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If your idea of nirvana is palatial villas, rose-laden belvederes, hanging wisteria and bougainvillea, lanterns casting a glow over lakeshore restaurants, and majestic Alpine vistas, heaven is Lake Como. In his Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal described it as an "enchanting spot, unequaled on earth in its loveliness." Virgil called it simply "our greatest" lake. Though summer crowds threaten to diminish the lake's dreamy mystery and slightly faded old-money gentility, the allure of this spectacular place endures. Como remains a consummate pairing of natural and man-made beauty. The villa gardens, like so many in Italy, are a union of two landscape traditions: that of Renaissance Italy, which values order, and that of Victorian England, which strives to create the illusion of natural wildness. Such gardens are often framed by vast areas of picturesque farmland—fruit trees, olive groves, and vineyards.
Lake Como is some 47 km (30 mi) long north to south and is Europe's deepest lake (almost 1,350 feet). Como itself is a leading textile center famous for its silks. Many travelers hasten to the vaporetti waiting to take them to Bellagio and the centro di lago, the center region of the lake's three branches, and its most beautiful section. The 2,000-year-old walled city of Como should not be missed, however. Car ferries traverse the lake in season, making it easy to get to the other main towns, Cernobbio, Tremezzo, and Varenna. Remember that Como is extremely seasonal: if you go to Bellagio, for example, from November through February, you will find nothing open—not a bar, restaurant, or shop.
Lake Como at a Glance
Elsewhere in Milan, Lombardy, and the Lakes
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