Lake Como

 

The lake of Como, whose actual name is Lario is frequently listed as the most beautiful lake in the world. While this is certainly a matter of personal taste, there is no doubt however about its importance in Italian history. This three-pronged body of water surrounded by mountains has had a great military and mercantile importance in the centuries past, but it has always been known also for more pleasant reasons.

During the winter the very presence of the water makes in fact the whole area noticeably warmer than the rather dreary valleys around it, as much as it cools the air down during the scorching Italian summers. This made the lake of Como a celebrated holiday resort since the times of the Roman Empire, enticing to its shores wealthy and intellectual people from all over Europe. Their enterprising spirit in turn attracted business and industrial progress, making the area a hotbed for innovation throughout the ages, especially in the textiles field.

Today the lake of Como is however mostly dedicated to high-end tourism. The wonderful villas dotting its shores and bays are home to elite institutions such as the Rockfeller Foundation and to famous patrons such as Madonna, Clooney and and Richard Branson. The vistas are so unique and beautiful that they are frequently used as movie locations, and one village in particular – Bellagio, right at the center of the lake – has become an international synonymous of charm. Although the apparently crystalline water of the lake in recent years has been infamous for being the most polluted in Italy, this doesn’t deter the water sports enthusiasts, who travel from all over the world to sail, kitesurf and windsurf in a breathtakingly beautiful environment.

All of this of course make the lake a pretty busy place. Visiting by car is not recommended: to best enjoy their trip tourists are advised to use the train to Como, arriving right on the waterfront. From there it is possible to board one of the many ferries crisscrossing the lake – some of them built in the Nineteenth century – and reach the various lakeside village by water. This will also allow to best experience the vistas.

A great way to enjoy the lake is to familiarize with it through the many famous books set there, from the ancient poems of Catullus to Wolfe’s Bonfire of the vanities, from several Mark Twain’s stories to various scenes from the James Bond novels. If your command of the Italian language is really good, you should definitely read – or listen to – the works of Davide van de Sfroos, a famous musician, singer and writer who is leading various cultural initiatives to save the disappearing dialect and traditions of the lake. If not, you can always cheat by quoting the opening lines of The bethroted, the most celebrated Italian novel of them all, who begins with “That branch of the lake of Como pointing to the south…”