the border between Switzerland and Italy.

Lake Como is a natural bifid fjord deeply carved into the mountainous slopes of the Pre-Alps of Como and Bergamo, which frame a coastline characterized by a variegated territorial morphology, alternating gentle rounded and grassy slopes with dolomitic rocks and steep cliffs. Geographically, the lake is divided into three basins, each with its own characteristics8. Comacina Island, which lies in the narrow southwestern arm, is composed of steep, forested terrain. The south-eastern branch, known as the Lecco branch, lies to the east of the Grigne range. Finally, the northern branch is the largest and most open. The three branches flow into the center of the lake in front of the Bellagio promontory, one of the most picturesque and famous places to admire the landscape. The alluvial plains, crossed by rivers and streams, began to form after the ice age and were the cause of the separation of the small lakes connected to the main basin (Lake Mezzola to the north and Lakes Garlate and Olginate to the south).

The island

The only island formation in the lake is Comacina Island, which is modest in size but has a prestigious past. In the Middle Ages, the island was an independent fortress and the center of important historical events. In 588 Authari conquered the castle by defeating the Byzantine magister militum Francione, thus defeating the last anti-Lombard resistance9. In 1169, it was definitively destroyed by the Comasques, aided by the Germanic ally Frederick Barbarossa, following the Ten Years' War (it)10.

Since then, the island has remained completely uninhabited. The present buildings are the 17th-century church of San Giovanni, the only one remaining of the nine, the inn with an adjoining restaurant where Alfred Hitchcock stayed and the small buildings by the architect Pietro Lingeri. The ruins of the ancient basilica of Sant'Eufemia are the symbol of the ancient remains, remembered every year on 29 June in the Sagra di San Giovanni.

The island is bordered by a bay called 'Zoca de l'oli', so named for the tranquility of the lake waters and for the spontaneous growth of the olive tree, now partially reduced due to the increase in the number of buildings. The bell tower of Santa Maria Maddalena d'Ossuccio, one of the most significant works on the lake, has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List along with the Sacro Monte di Ossuccio.

Beyond the bay, the Lavedo peninsula stretches towards Lenno, delimiting the Gulf of Venus and culminating at Villa Balbianello, an FAI heritage site. In ancient times, the Lavedo hill was an island formed by the Abduano glacier, like the island of Comacina. The alluvial debris then joined it on the mainland.