They call the stretch of territory between Como and Lecco in the south and Bellagio in the north the Triangolo Lariano (Lake Lario Triangle), a mountainous and crumpled territory jammed with a surprising variety of landscapes. From the high and exhilarating 32km lakeside road between Como and Bellagio to quiet inland villages, there's plenty to discover.
It's impossible not to be smitten by Bellagio's waterfront of bobbing boats, its maze of steep stone staircases, red-roofed and green-shuttered buildings, dark cypress groves and rhododendron-filled gardens. Like the prow of a beautiful vessel, it sits at the crux of the inverted Y that is Lake Como; the Como and Lecco arms of the lake wash off to port and starboard.
Varenna, a beguiling village bursting with florid plantlife, exotic flowery perfumes and birdsong, is a short ferry ride away from its rival in postcard beauty, Bellagio. Its pastel-coloured houses defy the standard laws of physics, seeming to grip for all they're worth to the steep slopes that rise from the lake.
Gravedona, Peglio & Domaso
Gravedona and neighbouring Domaso (1.5km to the east) stretch along a gently curved bay on the lake. Often overlooked by Como visitors, these two towns make a pleasant escape from thicker crowds to the south. Towards the southern end of Domaso stands a unique and beautiful Romanesque church, the late-12th-century Chiesa di Santa Maria del Tiglio.
Argegno is a small village nestled on Lake Como's edge, with a tangle of medieval streets and a picturesque stone bridge (also from the Middle Ages) over the Telo River which flows into the lake here. The busy highway (SS340) cutting right through town somewhat detracts from the charm as does Argegno's popularity.
About 1.5km south of the town of Nesso, Careno is signposted, but if you blink, you'll miss it. This tiny, lakeside hamlet looks like an inverted triangle from the opposite shore, with its church, the Romanesque Chiesa di San Martino, at the bottom. Satisfaction with discovery and a shady, lakeside stroll should be followed by a meal at the charming Trattoria al Porto.
Beyond Menaggio, the northern stretch of Lake Como is known as the Alto Lario (Upper Lario). It's far less touristed than other more famous points along the lake but holds some enticing secrets. The biggest draw to the region is Rezzonico, a small, delightful village that sees only a handful of visitors.