Switched On

The lakeside Tempio Voltiano was built in 1927 in memory of Como-born inventor of the battery, Alessandro Volta (1745–1827). The singular, circular landmark is more significant for what it represents than for its slim contents. In 1800 Volta invented the Voltaic battery, which preceded the electric battery, an invention that would later be refined and revolutionise people's daily lives.

Driving Tour: High into the Hills

  • Start Como
  • Finish Como
  • Length 145km; half a day

Leave Como and drive along the lake's west bank, as far as gorgeous Villa Carlotta in the town of Cadenabbia, 33km north of Como. Continue on for another 3km to Menaggio, which has a cute cobblestone old centre, a useful tourist office and a ferry stop. The central square overlooking the lake has a couple of cafes that are perfect for lake-gazing and people-watching.

From Menaggio, follow the signs inland towards Lugano, but instead of heading for Switzerland, pass Lake Piano and then take the south (left) turn after 12km and follow the shore of Lake Lugano for Claino con Osteno, a pretty lakeside village with a photogenic stone church. The road climbs steeply for 11km to San Fedele d'Intelvi, which stands at the crossroads of some intriguing roads. For the first of these, follow the signs for Lanzo d'Intelvi (6km), from where there are signs to glorious Cima Sighignola, also known as the Balcone d'Italia (1320m), a further 6km on. Below lies all of Lugano, its lake and mountain peaks and, beyond, you can make out part of Lake Maggiore, Varese, the Alps and the Lombard plains.

Return to San Fedele d'Intelvi, but only to follow the signs for the lovely, quiet country road to Erbonne (963m), a frontier hamlet that was a key crossing point for smugglers until the 1970s. The former barracks of the Guardia di Finanza (customs police) house possibly the smallest museum in Italy (the Museo della Guardia di Finanza e del Contrabbando) – you simply peer in through the glass door. Consider lunching at the Osteria del Valico.

Return to San Fedele d'Intelvi (9km), and follow the signs to Pigra (7km) for more stunning views, this time of Lake Como's southern end. Back in San Fedele d'Intelvi drive for 9km down to Argegno, from where it's a 21km lakeshore drive back to Como.